Thursday, December 3, 2015

Karen and Lauren's articles

Lauren’s articles:

I think the electric literature article was a really intriguing read because I’m sure a lot of white males must feel this way when writing. I know last year when I was interviewing a girl and talking about feminism with her, I asked her whether or not she was upset that not a lot of males openly discuss it, and her answer was similar to this. She thought that they might feel like it’s not their place to and that they feel like they’d be quieting the female voices and the movement overall. But it’s just what this article suggests. You are allowed to join the space, as long as you don’t dominate it or overpower those other voices, even though this may be difficult sometimes.

I think Jaded is an amazing outlet for people of color, a safe space for beautiful publications where there is no fear of oppression or being silenced. I almost wish I had heard about this tumblr sooner, and I can only imagine how many more there must be out there. I think it’s important for these voices to be heard, spread, and made aware. I almost feel like my own voice can dominate a conversation, and it really is unfair to others who want to be validated and heard as well.

Karen’s articles:

I really enjoyed the publication because I feel like we often dismiss the fact that we need discourses that are inclusive to all, not just the dominant group. It’s clear form what we’ve been reading and learning that we do need a more social emotional education, but this article also made it apparent that we need an education that highlights oppressed voices of people of color and women as well. Treating others with respect and empathy is very crucial in learning and caring about people and being connected to them, not just caring about yourself.

The Ted article was really eye-opening on hearing about the different ways other cultures run and what their values are. I think it’s very true that Americans pick and choose. We assign as a culture what’s important and significant and discard the rest that doesn’t fit. But that is clearly not the global view, which is definitely refreshing to read. I think America is so traditional in that it doesn’t want to look at other cultures for guidance. We are so set in our ways, and when we run into troubles, we don’t look to other countries for guidance when we could really learn a lot from them if we gave them the chance. It’s time for a change in our education system, and we need to start with emotional literacy and inclusive dialogues.

Kirsten and Allie's articles

Kirsten’s article:

It’s really interesting because this was one of the articles I found while researching my own topic on emotional literacy being taught more in younger children. And I really liked it a lot. The teacher didn’t really baby them, he asked them honest questions and acted as a sort of objective therapist for them to come and talk to, which I know that not a lot of people would like but I thought it was a refreshing difference. It’s very clear in this article that a social emotional education is crucial to learning connectedness with others as well (as shown with the awkward and disconnected principal) and it teaches them to be more in tune with their emotions. I think the overall argument was that an emotional education is as important – if not almost more – than an academic one.

Allie’s articles:

It’s crazy to see how much gender influences not just people, but media, research, and even life decisions. What a lot of people don’t realize is that gender is a social construct. It’s not the binary that many try to prettily paint it out to be. It’s a spectrum, with people falling on different parts of it. It’s also a performance. The gender we’re assigned at birth is sometimes the gender we perform to as we grow, and in other cases it’s not. But gender is also based on the sex we are born with at birth, which was one of the things I took away that I hadn’t fully grasped when reading this. The fact that sex is also a construct. We aren’t really taught about intersex individuals, people born with both male and female chromosomes and/or genitalia, we are taught that you’re either male or female in terms of sex, which is also a very constricting view if you do not fall clearly underneath that binary.

I also really liked the Buzzfeed article because I am appalled when I see advertisements or products labeled as “just for men” or “manly.” Hell, what is so different about it that I can’t use it? It’s too manly therefore females cannot and shouldn’t use it, preserving their own masculinity. What’s so horrible about having feminine attributes? It’s such a sexist, outdated view on femininity and females being inferior and weak. It made me think about how I use a Gilette’s “male” razor, because the ones targeted towards females suck! They are so terrible and don’t shave as well or smoothly as the ones for males.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Power In The Period

I’d never really thought that much about the actual process of “becoming a woman.” I was more excited to leave behind elementary school and enter middle school, to be considered someone who was growing older, more intelligent, and more mature. That was a big thing for me: maturity and being seen as mature in the eyes of my mother.

I knew about periods. Knew that one day it would happen to me and then magically my breasts would start to grow. I’d seen it happen to my older sister, whose breasts weren’t very big – neither were my mothers – but instead pretty average, so it didn’t really bother me. I didn’t know when it would happen, and I didn’t really wait on bated breath.

Cut to the beginning of sixth grade when I befriended this insanely beautiful, “popular” girl and her posse. Why she chose to be my friend, I have no clue. I was a geeky, awkward, skinny girl clueless about what to wear and how to interact with boys, and it never bothered me until I started realizing these features in myself by hanging out with them. I started getting the feeling she befriended me because she saw me as this charity project for her to take on and transform into something she deemed beautiful, that maybe she felt a sense of power in trying to control me as if I were her Barbie doll. With the countless sleepovers where she and our group would make me over with eyeliner and mascara, telling me “Charlotte, you look sooooooo beautiful with makeup on!” and always telling me what clothes I needed to wear – Lacoste and Abercrombie, I mean really? – I started to get the hint that I was a follower, not a leader. I didn’t have any power or say.

But I had found my way in. T’ana, our “fearless” leader, hadn’t gotten her period yet. She was becoming concerned because she really wanted to develop her breasts – I mean, the girl had an image to uphold for the sake of her popularity. She would confide in me a lot about this, and after a while, it soon became a game between us of who would get their period first (and in our case, whose boobs would begin to grow first). Suddenly, the hope for my period to arrive became intense, a suspenseful competition, and I would come home everyday hoping to see a red stain on my underwear. We both agreed that whoever got their period first would call the other as a way to say “congratulations” when really it was a way to express bragging rights, and I bet she thought it would be her. Another way for her to express her power over me, just because she reached her femininity first. Well, on December 5, 2005 – yes, I still remember the date – when I was eleven years old, I came home from school and upon going into the bathroom and sitting on the toilet, I looked down into my underwear and shrieked with joy. I feel very odd admitting that now, especially how right afterwards I paraded around my house screaming to my family that I had reached this momentous occasion, but I finally felt like I had won at something against those girls, especially T'ana. I finally had some sort of power over her that she couldn't take away.

And you bet your ass the next thing I did was grab the telephone to dial her number.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Personal Writing is Important!

This chapter reminded me the very reasons why I love personal writing (especially the classes I’ve taken here, which include Personal Essay, Intro to Creative Writing, Creative Nonfiction and this one). I had been so accustomed to academic writing that when I first took Intro to Creative my sophomore year, and we would freewrite everyday, I was surprised at the things I would pull out from inside of me. These simple prompts would pull up moments I thought I had long forgotten, even some painful ones, all in this way to “move [stories] from a narrative that skims the top of [an] experience to one that unearths it.” (161). While not all of my essays came from sad experiences in my life, I felt really drawn to writing about them when the time did come, because of one of the key points MacCurdy brings up which is that “we sense painful memories even if we cannot verbalize them,” (162) and in writing about these moments, we try to make sense of them. What was even more strange than the magnetic pull towards writing about them was how much relief would come after the fact of writing about them. They didn't make me any more depressed, especially in the moment of remembering the sad moments. Getting it out of me and on the page and writing about how it all had made me feel was indeed therapeutic.

I love the way MacCurdy sectioned her piece. When she was talking about how our brain operates with the limbic system and the amygdala and hippocampus, it really did remind me of Alice Brand’s piece about emotion in the brain. I thought the most compelling part was how she says to think of these moments in images, little snapshots in our mind. Or imagine holding a film camera trying to capture that moment, what was said, heard, touched, smelled? And how did you feel? “Speech which does not integrate concrete images and the emotions those images convey into the concepts that they can produce will not provide a healing function for the individual.” (167). Because that’s where most of the therapeutic nature comes from writing about these difficult, traumatic experiences, placing yourself back in that moment (into those images) and describing how it felt to be back there.

One of my questions for the class comes from MacCurdy’s statement about how traumatic memories leave a mental image in the limbic system – and in the amygdala – to which they are given emotional weight. What about some of those traumatic memories that people have repressed and simply cannot recall? What happens to those and where are they stored? Because I’ve heard of women who have blacked out and cannot remember the trauma of childbirth and how painful it was, does our mind shut off if something is ever too painful physically or mentally?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

She Knew

I’ve only lost two loved ones in my life so far, three if you count my family’s dog, Ranger. Baba, my grandpa, was the first, and definitely a hard one. Even though he had lived a long life, battling diseases and ailments like a champ, it didn’t feel like his time. I didn’t think it was his time. But over the course of that year, I slowly passed through those stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Even though I still miss him, especially when I’ll call my grandmother and his voice picks up on the answering machine, I can say with confidence that I understand he is physically gone from my life (though definitely not from my heart, I will always love and hold onto him). However, when my uncle passed away during the summer of 2014, it was like everything inside me froze solid. I remember crying initially, and during the days to come afterwards, but after a while, I really felt numb. I didn’t cry, I wouldn’t get sad when I thought about him. I would dream about him and wake up perfectly fine. That may have been because of my excessive marijuana use to cope, but either way, I knew I wasn’t healing with those stages. I was in a permanent state of denial, he didn’t feel dead to me, it didn’t feel like he was gone. I still had moments where when we would go out to my beach house – which was about 45 minutes from where he lived – I’d think we would be making an appearance to see him at some point. It’s hard to explain my thought process, but to try, it felt like his death was just something we all had imagined and that he was really still alive. I needed closure.

His death wasn’t sudden in the fact that he had been diagnosed with Stage IV stomach cancer – we knew this would someday result in his demise, even though my optimism kept fooling me into thinking he could triumph over it (as my optimism always overpowers my thought). His death was sudden because it happened so quickly and all at once. One moment we were crying over the fact of his terminal illness, and weeks later he was moved to hospice where he would die that same afternoon. It just didn’t feel like reality; maybe I had fallen asleep in my real life and woken up in a parallel universe where his death was inevitable. And because we never had a funeral for him after the fact – he wasn’t religious and it was not what he wanted – we never received closure that he was no longer with us.

Before he died, Uncle Harry told his daughter, my cousin, that he wanted to have a memorial service 6 months or so after his death, and this past summer in August, my cousin planned it. “This won’t be a funeral with tears and sadness,” I remember her explaining to us, “Harry wouldn’t have wanted that. This will be a celebration of his life – a big party to talk about the great man he was.” I didn’t know when it would happen, but I knew at some point during this celebration, I would cry. I would break down and realize his death fully, and I would lose it. Months of repressed feeling and dry eyes would culminate in this moment, and the four stages would all clump together at once.

As we sat around the patio, people one by one got up and spoke about funny memories they had of my uncle, the crazy antics this man – with round, silver glasses that pinched his nose – had done. And the best part was, I could imagine him doing all of it. Harry was always so goofy and could place a smile on anyone’s face with a simple joke or display. At Thanksgiving, he was the one to grab the big, metallic, turkey fork and pretend to pick his nose with it. He was also the one to encourage me to make fart sounds with my armpits, and when I finally mastered it when I was seven, he was the first to praise me. I looked around the backyard, hoping to see his salt and peppered hair amongst the crowd, hoping to smell the Marlboro cigarette he’d always have hanging out the side of his mouth. We weren’t telling these stories to remember him by, we were telling them because these hilarious anecdotes would soon make him jump up on stage to perform more of his comedic acts, right? Again, my fantasy of optimism had taken over and I had to return to reality. It was when his college buddy, Cleveland, came to the stage and started speaking about the things he and him used to get into that I realized he and Cleveland could never create more memories like those. They could no longer goof off with one another or talk about their college days, beers in hand. My body started trembling. It was when Cleveland said how much he missed him, how much he wished they could do one more crazy stunt, that I couldn’t contain it anymore. I stared at my hands with my blurred vision, trying to quiet my sobs while my brother’s fiancĂ©e briefly rubbed my back. After a few moments, another gentle hand was placed on my back, then arms wrapped around me in a tight hug and a face was placed adjacent to mine. I turned around and saw my mother behind me, a frown pressed firmly at her lips and her sunglasses covering her watery eyes. I remember feeling surprised but also extremely grateful that she had come all the way from across the patio to comfort me, that protective, maternal instinct when a mother realizes their child is in need. I hadn’t expected anyone to come to my aid as the people were talking about him, to come and make sure I was okay, I had tried to go unnoticed. But I was so happy she had noticed, that she knew, and that she was there for me without any hesitation – as I know she always will be – because I not only needed her in that moment, I needed that to begin my ascent into healing.