Sunday, October 21, 2007

entitlement in U.S. reaches all-time high

I don't usually make it to the "fashion and style" section of the new york times, shockingly enough, but today i was directed there by a friend. specifically, i was directed to the "modern love" article today: a terribly-written little essay by a girl named Alexis Wolff, entitled "Too Bad for Me That She Was So Well-Loved."

I'd really recommend that you read the article to get the full effect, but just in case you don't want to/don't have time, here's the quick summary: this girl (Alexis Wolff, henceforth known as ms wolff or possibly the big bad wolff) spent a semester abroad in Niger. there, she fell in love (modern love) with a little 2 year old child, despite the child's rotting teeth and oversized features (features which reminded her of underprivileged children she's worked with right here in the us!). not speaking the language (because studying abroad in west africa is fun even when you have no idea what the fuck anyone is saying to you), she chose to hang out with this two year old and her shockingly young grandmother instead of getting to know some people her own age. now comes the bad news: she had to leave Niger and return to her life of privilege in the united states. and all she wanted was to just be able to take that child with her. its too bad she's not one of those orphaned kids you see on the news all the time, because then it would be easy and totally unproblematic for ms wolff to just take her. but alas (and now, she takes a quick little side-trip to remember her terrible childhood of a wealthy but dysfunctional family. tears well in my eyes as i read about her father's drug problem, which made even her pony-filled birthdays somehow less perfect) alas, the young child has a family who loves her. and ms wolff can't "just have her." she has to go home emptyhanded.

i could go on, but it would just be embarrassing for poor ms wolff. she sees no problem, apparently, with announcing in a national forum her horrifying amount of privilege and entitlement. sees no problem with the racialized words she uses to describe the people she met in Niger. apparently doesn't even see a problem with wanting to have a black baby of her own. too bad for her slavery is over. and luckily for that baby, and every other baby, there are some rules about adoption.

now according to the times, Alexis Wolff lives in New York, New York. I happen to be a member of that facebook network, so in the spirit of investigative journalism, i searched her name and found an unrestricted profile. there i learned that young ms. wolff attended Yale undergrad and Columbia to get an MFA in nonfiction writing. some cross-reference with my former roommate who is now getting an MFA confirmed that columbia offers no funding, so apparently her family's hearbreaking dysfunction did not extend to denying her limitless funds to pursue her educational dreams. and apparently columbia's MFA program is not all its cracked up to be.

what really made me sad, though, was not that someone could think that this article was good (more than someone, as evidenced by all the praise she's receiving on her facebook wall). i mean i think we all know there are plenty of fucked up people in this country who think that they're liberals because they're not scared to go to africa. what bothered me most was that this was published in the new york times. i kind of hoped when i graduated harvard that i'd finally be free of the kind of culture where complete ignorance is rewarded and praised. but the sad realization i've been coming to is that the real world is actually just one big harvard.

if that's not enough to depress you, i don't know what is.


icarus said...

her life is hard. jeez. you should be more compassionate. rich white girls have a hard time getting by in this world.

icarus said...

ps. it's not her fault that she wanted to take a baby home. it's like souvenir but more fun.

THOMAS said...

First, the facts. Should you have looked for other salient information about Ms. Wolff before posting your cowardly and gratuitous commentary, you would have found that she was a scholarship student while at Yale and was not a "rich white girl" as your comment presupposed.

Have you not just exposed your own "prejudice" ? Perhaps one day you would have cause to meet her, and find that she is indeed a fine person (as I know her to be - we work together). Cloaking your identity while throwing brickbats is hardly an honorable pursuit- why not publish a rebuttal in the NY Times ?

kaya said...

thomas: if you work with ms wolff, i'm sure you also have read her article. and thus know that she self-identifies as a rich white girl. so i'd hardly call that a "prejudice" on anyone's part. having a scholarship at an ivy-league school is hardly grounds to consider someone impoverished, and i know that many of us who benefited from such generous financial aid systems are grateful for them, but let's not romanticize a scholarship at yale into some kind of penniless existence.

and i am sure that ms wolff is a "fine person," but that does not excuse any of the problematic and offensive things she wrote in her essay. i don't know what a "brickbat" is, but i don't really think i've thrown any of them. I've pointed out the multiple examples of ignorance and white privilege in ms wolff's work, and published it in an alternative forum. if you do not consider blogging to be an honorable pursuit, i have to wonder why you bother to read blogs...