Okay, so after all my big talk last month about how I might have to split up this month post’s into two because of all the books I was going to read, I actually had a pretty slow reading month. I got a just a wee small little bit obsessively hooked on a podcast (The Magnus Archives) and so instead of listening to audiobooks I found myself listening to the podcast, and instead of reading… I also found myself listening to the podcast. 90 episodes in means it was a quieter reading month than the last couple (and I still have half the podcast to go so May might have fewer than usual books in it as well). That said, I still got through a good few excellent books; read on for my reviews or check them all out on Goodreads.Continue reading “What I Read in April”
It looks like a suburb.
I’m not sure five words have ever given me such a radical mindset shift. Like so many of us, the ongoing murders of Black people at the hands of the police, and the police response to peaceful protesting in the wake of yet another unjust death, has cemented the idea that we cannot just put our faith in law enforcement to do the right thing and uphold justice and fairness in our country. This is something that I’ve already known, but do to my privilege, I’ve never had to sit down and think about how that would look.
I’ve got this great app called Countdown Star on my phone that I love. You input an event and it how many days there are until the date (or from the date, if you’re counting up from the day of your birth or whatever past occasion you want to celebrate or remember). 19 days until Steve and I go to Japan. 59 until we go to Tasmania to hike the Overland Track, 11 days since we got engaged (oh yes, did I not mention? …more on that next week), 10,457 days since I was born, and so on. And today it is exactly 500 days until I turn 30. Because I’m me and I love a good list, of course that called for one. A short-term bucket list of sorts, 30 things I want to do between now and 500 days from now, when I leave my twenties and join the world of thirty, flirty, and thriving.
I won’t share the whole list as some things are quite personal, but here are some of the items I plan to check off:
When I was in grad school in Ireland, my friends and I made an agreement that if one of us should find ourselves with an unwanted pregnancy, we would rearrange our schedules for an immediate “girls’ holiday” to the UK—cocktails, spa visits, shopping, all that fun, female stuff. And an abortion.
It’s something that I had never had to think about in the United States. Roe v. Wade had been settled by the Supreme Court almost two decades before I was born, and while another Supreme Court ruling from my own home state, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, allowed for more restrictions and guidelines, abortion would have been generally accessible to me had I needed it.
It is a privilege to feel safe in the places you call home. It shouldn’t be, because what is home if it is not a place that is known and that is safe, but again and again we see places that should be known made unsafe by hate. Like the rest of the world, I was shocked and saddened to hear the news of the mass murder of Muslims at a mosque in Christchurch. New Zealand is the safest and most peaceful country I have ever been to or lived in, and yet a group of people decided that shouldn’t be the case for their victims.
New Zealanders haven’t had to grapple with a tragedy like this, whereas in America we are nearly desensitized to news of yet another mass shooting. Politicians send their thoughts and prayers, outraged is silenced with cries of “too soon,” The Onion reposts that too-accurate headline, and nothing changes. I was surprised and gladdened to hear that the New Zealand government’s immediate response was to promise a ban on semi-automatic weapons; imagine if our politicians had ever acted so quickly and decisively? How many schoolchildren, churchgoers, and others would still be with us?
The outpouring of support for the Muslim community in the wake of the tragedy is also heartening. Flowers cover mosques around the country. Vigil attendances number in the thousands. A givealittle page (New Zealand’s answer to Go Fund Me) for victim support has topped $5 million in donations. Kiwis and the world are coming together to echo Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s words about the victims: “They are us.”
At the same time, although for many New Zealand seemed like a utopia between its stunning natural beauty and its peaceful, unified society, the sad truth is that New Zealand is not immune from the influence of intolerance, white supremacy, and an environment where “casual” discrimination is given a blind eye rather than spotlighted and called out (and what does “casual” discrimination even mean? Is it a hobby? A side-hustle? Part-time racism?). Where alt-righters like Stefan Molyneux, Jordan Peterson, and Lauren Southern have eager audiences. Where stereotypes about Maori and other islanders flourish as “jokes.”
I am certainly not writing this as a sanctimonious outsider pointing out the flaws of another country; I, too, am certainly often guilty of not doing enough to call out intolerance when I see it. It’s particularly tragic to think that the murderers were likely inspired by the political climate of my own nation. And New Zealand is certainly a lot more welcoming than the United States (or Australia, by the way; wow, there is a lot of racism here, and not just from the Senator who made that awful statement after the mosque shooting, although you should enjoy this video of him getting egged by a teenager).
However, it is tempting to dismiss the murderers’ terrible actions as unrelated to anything else in New Zealand society, to identify solely with the victims. But without changing our own actions and stepping up every time to speak out against racism, discrimination, Islamophobia, intolerance, we are dishonouring the victims by allowing the murderers and those who think like them to find something to identify with in us (please read this powerful comic by Spinoff journalist Toby Morris for more).
It is important to carry the feelings of love and solidarity for the Muslim community, the immigrant community, the community as a whole, that are strongest and most present now in wake of this tragedy, and let them be a guideline going forward. We must cultivate an environment in which seeds of hate can not plant roots. And that means asking ourselves difficult questions, and being willing to ask difficult questions to others. Kia kaha, New Zealand. Stay strong and show your strength by protecting your whānau—Maori, pakeha, Muslim, and everyone else who is lucky enough to live in such a kind and beautiful country. Come together in love and action to ensure that everyone is safe in the places they call home.
Being a woman in a patriarchal society is hard, but it doesn’t make you a feminist.
Let me say it louder for the people in the back.
BEING A WOMAN IN A PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY IS HARD, BUT IT DOESN’T MAKE YOU A FEMINIST.
Feminism is about beliefs and actions aimed at dismantling the patriarchy, the systematic inequality that inhibits people of all genders. Feminism doesn’t mean that everything a woman does is good or feminist, that women can’t be called out (including by other women), that any criticism of a woman is an act of misogyny, that all women must lift up all other women all the time.
I would say it louder for the people in the back but I don’t want you to have to read a whole paragraph of capslock.