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Belle Waring

Gods of This Fictional Universe

by Belle Waring on March 15, 2017

First let me say that I recommend Too Like The Lightning and Seven Surrenders to all of you quite fervently; they are the best sci-fi books I have read in ages. John says they are weirder than Miéville, though I’m not sure about that. Less weird than Clute’s Appleseed, anyway (what isn’t?). Second, I am going to talk about both books, though not indifferently, because they are more like the continuation of a single book than most originals and sequels. Third, I am about to reveal what I consider the antepenultimate spoiler for Seven Surrenders. That is, there are two, yet more shocking revelations/events that follow this one—and to be absolutely fair the main point I discuss was quite clearly stated in Too Like The Lightning, but in a way difficult to credit. There are many other spoilers too though, so, if you don’t like spoilers you will hate this and you should not read it.

SPOILERS FOLLOW GEE WHIZ THAT’S AN UNDERSTATEMENT, BELLE WARING.
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So This Is What The Volume Knob’s For

by Belle Waring on March 15, 2017

Do you want to look at a wobbly video of someone’s record player, someone who doesn’t know how to position the arm over the groove in between the songs before letting the needle fall to the LP? (Or barring that start the video later.) Yeah, well too bad suckers, because that’s the best video I could find for the best song ever this week month, The Mountain Goats’ “Dance Music.” (The song is more than ten years old; it’s just the best song ever to me this month.) You know, why am I harshing on the person who hooked me up with this video. Thanks random person, I owe you one. Also, new vinyl, woo! Most all of my records sound like someone is frying a pan of bacon on every track.

I find this whole album very relatable which is kind of a bummer in the larger sense because it’s sad. But this is real life that’s happening now, and right now this song makes me so happy I will run when I was exercising by walking before, and run with a smile on my face. No one looks happy when they run. Literally no one.

Joggers uniformly look like they are about to pass their last painful bowel movement before inevitable death by fire ants. Longtime joggers can be picked out easily because they also look shriveled-up, raisin-like, by the exigencies of their alleged fun hobby. I have run before BTDubs, ever, it’s just you hate it almost all the time. If you get to where you don’t hate it you run to where you’re miserable again. That’s how it works. I mean, you get some exulting in the power of your body moments at the beginning of a run when you’re young, but otherwise it’s steady misery. Right now I sprint and then walk. Way better. Except it’s hot as balls 100% humidity outside and the jungle is creepy. Winter in Arizona I’m like, 4 or 5 miles, cool. Singapore: 2.1 miles. Dying.

We joked that seeing a runner smiling might trigger the “if you see a suspicious person or article, notify the authorities” principle and some concerned Singaporean would call to say they had seen such a person. “This ang mo woman with blue hair was running and smiling. Very suspicious one.” “Maybe she is simply catching the bus?” “No, this one is jogging.” Police: “we’re coming now.”

The king of all happy sad songs is Neutral Milk Hotel’s Holland 1945, right?

He Took It All Too Far/But This is an Excellent Article

by Belle Waring on February 25, 2017

This is an amazing article at Medium (h/t Paul Campos) that obviates my unexpressed need to write about Gamergate or Milo Thingface. I wanted to write about the former at the time, and John said there was almost no upside (I wrote a post about dickweasels!) and infinity downside (I became the target of a random whirling roulette wheel of internet and even IRL destruction because I am a woman who wrote about dickweasels.) Compelling! Likewise he counsels me not to write about the crazy MRA bloggers with whom I have such an unfortunate obsession. I, like, have a problem. I know way too much stuff about the manosphere. I read reddit threads, you guys. But whatever, let’s just read this article about 4chan that explains everything! (And truly, if you don’t know about the rare Pepe memes, here’s your better than Vox explainer). Whenever you say something’s full of fail, you owe a debt to 4chan, you know. (Plain People of Crooked Timber: we never say that, Belle. Me: well…dang.) The author has the inside scoop.

As someone who has witnessed 4chan grow from a group of adolescent boys who could fit into a single room at my local anime convention to a worldwide coalition of right wing extremists (which is still somehow also a message board about anime), I feel I have some obligation to explain….

Again, here we can understand this group as people who have failed at the real world and have checked out of it and into the fantasy worlds of internet forums and video games. These are men without jobs, without prospects, and by extension (so they declaimed) without girlfriends. Their only recourse, the only place they feel effective, is the safe, perfectly cultivated worlds of the games they enter. By consequence of their defeat, the distant, abstract concept of women in the flesh makes them feel humiliated and rejected. Yet, in the one space they feel they can escape the realities of this, the world of the video game, here (to them, it seems) women want to assert their presence and power.

If this sounds hard to believe, take for example Milo Yiannopoulos, the “Technology Editor” at Breitbart News, whose scheduled lecture this month at Berkeley spawned massive riots and protests. Yiannopoulos rose to prominence via Gamergate. He is not a “technology” editor because he compares the chip architectures of competing graphics cards. [This is the sickest of burns—BW] Rather the “tech” here is code for the fact that his audience is the vast population of sad young men who have retreated to internet communities. Likewise the mainstream press sometimes describes him as troll as a way of capturing his vague association with 4chan. This term, too, is inaccurate. He is 4chan at its most earnest, after all these men have finally discovered their issue — the thing that unites them — their failure and powerlessness literally embodied (to them) by women….

Here Yiannopoulos has inverted what has actually happened to make his audience feel good. Men who have retreated to video games and internet porn can now characterize their helpless flight as an empowered conscious choice to reject women for something else. In other words, it justifies a lifestyle which in their hearts they previously regarded helplessly as a mark of shame.


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Hospitals Are Terrible

by Belle Waring on February 23, 2017

Being in a multi-bed room overnight, or being in the OR, or even sometimes when the chemotherapy room is crowded over-full and they are putting people in cheap plastic chairs before hooking them up to clear bags of poison—this is the worst. And the worst thing about being in the hospital overnight is that you can’t sleep. I understand intellectually that your doctors need to know what your blood pressure is. I mean, sort of. What if you don’t have any heart problems? Why always with the blood pressure? But between your IV bag running out and beeping and the irrational fear that air bubbles will get inside you and kill you, and the checking of the temperature and blood pressure every four hours, and the breakfast you actively don’t want being slammed down at 6:30, and the cleaning staff, well, you don’t sleep. No knitting up the raveled sleeve of care for you! And this is true even in a private room! This article in the NYT explores a very obvious point, namely that multi-bed wards are a terrible idea all the time. I felt vindicated to read that the decrease in hospital-borne infections outweighs the cost of constructing a hospital with individual rooms.

As a doctor, I’m struck daily by how much better hospitals could be designed. Hospitals are among the most expensive facilities to build, with complex infrastructures, technologies, regulations and safety codes. But evidence suggests we’ve been building them all wrong — and that the deficiencies aren’t simply unaesthetic or inconvenient. All those design flaws may be killing us.

It’s no secret that hospital-acquired infections are an enormous contributor to illness and death, affecting up to 30 percent of intensive care unit patients. But housing patients together very likely exacerbates the problem. Research suggests that private rooms can reduce the risk of both airborne infections and those transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces. One study reported that transitioning from shared to private rooms decreased bacterial infections by half and reduced how long patients were hospitalized by 10 percent. Other work suggests that the increased cost of single-occupancy rooms is more than offset by the money saved because of fewer infections. Installing easier-to-clean surfaces, well-positioned sinks and high-quality air filters can further reduce infection rates.

The whole thing is worth a read. Perhaps unsurprisingly, having a window out of which you can look at trees or nature has a huge impact on recovery time. I personally have always wanted to get the Magic Mountain treatment in which I am bundled in specially folded blankets and put out on a lounger to enjoy a view of the Alps.

The author doesn’t discuss bad fluorescents, though the commenters do. New compact bulbs can mimic the warmer light of incandesents reasonably well now, and that is another terrible hospital thing that could be fixed. I feel I should note two things here. One, the staff at hospitals is almost uniformly composed of kind helpful people who are working very hard. Nurses are great. The sub-nurses who are supposed to be just emptying bedpans or whatever are delightful. But let’s be honest: the actual doctors are the least friendly. Sorry actual doctors. I know you are busy. (But so are the ladies emptying the bedpans, probably?) Two, I am not in the hospital or accompanying anyone to same at the moment and this is just a general complaint so don’t worry about me; more importantly my migraine treatment worked. Since I made it to the first week (at which the Botox takes full effect) I have used my migraine meds only once. John was disappointed that I can have a headache at all but he doesn’t know that not having a real migraine every day after having had that happen for months oh God is a fairy wonderland (I don’t know why I’m not being more sparkly and cheerful all the time; I’m sorry, beloved family. I have terrible jet lag still). I asked my neurologist if there were any side effects and he said, “you’ll be running back here every twelve weeks begging me to do it again, but other than that, no.” OMG Dr. Fineman you are right. Thanks for the Tinkerbell-clapping, everyone! Now tell me of your experiences with flimsy curtains separating you from people with dementia shouting all night. The airing of grievances can be therapeutic; anyway it’s better than reading articles about politics amirite?

What Are We Doing to Stay Sane?

by Belle Waring on February 17, 2017

Plain People of Crooked Timber: we’re not, you great idiot. We do ordinary things for up to fifteen minutes at a time and then suddenly the reality of the political situation comes rushing back to us and our forehead prickles with cold sweat and our heart bangs like Charlie Watts is going at it in a particularly vigorous live version of “Bitch,” or something. OK, no, you’ve got us, Belle Waring, it’s drinking.
Me: that’s nice for you probably sometimes but I picked the wrong life to stop drinking (apparently). Solange makes a lot of good suggestions in the following song, but starts with the obvious: “I tried to drink it away…”

This song is so good it will keep you sane for over four minutes.
Plain People of Crooked Timber: we love you but you have terrible taste in music, Belle Waring. Oh wait, damn, that song is great. We reserve the right to hate future songs, however, and we still have questions about your judgment.
Me: I don’t know that that’s so nice. What am I doing to stay sane, you didn’t particularly ask? Listening to music, that’s good, and hiking in the desert, and beading, and making a needlepoint of the opening screen of Super Mario Bros for Violet, and playing Animal Crossing, and having migraines. Can’t care about the body politic when you’ve got the old Boethius hat on, can you? However, I do not recommend this terrifying mighty distractive tool to anyone not currently serving in the Trump administration. That dead-eyed D-List-Goebbels/Pee Wee Herman guy, frex; he could be trying to puke out a headache right now and I’d feel fine with that. I had a nice neurologist inject my head with deadly botulin toxin on Monday afternoon and you must all do a save-Tinkerbell clapping thing for me whereby you wish very hard that this start to work soon. It very well should might better! So, what are you, the Plain People of Crooked Timber, doing to stay sane slowly inch away from the precipice of panicked madness? It’s ok if you’re huffing paint; no hate.

UPDATE: other things, called to mind by ozma and the Solange song: playing with adorable children; going alternately in the insanely hot hot tub and then the cold pool; changing my hair, which has been pastel blue, and then lavender, with white in between (needed prep) about 6 times each.

Happy Valentine’s Day

by Belle Waring on February 14, 2017

Doilies! Glitter! Overpriced prix fixe menus! But there are songs too.

Is this the best soul song ever? Wait, no, the most beautiful? The way he makes his voice break on “please hear my cry” blows my mind every time.

I hope you all eat chocolate or enjoy the highest pleasure of souls entwined who, the modeling the other on Zeus, begin to grow wings because of their intense attraction to and vivid memory of the Forms, or whatever. But with less physical restraint? (The Phaedrus is not crystal clear on this point.) I’m going to finally see my honey at 10 pm on Monday!

For You, to Cheer You Up

by Belle Waring on January 17, 2017

Car Seat Headrest is a good band. Like, damn, so amazing. Maybe the acme of “anything could be a bandname” naming, but I don’t care. The album Teens of Denial is just crazy good, like a Pavement had sex with Guided by Voices album delivered from your dreams, but with Belle and Sebastian story songs?

Also the 2016 Bon Iver Album is great and I didn’t know (John and I haven’t lived in the same town since June or he would have told me, probably ;__; ).

So now you can go listen to good music, and let’s all celebrate MLK day by figuring out if we can get to the Women’s March nearest us on the 21st. I may be able to go to the one in DC, if my insurance company will agree to pay for a thing at the Mayo in time! Cross fingers for me. If not I can go here in Phoenix.

Also, watercolors of Finn Family Moomintroll!

Ride a Painted Pony

by Belle Waring on January 14, 2017

Words can’t express how much I love the Shirley Bassey cover of Spinning Wheel. I couldn’t find it for ages; all my records in storage in Savannah, and no love from iTunes. In SF in the late 90s I used to go to a club night that was all…cheesy 60s music? But with a brilliant DJ who was good at reading the small crowd. This song was the barnburner. I was always resentful that my mom had once—but no longer—had thigh-high white patent leather go-go boots. (I also lacked the imagination as a teen when I first found out about these missing boots to see how you might just dance through/fatally stank up a thing like that). I only ever had knee-high white patent-leather go-go boots. Good enough when the piccolos attack this furious!

Grumpy Cat Face: Good

by Belle Waring on January 10, 2017

I have been avoiding the internet for ages. But Belle Waring, what did you do instead? I went to ten followed by 100 zeroes doctors’ appointments, and I got exercise like a real person, and discovered that actually I rather like Adorno and Horkheimer when they are unfairly mean to Kant*, and I re-read Harry Potter. Also I played Animal Crossing on the Nintendo 3DS. So. Much. Animal Crossing. I recommend it very highly. I thought I could look at the internet again after the election. (Muffled sobbing from every direction). I still can only sort of deal with looking at the NYT. So this article was actually a happy surprise: Women’s March on Washington Opens Contentious Dialogues About Race. I thought, oh God, this is going to be tedious reading about how white feminists are alienating minority feminists by insisting that everyone needs to unify behind the most widely-supported goals and bell hooks needs to shut the f$%k up. But no! It’s about how minority feminists are throwing bell hooks quotes in everyone’s faces and insisting that concerns about racial discrimination be foregrounded even as women unify against the Trump administration! I thought I’d read depressing “this is why I’m not a feminist” quotes from minority women, and instead I’m reading whiny “I’m not marching if people are going to try to make me think about white privilege” quotes from white women. Progress!

Ms. Willis, a 50-year-old wedding minister from South Carolina, had looked forward to taking her daughters to the march. Then she read a post on the Facebook page for the march that made her feel unwelcome because she is white.

The post, written by a black activist from Brooklyn who is a march volunteer, advised “white allies” to listen more and talk less. It also chided those who, it said, were only now waking up to racism because of the election.

“You don’t just get to join because now you’re scared, too,” read the post. “I was born scared.”

Stung by the tone, Ms. Willis canceled her trip.

“This is a women’s march,” she said. “We’re supposed to be allies in equal pay, marriage, adoption. Why is it now about, ‘White women don’t understand black women’?”

Jesus, lady. South Carolinians who feel unwelcome because they are white—this is such an unlovely group of people to throw in with.

Now, I know plenty of people will respond to this with not-crazy concerns about maximizing turnout for the march being more important than intersectionality right at this crucial moment. But what if every moment is crucial? Does intersectionality ever get to be important? I think this addresses it well: “if your short-term goal is to get as many people as possible at the march, maybe you don’t want to alienate people. But if your longer-term goal is to use the march as a catalyst for progressive social and political change, then that has to include thinking about race and class privilege.”

And take it away march organizers:

For too long, the march organizers said, the women’s rights movement focused on issues that were important to well-off white women, such as the ability to work outside the home and attain the same high-powered positions that men do. But minority women, they said, have had different priorities. Black women who have worked their whole lives as maids might care more about the minimum wage or police brutality than about seeing a woman in the White House. Undocumented immigrant women might care about abortion rights, they said, but not nearly as much as they worry about being deported.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think I’ll see from commenters here a lot of argle-bargle about how caring about trans people cost Democrats the election and we need to tone down the gay, and tell bell hooks to shut the f@#k up, also, too, generally. But to the extent that one is being serious about appealing to the white working class, a feminism that serves only the needs of educated white women with relatively high-paying jobs ain’t going to get you nowhere on that front either. Maybe doing the right thing can also be politically expedient?

*John would like to object here that Adorno can dish it out but he sure can’t take it. I haven’t read enough [thin-skinned complaints from] Adorno to evaluate this claim but it seems not implausible. Still, the dishing. So dishy. ‘Do you know what the Critique of Pure Reason reminds me of? De Sade.’ [I note for the benefit of readers that this is a paraphrase but I will post on the topic soon.]

The Wish Power Are Together With You

by Belle Waring on January 8, 2017

Someone dubbed a terrible Chinese sub of the third Star Wars prequel under the title The Third Gathers: Backstroke of the West. It is the best thing ever. Obi-Wan Kenobi is called “Ratio Tile”, while Anakin is “Allah Gold.” The Presbyterian Church is also involved way more than you might think. If When you watch the full movie, use settings to put the subtitles at “backstroke” or you will be distracted by the actual, really bad script. Some highlights:

DJ Earworm 2016

by Belle Waring on January 6, 2017

This year blew hairy goat balls. Like, Mickey Kaus learned lucid dreaming techniques and came up with these balls. I know this, you, The Plain People of Crooked Timber know this. Anyway, did DJ Earworm’s 2016 mix blow perforce? Nah. It’ll grow on you. I know y’all are all going to say “oh Belle Waring there were no good songs this year and this just reminds me how much I hated that “worth it” song which was like some stepped-on B-List Destiny’s Child knockoff bullshit, and also that Drake doesn’t rate and I should get with Rhianna, and stuff.” That’s as may be, Plain People of Crooked Timber, but basically Rhianna needs to date like a Rhianna clone or maybe Cara Delivigne or something, or else we’re all still going to be standing here saying, “this person? Seriously?” but this is a good mashup. It has an EDM-esque enough track in it, which is crucial for a good mix. Zoë thinks 2013 is best while Violet favors 2012. Both very solid choices. I have a lot of love for 2012, in part because I listen to it so much with Violet. This is so even though I find it brings up memories of a year that also blew hairy goat balls, but for me personally rather then the world at large. (John is experiencing the cold robbies as he reads the number 2012.)

If I never go that crazy again it’ll be too soon, I tell you what. And what did my Singaporean psychiatrists do? Prescribe every wrongest worse medication in the world, to where I got ordered an EKG an hour in on my first day here at the Mayo Clinic when they asked “so, they’re monitoring your heart carefully on this right?” Me: wat no. And now I have to titer down off all this scheisse and what does amitriptyline withdrawal give you? MIGRAINES HA HA HOW IRONIC. (Also plain old reg’lar headaches. Also I have 8 more weeks on the taper. Also some people have headaches for 8 weeks following total elimination. Those people are probably pussies who suck at withdrawing from drugs though, am I right?)

I like to listen to music loud on the good headphones when I’m miserable. When Violet pointed out the other day that this might be counter-productive I explained, rather lamely, that when I control the sounds I hear and I know what they will be I don’t find it disturbing in the same way that other loud noises are. Violet, with excessive emphases: “oh my favorite songs could never hurt me. They’re my favorites!!” Mmmmmm. Compelling. Also, the headphones just died lol fine. I’m going to go put my feet in the hot tub and pour icy water on my head which, put that way, makes this seem pretty baller. I mean, some people have real problems. I even have new anti-depressant/mood stabilizers that appear to make me be not depressed! I’m an ungrateful shit, really; I was actually depressed a month ago and had forgotten how vile it is, and also Zoë is doing great and now I’m all “I have a headache”/whine. In some ways 2017 can only be worse generally but for my family in particular I’m certain it’ll be way better (provided my mom is OK.) I’m fervently hoping the same is true for all the Plain People of Crooked Timber and their simple but honest families. OK, I have a soft spot for the complicated dishonest families; y’all stay safe too.

Look, It’s Halley’s Comet!

by Belle Waring on January 5, 2017

My step-father Edmund Kirby-Smith (great-grandson of the very same) was kind of an awful person. In a shorthand way it may help to note he was best pals with Lee Atwater. Well, he was brought up by a…I think brutally strict father is a fair thing to say about Col. Edmund Kirby-Smith Sr.? Though less strenuously strict fairness compels me to say the Colonel was never anything more than abstractly terrifying to me or my brother and sister, and meant well as near as I could figure. They lived in an isolated home looking down into a valley at the edge of Sewanee, Tennessee, at the top of the last arm of one of an amphitheater of mountains, with trees falling away endlessly down the slope and then more mountains stretching out of view which, if not purple, were at least the lavender of eroded East Coast majesties. To say Edmund’s dad was lord of all he surveyed would understate his power. Just him and his sister—shit went Faulkner wrong up there, is the thing. Maybe sometimes I think he didn’t really have much of a chance to be a good person, although that’s not an actual excuse for failing to be one.

So, yeah, he was sort of your all around bad step-dad. You can use your imagination as long as you don’t go overboard. But father to my beloved, best beloved sister. And he had his moments! He was fun at parties.* I’m not being sarcastic; he really was. We invented games like Jupiter-Ball, which we played with a whole Salvation Army’s worth of bowling balls (we systematically switched the tags on them from badminton rackets), and into the thumb hole of the biggest and black ugliest of which we had hammered a broom handle to use as a mallet. We dug a huge hole in the yard to be the golf-analogue target, and created a ring out of which one would attempt to knock one’s opponents’ ball before they could take the shot. When even that grew boring he helped us carry them all over to the park across the road at 12 a.m. where we took turns sending them down the curly slide and seeing whose could go the furthest into the soft sand. We had some good friends with us, like the liquor store clerk and his girlfriend with the less interesting, less relevant job: electron microscopy. But she could play the fiddle pretty fair and could pee standing up like a man and was willing to do it in front of everyone after a few beers, and so was a worthy addition.
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Relevant

by Belle Waring on June 2, 2016

Epic Rap Battles of History can be uneven but is, at times, amazing. My favorite is MLK vs. Gandhi with Key and Peele. Eastern philosophers vs. western philosophers is awesome—it deviates from the usual “who won, who’s next” close, ending instead with “what is winning?” Ten points to Ravenclaw. And “you don’t want to stand in the path of Laozi today; move, bitch, get out the way” is inspired. However, some effort should have been made to pronounce the Chinese philosophers’ names. Any effort, smdh. Finally, the philosophers on each side end up turning on one another, exactly as Schopenhauer would have it:

On the other hand, hardly has any system of philosophy come into the world when it has already begun to contemplate the destruction of all its brothers, like an Asiatic sultan when he ascends to the throne. For just as there can be only one queen in a beehive, so can only one philosophy be the order of the day. Thus systems are by nature as unsociable as spiders, each of which sits alone in its web and sees how many flies will allow themselves to be caught therein, but approaches another spider merely in order to fight with it. Thus whereas the works of poets pasture peacefully side by side, those of philosophy are born beasts of prey, and even in their destructive impulse are like scorpions, spiders, and the larvae of some insects and are turned primarily against their own species. They appear in the world like men clad in armour from the seed of the dragon’s teeth of Jason’s and til now have, like these, mutually exterminated each other. This struggle has already lasted for more than two thousand years; will there ever result from it a final victory and lasting peace?

Aaaaaanyway my actual plan was to post this Epic Rap Battle of History: Thomas Jefferson vs. Frederick Douglass.

No, But We Have a Word For That, Pt 2

by Belle Waring on May 31, 2016

Right, so, The NYT has an article on how DNA analysis is helping African-Americans learn about their family history. The author’s grasp on the English language seems to slip away from them at one point (originally two), though. Exhibit A:

Buried in DNA, the researchers found the marks of slavery’s cruelties, including further evidence that white slave owners routinely fathered children with women held as slaves.

MmmmmmOK. This one was changed in an update! Because it sucked before:

The researchers observed that the X chromosome of African-Americans has a greater African ancestry than other chromosomes. Dr. Gravel and his colleagues believe this variation is explained by European men and African women producing children — in other words, slave owners raping the women they held captive.

Thanks for explaining what happens when a rape victim and her rapist “produce children”! Because rape is totally the exact actual word we should use when someone coerces someone else into having sex with him against her will. That might be mebbe by, like, standing right over the person with an axe handle, or else could be something more like keeping your own children enslaved in America so that she couldn’t escape you in France (coughJeffersoncough).

Now, I do understand that people have a general unwillingness to say things like, “noted statesman and confirmed serial rapist Thomas Jefferson exercised extraordinary taste in designing his home.” It just…it just sounds real, real bad. But when talking about slaveowners generally, what is with the “fathered children” thing? Or, let’s grant that people are reluctant even to say that about such a huge number of white citizens often thought to be morally adequate in some vague way as a class (I’m not really seeing it, but, eh.). Nonetheless, even when it comes to the most universally loathed men in the world, like Josef Fritzl, I have noticed a strong inclination for writers to say that someone “fathered children with” their rape victim. At the time of the case, particularly, I found it disturbing to read these words so many times: “fathered children.”

John’s hypothesis was that, to some degree, the rapine part of slavery is baked into the enslavement, with the result that further rape doesn’t seem like the most salient thing? (He was not looking for weird justifications for this abuse of language, just speculating.) About abductors…mmm…same, sort of? Like, the kidnapping is the part where volition goes out the window, and then all further activities are assumed to be unwilling and there’s therefore no need to specifically say raped many times afterward? But I don’t hear it that way. Quite the opposite. Rather, it seems as if people think you can only be raped so many times before…something other than rape is taking place? Or, perhaps, the “was she kicking and screaming” element that is meant to pick out rape rape infects the way people discuss rapes that don’t involve physical violence every single time?

I can easily imagine a lived complexity in which Sally Hemings had some power in her relationship with Thomas Jefferson, emotional power or even sexual power of a kind. But this is something for a novelist to talk about—a journalist or historian needs to say “raped” again even for the 200th instance of forced sexual relations. And “fathered” is just weird and messed-up sounding, redolent of horse-breeding. I do feel things have improved in the last five years. I notice it particularly in reading sites like the (nominally?) feminist Jezebel—commenters will always correct quoted articles of this kind to include the word rape, and I do feel people notice.

“Buried in DNA, the researchers found concrete evidence of slavery’s cruelties, including the fact that enslaved women often became pregnant as the result of being repeatedly raped by their white masters.” Is that even any harder to say, or is it just more unpleasant to read? Thoughts?

We Have a Word For That, Pt. 1

by Belle Waring on May 31, 2016

The NYT has an interesting article on how DNA analysis is helping African-Americans
(especially in the south) discover more about the carefully erased history of their families. Most people need to know at least the name of the white families who enslaved their forebears in order to make much progress, but as more information is digitized and collated this can become easier. I ran across this article about an informal genealogy research group in Savannah when I was searching for something else. The list of references includes the ‘Joseph Frederick Waring II papers,’ MS 1275:

Contains 35 items on African-American churches (not dated); 18 items on African-American members of the Republican Party of Georgia from 1867-1869; slave bills of sale from 1856-1859; a list of slaves from 1859, leases to African-Americans from 1865-1866, and a letter from 1851 which discusses a fugitive slave riot.

There’s also the less morally disturbing ‘Antonio J. Waring Collection, MS 1287,’ which contains “The Case of the Africans,” discussing the slave trade from 1817-1820. These two references, and an earlier note from the ‘Joseph Vallence Beven papers,’ MS 71, which, “[c]ontains correspondence dating from 1787 between George Mathews, Thomas Pinckney, and General James Jackson concerning armed fugitive slaves” brought two things home to me.

One, my brother’s friend Tom Pinckney, and a ton of Macintyre’s live along the stretch of the May River within a half-mile from my house. Pretty sure there’s even a Ravenel up in there closer to town. There are zero black families along that stretch of the river. This is obviously morally wrong. However did this inequity arise? At least I don’t go around explaining how I never benefited materially from chattel slavery because my family all emigrated from Ireland 12 minutes ago and were treated exactly like black slaves, except for not being owned outright or made legally sub-human or subject to the dreaded ‘one drop of Irish blood’ test, or even the ‘are you lighter than this piece of A4 typing paper on which I spattered some watered-down sepia ink from a toothbrush’ test. That’s a pretty low bar, though. It’s not exactly “take all thou hast, and give to the poor”-type stuff. More like, “I’m not an aggressive dickweasel! Yay me! Please give me some benne brittle!” Mmmm, tastes like exploitation of West Africa.

Two, the history of slavery in America is always taught as if there was little to no resistance from slaves. I have wondered about that plenty, thinking, when S.C. was 80% black, how in God’s name did white people keep from getting straight murdered all the time? I mean, “by using inhumanly savage violent repression,” obviously, but even so I thought there would be more “whoops, the plantation house caught on fire and nobody could get out mumble because people were standing outside in a circle armed with hoes and axes mumble.” But I’m starting to think that the slavers’ nightmare happened much more than I think, but the news of it was repressed as savagely as the small rebellions, so as to keep anybody from getting any ideas. OK, this wasn’t actually my initial point at all but it is worth considering, so I’ll just break this post up for easier commentatin’.