Sayantani DasGupta's Blog

October 18, 2013


I spend my life at the intersection of the stethoscope and the pen. Although I was originally trained in pediatrics and public health, as a writer, as well as a faculty member in Columbia University’s Master’s Program in Narrative Medicine, and co-chair of Columbia’s University Seminar on Narrative, Health and Social Justice, I spend most of my days writing, teaching, and thinking about the role of stories in healthcare.
Narrative Medicine is the clinical and scholarly endeavor to honor the role of story in the healing relationship. Long before doctors had anything of interest in their black bags – no MRIs, no lab tests, no fancy all body CAT scans – what they had was the ability to show up, what they had was the ability to listen, and bear witness to someone’s life, death, illness, suffering, and everything else that comes in between.
And so, I spend most of my days teaching clinicians-to-be how to listen. I do this by having them read stories, and take oral histories, and study lots of narrative theory. I teach them the work of scholars like medical sociologist Arthur Frank, who explains that when illness or trauma interrupt our life stories, we need new stories to help navigate these uncharted waters. Although it was always there, illness and trauma bring into sharp focus our basic human need for narration. We are, after all, fundamentally storied creatures.
But besides all this, what I also do is teach my students to listen by writing stories. I have them do listener response – writing in reaction to a poem or story we read in class. I have them write to a prompt – ‘when was the last time you witnessed suffering?’ I have them write ongoing personal illness narratives – weekly narratives in which I ask them to tell of the same experience but from a different point of view or genre or form to help unpack not only their own personal stories (stories which inform how they in turn will listen to the stories of others), but discover how stories work – in regard to plot, form, function, and voice.
So yes, I’m training people to be better doctors by teaching them how to be writers.
Over the years, I’ve explained some of how this all works with a philosophy of listening I’ve been callingNarrative Humility. Narrative Humility is not about gaining any sense of competence or mastery over our patients, or their stories. Rather, it is about paying attention to our own inner workings – our expectations, our prejudices, our own cadre of personal stories that impact how we react to the stories of others. You can hear me talk all about it here, during a recent TEDx event at Sarah Lawrence College (where I also teach).
But it serves to reason that if doctors can borrow skills from writers to do their jobs better, then perhaps the reciprocal thing can happen as well. In other words, does narrative humility have any lessons for those leading the writing life?
1.     Active Listening – This is an easy one. Writers are told all the time to listen: for regional accents, for scraps of interesting dialogue, for pieces of intriguing stories. We listen to ourselves too through journaling, going on writing retreats, and digging deep into our cadre of personal and familial stories for sources of inspiration. We even talk about listening to our characters, and letting them co-create the story that we’re telling. For writers, as for doctors, listening is a necessary adjunct to action. It is a way of filling ourselves up – like blood into the heart, air into the lungs – before we breathe out stories, images, words onto the page.
     To read the rest of this essay, please visit Uma Krishnaswami's Blog Writing with a Broken Tusk!
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Published on October 18, 2013 08:41 • 51 views

October 15, 2013


Okay, someone tell me – since when did Halloween become a time to fly your racist and sexist flags without censure? I, for one, am tired of it.So, hopefully we’re all on board by now with the idea that dressing our daughters up as ‘naughty’ leopards and ‘sexy’ nurses might be, say, a tad disgusting. As much as we may be told to ‘take a joke’ and not ‘take ourselves so seriously’,sexualizing young girls is a thing, patriarchal thing that reduces girls and women to their bodies and body parts rather than their intellects and personalities, and a thing that suggests that girls and women exist simply for the sexual pleasure of heterosexual men. (And it’s not so great for young boys either, who are told to conform to certain muscle-bound macho-man stereotypes.) Don’t believe it still? Here’s some side by side comparisons of boy vs. girl costumes and – gag reflex warning—men’s vs. women’s costumes.But let me use this opportunity to remind us that racist cultural drag – where real life people’s ethnic dress is co-opted into Halloween costumes – is equally gross. As this brilliant series of ads from a anti-racist college student group in Ohio reminds us, a white faced geisha or a sombrero-clad ‘Mexican’ or a feather-headbanded ‘Indian’ costume reduces entire communities of people to simplistic, offensive stereotypes. Such costumes erase our rich and varied cultural backgrounds, and effectively dehumanize people of color – serving us up as cultural jokes rather than equals.And just in case you thought that racist drag was only something that gets trotted out in late October, let’s remember that ‘racist rages’ happen on plenty of campuses all year round. From ‘Cowboys and Indians’ or ‘Mexican’ themed frat parties to white students wearing blackface or dressing in stereotypical ‘hood’ drag to ‘celebrate’ Martin Luther King Jr. day! Ugh! So enough with that thing, too.But what can we do about it? Well, I’m so glad you asked. Here’s some thoughts:Use this handy anti-racist costume checklist – useful not just at Halloween! Created by students at Hampshire College, this checklist of questions including Does my costume represent a culture that is not my own? and Does my costume packaging include the words ‘traditional,’ ‘ethnic’, ‘colonial,’ ‘cultural,’ ‘authentic,’ or ‘tribal’? is a handy guide for those, erm, unintentional racists and xenophobes among us. (But seriously, my advice? If you have to ask yourself ‘is my costume racist?’ maybe that’s a good sign you shouldn’t be wearing that costume. And if your frat brother or sorority sister suggests a party involving sombreros or changing everyone’s skin color – DON’T!).How about finding a non-tarty Halloween costume for our toddlers from this list of Empowering Costumes for Little Girls; I’m thinking Amelia Earhart or Hermione might be a better role model for a little girl than, say, a sexy pirate? And here are some related ideas for grown-up women including Baba Yaga, Athena, and Frida Kahlo that might help us plan a cleavage- and fishnet-free holiday. Amelia Earhart and Hermione Granger costumes via A Mighty GirlAmelia Earhart and Hermione Granger costumes via www.amightygirl.comWhat about having an explicitly political Halloween – tongue-in-cheek suggestions courtesy of Feministing – by dressing up as a Radical Militant Librarian, or the Ghost of Health Care Bills Past? You get Nerd-lady props along with extra points for being non-racist and non-sexist.To read the rest of this essay please visit Adios, Barbie!
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Published on October 15, 2013 06:43 • 57 views

It started this summer, when we visited Boston. We had just been to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s house in Cambridge. We were relaxing on the Harvard University lawn, and, inspired by the uber-intellectual environment, I asked my then eight year old to read me one of Longfellow’s poems from the slim volume we had just bought. I half- way thought she would refuse. But she good-humoredly began to read The Children’s Hour, delighting in Longfellow’s description of his own daughters:From my study I see in the lamplight,      Descending the broad hall stair,Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,      And Edith with golden hair.
A whisper, and then a silence:      Yet I know by their merry eyesThey are plotting and planning together      To take me by surprise. And for the last number of months, my now nine and eleven year old have indeed taken me by surprise with their enthusiasm for our daily poetry study. On the way to school, I ask them each to read me a poem of their choice from a collection of famous poems we keep in the car. What has surprised me is how much more their enthusiasm is for these poems than Shel Silverstein or the other ‘children’s poetry’ we have in the house. There is something about the ‘big topics’ addressed — love, death, yearning, freedom, God — that fascinates them. So too does the vulnerability of these long-ago adult poets appeal; although they don’t say it, I hear the amazement in their voices when they read the stanzas aloud. (And I imagine their inner dialogue: Adults feel scared or confused like we do? Adults that long ago were so inspired by love and beauty?) For instance, the courage and perseverance of the speaker in William Ernest Henley’s Invictus seems to speak to my son, who comes back to this poem again and again on our morning read-alouds,Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.It makes sense. After all, a primary developmental task of the middle grader is defining of the self in relation to the environment. And what older elementary schooler/middle schooler wouldn’t be inspired by the majestic inner strength of the linesIt matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.His love for this poem have allowed us to discuss Nelson Mandela, who — or so the movie says — recited this poem to himself during his many years of captivity in South Africa. We discuss how an idea, an image, can give someone strength to endure the apparently unendurable. We discuss the power, and comfort, of words.For my more whimsical daughter, William Wordsworth’s Daffodils seems to hold particular resonance. So much so that she’s been heard now reciting the lines to herself all around the house:I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;Like Invictus, the ultimate message of the poem is about building – and relying upon – one’s inner resources. A message utterly appropriate to a young person who is relatively powerless in this world so defined by adults:To read the rest of this post please visit From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors!
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Published on October 15, 2013 06:39 • 45 views

September 20, 2013

Dear Racist Tweeters of America,

First and foremost, let me thank you on behalf of feminists of color everywhere, not to mention the producers of the Miss America competition, for making people sit up and take notice of a beauty contest that otherwise would have been off most of our radars.

When I woke up Monday morning to find one of my Indian American friends had posted something on my Facebook wall to the effect of “Sisters! We are Miss America!,” I appreciated the sentiment, but couldn’t bring myself to care that much. After all, I spend most of my life as a feminist scholar, parent, and pediatrician writing and lecturing against the toxic body culture and impossible beauty standards that reduce our daughters’ worth to their physical appearance over their intelligence and actions.

Ok, so some overachieving daughter-of-Indian-immigrants-who-is-also-an-aspiring- cardiologist had done a Bollywood dance, worn a swimsuit, and won a tiara. Beyond a passing eye-roll, I wasn’t that interested.

But then came you, dear tweeters, and the reports of your racist hatred swathed, sari-like, in your unabashed ignorance: your conflation of Indian fusion dance with “Indonesian” dance; your interchange of “Arab” for “Indian”; your assertion that this brown-skinned Miss America was not somehow “American” despite being born in Syracuse, New York. And I realized then that your firestorm of xenophobic fury was nothing more than fodder for an excellent real-life lesson in feminist intersectionality.
#Intersectionality for Racists: On Miss America

Because of you, dear tweeters, I – like many other
feminists of color – have been forced to defend a brown woman’s right to win a competition whose premise turns my stomach. (Talent contests! Hair spray! Your answer to world peace in two minutes or less!) Because the truth is, your insight-less cyber-comments reveal much about the reality of living, as brown women, in post-9/11 America.

The ‘contingent citizenship’ faced by most Asian- and Middle Eastern-Americans was a reality of our lives long before the twin towers fell. The perpetual question “where are you from?”–when answered ‘incorrrectly’–is still usually followed up by “no, where are you REALLY from?” (Refer to this genius ‘What Kind of Asian Are You’ video by Ken Tanaka as a cultural refresher.) Somehow, in mainstream American consciousness, it has always been impossible to be both of Asian or Middle Eastern origin and from Texas, or Syracuse, or Ohio. No matter how many generations we have been in the United States, no matter our contributions to this nation, our communities are damned to marginalization as ‘perpetual foreigners.’

But after 9/11, those of us with brown faces (whether Muslim or Sikh, Hindu or Christian, atheist or agnostic) have found ourselves also conflated with the face of terrorism. We have been yelled at on the streets, unduly searched at airports, the victims of hate-crimes, and had our families and communities targeted for police harassment, immigration detention, and deportation.

To read the rest of this essay please visit The Feminist Wire!
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Published on September 20, 2013 18:29 • 42 views

September 13, 2013


The Abused Goddesses of India. The advertisements, created by Mumbai-based ad firm Taproot India, have been making the rounds – not only of my Facebook friends’ walls, but of many a feminist and progressive site including Bust, Ultraviolet, V-Day and MediaWatch, usually along with reactions like “powerful” and “heartbreaking.”

The images are unusual in their aesthetic appeal. After all, it’s not every day that you see the Hindu Goddesses Laxshmi, Saraswati or Durga made to appear as if they have been subject to gender-based violence – with tear stained faces, open cuts and battered cheekbones. But even despite (or because of?) the bruising around those divine eyes, the images are breathtaking – recreations of ancient Hindu paintings accurate to their last bejeweled crown and luscious lotus leaf.
I’ll admit it, I too was entranced by these ads when I first saw them. Having grown up in the heart of the American Midwest at a time when no one in the media looked even remotely like brown-skinned and dark haired me, I have a particular soft spot for images of glamorous Indian women. After childhood and teenage years believing that no one who wasn’t a blonde, blue-eyed Christie Brinkley look-alike could be deemed ‘beautiful,’ I’m still a complete sucker for images of traditional Indian beauty.

Yet, no matter how appealing, these ads are also deeply problematic. The reasons are multiple:

(1) Violence isn’t glamorous
The problem of glamorizing gender-based violence isn’t new. American popular culture is rife with images that glamorize violence against women and girls: from fashion spreads to music videos to television programs. Media critics like Jean Kilbourne have shown, time and again, how such media images create a cultural acceptance of violence – a rape culture– against women and girls in real life.
And so, despite the ostensible difference in message, the adoption of this sort of aesthetic point of view (of so-called ‘broken beauty’) by anti-violence campaigns is deeply troubling. In a recent workshop I conducted with Praxis International’s Advocacy Learning Center, I explored trends in some U.S., European, and Asian anti-violence campaigns. A predominant one is the graphic portrayal of passive, bruised and battered women’s images – made to somehow look simultaneously beautiful. Like fashion ads and music videos which glamorize violence, anti-violence ads – no matter where they are produced — also often border on the shock-vertising and voyeuristic, portraying images of morose and bruised women, women in the process of being abused or beaten, or even famous women re-enacting scenes of battering. The question is if such images might actually re-traumatize women who have experienced violence, while playing into the self-same patriarchal constructions of feminine passivity which enable such violence to happen in the first place.

(2) Female passivity/victimhood is too often valorized (and fetishized)
Part of the glamorization of violence in the media is our fascination with female victimhood, and this campaign is no different. Certainly, the name doesn’t help. Indeed, the ‘Abused Goddess’ posters are affiliated with the organization Save Our Sisters, a branch of Save the Children India. As one of the posters reads,

“Pray that we never see this day. Today, more than 68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence. Tomorrow, it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray to.”

Um, really, folks? Whatever anyone’s personal spiritual beliefs may be, I really don’t think that prayer is a sufficient actionable solution to violence in and of itself – at least not for any progressive or feminist community. Forget ‘saving’ our sisters; how about ‘empowering’ our sisters, ‘standing with’ our sisters, or ‘watching out’ because our sisters are really angry and fed up of being victimized?

(3) Seeing suffering without a course of action kills empathy
Unlike the human rights organization Breakthrough’s Bell Bajao campaign, which suggests an on-the-ground action that can be taken by a bystander overhearing domestic violence in a neighbor’s home (to ring the bell, and bring on community censure), I’m not sure if there is any concrete action suggested by the Abuse Goddess campaign (beyond prayer). Rather, these images are sent into our cultural consciousness without an answer to the question, ‘what am I to do about this?’

Granted, there is a phone number for ‘reporting abuse’ to Save Our Sisters. Yet, what sort of abuse to report is unclear, as one of the posters mentions domestic violence and another trafficking, and the organization seems primarily an anti-trafficking group. What happens after this ‘reporting’ remains another question altogether. (For instance, police violence and community censure against women who report sexual or domestic abuse is not uncommon in many countries, including India)
Yet, despite the phone number, the ad doesn’t seem to be made with the actual women experiencing violence in mind. Rather, like many anti-violence campaigns, the Abused Goddesses series seems to be created in order to convince the ‘general public’ that violence against women and girls ‘really happens’. I’m not sure who this unbelieving general public is, precisely, but I’m not 100% convinced that ‘they’ need to be catered to. More importantly, appealing to ‘their’ sense of shock or outrage without giving them a concrete (and useful) avenue of action can actually be more dangerous than useful.

In her Regarding the Suffering of Others, Susan Sontag writes about the dangers posed by images of ‘distant suffering’:

Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers. The question of what to do with the feelings that have been aroused, the knowledge that has been communicated. If one feels that there is nothing ‘we’ can do — but who is that ‘we’? — and nothing ‘they’ can do either — and who are ‘they’ — then one starts to get bored, cynical, apathetic

(4) The images play into the idea that Indian/Brown women are particularly oppressed and in need of ‘saving’

To read the rest of this essay, please visit The Feminist Wire
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Published on September 13, 2013 19:01 • 48 views

August 24, 2013




Like Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s other collaboration, television’s Southpark Broadway’s  Book of Mormon  is crass, potty-mouthed, and frequently offensive. But among all the things it does ‘wrong’ — it actually may be doing something right. Review of the Book of Mormon, Feminist Perspective of the Book of Mormon

I know, I know. As a progressive woman of color, I should probably be horrified by the show. And believe me, there was some time before the intermission that I was. In fact, I had delayed seeing the award-winning musical for years out of concern for its politics. But a recent performance won me over.

As someone whose professional life is at the intersection of ‘narrative, health and social justice,’ I spend a lot of my time thinking about the ways that narratives are told, and whether those tellings support or undermine social justice. One of the issues I think deeply about is authorship — in other words, whose stories get told? Who gets to speak and who gets spoken for? With this question in mind, it would seem that Book of Mormon — a play written by two white men about white men ‘saving’ people of color —fails to tell a racially just tale.

Yet, don’t I and my activist colleagues get tired of ‘explaining’ race? Don’t we frequently declare that it is not our job to teach white people ‘all about’ racism and imperialism? If that’s so, what would an alternative narrative look like?

Book of Mormon begins with two white Mormon missionaries (one, a handsome, gosh-golly-shucks earnest narcissist and the other an Eric-Cartman-lookalike oddball pragmatist with a loose relationship with truth) being sent to a Northern Ugandan community to convert the locals to Mormonism. The narrative is told from their point of view; they are the play’s protagonists and we the audience are undoubtedly meant to identify with them. Not just that, but the Ugandan community they travel to is riddled with AIDS, poverty, and gender-injustice (including the threat of clitoridectomy and the belief that sex with a young virgin can ‘cure’ AIDS). Indeed, by the intermission, I was furious that the play’s people of color were seemingly passive plot points rather than active agents driving the story, furious at the ridiculous stereotypes about Africa being played out before my eyes.
Some thoughtful critiques, such as this one from Janice E. Simpson, similarly take the musical to task for its race politics.  In her April 2011 review, Simpson wrote,
The Ugandans whom the missionaries encounter are plagued by poverty, AIDS and an evil warlord who forcibly subjects women to circumcision…. Despite these woes, the villagers are portrayed as good-hearted, if simple-minded, people. One keeps referring to an old battered typewriter as her “texting machine.” Another stomps around talking about raping babies because he believes that doing so will rid him of HIV…It’s all played for can’t-you-take-a-joke laughs. But how funny can it be that AIDS has ravaged Africa, that warlords oppress their fellow citizens or that women and children are subjected to forced clitoridectomies?
While I would have agreed with Simpson’s argument had I left the performance at mid-point, by the end, I grew to realize that, while no means perfect, Book of Mormon also isn’t quite as simplistic as Simpson seems to suggest, or as I had initially believed. Yes, it’s horrifying to hear about a Ugandan man who wants to ‘rape babies’ to cure his AIDS. But the payoff comes in song lyrics when the villagers rightfully accuse the U.S. of ‘having a cure for AIDS’ (or at least quadruple therapies) but keeping it from the rest of the world, and saving it for a ‘latter day.’

Ultimately, the subversive strength of the play is this: it is a powerful, and (if ticket sales are anything to go by) effective example of white people talking to white people about anti-racist social justice. By this I don’t mean the musical pulls any punches, or talks about anti-racism in a way that ‘doesn’t offend’ white people. Rather, I believe that it engages in a sort of neo-liberal self-critique that can only come from a position of ‘insider.’

Consider that, through the trope of the mission-to-baptize-the-natives (which goes completely awry), the play is able to address the problems of neo-colonialism and what Teju Cole has called the White Savior Industrial Complex. This ‘white savior narrative’ is one espoused by all sorts of liberal folks, from U2′s Bono to  ’I-am-African’ poster-posing celebrities to Pulizer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof.

To Read the Rest of this essay please visit The Feminist Wire!
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Published on August 24, 2013 05:00 • 65 views

July 30, 2013


The reproductive health police are at it again, and this time they’ve got the gender and sexuality cops with them.  Despite the CDC reporting a decline in teen pregnancy across ethnic groups, public health and privately funded campaigns are popping up across the U.S. aimed atchastising, shaming, and blaming teenage mothers.
And now, the city of Chicago has gotten in on the act. Not satisfied with the traditional images of cheerleading teenage mothers with babies strapped to their chests, or wailing toddlersscolding their mothers for being too poor or too single, or even pop music icons who assure young women that motherhood ‘sucks’ even more than high school, the city of Chicago has decided to get creative. The Chicago Department of Public Health has created a series of posters featuring shirtless young men with apparently pregnant bellies – below the caption “Unexpected?”  TPPI Bus King Sample 2Ok, I get it. The campaign was designed to communicate the fact that most teen pregnancies are, yes, unexpected, and that teen fathers should bear an equal responsibility for said pregnancies. But as someone working at the interstices of narrative, health, and social justice, I am less concerned with wondering if teen pregnancy is ‘bad’, or even if shame and/or shock are effective motivators for behavior change (which I would argue they are not, check out Brené Brown’s eloquent argument). What concerns me is what other work such images are doing. In other words, what additional cultural stories is this campaign telling, and are those narratives socially just or unjust?As this fantastic take-off from the Media Literacy Project shows, the primary problem with the Chicago campaign is its deeply trans-phobic narrative:
In the frame of the advertisers, the pregnant bellies in the ads are solely female while the rest of the body is solely male. The contrast is supposed to cause discord in the viewer, yielding feelings that the image is “disturbing” or “unexpected,” as the ads say. However, sex and gender are much more complicated than the advertisers understand. Transgender boys and men can become pregnant. Calling their bodies disturbing perpetuates a culture of ignorance, prejudice, and violence against transgender people.
The truth is, bodies which do not look traditionally ‘female gendered’ can and do become pregnant (consider the much publicized story of Thomas Beattie, for instance, a transgender man who bore three children) while bodies which do look traditionally ‘female gendered’ sometimes can or do not.Philosopher Judith Butler asserted that gender is nothing more than a series of repetitive performances; behaviors which, in cis-gendered (not transgendered) people, are often so subconscious as to feel ‘natural.’ But simply consider that the gender-coding of many such behaviors have changed over time. Hairstyles, clothing, and work-home-balance are all easy examples. Requiring at the very least a working uterus, pregnancy is one type of public ‘performance’ that still appears ‘naturally female.’ Therefore, ‘male pregnancy’ can be a subversive act, as with the work of cyber-artists Virgil Wong and Lee Mingwei, where, as feminist science scholar Donna Haraway would say, one ‘queers what counts as nature.’To read the rest of this essay please visit Sociological Images
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Published on July 30, 2013 13:04 • 70 views

July 25, 2013










To: colin_firth@iamanactor.netCC: Mi5spyguy@iamanactor.netFrom: FWDarcy@PemberleyUniverse.org
Subject: On playing me
Dear Sirs,  (and I use that term quite loosely since I understand that you are both “actors” who have made the rather humbling choice to join something I understand is called “Hollywood”),
You can be at no loss to understand the reason for my letter to you both. Indeed, your own hearts, your own consciences, must tell you why I now write.
My dear sirs (again, loosely, & etc.), you must apprehend that although I am not strictly what a person of scientific understanding might call “alive,” I am nevertheless not one to be trifled with. My character has always been celebrated for its sincerity and frankness, not to mention my sizeable fortune (*cough* tenthousandayear *cough*), and my estate of literary proportions, the sight of which is reputed to unleash cupids arrow into the boso… I mean to say, the hearts of the gentler sex.
Whatever degree of insincerity your “professions” might demand of your characters, you shall not find me so. Indeed, no matter what my faults of address or temperament, I do not think you would find me, Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberly, ever donning the breeches and cravat of another and play-acting as if I were a “spy” – no matter how stoic faced (well done, that part, MacFayden, by the way, I heartily approve of stoic face). Far more ludicrous is the suggestion that I might ever undertake the outrage of impersonating the King of England! For shame, Mr. Firth, what golden trophy of glamour and greed can be worth such treasonous abasements?
So imagine my disgust and pain when a report of a most alarming nature reached me.  Though I would wish it to be a scandalous falsehood, it has come to my attention that not one, but both of you gentlemen have undertaken the task of portraying me on what I understand is called the “silver screen.”
Although you have both endeavored to capture my smouldering good looks and aforementioned stoicism with some degree of earnestness, I must protest several items of gross and fraudulent inaccuracy. For instance, Mr. Firth, my nostrils do not flare at every instance like some great priggish boor. And it was surely not necessary to be mooning like a besotted calf at that certain young lady in possession of a fine set of eyes, who had committed no other offence than to innocently turn pages for your sister as she played the pianoforte? For shame, sir, (and you will forgive the indelicacy, here – lady readers, do avert your eyes lest your retina and cornea burst into flames)—but do keep it in your breeches!
And as for you, Mr. MacFayden – those sideburns! That hair! Might I presume in your imaginary England, there has been some Victor-Hugo-like peasant uprising against grooming and cleanliness – and all the valets have been taken to the guillotine? (You see, I've kept abreast of news these past 200 years)  Really, sir, if you do not have a man-servant to do these simple tasks (and I am beginning to suspect you do not!) do endeavor to purchase a comb, and tuck in your untidy chest-hairs as best you can!
I leave, however, the gravest offense for last. Mr. Firth, what mental abberation convinced you that the hallowed halls of Pemberley should be polluted with what I can only describe as a gentleman’s “wet T-shirt contest” with a singular contestant? Indeed, I have received the alarming report that the ladies of your modern era are doing some thing called “rewinding” this “scene” to experience it in repetition ad nauseum! Corneas and retinas bursting into flames indeed!
This is not to be borne, sirs. Honour, decorum, prudence, nay, interest forbid it. As much of a tendre as I might have for a certain obstinant, headstrong girl, the same quality in gentlemen such as yourselves – ACTORS! – are upstart pretentions.
I belong, sirs, in the world of Miss Austen’s book. (If you are unfamiliar with this thing called a “book”, it looks like what you can an “ipad,” but with pages.) Kindly cease and desist your poor imitations, no matter how chiseled and stoic-faced or handsomely smouldering.
I take no leave of you, sirs. I send no compliments to your mothers, producers, or agents.
I am most seriously displeased. 
Fitzwilliam Darcy


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Published on July 25, 2013 17:58 • 77 views

July 11, 2013



My talk from the April 2013 TEDx Sarah Lawrence College is online! I'd love to hear your thoughts on listening, health care, and social justice!
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Published on July 11, 2013 09:28 • 86 views

June 15, 2013


Teen pregnancy, like obesity, is often framed as an “epidemic.”  As such, both the “epidemic” of teen pregnancy and the “epidemic” of obesity can be understood through the lens of what sociologist Stanley Cohen popularized as a “moral panic.” In Cohen’s words, moral panics are “condensed political struggles to control the means of cultural reproduction”; additionally “successful moral panics owe their appeal to their ability to find points of resonance with wider anxieties.”“The Real Cost of Teen Pregnancy” — a public health information campaign launched by the Mayor and Human Resources Administration of New York City in March 2013 — features babies and toddlers, primarily children of color, chastising their teenage mothers. Launched at a time when teen pregnancies have actually declined, primarily due to the availability of safe and affordable reproductive health care, the accusatory “shame and blame” narrative of these images is not only out of proportion to the “problem” it seeks to address, but is weighed down by its obvious cultural narratives about teens of color, poverty, gender and sexuality. teen4n-web
Having a pensive toddler of color next to the slogan “Honestly Mom… chances are he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?” and a weeping boy of color next to the words “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen,” serves to re-stigmatize single teen mothers, encouraging wider social senses of moral outrage, hostility and volatility toward young, predominantly impoverished girls of color. Not unlike cultural narratives about “welfare queens,” the campaign plays into racist and classist fears about sexually active girls of color and teenage mothers who use social services. The message just under the surface here is about the need for social control of “unruly bodies.”These 4,000 posters, put up in buses and subways, cost a reported $10,000 per year for the city, and have already drawn harsh critique from many. Haydee Morales, vice president for education and training at Planned Parenthood of New York City, for instance, has reportedly suggested the campaign has got it backward. In her words, “It’s not teen pregnancies that cause poverty, but poverty that causes teen pregnancy.”
To read the rest of this post, please visit Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing! 
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Published on June 15, 2013 04:28 • 70 views

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