MWD18 - On Bodies and Being Seen

Welcome to Midweek Dinner, the mental equivalent of scrounging in the fridge to pull together a meal. Except this is a meal of ideas, thoughts, unexpected joys, and yes, sometimes there's food. Subscribe to receive this assortment of goodness in your inbox every Wednesday.

Let’s dig around in here and see what’s edible.


Hillary Brenhouse on “The Joy of Not Wearing a Bra”

Love them, hate them, wear them or don’t. Brenhouse will give you something to think about.

But we give objects their symbolic power. We decide whether the things we wear or leave behind represent repression or liberation or nothing much in particular. That nothing much in particular—those resolutions based on “no reason,” which are really resolutions based on our preferences, our whims, and often on our pleasure—is a feminism of quiet, everyday choosing.


Though Sabrina Orah Mark published this stunningly beautiful Happily column on “Fairy Tales and the Bodies of Black Boys” back in February, it seems to grow ever-more-relevant, ever-more-terrifying, ever-more-sad and brilliant every day.

a friend posts on Facebook that her nine-year-old black son is now riding his bike to the supermarket by himself. “We have talked to him,” she writes, “about using a bag for the items he’s bought, not his pockets, keeping his receipt in his hand as he leaves the store, keeping his hands out of his pockets while shopping, taking his hood off.” I imagine it continuing, “we have given him invisibility powder, we have made wings for him out of the feathers of ancient doves, we have given him the power to become a rain cloud and burst, if necessary, into a storm.”

When I was a child I could’ve hidden a house under my dress, and all I would’ve been was a girl with a house under my dress.

There isn’t an example you could pull from the archives where Mark doesn’t stun. This is vital work.


Some of you might remember the first installment of the five-part video series put out by Bittersweet Monthly that I shared a few weeks ago. Here’s volume 2. This artful and timely conversation with theologian Walter Brueggemann has much of value, even for those who do not identify as Christian or even God-believing. As a significant admirer of the work and thinking of Wendell Berry, I couldn’t help but appreciate Brueggemann’s discussion of economics, specifically his insistence on a neighborly economy. He argues that in a neighborly economy, “the social unit of meaning is the community. In a market economy, there are no neighbors. There are only competitors.” 


This piece from Matthew Salesses via Catapult brilliantly complicates the narrative of race and identity and being seen and somehow, remarkably, also desire. I have been thinking about this all week and can’t wait to read his forthcoming Disappear Doppelganger Disappear.

In particular, this surprising truth is resonating for me:

“. . . desire is always desire for what we do not have (you want an apple only if you do not have one)”

So often, we picture desire in the context of sexual acts, the images being ones of consummation not anticipation or worse, need. Instead, as Salesses makes clear, desire is a synonym for want, which we would do well to remember is the shortened derivative of the phrase in want of. Ever since rereading Pride and Prejudice back in January, I’ve been thinking about the ways our changed relationship with this word have affected our interactions, both with other people and with our stuff. And, now, with Salesses, I’ve been thinking about how it affects our understanding of ourselves as well. Perhaps if you weren’t quite ready to click through before, this passage will do the trick:

“When we silence our resistance, we become split in order to become seen -- but what is seen is only the guise. This is what Audre Lorde calls the ‘self-negation’ of giving oneself up to someone else’s story, someone else’s desires. We are seen because we have become what the other person wants to see.”

There is so much goodness here. Read him. Do it. Now.


Unexpected Joy Department:

Rhiannon Giddens and Yo Yo Ma? Love.


And Now for Some Truly Shameless Self-Promotion

(or what I’ve posted lately)

Alice Faye Duncan is an award-winning picture book writer and a school librarian, and her Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop got me thinking about all the ways the protests of today are the protests of yesterday:

And I’m grateful to Ms. Duncan for this snappy interview. Maybe one day I’ll get back to Memphis and share a real conversation with her, but for now, I’m happy for every virtual one:

On Sunday, We Read Poetry, and this week, it was an old collection from North Carolina poet Gerald Barrax:

Kacen Callender’s King and the Dragonflies is wonderful, a really fine piece of artistry, and possibly my new favorite for this year’s Newbery Medal:


Thanks as always for reading and thinking with me. Have comments, suggestions, or questions? Reply to this email, and I promise a response.