by Rhian Sasseen on April 22, 2013
From the way most major media outlets are covering the aftermath of the Boston bombing tragedy, you would think that on the seventh day, God created the Red Sox. This is the city that birthed American education, philosophy, letters, and the United States themselves, but you’d never know this from all of the professional sports logos and accompanying tough-guy posturing batted about over the last week. Beneath all of the “#BostonStrong” memes and Red Sox “B”s, an undercurrent of violence dominates, made especially worrisome by the breech of legal rights surrounding the arrest of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, an American citizen taken into custody sans his Miranda rights. There is a reason we have those rights – and though what Tsarnaev did was unarguably horrific, relieving him of these rights sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of the citizenry.
“They messed with the wrong city,” mystery author Dennis Lehane wrote in the New York Times following the bombings, and the sentiment traveled quickly, coloring the more popular reactions to the crime. Alongside this blinkered view, sports references proliferated: according to The Atlantic, a publication far-removed from its Transcendentalist roots in both sentiment and location, sports “rally” the city and tragedy “often show us how powerful sports can be.” The President, too, couldn’t resist invoking “the Sox and Celtics and Patriots [and] Bruins” in his April 18th address. Even Brooklyn loves us, if only momentarily: the popular “New York Hearts Boston” light installation projected on the Brooklyn Academy of Music used Yankee and Red Sox logos and fonts in lieu of city names. But a certain kind of flag-waving jingoism too often goes hand-in-hand with sporting events, and, in our national rush to condemn Tsarnaev and support Boston, we as a city and a country threaten to forget our democratic ideals.
by Rhian Sasseen on April 2, 2013
How should a person fuck?
. . .
I approached How Should A Person Be? eagerly and ended it disappointed. What I wanted – and perhaps this was my fault – was an honest account of the relationships between women artists, and women artists and male artists, and men and women; for the heterosexual amongst us, how to balance the simultaneous sense of competition and companionship that arises. Essentially: I wanted a handbook, or at least an exploration, of the odd overlap of self-consciousness and self-awareness that seems to characterize so many of my interactions with the men of my age group. On an individual level, we are all feminists, we are all equals; as a group, as two distinct groups – men and women – we have over a millennia of inequalities and expectations with which to contend.
HSAPB? avoids these questions in favor of naked attention-grabbing in the form of pseudo-confessionalism. I say “pseudo” because there is nothing particularly dangerous about the kind of confessionalism that Heti engages in, which is the equivalent of the drunk girl at the party talking loudly about her blowjob skills.
by Rhian Sasseen on January 28, 2013
We’ve come a long way, baby. In the twenty-first century, the American woman has a bevy of career paths and a plethora of domestic options from which to choose. She can try and fail to have it all. She can start a lady blog. She can even, if the mood strikes her, take her cues from Lady Gaga. The only thing the contemporary American woman can’t do, it would seem, is be overtly political – after all, feminism is about having fun, right?
American feminism, in all its various waves and iterations, has long held an uneasy truce with pop culture, but these days it’s us, not them, that are doing the co-opting. The era of de-fanged riot grrls and empty invocations of “girl power” has come to a close; in its place, the third wave’s relationship with mainstream pop culture, particularly pop music, is that of fawning adulation – or Stockholm Syndrome. “Subversion,” a term borrowed from the ivory tower, is now ascribed to every female singer with a 4/4 beat and a hook about drinking, though it is in the context of one figure that this particular hypocrisy stands out the most: the oft-mentioned Lady Gaga. As a twenty-two year old woman – a member of the exact demographic that so many older third wavers try to pander to – I fail to see anything revolutionary about a thin, blonde, upper middle class white woman with a penchant for ripping off Madonna (herself an earlier example of this trend.) But don’t tell this to Jezebel. Don’t tell this to Salon. And whatever you do, don’t tell this to the theorist J. Jack Halberstam, author of the recent Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal.
by Rhian Sasseen on January 19, 2013
Today has been a long day. You leave work, that thankless retail day job; you return home; you open your laptop screen. You trawl your RSS feeds, searching for news, for entertainment, for anything: distraction. You are overeducated, lovelorn, a little insecure; you are in your twenties. When the New York Times writes of you, it is laughable; when the Huffington Post notices, it is absurd. You, you, you: you exit your windows. You close your laptop. You are exhausted.
- But it was never really about “you,” was it?
A pox upon the second person, the point of view seemingly favored by so many Millennial bloggers – or perhaps simply promoted in particular by one blog, a purported voice of the Millennials. I am talking, irritatingly enough, of Thought Catalog, a blog that likes to think of itself as “in some small way…the future of journalism,” though if meandering personal accounts of breaking up with one’s college girlfriend or top ten lists liberally peppered with the word “twentysomething” are the genre’s future, maybe it really is time to let it die. No matter: for a true dose of narcissism, check out any of the posts that use the second person, that mark of self-obsession disguised as authorial immediacy.
by Rhian Sasseen on January 4, 2013
Summertime, and I spend my days working in a museum located in downtown Boston. Over the months, I learn how to count a cash drawer, teach Italians the meaning of a state sales tax, and struggle with how exactly to break the news that the Old Corner Bookstore is no more.
“Well?” The older couple across the counter brandish their map and press on, looking expectantly at first me and then my manager, to whom I have turned for help.
My manager grimaces. “You’re not going to like the answer.”
by Rhian Sasseen on December 5, 2012
Empty air. And then -
Half-awake. I am trying not to fall asleep. I am trying not to drift away. I am trying not to fall asleep. I do not want to dream.
Late nights. Though I do not want to sleep, I wish that I could fall. Instead of falling I am watching: Youtube flickers out across my screen, a link and then another link, and this is a different sort of descent. I love the sidebar; I love the element of chance, the die roll that accompanies every blue-lit sentence. Lying in my bed alone at night I put off sleep, push off dream: I want to read, and watch, and learn.
by Rhian Sasseen on November 29, 2012
I dream of wolves these days. I dream of men these days. I dream of nothing, only teeth.
The fur found its way studded through my fingertips.
There was a cry. In the corner of the room stood the crib. In the corner of the crib lay the baby. Red was the mouth and stubbed were the teeth; the child cried louder, louder still. Nothing, said the mother; the mother said nothing. A beautiful baby. A child, a beautiful child -
The baby, that was me.
The mother, that was me.
Sometimes it is difficult to remember the difference between the child and the wolf.
Tell me that you believe me. Tell me that you know that I remember nothing – that I did nothing – was nothing: a void. Years ago – too many years, the days of teeth, the days of fur, the days in which I was a girl – once, I desired only space, and room to grow. Now? Now I am content to be only the air, invisible as glass, transparent as a sieve.
Pass through me.
by Rhian Sasseen on October 19, 2012
I cried when I read former Amherst student Angie Epifano’s account of being raped. I texted my little sister, thick in the middle of application season, and she told me that this had changed her mind about applying to Amherst. I closed the window. And then I thought: thank God I went to Smith.
Immediately I felt ashamed. This is not a helpful response, I chided myself – women are assaulted and hurt on your alma mater’s campus, too; there are plenty of kind-hearted, feminist men that attend Amherst. I took three classes at Amherst during my time in the Pioneer Valley, and served as editor-in-chief for a Five College literary journal I co-founded. A good portion of my life, in short, was willingly spent across the river, or passing time on the B43. And yet: when I think of Amherst, and when I think of co-ed schools on the whole, I cannot help but remember the male student junior year who told me that he thought Adrienne Rich was “silly.” That for a woman to be concerned that her voice would not be heard, that her work would be dismissed on account of her gender – well, we all live in the twenty-first century nowadays, don’t we? Times have changed. Women who talk of being women – oh, we are silly.
by Rhian Sasseen on September 25, 2012
Enough of thinking, enough with thought: the end of words. Why is the red line always deafening towards Boston, never away? I sit on the train on my way to work and I listen. A deluge of information: two girls discuss the Emmys, a mother coos at her infant son. Smart phones everywhere. Enough! On go the headphones, and on my iPod I listen to one album and one album only: the Goldberg Variations, recorded nineteen fifty-five, and played by the pianist Glenn Gould.
by Rhian Sasseen on September 10, 2012
According to the media I am a “Millennial.” This means something along the lines of entitlement, attachment, obsession: I am addicted to my smartphone, I depend too much on my parents, I expect someday to have a job, and sooner rather than later. If you were born sometime in the years 1984 to 2000, chances are that you’re a Millennial, too.
I got a Facebook account in the early spring of 2007, my junior year of high school. This was big news in the halcyon early days of the post-Myspace era; previously, Facebook had been the domain of college kids, a rite of passage obtained as soon as the eager high school senior received his or her hotly-anticipated “.edu.” On behalf of my peers, sorry: with the influx of under-eighteens, Facebook became annoying in a whole new way. But there was still a level of privacy, a mark of secrecy that was extinguished as soon as it opened up to anyone over the age of thirteen, and the decidedly over-thirteens signed up in droves; suddenly, my peers and I were confronted with the peculiarly generational problem of etiquette in the face of the dreaded mom-request.