The New Zealand landscape hosts a parallel fantasy world: The Lord of the Rings' Middle Earth. (photo by Hannah Strom)
The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in Peter Jackson’s three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, arrives in theaters this week. If you’ve watched any Lord of the Rings (LOTR) installments you know the deal: a bunch of white heroes will travel on a noble quest, they will do battle with scary dark-skinned creatures, and maybe a white female character will grace the screen for a moment or two.
If you’re like me and you give the feminist-of-color side-eye to mainstream fantasy while also having a deeply geeky desire to escape and live forever in Middle Earth, you know that the race and gender politics of Lord of the Rings have been a pretty hot topic of conversation.
In mid-November in the Netherlands, Dutch families take to the streets of Amsterdam to celebrate the arrival of their favorite winter guests, Sinterklaas and his whimsical helper Black Pete. The air is crisp and cold. Pepernoten, bortsplaat, marzipan, and other sweet holiday fill the pockets of onlookers. When the adored duo comes into town (they sail in on a ship from Spain), they are greeted with a city-wide, family-friendly parade.
However, what is different and potentially shocking to many non-Dutch onlookers is that during the traditional parade, Sinterklaas is escorted by hundreds of white people in blackface. Smiling Dutch folks in blackface bike, walk, and rollerblade through the town, waving at children in celebration.
'Tis the season to stress out about making and buying presents for all the people you love. Here at Bitch, we're going to put together fun gift guides over the next two weeks to highlight the work of artists, designers, and groups that we love. You don't have to go out and spend a ton of money on presents, but if you are shopping around, it's nice to have ideas of great creators and organizations to support.
Artist Adam J. Kurtz's internet joke shop is full of funny little items—I like this bizarre golf pencil version of "the pen is more powerful than the sword." You get three pencils for only $1 and they're perfect for writing notes in books.
Grown women, if Tavi Gevinson makes you feel old and unproductive, take solace in the fact that you're not alone. The now–17-year-old founder and editor of teen-girl website Rookie has been an industry force since she started her fashion blog, Style Rookie, at the wee age of 11. Since then, Gevinson has mashed up her interest in style with Rookie's focus on friends, on feminism, on nostalgia, on culture, and on all manner of interests that, while targeted at a teen demographic, resonate soundly across the board.
The second edition of the Rookie Yearbook(which Gevinson edits and art directs) was recently published by Drawn and Quarterly, so this fall has found her on the road for a series of standing-room-only events across this Rookie-loving nation. Gevinson also found time to make her acting debut, in Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said—notable not only for Gevinson's lovely, natural performance alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but for being one of James Gandolfini's final film appearances.
Somehow, Gevinson manages to live a relatively regular life as a high-school senior, and last month, I met up with her for a post-class snack at a vegan restaurant in her home of Oak Park, Illinois.
What happens when states contract with private, for-profit companies to both run their prisons and provide prison health care? Carol Lester, a 73-year-old grandmother, found out shortly after arriving at the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants.
We had a lot of fun making this music video at the Bitch HQ here in Portland.
Dawn Jones from Hearts+Sparks Productions, our creative, nimble, and thankfully patient director, donated every minute of her time and talent. As did dedicated musician A Severe Joy, who wrote and recorded this tune just for Bitch. Volunteers streamed in to our office to help with everything from taping down light cords to back-up dancing. Someone lent us a cantankerous fog machine. A staff member precariously perched herself on top of a filing cabinet and waved a flashlight for a low-tech spot light.
• Conversations by people of color on Twitter and other social media platforms are holding the American media accountable for their lack of skill and sensitivity in discussing race in pop culture. [Salon]
• If you were disappinted when Rashida Jones told women to "stop acting like whores," you're probably still going to be disappointed by her explanation of it, even though it's always nice to hear celebrities engaging critically with feminism. [Clutch]
• In the latest installment of comedic reactions to Cosmo's sex tips, someone actually tests out some of the awful advice they give, like eating a doughnut off of a penis, or poking your partner with a fork while you have sex. Hilarity ensues. [AlterNet]