Pandora's Box

Well-behaved women rarely make history.

On intersections, allies, & not being an asshole.

I was a shitty queer ally recently. To be fair, I am quite often a bad ally - silence is not my forte - but this involved someone I’d only just met, and the thought that I left them* with a first impression of me as an asshole has been weighing on me. Intersectionality is complicated.

The details don’t matter - they’re just me attempting to justify taking my problems out on others** - so we’ll just leave it at a fiercely binarily-gendered rape-culture rampage in a setting requiring more sensitivity to trans experiences. (Admittedly, most of my life could stand a truckload more nuance and kindness, particularly of late.) I had had a bad day and should have just gone home to look at puppy GIFs and eat cheese. But I didn’t, so here we are.

I’m a proud feminist killjoy. I treasure the overlap between feminism and other social justice movements. But I’m also white, cis, middle class, able-bodied, mostly straight, and while an immigrant, more frequently included than othered in this country. Essentially, I’m drowning in privilege (not to suggest there exists a strict hierarchy of privilege, but to acknowledge that I am an academic observer, albeit a passionately interested one, in most struggles for equality). 

It’s a weird place to be, a member of both a marginalised and several dominant identities. It’s why intersectionality matters so much - our experiences are so complex, so varied, that we cannot be summed up in a single label. Being rich and white in the West has brought all manner of opportunity and benefit, but being a woman, particularly abroad, has…not. 

The Wireless’s recent piece about entry points to feminism prompted a discussion about ‘Feminism 101’ with new recruits.*** My takeaway: It’s hard to ask questions and it’s hard to answer them. We were all new to the revolution once and we all have experiences that make some things difficult to talk about. We can all be kinder to one another. We bring different strengths and skills to the table. 

In feminism, we spend a lot of time talking about male allies and how to be a good one. The discussion is relevant to all movements. I summed it up in bullet points that also happened to form a haiku:
Be a role model
Call out bad behaviour
Shut up and listen
It’s easy enough for me to remember in race or disability discussions, where my observer status is quite clear, but crossing into gender and sexuality I struggle to recognise the line distinguishing my feminism and someone else’s queer rights on approach. (It’s obvious in hindsight, when I’m cringing at my own insensitivity.) 

Is it because gender and sexuality are fluid? Because you can’t always know where someone fits? It’s different in my eyes than, for instance, invisible disability (where I have enough sense to not voice assumptions about someone’s experience), but that’s probably just because sex is such a big part of my feminism too. I got my start in reproductive rights. In campaigning for contraceptive access, abortion rights, and ending rape culture, my sexual behaviour is on display and judged by opponents. Harassment, discrimination, and violence affect us all.

But not equally. We know the stats and we should all be outraged. I hate that we live in a world where coming out is a risk. It shouldn’t be. It’s no one’s business. I don’t like coffee and some people identify as a gender other than the one assigned at birth and some people are afraid of birds and we all love people with different genitals. That’s fine. 

Except we live in the real world, and it’s not fine. It’s a big deal to say ‘I’m gay/queer/trans/different,’ especially to a veritable stranger, and that reality matters infinitely more than my idealistic dream that it should not.

Returning to the story - mid-rant, someone came out, quietly and without fanfare. In retrospect, it was a lovely moment and I’m ashamed that I shat all over it. My overeager ‘I’m a good ally’ instinct led me to shrug and move on. But dismissive isn’t supportive, and my assumptions about others’ experiences help no one. My brain caught up later and I’ve been berating myself ever since.
I want to be a good ally but meaning well doesn’t excuse failing at compassion. So thank you, innocent bystander, for trusting me with that disclosure. I’m sincerely sorry I ruined what would have been a valuable discussion. Thank you for reminding me to do better. 
——-
*I have officially embraced the gender neutral third person singular. The editor in me is still struggling, but the rest of me is quite pleased to be able to write more inclusively (/anonymously in this case).
**This is just one example of recent awful behaviour from me. This post has been a couple of weeks in the making and I’m learning I don’t cope with certain things as well as I pretend to, and stewing over the way I’ve taken it out on other people only makes me less pleasant. I’m sorry. Admitting weakness is hard, and today in particular has made me grateful for the people in my life and so very sorry for how I’ve treated them. I’m trying. 
***Others read it as 101 with those who hijack conversations because they can’t be bothered doing their own research first, and rightly felt that ‘apathy’ was an incendiary charge to level at those who can’t or don’t engage. While that’s also a valid point, it’s an entirely different discussion. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve rarely been judged, trolled, or harassed for not engaging and this greatly shaped my positive interpretation of the article’s call for being patient with those who are just beginning their foray into feminism.

Round 8: American As

bakeclub52:

It was only a matter of time before I combined my penchant for mini food with my national dessert. Apple pie is one of my favourite foods. In Ethiopia, I spent ungodly amounts of money buying sad little apples just so I could make pies. Personally, I prefer Dutch apple style over traditional crust…

Round 7: Mini Cheesecakes

bakeclub52:

A group of friends and I have decided to watch all the Bond movies in order. Something to do on Sundays, right? For the first movie - Dr No - we’d had a massive yum cha brunch that morning and so decided that mini foods were a brilliant idea. Marc made these adorable tiny cheeseburgers, complete…

Round 5: Carrot Cake

bakeclub52:

Ordinarily, I object on principle to vegetables in desserts. Carrot cake is only useful as a delivery mechanism for cream cheese frosting, and we have invented red velvet, so that’s not even a valid argument. But, alas, I am slowly realising I am in the minority here. I wanted to make something…

Round 4: Blueberries, blueberries, & more blueberries

bakeclub52:

My #NerdYearsResolution is to learn to code. Specifically, Ruby on Rails because that’s what all my cool friends use. Alas for me, that entails learning HTML and CSS first. And apparently Javascript too, but I’m trying not to think about it too much. Fortunately, said cool friends run Ruby’s Tea Party, where interested folk like myself can hang out and learn things in a delightfully fun, no pressure environment. I mean, everyone else in the room is basically speaking another language, but they were really nice and not at all condescending about my ecstatic excitement about learning how to make a list in HTML. I haven’t learnt how to put my fake practice website on the real internet yet, but when I do, be prepared for a lot of cute animal GIFs. 

Returning to the point - Ruby’s Tea Party entails coding over tea and pastries. Since I can’t code and the Enspiral office is renowned for its tea collection, that left pastries for me. The blueberries have been taunting me at the grocery store lately, so they seemed a natural choice. I found this cupcake recipe and fell in love with the colour of the icing. 

Laughter is always the best medicine. Unless you have diarrhoea. (at Cuba Mall)

Laughter is always the best medicine. Unless you have diarrhoea. (at Cuba Mall)

BakeClub52: Classic Swiss Fondue

God bless the fine nation of Switzerland for making it okay to eat a bucket of cheese and call it dinner. It’s basically an instant party in a colourful vintage pot. Just add a few delightful friends, wine, and a couple rounds of Cards Against Humanity.

There are a lot of fondue variations in the world. I’m personally a fan of the classic, but the beer-and-cheddar variations are equally delicious. Classic Swiss is made with a 50-50 split of Gruyere and Emmental, but you can also add other Alpine cheeses. I’m wild about Appenzeller but it doesn’t appear to be available in New Zealand, so I used Comte instead. Tete de Moine is also a beautiful cheese, although I prefer it as an appetiser because (if available) using a girolle is immensely satisfying and results in such pretty presentation that it seems a shame to melt it. 

Ingredients

  • 1 c white wine
  • 3 1/2 c assorted Alpine cheeses, grated
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Dash nutmeg
  • freshly ground pepper
  • crusty baguette, cut into bite sized pieces
  • Other dippers: vegetables, olives, sausage, apples, etc.

Instructions

Toss the grated cheeses in the flour to prevent clumping. Most respectable fondue pots are stovetop-safe, so I find it easier to make the fondue on the stove, then transfer it to the stand to serve. Heat the wine to just before it simmers and add the garlic. Gradually add the cheese a handful or two at a time, stirring well with a wooden spoon until each batch melts and the fondue is smooth. 

Meanwhile, task your guests with preparing the dippers. With the bread, make sure each piece has some crust so the bread will stay on the fork under the weight of the cheese. Other classic vegetable dippers are carrots, celery, and bell peppers. I typically also use granny smith apples, but forgot this time. However, we did discover the joys of chunks of chorizo as well as crumbed mushrooms. 

Season the fondue with a dash of nutmeg and pepper to taste before lighting the sterno can and transferring to the table. Be sure to stir the cheese regularly as you dip so the bottom doesn’t burn (but the slightly browned crispy remnants are delicious!). Tradition holds that if you drop something into the pot, you have to kiss someone at the table. Or do the dishes. Depends on the sort of party, I suppose. 

[Serves 6 as a main]

It’s impossible not to get excited about fondue.

Booze & Musical Pairing

Currently having a love affair with Mt Maude Vineyard’s Riesling, out of Otago. Not the dry one though, it’s rather lackluster. As for music, in the spirit of the 1970s and all, I suggest Forbidden Ensemble's Porno Soundtracks Volume 1. 

Round 2: Butterscotch Meringue Brownies

bakeclub52:

I love caramel. A lot. I think this is because it’s a socially acceptable way to basically eat sugar, which is something I used to do as a kid. And by kid, I mean I stole and ate the sugar cube from my friend’s Mexican coffee at #TacoThursday this week. My other favourite thing is meringue, again likely because it is essentially an adult sugar delivery system. Kelly made a pavlova that we never got around to eating on Christmas and getting to take home and eat the entire shell in two days was a highlight of my holiday.

It is a wonder I am permitted to live on my own. image

Which brings us to these Tasty Kitchen Butterscotch Meringue Bars. I’ve made some changes because I have found, in my old age, that I like less chocolate and more meringue. Also, I couldn’t be asked to go down the stairs and across the street to the store to get more. The original recipe is also delicious.

Ingredients

  • 225 g butter, softened
  • 2 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 125 (ish) g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • pinch of cream of tartar

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 180*C. 

2. Cream butter, 1 c brown sugar and 1/2 c white sugar in large bowl. Add egg yolks, whiskey, and vanilla, blend well.

3. Add dry ingredients and beat on low until just blended. Spread batter into greased 9x9” (for thick brownies) or 13x9” (for more of them). 

4. Sprinkle chocolate over the batter and press into the dough. 

5. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high until stiff peaks form. Add remaining 1 c of brown sugar and beat on medium until all the sugar is dissolved and the meringue is thick, shiny, and a uniform colour. Spread over the top of the batter, being sure to touch all the edges of the pan.

6. Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Remove and let cool completely (at least a couple of hours) before cutting into squares. They will be sticky and gooey. The meringue will crack. These are not destined to become your best work on Instagram, but such is life.

image

(NB: I used a 9x9” pan. So thick and gooey!)

Booze & Musical Pairing

Calamity Song' by the incomparable Decemberists and a cold beer to cut through all that sugar. I recommend Garage Project's new summer ale, Summer Sommer.