GABBLER RECOMMENDS: ”How Twitter can ruin a life” by Emily VanDerWerff

She had at least some reason to expect that the complete vacuum of personal information about her — the short author bio attached to the story said only that she was born in 1988 — wouldn’t be questioned. Trans spaces, both online and in real life, have a long history of allowing an anonymity that paradoxically hides within one’s true identity.

If you want to attend a support group meeting and say your name is Isabel and you use she/her pronouns, you will be treated as such, no matter how you look or what name is on your driver’s license. Gatekeeping in a trans space usually involves loosely enforced rules that focus on giving those who exist within them a safe place to explore their identity. Those rules almost never attempt to determine that someone is “trans enough.”

But anonymity isn’t always welcome on the internet, where an anonymous identity can be weaponized for the worst. That gap — between the good-faith anonymity assumed in trans spaces and the bad-faith anonymity increasingly assumed online — was the one Fall wandered into.

At its core, “Attack Helicopter” is about the intersection of gender and American hegemony. On that level, it has plenty to say even to cisgender people. After all, if all gender is on some level a performance (and it is), then it can be co-opted and perverted by the state. But if it’s also innate on some level (and it is), then we are powerless against whatever it is that enough people decide gender performance should look like. We are constantly trapped by gender, even when we know we are trapped by it. You can’t truly escape something so all-pervasive; you can only negotiate your own terms with it, and everybody’s terms are different.

The conversation around gender “is dominated by those who can tolerate and thrive in it. It is conducted by the voices of those who are able to survive speech and its consequences,” Fall says. “But it is a conversation that is, by necessity, reductive. We need teams and groups and identities, not just to belong to, but as mental objects to manipulate and wield. If we tried to hold 10 million unique experiences of gender in our mind they would sift through our fingers and roll away.”

Such a conversation around gender is not particularly conducive to those who are figuring out their gender in public, as all trans people must do eventually. It’s especially not conducive to artists who are exploring their gender in their art, under even greater degrees of public scrutiny. Which is to say: That conversation is not conducive to people like Fall.

The delineation between paranoid and reparative readings originated in 1995, with influential critic Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. A paranoid reading focuses on what’s wrong or problematic about a work of art. A reparative reading seeks out what might be nourishing or healing in a work of art, even if the work is flawed. Importantly, a reparative reading also tends to consider what might be nourishing or healing in a work of art for someone who isn’t the reader.

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GABBLER RECOMMENDS: The Revival of Stoicism by Shayla Love

Ada Palmer, an historian at the University of Chicago, argues that Stoicism is popular in places like Silicon Valley particularly because it doesn’t require a person not to be a CEO of a successful company to be a Stoic. “The Romans loved Stoicism because it was a philosophy that was compatible with political life,” Palmer said.

It’s perhaps unsurprising then that billionaires love a philosophy that doesn’t require them to give up on their wealth, but accept their role in the world, and counsels the less fortunate to not worry so much about their circumstances and accept their lot—as Zeno did when he lost all of his possessions.

“There is a risk that the mega-rich will seek philosophies that basically validate themselves and their lifestyles rather than awakening them to their blind spots, their obligations to their fellow beings,” Evans said.

The metaphysical side of ancient Stoicism contains an explanation as to why we shouldn’t worry about external events but simply our reactions to them—but it raises more potential problems.

The Stoics were monists, and thought that the universe was all connected, made of a divine rational substance called logos. The universe, they believed, was rational because it was organized by logos: Whatever happens is what’s meant to happen. Even things that seem bad to you have been ordained by the divine spark of logic, and so what’s actually bad is your response, which you can change and have control over.

“Stoicism is thus from the outset a deterministic system that appears to leave no room for human free will and more responsibility,” wrote Gregory Hays, associate professor of classics at the University of Virginia, in the introduction to his translation of Meditations. “In reality the Stoics were reluctant to accept such an arrangement, and attempted to get around the difficulty by defining free will as a voluntary accommodation to what is in any case inevitable.” Hays described it like this: Imagine that we are like a dog tied to a moving wagon. “If the dog refuses to run along with the wagon he will be dragged by it, yet the choice remains his: to run or be dragged.”

Zuckerberg agreed that in the community that takes Stoicism seriously, the people she’s writing about are in short supply. But in the types of online meeting grounds she explored in her book, she said, “the use of Stoicism is much more superficial yet also more disturbing.” She maintains that it’s the “unfortunate responsibility of people who take Stoicism seriously to insist that out-of-context quotations from Marcus Aurelius aren’t the full picture when it comes to Stoicism, and the reality is a lot more nuanced and less individualistic.”

Whiting felt that Zuckerberg’s warnings in her book went unheeded, and that people dismissed her. “I thought that we did not respond as a Stoic community with kindness to Donna,” Whiting said. “I don’t think we did enough to thank her for the stance that she took and the effort that she made. People say, ‘Oh, you know, she made us look bad.’ She made us look in the mirror.”

Stoicism is a wonderful philosophy, but there are some elements missing, if it’s taken on too unilaterally. Evans found that focus on the rational can omit ecstatic, non-rational approaches to healing and meaning. Incidentally, this can be the case with CBT as well, which is not for everyone, or for every problem. “Some people find the idea of trying to rationalize away your negative beliefs doesn’t work, which is why some people prefer Acceptance and Commitment Therapy,” Evans said. “I have a friend with OCD, and he can’t Socratically dispute his intrusive beliefs. That just makes it worse.”

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GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Why The End of Jenna Marbles Is The End of Authenticity

[I am interested in the marginalia. The editing. The revisions. How this affects our perceptions of growth and change and time. This video addresses it well.]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: ‘It’s Time for Women to Reclaim Their Monstrosity’

DC: Personally, it really blew my mind when I hit middle school and realized that the women D’Aulaires’ referred to as Zeus’s “many wives” were actually his mistresses, and not always consensually so. Did you have any moments of shock when you moved from D’Aulaires’ to Ovid and Homer?

JZ: Oh, that’s a great question! I must have, because I was a D’Aulaires’ obsessive from literally preschool, so not only was I getting this slightly predigested version of the myths (I say that with love!) but I was also processing them through an exceptionally oblivious mind. For sure there’s more sex in mythology than I initially understood! The whole Ares/Aphrodite/Hephaestus love triangle is kind of played down in D’Aulaires’ and, in my recollection, played very up in Edith Hamilton for instance.

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GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Five Great Tom Bombadil Theories | Tolkien Theory

Those of you who have read volume 2 will know how important and unimportant Tom Bombadil is to talk about. This video may even confirm things for you.