Outside Reading — Model Writing edition

Buying Myself Back by Emily Ratajkowski

Although I haven’t conducted a definitive analysis of the responsive media coverage to Emily Ratajkowski’s piece, written for New York magazine, I’ll wager that most of it focuses on her convincing recounting of sexual assault by a named photographer. If so, I guess that’s understandable. That’s the newsy information contained therein. And yet there is so much more here that merits attention and consideration. With clear eyes and firm reasoning, Ratajkowski details the callous stripping of personhood she experiences working as a model, where assertions of her identity of ownership of her image are met with derision. The same photographer who assaulted her sexually also profits extensively off of photographs of her that are clearly being used beyond the bounds of the initial agreement. If she went into the photographer’s house and stole tens of thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment, she would be arrested and charged with a crime. He’s engaged in equally clear-cut thievery, but justice for Ratajkowski requires a costly, arduous trek through a convoluted court system. And her public protests are met with nasty moralizing about sexy photos she did consent to, the equivalent to “What was she wearing?” blame-shifting. One man committed a crime, but there are a lot of people who are culpable.

People Need to Give Up the Illusion of Bipartisan Friendship by Jessica Valenti

As a matter of spiritual self-preservation, I’ve culled my social media feeds to largely avoid the sort of posts that are likely to draw me into angry digital arguments or keep me up at night fretting that I didn’t forcefully, thoroughly correct an utterly wrongheaded point. This means I’ve seen less of the common meme that declares a willingness to have beer with someone with different political views, or some similarly smug call for camaraderie in the face of division. So it’s pretty clear to me that those particular shares are done disproportionately by people who otherwise fill their feeds with bigotry, fanciful interpretations of the Second Amendment, crackpot COVID theorizing, and other abhorrent opinions. That truth is part of the foundation of Jessica Valenti’s piece, published by GEN. Political views aren’t some benign, inconsequential part of a person, like hair color or a weakness for puns. They speak to the very core of who someone is and how they interact with others. An individual espousing, for example, positions that say transgender people don’t deserve equal rights or Black people should stop complaining about police brutality is an individual who is saying something about what their friendship is worth. Let them drink their beer alone and think about why you’re not excited to sling an arm around their shoulders and sing “The Rare Old Mountain Dew” together.


How to Save Restaurants by Priya Krishna

Recently, and famously, sprung from Bon Appétit, Priya Krishna heads to The New York Times to write about the state of the restaurant industry during the ongoing bungling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is basically at the point of criminal malfeasance at the White House. As part of her broad diagnosis of the industry at this moment, Krishna shares stories from around the country, highlighting some of the creative, inspiring efforts of chefs and business owners. Among those celebrated is Francesa Hong, pictured above, who runs Morris Ramen, a fantastic restaurant in the city where I live. She responded to this moment in time by helping launch an initiative to address food insecurity in the community and further aligned her money and her mouth by running for the state assembly, a seat she is almost certain to win in November. I was proud to vote for her in the primary, and I’m proud to vote for her again on my next ballot.

How Liberals Opened the Door to Libertarian Economics by Kurt Andersen

Also writing for The New York Times, Kurt Andersen explains how Milton Friedman’s economic theories underwent baffling, damaging evolution in the public consciousness, from easily dismissed nonsense to the underpinning of broadly adopted policies that have resulted in devastating — but cleverly disguised — income inequality in the U.S. As usual, Andersen makes his arguments expertly, tempering the outrage with the occasional dollop of caustic wit.

Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (2008) by Douglas A. Blackmon

Journalist Douglas A. Blackmon won the Pulitzer Prize for this powerful historical investigation into the ways Black citizens were further subjugated for decades after the Civil War supposedly granted them freedom that never should have been taken away in the first place. With harsh, necessary clarity, Blackmon practically itemizes the institutionalized and court-validated injustice practiced largely — though not exclusively — in the South, selling citizens into unpaid labor, often on the basis of clearly invented criminal charges. It’s a profound piece of scholarship, precisely the sort of necessary reckoning with our nation’s past and the debt still due because those that suffered passed their suffering down to later generations just as assuredly as the exploiters gifted prosperity to their descendants. Forget the Orwellian nomenclature being used for the latest empty gesture from the proud bigots with official White House titles. There’s nothing patriotic about education that isn’t honest about past immorality in an effort to learn and correct, letting everyone move forward to a better, strong tomorrow based in collective good.

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