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#1496; Requiescat in Peonies

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You know it's a good system because it involves coming up with elaborate new ideas to manage your elaborate old ideas.

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I can relate to this waaaayy too much. It would be a really healthy thing to practice.
Portland, Oregon, USA, Earth

How to speak Silicon Valley: 53 essential tech-bro terms explained

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What is Silicon Valley?

For Californians of a certain tenure, Silicon Valley is a location – an actual, geological valley nestled between two mountain ranges and the marshy southern dregs of the San Francisco bay. The titans of technology – Adobe, Alphabet, Apple, eBay, Facebook, HP, Intel and Oracle – are all headquartered in the valley itself.

But as the tech industry’s dominance has expanded, so, too, have Silicon Valley’s boundaries. The phrase has come to represent something that is both more and less than the tech industry as a whole.

If the name represents anything at all, it is a way of thinking and talking, a mindset expressed through a shared vocabulary: the vocabulary of bullshit. Where Wall Street is capitalism unvarnished, Silicon Valley is capitalism euphemized.

Here is a lexicon of Silicon Valley: a map for travelers to find their way through the wilds of billion-dollar lies.

Airbnb (n) – A hotel company that figured out how to avoid the expense of owning hotels or employing hotel workers. See unicorn. (v) – To illegally convert an apartment into a vacation rental in a city with an affordable housing crisis.

Amazon (n) – A website that went from selling books to selling virtually all items on Earth; it’s also a movie studio, book publisher, major grocery chain owner, hardware manufacturer, and host for most of the internet, to name just a few endeavors. Competitors in nearly every industry fear its might. Formerly known as “the everything store”; soon to be known as “the only store”.

angel investor (phrase) – A wealthy individual who invests a small amount of startup capital at the earliest stages of a company or idea. Often, the angel is part of the entrepreneur’s extended network, whether because they went to the same college, worked together at a previous company, or are family friends. Frequently a vocal opponent of affirmative action. See also meritocracy.

apology (n) – A public relations exercise designed to change headlines. In practice, a promise to keep doing the same thing but conceal it better. “People need to be able to explicitly choose what they share,” said Mark Zuckerberg in a 2007 apology, before promising better privacy controls in a 2010 mea culpa, vowing more transparency in 2011, and acknowledging “mistakes” in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. See Facebook, privacy.

Apple (n) – America’s first trillion-dollar company, which achieved inordinate success through groundbreaking products such as the Macintosh, iPod and iPhone. After it ran out of ideas for new products, Apple maintained its dominance by coming up with new ways to force its customers to purchase expensive accessories. See dongle.

artificial intelligence (ph) – Computers so smart that their behavior is indistinguishable from that of humans. Often achieved by secretly paying real humans to pretend they’re robots.

Autopilot (n) – The name Tesla gives to its advanced driver assistance system, ie souped-up cruise control. Named after the advanced technology that allows pilots to take their hands off the controls of a plane, but very much not an invitation for Tesla drivers to take their hands off the wheel, right, Elon?

bad actors (ph) – People who use a social media platform in a way that results in bad press. Bad actors usually take advantage of features of the platform that were clearly vulnerable for abuse but necessary to achieve scale. “The Russian intelligence operatives who used Facebook’s self-serve advertising system to target US voters with divisive and false messages were ‘bad actors’.”

biohacking (n) – Applying the DIY hacker ethos to one’s own body to achieve higher performance. Often involves bizarre eating habits, fasting, inserting microchips into one’s body, and taking nootropics (AKA expensive nutritional supplements). When done by women, dieting. In extreme forms, an eating disorder.

bootstrap (v) – To start a company without venture capital. The only option for the vast majority of people who start companies, but a point of pride for the tiny subset of entrepreneurs who have access to venture capital and eschew it. “My dad is friends with Tim Draper but I wanted to do something on my own so I’m bootstrapping” – a tech bro.

cloud, the (n) – Servers. A way to keep more of your data off your computer and in the hands of big tech, where it can be monetized in ways you don’t understand but may have agreed to when you clicked on the Terms of Service. Usually located in a city or town whose elected officials exchanged tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks for seven full-time security guard jobs.

data (n) – A record of everything you do involving the internet – which is increasingly synonymous with everything you do, period. Corporations use the digital trails you and millions of others leave to sell you things – in other words, your actions, relationships, and desires have become currency. See privacy.

deprecated (adj) – A description for a software feature that is no longer being updated and will probably be phased out soon.

disrupt (v) – To create a new market, either by inventing something completely new (ie the personal computer, the smartphone) or by ignoring the rules of an old market. If the latter, often illegal, but rarely prosecuted. Uber disrupted the taxi industry by flooding the market with illegal cabs, while Airbnb disrupted the hotel market by flooding the market with illegal sublets. See sharing economy.

diversity and inclusion (ph) – Initiatives designed to sugarcoat Silicon Valley’s systematic failure to hire, promote and retain African American and Latinx employees. The phrase is usually invoked when a company is expounding on its “values” in response to incontrovertible evidence of widespread racial or gender discrimination.

dongle (n) A small, expensive and easily misplaced piece of computer gear. Usually required when a company revolutionizes its products by getting rid of all the ports that are compatible with the accessories you already own. See Apple.

Don’t Be Evil (ph) Google’s original corporate motto. Deprecated.

employee (n) People who work for a tech company and are eligible for health insurance and retirement benefits. Importantly, this does not necessarily include the vast majority of people who perform work for the company and create its value, such as the people who drive for transportation companies, the people who deliver for delivery companies, and the cooks, cleaners, security guards and parking attendants on tech campuses. Less than 50% of Google’s global workforce. See Uber, sharing economy, disruption, scale.

evangelist (n) A job title for salespeople who are slightly creepy in their cultish devotion to the product they are selling. “I used to work in sales but now I evangelize Microsoft’s products.”

FAANG (ph) An acronym for Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google. Originally coined to refer to the company’s high-performing tech stocks, but also used to denote a certain amount of status. “His boyfriend is a software engineer, but not at a FAANG so he’s not really marriage material.”

Facebook (n) Your mom’s favorite social media platform.

5G (n) – The next generation of mobile internet, which promises to enable digital surveillance at blindingly fast speeds.

free speech (ph) A constitutionally protected right in the US that is primarily invoked by tech bros and internet trolls when they are asked to stop being assholes. Syn: hate speech. See ideological diversity.

GDPR (ph) A comprehensive data protection law that applies to companies operating in Europe, including American ones. Though the safeguards don’t apply directly to people outside Europe, the measure may push companies to step up their privacy efforts everywhere – handy for Americans, whose own government has done a pretty poor job of protecting them.

gentrifier (n) – A relatively affluent newcomer to a historically poor or working-class neighborhood whose arrival portends increased policing, pricier restaurants and the eviction or displacement of longtime residents. Often used by gentrifiers as a general epithet for anyone who arrived in their neighborhood after they did.

Google (n) – The privacy-devouring tech company that does everything that Facebook does, but manages to get away with it, largely because its products are useful instead of just depressing. (v) – To make the bare minimum effort to inform oneself about something. What a tech bro did before he insisted on explaining your area of expertise to you.

ideological diversity (ph) – The rallying cry for opponents of diversity and inclusion programs. Advocates for ideological diversity argue that corporate efforts to increase the representation of historically marginalized groups – women, African Americans and Latinos, among others – should also be required to increase the representation of people who believe that women, African Americans and Latinos are inherently unsuited to work in tech.

incubator (n) A parent company that takes baby companies under its wing until they can fly on their own; a playgroup for tech bros. See meritocracy.

IPO (n) Initial public offering – when a company begins allowing regular people to buy shares. A way for everyone, not just venture capital firms, to lose money, as in Uber’s recent disappointing IPO.

meritocracy (n) A system that rewards those who most deserve it, as long as they went to the right school. The tech industry is a meritocracy in much the same way that America is a meritocracy. See diversity and inclusion.

microdosing (n) – Taking small amounts of illegal drugs while white. It may be possible to microdose without writing a book or personal essay about it, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

mission (n) – What separates a tech bro and a finance bro: the tech bro works for a company that has a “mission”. Usually something grandiose, utopian, and entirely inconsistent with the company’s business model. Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected; Facebook’s business model is to sell ads by dividing people into incredibly narrow marketing profiles.

monetize (v) – To charge money for a product, or, to figure out how to extract money from people without their understanding or explicit consent. Though having a plan to monetize is usually the first step for a small business or startup (“You mean I shouldn’t just give the lemonade away for free?”), angel investors and venture capitalists have created an environment in which companies can attempt to scale first and monetize later. “My app is free because I’m monetizing my users’ data.”

Move fast and break things (ph) – Facebook’s original corporate motto. In hindsight, a red flag. Deprecated, allegedly.

off-site (n) – A work event at a non-work location. Often includes alcohol and socializing. Primarily used when describing a sexual harassment complaint.

pivot (v) – What tech startups do when they realize scaling is not a business model without a monetization strategy.

platform (n) – A website that hosts user-generated content. Platforms are distinct from publishers, which more directly commission and control the content they publish. In the US, platforms enjoy special legal status protecting them from liability for the content they host and allowing them to exercise broad discretion over which content they want to ban or delete. Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and Craigslist are examples of platforms. The reason Facebook says it does not “have a policy that stipulates that the information you post on Facebook must be true”.

privacy (n) – Archaic. The concept of maintaining control over one’s personal information.

revolutionize (v) – To change something that does not need to be changed in order to charge money for its replacement. “Apple revolutionized the experience of using headphones when it killed the headphone jack on iPhones.”

runway (n) – The amount of venture capital a startup has left before it has to either monetize its product, pivot or start selling the office furniture. “I can’t believe Topher spent half our runway on a Tesla Roadster.”

scale (v) – The holy grail. To create a business that can accommodate exponential increases in users with minimal increases in costs. Also applicable if the costs can be externalized to taxpayers or countries in the global south. In the negative, a surprisingly effective excuse not to do something that any non-tech company would do. “We would prefer not to foment genocide in Myanmar, but content moderation simply does not scale.”

shadowban (v) – The conspiracy theory that no one is responding to a social media post because the platform is secretly preventing the user’s content from being seen and/or going viral. “Brandon was convinced that Twitter had shadowbanned him when no one responded to his demand that an SJW feminazi debate him.”

sharing economy (ph) A system in which working does not mean being employed. See employees.

smart (adj) – A product that is capable of being hooked up to the internet – thus rendering it capable of being hacked or abusing your data.

Snapchat (n) – Facebook’s research and development department.

tech bro (n) – A US-born, college-educated, Patagonia-clad male whose entry level salary at one of the FAANG companies was at least $125,000 and who frequently insists that his female co-workers give him high-fives. Typically works in product management or marketing. Had he been born 10 years earlier, he would have been a finance bro instead.

the FTC (n) The US Federal Trade Commission. Capable of levying enormous fines against companies like Facebook, potentially whittling down its revenues to just a handful of billions of dollars. Not really in that much of a hurry to do anything, however.

thought leader (n) – An unemployed rich person.

Twitter (n) – A mid-sized business with outsized importance due to its three primary users: Donald Trump, Elon Musk and journalists. A useful tool for journalists to gauge public opinion by talking to other journalists, and for Elon Musk to provoke lawsuits and federal investigations into security fraud.

Uber (n) – A unicorn startup that disrupted the taxi industry by revolutionizing the sharing economy at incredible scale thanks to unprecedented amounts of venture capital. In the first earnings report after a lackluster IPO, revealed that it lost $1bn in three months.

unicorn (n) – A startup valued at at least $1bn. At one point, rare. Increasingly, not even that exciting.

UX designer (n) The person responsible for a website or app user’s experience (UX). They make the buttons they want you to click on – Share! Buy! Sign Up! – large and noticeable, and the buttons that turn off location tracking very small.

venture capital (ph) A system by which wealthy individuals can invest in startups before they go public. A legal and surprisingly respectable form of gambling. An alternate retirement plan for fortysomething multimillionaires who never developed hobbies.

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113 days ago
“We would prefer not to foment genocide in Myanmar, but content moderation simply does not scale.”
Washington, DC
117 days ago
This is spectacular.
Louisville, KY


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145 days ago
oh YES
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145 days ago
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5 Common Behaviors Cis Men May Not Realize Are Abusive (and How to Stop Them)


This article was originally published on EverydayFeminsim.com and is republished with permission.

I recently attended a presentation by Tony Porter, founder of A Call to Men.

After watching his TED Talk, I was incredibly excited to see him speak because of how he demands of men that we consider the ways that all of us can act in abusive and violent ways.

Seeing him in person, though, was disappointing.

Early in the presentation, he held out his arms, asking us to imagine that his arms represented all men. He then gestured to the distance from his fingertips to his elbow on one arm and said, “These guys right here are the bad guys, the ones who are abusive and who commit sexual assault. Violence against women and girls can’t end until the rest of us, the good guys, call these men out and demand that they change!”

When he said this, my heart sank. After all, setting aside the heterosexist implications of his statement, framing abuse in this way lets most men, including me, off the hook.

If we, as men, can think of ourselves as “the good guys” and construct a boogey man abuser in our head, then we never have to turn the lens inward. We never have to consider the ways we’ve been socialized to be abusive.

Not long before attending Porter’s presentation, my partner and I got into a heated argument. We were both quite frustrated with a communication pattern in our relationship that hurt each of us in different ways.

After we’d rehashed the same point for what felt to me like the millionth time, I slammed my hands on our dining table as I emphasized my anger, hurt, and frustration.

After doing so, it took me a minute to realize that my partner’s entire demeanor had shifted. She had retreated physically and was speaking in a softer tone. We sat quietly for a second, and then she said something I hope I never forget.

“Jamie, you scared me. That was really scary.”

My initial reaction was callous. “You must be kidding me! I can only express my emotions in ways that are easy for you to hear?”

Before long, though, her words got through, and I could see that I had done something completely out of alignment with the type of man I want to be.

More Radical Reads: Clenched Fist: HeteroPatriarchal Masculinity Always Equals Violence

As the realization sunk in, my partner asked me to consider what the impact on our relationship might be if that’s how I chose to communicate whenever we argue. “Jamie, that was violent. I want you to be able to express your hurt or anger, but I need you not to physically explode like that.”

My partner was right. To slam my hands on the table was physically intimidating, and in the context of a society where every single one of us knows someone who’s been abused by a man, my actions aren’t simply mine.

My actions exist in the context of how I was taught to be a man. My actions exist in the context of patriarchy. And patriarchy is violent. Full stop.

Simply put, patriarchy is a system of domination and control that privileges cisgender men at the expense of everyone else (though notably to varying degrees and in different ways, since the benefits of patriarchy exist at intersections of other forms of domination and oppression).

Patriarchy, as is the case with other related systems of oppression like White supremacy, relies on violence (both literal and symbolic) deployed against cisgender women, transgender people, and gender non-conforming people in order to maintain supremacy.

Considering that cisgender men like myself are socialized in the context of the violence of patriarchy, we need to own the fact that cis-masculinity is fundamentally oppressive and violent.

But this is not to say that all cisgender men are the same or that all cis men are necessarily violent. Our masculinity is crafted in the context of other aspects of our identity (our religious or spiritual upbringing, our racial identity and community, our ability/disability, and our sexual identity, for instance).

With this in mind, it’s important that I situate myself within my positionality. As a White cisgender man, the following is based not only on my perspective as a person with many privileges, and as such, my comments are limited to ways that cisgender men are taught to be abusive. Inevitably, then, this article is limited and is meant as a call for reflection and action from cisgender men.

And here’s what cisgender men such as myself need to consider: if patriarchy is fundamentally violent and oppressive, then we have a responsibility to consider the ways that we might be complicit in that violence – simply by living out the patterns of how we were taught to be men.

When men and women in my life first called on me to consider how my actions might be abusive or violent, I was incredulous: “I have never laid my hands on anyone, let alone a woman!”

But we do ourselves a disservice to think of violence only as actions that cause physical harm, as violence can take myriad forms.

For the purposes of this article, then, abuse constitutes behaviors that assert power and control over those with whom we are in intimate relationship – like partners, family members, and friends. Abusive behaviors exist on a spectrum from more subtle and controlling ormanipulative to more overt in their violence.

To be clear, this spectrum doesn’t imply that abuse on one end of the spectrum is somehow “worse” or “more severe” than other abuse – it’s all terrible, but abuse looks quite different depending on where it falls on the spectrum.

All of these behaviors, though, are harmful – and when they’re committed by men in the context of patriarchy, they need to be understood as connected to how we, as cisgender men, are socialized within patriarchy to be abusive.

The following, then, are common abusive behaviors that I’ve seen in myself, behaviors that are all too common among cisgender men.

By highlighting them here and offering some alternatives, my hope is that more of us as men can take up the work of cultivating different, less abusive ways of being men.

1. Emotional Manipulation

When I was in 9th grade, a senior on my soccer team took me under his wing in the world of dating and girls. Among many fucked up lessons taught me, he explained that with girls, I always need the upper hand.

“Never be too nice to her – if she knows you’re wrapped around her finger, she will take advantage of it. Keep her guessing. Maybe break up with her and get back together.”

As men, we receive all sorts of messages that tell us to manipulate others in order to get what we want, but this is particularly pronounced in intimate relationships.

One of the more pronounced ways that this shows up is in gaslighting, defined as “an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that causes a [survivor] to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power (and we know that abuse is about power and control).”

I’ve seen this in myself and in the relationships of men in my life in many ways.

Sometimes it shows up in using name calling (often using oppressive language like b*tch or f*ggot) in ways that degrade self-esteem over time. Other times, we might use a person’s love for us (“If you loved me, you would _____”) in order to manipulate partners or other loved ones. Other times, we lie perpetually in order to justify our hurtful behavior, claiming, “It’s not what you think!”

Whatever it looks like, emotional manipulation, like other abuse, exists on a spectrum – and we have to be vigilant about how it’s entering our relationships.

2. Being Dominant, Aggressive, or Intimidating

Compared to some of the men in my life, I think I have a fairly healthy relationship with anger. But this wasn’t always this way. I used to blow up at people I loved and act in ways that, if not actually violent, seemed to imply violence.

And when I think back to why that was, it had a lot to do with the models of masculinity I had around me. From the media icons I had as a kid – action heroes and athletes – to some of the men in my life, I had models that showed that “being tough” was the same thing as “being a man.”

And that toughness translated to aggressiveness and dominance.

As I realized when my partner called on me to consider the impact of my anger on our relationship, even those of us who strive for a more inclusive and less violent masculinity fall into abusive patterns when angry or frustrated.

Considering that many of the messages we receive as boys about conflict teach us to respond with aggression or violence, is it any wonder that abusive anger is common in so many of our intimate relationships?

For some cis men, this aggression shows up in physical violence, but for others of us, we teach partners or children that they need to manage our anger (rather than that our anger is something we can control and manage).

3. Refusing to Listen

I grew up in a family of ticklers, and I think tickling is tremendous fun. My partner isn’t so much a fan. She humors me sometimes, and we laugh together with playful tickling, but I honestly have a hard time respecting the boundary when she asks me to stop.

While this might seem like a trivial example, it’s reflective of a problematic pattern – I was socialized to see something as positive that my partner doesn’t much like, and I’m not always great at listening.

Taken to its destructive ends, this can look like a million different violations of consent.

There are millions of ways that boys are taught not to listen. All of the following are phrases I’ve had men say to me at different times in my life:

“If she says ‘no,’ that simply means ‘convince me.’”

“If she’s mean to you, that means she likes you. Keep trying.”

“You don’t know what you want. You’re too young to know. So you’re going to do as we say. Because we say so.”

So whether we’re pretending that we know what our partners want or refusing to listen to our children when they express their needs and desires, the fact that cis men are socialized to value our own intuition and voice above that of others can play out in abusive ways.

So we have to be careful – and we have to cultivate an ethic of listening.

4. Being Controlling

I learned early on that I could control people around me to get my way. With friends, I would simply dictate to them which “dress up” game we would play – action heroes or soldiers or cowboys. With my sisters, I knew that I could use my status as the youngest – the baby – to make them do the things I wanted.

And I got this message because many of the adults in my life rewarded me for being assertive and controlling. They called it “leadership,” yet so often it’s called “bossiness” in girls.

One of the more insidious messages that we get as boys and young men is that we need to always be in control, whether we’re talking emotionally, financially, sexually, or even in simple social situations – all of which can lead to other forms of abuse, like physical violence.

In myself, I’ve found that I so very often manage to get my way, even when I claim that I’m trying to be accommodating to my loved ones. In listening to women, I realize that this is a common trend in straight relationships, one that I seriously need to work on.

So whether we’re falling into more traditional abusive patterns or are simply finding that we magically are always in control or getting our way, we have to be careful of the ways that our socialization as men can quickly bleed into abusive behaviors.

5. Acting on Jealousy

If there is any message I received from media – the music I listened to and the movies I watched – it was that jealousy was how we were supposed to show partners that they are wanted, that they are loved.

I got this message in such a messed up way that I remember seeing the movie Fear about a violent stalker in middle school, and I couldn’t help but think about how cool the murderous Mark Wahlberg character was.

Looking back, that terrifies me. His jealousy escalated to murder, and I thought he seemed cool.

And the thing that’s hard to address about jealous is that we all seem to feel it at one time or another. It’s totally natural in many ways.

However, while it may be natural to feel jealous, for many of us as men, jealousy quickly translates into harmful behaviors.

From violating privacy of a partner (say, by going through their phone) or pressuring them not to go out and spend time with friends or telling them that they can’t have friends of a particular gender or sexual orientation, there are myriad ways that jealousy can show up in abusive and controlling ways.

And while everyone may feel jealous at one time or another, the entitlement to the bodies and attentions of others that is inherent in misogynistic patriarchy makes jealousy particularly toxic when it comes from us as cisgender men.

Cultivating a Healthier Self In and Out of Relationships

As cisgender men, we need to realize that even though our identities are bound up in patriarchy, we are not patriarchy. As such, we have a relationship to patriarchy’s violence, which means we have agency to choose what that relationship looks like.

Part of unlearning the violence and abuse of patriarchy that is so deeply engrained into mainstream masculinities in the US means cultivating different ways of being, supplanting the unhealthy and destructive patterns with masculinities that can more closely align with feminist and non-violent values.

So now that we’ve looked at some of the unhealthy patterns, here are just a few ways that men can commit ourselves to cultivating healthier selves. Like the list above, by no means is this list exhaustive. Rather, it’s meant to provide a place to start as we work to build different masculinities.

1. Eliminate Violent and Oppressive Language

No – this isn’t about being “PC” – it’s about empathizing with those who are telling us that our language is hurtful and abusive. More than just a simple act of changing the words we use, eliminating words like the “b word,” “c word,” and “f word” demonstrates a willingness to work on ourselves.

It means that we recognize that we’re willing to attempt to change patterns that have told us throughout our lives that we can do and say whatever we want without consequence.

And it means that we are willing to consider that words have tremendous power and that inclusive language matters.

2. Take Time to Reflect On Our Emotions and How We Can Express Them in Healthier Ways

One of the ways that patriarchy truly wounds us as men is that it demands we divorce ourselves from that which makes us human – from our emotions and capacity for empathy and accountable love.

Thus, though it may seem cheesy, one of the most powerful things we can do to challenge our patriarchal socialization is to carve out time in our lives to reflect upon our emotions and to consider what it would mean for us to express them in ways that are healthier and more accountable to those we love.

3. Learn to Listen Openly and with Empathy

The thing about privilege is that those of us who have it can go through our lives never really listening to those who don’t share our identity – we don’t have to.

But those who try to listen across difference know it isn’t something everyone knows how to do well; it’s a learned skill. For those of us with many privileges, it’s even harder to listen because we’ve been given subtle and overt messages about the value of our voice.

Thus, we need to work actively on cultivating an ethic of empathetic listening, and we need to pay particular and careful attention to how this listening is vital to healthy relationships.

Perhaps most importantly, we need to learn to listen when we’re called out and called in about the ways our behavior is abusive. We need to practice pushing through the defensiveness to truly hear those who are calling on us to be better men.

4. Cultivate Relationships with Other Men that Challenge Normative Masculinity

One of the things I love most about my friend Timo’s work to challenge patriarchal violence is how he binds that work up in building loving and transformative relationships with other men. Frankly, the ways he cultivates what he calls “bruv love” with men in his life is an inspiration to me.

Unfortunately, though, so often “brotherhood” (as expressed in media, in narratives from fraternity or sports culture, in “bro code”) is far from transgressive. It reifies patriarchy.

But what would it look like for all men to cultivate relationships with other men that are built on care, love, affection, accountability, and feminist values? Think of how liberating that would be – not only for us as men, but for people of all genders in our lives!

More Radical Reads: Is Healthy Masculinity a Lost Cause?: A Non-binary Person’s Thoughts on New Masculinity


As cisgender men who know that we need to be different, who realize that our liberation is bound up in the liberation of all people, we need to remember that living into our values doesn’t necessitate paternalistic “protection” of women, Trans men, or non-binary folks.

Living into our values means transforming ourselves and the culture of masculinity around us so that our behavior and our very identities challenge the violence of patriarchy.

And for each of us that might look different, as each of our masculinities exist at intersections with other parts of who we are.

But when more of us as men commit to this self work, think of how much less violence and abuse there will be in our lives and in the lives of those we love.

[Feature Image: close-up photo of a white man with blue eyes and short cropped hair. He is looking at himself through the glass of a broken mirror with a serious expression on his face, his reflection partially distorted.]

Jamie Utt is the Founder and Director of Education at CivilSchools, a comprehensive bullying prevention program, a diversity and inclusion consultant, and sexual violence prevention educator based in Tucson, AZ. He is currently working toward his PhD in Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies at the University of Arizona with research interests in the role that White teacher’s racial identity plays in their teaching practice. Learn more about his work at his website here and follow him on Twitter @utt_jamie. Read his articles here and book him for speaking engagements.

Editor’s Note: While people of many genders – including cis men, trans men, genderqueer people, etc – can perpetuate toxic masculinity, this article specifically addresses cisgender men from the perspective of a cis man. At Everyday Feminism, we encourage writers to address their own communities and speak from lived experience whenever possible. You can find some of our articles on masculinity and trans and queer communities here. We hope to facilitate more of these kinds of conversations soon.


TBINAA is an independent, queer, Black woman run digital media and education organization promoting radical self love as the foundation for a more just, equitable and compassionate world. If you believe in our mission, please contribute to this necessary work at PRESSPATRON.com/TBINAA 

We can’t do this work without you!

As a thank you gift, supporters who contribute $10+ (monthly) will receive a copy of our ebook, Shed Every Lie: Black and Brown Femmes on Healing As Liberation. Supporters contributing $20+ (monthly) will receive a copy of founder Sonya Renee Taylor’s book, The Body is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self Love delivered to your home. 

Need some help growing into your own self love? Sign up for our 10 Tools for Radical Self Love Intensive!

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179 days ago
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Front-end development is not a problem to be solved

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HTML and CSS are often seen as a burden.

This is a feeling I’ve noticed from engineers and designers I’ve worked with in the past, and it’s a sentiment that’s a lot more transparent with the broader web community at large. You can hear it in Medium posts and on indie blogs, whether in conversations about CSS, web performance, or design tools.

The sentiment is that front-end development is a problem to be solved: “if we just have the right tools and frameworks, then we might never have to write another line of HTML or CSS ever again!” And oh boy what a dream that would be, right?

Well, no, actually. I certainly don’t think that front-end development is a problem at all.

What's behind this feeling? Well, designers want tools that let them draw pictures and export a batch of CSS and HTML files like Dreamweaver promised back in the day. On the other end, engineers don’t want to sweat accessibility, web performance or focus states among many, many other things. There’s simply too many edge cases, too many devices, and too many browsers to worry about. The work is just too much.

Consequently, I empathize with these feelings as a designer/developer myself, but I can’t help but get a little upset when I read about someone's relationship with Bootstrap or design systems, frameworks or CSS-in-JS solutions — and even design tools like Sketch or Figma. It appears that we treat front-end development as a burden, or something we want to void altogether by abstracting it with layers of tools.

We should see front-end development as a unique skillset that is critical to the success of any project.

I believe that’s why frameworks and tools like Bootstrap are so popular; not necessarily because they’re a collection of helpful components, but a global solution that corrects an inherent issue. And when I begin to see “Bootstrap” in multiple resumés for front-end applications, I immediately assume that we're going to be at odds with our approaches to design and development.

Bootstrap isn’t a skill though — front-end development is.

And this isn’t me just being a curmudgeon... I hope. I genuinely want tools that help us make better decisions, that help us build accessible, faster, and more beautiful websites in a way that pushes the web forward. That said, I believe the communities built up around these tools encourage designing and developing in a way that's ignorant of front-end skills and standards.

What’s the point in learning about vanilla HTML, CSS and JavaScript if they wind up becoming transpiled by other tools and languages?

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Bootstrap, or CSS-in-JS, or CSS Modules, or fancy design tools. But building our careers around the limitations of these tools is a minor tragedy. Front-end development is complex because design is complex. Transpiling our spoken language into HTML and CSS requires vim and nuance, and always will. That’s not going to be resolved by a tool but by diligent work over a long period of time.

I reckon HTML and CSS deserve better than to be processed, compiled, and spat out into the browser, whether that’s through some build process, app export, or gigantic framework library of stuff that we half understand. HTML and CSS are two languages that deserve our care and attention to detail. Writing them is a skill.

I know I’m standing on a metaphorical soapbox here, and perhaps I’m being a tad melodramatic, but front-end development is not a problem to be solved. It’s a cornerstone of the web, and it’s not going away any time soon.

Is it?

The post Front-end development is not a problem to be solved appeared first on CSS-Tricks.

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329 days ago
Seattle, WA
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These Men Ate Poison So You Could Have the FDA

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“The Poison Squad” volunteers.
Photo: FDA

If you sat down to eat at any point and in any part of the U.S. in the 1800s, nothing on your plate was quite what it seemed. The level of vile, often toxic contamination in basic consumer products was almost unimaginable to modern folk raised under the auspices of the FDA.

Your morning coffee? If it wasn’t already mixed with chicory, there was probably quite a bit of sawdust mixed in, with scorched and ground peas, beans, or dandelion seeds for color. The honey in your tea? Sweetened corn syrup complete with wax “honeycomb”. The spices on your table? Finely ground coconut shells, burnt rope, or straight up floor sweepings. The flour in your bread? Mixed with crushed stone, gypsum, or dirt. The brown sugar in your grandma’s cookies? Spiked with ground insects. The scotch in grandpa’s after supper tipple? Poisonous wood alcohol dyed honey brown. The milk in Junior’s glass? Certainly watered down, almost definitely whitened with chalk or plaster of paris, often dosed with a preservative like formaldehyde to keep it “fresh,” and occasionally topped with pureed calf brains to mimic the “cream” on top. The fact that past generations managed to survive their own kitchens was a medical marvel in its own right, and those dark days are only barely behind us. We’ve only made it this far thanks largely to the efforts of one zealous chemist, and a few brave, iron-stomached volunteers dubbed the Poison Squad.

As the Trump administration continues to roll back regulations on everything from worker safety to environmental destruction, a new book from Deborah Blum—The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century—takes us back to a time when the very idea of government-enforced regulations was laughable.


In 1883, Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a chemistry professor from Purdue University, was named chief chemist of the agriculture department. A farmer’s son, he was horrified at the additive-riddled state of the American food industry, and once he assumed his new office, he began methodically investigating food and drink fraud.

During the course of his campaign, he became famous for conducting shocking human tests on groups of young men who volunteered to test tainted food products for the good of the nation, and who came to be known as “The Poison Squad.” Ultimately, Wiley won—the landmark 1906 Food and Drug Act was known as “Dr. Wiley’s Law”—but he spent 30 years fighting inside and outside the lab to help make America’s kitchen safer. In doing so, he willingly risked the lives of dozens of patriotic young volunteers, a decision that still raises serious ethical questions.

In an echo of modern medical trials, which often draw in poor and working class subjects, many of the applicants for what would become Dr. Wiley’s “Poison Squad” were financially struggling young clerks who responded to the lure of three square meals a day, recruited to test potentially poisonous substances. The volunteers had to record everything they ate and drank, record their weight and pulse rate before every meal, collect their urine and feces for lab analysis, and be examined by a doctor twice a week.


The first round of trials started with the cleaning product borax, then also a popular preservative, because Wiley expected it to be fairly harmless. By the study’s end, half of the twelve men had dropped out due to ill health. Wiley’s attitude on borax changed as a result; “It should not, I believe, be put in foods of any kind except when they are plainly marked, and even not then except in special cases.”

Volunteer Letter for “Poison Squad”
Image: FDA

The next trial featured salicylic acid on the menu, and had an even more immediate effect on the Squad, who began exhibiting signs of nausea and dizziness almost immediately after digging into their spiked victuals. The final report showed that the men had experienced chronic stomach pain, appetite loss, and weight loss, and Wiley’s chemistry team found that ingesting salicylic acid on a regular basis results in a “depressing and harmful influence upon the digestion and health and general metabolic activities of the body.”


When it came time for the Squad to test out sodium sulfate, a salt of the preservative sulfurous acid (a close sibling of the highly corrosive sulfuric acid), the results were grim. Only nine of the twelve members made it to the end, and two became so badly ill that the scientists halted the study altogether for fear of the others becoming sicker. This result alarmed Wiley to no end, and kicked off yet another crusade against toxic preservatives.

“Yeah, from our modern perspective that Poison Squad experiment looks so ethically dubious, and obviously it would never be approved by one of today’s Institutional Review Boards,” Blum agrees. “But Wiley himself said that when he started the Poison Squad tests, he himself didn’t realize how dangerous the additives were. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t taking a deliberate risk with the health of these young men because he was; I think, frankly, he had reached a point where he was desperately worried about the effects of these additives on Americans across the country, and thought that only an experiment of this nature would illuminate the problem and make a difference.”

Image: FDA

“And these young men really believed they were doing something good for their country, and they were proud of that public service. They hand-painted a sign outside the Poison Squad dining room that read None But the Braved Dare Eat the Fare’.”


All of this begs the question: when presented with evidence that so much commercially available food and drink was tainted, why would the government have opposed food safety regulations in the first place? Why did it take a crew of human guinea pigs publicly risking their lives to goad lawmakers into action?

“It seems so surprising today, because we’ve grown up in a time of consumer protection regulations and agencies but in the 19th century, none of those existed,” Blum explains. “No FDA, no EPA, there was no precedent for such federal protective agencies and acts. And when it came up—as it certainly did with food and drink starting in the 1880s—there was real push back. First, from businesses who enjoyed operating without any government-set limits on what could do. They gave an enormous amount of money to both congressmen and government officials friendly to their viewpoints and succeeded in killing proposed food and drug safety regulations for decades.”

The Poison Squad Cook. William S. Carter, who worked at the Bureau of Chemistry and FDA from 1902 to 1946, began as an assistant to Harvey Wiley on the so-called “poison squad” study of the impact of food preservatives on health. He later served as a technician in several laboratories and earned a degree in pharmaceutical chemistry while serving the agency.
Image: FDA

As Blum also explained, one of the biggest obstacles that Wiley and other food safety crusaders faced was a very American problem: in short, people didn’t want to be told what to do or what to eat—and even if they were literally eating poison, those who opposed these kinds of food safety regulations wanted the choice, dammit! The debate over individual rights versus the common good hamstrung progress in this arena for far longer than was sensible or even reasonable, but, as Blum says, when the 1906 Food and Drug law did finally pass, it established for the first time that the U.S. government considered protecting consumers part of its obligation, a precedent that stands as a landscape-altering moment in this country.


As Blum notes, another reason for this divide lay in the States’ continued reliance on capitalist, as opposed to more socialist, modes of thinking, and the government’s often uneasy balancing act between supporting American business and protecting American citizens. Across the ocean, Europe had already gotten a handle on its own food safety strategy well before Dr. Wiley set off on his crusade. Their model was more precautionary—if there is evidence of possible harm from an additive, let’s remove it until we know that it’s safe—than the States’ wait and see if it kills anyone approach, which is why many more additives are still restricted in Europe than in this country.

Image: FDA

And to be clear, adulterated food and poisonous additives definitely killed a lot of people, from babes in arms to war veterans. Honestly, given the amount of toxins, garbage, and poison that lurked within an overwhelming percentage of American food products during this time, it’s almost impressive that more people didn’t fall ill and die in droves. Chances are that unless they were filthy rich (and even then) your ancestors were eating a lot of dangerous garbage. Were people of this period blessed with iron stomachs? Was there a sort of tolerance to bad food that we’ve since lost, or that has morphed, perhaps, into a tolerance of modern junk food?

Harvey Wiley in the Lab
Image: FDA

“I recently heard the medical historian Howard Merkel describe the 1800s in the United States as the century of the ‘great American stomachache;’ contrary to our ideas of rosy-cheeked, farm-fresh health back in the day, people were really not eating wonderfully well,” Blum explains. “Some of that was lousy and even toxic food products, and some of that was the lack of any real understanding of nutrition. And, of course, fairly primitive medicine, including the lack of antibiotics, so people really did not live that long. Average life expectancy in the year 1900 was about 46 years for men and 48 years for women.


“But we also didn’t have good public health programs and tracking in place so it’s very difficult to know with precision—except for some extreme cases—when food was directly lethal,” she continues. “By ‘extreme,’ I mean things like ‘embalmed milk’ scandals in which the dairy industry’s use of formaldehyde as a preservative directly killed children or the use of toxic dyes in candy (arsenic for green, lead for red and yellow) poisoned consumers. The latter should remind us that junk food, pre-regulation, was even worse for us than junk food today!”

So not everyone was getting sick at the dinner table, but enough people were that the problem became impossible to ignore, even from the most anti-regulation corners. At the time, the fight for “pure food” legislation was held up as a bipartisan cause, and by and large, the government officials pushing for food regulations were Republicans—ironic now, given modern Republicans’ severe allergy to any kind of regulations at all. These 19th century lawmakers made a conscious choice to uphold their farmer-heavy constituency interests over their own inclination towards coziness with business and market interests, which resulted in the passage of landmark food safety legislation like the 1938 Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act that created the modern FDA.

However, in the ensuing decades, the idea of the government regulating anything at all seems to have shifted firmly into the liberal camp, and the Trump administration in particular stands to undo everything that Dr. Wiley spent his lifetime fighting to achieve.


In 2016, Trump told pharmaceutical executives that his administration would cut 75% to 80% of FDA regulations, “at a level no one has ever seen before.” One of his biggest proposed food-related changes would bring the nation’s multiple food safety enforcers like the FDA and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the auspices of a single agency—The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which presents immediate issues and runs the risk of politicizing food safety in dangerous ways (like for example, causing the outsize influence of powerful meat interest groups to balloon).

He’s also pushed through legislation overhauling USDA rules for meat inspection at pork processing plants, which workers fear will lead to a sped-up pace and resultant injuries. In general, the kinds of work environments regulated by the FDA—slaughterhouses, meat processing plants, farms—are generally full of sharp things and slippery machinery, and the human beings tasked with their operation tend to benefit from more regulations, not less.


“I kind of picture [Wiley] rolling in his grave,” Blum says when asked to describe her opinion of how the chemist would view Trump’s war on safety regulations. “His bottom line was that consumers come first and I think he’d be appalled, as many of us are, at the current administration’s efforts to undo many of our hard-won protections. We’re still far better off than we were in the 19th century, [but] the most important issue at the moment is not to go backwards. The Trump administration has indefinitely delayed some of the FSMA enforcement provisions. It’s even proposed that some regulation of food safety be returned from the FDA to the more Agribusiness-friendly U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wiley was at the agriculture department and he would be the first to say that this would be a huge mistake. He’s a reminder that these protections were hard-fought in his day and we should do everything we can to keep them.”

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332 days ago
Seattle, WA
332 days ago
Overland Park, KS
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1 public comment
348 days ago
This isn't a lecture in my public health curriculum, but I can only tell because the word "valence" didn't crop up once. Good work Gizmodo.
New York, NY
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