Getting Back Into It

Over a year has passed since I have graduated with a Master’s of Arts in English Literature. This is all fine and well.  I’m proud of this accomplishment.  There were many times I was certain I wouldn’t make it through the stress of completing such an extensive research project- Let alone being satisfied with the finished product.  And I was satisfied for the most part.  I loved that I was writing about the complications of gender in young adult literature.  I loved that I got to read the Hunger Games Trilogy nearly 3 times over in the name of scholarly research.

But after I was through with hours and hours of editing and the panic-inducing committee meetings; after I finally submitted 90 pages of my scholarly bitching… I stopped.  I stopped writing. I was burned out. If I thought about writing something serious I would feel my creativity start to curl up in a ball and throw itself in the back of my closet.

No one wanted to hear what I wanted to say.  No one cares that Katniss could be queer but probably isn’t because just because she isn’t traditionally female doesn’t mean she’s gay.  No one cares that I think she’s a great role model for children of all genders. No one cares that you hate your job, Ellen.  Everyone hates their job.  No one wants to hear you bitch about the street harassment you experience or how mad that one song makes you because it reinforces the “gender binary.”  Just shut up and do your job.  Maybe read a book to make yourself feel better.  Maybe that will help you feel smarter.

Um hello? Could I be any more self-destructive here? I mean, it’s getting to the point where I am putting my relationship in jeopardy. My disappointment in myself is putting stress on my boyfriend to help me feel better about myself and that shouldn’t be his responsibility. I mean, I appreciate a boost every now and again, but I should be able to determine my own worth without being coddled.  That’s why I was afraid to date again in the first place.  I molded myself into this strong, independent woman.  I did not want to disappear inside another person.

I will not resort to helplessness because I am a little lost right now.  I didn’t want to write that down. I didn’t want to write that down.  I really didn’t want to admit feeling lost because everyone says that. It’s a cop-out.  It’s putting a more attractive label on settling for less then you’re capable of achieving.  Everyone says “you have to find yourself.”  “You are so young, you have time.”  Time for what, though? Time to make a whole new stupid map to follow?Because the one I am currently following is either outdated or in some language I can’t manage to learn. I do have a terrible sense of direction, so maybe that’s an issue I have across the board.

 

Either way. I guess I need to buy a new compass.

CREATIVE WRITING: Long Live

 

When she accidentally stepped on the executioner’s foot
she gasped and graciously apologized…

Perched on the edge of their rotting stools like pigeons
on the window ledges of their abandoned bakeries,
Les Trecoteuse raveled and unraveled their threadbare threads
in silence.
The usual “who’s who” was a waste as each woman could recognize
the cake batter dripping from her mouth
to the sticky urine lined streets.

The “Austrian Woman” tried to become one of them. She was hard pressed for acceptance.
Still. Still after 23 years, she balanced atop her mocking post
where silk buckle shoes drown in the blood of her severed husband.
Splotches of rust and dust ate away at the intricate designs through the eyelets
where laces should have been.
A revolutionary stripped his former queen of preciousness.
He tore through whatever represented the wealth of the privileged-
boot laces spun in gold,
her ragged Fontange, where a single alouette feather remained
caught between the mousy grey locks
and broken wires that no longer measured two feet high.
Luxuriously, the revolutionary threw them over the scaffolding to join
the King’s navy culottes.

Queer Theory: A Brief Response to Wilchins, Butler, and Cohen

 

The complications that Queer Theory brings to the forefront is not unfamiliar to many activists today.  What I mean to say is, there is rarely a time when an individual’s identity is not questioned.  For example, the opening paragraph of Butler and the Problem of Identity by Riki Wilchins, reads “You don’t have to be a whale to join Greenpeace, and you don’t need to be locked up in a foreign cell to support Amnesty International” (123).  Likewise, an individual who supports the queer community may or may not be “queer.” Furthermore, how does one define such a community, and why must we categorize ourselves at all? Judith Butler faces this conundrum by her refusal to acknowledge identities at “face value,” by working to reveal the instability of categories and communities.

Butler begins Imitation and Gender Insubordination by disputing the concept of “being.” How does one theorize as a lesbian or otherwise?  These suggests that all who identify as “lesbian” would come to a single conclusion, which Butler explains as such; “identity categories tend to be instruments of regulatory regimes, whether as the normalizing categories of oppressive structures or as the rallying points for a liberatory contestation of that very oppression” (Butler, 308). This issue resides very strongly in feminist debates. Wilchins upholds that “assuming a commonality to any identity, even one as apparently uncomplicated as Woman, can mean assuming a unity that doesn’t exist in reality” (124).  Not only are biological women concerned with different issues throughout the world, the questions such as “what makes a Woman?” are increasingly relevant. Butler and Wilchins use Aretha Franklin’s Natural Woman to support their argument that there is a sense of “proper” womanhood.  When an audience reflected on Franklin’s lyrics, they almost unarguably thought of the biologically natural woman, stripped of her worldly problems. In other words, the “natural women” might have referred to regaining a sense of innocence, which is traditionally a feminine quality. However, if I were to read the lyrics through a queer lens, I would determine that term “natural” was used to speak of the “soul” or “true self.” I am reminded that the terms natural, real, and truth are all subjective terms in an identity discourse; therefore what is natural for one individual may be completely unnatural for another. Even though the two may both identify as women, their true senses of womanhood are not identical.

With this inter-identity crisis, I was reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s observation of a crumbling United States. He declared “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” I see a single feminism struggling to stand as well. There is matter of who is “more important” or “well-known” in the community. Think about the marginalized communities of transgender, genderqueer, gender-different and so on. The fact that I even wrote the words “and so on” proves that there are multiple identities that I am not aware of, or cannot remember due to the focus on the more prominent gay and lesbian communities. We refer to these “different” communities as LGBT+, using the + sign to cover our bases. I don’t know if this is more or less inclusive in the long run. Cathy Cohen seems to see positivism in wider sense of identity. In Punks Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens, she suggests “At the intersection of oppression and resistance lies the radical potential of queerness to challenge and bring together all those deemed marginal and all those committed to liberatory politics” (440). Even though I agree with this statement, I got the sense that Cohen does not agree with Wilchins or myself about the larger identity of fluidity. As a generally dominant culture woman, I was a little offended by her frequent aversion to heterosexuality. She seems to be discounting this identity as valid, and suggesting that the heterosexual identity is concrete.  In this way, she is enacting the exclusion of which she simultaneously protests.

That Time Beyonce’s Album Invalidated Every Criticism Of Feminism EVER

Global Grind

Beyonce 22

If you don’t know by now, you’ve been living under a rock.

Early Friday morning, Beyonce gave us all a heart attack when she released her self-titled visual masterpiece, Beyonce. And because we weren’t at all expecting it, we basically woke up in complete shock to messages like these:

And really, whose edges didn’t Beyonce snatch? She’s sexy, fun, talented. She’s a visionary — the videos are not only aesthetically pleasing, they are stories built from images. Her voice, as always, is perfection. She proves, once again, that she is the greatest of her time in overall entertainment. But there was something else about this album that caught our attention — something that wasn’t there in 2003’s Crazy in Love or critically acclaimed 4.

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Fashion Bashing and Gabourey Sidibe

Dances With Fat

Gabourey Sidibe attended the Golden Globes and was criticized for her body, her dress, and how the dress fit her body. Although she shouldn’t have had to deal with it, her response was brilliant and, if it were possible for me to be more of a fan of her, this would do it:

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Obviously I think all of the fat bashing comments about her are complete bullshit.  But there is something else that’s been bugging me as well. Before I get into this I know that this blog is controversial and there are many who will disagree with me and that’s totally ok.  I want to be clear that people have every right to do the things that I’m about to discuss, I’m not the boss of anyone else’s underpants and I’m not trying to tell anyone else how to live. My goal is, as always, to give people something…

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MEDIA LITERACY: Position Statement

media literacy

Sources such as television, music, and the internet largely influence the lives of citizens on a daily basis; therefore, the interpretations of them lead to competing social and political attitudes. In an increasingly technological world, the measure of one’s success is increasingly based on his or her virtual connections to others. Therefore, this “success” cannot be reached without a conscious effort to become literate in the various forms of media that are available. (Let’s face it, what good is a cellular phone if one can’t manipulate the device?) Because a certain level of literacy is required to initially use a product, it is not out of the ordinary to suggest that a deeper knowledge of said product would prove more effective to its use. In other words, I believe that a successful use of the media in our everyday lives requires us to become more aware of how the various sources affect us. For example, rather than watching a commercial and laughing at the simple jokes, I might notice the social constructions behind that joke. I might realize that I agree or disagree with what the ideas that such a joke represents. In this position statement, I will attempt to prove how interpreting sources such as a commercial, television show, popular song, or internet blog can improve one’s media literacy and, in effect, “have an impact of upon the emotions and lifestyles of the users of these media” (NCTE).

Click below to view the 2013 Game Day Commercial 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9H0xPWAtaa8

It comes as no surprise that advertisers educate themselves on public opinion and current social and political issues. If they didn’t do their research, the millions of dollars spent on television, magazine and internet commercials (to name a few mediums) would be wasted. The 2013 Super Bowl created wide controversy due to an advertisement by Volkswagen Automobiles in which a white office worker from Minnesota speaks in a Jamaican accent. In the commercial, the man assures his boss and co-workers that “Every-ting will be a-rite,” or something similar to this, whenever there seems to be a problem. At the end of the commercial, the Minnesotan parks his car with two co-workers who are, for lack of a better term, “converted” to his happy, easy-going attitude. I watched the Volkswagen commercial before researching the public’s reactions. Because the commercial was labeled as “racist” by critics, I was looking for negative stereotypes that might be hidden within the dialogue. While the premise of the commercial was a little strange, I didn’t initially find it offensive. But then I started thinking about the use of a Jamaican accent, and this raised many questions for me:

Is the perpetuation of positive stereotypes considered racism?
Should those stereotypes cause offense, or are we being too sensitive?
Would the reaction differ if the actor was black or actually Jamaican?
What does this commercial even have to do with cars and how will it affect the business of VW?

These questions were not only my personal reactions to the commercial. Newscasters, comedians and critics attempted to interpret the commercial as well. A newscaster on ABC asked the same question as I did, “Who decides what’s racist? Is it the critics here in the United States or is it the Jamaicans?” This newscaster’s phrasing actually got me thinking. Notice how she clarifies “critics here in the United States” as opposed to “the Jamaicans” (ABC). The clumping of cultures that differ from our own is natural us. Even if we are trying to promote a positive message, there is still a question of racial integrity. Comedian D.L. Hughley said, “I can’t actually understand what I am supposed to be mad about…I know it was supposed to make me mad, but all it made me want to do was listen to a Bob Marley CD” (ABC). This comedian is African American, and is not offended by the commercial; in fact, he further perpetuates the connotation that all Jamaicans are happy all the time. (How about this “positive” stereotype: all Chinese people are brilliant at mathematics. Does this expectation relate to the skyrocketing suicide rate in China?) Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, a marketing strategist, was interviewed by USA Today: “What happens in this ad is that the culture becomes a punch line, and that’s offensive” (Horovitz). Her interviewer, Bruce Horovitz, also spoke to the actor who plays the “Jamaican Minnesotan.” Coincidentally, his brother-in-law is from Kingston, Jamaica and happens to love the commercial. The Minister of Tourism of Jamaica said, “people should just get into their inner-Jamaica and get happy” and suggested a co-branding of VW and Jamaica (ABC).
Are critics and myself over-reacting? If the stereotype doesn’t bother most Jamaicans, should it bother us? Clearly, the VW commercial sparked my emotions when it comes to race. If I were not media literate, I would probably just laugh at the funny Jamaican accent coming from a white man. I wouldn’t notice the undertones for which I have gone into detail. Because the commercial sparked controversy, VW gained a lot of attention. This is good for any business, but what is more important, is the racial discourse that ensued. As exemplified through the VW commercial, media has the power to bring new light to important issues by engaging the audience’s emotions and way of life. The challenge is for the audience to interpret what the media presents to us and what it says about our society. In a way, the media and the public have important relationship that depends on the literacy of each other.

Bibliography

“Super Bowl Commercials 2013: Volkswagen Ad Stirs Online Racism Debate.” ABC News, 30
Jan 2013. Web. 6 Nov 2013.
NCTE. Guidelines for the Preparation of Teachers of English Language Arts. ed. 2006. Urbana:
National Council of Teachers of English, 2006. Web. 6 Nov 2013.
“VW Jamaica-theme Super Bowl ad: Racist?” USA Today. Gannett, 29 Jan 2013. Web. 6 Nov
2013.