Muslims face prejudice, but Muslims from the Caucasus face a particular kind of prejudice - the kind born of ignorance so great it perversely imbues everything with significance. “There is never interpretation, understanding and knowledge when there is no interest,” Edward Said wrote in Covering Islam , and until this week, there was so little interest in and knowledge of the Caucasus that the ambassador of the Czech Republic felt compelled to issue a press release stating that the Czech Republic is not the same as Chechnya.
What made them suspect him? He was running—so was everyone. The police reportedly thought he smelled like explosives; his wounds might have suggested why. He said something about thinking there would be a second bomb—as there was, and often is, to target responders. If that was the reason he gave for running, it was a sensible one. He asked if anyone was dead—a question people were screaming. And he was from Saudi Arabia, which is around where the logic stops. Was it just the way he looked, or did he, in the chaos, maybe call for God with a name that someone found strange?
In the wake of something terrible, I am generally stunned into silence. There is nothing to be said that can encompass the unfathomable—news of a pedophile football coach, news of pedophile priests, a bombing in a country far away, a mass shooting in a movie theater, a mass shooting at a high school, a mass shooting at an elementary school, a bombing at the finish line of a marathon, the final mile of which was dedicated to the victims of a mass shooting at an elementary school. What wearies me is how often I have found myself stunned and silent in recent years. What especially wearies me is having such a finely honed vocabulary for tragedy.
Anyone passingly interested in this sort of industry gossip will have no doubt heard by now that, on Monday morning in Santa Fe, director Lynne Ramsay (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”) declined to appear for the first day of production on her new film “Jane Got A Gun”, allegedly abandoning the 25 million dollar project and its 150 eager crew members in the process. This decidedly minor news item, though conspicuously light on both detail and corroboration, has already proven compelling to those most predisposed to casual indignation, circulating widely after Deadline broke the exclusive and commented upon extensively and ceaselessly by the web’s vocal peanut gallery since.
A common sentiment has recurred on both Twitter and the comments sections of the articles reporting the story, seemingly gaining in animosity with each passing day: Lynne Ramsay, by virtue of being a woman, has somehow made things harder for other female directors by her sudden—and as of yet unexplained—absenteeism, ruining not only her own chances of working in this town again but those who incidentally share her gender as well. The rhetoric is weirdly uniform in most cases: Ramsay is “hysterical”, “emotional”, “ungrateful”, and has “set female directors back 20 years”. One particularly noxious comment even describes Ramsay as “clearly P.M.S.ing”, written by somebody who is clearly an assh**e.
That wide swaths of the (overwhelmingly male) film-nerd public would flock to social media to express grossly misogynistic thoughts after the slightest opportunity presents itself is perhaps not so surprising. But what is surprising—and what’s much more disconcerting, given the circumstances—is how deeply and needlessly gendered the response to this story has been from professional journalists and news organizations. Leaving aside the somewhat unexpected shift in default editorial sympathies from the artist to her producer, the articles reporting this story have continued to lean on language tailored, at least implicitly, for gender-based condescension.
I’ve been getting emails from some guy who says he’s Richard Marx,” I said. “I think it’s an impostor. The only thing that makes me think it might really be Richard Marx is that it’s from an AOL account.
If you call Richard Marx ‘shameless’ on the internet, he’ll harass you and then ultimately force a face-to-face meeting.
This is a great read that you’ll like if you’ve ever tried to infiltrate the group of old-timers at your neighborhood dive bar. Or if you just can’t stand Richard Marx.
I used to love me some Richard Marx. A friend taught me his “Right Here Waiting” on the piano in junior high (she had taught herself by ear) and I vaguely remember how to play most of it. I also owned his Hazard album on cassette.
I still enjoyed reading this essay.
1. A man is heading in my direction, weaving slightly. I can’t make out his features. He’s wearing a parka, hood up. The street is dark and quiet. He weaves closer. I can hear him mumbling to himself but I can’t make out any words. “Move quickly,” I tell myself, but not soon enough, and he has me cornered, my back against a utility pole, his body blocking my way. Maybe I should be scared, but instead I’m angry. I am about to push past him and then I see he is reaching one hand into his jacket. I stop being angry and start being scared. He pulls out a piece of hard candy in a green foil wrapper. “Take a piece of candy,” he says. I don’t make eye contact. I don’t say anything. He waves the candy under my nose. I keep my gaze cast down but I sidestep him, continue on my way, only faster.
2. A man crosses the street toward me. I see him out of the corner of my eye. He’s tall, young, strong-looking, carrying a black plastic bag. He’s wearing a parka, too. We all are. It’s winter. I can feel myself tensing, and hoping. Maybe he’s getting into one of the cars parked along the curb. Maybe he’s detouring up the silent residential street I just passed. “Hey pretty baby,” he hisses. “Hey pretty. Hey. You’re gorgeous. What’s wrong with you? It’s a compliment.” I am wearing my thick winter jacket that comes down to my knees, my floppy knit hat, jeans, flat boots. This would make me laugh, if it were funny. He follows me for the rest of the block, getting a little too close, hissing and making kissing sounds. I am lucky: there is a restaurant on the corner, full of light and people. I stop and pretend to read the menu, and some people walk past, and he disappears.
3. A little girl, maybe five, comes careering around a corner. She is wearing a long pink coat and mittens and a pink backpack with a large fabric daisy attached to it. She laughs like this: “Ahh haha hahahahaha hahahahaha haha HA!” Her mother is trudging a few paces behind, weary, a grocery bag and an oversized purse in her arms. The little girl nearly runs smack into me. She looks up at me and grins. She knows her mother can’t stop her, and neither can I. She takes off down the block, hopping and dodging.
4. I think about instinct and how we interpret it, how much is nature and how much is nurture, or environment. My nature is not to look down or away. My nature is never to run. My instinct tells me to fight, to dig in, to make the other person blink first. It takes a tremendous amount of willpower to refrain from flipping the bird and unleashing a string of profanities. Willpower, actually, doesn’t even work. It is only the knowledge that the man might have a violent streak, or a knife, or worse yet a gun, that restrains me. I think about this and these words, willpower and restraint, and why they apply to me in the first place. I am just walking. I am so caught up in these thoughts that I don’t notice the man in the doorway until I am upon him; I have been unconsciously sticking close to the buildings. I see his face under his hooded jacket. I see him notice me. There is no one else in sight. My body does that thing where it feels like I have dry ice in my veins instead of blood. In an instant, I am more animal than human. He knows, I think, panicking. He knows he caught me. The man smiles and inclines his chin, a casual how-do, pedestrian. I rearrange my face so it looks less stricken. How-do, man in doorway. Me? Oh, I’m fine. You just startled me, that’s all. You just took me by surprise.
When they found my brother—after putting him out, because he was on fire too, the whole thing just burning—he was sitting on a handful of .22 caliber bullets. There was a hose running from the exhaust pipe of his car to the driver’s side window, which was rolled down nearly halfway. His key ring had been taken apart. Some of his keys were found beneath the burning Bronco. There was a rifle in the trunk. His CD player was in his lap, and he had earphones in his ears.
Some people think this is all mysterious. The bullets, the lowered window, the keys, the fire in the car.
I don’t. I know those answers. What always bothers me is: What music?
Feminism is flawed. Feminism is flawed because it is a movement powered by people and people are inherently flawed. For whatever reason, we hold feminism to an unreasonable standard where the movement must be everything we want and must always make the best choices. When feminism falls short of…
yes yes yes to all of this. I am a bad feminist as well, but I am most definitely a feminist.
P.S. if you aren’t already following Roxane, remedy that quick!
At Harper’s, the administrative staff is largely female, the board is entirely male, the writers are almost all male, and the internet barely exists.
Tu as le droit d’ȇtre belle,” my mother told me once. You have a right to be beautiful. You have a right, she meant, to simultaneously achieve in the realm of intellect and never for an instant disavow your aesthetic self-worth. Dare to be a woman.
Right, I am probably just adding fuel to the fire here, given my past encounters with Caitlin Moran, her book and the utterly desperate and downright baffling level of defensiveness my negative review of her book caused, but given her recent outburst of privilege and…
Alright, I’m removing Moran’s book from my hold list at the library (I had 30 people in front of me anyway)
Like whether I check a book out or not from the library makes any difference, but it’s the principle of the thing.