A Torn Poster

A TORN POSTER (1)

When discussing the work of disgraced artists, separating the art from the artist becomes harder than ever. 

By Pranjal Pande. 

I started watching House of Cards in 2016 and since then I’ve had a poster of Kevin Spacey portraying Frank Underwood, the protagonist and anti-hero of the Netflix show House of Cards, stuck on my room’s wall. I’ve spent hours discussing the show inside and outside with friends and even teachers. When I first heard the sexual assault allegations against Kevin Spacey, I was nothing less than shocked. I never would’ve never Spacey thought Spacey, the recently knighted Emmy winning actor, would be caught up in the ongoing #MeToo campaign. But after hearing these allegations, and Spacey’s attempts to soften the blow by coming out as gay, I not only became disgusted for Spacey, but also started feeling differently about a television show that I called my favorite.

When an artist is accused of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era there are strict guidelines to punish the accused and there is mostly an exact step reaction: shock, condemnation, and reconciliation. In most cases the first two steps are near-universal, everyone is shocked that an artist who many saw as god-like (take Morgan Freeman for instance, acclaimed for literally playing god or a genius) could commit such an atrocious crime. Next comes the condemnation: high profile celebrities and people close to the accused come out to condemn the crimes committed and call for justice. The third step is the hardest, reconciling with the artist after he/she has committed a form of sexual misconduct.

Reconciling doesn’t have to mean explicitly forgiving the person for their actions, it could also mean watching a movie featuring them or listening to their music. Two distinct examples of this are the comedian Louis C.K. and actor Kevin Spacey. Louis C.K was accused of heinous sexual misconduct nearly a year ago, he apologized for his actions and was publicly condemned, everyone said his comedic career was over. However, nine months after the allegations, C.K. has made a comeback show, received an extended ovation and doesn’t talk about his past. Many people have chosen to reconcile with his actions and continue to watch his stand-up shows, thereby promoting him. Now we contrast this with Kevin Spacey who was accused of sexual misconduct, with a minor, and was subsequently condemned (Spacey even tried to apologize and come out as gay in an attempt to divert attention, trying to pull a tab from the conniving Frank Underwood). He was fired by Netflix, removed from a fully filmed movie, and has not appeared in any new role since,. This is the correct way to deal with a case of sexual misconduct.

Now many argue that the art itself doesn’t promote discrimination and hence you can enjoy the art without considering the artist’s actions. But separating the art and the artist are simply impossible, regardless of how loved or critically acclaimed it is. One reason for this is that by continuing to watch, read, listen, or view the art of an accused artist you are implicitly supporting them monetarily and not punishing them for their crimes, which sets a moral burden which you remember every time you enjoy their work. The moral burden being that you are supporting, explicitly or implicitly, the actions of an accused. The second reason is that feeling you get when you consume art created by somebody who you know has committed a crime, I know I’m not the only person who feels unsettled by this, the internet is littered with people saying they can’t look at an actor the same way after they know what they’ve done in real life. The example of Bill Cosby, who went from most loved to most hated, is apt here. Comedian John Oliver once joked, “Bill Cosby walking through walls was creepy in the show, but now it’s a whole new level”, and this perfectly summarizes how not only your feeling towards art changes when your view towards the artist changes, but on a more overarching level, how you can’t have an objective view of the artist’s art if you know certain truths about them.

In many cases, the punishment may not occur through legal or criminal proceedings due to the overwhelming publicity that cases like this often face and how old the allegations are, but that doesn’t mean the accused should be allowed to go scot free. The artist, and his art, has to publicly condemned and shamed for his crimes which includes not supporting them through their art.

I return to my Kevin Spacey poster. One day a friend came to my house remarked how that once powerful poster now has a whole new meaning. That night while looking at the poster I realized I no longer saw Frank Underwood, ruthless anti-hero, but instead, a disgraced actor. I took the poster down, and while doing so tore it, because it no longer represented the show I loved, and it was an accurate representation for my new feelings to the actor and the show.

Weekly Roundup- 26th November to 2nd December

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“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.”

– Abigail Adams

In today’s world of information overload, we might miss something worthwhile. Every week, I’ll be flagging some of the articles I have read, which I found interesting, for you. Here’s the roundup for the week:

  1. Shamolie Oberoi writes about the staggering lack of sanitation infrastructure for women in Mumbai, India. Besides the lack of toilets, the existing toilets are also unhygienic, and seem to be designed for able bodied, non pregnant, non lactating women only.
  2. Arabelle Sircadi writes a personal account of their journey with gender in public and non public spaces, and the importance of not making someone’s gender their introduction.
  3. Probashi writes a profile on Madhumala Chattopadhyay’s work with Andamanese Tribes as an anthropologist. She was one of the people who established the first ever friendly contact with the hostile Sentinelese Tribe. Madhumala is also the first woman to be accepted by another Andaman tribe, the Jarawas, with whom she established a friendly relationship. Unfortunately her accomplishments remain forgotten.
  4. In an Indian Express podcast, Tara Krishnaswamy, the co-convener of the India Women’s Caucus, speaks about the reasons behind the low number of women in state and national politics, as MLAs and MPs, despite there having been an increase in the number of women in local and Panchayat roles.
  5. Japan Times writes about the march in Syria by Kurdish women to call for an end to violence against women. The march took places on the streets of the Syrian Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli last Sunday.

An Interview with Lora Mathis

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Lora Mathis is a writer, visual artist, zinester, and musician from Southern California. Their first full-length collection The Women Widowed to Themselves was a Pushcart Prize nominee and published in 2015 by Where Are You Press. Their second, instinct to ruin, currently is available. They coined the term radical softness as a weapon, which explores vulnerability as a political move and sign of strength. Right now, they are working on essays and a fiction collection.

To Mother Earth (1)

How do you think your gender identity and sexual orientation has impacted your work as a poet and artist?

My gender and sexuality are pieces of me that are in flux, and which I am consistently trying to figure out. Poetry is a space where I can sort through feelings on them and be completely seen. All pretenses are dropped in poetry. There is no hiding in it. Writing and art are some of my main tools for uncloaking shame and shaping selfhood. There is still a good deal of guilt, internalized homophobia, familial values, and societal expectations that I am working through. My gender and sexuality have certainly informed my subject matter and my voice as well, as they are woven into my identity. My work has impacted my ability to expand my vision of myself, explore new ideas of who I can be, and to feel like my full self.

Was it hard for people around you to accept you the way you are? How did you deal with it?

This question sparked a lot of feelings in me. It’s written in the past tense, with the expectation that people accepting me has been something that has already happened, but it is an ongoing process. I am not out to everyone around me. My coming out has been selective. I came out mainly to friends and in online circles, but have not had a conversation with my family or employers. In some ways, opening up to friends and the online public about thoughts I was having surrounding gender was incredibly validating. It allowed me to speak about things I was internally questioning, and to find support in them. But in other ways it was discouraging. A lot of people around me, mainly out of a lack of ignorance rather than ill intention, kept misgendering me. Being referred to as “she” felt like I was being shoved back into a self which society fit me into, and to have my my attempts at having myself be seen in new ways stomped on. That was a couple of years ago. In the last few months I’ve been using “they” as well as “she.” Somewhat out of tiredness. Somewhat out of feeling like I don’t always fit into the space of gender nonconforming. (Although in writing those words out I’m thinking—wait, who gets to decide that??) I rarely feel 100% in myself. I have so many doubts & insecurities surrounding gender. Idk! Some days “woman” stings, other days I shrug it off. Sometimes it feels like just because certain aspects of womanhood feel off just doesn’t mean the term totally does. Other times I am screaming inside that I am “NOT A GIRL!!!”

In the last couple of years, my focus with gender validation has been on creating internal space for me to explore identity, even if others don’t see me through this. Most of the time my head feels so clouded and overwhelmed by this though. Even though gender is a construct and there is no right way to look trans, I know there’s a privilege in me being “cis passing.” I know that those who are visibly trans, especially nonwhite trans people, are subject to violence and discrimination I don’t face. I haven’t had a convo with everyone about my gender thoughts and maybe I don’t want to bc some convos I did have were disappointing in how others ignored the subject. And I know this too is a privilege.

Queer friendship and poetry have allowed me to drop all pretenses and feel totally seen. I feel very thankful for those spaces for allowing me to be confused, in flux, shifting. They don’t require me to feel 100% in my feelings of identity, they support and see me through any stage. It is difficult to share feelings of gender with others when I am still shaky in them and coming into them myself because then others’ questioning and invalidation discourages my process. I am most comfortable exploring things internally and in trusted circles!

One of the projects you’re doing is titled ‘radical softness’, could you explain what it means, and why you began it?

Radical Softness started as a photo series I created in 2015, which, in its simplest intentions, worked to prove that being connected to your emotions was a sign of strength. I made that work at a time where my mental health was at an extreme low, and my head was feeding me messages that I was weak and worthless because I was sensitive. Many societal ideas seemed to support these negative thoughts I was having. But in moments when I had some clarity, I recognized that getting through the days while being severely depressed and working through trauma was not weakness. It took a good deal of strength and energy simply to stay alive. I knew I wasn’t alone in feeling this way, and that damaging messages were being fed to us all the time.The idea that strength solely means to be turned off emotionally didn’t resonate with me. I saw strength all around in me, expressed in many ways which society didn’t uphold. There is strength in being vulnerable despite pain. There is strength in the basic actions that get you through the day. Strength looks a lot of different ways. Yes, there is strength in holding yourself together, especially for others’ sake (as men are often told to for their families), but too often the inability to access feelings and view of feelings being “weak” is a disconnection from the self. Being honest, sharing about difficult experiences, takes strength. I laid out the messages promoting vulnerability because I needed physical reminders to combat my negative thoughts and because I wanted to combat the sweep of patriarchal, ableist thinking that wrote off anyone who had emotional reactions.

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Do you identify as a feminist? What does feminism mean to you?

Yes, I identify as a feminist, although in the last few years I have become less concerned with labels. I hold the political values that feminism often promotes, but I do not run to declare myself a “feminist” in my first breath of meeting people. This is mainly because much of the mainstream feminism is not what I subscribe to. Feminism has become trendy and therefore, watered down. It’s been slapped on t-shirts, used to further careers, made into something which promotes solely white cis women. Feminism has to go beyond a fashion statement, otherwise it’s meaningless to me. Feminism has to acknowledge the system of oppression as a whole, which I think it often fails to do in the mainstream. If we are working for a better world, then it means not just acknowledging gender oppression (or always upholding it as the most important thing to work on), but all measures of oppression. Yes, I’m a feminist, but that’s not where my political concerns begin and end.

Would you concur with the statement that ‘All art is political’? Why/why not?

I think so. Everything we do is political. Politics affect even our simplest actions. Art is a statement of the self and the self is political.

You can find Lora Mathis at:

Website: http://www.loramathis.com/

Tumblr: http://lora-mathis.tumblr.com/

Instagram: @lo.mathis

 

 

Weekly Roundup- 30th to 6th May

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“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.”

– Abigail Adams

In today’s world of information overload, we might miss something worthwhile. Every week, I’ll be flagging some of the articles I have read, which I found interesting, for you. Here’s the roundup for the week:

  1. A state of national emergency is being declared in Costa Rica in response to skyrocketing rates of gender and domestic violence against women, as newly appointed Minister of Women’s Condition Patricia Mora told reporters.
  2. Vox explains the sexual misconduct allegations against R. Kelly since 1994, when he married 15 year old Aaliyah.
  3. Yasemin Besen-Cassino writes about her new book, where she explores the earliest gender inequalities in the labour market, those that arise among teenage workers. Cassino carried out an experiment asking participants if they would give a babysitter a salary increase (sample size of 100 American adults from an online sample, who were paid for their participation; most had hired a babysitter within the past few years).
  4. As reported by Bloomberg, the Saudi government program to improve the quality of life in the kingdom called for the legalization of gender mixing and an end to the mandatory prayer closures for businesses.
  5. Pitchfork analyses the gender balance in 2018 music festival lineups, with the use of extensive data. One of their conclusions are that while the gender balance has increased since last year, there is still a large disparity, that may in part stem from the unwillingness of organisers of larger festivals especially to take risks.

Weekly Roundup- 23rd to 29th April

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“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.”

– Abigail Adams

In today’s world of information overload, we might miss something worthwhile. Every week, I’ll be flagging some of the articles I have read, which I found interesting, for you. Here’s the roundup for the week:

  1. In an opinion piece, Tricia Lowther for The Guardian highlights why labelling books by gender for children only enforces stereotypes, even when it seeks to reduce them. She takes the cases of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, and its more recent male equivalent Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different, which are among a clutch of bestselling children’s books that supposedly break down gender stereotypes. She says that books like them, even while they showcase the inspirational stories of men and women, only emphasises the difference between boys and girls through their titles, and thus impedes equality.
  2. Bustle focuses on a new font, created by Leslie Sims, Chief Creative Officer of global advertising agency Young & Rubicam (Y&R), who realised that we lack a physical language that encompasses all the issues that women face, every day. Hence, she created The Feminist Letters. Sims says that ‘Each letter represents a specific issue, through both the design and what the letter stands for, in order to further call attention to the reality of the large span that the women’s rights movement covers (for example, E is for elections, and V is for voting). By selecting a letter, you are actively learning background information and factual evidence about the relevant legislation of that issue.’
  3. Timothy Williams for the New York Times examines the differences between the trials faced by Bill Cosby, where he was accused of having drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand. Between the first trial, where the jury could not agree on whether Cosby was guilty or not, and the second trial, where he was sentenced to jail, a series of revelations over Harvey Weinstein and a cascade of other powerful men invigorated the #MeToo movement. Williams examines the differences in the two trials and whether Cosby’s case was also part of a shift in the ‘norms of accountability’.
  4. BBC reports on the rules introduced by the IAAF in a bid to stop women with higher testosterone gaining a competitive advantage, and the impact it’ll have on elite female athletes, including Caster Semenya, Olympic 800m champion. These rules have been seen as divisive, and politically motivated. Further, as stated by Katrina Karkazis, a bioethicist and visiting senior fellow at the Global Health Justice Partnership at Yale, the hammer throw and the pole vault categories, which showed the highest performance advantage for women with elevated testosterone in the 2017 I.A.A.F. study, are not included in the new rules, the regulations appear to be arbitrary and not based on solid science.

Weekly Roundup- 16th to 22nd April

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“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.”

– Abigail Adams

In today’s world of information overload, we might miss something worthwhile. Every week, I’ll be flagging some of the articles I have read, which I found interesting, for you. Here’s the roundup for the week:

  1. Ruth Marcus for the Washington Post highlights 3 women who have made the news this week-  U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Southwest Airlines pilot Tammie Jo Shults and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Army veteran- and compares them to Barbara Bush in a beautiful tribute to the way she inspired change and defied norms present at that time.
  2. The Harvard Crimson muses about sexual harassment and the way it’s dealt with at Harvard University, taking in particular the case of the sexual harassment faced by Terry L. Karl by Government professor Jorge I. Dominguez, along with the writer’s personal experiences.
  3. The Good News Network spoke about the amazing work done by Gulika Reddy, a Fellow in Global Good Fund’s cohort of 2018. Currently a Dubin Fellow at Harvard Kennedy Business School, Gullika is the founder and director of Schools of Equality, a nonprofit that runs activity-based programs that reach young people to shift attitudes that perpetuate gender-based violence and other forms of discrimination.
  4. Nicola Heath, for The Guardian, talks about ‘gender creative parenting’, which seeks raise children in an environment free from gender bias. For these parents “the gender binary must not simply be smudged but wholly eradicated from the moment that socialisation begins, clearing the way both for their child’s future gender exploration and for wholesale cultural change”, writes Alex Morris.