Gaming While Non-Binary, Serena Williams Interviewed by Melissa Harris-Perry, And More: Today’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. Today we’ve got Rebecca Solnit breaking stories, gender ruining games (and pretty much everything), Serena Williams and Melissa Harris-Perry making magic, and young friendship-love.

Whenever I find myself reading an essay on the Internets, and I begin to think “This is so well-argued and relevant and I’m glad someone brought this up in a unique way, WHO WROTE IT?” the answer is usually Rebecca Solnit. She’s most well-known for her essay-turned book, “Men Explain Things To Me,” which inspired the term “mansplaining,” (though Solnit herself has problems with the word), but also look at her other essays about male literary canons that aren’t worth it, men ruining Lolita and why it’s dangerous. In her most recent essay for Lithub, “To Break The Story, You Must Break The Status Quo,” Solnit talks about the importance of getting away from the tunnel vision of dominant news coverage. The idea that mainstream news outlets don’t cover a lot of really important topics isn’t new, but her approach courts journalism as a discipline, and proposes the idea of “breaking” stories as a process for every writer and every story.

One thing to keep in mind is the lifecycle and food chain of stories. The new stories, the stories that break the story, tend to emerge from the margins and the edges…Part of the job of a great journalist, a great storyteller, is to examine the stories that underlie the story that you’re assigned, maybe to make them visible, and sometimes to break us free of them. Break the story.

While gender fluid gaming got a small win this week in The Sims‘ latest update, Latonya Pennington has some words about “Why Non-Binary Gamers Need Better Representation” on Black Girl Dangerous (which, by the way, really needs donors to keep paying their writers, all of whom are queer or trans people of color). Pennington hits on the importance of keeping gender restrictions out of gaming, especially when they pervade our lives in the real world every day. Though Gamergate is a battle that’s still being fought about cis females in games, this topic seems like a logical addition to the platform.

The other night, I was playing the mobile game Kingdom Hearts Unchained X on my laptop using Bluestacks Player. I had completed a level, leveled up, and had unlocked a mohawk and a formal hairstyle for my avatar, which was black and female. When I tried to put the mohawk on my avatar, the game changed my already customized female avatar to an uncustomized male one. Apparently, mohawks were only for boys and sparkly formal hairstyles were the only options for girls. This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed gender norms enforced in the game, nor is this the only problematic aspect of it. Every customizable hairstyle, clothing, and accessory is coded blue for boys and pink for girls. You also have no choice in body type and hair type choices are limited. The only positive aspect of the avatar customization besides the cute outfits and hairstyles “for girls” is being able to play a black female character.

A very smart person at Glamour had the idea to bring together Serena Williams and Melissa Harris-Perry for an interview in their June issue, and it is magic. They talk about Wimbledon, Venus Williams, fashion, aging, and women’s pay inequity in sports. But perhaps more important are Williams’ words on her work ethic, which you can see is ridiculous from her Sports Illustrated profile and overall accomplishments. With Harris-Perry though, she opens up a little more about how hard it is to keep going, even when you’re Serena Williams.

SW: No one takes a loss harder than I do. In any sport. I hate losing more than I like winning. MHP: How do you come back from a loss like the U.S. Open in 2015? SW: I work harder. I study to see where I went wrong. But I carry the loss. My coach has said to me, “When you win a match or a tournament, you don’t even think about it—the very next minute you’re like, ‘Now I’ve got to focus on Wimbledon.’ You should take the losses the same way.” I need to look at those losses as learning experiences.

Happy #NationalBestfriendsDay, everyone! Go celebrate with your friends! Or maybe don’t talk to anyone and read Rumaan Alam’s essay for Buzzfeed, “What It Means To Fall In Friend-Love In Your Twenties.” Alam highlights a few great points, among them the general importance of friendship, and its role in maintaining the self one delicately constructs as a young adult. And sometimes, those friendships are, like your twenties, a mutual indulgence of artifice, and sometimes they mean everything, but only for a moment and fade away. This is not a critique, but an ode to this power.

S was my first friend in this city. That I made a friend felt like an accomplishment; that I made a friend meant I had conquered the city. S only ever knew me as a New Yorker and a grown-up; this meant, somehow, that I was both of those things…Ours was a sealed, secret thing that had only to do with the two of us, our preposterous ambitions, our youthful pretensions. We itched for something greater and it was as though talking about it could bring it about.