The Catalogue: No. 33

Friday, May 24, 2019 San Francisco, CA, USA

This week's roundup of interesting reads:

A Letter to My Mother That She Will Never Read | Ocean Vuong for The New Yorker
The first time you came to my poetry reading. After, while the room stood and clapped, I walked back to my seat beside you. You clutched my hand, your eyes red and wet, and said, I never thought I’d live to see so many old white people clapping for my son.
In San Francisco, Tech Money Doesn't Buy Happiness | Anna Wiener for The New Yorker
San Francisco, where streets are named after union organizers and Mexican anti-imperialists, and local landmarks include murals from the Depression-era Public Works of Art Project, is becoming a paradoxical urban space: a homogenous corporate campus run through with threads of public pain. People struggling with addiction and mental illness sleep on the streets outside unicorn startups and shoot up in front of City Hall. Some of the companies that the city has incubated are now seen to be invasive, rapacious, extractive, creepy; in the local economy and national imagination, they eclipse serious work being done elsewhere in the Valley, in industries such as biotech and robotics.
 Opinion: Breaking My Own Silence | Min Jin Lee for The New York Times
I write novels, and now and then I give lectures. I come from many tribes — immigrant, introvert, working class, Korean, female, public school, Queens, Presbyterian. Growing up, I never knew that people like me could write books or talk in public. To this day, I worry that if I mess up, others like me might not be asked or allowed. This is how outsiders and newcomers feel. It is neither rational nor fair. I know.
Goldman Sachs, Patagonia, and the Mysteries of “Business Casual” | Troy Patterson for The New Yorker
The amazing thing about the recent Goldman Sachs memo is that it decrees a standard without stating its terms. In its metaphysical proclamation that “all of us know what is and is not appropriate for the workplace,” the memo bespeaks a Babylonian code of unspoken rules. It says that professional conduct is identical to ruling-class savoir-faire, and its manners are too circumspect to say much else. “This memo should be taught in business schools,” Matt Levine, a former Goldman employee, wrote, in a Bloomberg opinion column. “Goldman’s dress code is that you should dress the way you’re supposed to dress at Goldman. If you have to ask, etc. The difference between a middling banker and a great one is this sort of tacit knowledge.” This is the essence of Manhattan business-casual, less a style of dress than an enigmatic language of power. It’s not necessarily exclusive in terms of price, but it’s exclusionary in terms of intent. 
How to Build Your Confidence and Spark It In Others | Brittany Packnett @ TED 2019
"Confidence is the necessary spark before everything that follows," says educator and activist Brittany Packnett. In an inspiring talk, she shares three ways to crack the code of confidence -- and her dream for a world where revolutionary confidence helps turn our most ambitious dreams into reality.
 Spadework: On Political Organizing | Alyssa Battistoni for n+1 Magazine
It was hegemony, Stuart Hall argued in 1983, that was key to understanding the disappointment of his own generation — why Thatcher and the new right had triumphed in remaking common sense after a decade of labor union revolt. Hegemony shaped how people acted when they weren’t thinking about it, what they thought was right and wrong, what they imagined the good life to be. A hegemonic project had to “occupy each and every front” of life, “to insert itself into the pores of the practical consciousness of human beings.” Thatcherism had understood this better than the left. It had “entered the struggle on every single front on which it calculated it could advance itself,” put forth a “theory for every single arena of human life,” from economics to language, morality to culture. The domains the left dismissed as bourgeois were simply the ones where the ruling class was winning. Yet creating hegemony was “difficult work,” Hall reminded us. Never fully settled, “it always has to be won.”
The Pink: Happy New Vagina | Andrea Long Chu for n+1 Magazine
The critique of the pussyhat came to be dominated by two slogans: not all pussies were pink, and not all women had pussies. The first objection, which amounted to an allegation of racism, seemed to turn on widespread but largely unremarked confusion about the multiple senses of the slang word pussy, which can refer either to the vagina, being the muscular birthing canal of the female mammal; to the vulva, which includes all the external genitalia (labia, clitoris, vaginal opening, even the mons); or to both taken together. Add to this the fact that the word vagina is often colloquially used to denote the vulva, and all bets are truly off. Vulvas do tend to reflect skin color, often having a darker hue; vaginas, however, are always pink, as sure as blood is always red. (The same is true of the vulvar vestibule, that little curtained foyer you or a loved one may discover by parting the inner labia with your fingers.) This is not to say that broader critiques of the whiteness of the Women’s March were unfounded — quite the contrary. But when it came to the pussyhat itself, what felt like a pressing political question about coalition building, representation, and feminism’s long love affair with racism could well have been put to bed with a simple hand mirror.
Sexism in the Academy: Women's Narrowing Path to Tenure | Troy Vettese for n+1 Magazine
There are still two tenured men for every tenured woman, a ratio that increases with the prestige an institution has. In the US, the share of female full professors as a proportion of all female faculty remains stuck in the single digits, increasing only modestly since the early 1990s. In medicine, female first-authorship has either stalled or declined in the most prestigious UK journals in recent years, after substantially increasing since the mid-2000s. Among the most serious expressions of women’s hardship in the academy is the case of US black female scientists, who often experience desolate isolation in addition to sexual and racial harassment, according to a recent study. The proportion of black women among tenured female faculty in the US has actually fallen since 1993.
Zuck's New Scam | Lizzie O'Shea for The Baffler
There is something stunning about this cultural shift in a corporation that holds such significant global power. It shows that when people speak up and agitate around privacy and data mining it can have a material effect. The idea that people don’t care about privacy, that they are willing to give it all away for the convenience of free services, has been debunked. Facebook specifically has been unable to ignore the waves of criticism it has experienced of late. The capitalist behemoths of the digital age often seem untouchable, and it is easy to forget that they operate in a social context. Like any powerful actor in society, Facebook is subject to the influence of organized people who will not shut up.
Love always,

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