We’re entering the final weeks before the election, and I can’t wait for it to be over. I think that’s the sense in much of the country this year, even amongst those who seem enthusiastic about whichever side they claim to be on.
This week is relatively light on work produced, as I finish up some pieces and wait for others to make their way down the pipeline. In terms of work for you and the website, here’s what you’ll see this week: a piece on abortion rights and the problems with Hillary Clinton framing a procedure as a “tragic choice,” and another on sexual harassment on the left. There has been a lot of talk about Trump’s history with women, including some horrific accounts of him assaulting women in the most entitled way. And, of course, who can erase the memory of that disgusting video from their mind?
But while it’s easy — and convenient, this election year — to talk about such instances on the part of men we can easily define as, well, pigs and louts and who happen to be on the Right, we talk much less about sexual harassment on the left. There have been accounts of serial molesters and rapists in radical/left organising circles, but a lot of that, frankly, descends into some very ugly lynch-mob mentality, often driven by the pretense of “restorative justice” (and is anything but). That’s an entirely complicated set of narratives and deserves its own analysis.
I’m referring rather to sexism and sexual harassment in left circles, and particularly the misogyny that is so prevalent but rarely spoken about publicly, in left organising and intellectual circles. This might take the form of predatory lefties preying on young college students and women in general (something my students and I often spoke about in my years as a graduate teaching assistant and then as an adjunct), or the everyday sexism of left organisations where the division of labour is not very subtly gendered (the menfolk take the microphones, the womenfolk tend to the potlucks).
I’m working on these as I finish a last freelance piece. As you know, I don’t integrate personal material into my work unless I can make it a part of a larger theoretical and political point, and that takes time and lot of work to do well. The new pieces will not be confessionals, but I will be alluding to and contextualising them in my experiences with left organisations. I’m looking forward to unveiling this and the piece on abortion.
Some of you have also been inquiring about my work on Suey Park and on Meryl Streep — all of which is also forthcoming. My mills grind slow, but they grind exceeding fine.
On the freelance payment front: I’ve already begun to make my desire for advances clear, even without a formal statement (a friend has offered to help me with one) and I’m pleasantly surprised to see a generally amenable response. I do think there’s a change coming, with editors and publishers realising that free or cheap labour is only worth every cent they pay.
At the same time...well, a lot needs to change, starting with neoliberal university professors refusing to scab their labour. They’ve finally discovered unions and such and yet, somehow, don’t hesitate to write for free at places that can actually afford to pay for them, in their desperate yearning to be “relevant.” If you’re an academic or a writer who doesn’t have to depend on writing for your livelihood, please think long and hard before you write for free or ridiculously tiny amounts at “lefty” magazines for the “exposure” and the chance to become a well-known public intellectual. When you do that, you’re literally making it impossible or just really hard for writers like me to even think of demanding better pay and better conditions. For more of what I mean, here’s one of my pieces on academics as scab labour, and here’s another.
In the months to come, I’ll be writing much more about the state of academia and scab labour, and the effects on what some term a “public intellectual culture.” I’m especially interested in the problem of academics filching work from writers working outside academia in order to publish op-eds and such in prestigious places like the New York Times or in academic journals and, yes, the newer “lefty” magazines that are currently emerging. Increasingly, the world of publications like Jacobin and even more mainstream entities like New York Magazine is occupied by people who haven’t been able to find jobs in academia or who exist on its fringes, and whose work tends to validate the theorists and critics they studied under. In too many cases, we have relatively young editors or desperate adjuncts eagerly hoping to have graduate careers in academia or find adjunct gigs, assigned to “edit” famous or powerful academics who might have the influence to advance (or end) their careers. At the same time, newspapers, magazines, and even many book publishers are ending or cutting back on the use of professional editors and copy-editors (and if you don’t know the difference between the two, that tells you everything you need to know about the collapse of publishing).
This is an unhealthy situation, and it’s one that’s growing, without much public discussion about its long-term deleterious effects. There are some who write, often optimistically, about “public intellectuals” when what they really mean is scab labour. What shocks me about so many conversations about “public intellectuals” is how much they ignore the material realities of the publishing world and persist in reifying the perception of writing as something that simply happens by, well, magic, as Elizabeth Gilbert would have you believe.
Speaking of support for writers like me: Many thanks to all the new subscribers, and welcome, and thanks also to those who’ve sent in donations. I recently discovered that a number of messages somehow slipped into my spam folder, even when they were sent via my website, and I do apologise to those who might have wondered why I never responded. I’m now making my way through those, slowly but steadily. And I now check my spam folder every day.
To the Roundup.
What I’ve Written Or Was Mentioned In
October 22, 2016: Current Affairs interviewed Liza Featherstone, editor of False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton along with me and fellow contributor Margaret Corvid.
What I’m Reading
Another woman has come out accusing Trump but she’s a sex worker, so...Margaret Corvid writes that “Jessica Drake Is No Less Of A Trump Victim Because She’s A Sex Worker.” She doesn’t let Hillary Clinton off the hook, either.
The absolutely outrageous riot charges against Amy Goodman were finally dropped, but we should worry about what this means for journalists in the near and distant future.
In Canada, a baby Jesus lost his head, literally, and someone tried to fix it. The result was, well...You have to see it to believe it.
I’ve long held that cats were sent by aliens to infiltrate our societies and are just biding their time till the mothership comes to take us over. This cat did a Jason Bourne, inadvertently revealing his secret powers in a flash. Top this, mere mortals.
In Turkey, another cat tried to warn us that our news is shit and we should just stop broadcasting it and pet kittehs instead.
From the Archives
I once wrote about Writing and Wanking.
Chris Kimball, of America’s Test Kitchen, has a new venture; this New York Times profile of him remains one of the best in the genre (and is surprisingly good for a publication that tends to grovel in front of the well-known).
Here’s a piece that discusses the use of music on the show.
I first encountered The Mountain Goats when Walking Dead played “Up the Wolves” at the end of an episode.
I also love their “You Were Cool.”
Gordon Lightfoot’s Sundown is probably among my favourites.
But my favourite, by far, is John Cale’s Hallelujah.
Nick Drake’s Riverman is always devastating.
And if you missed it, here’s the last Weekly Roundup.
Photo by Gautham Reddy