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Loving Men while Dismantling the Patriarchy with Author Sonora Jha

Erin: [00:00:00] Welcome to Hotter Than Ever, where we uncover the unconscious rules we've been following. We break those rules and we find a new path to being freer, happier, sexier, and more self expressed. I'm your host, Erin Keating. Today's guest is author and journalist Sonora Jha. Sonora grew up in India, and we talk about what it was like to be a journalist in a male dominated world.

We talk about the power of being willing to fail, what that gives you, and about the myth of having it all and the idea that you can have it all, just not all at the same time. We discuss her novel, The Laughter, which is set in the heart of university life today, and how student demands for curriculum to address race and gender and become more [00:01:00] equitable and inclusive are shaking these historical institutions to their core.

She is an unbelievable writer. She's incredibly thoughtful. Such a deep thinker, and her work really challenged me. I think you're really going to enjoy our talk. Here it is.

Sonora Jha, PhD, is an essayist, novelist, and professor of journalism at Seattle University. Her op eds and essays have appeared in places like the New York Times and the Seattle Times. She's the author of the memoir, How to Raise a Feminist Son, and the novels Foreign and the Laughter, which came out earlier this year. Welcome to Hotter Than Ever, Sonora.

Dr. Sonora: Thank you for having me. I'm so excited to talk to you.

Erin: I'm so excited that you're here. And before we get into talking about your extraordinary book, which gave me so many different kinds of feelings, I'd love to have you share a little bit about your background and how you came to the life and the work that you have today, because I know you grew up in Mumbai and [00:02:00] eventually became a journalist and chief of the Metropolitan Bureau for the Times of India. Was that what was expected of you as a girl growing up in India?

Dr. Sonora: Oh, that's such a great question. No, not much was expected of me as a girl growing up in India. Everyone around me was super smart and really good at school. I wasn't very good at school. So in, no, no, I wasn't. Um, and you know, I, I used to love to just stare into space and sort of just be dreaming.

I wasn't even reading or anything. I wish I could say I was the kid that would lie with books all the time. I wasn't, I was just. staring into space. So I think people thought that I wasn't very smart and that I wouldn't come to much and my report cards from my childhood say that. And, you know, several people in my family thought that I was slow.

Erin: Slow, like learning disabled?

Dr. Sonora: Probably, but you know, it was not diagnosed or anything. And, uh, so it was pretty miserable at that time. I mean, it hurt because, especially if you were not good at math in India, math and [00:03:00] science, uh, math is what we call it there. Um, then you were not going to come to anything in life, and you would die poor and lonely.

And so I thought, okay, so that's my fate. And, um, that sort of gave me the freedom to fail. There were not too many expectations on me. So I think it served me well, eventually. But so then when I came to writing people, so people weren't noticing that I wrote well. And then finally, my father noticed and said, okay, maybe journalism.

But then I was quite, quite terrified because I really smart people and people who could talk to other people became journalists and I started to adapt that persona and then had that expectation for myself that this is something I enjoy. Telling other people's stories is something I like and so that's how I became a journalist. So I started to have that expectation for myself.

Erin: Around what age did that happen?

Dr. Sonora: You know, it didn't happen until I was about 21.

Erin: Wow.

Dr. Sonora: So I went through college, I did a bachelor's [00:04:00] in commerce thinking I wanted to be an accountant because that should be a good profession.

Erin: Even though maths, that's all maths.

Dr. Sonora: Exactly. But I thought, I'll just keep trying. Maybe one day something will change. And it didn't, and it didn't, and it didn't. And I realized that I actually really loved reading, and I loved English, and I loved stories, and I would just... It's come alive and my family members noticed that and they suggested that that's what I do.

So that's what I ended up doing. I did my postgraduate studies in social communications media and I got an internship as a journalist, had an excellent mentor named Behram Contractor who taught me everything I know about journalism and it was actually his birthday yesterday. He's no longer with us, but he taught me a lot and he's still the person that I write for, the person in my head, the editor in my head.

Erin: Whose approval you're seeking.

Dr. Sonora: Absolutely. Yeah. So then I realized I was good at it and he and several others said I was good at it. And so I believed them and I believed myself and kept [00:05:00] going.

Erin: Wow. And were there a lot of other women in journalism at the time? What's the makeup of the pool of journalists in Mumbai?

Dr. Sonora: Yeah, that's a great question. So before me, there was one or two generations of women that had been in journalism, but then really had to go through a lot to succeed and to make their mark. And I definitely benefited from all the things that they had fought for. However, I was still like I in the first few years of journalism, of being a journalist, I would dress down and try to look dowdy because smart women couldn't be pretty and attractive and interested in clothes. I think that's still true, unfortunately, all over the world. I noticed that in the U. S. as well and U. S. academia.

Erin: Such a shame.

Dr. Sonora: It is such a shame because I love clothes and fashion and I love getting my nails done.

Erin: Every picture I've seen of you, you've been wearing something gorgeous.

Dr. Sonora: Oh, thank you. Thank you. I hope I tried today as well.

Erin: Yes, your colors. It's all great. [00:06:00]

Dr. Sonora: Thank you. But yeah, I think. There was the thing of fitting in and being taken seriously. And then when I was chief of Metro Bureau at the Times of India in Bangalore, I definitely noticed that there were these biases in the newsroom.

I was one of the only women in the newsroom in the meetings. And even when I was pregnant, I would walk into this newsroom, this sort of like very closed door sort of meeting, and all the men would be smoking. And I would be sitting in this passive, inhaling this smoke. And I just hope. It doesn't show up, um, from within my kid, but I would ask them to, to, uh, stop smoking, but they would not listen.

And there were a lot of those battles as well. So there were definitely biases. But one thing I will say about India is that there's a lot of. Respect for the intellectual woman and I compared to the U. S. I think it's even more and I just was in India at a literary festival and I felt [00:07:00] the same. So these things are nuanced and subtle, but overall, I feel like there's a lot of respect for women and the intellectual life.

And so I didn't find as much of that happening seamlessly here in the U. S. That's probably why we haven't had a U. S. woman president here, whereas we have had a woman as a prime minister in India.

Erin: That's a fascinating observation because as the daughter of a feminist who marched in the ERA and who imparted all her feminist values on me, I grew up thinking, well, women are equal and we have this sort of seat at the table now, and the older I get, the more I realize that's not entirely true. We've made incredible strides and had incredible success and had a million wins, but part of the sort of unraveling that's happening for me is that I was part of this Gen X, you can have it all [00:08:00] mythology.

And this sort of sense that you can have the big career and you can be the primary parent and you can do all the things and still have a happy marriage and still blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And for me, that just didn't end up being the truth at all. All of those aspirations took too much of a toll on trying to be all things all the time.

And maybe if there was more respect for women and what we go through in life. Especially trying to balance our personal lives, our family lives, and our professional lives. Maybe things would be different, but I feel like it's a myth that we grew up with, and I thought it was the truth.

Dr. Sonora: Yeah, and it was supposed to free us, right? It was not supposed to trap us. It's done the opposite. trapped us and we've internalized it so deeply that I talk to women who are wonderful homemakers and they feel like, Oh, look at you. You're doing all these things. I had these dreams, but I didn't. And I felt like I had a dream to have this [00:09:00] beautiful family and wonderful married life.

And I don't, so, you know, let's just be happy with what we've either chosen or what was chosen for us and we're living it. And there's joy to be had in those. Uh, situations and there's this famous thing of you can have it all, but not all at the same time. Right. If someone had told me, enjoy your baby during these years and don't be so insecure about jumping back into the professional world.

I wish I had just been easy at that time, but I was anxious. Either way, you're anxious. There's so much anxiety. And then, of course, no wonder we put on some pounds. And then, of course, like, oh, you should not be putting on weight either. It's just constant.

Erin: I know. How can we win? We cannot. We can win at one thing at a time, I think.

Yeah, the having it all, all at once did not work for me. The good news is we do have choices now. And I think my mother's generation, she's about to be 80. Her generation. That was part of the reason why we have choices, because they pushed and pushed, they put their shoulder against the [00:10:00] rock of the patriarchy and they pushed.

Dr. Sonora: Huge thanks to them.

Erin: We took a lot of that for granted for a really long time, but the right wing did not, and Roe got overturned, and it's a really weird and interesting time we're living in. Um. Which leads me to The Laughter, uh, to your novel The Laughter. So you're currently a college professor and this is a book that takes place around campus politics, the quest for representation in the canon, in the academy, students pushing to open up how the academic world embraces diversity and the quote unquote other in the moment leading up to the 2016 election and fuck is that what campus life is like today simultaneously to my mind reading this it was like a powder keg and a tempest in a teapot.

Dr. Sonora: Yes. [00:11:00] That, that is exactly what it's like.

Erin: God, how do you survive?

Dr. Sonora: I mean, I'm so grateful to students. I feel like a lot of people say, oh, they're going too far and they're asking for too many things. And what is this new terms coming in all the time? And I feel like that, I wish we'd had all these terms. I wish we'd had these nuances and this expansive way of looking at things for a long time. Um, I coming from India, doing my PhD here, then going on to become a professor, I had to learn and adapt into this white supremacist organization, culture, and this kind of received colonized education. I had a colonized education growing up in India, and that's why I speak English.

And I always wrote in English and we need all kinds of stories. And I feel like I had to mute so many parts of myself. my culture and my stories that students could have had all along. But I would, I [00:12:00] had to pick these textbooks that were written by male authors and over the years, because students have been leading us toward these new things and been demanding new curricula, new, uh, variety and diversity of, uh, higher in, uh, the faculty that are teaching them. Because of that, things, they are actually getting a better education. And so, yes, there's all the powder keg and people not willing to go along, faculty not willing to go along. But there's also the joy and the excitement of change. And I have always loved change.

Erin: You use two phrases so easily that I don't want to overlook. Um, you said white supremacist culture and you said colonization and because this is a podcast about women empowering themselves over the age of 40 and finding their spark and their vitality in their lives, that may not be what people came here to talk about.

So I really want to dig in [00:13:00] to why it's so easy for you to say those terms, which to my mind, white supremacy is like Nazi skinheads marching with flags and burning crosses and all of that stuff. And. Colonization is a thing of the past, is a political history of the past. I think probably what that language conjures for most listeners. So help me to unpack what that actually means to you today and why those feel like the right terms.

Dr. Sonora: Yeah, absolutely. And I hope your listeners are still with us, even though we're talking about these things. And especially because the things that you're talking about, like in how we live our lives as women in our 40s and 50s and 60s, that is also determined by white supremacist culture and by colonization.

So for someone like me to be here talking to you is both a result of colonization because I speak [00:14:00] English. I've written in a book in English. It's been published in English and it's available in bookstores in the United States, right? Yes, and I'm a professor here, so I've been enabled by colonization in certain ways.

However, the white gaze, G A Z E, that looks out and determines what stories are told and not told what you have on your bookshelf, that's all the result of colonization, right? The language that you're speaking, the ways in which, um, as I mentioned, the ways in which we expect women to age, the ways in which we use our bodies.

So white male supremacy is what's determining Roe v. Wade. And if we don't fight it there, we're not fighting it here. If we're not recognizing it as pervasive in itself and As affecting not just the ways in which people are published or the, the movement of people across the world, immigration, et cetera, but also our bodies.

It comes from the same place and it comes from a place of fear in the white [00:15:00] supremacist way of thinking. Now, white supremacy, as you said, conjures up this image of People murdering and things like that, which is also true because that's what's happening with police murders of black and brown bodies in the streets.

If that is happening, then our bodies are also in danger as women and women of color. So these are all these intersections. And so as you can see, there's so many things that we can talk about with regard to this, but we cannot isolate the way we are living our lives as women in America from, say, what's happening across the world, what's happening with immigration, what's happening with voting.

Look at these two white men coming up to be elected and the wars that they bring us to, the people that we, that are murdered in our names. People that look like me are murdered by drones in Pakistan. But here I am sitting in a condo in Seattle and speaking on this podcast. So these are all really, really deeply linked.

And the more we know about this, [00:16:00] the more we realize that we are fighting these It's ways of living and ways of being that have embedded themselves. It is a white male supremacist culture that the two men that are most likely to go be the presidential candidates for in the next election are older white men.

Erin: Yes.

Dr. Sonora: Yes. Where are we? Where are you? Where are you? And I, Erin?

Erin: Where are we? We're. We are on a podcast talking about how to make our lives feel better and how to make change in our own selves so that we can then affect change in the people around us and hopefully the institutions around us and the culture and the conversation around us.

So, back to "The Laughter". Okay, so we are on a college campus. I graduated from college. I went to Oberlin College in Ohio. I graduated in 1994. It felt like the height of identity politics at that moment. This is like identity politics 2. 0 or what that's like an old person's way of saying it. [00:17:00] Um, this is the current state of identity politics and class issues.

and how young people get radicalized and also how we have absorbed the lessons of 9 11 and all of this fear of the Muslim world, fear of the other, especially on the part of white men, right? So the book is written in a very audacious way, which is that it is written from the point of view of a white male college professor who is out of step with the times on his campus and in the world. I love what you were doing. I thought it was so bold. I thought it was so clever in so many ways, but I was so uncomfortable. the entire time I was reading the book and you are getting a really big smile on your face.

Dr. Sonora: Totally intentional. Thank you [00:18:00] for being uncomfortable.

Erin: And so this is maybe the first example that I've seen of a woman of color writing from the point of view of a white man. And why does that feel so audacious to me? When, if you flip the tables. White men have written from whatever point of view they've wanted to for all of time. Why is this the first time this is happening? And how come you have such big balls?

Dr. Sonora: Thank you. I can't help it. It's the same thing. It's the same thing of not having high expectations. Right. So I was like, if I'm allowed to fail and I'm willing to fail, then I'm willing to take risks. Right. And so for me even knowing that this is not just audacious in terms of a power structure, but also in terms of publication, knowing that I'll probably find it hard to get published.

And I did found it hard to get an [00:19:00] agent for this particular book. Yes. And I found it hard to find a good editor for it. And I'm so glad for where it landed and so glad for my agent, but it was a journey to get there because. What I would keep hearing was, oh, why don't you write more from the point of view of the woman of color in the book, because you'll do that so well.

We want to hear more about your stories. This is my story. The white gaze on a brown woman is my story. Okay. And I am a professor and this is my story on campus, right? That's why, because we've been fine to a large extent with White men telling stories of people of color and those people. And we're not that comfortable with the other way around.

I'm not the first person to do it. Other women, Hania Yanagihara comes to mind. The People in the Trees is a book that she's written completely from a white male perspective. And it's so delightful because you have that story behind the story. I mean, I'm not saying my book is delightful, but I mean,

Erin: It is delightful. Uncomfortable and delightful. [00:20:00]

Dr. Sonora: Thank you. But it, I really enjoyed doing it once I got into it. And yes, I was afraid it won't get published, but that's where being willing to fail and taking that risk was, was almost delicious.

Erin: And you are a journalist. And this is fiction, and yet, it reads really true. What brought you to fiction for this project?

Dr. Sonora: I had a novel before this, uh, ten years ago. That's the one that brought me to fiction. It was about farmers suicides in India. I don't go for easy topics.

Erin: No, you do not.

Dr. Sonora: Uh, there's a quote by Albert Camus that says, "Fiction is a lie we tell in order to get to the truth."

Erin: Hmm.

Dr. Sonora: And to me, writing things that are fictionalized, if I just written about, oh, here's the white gaze in academia and here's a paper about it. Yeah, we need all of that, right? I'm not dismissing that at all. But I felt like I wouldn't be having as much [00:21:00] fun and I wouldn't be able to get to as deep a truth as I have. With writing a fictionalized account, I just feel like I can take more risks, I can do more on the page. And for me, it's always like, how does this story want to be told?

Does this story want to be told as journalism, as an academic paper, as nonfiction? And this particular story definitely wanted to be told as fiction.

Erin: You have a wicked sense of humor, and I'd love to hear you read an excerpt, and I'll try to tee this up. For me, what this excerpt spoke to me about is about the male gaze, and about how Oliver, who is our protagonist. Can you call him a protagonist?

Dr. Sonora: Yes, he is the protagonist because he's who we are following, even though he's also the antagonist.

Erin: So he is looking at his putative love interest, Ruha Bakhan, who is a Pakistani Muslim law professor and he wants to fuck her. And that's kind of all that's on his [00:22:00] mind. And she has a lot of other things on her mind. So I will let your much more capable words speak for themselves.

Dr. Sonora: Thank you, Erin, and thank you for picking this part of the book because I haven't read this out before. I haven't read this out loud, so I'm really going to enjoy doing it. Thanks for picking this.

"She put her hands", so this is in his voice. This is Oliver saying this.

"She put her hands over mine and wriggled the coffee cup from me. She held my gaze and raising the cup to her lips. drained it as I watched. Behind her, on a wall of the cafe, was printed, painted a voluptuous red female devil seated on a bar stool, her legs crossed at the knees, one hip thrust outward.

The devil was topless. Her perky red breasts had no nipples, but the way she held her espresso cup and saucer at a tilt, she seemed to offer Up one breast as a delicacy, her eyes imploring, [00:23:00] almost pining for a connoisseur. I was struck by the thought that perhaps Ruhaba had chosen this cafe on purpose, sat silhouetted against the bare breasted devil on purpose.

That everything she owned was bold in color and everything she did was pigmented with promise. We sat for a moment, Rohaba and I, watching each other. With any other woman, this would have been where I would reach out and hold her hand, pull her clothes, tell her we should go back to my place. With Ruhaba, I needed at least one more cue.

I worry about Adil, she said. I should not have waited. I should have reached for her hand. She spoke again. What do your instincts tell you? About Adil? I was beginning to learn not to be taken aback, and I could see she wanted a straight answer. I am inclined to believe him, at least most of what [00:24:00] he says.

There is one thing I believe he is hiding from us, though. Her face darkened. I said quickly, His feelings for this, Camille. She's the only girl he mentioned. She broke into that smile again. We chuckled together. I could perhaps steer us back yet into the realm of desire. Laughter, as we know, is an aphrodisiac, and I had a certain flair with which to stir it up.

His parents are worried and phone me every day, she said. Nope, we were to linger in the realm of terror. The world has marched us all into a war on desire. My poor sister calls from their friend's phone to avoid disclosing to anyone where Adil is, in case some of those bad elements are It all sounds so menacing.

I don't know whom to trust. Me, I wanted to say. Trust me. We live in a [00:25:00] world where people are rapidly growing alienated, I said. The alienation of young men in particular is striking. I kicked myself for talking of young men like an old man. pontificate on a primetime news program. Yes, she said, all this pressure to conform to a toxic masculinity a toxic masculinity Now that was going too far, I thought.

But I had learned over the years not to respond with, boys will be boys. You have friends you can talk to though, I said, with as much nonchalance as I could muster. Yes, yes, she said quickly, pushing herself up by her elbows to sit straight up in her chair. A friend here and there and such. But this might sound odd, I feel like they, their political beliefs, Their liberal little souls will want to intervene to do something for Adil and me.

I don't want to draw that kind [00:26:00] of attention. Ah, so this is where I fit in. My lack of an activist political drive would be the thing that could get me laid. Who would have thought?"

Erin: It kills me! It kills me! Because there's something so radical about you putting yourself in his head, watching her, and trying to game how to get laid. And meanwhile, she has like a real life crisis on her hands. And he's like, how am I going to get in there? I mean, on the one hand, we want to be desired by men, right?

We want to be the object of desire. I don't mind a little objectification if it's, if the person who is objectifying me is someone that I want. The problem comes when you're the [00:27:00] object of desire of someone who is not interested in you as a human being and who only sees you as an acquisition and a way to achieve a goal. Um, that has to do with your body.

Dr. Sonora: I mean, everything that he's saying is calculated, right? And it's in response to how, as you said, how do I get laid by her? And how do we move this topic along? And how do we even the backdrop, right? Like that, as if she picked it---

Erin: Interpreting it as her choice. She's a little minx who's tried to set him up for this hot coffee date.

Dr. Sonora: Right. She's probably exhausted from a gym workout and she's, you know, it's just. Pick the place closest and, you know, so I enjoyed doing it for that reason. And yes, it was difficult because it was like, Oh my God, is this me? Is this, am I objectifying women? But I had to really enter his perspective and his mind.

And it wasn't. It was interesting to do, but what I also discovered was that it wasn't difficult. I [00:28:00] think all of us are constantly aware of the male gaze. I feel like as women and women identifying people, we're aware of a male gaze, right? And as you said, we don't mind it. Yeah. We don't mind it. I don't mind it.

It's lovely. And I'm Uh, happy to have the male and the female gaze. I'm happy to have every gaze and I will try on different clothes and I want to look my best and I would love compliments. It's what they do with it, right? And as you said, there are other aspects to me, right? I'm not coming onto this to only Look pretty, right?

I'm here to talk as are you. You're interested in the conversation, but we also pick the lipsticks we want to wear, right?

Erin: Correct.

Dr. Sonora: Why not?

Erin: It's a privilege as a woman to decorate ourselves and to present ourselves in whatever way we choose. I want to look sexy. I want to look beautiful. I want to get attention.

Dr. Sonora: Exactly. And that adornment is a feminist choice and a feminist ritual, even I feel, uh, for me. And so it's what they do with it in terms of like, what else are they not addressing about our whole selves? And the other thing is like, [00:29:00] how would they respond to rejection? So that's a very key thing that in that moment, as you said, yes, we don't want attention from someone that we're not into and that feedback. How do they deal with it? And so that's why, because we are afraid of how they deal with it, is why women will give, uh, false numbers to men at the bar instead of just saying, Hey, I'm not interested because it's easier to do that so that we don't hurt his ego. And he doesn't lash out.

We're making all those mental calculations, whereas we should just be having a good time.

Erin: I don't think men really know all of the ways in which we work to protect ourselves from them. And then what a big deal it is when we choose not to. When we choose, okay, you're a safe person. I'm going to make myself vulnerable to you because I want to, because I, because there are things I love and respect about you or I'm hot for you or whatever it is, but we are constantly calculating.

I think it's so fascinating this [00:30:00] almost sleight of hand or something that you're doing here where, I mean my brain does not operate on all those levels at the same time that this writing operates on. Where you are you, you are writing your perceptions of what his perceptions are, and then you are writing a woman who, is she a proxy for you?

Or a woman like you on campus? And that point of view, I mean, she has her own compromises and stuff going on in the book as well, but holy moly, like the amount of things that are happening all at once. It's dizzying.

Dr. Sonora: Thank you. Thank you. And all of these characters have a little bit of me in them, right? Even he does.

Erin: Sure, he has to, right? Otherwise, he's not three dimensional. I found him to be three dimensional and occasionally likable.

Dr. Sonora: Yeah. Exactly.. And I had to, that was in the second draft--

Erin: Yes, that's what the editor said [00:31:00] you had to do.

Dr. Sonora: A good editor will, yes, absolutely. And I showed it to some of my white male friends and said, here you go, make yourself useful.

Erin: What did they say?

Dr. Sonora: It was interesting. Both the men that I showed it to said he has to be. Thinking more about sex, even when he's not with men, think a lot about sex. You're going to put more sex in there. And I was like, Oh my gosh. Okay. I thought it was, it had so much of it. And I was like, Nope. All right, I'll go back and put it, put more.

Erin: He does get distracted by thoughts of sex all the time throughout the book.

Dr. Sonora: Yes. Yes. That was hard work, but I did it. So that is interesting feedback to get. And, uh, just a couple of things here and there, but otherwise, yeah, I was pleased to hear that I nailed it. So much so that I had sent it to a contest where it was blind reviewed.

And, uh, the feedback, I was at a contest or a residency or something, and I didn't get it. And, and one of the When I said, can you [00:32:00] give me the feedback from the judges, one of them was, this white male writer is very likely, I didn't like his voice at all, and he's very likely to get published with the sense of entitlement that he shows in this thing. I would much rather give it to someone who is struggling to get published. And I was like, no, no, that's me, that's me.

Erin: And even that, even then they didn't give it to you?

Dr. Sonora: Oh no, I couldn't say it. I couldn't, I couldn't say anything, right. It was, yeah, it's blind reviewed, so it was already decided.

And so, but I laughed and I felt like, okay, if I get the feedback that I probably nailed it, nailed this guy's voice.

Erin: Another interesting thing in this book and in the way that you frame him is that He's a totally unreliable narrator, so he is covering his ass in his own journal in a way that you're like, wait a minute, like, who is he lying to here?

Is he lying to [00:33:00] himself? He's definitely lying to us. He's certainly lying to the people all around him and the FBI. He's a hot mess of lies. And are we all unreliable narrators of our own stories? Or, is this just to prove a point about this character?

Dr. Sonora: I love that. You're absolutely right. We're all unreliable narrators of our own stories, right? So even the things that I said to you about my childhood, for instance, my brother, my sister may remember it differently and say, no, no, you had glimmers of intelligence. You weren't a moron.

Erin: Only some of us thought you were a moron.

Dr. Sonora: Exactly. So they may remember things differently, right? And I'm looking back and so there are things that I don't remember.

And the ways in which we tell our stories, you know, the words we choose, the mood we imbue things with. So yes, we are all unreliable narrators. And definitely when we are lying about something, right? When we're lying about something. We all believe that we are good people and we want to convince [00:34:00] ourselves of that.

And so the ways in which we tell something, if I've had a terrible fight with a friend and I'm telling another friend about it, I'm definitely going to cast myself as a victim of that. Right. And with some, like I'm maybe because I'm so self aware, I'll say, I do believe I did some things wrong as well.

And I'll add some nuance to it just so that I don't look like I'm completely blaming the other person. So we've learned all of these things. And I think I wanted to play with the Seattle liberal as well and not just the white liberals but people across race and ethnicity. We have in Seattle a typical kind of liberal person who believes so much in their goodness and he knows this guy Oliver Harding who's the who we're talking about in the book.

He knows the language and he knows it just enough to get Ruhaba to trust him as a friend. So as he's writing he's probably convincing himself as well of his intentions.

Erin: Mm. It's very complicated. [00:35:00] Um, you know, there's a lot of conversation about white male anger in this culture. I come from the comedy world and there's a lot of like, Oh, we're not allowed to say what we really think anymore.

Like, sorry, clearly my point, my voice gives away my point of view. We're not allowed to talk about things. Of course you're allowed to talk about whatever the fuck you want. This is America. That's like the primary thing about us. You can say the things you wanna say, but you also have to deal with the fact that there might be consequences and other people now have voices and they might not like what you have to say.

And I think so much of the political climate in this culture has to do with the anger of white men and their sort of feeling of being displaced from the top of the hierarchy. What do we do? What do we do? I mean, I am in love with a white man who is. Politically conservative, like, it's a new thing for me.

And we have all these conversations and we come to a place where we respectfully disagree with each other and try to find some connection, [00:36:00] some place to come together, because that's the point. We're in a relationship with each other, we want to find places to come together, and we joke we're healing the nation.

But I think there's a lot of reason for white men to be mad. I don't think it's as much about race as it is about money and class and power. That's my point of view, but I want to hear yours.

Dr. Sonora: I will definitely say I'm very interested in men. I study masculinity. I study and I write. These things I've written "How to Raise a Feminist Son" because I truly, truly believe that they have also been screwed over by the patriarchy.

Right. And again, we're bringing certain terms in that are so loaded and so boring, et cetera, but really it's the superstructures. And my second marriage to a white male conservative man. We're divorced now because unlike you, I wasn't able to heal the world. And you know, it didn't work. There were a few things that just intensified, but we also had a lot of love.

There was a lot of love. There was a lot of fun. [00:37:00] There were great conversations. There were two things that I would say. One was that even though I felt loved and protected and cared for, and really respected. by him. He did not believe that there were structural changes that needed to happen in society, right?

So I could choose to exist in this sort of like a bubble where I was benefiting from whatever being white adjacent or being in this. This marital setup and the gifts of capitalism that are given to married people. But I knew that in some ways this is, it's going to come and bite me and it's not going to feel comfortable if it's not for the larger, if there's no recognition of the larger impacts and structures and the larger impacts on other people.

So There were things that would happen in the news and he would be dismissive of that and frankly, racist and sexist. And to me, that [00:38:00] would be like, if you can think that about others, you're just choosing not to think that about me because you sort of love me. So these are very complicated things and complex things.

And as you know, in relationships, it can be so complex because there's love and there's desire and there's. doubt. So having said that, I do believe that men are aching for something more beautiful and something more emotional and more capable of rescuing them. And yes, capitalism will definitely get in the way.

And it's so deeply entrenched with patriarchy that you cannot, unless every single day we get up and like, Memorize and say today, I will fight today. I will have to do this. And this is how it's going to come at me. Like it's exhausting. It's really exhausting constantly seeing it and having to push back against it as an academic.

I'm an associate Dean at my university and we're in meetings where I constantly have to raise. What about race and gender? [00:39:00] What about race and gender? You know, and it's exhausting for me and it sort of puts a target on me. So we're, how often can you keep doing that? You are definitely in certain spaces where it's easier to be quiet than to constantly be saying the patriarchy.

So we can talk about these things. I mean, I do believe that it's couched in love and I discovered so much about masculinity and raising my son and seeing how it was working against him and saying, like, I want you to hold on to your tenderness, even though even now he can say some things that just feel to me like, where is that coming from? You know?

Erin: Even though you wrote the book, literally wrote the book on "How to Raise a Feminist Son" and you did it with, you raised him with such intention and such constant dialogue. around these issues, but our boys live in the world they live in. They live in the world we live in and they are subject to pressures that we don't know firsthand. So it's, it's really interesting.

Oh, I love this conversation also makes me so uncomfortable, which is a good thing. I'm happy to be uncomfortable [00:40:00] these days. I want to ask you a question that I have asked everyone who's come on this podcast, which is, are there any deal terms in your own life that you're ready to renegotiate?

Dr. Sonora: So a lot of people think that because I am a feminist that I am hard on men, right, or that I do not, that I feel very independent and I'm free now of men and marriage and things like that. That is not true at all. I am very interested even now, more interested than ever in love and marriage. I really am.

And I would love to renegotiate that and definitely be more curious than I have been in the past about the pressures on men, right? Without compromising or without letting go of or stifling something. That I know to be true and to reappear over and over again. If I feel like [00:41:00] a man is talking from a place of fear and security, I understand that.

And I think I can be more compassionate now, rather than see that as a danger to me, that I don't necessarily have to be as afraid of what someone can do of that power, because I feel powerful myself. The other thing I would still want to negotiate with myself is, am I responding from a place of fear or from a place of love, right?

We are always either doing one or the other. And I would like to respond from a place of love. Because from a place of fear, I feel like if I'm going for another relationship or longing for that companionship or love, um, is it just because I'm afraid of being thought of as an unloved woman? And I think I've conquered that.

I feel like I've been single long enough and I'm so comfortable. I could be this way forever and still be quite happy and quite [00:42:00] full of joy. But I do feel like if there is more joy to come in companionship, I would love that.

Erin: I like that very much. I want to ask you why love and marriage? Why the marriage, why the marriage part?

Dr. Sonora: Yeah, I just feel like I want to do it right the third time, but it doesn't have to be. It's fine if it's not marriage and I may change my mind about marriage itself, right? But I feel like there's Some beauty to it, if we were able to rescue it from just like as a capitalist construct, I think there's a beauty to it.

And I did grow up in India and I do have this sense of romance and as marriage being the ultimate goal of this thing. And so I, I can be convinced otherwise, but I also have read recently, and I'm writing a book on these matters. I read bell hooks's communion, the female search for love. And it's so beautiful and so educational because it comes from an intersectional feminist viewpoint.

[00:43:00] And it's encouraging. Everyone's search for love. And definitely women's search for communion and for love and romance. And she says you totally have to go for it. So I feel very empowered by that. But it doesn't have to be marriage marriage.

Erin: I love that. I love that you give yourself permission to be all the different things that you are and to have all the different points of view, literally in this book, all the different points of view, but also looking for a way to bring you.

Love and not fear to your life, your quest for relationship to all of it. I think that's a choice we all make every day, all the time. I'm inspired by you and your intellect and your, the complexity of the thought that you take on. I'm grateful to have had this conversation.

Dr. Sonora: Thank you, Erin. Thank you so much for this conversation. It was wonderful.

Erin: Thanks, Sonora.

Thanks for listening to Hotter Than Ever. Let's start a [00:44:00] conversation. I want to get to know you and what you think about the things we talk about here on this little podcast. Visit @hotterthaneverpod on Instagram, comment on one of our posts or send me a DM while you're on our Instagram.

With your honest thoughts about this show, someone recently sent me a note that said, they were excited to hear my thoughts on divorce and finding new love, but I dropped too many F bombs, and that that was offensive. I don't think I can do anything about that. That's just the way I talk, and I actually like cursing. I think it adds flair and color. So... I'm maybe not everybody's cup of tea, but if I'm yours and you have something to say and something has resonated with you, please send us a note. And I may even read your feedback on the air.

Hotter Than Ever is produced by Erica Gerard and PodKit Productions. Our associate producer is Melody Carey. Music is by Chris Keating with vocals by Issa Fernandez. [00:45:00]

Come back next week. You are so fucking hot. I can feel it. You're doing something different in your life. You're glowing. It looks really good on you. Talk to you next week.


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