Cover Your Bases 27

3/21/2021 White supremacy, toxic moms, cooking, and how much does it matter that Substack lied?

This week: A reflection on something personal and reflective, like AAPI hatred. There have been so many eloquent commentaries about the white supremacy, white nationalism, and racism that are part of the rise in hate crimes against Asian-American and Pacific Islander people. There are also lots of people crying bullshit on the injustice of this toxic white boy having excuses made for him when we all know that if a person of color committed these atrocities, they would have been killed by the same police excusing Robert Aaron Long. 

Photo credit: GoodGoodEatz

Part of my way of coping with this is positivity: appreciating two of the Instagrams focused on the Asian-American community in my feed: GoodGoodEatz,  a project connecting community to food, and Chinatown Pretty, a style project celebrating Asian elders (one of my long-time fashion influences in combining patterns), and a fav Insta feed. And also, reading and donating:

Books by Elissa Altman and Emily Reese Nunn: Two of my favorite recently discovered writers, Elissa Altman and Emily Nunn, have each written memoirs about family relationships, centering on toxic moms. I’ve been enjoying each of their Insta feeds and weekly updates for a few weeks, but just now had the chance to read The Comfort Food Diaries, Emily Nunn’s exquisitely written account of patching herself back as an adult, a process which includes both traveling around cooking for old friends, and coming to terms with the toxic lessons she has had to unlearn from life with a challenging, damaged family.  It’s a great read, as poetic and vivid as a Laurie Colwin essay, but way less sappy. 

I’m just a third of the way into Motherland, a memoir about her life with her toxic mother by Elissa Altman, and I can see this is a great read as well. Altman is also clear-eyed and direct about her difficult parent, the love they share and getting through COVID-19 while sharing space with a parent you once had to leave to survive.

Cooking: Of course, I’ve been cooking, with these dishes as part of the repertoire:

  • Yossy Arefi, Pumpkin, and Olive Oil Cake: this was a huge winner; I made it in a quarter sheet pan, topped it with pumpkin seeds, and glazed it with a maple syrup icing; both my family at home and colleagues at work devoured every bit of it immediately.

Substack: How much does it matter that Substack lied? There’s a huge, roiling boil of a discussion about Substack’s owners not being honest about the vast sums paid to some people--mostly white, male politicos--to come onto the platform and publish there, vastly building awareness and prestige for the brand. Doyles, one of the writers, kicked it off with objections to Substack’s lack of transparency and duplicity in funding transphobia. They write:

“Substack has become famous for giving massive advances — the kind that were never once offered to me or my colleagues, not up front and not after the platform took off — to people who actively hate trans people and women, argue ceaselessly against our civil rights, and in many cases, have a public history of directly, viciously abusing trans people and/or cis women in their industry.”

Annalee Newitz followed up by sharing their discomfort in Here’s why Substack’s scam worked so well. Newitz writes:  

“So Substack has an editorial policy, but no accountability. And they have terms of service, but no enforcement. If you listen to Hamish, they don’t even hire writers! They just give money to people who write things that happen to be on Substack. It’s the usual Silicon Valley sleight-of-hand move, very similar to Uber reps claiming drivers aren’t “core” to their business. I’m sure Substack is paying a writer right now to come up with a catchy way of saying that Substack doesn’t pay writers.”

Then journalist Peter Kafka elaborated in Substack writers are mad at Substack. The problem is money and who’s making it. And others lept in.  Honestly, am I pissed? Yes. Am I pissed enough to leave the platform with my tiny readership and go elsewhere?  Somewhere between probably not, and not sure yet. But the transphobia of some of their paid authors---that sucks as much as the lying.

Reading Watching Doing this week: Elizabeth Spiers, My New Bands Is: Teenage Mistake. A GREAT READ on the Teen Vogue editor who is now not going to edit Teen Vogue from one of my favorite writers from forever.

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Happy Spring!, 

Susan