Letter of the Week
Flood of tears

Nicholas Powers's essay on New Orleans ["Muddy Waters," October 19–25] was powerful not only because he was honest. (He openly admitted that he had selfish intentions in going to New Orleans.) Despite the fact that he misjudged the flashy pastor, and that he passed by the chapel twice, something in him clicked on. When the woman in the airport referred to our people by saying "Many of them were homeless anyway," he felt that. He felt it when the woman pleaded with the reporters not to take her photo because she still wanted to maintain her pride and strength despite her condition. He cried for all of our people who are displaced, the mothers who have to be strong for their children and their children who have to be stronger for their mothers. He cried for the devastation and he cried for himself. He had his moment of awakening in that chapel, and by writing this piece, he released some hurt and pain.

Mahogany Baraka
Metuchen, New Jersey


Gay marriage bill gains strength

In his article on Mayor Bloomberg's conflicting stands on the right of same-sex couples to marry ["Mixed Messages," October 5–11], Wayne Barrett writes that "Dick Gottfried, the sponsor of the gay marriage bill in the assembly, says it's a dead letter with Democrats, who are led by an Orthodox Jewish speaker."

Readers might think I have actually said that. I have not.

The bill is not "dead"; it is building strength. From the start, advocates for the right-to-marry bill (sponsored in the state senate by Tom Duane) and I have recognized that its main function at this stage is to help shape and advance the public debate. The lobbying for the bill has helped build opposition to anti-marriage legislation. We know that to pass the assembly, the bill needs stronger public support statewide. We are working to make that happen.

It would help if Mayor Bloomberg's lawyers were in court, side by side with the advocates for marriage, arguing that the right to marry is a fundamental constitutional right instead of presenting reprehensible right-wing arguments on the other side.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's personal religious affiliation does not control the agenda or actions of the assembly or its Democratic members. If it did, how could the assembly take the strong stands it does on reproductive freedom, gay rights, and many other issues?

Richard N. Gottfried

Wayne Barrett replies: Gottfried is obviously only concerned about one reader: Shelly Silver. I merely regurgitated Gottfried's 2005 claim that it "would require a significant change in public sentiment in New York" for his bill to pass. It's clearly my opinion, not Gottfried's, that Silver's Orthodox roots might get in the way of a gay marriage bill, which is quite distinct from abortion and other issues.

Racing past racism

David Wright's piece about NASCAR being liked simply because it's not black ["Why America Loves NASCAR," October 14, villagevoice.com] was disturbing and incorrect.

In the Nextel Cup Series, there are no black drivers, but there are black pit-crew members on several NASCAR teams, as well as in many of the support-staff positions on teams and within the NASCAR organization. There is also a black driver in the NASCAR truck series. Furthermore, NASCAR has made a tremendous effort to create a more multicultural makeup in all its racing series with driver development a top priority. Magic Johnson has been retained and will have a significant voice in this development.

Historically, yes, NASCAR has been overwhelmingly white, but to say that it is only enjoyed by millions because of this is equally as stereotypical and racist as Wright claims NASCAR is and represents the fact that Southern people and their "culture" continue to be the last accepted stereotype that one can use for humor, satire, and ridicule.

I guess hip-hop artist Nelly's investing in a NASCAR truck series racing team was just a public relations stunt to show NASCAR's multicultural side, and that the hip-hop artists wear ing NASCAR racing team jackets in their videos is more of the same.

I understand the point of Wright's article, but to use this title and to describe NASCAR within the still acceptable stereotype of white Southern racism was poor judgment on his part.

Christopher Strode
Kingsport, Tennessee

Integrity check

Re the Women's Health supplement [October 19–25]:

Are your tits too small? Are your asses too big? Do you have ugly, hairy upper lips? Should you be spending more time at the gym getting your inadequate bodies into shape? Would you like to "donate" your ovaries to a sterile yuppie couple forgoing adoption in favor of "natural" childbirth? Another question: Have you completely lost your fucking minds? You certainly lost your sense of integrity with last week's farcical supplement, a glossy monument to misogyny that would have been suspect even in the Post.

As Voice readers, we've been conditioned to tolerate some pretty heinous advertising alongside stellar reportage. But when a paper with so many astute journalists touts women's health on its cover, only to deliver an infomercial for industries that thrive on low self-esteem, it has hit a new low.

Dave Powell

Pissing on PopCo

Rachel Aviv's review of my book PopCo [October 19–25] is, to paraphrase the physicist Wolfgang Pauli, not even wrong.

I have had positive and negative reviews over the years, but never one that so dishonestly misrepresents one of my books. I am not a New Puritan (that book was a one-off experiment in which I played a very minor part); neither am I capable of writing a 500-page book in the style of an e-mail. All of Aviv's quotes are inaccurate or attributed to the wrong person. I would have expected better things from The Village Voice than a reviewer who seems to lack the intellectual capacity required to read anything more complicated than an e-mail and who clearly did little more than skim my novel.

Scarlett Thomas
Canterbury, England

Rachel Aviv replies: I've thoroughly checked every quote in the review and found one mistake: During a conversation about becoming a vegan, the heroine did not say "fucking hell, I can't eat an animal that can play videogames," but rather agreed with a friend who said it. I regret this error and how it may have affected Scarlett Thomas's opinion of The Village Voice.

Regarding her other complaints, I did not say that Thomas was a New Puritan, but wrote that five years ago she and other authors founded a movement that "soon dissolved." Whether or not a book is "as casual as an e-mail" is a matter of opinion.

Growing pains

Thank you for publishing Jennifer Gonnerman's accurate and sensitive story on women who self-injure in prisons ["Tanisha's Scars," October 5–11]. The American public, filled with sympathy and grief for young children who are victims of sexual and physical abuse, never seems able to retain any sympathy or grief for these children as they grow up, or even realize that they do grow up.

Girls who are sexually abused often live in places where they can't talk about what happened. There is nowhere for them to go, so they live in silence and cut. Many women who go to emergency rooms after cutting themselves are treated with revulsion and contempt, not the compassion they deserve when exhibiting the telltale signs of the unspeakable secret injuries they suffered as children. The revulsion and contempt may in fact be greater than that reserved for child molesters. Women who cut are restrained in psychiatric hospitals, forcibly tied down by their hands and feet, which often does nothing but replicate their childhood trauma. Women also self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, and many of these women, like the subject of Jennifer Gonnerman's article, end up in prison.

Susan Stefan
Newton, Massachusetts


Due to production scheduling, in some editions of last week's 50th anniversary issue, Alisa Solomon's essay "Our Hearts Were Young and Gay" reported that The Village Voice was rumored to be facing a merger with New Times. That planned merger was officially announced as the issue went to press.

James Ridgeway's "The Life of Miers" [Mondo Washington, October 19–25] inadvertently mis-stated the focus of Lorlee Bartos's activism. She is a liberal activist, not a gay activist, as we reported.

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