Weekend Reads: Aretha Franklin, Choice Feminism, And Queer Friendships
Our special guest this week is BuzzFeed Australia’s Lane Sainty, talking about some of her favorite stories she’s read recently.
This glorious piece on Aretha Franklin, by David Remnick in the New Yorker, is at once a candid profile and an essential slice of musical history. It covers Franklin’s life and illustrious career, with a highlight being Remnick’s account of that December night at the Kennedy Center last year when Franklin belted out “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” dressed in the most fabulous mink coat you’ve ever seen. In it, he interviews songwriter Carole King – whose paroxysms of joy on the night went viral – and when he mentions the evening to Franklin, she smiles and issues this endearing tidbit: “One of the three or four greatest nights of my life.” If that wasn’t enough, the piece delivers an artful surprise when President Obama weighs in on The Queen too. “If I’m stranded on a desert island, and have ten records to take, I know she’s in the collection,” he told Remnick.
Hadley Freeman’s critique of female empowerment in a world where “choice feminism” is the new black is compelling. Writing in The Guardian, she poses a challenge to contemporary feminism that is refreshingly fleshed out, and not mired in a yearning for feminist waves past. Freeman’s assessment calls for empowerment where empowerment is granted, but holds to account the notion that, as women, our tiniest actions need carry social and political gravitas. Expecting to agree less furiously than I did, I was taken by her starkly logical conclusion: “So maybe the easiest way to deal with the kinds of arguments raised by choice feminism is to end with this simple truth: while the ability to choose is feminist, that doesn’t mean the choice itself is.”
I adored this Autostraddle essay about the radical queer friendship at the center of the film Carol. It articulates wonderfully the thoughts I had while watching Carol and Abby interact in the film — witnessing the casual intimacy that accompanies their shared struggle of being queer women in an era where such things were untold. Maree writes that she resented the narrative of Abby as a jealous ex-partner in some reviews, instead seeing the pair as having something “essential and unshakeable between them”, despite their complicated past. For me, and for other queer women I've discussed Carol with, this friendship is one of the most revolutionary parts of the film. This thoughtful essay outlines exactly why.