The Value of Being Uncomfortable

Joe Wadlington
4 min readJan 16, 2015

A few birthdays ago I declared it “The Year of Finding Out I Am Part of the [privilege] Problem.” By then I had surely caused (and solved?) plenty of problems. But I’d been in the happy childhood bubble, and was fresh out of the happy collegehood bubble — those scandals and crusades were gentle waves.

Adolescent existentialism is hard to shake — it’s warm and comfortable. And it’s disappointing to realize a lot of the positive things in my life only exist because I am white, male, and cis. But that discomfort is the first step toward anything productive.

Below is a selection of videos and articles. The first time I experienced each of these it felt like something was breaking but also a light was turning on — like throwing out stuff you still kind of like, and then delighting in how much room you now have.

I realized I was part of the problem; and I have had the opportunity of re-realizing that every day. For each thing I learn — there is still more to learn. It’s daunting. But only when we discover our role in a problem, can we accept a role in the solution.

Please enjoy some of the blogs, articles, and performances that helped me learn and grow.

Women’s Bodies:

Dear Ursula, Melissa May

“You made back fat look sexy. You made living in this body a little less like a curse.”

My Body Is Not An Achievement Or A Work In Progress, Ragen Chastain

“Finally, there’s the idea that if someone isn’t thin or healthy based on our perception, they should confine themselves to going to the gym, eating salads without dressing, and running gravel through their hair. “

The Period Poem, Dominique Christina

“Herein lies an anatomy lesson infused with feminist politics because I hate you.”

10 Honest Thoughts on Being Loved by a Skinny Boy, Rachel Wiley

“my college theatre professor once told me that ‘despite my talent, I would never play Kate to any man’s Petruchio.’ We put on shows that involve flying children and singing animals but apparently no one has enough willing suspension of disbelief to buy anyone loving a fat girl.”

Lana Wachowski wins the HRC Visibility Award

“I am completely horrified of the talk show: the interrogation and confession format, the weeping, the tears of the host — whose sympathy underscores the inherit tragedy of my life as a transgender person … without ever interrogating the pathology of a society that refuses to acknowledge the spectrum of gender in the exact same blind way they’ve refused to see a spectrum of race and sexuality.”

White Supremacy:

Toni Morrison on “race” in Her Novels, Interview by Bill Moyers

“I remember a review of Sula, in which the reviewer said … ‘one day she will have to face up to the real responsibilities, and get mature, and write about the real confrontation for black people — which is white people.’ As though our lives have no meaning and no depth without the white gaze.”

Do Not Wear Hoodies, Tim “Toaster” Henderson (starts at 2:21)

“Suits are always fine as long as they can see the numbers on your back. Be a number but do not be a statistic. Live like a statistic without having ever been a fugitive — live like one anyway, without having ever broken the law — that means no mistakes. No mistakes, no arguments, or speeding, or sex, or gambling, or sugar.”

Appropriation vs. Appreciation, Browntourage & Mo Juicy

“An easy way to tell if you’re empowering another culture with your style, is if what you’re wearing is authentic or if profit goes back to the original cultural creators.”

In Conversation with Chris Rock, by Frank Rich

“So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years.”

Mansplaining and Interrupting:

I Don’t Care If You Like It, Rebecca Traister

“It’s such a comfortable pose, gathering around women and deciding what we think of them — hot or not, alluring or tragic, moral or immoral, responsible or irresponsible, capable of consent or incapable of consent, maternal or neglectful.”

10 Simple Words Every Girl Should Learn, Soraya Chemaly

“she wrote books, and she described her most recent one, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West. The man interrupted her soon after she said the word Muybridge and asked, ‘And have you heard about the very important Muybridge book that came out this year?’ He then waxed on, based on his reading of a review of the book, not even the book itself, until finally a friend said, ‘That’s her book.”

Males Novelists, Mallory Ortberg

“The cocaine isn’t the point. The cocaine is a metaphor.’ He explained wearily over the pile of cocaine. She folded her arms because she didn’t understand his work, or cocaine. ‘Didn’t you read my manifesto?’ The prostitute read his manifesto, why couldn’t she???”



Joe Wadlington

A San Francisco-based writer, artist, and drag queen. Published in The New Yorker, Vox, and Architectural Digest.