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11 Jan 14:52

Why This Woman's Mugshot Is Going Viral

by Khalea Underwood

Anyone who's been subject to an uncomfortable, all-day hair appointment knows that braids may look pretty, but the process can be anything but that. A good braider is hard to find, which is perhaps why Shia Milan Yearwood's mugshot, which was shared to Twitter last week, is going viral. Social media wasn't very interested in the details of her alleged crime — more so her set of impeccable box braids and artfully-laid edges. "Okay, but who did her hair?" reads the first reply. Turns out, Yearwood did them herself — and now the North Carolina-based hairstylist is capitalizing on her newfound fame as a way to boost her braiding business.

She retweeted the mugshot (which included her hashtag, #BraidsByShia, and an affirmation: "can’t hold me back either") and has racked up nearly 4,600 retweets and almost 9,000 likes since then. Yearwood tells Refinery29 that she knew her mugshot would be posted, but had no idea it would get this much love. In fact, she says she finished her now-famous set of box braids just hours before the photo was taken. "I mentally prepared myself because I knew I didn’t want to look rough or ugly in the picture. I had been jumped a couple of days before, so I was still bruised," she told Refinery29 over email. "I didn’t want to give the person who had me arrested any more power. I didn’t want him to see me sad, mad, or hurt over a picture. I didn’t want him to see me down or bruised up."

She says of her decision to repost the mugshot, "I wanted to clown myself before I got clowned," she wrote to us. "I wanted to show my social media [followers] that my year started off garbage and yet I was still here. Still standing. Holding my head up high, trying to secure the bag by any means." And that bag seems to be secured several times over — Yearwood says that requests for appointments have been flooding in, along with plenty of media attention. "I haven’t made my schedule fully yet because I’m still in a custody battle, and getting that and court situated," she wrote. "It’s hard to book [clients] the way that I want right now.... I have new inquiries about braids every 20 minutes because of the attention from the tweet." Just in case you're wondering (or you happen to be in the Charlotte area), the braids that Yearwood has in her mugshot cost up to $120, without hair included.

A post shared by @shiamilan on

Of course, her braids and business don't overshadow the allegations against her, and from what she's told us, she still isn't out of the woods in terms of her legal situation. However, as we've learned in the past, one viral mugshot can totally change the course of your life. And that seems to be exactly what she wants. "I turned this situation from negative into a positive..." she tells us. "I been through so much in the last month alone that should of broken me... I wanted to make sure he saw me and saw that regardless, I made it. Regardless of what he did, he didn’t break me."

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04 Jan 02:20

Ok, drabble prompt: you live in heaven and your best friend is Satan, but Satan just decided to do the thing that gets him cast out but you didn't find out because you were at choir practice

“Where’s Lucifer?” says Raphael. It had been a brutal but satisfying practice, and now he just wanted to hang out, stretch out his wings in the Celestial Wind, and watch a star cycle through death and life. “We were gonna meet up.”

“Um,” said one of the cherubim. Raphael didn’t remember their name, but they were always following Lucifer around. Come think of it, it was weird that they weren’t with him right now.

“Man, did you see that shooting star?” says Raphael. “We even saw the light in the practice hall.”

“About that,” says Uriel.

26 May 10:05

white-aster: (via She Swam for Her Life to the Greek Coast,...


(via She Swam for Her Life to the Greek Coast, Now Syrian Refugee is Olympic Hopeful - Good News Network)

A teen-aged girl who saved the lives of fellow refugees may soon represent them at the 2016 Olympics. 

Fleeing Syria last August, Yusra Mardini and her sister, Sarah, boarded a seven-person boat overflowing with 20 refugees. None of the others knew that a world-class swimmer, who’d trained for a decade to compete in the Olympics, was sitting with them. 

They’d owe their lives to her — and that training — over the next few hours. 

Just 30 minutes into their perilous crossing of the Aegean Sea, the tiny boat’s motor died, and it began taking on water. Yusra and her sister, the only two people on board who knew how to swim, leaped into the water. The sisters swam for three-and-a-half hours, pushing the boat to shore in Greece and saving everyone aboard. 

 She still leaps into the water every day for her fellow refugees, but now, it’s into Olympic-sized pools – completing her training to represent them at this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

23 May 17:30

"Young’s claim that there is no such thing as “traumatic memory” might well astound..."

“Young’s claim that there is no such thing as “traumatic memory” might well astound readers of Homer’s Odyssey. On hearing the ‘Song of Troy’ sung by the bard Demodocus at the Phaeacian court, Odysseus dissolves into tears and covers his head so that others do not notice. Such a response to a memory should seem to qualify as a “traumatic” one, but Young would evidently reject Odysseus’ tears, and other critics are no less coldly analytic… One would never get the idea that Odysseus’ response could be a real human response to trauma, such as happened to American and German veterans seen leaving theatres after watching Saving Private Ryan in 1998. That inhabitants of the Greco-Roman world might respond to trauma like people in the modern seems to such critics a remote and improbable reality.”

- Lawrence A. Tritle, ““Ravished Minds” in the Ancient World” in Combat Trauma and the Ancient Greeks
25 Jun 03:21

Take Advantage of the "Direct Debit" Student Loan Discount

by Kristin Wong on Two Cents, shared by Andy Orin to Lifehacker

Take Advantage of the "Direct Debit" Student Loan Discount

We’re big fans of automatically paying your bills. It’s quick and effortless. But there’s an added bonus to auto-paying your student loan bill: you get a little discount.

If you set up your student loan account to automatically debit payments from your checking account, you might qualify for the direct debit discount. Via GoCollege:

When you agree to have your lender automatically deduct your monthly loan payments from your checking account, your lender agrees to discount your loan’s interest rate. The average discount is around 0.25%, which may look small at first but definitely adds up over the life of your loan.

Banks and lending companies like to offer this form of discount as it helps them save money on paperwork and administration. It can also help you save money on your regularly accruing interest, and is certainly worth considering if offered by your lender.

If you haven’t already, it’s worth looking into; ask your lender if they offer this discount. It’s not much, but it’s better than no discount. Check out GoCollege’s full post for more options.

How to Find Student Loan Discounts | GoCollege

Photo by Global Panorama.

07 Jul 04:13

The Things That Matter Tonight

by Me
You're so young when you're born, when you're taught that nothing matters.

And that's the first thing people will take from you, because what else hurts more than what matters?

And we need to hurt each other when we're young to find out if we're made of anything besides flesh and bone, if we're made of anything that really matters.

And failure becomes unimportant, when you approach it all, as something that doesn't matter.

But everything is unimportant, when nothing matters.

And I hope one day you find something that still matters.
26 Dec 23:56

In Praise of the Real Mary Poppins

by Mia Warren
by Mia Warren

I met the real Mary Poppins one warm afternoon circa 1999, in my hometown, in the public library. She was sitting on the musty shelves of the children’s section. Quickly enthralled, I immersed myself in the Banks children’s adventures for the rest of the summer.

This character had a tone far removed from the sweet, lilting soprano of Julie Andrews, who—like many other children—I had encountered in the 1964 Disney film. This Mary Poppins was the fearsome creation of author Pamela (better known as “P.L.”) Travers, and she was never sprightly or sentimental. In fact, most often, she was sort of a bitch, and I loved this about her.

Walt Disney, however, did not. As the new (Disney) movie Saving Mr. Banks depicts, Mr. Disney’s attempt to adapt P.L. Travers’ creation for the silver screen became a prolonged battle: a fight of ideological difference between a man who wanted a spoonful of sugar and a woman who knew that her character, if she didn’t like you, would happily switch that spoonful out with salt.

Because, for someone given the position of surrogate mother, the original Mary Poppins is almost never nurturing. Her main childcare techniques include emotional bullying, withholding affection, and brute intimidation. The exchanges between the Banks kids and their nanny are rife with negativity:

By now they had come to the end of the High Street. But still Mary Poppins did not stop. The children looked at each other and sighed. There were no more shops. Where could she be going?
"Oh, dear, Mary Poppins, my legs are breaking!" said Michael, limping pathetically.
"Can't we go home now, Mary Poppins? My shoes are worn out!" complained Jane.
And the Twins began to whimper and whine like a couple of fretful puppies.
Mary Poppins regarded them all with disgust. "A set of Jellyfish—that's what you are! You haven't a backbone between you!" And popping the shopping-list into her bag, she gave a quick contemptuous sniff and hurried round the corner.
Mary Poppins Opens the Door, 1943

She is contradictory in more than just the motherhood realm. While she’s a paragon of feminine grace and a near-perfect physical specimen (and ostensibly, an object of desire for many men), romantic relationships don’t seem to interest her in the slightest. Bert the Matchman is constantly doting; MP remains staunchly unattached. Her family connections are similarly sparse. The few eccentric relatives we encounter—from the floating Uncle Albert Wigg to the Man in the Moon—hail from other worlds and rarely make reappearances.

So, while she is positioned as an icon of the domestic sphere, Mary Poppins—the real one—possesses few of the personality traits (kindness, gentleness, humility, suggestibility, attachment) that traditionally have been associated with ideal womanhood in Western societies. Yet despite of this, and perhaps because of this, her performance of motherhood reigns supreme. Despite what could be construed as a severe lack of empathy (and minus the implied innate goodness, possible sociopathy), MP channels efficiency like no one else. When she enters the chaotic Banks household, order and structure win the day:

It seemed to [the children] no more than a minute before they had drunk their milk and eaten their cocoanut cakes and were in and out of the bath. As usual, everything that Mary Poppins did had the speed of electricity. Hooks and eyes rushed apart, buttons darted eagerly out of their holes, sponge and soap ran up and down like lightning, and towels dried with one rub.
Mary Poppins Comes Back, 1935

The original Mrs. Banks is a self-absorbed hypochondriac who occupies a tertiary role in her children’s lives. When she fails spectacularly in her maternal role, Mary Poppins steps in, and the Banks family quickly learns to defer to MP’s expertise on most matters. That a single, childless lady claims such immediate authority is an interesting paradox at a time when abiding Victorian ideals championed marriage and motherhood as ultimate confirmation of a woman’s worth. Yet Mary Poppins’ marital status is rarely remarked upon by other adults in the books. The Bankses, though at times resentful of their employee’s superciliousness, acknowledge that her presence makes their children’s lives—and by default, their lives—easier.

Mary Poppins’ vanity is an integral part of her personality. Unapologetically, she spends many moments scrutinizing her flawless appearance:

“Just look at you!” said Mary Poppins to herself, particularly noticing how nice her new gloves with the fur tops looked. They were the first pair she had ever had, and she thought she would never grow tired of looking at them in the shop windows with her hands in them. And having examined the reflection of the gloves she went carefully over her whole person—coat, hat, scarf, and shoes, with herself inside—and she thought that, on the whole, she had never seen anybody looking so smart and distinguished.
Mary Poppins, 1934

In Myth, Symbol, and Meaning in Mary Poppins, Giorgia Grilli compares Mary Poppins to the Victorian dandy, whose antisocial tendencies and open revulsion with others “established a distance between himself and the somewhat distasteful world of those surrounding him.” Like the dandy, who protests a “ready-made world of predictability and control,” MP often distinguishes herself from the Banks family and other mortals (more than once, it is implied that she is immortal). Grilli goes on to argue that Mary Poppins' pristine outward presentation is “no mere aesthetic attitude” but rather a “form of ceremony” intended to “subvert…[the] small-mindedness” of those living in the conventional world.

Energetic, smart, presentable, and sensible, Mary Poppins contrasts starkly with the other women of the house, from the infirm and vacuous Mrs. Banks to the sloppy and silly housemaid Ellen. What’s more, she knows she’s better than everyone else—and she often revels in her superiority. Yet perhaps, as Grilli suggests, the original MP’s narcissism marks her rejection of stringent societal norms. As a childless, unmarried woman living in (what is probably) Edwardian England, Mary Poppins derives her inherent worth from twisting traditional feminine norms. She is beautiful and a diligent worker, but she also lives free from the constraints of life as a wife or mother. As far as we can tell, MP operates on her own and is solely responsible for her finances. She doesn’t even depend on the Banks family: technically, she’s a part-time employee who departs from the household at the close of every book (where she goes for the rest of the year remains a mystery). True, these frequent hiatuses could very well be just a sequel-generating narrative device, but I prefer to think it was P.L. Travers giving her character a woman’s due: a sustained financial independence achieved within the strictures of reality, but fiercely on her own terms.

(It’s worth noting, too, the minor revolutions that Travers herself represented: she was bisexual, she adopted a child at age 40 based on the advice of her astrologer, and she spent years at a time in Japan, studying mysticism, or on Native American reservations, studying folklore. In a 1994 interview with the New York Times, the reporter asks Travers, “Have you had enough of me?” and Travers “promptly” replies yes.)

In Hollywood, we’ve seen countless iterations of female characters who suffer from some kind of deficiency—whether physical, social, or intellectual—supposedly to make them more digestible for audiences. Some heroines trip constantly, as Mindy Kaling pointed out in the New Yorker. Others struggle to balance boyfriends and bosses. As a strong female character, Mary Poppins is one of the original Bitches Who Get Stuff Done. She would never fall on her face in the name of being appealingly imperfect. Plus, as readers, we know she’s not perfect. Her belief that she is perfect only emphasizes her imperfection. And the key to creating a strong female character lies in just that: neither glossing a woman to perfection nor imbuing her with stereotypical weaknesses. At her best, Mary Poppins is a treasure of domestic bliss. At her worst, she’s an egotistical oppressor. But she’s never boring or simplistic.

In the Saving Mr. Banks trailer, stubborn P.L. Travers (played by Emma Thompson) protests every alteration Mr. Disney (Tom Hanks) tries to impose. To prepare for this role, Thompson listened to Travers’ tapes of long, agonizing meetings with members of Disney’s creative team. Though Travers initially pushed hard to preserve the Mary Poppins she had created, she eventually “gave up at some point,” too cash-strapped to fight any longer.

I can’t help but attach a certain irony to Travers’ struggles with Disney. While Mary Poppins stayed relentlessly true to her values, her creator was forced to compromise to survive. I can only imagine MP disapproving from afar, scornful and smirking.

Mia is researching the Japanese Peruvian community in Lima, Peru. Check her out at SarcasmiaTwitter, and Tumblr.

29 Jul 19:29

The Dubious Math Behind Stop and Frisk

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Chart courtesy of "Stop Question And Frisk Police Practices in New York." Yesterday Ray Kelly took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to defend NYPD's Stop and Frisk tactics and its indiscriminate spying on Muslim communities: Since 2002, the New York Police Department has taken tens of thousands of weapons off the street through proactive policing strategies. The effect this has had on the murder rate is staggering. In the 11 years before Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office, there were 13,212 murders in New York City. During the 11 years of his administration, there have been 5,849. That's 7,383 lives saved--and if history is a guide, they are largely the lives of young men of color. So far this year, murders are down 29% from the 50-year low achieved in 2012, and we've seen the fewest shootings in two decades. To critics, none of this seems to much matter. Sidestepping the fact that these policies work, they continue to allege that massive numbers of minorities are stopped and questioned by police for no reason other than their race. As one of Ray Kelly's critics, and a citizen of New York, I will say that the declining murder rate matters a great deal. But the question before us isn't "Do we want the murder rate reduced?" The question is "Is Stop and Frisk a moral and effective policy?" We could also start punishing all murderers with public torture and beheading. That too might reduce the murder rate. Or perhaps the murder rate might fall for less conspicuous reasons, and those who endorsed public beheadings can loudly claim the credit anyway. At least we'd have correlation. Presently that is more than you can say for Stop and Frisk. Kelly rightly points out that the murder rate in our great city is falling. But for some reason he neglects to mention that Stop and Frisk numbers are falling too. Perhaps there is some relationship between the long drop in homicides and Stop and Frisk, but Ray Kelly has never furnished such actual proof. Understanding why crime rises and falls has bedeviled social scientists for decades, so it's not surprising that Kelly would have trouble offering hard evidence. But we can certainly examine Ray Kelly's claim that Stop and Frisk is responsible for large numbers of weapons coming off the street.During roughly half of all stops in 2008 (54.40% or 293,934 stops), officers reported frisking the suspect. Officers are legally authorized to pat down the outer clothing of a suspect in order to determine if the person is carrying a weapon. As shown in Figure 6, a very small percentage (1.24%) of total stops resulted in the discovery of a weapon of any kind (gun, knife, or other type of weapon). A slightly higher percentage (1.70%) resulted in the discovery of some other kind of contraband. Contraband is any item that is against the law to possess, including illegal drugs.Given Ray Kelly's claims about saving black and brown lives, it's worth seeing how these numbers correlate to race:In terms of recovering weapons and other contraband, stops of Whites yielded a slightly greater share, proportionally, of contraband other than weapons (1.98% versus 1.75%). The difference in the recovery of knives and weapons other than guns is greater among Whites as well (1.46% compared to 1.06%). In terms of recovering guns, the situation is reversed: proportionally, stops of Blacks and Hispanics were slightly more likely than stops of Whites to result in the recovery of a gun (0.17% versus 0.07%), but this difference is extremely small - 0.10%.Finally, we should look at how the seizure of guns correlates to an increase in Stops: While the total number of stops annually has climbed to more than half a million in just a few years (up from 160,851 in 2003), the number of illegal guns discovered during stops has remained relatively steady and modest in comparison. As Figure 8A shows, the number of guns recovered over this six-year period ranges from a low of 627 (2003) to a high of 824 (2008), averaging 703. It should be noted that over this same period, the number of stops more than tripled, meaning the yield of guns per stop has declined considerably (see Figure 8B). Any serious proponent of Stop and Frisk must grapple with the fact that gun recoveries during Stops are vanishingly small, that they are vanishingly small regardless of race, and that there is little, if any, correlation between a rise in Stops and a rise in gun seizure. The deeper and more poignant charge is not simply that Stop and Frisk is a bad tool for recovering guns, but that it amounts to systemic discrimination against black and brown communities. Ray Kelly frequently faults his opponents for measuring the demographics of Stop and Frisk against the demographics of the city. Kelly asserts that in a city where much of the violent crime is committed by black and brown males, it is logical that they would constitute the majority of the stops. I agree with Kelly that it is not particularly telling to look at census data and extrapolate. It would be much more telling if we could somehow control for the actual commission of crime and then see if there was any bias in Stop and Frisk. In the period for which we had data, the NYPD's records indicate that they were stopping blacks and Hispanics more often than whites, in comparison to both the populations of these groups and the best estimates of the rate of crimes committed by each group. After controlling for precincts, this pattern still holds. More specifically, for violent crimes and weapons offenses, blacks and Hispanics are stopped about twice as often as whites. In contrast, for the less common stops for property and drug crimes, whites and Hispanics are stopped more often than blacks, in comparison to the arrest rate for each ethnic group.That was the conclusion of Columbia professor of Law and Public Health Jeffrey Fagan in 2007. Perhaps, since then, Ray Kelly has managed to craft a bias-less policy of Stop and Frisk:NYPD stops are significantly more frequent for Black and Hispanic citizens than for White citizens, after adjusting stop rates for the precinct crime rates, the racial composition, and other social and economic factors predictive of police activity. These disparities are consistent across a set of alternative tests and assumptions.That is from Fagan's 2010 study. It's important to understand that this data is widely available to the public. So when you hear Ray Kelly say something like this..."It makes no sense to use census data, because half the people you stop would be women." should understand that he is not telling bold truths, he is confronting the weakest arguments he can find. Kelly offers some apparent sympathy, conceding that it is "understandable that someone who has done nothing wrong will be angry if he is stopped." But that category of people stopped who've "done nothing wrong" and are understandably angry are not a small minority, but a large majority of the people being stopped and frisked:Arrest rates take place in less than six percent of all stops, a "hit rate" that is lower than the rates of arrest and seizures in random check points observed in other court tests of claims similar to the claims in this case.I am not totally opposed to policies in which individuals surrender some of their rights for the betterment of the whole. The entire State is premised on such a surrendering. But at every stop that surrendering should be questioned and interrogated, to see if it actually will produce the benefits which it claims. In the case of Stop and Frisk you have a policy bearing no evidence of decreasing violence, and bearing great evidence of increasing tension between the police and the community they claim to serve. It is a policy which regularly results in the usage of physical force, but rarely results in the actual recovery of guns. But don't take my word for it. Take Ray Kelly's: "A large reservoir of good will was under construction when I left the Police Department in 1994,'' Mr. Kelly said. ''It was called community policing. But it was quickly abandoned for tough-sounding rhetoric and dubious stop-and-frisk tactics that sowed new seeds of community mistrust. That was 13 years ago. Times have changed. The evidence has not.


17 Jun 18:36

Why Can’t Black Women Claim Sluttiness, Again?

by Guest Contributor

By Guest Contributor Laura K. Warrell

Black woman orgasm

In the June issue of Glamour magazine, spunky rock chick Pink declares herself a “reformed slut,” describing her brush with whorishness as an “unsophisticated” attempt at taking back her sexual power from men.

“I’ve always had an issue with [the idea that]: ‘Okay, we’ve both decided to do this,’” she says.  “‘Why am I a slut and you’re the player?  You didn’t get anything from me that I didn’t get from you.”

This “anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better” attitude has been key to the burgeoning cultural narrative around slutdom, and it’s an attitude I’m mostly down with.  Still, I found myself bristling when I read Pink’s interview.  At first I thought my politics were offended: is Pink suggesting that sexual experimentation for women is a moral crime that ultimately requires “reform?”  But then I realized, as a black woman, what I was really feeling was resentment, even envy–what a luxury is has to be able to publicly declare her sexual independence without having to worry how the declaration might affect her credibility, career, or romantic prospects.

In recent years, scads of books and other commercial works of art have been tossed onto the pop-culture landscape by white women reminiscing about their “phases” of sexual promiscuity, often told from the comfort of their fulfilled, easy-peasy lives as wives and mothers.  In March, comedienne and NPR host Ophira Eisenberg published Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy about banging everything in Manhattan with a bulge before settling down with her handsome, comic book-writing husband.  In 2010, Jillian Lauren published Some Girls: My Life in a Harem about kicking it with the Sultan of Brunei before marrying a rock star and adopting a cute kid.  And since 2005’s My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands, Chelsea Handler and many of her sassy gal pals have built thriving careers around being drunk and easy.  Then of course, we have the fictionalized slut phase Hannah braves through on Girls in order to bring her creator, Lena Dunham, cultural relevance and Emmy awards.

So why aren’t these stories by or about Black women?

Maybe because slut phases–at least declaring them publicly–aren’t in our best interest. (And, to bring up some history, here’s another explanation why some Black women felt uncomfortable with the word “slut” as used in the SlutWalk campaign.) Sleeping around then being able to tell the world about it without suffering serious damage to your rep is hardly a major feminist achievement.  But considering the current slut-shaming trend–along with the age-old expectation to be a lady in the streets regardless of how freaky you are in the sheets–it’s a luxury I doubt most sexually liberated black women believe they can afford.

Certainly, many straight women, regardless of their race, enjoy an exploratory period of brazen hussiness.  But if the stats are to be believed, Black women’s tartish journeys toward monogamy aren’t ending as often at the altar.  Recent census data suggests that the number of black women living without a spouse is three times as high as white and Asian women in similar circumstances.  In 2010, twenty percent of Black women aged 45 and older had never been married compared to only seven percent of white women of the same age.

Certainly, there are all kinds of reasons why black women aren’t marrying at the rate of other women, including the many benefits to remaining single.  But for those straight Black women who do want to pair up, it does seem more challenging for them, and the messages from various segments of media in this country about how undesirable they are don’t help: remember the 2008 UC Irvine study telling us white men are apt to exclude Black women from their dating pools, the 2009 report saying Black women get fewer online dating responses than other women, and the debunked 2011 Psychology Today blog post suggesting Black women are just plain uglier?  Published reports, like a 2009 research study from Yale, also try to convince us that high-achieving Black women have an even rougher time of finding a partner often because their Black male counterparts want to settle down with white women.  And although the rate of intermarriage in the US is on the rise, Black women made up only nine percent of the newlyweds who married someone outside their race in 2010 compared to twenty-three percent of black men, twenty-five percent of Latinas, and thirty-six percent of Asian women (whites, both male and female, are least apt to date outside their race, clocking in at nine percent of newlyweds).  For black women, boasting about the sexy skeletons in their closets might mess up what already seem to be slim romantic chances.

Tumbling further down into the rabbit hole, we find an uncomfortable truth, which is that sexual adventure can be–not always, but often–a markedly different experience for Black women and even more politically loaded than the power tussle dominating the dialogue currently.  As sexual partners, Black women, like many women of color, are often considered by white and other non-Black men as an exotic other, fetishized as wanton.  So a man-loving black woman fulfilling her and/or her sex partner’s needs may be being used to fulfill an even bigger fantasy, including the common (though easily sated) urge to “try out a Black chick” (or Asian chick or Latina).  Perhaps one of the greatest challenges for the sexually liberated Black woman is avoiding this tendency some men have to turn her into a fetish object while she expresses her erotic power in whatever way feels healthy and satisfying.

Not only does the fetishized woman lack human dimension in the eyes of her beholder–as a device with a purely sexual function she can usually only trigger a purely sexual response–she lacks power.  ”Reformed slut” Eisenberg told the New York Post she enjoyed her sexual adventures, in part, because she wondered, “Why did the guys have all the power?  I just wanted to take them down.  Refuse them so they could be put in their place.”  The dating game is not a titillating power struggle for the fetishized object who has no power to take back.

The other maddening aspect of this “reformed-slut narrative” is how the default setting for white female sexuality continues to be purity and sexual propriety.  Meanwhile, animalistic exoticism continues to be both the fantasy and the default of Black female sexuality…when their sexuality is talked about at all.  Perhaps the fear for some Black women is that deviating from sexual norms, or letting the cat out of the bag once they have, contributes to an already oversexualized mythology.  Managing one’s public image and maintaining an air of “respectability” becomes more important for Black women as we try to build relationships, careers, and lives.  The slut phase may be the liberated white woman’s coming-of-age, both its moments of bliss and humiliation.  But ultimately, so says the narrative, it’s an undesirable situation from which they will undoubtedly be rescued by the love of an understanding man. The same narrative says that Black women with a similar past might remain in their (sometimes gilded) cages without the prospect of marriage, depending on the race of the man who’s doing the courting.

Thus, the “reformed slut” narrative becomes more complicated when race is an issue, though the culture doesn’t appear comfortable digging deeper into it.  Considering the flak shows like Girls get for excluding Black women from their casts–and the lack of interest the producers of these shows have in answering to it–one can’t help but wonder whether Black women’s sexual adventures just aren’t as compelling to the general population.  Fifteen years have passed since the debut of Sex and the City, yet few if any of the sassy, sexually open single-chick shows that have cropped up since then have featured prominent Black players.  Even the dating reality shows have stirred controversy for failing to include Black people in their casts.

Like many women, I have a past, one that includes struggling to find long-term love (including with Black men) and, thus, fearing the scary stats and reports are true.  I have failed on more than one occasion to get a man past his fantasies of Black women, which he may voice by telling me how “exotic” I am, how “wild” he expects me to be in bed, how “mysterious” my skin coloring is.  Non-black men I’ve loved have told me they “just couldn’t do it” and talked about what people might think or what their babies with me might look like.  All kinds of men have approached me with the confession that they’ve “always wanted to be with a black woman,” as if I’d be flattered.

I’ve watched some of the booty-call flings my white girlfriends have had turn into full-fledged, marriage-bound relationships, while zero of my black girlfriends’ flings have gone anywhere but into bed.  Zero.  All of my black female friends have similar stories, including one pal who, on a first date with a white man, was handed a chestnut off the ground because it reminded her date of her “big black booty.”  For black women, embracing the “slut” label may not propel us further on the path to liberation.

Perhaps what I envied reading Pink’s “reformed slut” comments was the white female privilege the singer enjoys to be a woman in whatever way she wants.  Statistically speaking, most straight white women will end up in committed partnerships by the time they’re 45, it can be sussed, no matter how promiscuous they are.  White women may worry about ladies like Hannah on Girls and her counterparts in the real world.  But some of us Black women know those women will more than likely end up with soulmates at some point more quickly than we will.  Beneath it all, they’re white women and so, says society, they are redeemable.

I want my white sisters to find love and happiness, and I cheer on their phases of sexy experimentation.  I just want my Black sisters to enjoy the same freedom.


06 Jun 20:04

Coffee Cupping & Coffee Cake! Menu for a Coffee-Tasting Brunch with Friends — Party Menus from The Kitchn

by Emma Christensen

Coffee Cupping & Coffee Cake! Menu for a Coffee-Tasting Brunch with Friends

As I was choosing beans at my local hipster coffee roaster the other day and lamenting the fact that I could only pick one, I was struck with a brilliant idea: Why not throw a coffee-tasting party? Yes! Gather some coffee-loving friends, pool our pennies to buy several bags of fancy beans, and get together for a coffee-tasting brunch. It's a two-for-one deal: we get to sample a lot of great coffee side-by-side and we get cake for breakfast. Are you in?


05 Jun 02:12

How to Make a Swiss Army Key Ring

by Tessa Miller

How to Make a Swiss Army Key Ring

Most people have to keep track of at least a few keys. The easiest way to do that is to just keep them all on one key ring. But the more keys you have, the bulkier the ring is to carry in your pocket. Here's an alternate design for holding and organizing your keys that's a little more efficient. The design is very similar in construction to a Swiss Army Knife, with the keys arranged on two parallel bars. Each key can be rotated into the handle for compact storage and rotated back out for use.

How to Make a Swiss Army Key Ring

Check out this video of steps 1-7 (complete details on each step below):

Step One: Materials and Tools

  • Two pieces of wood (about 1" x 3.75" x 1/8" each)
  • Thin sheet metal (about 2" x 3.75")
  • Two #8 machine screw lock nuts
  • Two #8 machine screws, 3/4" long
  • Ten #8 machine screw washers
  • Glue that's able to bond wood to metal
  • Wood stain (optional)
  • Polyurethane (optional)

How to Make a Swiss Army Key Ring


  • Drill and bit set
  • Tin snips
  • Sand paper/sanding block
  • Small binder clamps
  • Pencil
  • Ruler

How to Make a Swiss Army Key Ring

Tip: Paint stir sticks are a good size to be used for the wood pieces. These are generally free at the paint section of most hardware stores. For the sheet metal, I used a baking sheet that I found at Dollar Tree for $1. This yields about 13" x 9" of metal.

Step Two: Cut the Wood and Metal to Shape

Use whatever rounded object you have readily available to trace a semicircle onto each end of the wood pieces. Then using a saw or knife, cut along the outline. Trace the shape of these wood pieces onto the sheet metal. Using a pair of tin snips cut out two pieces of sheet metal that are a little smaller than the outlines.

How to Make a Swiss Army Key Ring

Step Three: Drill the Bolt Holes

Make a stack of the two wood pieces and the two metal pieces. Make sure all the pieces are centered, and hold them together with a binder clamp.. Mark the centers of the semicircle on each end. They should be about 2.75 inches apart. Using a 3/16 drill bit, drill through all four layers at one of these points. Insert a screw into this hole to help keep the layers lined up. Then drill the second hole. Remove the two metal pieces and re-drill the holes in the wood pieces so that the holes are wide enough to accommodate the head of the machine screw and the lock nut respective. You may wish to wrap the wood pieces in tape to prevent them from splitting when drilling larger holes. When you're done cutting and drilling, sand all the surfaces and edges smooth.

How to Make a Swiss Army Key Ring

Step Four: Assemble the Frame

Insert the machine screws through the holes in the metal plates. Then add the washers and keys. Four keys and five washers will fit perfectly on a 3/4-inch screw in the sequence (sheet metal, washer, key, washer, key, washer, key, washer, key, washer, sheet metal). Using this sequence, two keys and three washers will fit on a 1/2-inch screw. Likewise, six keys and seven washers will fit on a 1-inch screw.

How to Make a Swiss Army Key Ring

Alternatively, you can conserve space a little bit by eliminating the washers, but the keys will tend to stick on each other. If you have an odd number of keys you can fill the space with two washers. When you're done adding keys and washers, add the second piece of sheet metal. Then, tighten everything together with the two lock nuts.

How to Make a Swiss Army Key Ring

Step Five: Glue the Wooden Panels

Apply a thin layer of glue to the outside of one plate and press on the wooden panel. Do the same for the second panel, then use binder clips to hold everything in place while the glue dries. You may wish to add a layer or two of card stock to prevent the clamps from denting your wood panels.

How to Make a Swiss Army Key Ring

Step Six: Apply Paint and Polyurethane (Optional)

Once the glue dries, your Swiss Army Key Ring is ready to use, but I chose to take it a few steps further by applying stain and polyurethane to make it look a little nicer. To apply the stain I just used a piece of cheesecloth. When the stain was completely dry, I applied the polyurethane with a sponge brush.

How to Make a Swiss Army Key Ring

Step Seven: Done!

This design saves space in two ways. First, the keys are mounted parallel to each other and don't fan out. Second, the double folding design allows the blades of both sets of keys to fit within the space of the handle.

How to Make a Swiss Army Key Ring

This design is also a better way of organizing keys. Because they're always in the same orientation, it's faster and easier to find the one that you need.

Swiss Army Key Ring | Instructables via MAKE

Jason Poel Smith is a contributor at MAKE.

Want to see your work on Lifehacker? Email Tessa.

20 Mar 00:22

How To Be A Monster: Life Lessons From Lord Byron

by Carrie Frye

In 1816, a young doctor named John Polidori was offered the position as traveling physician to George Gordon, Lord Byron. Polidori was saturnine, caustic, ambitious, well-educated and handsome. He had graduated from medical school at 19 (as unusual then as now) and this offer came not a year later. Over the objections of his family, he accepted. Polidori had literary ambitions; here was an amazingly famous poet asking him to join him on a tour of the Continent. It must have felt like fate was tugging him along. In confirmation of how well things were going, a publisher offered him 500 pounds to keep a diary of his travels with the poet (500 pounds... in 1816).

It was spring. Byron was leaving England forever, a cloud of infamy hanging over him. (He is one of the few people you can write something like that about and have it be true; that is part of why he's so satisfying.) He had a carriage made, modeled after Napoleon's, this a measure of his own sense of emperor-like preeminence in the world. Byron was, even by the standards of the time, a chronic overpacker: china, books, clothing, bedding, pistols, a dog, the dog's special mat, more books, a servant or two, and Polidori, buzzing like some excited insect, were all packed away. (One account has a peacock and a monkey making the trip too.) The carriage was so overloaded it kept breaking down. The doctor kept breaking down too, with spells of dizziness and fainting, and the patient had to look after him. They progressed this way through Belgium and then up the Rhine. When they reached their hotel in Geneva, Byron listed his age in the hotel registry as "100."

If you have any interest in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein or vampires or Romantic poets or, who knows, Swiss tourism, you've most likely read Polidori's name. He's a curio, Polly Dolly, most notable not for what he wrote but for being nearby when other people wrote things. It's a strange afterlife; to think you've landed a leading role, and then there you are, on stage, sure, and with big names too, but fixed to a mark far upstage and over to the left, near the wings, in the half-dark where the spotlight doesn't quite reach. "Poor Polidori." That's how Mary Shelley referred to him, writing years later. And he was. Here is how he creeps into letters, like this one written by Byron: "Dr. Polidori is not here, but at Diodati, left behind in hospital with a sprained ankle, which he acquired in tumbling from a wall—he can't jump." It was John Polidori's misfortune to be comic without having a sense of humor, to wish to be a great writer but to be a terrible one, to be unusually bright but surrounded for one summer by people who were titanically brighter, and to have just enough of an awareness of all of this to make him perpetually uneasy. Also, he couldn't jump. Poor Polidori.

One short story he wrote, though, remains important, a vampire story that was read across Europe when it came out and led the way to Dracula. But even that story was not all Polidori's own. In a nice bit of literary vampiricism, he fed off a sketch by Byron to write it and the story was first published under Byron's name (hence all the attention it got), so he's instructive, too, as a reminder of all that writers and vampires have in common.


An aristocratic vampire bored by his immortality—we're accustomed to that creature now. But this sort of vampire is relatively new. As Paul Barber describes in his wonderful book, Vampires, Burial, and Death, the vampires that populated European folklore for centuries were Slavic peasant and villager revenants, ordinary people rising from their graves bloated and ruddy, with long fingernails and grave dirt in their hair. Polidori based his story "The Vampyre" on a "Fragment" written a few years before by Byron. In each story, the vampire is rich, lordly, weighted down by dissatisfaction.

He is, in other words, a personage not so unlike Lord Byron. In Polidori's story, the vampire, Lord Ruthven, has cold grey eyes. He is bored. It's impossible to know what he's thinking. He mixes in the highest society. He is well thought of, but, secretly, a predator eager to lead virtue astray. He and a young idealistic companion, Aubrey, set off on a tour by carriage of Europe. There is no mention of whether a monkey and a peacock are with them, but the rest of it sounds familiar.

"The Vampyre" was first published, in 1819, in New Monthly Magazine as a story by Byron. It created an international stir. A play and then an opera were based on it, events that seem unlikely to have occurred if the story had gone into the world as the work of a London physician. It's widely assumed that Polidori passed the story off as Byron's in an intentional imposture, but the evidence there is murky. Just as possible is that, the manuscript having passed through several hands after Polidori wrote it, the details of its connection to Byron grew confused on the way to publication. (Byron, breezily waving it off: "... I scarcely think anyone who knows me would believe the thing in the Magazine to be mine, even if they saw it in my own hieroglyphics." He might just as well have added: "He can't jump either.")

Whatever his intentions there, the point remains that two years after he'd left Byron's employment Polidori was writing a needling story based on Byron and using the vampiric character Byron himself had created to skewer him. It was like biting him with his own teeth. To add an extra silvery jab, he'd borrowed the name Ruthven, too. It came from Lord Ruthven Glenarvon, the villain of a wondrously batshit Gothic novel by Lady Caroline Lamb, a former lover of Byron's. Her book was simultaneously a work of revenge and a provocation to renew an affair that had ended four years before: I hate you, let's do that again. (It worked as neither. Instead of a 'kiss and tell,' Byron called it a 'fuck and publish.' After reading it, he neither returned to her nor was wounded in his retreat.) It came out in May 1816, as he and Polidori were first scraping into Geneva.


It was Caroline Lamb who called Byron "mad, bad and dangerous to know." The level of celebrity he enjoyed when they started their affair was boggling. His future wife Annabella Milbanke termed it "Byromania," observing that "the Byronic 'look' was mimicked everywhere by people who 'practised at the glass, in the hope of catching the curl of the upper lip, and the scowl of the brow.'"

But Byron left England a monster, "a second Caligula." Among his rumored crimes: He'd had a long relationship with his half-sister (leading to one child), carried on affairs with numerous actresses and married society women, and "corrupted" many young men. The rumors were all quite factual. He'd been engaging in such bad behavior for some time, but now the details were in wide circulation, Byron having committed the fatal error of marrying Milbanke, treating her abominably for the duration of their short marriage, then banishing her from the house a month after she'd had his child. Outraged, stonily disillusioned—if this were a movie she'd be played in these scenes by a thin column of dark smoke—Lady Byron hired a barrister and a gang of other counsel, including an attorney named Stephen Lushington, who, despite the delightful relaxed slurring suggested by his name, proved a prudent, sober and, alas for Byron, rather inexorable advisor. Lushington was shocked by all the secrets Lady Byron had to tell him. As Byron sailed, bailiffs were seizing what property remained at his Piccadilly Terrace home, including "his birds & squirrel."


Lake Geneva: Blues and deeper blues. It was along the shore here that, one morning, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, his companion and soon-to-be-wife Mary (her last name Godwin still, not yet Shelley), and Mary's stepsister Claire Clairmont were out walking. In love, electric, comet-like, Claire had seduced Byron with commendable dispatch before he sailed, then hurtled herself from England, hooking Mary and Shelley along with her, to await his arrival in Switzerland. Claire had left notes and letters of greeting for him at their hotel. Byron had ignored them. Now she was standing on the beach as he and Polidori returned from a morning excursion on the lake. As he clumped to shore, leaving Polidori floating in the boat, he didn't yet know she was pregnant.

In a letter to his half-sister Augusta, Byron later wrote: "What could I do?—a foolish girl—in spite of all I could say or do—would come after me—or rather went before me—for I found her here. ... I could not exactly play the Stoic with a woman—who had scrambled eight hundred miles to unphilosophize me."

Here is Claire to him: "I know not how to address you. I cannot call you friend for though I love you you do not feel even interest for me; fate has ordained that the slightest accident that should befall you should be agony to me; but were I to float by your window drowned all you would say would be 'Ah voila.'"

And here is Polidori, writing in his diary the same evening as the beach meeting, with characteristic blunt appraisal: "Dined, P[ercy] S[helley], the author of Queen Maab, came; bashful, shy, consumptive; twenty-six; separated from his wife; keeps the two daughters of Godwin who practice his theories; one L[ord] B[yron]'s."

Shelley was actually 24, not 26, to Polidori's 21. Mary was 16; although already she'd lost a child born prematurely and her second child with Shelley, William, had been born that January. Claire was newly 18. Lord Byron, the old man of the group, was 28. You can forget that about them—how astonishingly young they all were that summer. Not too long before Claire had been "Jane Clairmont," then she became "Clair" before finally settling on "Claire" as alluring and sophisticated enough—that's how young she was. Shelley had fled England with money problems, while Mary's elopement with him and Claire's involvement in it had cut off both girls from their home. Of the five people grouped together that day, only Polly Dolly had a family who would have welcomed him home unreservedly. In this light it doesn't seem so surprising that they would soon all be writing about monsters (and in Mary and Byron's case, quite sympathetically, too). Meanwhile, in the hotel and around the city, rumors circulated about who might be sleeping with whom (thrilling conjecture: everyone with everyone else). Byron's notoriety travelled with him. When he attended a society party in Geneva, a woman fainted when he entered the room. (Byron would later downplay the drama of this episode by pointing out that the woman who had fainted was a novelist and that no sooner had she fainted than someone exclaimed, "This is too much—at sixty-five years of age!")

To save money and regain some privacy, Byron moved from the hotel to the Villa Diodati, in Cologny, a few miles (or sail across the lake) from Geneva. Shelley rented another, smaller home nearby. It was a short walk between the houses, along a path that traversed terraced green vineyards. Hum of insects, cry of birds, smell of summer heavy in the air. Byron and Polidori were standing outside the villa one day when Mary Shelley approached up the path. Knowing the doctor had a crush on her; Byron urged him to jump down from where they stood and offer her his arm. He did, landed awkwardly and that's how he sprained his ankle. Poor Polidori.

The fine days gave way to rain, which turned "incessant." After a golden month spent boating and idling in the sun, the group was confined indoors. They read ghost stories aloud. Then, as Mary Shelley recounted it:

'We will each write a ghost story,' said Lord Byron, and his proposition was acceded to. There were four of us. The noble author began a tale, a fragment of which he printed at the end of his poem of Mazeppa. Shelley... commenced one founded on the experiences of his early life. Poor Polidori had some terrible idea about a skull-headed lady who was so punished for peeping through a keyhole—what to see I forget—something very shocking and wrong of course....

For herself, Mary says she thought and thought, and then, many nights later, in a state between waking and a dream, had the vision that led to her masterpiece Frankenstein, the story of a scientist whose fate is yoked to the wretched, stitched-up monster to whom he gave life. Byron's ghost story remained a fragment, but he also wrote the poem "Darkness" that summer as well as the third canto of Childe Harold. (Infuriatingly if you were his companion, he started work on the latter while on the boat from Dover, while everyone else was being horrifically seasick.)

And there was Polidori with only his skull-headed lady to show (at least in Mary Shelley's account). It's easy to make fun of Polidori; he was capable, like so many terrible writers, of a sort of dreadful productivity and eagerness to read his works aloud: "later they suffered a reading of an atrocious play by Polly Dolly" goes a typical biographical scene. (After a few months of that you, too, might have been urging him to jump down from great heights.) His formal productions sound turgid, complicated... young; it's too bad as that excessiveness would have worked against the bluntness that is so marked and funny when you read his travel diary. After meeting Stendhal: "a fat lascivious man. … He related many anecdotes—I don't remember them." About Belgium: "the country is tiresomely beautiful." About Byron himself: "As soon as he reached his room, Lord Byron fell like a thunderbolt upon the chambermaid."


Byron later described Polidori as "exactly the kind of person to whom, if he fell overboard, one would hold out a straw, to know if the adage be true that drowning men catch at straws." Irritated and provoked, his manner toward him would metronome-tick back and forth between cruelty and apology. When Polidori sprained his ankle, it was Byron who carried him to the house, settling him on a sofa with pillows (a completely un-Byronic bit of solicitude). It wasn't the only such stricken gesture. At no small expense, he hired a coach to take the young doctor around to Geneva society parties; another time he bought him an expensive watch. Over the summer, as Polidori got further out of hand, drinking too much and roaming around the villa, it was Byron who vacated the house. Who is the vampire in such a dynamic—who the victim, who the parasite? It switches back and forth, back and forth. Not hours after Byron was meekly plumping pillows for him, Polidori was again reading one of his plays aloud to the group. "All agreed it was worth nothing," he recorded.

Out on the water, one afternoon, Polidori accidentally struck Byron in the knee with his oar. As Mary Shelley later relayed it, Byron "without speaking, turned his face away to hide the pain. After a moment he said, 'Be so kind, Polidori, another time, to take more care, for you hurt me very much.'—'I am glad of it,' answered the other; 'I am glad to see you can suffer pain.'"

On a side trip with Shelley, as the poets stood in "the middle of a beautiful wood," Byron breathed out, "Thank God Polidori is not here."


"Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow."—Frankenstein

Polidori and Byron parted ways in September 1816, after five stormy months in each other's company. Polidori traveled on into Italy. He drifted. He took on a few more patients, returned to England, switched from medicine to studying law, and then, in 1821, died. He was 26. According to his family, he committed suicide by swallowing prussic acid after the pressure of some gambling debts he couldn't pay grew too much. (At the inquest a family servant said in a statement that Polidori had recently suffered a head injury after "being thrown out of his gig." This, too, may have contributed.)

Polidori's father was Italian, a former secretary to the dramatist and poet Alfieri; his mother was English. Polidori had grown up among the expats of Soho; one great lure of the trip with Byron was the chance to see Italy. His sister Frances married Gabriele Rossetti, and was the mother of the poet Christina Rosetti and the poet/painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Their brother William Rossetti, also a writer, became the editor of Polidori's diaries, although, like his siblings, he never knew his uncle. His work on the journals is oddly touching in its deftness and humor, like the penciling of an older, wiser Polidori surrogate. Of the position with Byron, William writes in the introduction: "The day when the young doctor obtained the post of travelling physician to the famous poet... must, no doubt, have been regarded by him and by some of his family as a supremely auspicious one, although in fact it turned out the reverse.... Polidori's father had foreseen, in the Byronic scheme, disappointment as only too likely, and he opposed the project, but without success."


Lord Byron died three years after Polidori, from a fever after having traveled to Greece to help fight for Greek independence. Long after news of Byron's death reached England, people still reported seeing him on the street.

His "Fragment" is a slight thing, and yet the description of himself (for it is clearly a self-portrait) as the vampire is telling: "It was evident that he was a prey to some cureless disquiet; but whether it arose from ambition, love, remorse, grief, from one or all of these, or merely from a morbid temperament akin to disease, I could not discover."

The pages, he later confided, had been written on an old account book of his wife's, which contained "the word 'Household' written by her twice on the inside blank page of the Covers." It was, as one biographer notes, "the only specimen Byron still had of his wife's writing, other than her signature on the separation deed."


Most of my first impressions of Polidori came from the asides and footnotes that appeared in other people's biographies. Bits and pieces of a person. Read enough of these mentions ("mentally troubled man," "embryo author"), stitch them together and a human form begins to take shape: a footnote Frankenstein. Of all the foototes, this one, from Richard Holmes' The Pursuit, was the one where Polidori's... essential Polidoriness most asserted itself. It's attached to a sentence about Percy Shelley's dislike for the Austrian troops then in Venice and so crops up as a non sequitur:

* Dr. Polidori was arrested in 1817 for asking a trooper to remove his busby at the opera.

Think about it, add it to your picture of John Polidori you've sewn together. Of course he was arrested in 1817 for asking a trooper to remove his busby at the opera. There he is, motioning from the wings. Vehement, insistent, even standing in the half-dark. He wants you to see him there.

Related: How To Give Birth To A Rabbit

Carrie Frye is here and here. Byron cartoon from this Hark! A Vagrant strip, used with permission; photo of Lake Geneva by Schnägglit; photo of Villa Diodati by Robertgrassi.


See more posts by Carrie Frye


19 Mar 23:22


by Julianne

The following is the thing I wrote to accompany my 2011 Pazz & Jop ballot but did not get published on the Village Voice because of various time suckage issues. BUT IT IS STILL IMPORTANT cuz it addresses thoughts about women/feminism/rapping/fucking that I have had this year. As B. Ames would say in an entirely more combative context, READ THAT BITCH (DJ MikeQ RMX):

Last week, I heard the awesome Code Pink organizer Melanie Butler speak about her experiences at Occupy Wall Street, and how she came to be active about women’s issues within the movement, even though her purpose for joining Occupy wasn’t initially about said issues. Though she wanted to simply protest against corrupt multinational banks and corporations, she said she found Occupy to be a microcosm of the country’s overarching misogyny, so she ended up working against sexism within the 99%, too. One aspect she was particularly focused on was that the media’s coverage of Occupy wrote women from the story; though we are equally represented in the movement, reports on OWS tend to blot us out.

Not to blithely compare revolutionary protest to music criticism, because those of us who do both know it’s a long haul from staring at a Google doc and getting spread-ass to marching against the megalithic money machine with moms, students, organizers, and inevitably off-beat cowbell players. But in thinking about my number two album, London grime rapper Lady Leshurr’s Friggin L mixtape, Butler’s speech came to mind, too. I’ve been concerned with/cognizant of the visibility of women rappers ever since I first learned every word to my favorite song of all time, “You Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo,” and since there is never a paucity of women rappers, I have come to the conclusion that we are failing, as journalists, to be thorough in our coverage. I include myself in this. Particularly in the internet era, when bloggers seem to manage to unearth every obscure man-rapper in the US with half a bar to his name, but sites like 2 Dope Boyz can’t post a rap track by a woman without uttering the condescending, otherizing, and dated term “femcee.” (To that site’s credit, they just linked to a fairly thorough listicle of the top 10 woman rappers to watch in 2012.) The apparent myopia when it comes to female rappers, coupled with many writers’ burning desire to characterize late-2011 rising star Azealia Banks as “potty-mouthed”—because she’s a four-year-old, apparently?—gave me bad dreams all year(with a bit of reprieve here and there, including Banks’ triumphant re-emergence).

Back to Lady Leshurr: she was a firestarter and a salve for me in 2011, devastating beats with casual velocity and staccato incisions. It’s not inaccurate when she compares herself to Freddie Krueger in her riff on “Blowing Money Fast”—and witness her “Look At Me Now” freestyle, on which she sarcastically intros, “I don’t see how you could hate on a little girl, I look 12 years old!” The latter’s a Sun Tzu move; she presents herself as playing defense, then sneaks up and bodies the original rappers on their own track, including Busta Rhymes, finessing triple-time raps smoother and more agilely than the vet. Compare this to my beloved Nicki Minaj, who allows herself on recent single “Stupid Hoe” (a far lesser “Itty Bitty Piggy”) to underachieve into the “female Weezy,” and get an inkling how much more vital rap could be if the long-hungry lady players were invited into the billiards room. Just one “bad bitch,” however bad, is not enough to keep all our voices from getting swallowed up. In Leshurr’s own words, from her “Did It On ‘Em” freestyle: All these dudes is my daughters. Personally, I’d settle for siblings.

The rest of my ballot unintentionally fans out from this frame. Gang Gang Dance’s Eye Contact and Fatima al Qadiri’s Genre-Specific Experience lived as twins in my mind, both projects compelled by women in an audacious vanguard of visual art and feminine experience. While al Qadiri reconceptualized genres like juke and dubstep through the lens of her experiences growing up in Kuwait (check her latest video), GGD frontwoman Lizzi Bougatsos offered a lush interpretation of her group’s love of global music. Both were open, freeing, vast, and embodied the kind of expansive world I wanna live in.

Meanwhile, Gloria Estefan became the first woman ever to debut atop the Billboard Latin charts (2011?! really?!) with an album that returned to party form, thanks in part to producer Pharrell. “Wepa”’s trilingual, cheerleading merengue was, in a year of amazing dancefloor jams, the most jubilant—and motivational enough to forgive that the stupid Miami Heat used it for their stupid theme song. (Go Knicks!) Houston noise-rapper B L A C K I E coincided with Estefan’s joie de vivre for me: True Spirit and Not Giving a Fuck, his second album, was exactly that, complete surrender to the punk clamor of his beats and the revolutionary nature of his lyrics. My favorite track “Warchild” is a protest against racist drone strikes that breaks down into a desperate, frustrated scream: “I DON’T CARE ABOUT AMERICA, NI**A!!!!” It’s as succinct a sentiment about 2011 as any, and one a lot of us can probably empathize with.

But on to the corporeal: Though I have ideological problems with its frontman, Big Black’s Songs About Fucking is the best album title ever, and that’s what Rustie’s Glass Swords was for me. Though it’s mostly an electronic album, every swoop of funk and glimmering pitch shift was a siren call to DO IT, from the swingy, fresh-to-death c-walk of “All Nite” to the eager, crystalline enthusiasm of “Ultra Thizz.” It’s the first time I can remember listening to a song and wanting to fuck purely based on sonics. Maybe it was emitting something like pheremones—the voices that do exist are a pitch-shifted melange of Rustie and his girlfriend, producer/singer Nightwave, so you can imagine they transmuted their chemistry onto the album. And, because you were thinking it: yes, the album cover looks like two giant crystalline boners both going for the same pristine a-hole. This year for me was about optimism, and the unending, silly hope that someday, the underdogs will get everything they ever desired.