Tressie McMillan Cottom

I know enough demography to know that I am a statistical outlier. My family is from rural, Eastern North Carolina. You do not have to be familiar to the area to understand that when said that way, “Eastern” connotes a very specific cultural geography: it is the poorer part of the state, most directly marked by European colonialism and slavery, and at the crossroads of regional immigration and economic shockwaves.

There is a geography textbook in my office with a copyright of 1919 and a handwritten inscription on the second blank page: “Property of Eunice McRae”. Eunice was my great-grandmother. We do not know where the textbook came from. It isn’t hard to imagine it was one of the secondhand books that white schools sent to Black schools as cast-offs during U.S. …


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by Chioke I’anson

When the news broke on January 6, 2021 that the Capitol was “being besieged”, I was scheduled to be in my home studio. That is where I record my podcast with Roxane Gay, “Hear to Slay”. Oddly enough, the day had started going to, er, pot the moment I woke up. My doctor’s appointment was cancelled as I was in the car on my way. When I returned home, a malfunctioning transformer meant a black-out throughout my neighborhood. I live in a cell phone tower dead zone. When my electricity is out, I am cut off from the outside world. …


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Adoja Andoh as Lady Danbury and Regé-Jean Page as Simon, Duke of Hastings in Shonda Rhimes’ “Bridgerton” for Netflix

For seven years or so now, my friend and I have been dishing about why so many Black women love regency-era romance. As it happens, that good friend is also a foremost scholar on race and British Romanticism**. You would love these conversations. Strangers once followed us around a London museum to eavesdrop on these conversations. We have a lot of thoughts as to the why. Whatever the reasons, race and regency is undoubtedly having a *moment*.

As is often the case when Black women are dominating a conversation about television, Shonda Rhimes is at the center. I have previously credited Rhimes for single-handedly rewriting race, casting, and wish fufillment in network television. There is one thing you are always going to get from a Shondaland production and it is a Black woman love interest who does not discriminate. …


Mark your calendars: I will be in conversation with best-selling author Isabel Wilkerson on January 6 to discuss the legacy of Zora Neale Hurston. Join us for the conversation by signing up here.

3 sketches of models wearing cocktail dresses.
3 sketches of models wearing cocktail dresses.

I wrote a short piece about Lizzo for Harper’s Bazaar this week. I have said it before and it remains true that nothing riles up readers more than beauty. I’m still getting letters from a nearly decade old Miley Cyrus essay and then new letters about “In the Name of Beauty” in my book THICK and then all the angry messages about my thoughts on AOC.

It is interesting how deeply we hold that beauty is natural and our desires are immune to capitalism and racism and colonialism and sexism and ableism and politics and, well, social construction. …


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Photo by Olena Sergienko on Unsplash

People who follow me on @instagram know that I dabble in home design. In a hostile world, I choose to nest as radical praxis. People who follow me on @twitter know that I recently moved into what can best be described as a suburban Disneyland. This is the first time I have encountered holiday decorating as subculture and identity. I am talking animated displays, layered twinkle lights and displays set to music.

I refuse to be caught slipping. I am wrapping my front porch footstools in big bows to match the blinking “JOY” sign. Don’t start none, won’t be none.

Some folks took, shall we say, another route. And I have questions. They begin with those inflated Christmas yard…things. …


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A snapshot of the fight for the new South narrative.

We are living in one of the most generative eras of Southern cultural production since Dolly went pop and Designing Women said “y’all” once a week on network television. From country music to digital and print media, we are trying to figure out the American South…again.

I say “again” because American popular culture has an ongoing, cyclical obsession with the U.S. South. “The South” is a stand-in for how the nation wants to see it itself at any point in time. Debating the morality of Southern cultures is one way that the nation reckons with empire and economics. We are not well versed in international or global cultures in this country. Therefore we do not have the vocabulary to talk about geo-politics “out there”. Instead we talk about the geo-politics “in here” — in the Appalachias, in Mississippi, in Texas. …


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That is how my friend and comedian Brandi put it to me.

Brandi was responding to my drive-by reflection on the latest comedy drama.

Brandi knows how to speak my language. In “Thick”, I have a lot of fun with columnists at elite publications. I use these columnists as a proxy for cultural hegemony. Whether we think they should matter is irrelevant. They do and one of my jobs is figuring out how they matter for different groups of people.The …


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It is that time of the year. I am deep in my Hallmark Christmas movie grind. Between judging the banality of cults of femininity and laughing at Kellie Pickler, I want to make the case for Hallmark movies as feminist* fare.

Like a critical consumer of every Hallmark movie set in Chicago, Canada, you will have to extend me a little grace. The argument turns on one’s idea of feminist.

Hallmark movies are not feminist, except in that vague nonsensical way in which anything with a woman in it is somehow feminist. The scripts trade in every trope of unexamined whiteness, class warfare, gender conformity and patriarchal family norms. I watch them because there is no subtext and no surprises. There are only three things that turn off my critical survival lens and Hallmark movies are one of the three. I suspect that is because I do not need a single new skill to anticipate them. …


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No one wants to wear five dollar leggings and generic Uggs and spend three hours touching all the display cases at a Super Target more than I do right now. These characteristics are what one might call those of a “basic bitch”:

The basic bitch — as she’s sometimes called because it’s funnier when things alliterate, and because you’re considered a poor sport if you don’t find it funny — is almost always a she. In more sophisticated renderings, her particularities vary by region and even neighborhood, but she is almost always portrayed as utterly besotted with Starbucks’s Pumpkin Spice Latte. It is the setup to nearly every now-familiar punch line about a basic bitch, her love for the autumnal mass-market beverage. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are “mall.” They reveal a girlish interest in seasonal changes and an unsophisticated penchant for sweet. (Noreen Malone, What Do You Really Mean When You Say ‘Basic Bitch’?”


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I am in the middle of a storm, literally and figuratively. Somehow I missed that a hurricane is blowing through my town. That means I am going to make this a very quick diatribe on beauty, power, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the lies we tell about social mobility. No spell-check or editing. Sorry.

This is a continuation of my rantings on Twitter in response to a typically stupid attack on AOC:

I mean, that’s just so trite that its not worth the bother. …

About

Tressie McMillan Cottom

Sociologist. Writer. Professor. MacArthur Fellow. Books, speaking, podcast: www.tressiemc.com

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