Convincing Victims

I thought of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” this week when it was announced that Scarlett Johansson would be playing the part of a transgender man, Dante Gill, in a film called “Rub and Tug.” There has been a heartfelt cry of protest from the trans community.

I once watched a play set in 19th-century where a Russian slave-owner was played by a black actor. It was a completely realist rendering otherwise, and I’ve got to say, it felt bizarre given that the play was about the consequences of abolishing serfdom in tsarist Russia. But people explained that this was a convention in American theater. People get hired for roles irrespective of their identity as human beings.

Nobody is hiring the multitude of struggling Russian actors in the US – some of them incredibly talented – to play in renderings of Chekhov, for instance. And there’s no outcry and no weepy pieces in NYTIMES.

Shit, we, the Russian-speakers, can never sell ourselves as convincing victims. We are failures even at this nifty little cottage industry.


The grandpas I hired asked shyly if I could pay them in cash because the bank is closing and they won’t have time to cash the check until Monday.

“We live hand to mouth,” they said.

I remember the horrible feeling of hoping to get paid on Friday and the client saying, “Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot. I’ll bring you the money on Monday.” And that was the money I was counting on to get something to eat. The client was a spoiled mistress of a rich foreigner. It was humiliating. But I was 20. I’m guessing it feels much worse to be in that situation at 65.

One of the grandpas is a disabled veteran. Shame on all of us for not arranging things in a way that doesn’t force retiree veterans to do yard work in 100 degree heat.

The grandpas said it’s hard to find work going door to door because people are suspicious and won’t open the door. They were really stunned by my friendliness, they said. I tell you, folks, I’m like the queen of sociability around here.

Of course, I paid the grandpas in cash and hired them for more projects next week. I actually got a quote on this job yesterday from a large company, and it was so ridiculously overpriced that I tabled the whole thing.


OK, if it’s blind review, then how does the reviewer know I’m a woman? It’s not gender studies, it’s not feminism, it’s not female writers, it isn’t an area where you can reasonably assume the author is female.

I do have a bit of a recognizable style, what’s with my overuse of utterly and entirely, my rants about neoliberalism and the nation-state, and my obsession with Zygmunt Bauman. So my question is whether the review is so positive because the reviewer knows me in person and likes me or because they recognize my work.


More on Legal

One, in Fogo de Chao v. Department of Homeland Security (2014), Judge Kavanaugh dissented from the majority opinion, which held that Brazilian churrasqueiro chefs and servers qualified for L-1B “specialized knowledge” visas. The restaurant (a Brazilian steakhouse) had claimed that these workers were eligible for L-1B visas on the ground that “a cook ‘born in America’ cannot learn to cook Brazilian steaks as well as a Brazilian-born person.” The majority agreed with the restaurant.

The majority of judges actually agreed? And it’s supposed to be a great victory for liberalism to assume that Brazilians have steak-grilling in their blood? What’s next, arguing that Mexican women are born with superior toilet-cleaning skills?

This is egregiously racist and outright disgusting.

Good News for Professors

In a case involving free speech and academic freedom at private institutions and faculty responsibilities toward students, the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday ruled, 4-2, in favor John McAdams, the Marquette University professor who was suspended for criticizing a graduate student instructor on his blog in 2014.

This is really good news for all professors who don’t hide in the ivory tower and instead engage with the public. This case represented the first step towards shutting up professors completely. I’m very glad Marquette was defeated and the professor won.