Jacob, Gender Activist: Manhattan, New York
Blue for boys and pink for girls. Right? Well, maybe. Who invented what colors belong to what gender? Who decided for that matter, what boys and girls are meant to like, dislike, do, or not do? We know it’s not anyone specifically who decides these things, but generations of tradition that produce these cultural norms. Most of us are raised by these cultural norms and are taught to do what other members of our gender in our culture do.
“Welcome to New York,” says Jacob with only a subtle native North Carolinian accent. Even on a stroll through the Big City people stare. More looks were shot at us during the hour we followed him in the streets than are shot at me in a year. Jacob has to face this reality every day. As we walked around I couldn’t help but think of every person who has felt like wearing something and decided against all naysayers and scouring onlookers to wear it. The first women who wore pants were shunned like this.
The issue, however, that was challenged by the second-wave feminists and still being challenged today by many people including Jacob is much larger than just deciding what clothing is acceptable.
The old world may have told Jacob what he ought to do. Today, in a world where social change moves us in the right direction, we ask Jacob what it’s like to be him. In the process, we learn about our relation to one another, which is always much closer than we think.
Jason, Pit Bull Rescuer: Dallas, Georgia
“Think Deep, Don’t Sleep.” These are the words inscribed directly above and below Jason’s eyes, an interesting place to put tattoos not only because anyone looking at him can’t help but see them, but also because he’s the only person that can’t see them. Of course, a mirror would allow him to read it, but he probably doesn’t look at his reflection very often. He doesn’t have much extra time. He has dozens of pit bulls to take care of. That is a lot of dogs. So many, that in order to take care of them he has to live in the same house as them. He joked a few times, though, that the house is their 8 bedroom home, they just let him stay there.
When a pit bull is given a temperament test, it does extremely well, often better than other breeds including beagles and border collies. The logic is this: the same traits that make pit bulls so aggressive toward other dogs are what make them so gentle with humans. However, “the generalizations of pit bull aggression towards humans are made towards the breed itself”, as Malcolm Gladwell points out in his 2006 New Yorker article. “The proper categorization should be made towards a pit bull’s negligent owners.”
The world seems to be against pit bulls right now. If negligent owners and illegal dog fighters were Jason’s only enemies, then his job may not be quite as difficult.
They really deserve better and it’s through the unbelievable kindness of people like Jason that give this remarkable breed hope for a better future. Imagine giving up a six digit salary to run a pit bull rescue. That’s Jason. After realizing this about Jason I also realized that his exclamative tattoo isn’t actually for him because he truly embodies those words. Those words are for me.
Toby, Painter: San Francisco, California
I once read somewhere that people go to New York to find wealth, to Los Angeles to find fame, and to San Francisco to find themselves. Toby certainly makes that theory truer. She is one of the most grounded artists I’ve ever met and at the young age of eighty, she continues to make art every day. She and her husband, Joe have completely filled their two story house with thousands of pieces of their own art. I felt like I was walking into a museum that she had made herself.
Along with making art, she also teaches classes, hosts a room in her place on AirBnb, and counsels artists on how to properly copyright their work. We sat down for tea with them the first day we met. As Joe made art on his iPad, Toby told us about what it was like to live in Greece for many years.
In many ways, Toby and Joe embody a lifestyle that I continue to seek for myself. On our way out Toby handed us a bulging envelope filled with cutouts and stickers and photos of her own work. As Elle reached her hand in to grab one of the pieces out of the envelope Toby said, “They’re all for you dear.” “Really?” we said, “All of them, thank you!” That’s how Toby is. I consider myself to be a pretty good listener, but when I listened to the recording of our interview with her I heard things that were profound to me that I didn’t hear the first time. She shares her art with you in more ways than just on canvas.
Purchase Toby’s art here.
Jared, Parent: Waco, Texas
Jared’s daughter is curious and brave. When we went out to a local spot with a food truck, she immediately went over to ask for some fries. She’s always interested in what people are doing and asks them questions at any opportunity. While we were interviewing her she made sure she got the chance to try interviewing us too. When we had finished recording our conversation with Jared she held the microphone towards Elle and asked, “Why are you interviewing us?”
“Because we want to share your story,” Elle responded. As with many of her replies, she would nod in a way that you could tell she was fully listening.
Jared was willing to sit down with us on a hot winter day in Waco, relocate when we asked for a better place to record, and take care of his daughter at the same time.
Jared makes whiskey and although I have limited knowledge of what it’s like to distill anything, I can imagine that since it takes time and that patience is a good attribute to have. I was inspired by his patience with his daughter’s situation. As he says in the interview, he never intended to be a nervous father. I wanted things to be better for them. I wished that diseases like hers didn’t exist, but I also knew that with her parents’ unanxious attention and steadfast patience she would get better. And just like with good whiskey, things get better in time.