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The Beheld
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Examining questions surrounding personal appearance: What does it mean to be seen? What is the relationship between "beauty labor" and cultural visibility? And why do two lipstick shades combined always look better than one?
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“Dangerous” Indeed: Simon & Schuster Imprint Publishing Book by White Supremacist

Simon & Schuster announced that it will be publishing Dangerous, a book by Milo Yiannopoulos, an editor at Breitbart and a white supremacist, in March 2017 under its Threshold imprint, which is devoted to conservatism. As a Simon & Schuster author, I’m horrified that a company I’ve been proud to be associated with is giving a platform to Yiannopoulos.

To be clear, the book isn’t about white supremacy. The book is about free speech, and indeed Yiannopoulos is well-situated to write about free speech. White supremacy has a history of making people rethink their commitment to free speech (I’m thinking here of Skokie, Illinois, a heavily Jewish town where Nazis were allowed to march and display the swastika in 1977, thanks in part to the ACLU’s efforts to support the Nazis’ First Amendment rights). I don’t want to stop Yiannopoulos from writing or publishing such a book—or any book, for that matter, even as I find his views despicable. Free speech, even when it’s abhorrent, is a cornerstone of democracy.

But the kind of “free speech” we’re talking about here is the kind promised to us by our government, not the kind sold by for-profit companies like Simon & Schuster. Nobody has a right to a book deal; not publishing this book, even if it never once uses the phrase “white supremacy,” is not censorship or an abridgement of free speech. Yiannopoulos already has quite a mouthpiece at his disposal; this isn’t an issue of him not being able to assert his views.

The issue is that when a major publishing company gives a lucrative book deal to a white supremacist, it legitimizes him, even when the topic is free speech.

Indeed, that’s his entire goal in publishing the book, not getting his word out per se: “this book is the moment Milo goes mainstream,” Yiannopoulos told The Hollywood Reporter. By publishing this book, Simon & Schuster is enabling Yiannopoulos to “go mainstream,” which normalizes his views and makes them seem like they should be a legitimate part of public discourse. It turns white supremacy into just another controversial viewpoint instead of a genuinely dangerous ideology that is gaining ground in our country by the minute. White supremacy kills people, and it will kill more people in the coming years.

This isn’t about me just not liking what Yiannopoulos has to say; I don’t like what most Threshold authors have to say. (Threshold exists to “provide a forum for the creative people, bedrock principles, and innovative ideas of contemporary conservatism.”) But there is a sharp difference between conservative thinking and white supremacy. No publisher has an intellectual obligation to give a mouthpiece to the latter.

I’ve been thinking a good deal about boycotts and their effectiveness, and I’m not sure that calling for a boycott of all Simon & Schuster books is a great idea; I’m hesitant to say that you shouldn’t buy good books that encourage clear thinking and open discourse—that seems counterproductive. But I will happily tell you that my book sales are far less important to me as a Simon & Schuster author than us taking a stand against legitimizing white supremacists. (I will also point out that the Face Value audiobook is not published by Simon & Schuster, ahem.) If you want to contact the publisher, you can call Threshold at 212.698.7006 or email at [email protected] I’ll continue to think on how I want to handle this as an author with the same publisher, and am open to suggestions.

The Sisterhood, If It Ever Existed and It Probably Didn’t, Shattered While I Wasn’t Looking and All I Got Was This Dumb Safety Pin

I have always believed that beauty is political. But when we are dealing with fascism sweeping our nation, the way for those of us who believe that is to use beauty in ways that support the work we have ahead of us. Put on your lipstick if it makes you fierce, then go out and yell. But right now I don’t have my usual intellectual luxury of examining beauty in the ways I usually do in this space.

I got an enormous shock in one of my core beliefs with this election. I have always believed, with the wide-eyed earnesty of a white woman for whom inclusion is usually taken for granted, in the sisterhood. I am horrified at how wrong I was about that. I’m shocked at my naive assumption that women would do better by one another; I’m shocked that 42 percent of women and 53 percent of white women looked at a man who is proud of his misogyny and think, Yes, him. Every woman who has ever been sexually assaulted was assaulted again on Tuesday night, including those who voted for him. Our national figurehead is a sexual assault trigger. I am sickened.

But the deeper rocking of my world has come from how this past week has made me look my own complicity right in the eye. I have long considered myself an ally to disenfranchised and oppressed people, but I now see that “considered myself” is meaningless. I have done jack shit to actually show up for people of color. I read the thinkpieces and make my Twitter feed diverse and try to treat people like they’re, you know, human, and none of that is active alliance. Patting myself on the back for being aware enough to not expect a cookie for being a decent human being is just me baking a batch of cookies for myself. I thought I “got” intersectional feminism because I agreed with its tenets. But I wasn’t really listening. I am sorry.

I’m a writer by nature and vocation, so part of how I wind up contributing to overcoming the fascism of this country might well be with my words. But right now, I don’t have anything to say that isn’t being said elsewhere by people whose voices more urgently need to be heard, and anyway, the kind of words I have to offer the world aren’t what we need right now. Right now, we need action, and organizing.

Here are two places to start actionwise; these are roundups of specific, varied ways each of us can help overcome this. Find what works for you, then do it.

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There is one thing about what’s going on that’s in my wheelhouse here at Ye Olde Beheld, so yes, let’s talk about safety pins.

What the fuck are you thinking? We’re looking at the possibility of mass deportations and the impulse is to ask what you can wear to the revolution?

Maybe it’s different in communities where disenfranchised people are surrounded by the enemy—I don’t know, I can’t speak to that. But criminy, if you’re wearing a safety pin out of an earnest belief that someone in need can come to you, a stranger, because they need help? Then you, a stranger, can probably see that they need help, so help them regardless of what’s on your lapel. Good grief.

Is There Such a Thing as the “Bipartisan Updo”?