home Must Reads Must reads: Crime, small town US, racism, internet culture

Must reads: Crime, small town US, racism, internet culture

Good morning!

In case you missed it, our most popular post last week was Natalia Antonova’s modest proposal: Maybe the rich shouldn’t have to pay taxes? Have another suggestion for reforming the US tax code? Hop on over to the comments section and tell us about it!

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Without further ado, here’s what we’re reading…

Why Would a 16-Year-Old Girl Slaughter Her Uber Driver?‘ (Lyz Lenz for Marie Claire)

We’ve been listening to a lot of true crime podcasts lately, so this longread is right up our alley: There aren’t many female murderers out there, and those who are become fascinating by example. What ultimately drives people to kill? How does a society that exceptionalises women, distancing them from roles as perpetrators of violence, cope with violent crime committed by women — especially young women?

That it is rare makes cases like Wasni’s all the more sensational and mysterious. We have many ways of understanding male violence, particularly white male violence—there’s the misunderstood teen, the disgruntled husband, the jaded lover, the vigilante, the man who was otherwise good but “snapped.” Male aggression is, from a young age, sanctioned, even encouraged. Boys are given toy guns and told to watch action movies, while girls are taught to be sweet and nurturing, given dolls and tea parties. So when women—particularly white women—veer from the narrative of victim into the role of victimizer, we struggle to understand their actions. Writing in When She Was Bad, author Patricia Pearson notes: “We tend…to peg [violent] women as afflicted and mentally ill, while understanding men as willful, immoral, and antisocial.” A woman couldn’t possibly just be violent, just choose to commit an evil deed; there must have been a reason, there must be something else at play.

Where the Small-Town American Dream Lives On‘ (Larissa MacFarquhar for the New Yorker)

Small towns are derided, or turned into objects of morbid fascination, by city dwellers. This honest look at a small conservative community and the forces that move it is a refreshing change from the status quo on exploring how people live beyond the coasts. It neither idealises nor pathologises, instead simply presenting the story of a place where people live, and exploring how it’s changing.

Since the 2016 election, staying has taken on a political cast as well. Because suspicion of those who move around—immigrants, refugees, globalized élites—is associated with voting for Trump, attachment to home has come to look like a Trumpian value. And, indeed, of white people who still lived in their childhood home town, nearly sixty per cent supported Trump; of those who lived within a two-hour drive of their home town, fifty per cent supported him; of those who had moved more than two hours from where they grew up, forty per cent. A survey, conducted in 2014, found that more conservatives than liberals valued living near to extended family. The decision to stay home or leave is a powerful political predictor. For this reason, resistance to moving somewhere new can seem to be just resistance to newness as such. Where voting for Trump is attributed to economic despair, staying home is also.

“I Thought It Would Be Better for You”: A Mother, A Daughter, and Racism in America in 2017‘ (Britt Bennett for Vogue)

Being Black in the US is an uncomfortable, complicated, intense feeling at the moment. This is a deep personal slice of that experience. Whites struggling to understand racial issues should definitely read it, as should people outside the United States who are having a tough time comprehending the complexities of life in a society of incredibly complex racial politics.

I never thought I’d see a black president in my lifetime, but the first time I was eligible to vote, I helped elect one. I was a freshman at Stanford then, and that night, the black students threw a party where we danced and celebrated and inserted Obama’s name into rap lyrics. Webbie’s “Independent” spelled out the president-elect’s name; the hook to “A Milli” by Lil Wayne became one long Obama chant. Through the dorm speakers, Young Jeezy rapped “My president is black, my Lambo is blue.” I fell asleep that night in a daze, the song still looping in my head.

Fountain Girls‘ (Samantha Tucker for Ecotone)

This is a story of failing communities, growing up poor, searching for something better. It is excellent. And as with all great personal essays, it doesn’t just tell the story of the author, or the people in the essay; it also leaves us with thoughts and reflections on society at large, on the people we want to be and the people we are, on who we choose to leave behind and who we choose to save.

My siblings and I failed to accept our neighborhood as a place where people shouldn’t thrive. We grew older and avoided questions about what area of town we lived in. We became aware of the mentions of our streets on the news—child services investigations, drug busts. Spiral out a bit from the houses, and the neighborhood fills with trailer parks, or mobile home courts, as they once were called. When they were promising and clean, in decades past, they were full of new families and Fort Carson soldiers and retired veterans. Those people moved on before we moved in, or if they stayed—well, the rest of Fountain behaved as if people could lose value, too.

Teen Girl Posed For 8 Years As Married Man To Write About Baseball And Harass Women‘ (Lindsey Adler for Deadspin)

This is a weird, fascinating, compelling story about a teenage girl who posed as a man, penetrating the inner circle of misogyny that dictates online life, but then went rogue.

Schultz’s story is interesting for reasons far beyond its sheer shock value. It’s entirely reasonable that at the time she created the Ryan persona, she might not have thought she could easily have a career writing about baseball as a woman. She’s also drawn a big red arrow sign pointing toward the exploitative ecosystem of online sportswriting, which created the conditions for her to get her enviable opportunities without much interrogation from editors who have a lot to do and few resources with which to do it.

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Photo credit: Tejvan Pettinger/Creative Commons

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