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Stop Telling Gabby Douglas To Smile

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Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

There’s a huge double standard here

In 2012, Gabby Douglas achieved a singular feat when she became the first American gymnast to win a gold medal at the Olympics in both the team and individual all-around competitions. Douglas also made history by becoming the first black athlete to win the gymnastics individual all-around gold medal. Her performance was exceptional, and she immediately became the most compelling member of an already wildly impressive team of young women athletes. In the intervening years, between the 2012 and 2016 games in Rio, Douglas continued on the path of gymnastic excellence and became one of two (along with Aly Raisman) members of the 2012 team to make it onto the 2016 squad.

Prior to the Rio games, this year's American gymnastics Olympic team was hyped as being the most formidable group of athletes to ever compete in the sport. Self-dubbed the Final Five (because this is the last time that Olympic gymnastics teams will have five members; moving forward there will be four), the team was widely acknowledged as being virtually unbeatable, due in no small part to the preternaturally dominant phenom Simone Biles, but also in a more holistic way. There were no weak links, and Douglas, as someone who had Olympic experience, was an essential part of the team. 

So it came as no surprise when the American women's team brought home the gold on Tuesday; no surprise, perhaps, but more than a little bit of awe. It wasn't just that the American team won, they so dominated the competition that their margin of victory was exponentially larger than gold medal-winning teams usually have. Every member of the American team twisted and turned her way onto the gold medal podium with a level of strength and grace that was breathtaking and inspiring. 

Along with each of her team members, Douglas played her part exquisitely, and yet, alone among the squad, Douglas has faced an enormous amount of criticism and scrutiny standing atop the gold medal podium, and it's a perfect example of the systemic racism and sexism which run rampant throughout our society. The critical maelstrom began when Douglas, alone among her teammates, did not place her hand over her heart during the playing of the "Star-Spangled Banner." Almost instantly, Douglas was called out on social media for her "disrespectful" behavior, with one Twitter user threatening that "Douglas better put her hand on her heart or [they] will fly to Rio and do it for her." Many defended Douglas, but the voices condemning her were overwhelming.

And while social media is notoriously a cesspool of criticism and condemnation, there were also voices in mainstream media who attacked Douglas. In the LA Times, sports columnist Bill Plaschke was harsh in his assessment of Douglas, calling her "disconnected" and "blank and distant." Plaschke dismissed Douglas' defense, in which she said that she was simply "overwhelmed," by claiming that, if that were the case, he, Bill Plaschke, would have been able to see it because he, Bill Plaschke, clearly knows exactly what Douglas looks like when she's overcome by emotion.

Plaschke went on to compare Douglas' actions to those of Michael Phelps, who was laughing at a friend's joke during the national anthem, and implicitly defended Phelps by pointing out that he, at least, was showing some joyful emotion, in contrast to Douglas, who Plaschke says was "simply pouting." (Let us never forget that Bill Plaschke is a savant when it comes to interpreting the emotions of people whom he's probably never met.)   

This isn't the only unwarranted criticism Douglas has received during the Rio games. Like in 2012, her hair has become a topic of social media conversation, in a manner dissimilar to any of her teammates. As Taylor Bryant writes on Refinery29, Douglas handled critics perfectly in 2012, publicly stating: "What’s wrong with my hair? I’m like, I just made history and people are focused on my hair? It can be bald or short; it doesn’t matter about [my] hair."

And the same can be said about the hand-over-heart controversy. Douglas just made history as part of the best gymnastics squad in Olympics history, and this is what people are focused on? Other athletes (and even presidential candidates!) have listened to the national anthem with their hands at their sides without facing the severe censure that Douglas has. But then, those athletes (and presidential candidates) are not black women, like Douglas is, and are therefore not held to the same demands to conform to society's ideas of how women—and particularly women of color—should behave.

There is little doubt that Douglas' race and gender play a huge role in the criticism of her. Black women's hair is a complicated issue with historical and emotional roots, and the focus on Douglas' hair, alone among her teammates, is not a coincidence. Then too, the way in which the behavior of women (and particularly women of color) in the public sphere is judged is highly complicated. Women are constantly being told to smile, criticized for having resting bitch face, encouraged to not be aggressive in their speech and mannerisms. That Douglas stood stoic throughout most of the "Star-Spangled Banner" (though not all of it, see the photo of Douglas with a mile-wide smile below), is not inherently disrespectful of anyone or anything; that many people demand that Douglas smile and perform in the way that they deem appropriate, to the exclusion of how Douglas felt or what she wanted to do, is highly disrespectful. It shows an utter lack of understanding about the fact that all women—no matter their age or race or what you think they owe you—have agency over their bodies, their gestures, their whole selves. Through her incredible athleticism, Gabby Douglas has given us some of the most exhilarating moments in sports of all time; we have no right to also demand she give us a smile.

 

Photo by Rachel Dennis

Finally

"What do girls even do together?" This question, or some iteration of it, is frequently posed to me once someone finds out I'm bisexual or hears me mention my girlfriend, or if I make any reference to being interested in girls. I would be annoyed by it, but I have empathy because I know how hard this kind of information can be to find. In fact, the details of how two people with vaginas have sex isn't very widespread information. And, I know that I didn't really have all that much information about girl-on-girl sex before, well, actually having it myself. It's precisely this kind of situation that queer sex educator Stevie Boebi is trying to fix.

Boebi has gained a big following for her informational YouTube videos about how to use a strap-on, how to scissor, how to fist someone, how to choose a vibrator for yourself; any question you could have, she will get you an answer. She doesn't shy away from topics that people wouldn't be quick to ask someone about IRL, either, like BDSM. And she covers the kind of things that are definitely not what we're taught in sex education classes—likely not even in the most progressive curriculums. A study from GLSEN notes that only 4 percent of teens reported learning anything positive about queer sex in their sex ed classes, and points out that in some states, it's actually prohibited to mention queerness at all.

Particularly when it comes to sex with two vaginas, the lack of available public education leads to a general lack of understanding of how we have sex, which then leads to a lack of understanding in the queer community, too. "I just think that lesbian sex is so oversexualized, and we're the least educated," said Boebi when I asked her recently why it's so important for her to spread knowledge about queer sex in particular.

Boebi said that she started out on YouTube making videos about technology, but after she came out as a lesbian, her audience flipped from mostly male to mostly female, though she would prefer a less rudimentary gender breakdown ("the algorithm only deals in binaries, sorry," she quipped).

Ultimately, her sexuality led her to change her content entirely, because she wanted to educate people who couldn't find answers to their questions anywhere else—even on the internet.

"I started getting a lot of what I called 'stupid questions' from very confused teenage girls saying, like, 'How do I do it? Can I get AIDs from fingering someone?'" Boebi told me. They were questions that probably should have had easily Google-able answers, but, when Boebi looked for lesbian sex education content to send to fans who were asking her, she came up empty-handed. "I couldn't find anything. I think I found, like, two articles on Autostraddle, and that was it," she said. "And then I was like, Well, shit! If no one else is going to do it, then I guess I will."

Boebi's audience is mainly comprised of 13- to 24-year-olds, so she keeps in mind that she's helping people who may not be experienced, or even out yet. She uses her own experiences to inform her work sometimes, but also researches extensively and talks to people she knows who "have fancy Ph.Ds in sexology and shit," who can answer her questions or point her to resources she should be referencing.

Boebi's charm is in her relatability; even if she's talking about things we've been conditioned to feel shame around, she does it in such an open and honest way that all that shame disappears—as it should. She does this by perfectly meshing professional talk with jokes and sarcasm, and even uses characters based on star signs. She knows the importance of taking on taboo topics, because there are so many people who won't otherwise find answers to their questions. "I don't actually struggle in my everyday life asking people if they've ever been anally fisted before," Boebi joked with me. "I'll take that burden."

And keeping her tone light and humorous is of the utmost importance to her. "When people are laughing, they're comfortable, and I want people to feel comfortable," Boebi said. "And I want people to know that I'm comfortable talking about sex, and they can be, too." It helps also, Boebi told me, that her audience is separated by a screen, and she's not "in a room with a 12-year-old talking about my labia."

Beyond instructional sex videos, Boebi also deals with other rarely discussed facets of sexuality and physicality. Boebi is polyamorous, and talks openly about it, confronting the stereotypes and the misinformation about the identity head-on. And, she was also recently diagnosed with Ehler's Danlos Syndrome after going years without a diagnosis, and she aims to start working more with disabled queer sex educators to make her work more inclusive of people with disabilities. Though she pointed out to me that her work was already encompassing of disabilities, she "hasn't been a part of the disability activist community for very long," and so she has a lot to learn.

And, though Boebi's happy that she has the platform she does, she wants a more inclusive array of sex educators to join the scene. "My voice is my voice, and it's unique to me, but I think there should be way more," she noted. "Especially people [with intersectional identities]. That would make me so happy if we could diversify sex educators."

And, though Boebi says there's no "ideal way" to educate people about sex, she's definitely on a better track than the public education system, and she makes clear that there's nothing shameful about sexuality—in fact, it's just a part of being human, and a really fun one, at that.

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Photo by Nicholas Hunt / Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

This photo makes me so happy

It can't be understated how big of a phenomenon the Spice Girls were during the late '90s. Their impact was felt from the bustling streets of London to the dry desert land of Scottsdale, Arizona. The latter place is where a young Emily Jean Stone was so immersed in fandom that she asked her second-grade teacher to call her Emma, after Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Emily is the Academy Award-winning actress Emma Stone. What's even better, she's still a huge Spice Girls fan.

Stone went to the Spice Girls reunion tour at the Wembley Stadium in London and finally met the woman who inspired the name the actress is now known by. Bunton shared a photo of the two of them outside of the venue on her Instagram. She captioned the photo: "When Emma met Emma."And even added the hashtag #2become1. I can't figure out if I want to cry from sentimentality or serious envy.

As for Stone, she once cried when Mel "Scary Spice" B. sent her a video message so I can only imagine what this moment felt like for her. Let this be a reminder that even Oscar winners can be stans.

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Screenshot via YouTube

The band shared details about their new St. Vincent-produced album that will drop "you into the world of catastrophe"

Sleater-Kinney just shared more information about their St. Vincent-produced album and dropped a new single.

Per Billboard, Sleater-Kinney revealed that their new album, which they've been teasing since early this year and will be their first since No Cities To Love from 2015, will be called The Center Won't Hold. It's due out on August 16 via Mom + Pop Records. "We're always mixing the personal and the political but on this record, despite obviously thinking so much about politics, we were really thinking about the person—ourselves or versions of ourselves or iterations of depression or loneliness—in the middle of the chaos," Carrie Brownstein said in a statement. Corin Tucker further noted that the new album will "[drop] you into the world of catastrophe that touches on the election."

Janet Weiss noted that the band will "explore a different sound palette" with this album, and pointed to St. Vincent as the reason behind it. She said that St. Vincent "has a lot of experience building her own music with keyboards and synthesizers so she could be our guide to help us make sense of this new landscape and still sound like us."

To satiate us until then, the band released a lyric video for new single, "The Future Is Here," which is very grungy. Bump it, below.

Sleater-Kinney - The Future Is Here (Official Lyric Video) www.youtube.com

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This is so satisfying!

Even Jon Snow knows just how unsatisfying the final season of Game of Thrones was, and he's ready to apologize. Well, a deepfake of him is at least. A heavily-edited version of Snow's speech from the fourth episode—just before the bodies of those lost in the Battle of Winterfell get burned—now features Snow apologizing for the conclusion of the show and lighting the script on fire.

"It's time for some apologies. I'm sorry we wasted your time," Snow begins. "And I know nothing made sense at the end. When the Starbucks cup is the smallest mistake, you know you fucked up! We take the blame. I'm sorry we wrote this in like six days or something," he adds, before signaling to his peers to light the script with torches and "just forget it forever." "Fuck Season 8," he says before the pages begin to crackle and burn.

If there were more lines left to alter, we would have loved to see Snow also tackle how messy Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister's story line ended up, as well as Bran's kingship, Cersei's boring demise, and the water bottle appearance.

Watch the entire deepfake and try to heal the wounds left by HBO below.

BREAKING: JON SNOW FINALLY APOLOGIZED FOR SEASON 8 youtu.be

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Photo by Darren Craig

It premieres today, exclusively via NYLON

In LP's song "Shaken," the most recent single from her 2018 record Heart To Mouth, she tells the story of seeing her lover out with someone else—ouch. Today, exclusively on NYLON, she releases a cheeky animated music video that pokes fun at the song's heightened drama and perfectly demonstrates all the angst that comes with falling hard for someone.

"She looks at you like I used to/ And I'm just sitting in the corner sh-sh-shaken," LP sings, as the visual—with art by Maayan Priva—depicts the singer hanging out in a bar, watching the girl she likes meet up with another girl. Despite the situation's inherent drama, "Shaken" is less of a ballad and more of an upbeat bop. LP told us she loves the way "this little video captures some of the fun of the song, and its inherent comical anxiety." Sure, heartbreak isn't that funny, but our (sometimes) overly dramatic reaction to it kind of is.

"'Shaken' feels like a bit of a wild card on this record," LP says. "It's the closest I've come to writing a musical, which I hope to do one day." We heartily endorse this idea: Please, LP, give us the queer jukebox musical we crave.

Until that day comes, though, you can watch the music video for "Shaken," below.

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