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Feminist and Marxist Theories Applied to The Handmaid’s Tale

 

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Marxist and Feminist theories applied to writing open up the blooms of context that the author writes in between the spaces of semantics. Strengthened by analysis, weakened by assumptions, each theory offers insight into novels such as The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, which is subject to conjecture due to the specific nature of each analysis. A potentially whole bodied analysis would include parts of two or more theories to remove weaknesses and strengthen analysis. Feminist and Marxist theories provide a dual lens to magnify aspects of The Handmaid’s Tale, to showcase a society that “rejects the premise of industrial society,” and conveys metanarratives of a world run by men, run by women (Rivkin, 355). The crack in this premise that is seen through Marxist and Feminist theory lenses tells a story of surface appearances that do not represent the reality underneath. The Commander may appear to be the boss, but it is the women who control the workplace.

Atwood tells a story about a dystopian society that rearranges the hierarchy of citizens from the world familiar with modern times to one with a male Commander in charge and all women in servant roles. Feminist analysis sees women represented as suppressed and the Marxist analysis sees the Handmaids specifically as unpaid sex workers. The value of labor in Gilead is placed on the production of the women to support the religious, patriarchal structure that governs them, but just like a black market underground of any society, the women of Gilead control the labor market with supply and demand of offspring produced by them. If a woman can control her reproduction, she can control the marketplace of Gilead. Men strip the women of every conceivable luxury and contraband but do so through the women placed higher in the hierarchy, not directly themselves. Everything from butter in their shoes to replace the taken lotions, to the matches needed to light cigarettes they are not supposed to have, women will subvert oppression no matter who places it upon them. Regardless of the circumstances, even if stripped of income, women will find a way to create currency, exchange goods, and services, and show patriarchal regimes that they are not being asked to relinquish control over them because the patriarchy never had it in the first place.

The Handmaids were able to endure such oppression without seemingly giving as much as an occasional woman who objected, because of a coping skill inherent to women that the men of Gilead mistake for compliance. “Women are such good mimics, it is because they are not simply absorbed” into any given situation, they are able to “remain elsewhere” disassociating themselves as a survival technique (Iragaray, 795). Offred was expected to engage in sexual intercourse with the Commander, as his wife sat nearby and held her hand, for purposes of procreation, a created job role for the Handmaid in the Gilead society. Offred’s position was a rewritten sex worker position, without income paid for her services, but provided room and board instead. Other women were utilized to reinforce the rules of Gilead for daily upkeep of the rules and women followed them not out of fear, but out of respect for the women who were placed in charge over them. Feminist theorist Luce Irigaray saw this as a means to an end. The women will follow along with the oppression as a means to “convert a form of subordination into an affirmation, and thus to begin to thwart it” which conveys the message that women must submit in order to divert attention in order to begin pushing back against the oppression (Rivkin, 795). Ofglen internalizes the teachings the Aunt’s brainwash them with, teaching shame and modesty when it comes to their own bodies. “Offred sees herself as a ‘prize pig’ and Ofglen is a “trained pig,” both monikers that were considered acceptable despite being degrading (Stein, 64). Feminist theory expects a full analysis of the system and destruction in order to rebuild with equality in all aspects of women’s lives, bringing “darkness within; or else the light” (Atwood, 294). The opposition would argue that this approach is dangerous since there is no way of knowing if it is darkness or light from which the future is being built.

The women can accomplish more in the dark corners than out in the open, due to their suppression of importance in Gilead. The message is clouded in the unspoken when the Aunts give instruction to the Handmaids. “I also know better than to say yes. Modesty is invisibility, said Aunt Lydia. Never forget it. To be seen-to be seen-is to be-her voice trembled-penetrated. What you must be, girls is impenetrable. She called us girls” (Atwood, 28). If the Handmaids are out and clear with their intentions they are seen as the enemy and targets for noncompliance in a society built upon the ideology of suppression of women. Atwood makes interesting word choices with penetrated and impenetrable considering their role as Handmaids is for procreation. The Handmaids are being told that by being a nobody in the crowd of workers enables them to become a faceless entity who could avoid being forced into taking it all in without personal reward or control. The handmaids are the working class of the Gilead society.

Feminist and Marxist lenses dissect the effects on women and the working class when women are part of the manipulation process in order to further the agenda of men. Joy calls Offred a bitch in the end, because “after all he did for you,” reinforcing the depth to which the conditioning goes when women believe what they are doing to be of virtue or significance higher than themselves because ultimately women put others first before themselves (Atwood, 294). Karl Marx would call Joy a good worker, while Luce Irigaray would say she is a good mimic. I would say they are both correct and that is why I feel both theories work well together in analyzing this story. Women, such as Serena Joy are charged with the role of being in charge, which for a Feminist lens makes her a strong feminist role model, but by piecing together the actions of Serena, readers learn that women like Serena only use their strength for self-serving purposes, the antithesis of feminism, which calls for equality of all women. Serena should by all accounts be happy, but since her worker role in society is to produce a child for her husband through her chaperoned intercourse sessions, unhappy is the only thing she can be. As a way to cope with this situation, Serena finds a way to exert control over the women she controls and specifically focuses her manipulation on Offred since it is Offred that is the only one who potentially could bring Serena happiness once she fulfills her duty of delivering her a baby. Through several actions, Serena switches Offred’s perception of her as a means to control Serena’s work force. Serena offers her a match, “now don’t you go setting fire to nothing,” Serena tells her, but knowing this action is a gate begging to be pushed open for more access (Atwood, 208). She uses a curse word when talking to her in the garden, which relaxes Offred’s perception of Serena, calculated by Serena for such purposes. Then as a final master manipulation, Serena’s desire to have Offred deliver a baby for Serena by arranging sex with Nick, Serena shows Offred a picture of her long lost daughter. This move not only leans Offred into the lane that Serena wants her in but reinforces the fact that Serena has more power than she has been letting on. She has all the control, not the Commander. Offred knows “she’s known all along” and the news grabs her like a chokehold. Not only has Offred been playing along with the Commanders requests hoping they lead to access, she realizes he is being deceived as much as she is. The veil is lifted and the crack in the premise widens.

“Within The Handmaid’s Tale lies the powerful suggestion that progress toward global human rights will never be possible until nations of ‘freedom’ face their own incarcerated dystopian realities” (Dodson, 66). Labor Power, as Karl Marx describes it gives power to the worker based upon the value of the production by the worker for the capitalist. If Offred knew the true value of her labor to produce an offspring for the Commander and Serena, she would have realized her true labor power. If more Handmaids learned this same lesson, workers united, they could have been free from chains that oppress them. Women such as Serena Joy somewhere along the way learned their labor power and took measure to ensure their value in the dystopian society. Regardless of how, Serena used the power she had access to, instead of focusing on the power she was stripped of. Each woman has its place in society, both workers, but on different status levels, both wield their labor power in order to command power in a male driven society where the commodity of choice is a woman. Women became a commodity to be exchanged “because they are ‘scarce [commodities]…essential to the life of the group,” making the Handmaids valuable within the labor force of Gilead (Irigaray, 799). “Labor power, therefore, is a commodity, neither more nor less than sugar,” so if the demand for sugar goes up, the value of it does (Marx, 659). The Handmaids did not realize they were sugar. They did not know they could demand hand lotion and stop hiding butter in their shoes. Every sense of individuality and identity was stripped from them upon entering the Gilead society construct. “Hence “Offred,” the narrator’ s relational naming, is not a name but a tag that she wears to signify that she is the handmaid “of Fred,” Offred is reprogrammed in the new society along with all the other women (Reddy, 5). Stripped of independent jobs that the women elected to be part of in their original lives, the women have issued a new job of womb hosts that rendered them useful, yet subjugated to the lowest common denominator in society for a woman. Control was placed through perception and judgment knowing all women are aware of this role and what it means in societies.

Sex workers have been around since the dawn of time and “began to change from a temporary job to a more permanent occupation as a result of nineteenth-century agitation, legal reform, and police persecution” (Rubin, 889). Atwood’s Handmaids are legal sex workers sanctioned by the government of Gilead.        Marxism would see this as a good thing. Workers have more control than they realize, but the capitalist controls the market and therefore controls workers. “Power and conflict are central to the society of Gilead, its political and economic structure” which is central to the Atwood novel (Gotsch, 71). The worker is being paid for their labor in the form of room and board, but a feminist may hold a different opinion depending on what wave of feminism lens used. Some feminist would see this as a good thing because of the regulation and wages that come with legalization, others would be dead set against a woman selling her body for an occupation. The feminist lens would also be against Offred’s forced role in society since it was not her choice, but possibly more permissive of Moira’s role since she chose it over being in a work camp. The Marxist lens would chastise Offred for not demanding more in the form of a monetary payment, but applaud the Commander for getting the biggest return on his investment by taking her to the sex club, showing her there was room for growth and opportunity in the workplace. Depending on what angle a reader looks from will depend on the perspective a reader has when analyzing works.

Marxist and Feminist analysis of The Handmaid’s Tale captures the nuances embedded in the language of the novel magnifying them to point out the power of women regardless of suppression, who will work to control their own lives while patriarchy lives in the illusion that they are the capitalist in charge. Atwood’s dystopian novel may be fantasy, but as with all good fiction, reality means simply a matter of taking a closer look. Both theories widen the cracks in the premise of this novel in order for readers to take a myopic look into the reality that is lying underneath Atwood’s Gilead fictionalized society. Maryam Morida uses Louis Althusser’s theory on the ideology of a working class to take a closer look into The Handmaid’s Tale and the oppression of the working class. By using this lens Moira was able to see the machine at work actively oppressing a working class by empowering a ruling class while pointing to the Aunt’s role in Gilead as empowered oppressors albeit women. Feminist and Marxist lenses offer this type of insight into a story being told through a tiered system of messages that would otherwise be ignored as a flat story of women oppressed by men in charge. Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale with cracks to begging to be opened, but by design require tools to open them. With these lenses as tools, this story can unearth messages that can change how men are seen, as well as how women view themselves and each other in historical and contemporary societies. The handmaids were giving birth to future generations, but Atwood gave birth to a grand metanarrative.

 

 

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. New York: Anchor Books, 1998. Print.

Gotsch-Thomson, Susan. “The Integrating Of Gender Into The Teaching Of Classical

Social Theory: Help From The Handmaid’s Tale.” Teaching Sociology 18.1

(1990): 69-73. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 30 Aug. 2016.

Irigaray, Luce. “The Power of Discourse and the Subordination of the

Feminine.” Literary Theory” An Anthology by Julie Rivkin

and Michael Ryan, editors. Blackwell Publishing, 2004, P. 795-798.

Marx, Karl. “Wage Labor and Capital.” Literary Theory” An Anthology by Julie Rivkin

and Michael Ryan, editors. Blackwell Publishing, 2004, P. 659-664.

Moradi, Maryam and Fatemeh AzizMohammadi. “The Study Of Ideology In The

Handmaids’ Tale Based On Althusser’s View.” International Letters Of Social & Humanistic Sciences (2015): 75. Publisher Provided Full Text Searching File. Web. 30 Aug. 2016.

Reddy, Dr. P. Madhurima. The Handmaid’s Tale: The Carving Out of Feminist Space in

Margaret Atwood’s Novel. Chaitanya Bharathi Institute of Technology. The Criterion: An International Journal in English. Vol. II. Issue. IV. December 2011.

Rivkin, Julie, and Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Second ed. Malden:

Blackwell, 2004. Print.

Rubin, Gayle. “Sexual Transformations.” Literary Theory” An Anthology by Julie Rivkin

and Michael Ryan, editors. Blackwell Publishing, 2004, P. 659-664.

Stein, Karen. “Margaret Atwood’s Modest Proposal: The Handmaid’s Tale.” Canadian

Literature.http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=eng_facpubs 148:57-72. 1996.

Wilson, Sharon Rose. Women’s Utopian And Dystopian Fiction. Newcastle upon Tyne,

UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 30 Aug. 2016.

 

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American Modernism: T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land

Waste Land_2_cc_croppedAmerican Modernism literature seeks to be contemporary while harkening to classics in an ever-changing world. T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” asks readers to find redemption in a baron landscape after the lands have been raped of everything. The “profit and loss” of the lands that have been left and forgotten like the “cry of gulls,” Eliot asks readers to consider Phlebas to consider their own inevitable death (Eliot, 1921). Unlike Stetson who’s decaying body sprouted a garden, Phlebas only gave decay, not all ends grant renewal and birth but are of face value. Eliot plays with the idea of the life cycle in an age of modern decay with unknown names and faces.

Eliot’s poem has long since conception been considered a piece of poetry that could be read without regard to the date on the calendar. “The Waste Land” transcends time in a way that is both comforting and alarming. Anyone can turn on the news and feel “The Waste Land” that Eliot describes being an all too uncomfortably close reality while struggling with hope for renewal and rejuvenation. Eliot’s inclusion of reality of life in twentieth-century America in his poem gives readers a violent shake into the realities of life while closing on an offering of shantih. Eliot believed, “What is to be insisted upon is that the poet must develop or procure the consciousness of the past and that he should continue to develop this consciousness throughout his career” (Eliot, 1921). “The Waste Land,” offers every generation a reality check by asking readers not to forget the past when considering how to behave in the present and future.

Eliot’s inclusion of this content on me as a reader means I can pick up this poem regardless of a stage in my life and find meaning in it. By Eliot utilizing transcendent themes in this poem I can share this poem with my children and they can share it their children and so on. This all also means that no matter what, the human race is never too far from obliterating everything by forgetting the past.

 

Works Cited

Eliot, T.S. “The Waste Land.” 1922.

Eliot, T.S. Tradition and The Individual Talent. Bartleby. The Sacred Wood. 1921.

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Analysis of Setting

 

The setting in “A Rose for Emily,” by William Faulkner creates a portrait of a small town with just enough people to keep it busy, yet everyone knows everyone’s business. In the setting of this story, Miss Emily has an estate that is often in dire need of organization, cleaning, and care beyond what is donated to her in the form of “contracts for paving sidewalks,” by the town (Faulker, 320). With the death of her father and the horrible smell that haunted her home, the towns people leapt to assumption when she went to the town pharmacist to buy rat poison. “Arsenic,” Miss Emily said. ‘Is that a good one” (Faulkner, 320). Miss Emily may not have thought about how it appeared to the pharmacist or later the townspeople in relation to her house, but the two elements in Faulkner’s story create an interesting push in the storyline. No one thought anything deplorable was about to take place since Miss Emily’s house was deplorable. At the very least the only thought that came to mind was “she will kill herself,” which brought a collective sigh of relief with it (Faulkner, 321). After all that she had been through, the grief-stricken Miss Emily was never on their minds a murderer, yet it was the perfect set up to get away with murder.

Writers such as Edgar Allen Poe create suspense in their stories by slipping in similar story elements but since the genre lets readers know something horrible is to be expected, elements such as buying arsenic are clues instead of a backdrop in the setting to a story otherwise disarming in its thriller surprise. Faulkner sets the tone in his story with Miss Emily’s house being “an eyesore among eyesores,” with a history of deplorable smells and conditions, excused for having rats of the rodent kind, never considering the rat of large human male kind that deceives Miss Emily (Faulkner, 317). The imagination of this story exists in the details of what is really going on with Miss Emily, not the unknowing townspeople. A slow, southern, laid back southern town, Faulkner writes a setting that would “create in the reader’s visual imagination the illusion of a solid world in which the story takes place,” (Charters, 1055). Readers sense the townspeople’s empathy for Miss Emily through their reactions to her environment and create the conditions that make buying rat poison a benign act. Kate Messner said “Just like real life, fictional worlds operate consistently within a spectrum of physical and societal rules (Messner, Ted Speaks). The town where Miss Emily lives operates with its own town rules that include taking care of those they perceive to be less fortunate or down on their luck, as outside of her home continued to be cared for and her taxes paid for decades because it was the right thing to do in their town. It was with this mentality of the setting that the murder could take place and a rotting corpse was undetected without any hint of what the smell actually could be. In any other setting, such as a modern setting of a Gillian Flynn novel the smell would instantly be connected to rotting flesh. Setting is not a diorama, but another character in the story that has to work well with the characters, the plot, the theme, and the imagination of the author.

 

 

 

Work Cited

Charters, Ann. The Story and Its Writer. Ed. Ann 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s

Press, 2015. Print.

Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” The Story and Its Writer. Ed. Ann

Charters. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2015. Print.

Messner, Kate. How To Build A Fictional World. Ted Speaks Originals. Web. November

13, 2016.

Posted in American Studies, Current Events, Sociology, Uncategorized, women's issues

Bill Cosby: The Father Who Disappointed Us All

Too many times our heroes disappoint us. Too many times our heroes turn out to be less than who we perceived them to be. This time, our American Icon of heroes in fatherhood disappointed everyone, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, background, or age. This time, our hero used his position of power to sexually assault women who also looked to him as the hero they needed in their lives.

Millions of people have drama in their lives and falsely we turn to television, movies, media in general to find stand in figures who in our minds would never treat us the way our drama filled friends and family would. Bill Cosby was one of those people. Whether it was his cartoon Fat Albert, his tv show The Cosby’s, his role in movies such as Ghost Dad, his characters on The Electric Company, his drawings on his kid’s segment Picture Page, or his icon being used for commercials for Jello Pudding Pops, Bill Cosby was the man who stood tall and proud making us laugh, cry, be humble, be proud, and be kind. Billy Cosby’s was America’s Father Figure.

Now in his 70’s, almost blind, who knows how many years left on this Earth, Cosby’s long history of sexual abuse comes to light. Not only is it heart-wrenchingly awful that he committed these acts, but he did it while we all looked at him with admiration, love, and respect. He turned out to be worse than all of those people we pushed aside to make room for him in our hearts and minds, he lied to us so well, we all believed it. Millions of us bought his act hook, line, and sinker. We all were duped into thinking he was who we thought he was. This was not a case of millions of people believing him to be great when he wasn’t after all, such as when a seemingly great person makes you happy and then as soon as they turn they wipe their hands of even touching you, but instead made you feel great and loved then turned and stuck his dick in a woman without her permission. That is Cosby now.

Cosby has taught us all a very valuable lesson, that quite frankly we all could have done without, but since I am a firm believer in everything happening for a reason, this reason is to teach us that we shouldn’t be looking to others to fill a need in our lives but instead be that person. We all can’t be stand in father figures, but we can role-model the values and ideals that come with that status in our everyday lives. If we stop putting men like Cosby on a pedestal then we won’t be so broken when they fall. In fairy tales, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall and it took all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to put him back together again. In real life, Humpty Dumpty can fall, but it is all of us who end up broken. If we stop giving men like Cosby the opportunity to break us when they fall they will be held accountable for what caused them to fall in the first place.

These women saw no justice and will get no peace as a result of a justice system that in and of itself is broken. Let us all give them some peace and correct the way we lift up the wrong people in society. Go out and lift up the hardworking parent, the fireman/woman, the Good Samaritans, the police officer that isn’t giving into abuse of power, the person knitting hats for babies in the NICU, the teacher who works to help his/her students, the kid who goes to school despite the odds, the veteran who made it and those that didn’t. There are so many others out there who need to be lifted up and shown we honor them and their roles in society. Some of us may grow up without a father, but it is my job to teach my sons to be better men, not an actor.

 

 

(NORRISTOWN, Pa.) — Bill Cosby’s trial on sexual assault charges has ended without a verdict after jurors failed to break a deadlock. Jurors deliberated more than 52 hours over six days before telling a judge they couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on whether “The Cosby Show” star drugged and molested Temple University employee Andrea Constand…

via Judge Declares Mistrial in Bill Cosby’s Sexual Assault Case — TIME

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Food For Thought About Creative Writing

IMG_3457To begin the act of writing, comprehension of the building blocks for grammar, style, composition, syntax, diction, and prose is necessary. Not having an understanding of each component would lead to disaster.

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 Imagine trying to bake a cake without knowing exactly what each ingredient is. You may be able to add them all together and create a final product, but if I tried to use those same ingredients again to be creative, without a recipe I could potentially blow up my kitchen. I need to know exactly why I am mixing the sugar and butter first, incorporating each egg and how many eggs. I also need to know why I need salt to go with the baking powder and what the science is behind their combination. Creative writing is the same way. If I am trying to craft a work I need to know the tools I am using to create with. If I lack the comprehension of rhythm in the diction of prose and I read Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” poem, I will never see all the nuances of its craft and the formula behind its construction. If I took this style and tried to craft my own narrative it probably would sound contrived and disingenuous. Creative writing should come across as natural as a casual conversation between two people or an interesting person telling you a story. If I cannot get any of this, I will never be able to translate it over into my own writing and craft prose that utilizes any type of style or nuance. I will be babbling or at best reiterating what I’ve heard. That is not creative writing. That is a recipe for disaster.

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English Language: A Writers Tool

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Reflections of the English Language mirror our desires to communicate with each other in spite of not always knowing all the rules. An immigrant may not know all of the rules to the English language, but that does not stop them from communicating to the best of their ability in English in order to be heard. With that being said alterations have been made in sentence structures, literary styles, word meanings, and word spellings. Having something to say supersedes the rules of English language and rightfully so. “All living languages change over time, and all show variation, such as ask and aks. Just because a current form was common in English 1,500 years ago doesn’t mean that we should use it today or think it is somehow better—and clearly in the case of aks, age has not given this form authority. But given these details about the history of aks, it is difficult to insist that aks is somehow wrong or inferior. It is a systematic variant of ask (Curzan, 3)” Being able to connect with another human being outweighs grammatical do’s and don’t because being able to communicate is fundamental to humanity regardless of the limitations.

For me, the significance of language study in my own career path is as natural as breathing. Toni Morrison saw a style of language that was projected to be lost forever so she began writing in this stylistic diction to model a category of English language from the African American community. For Morrison, this was a natural path to take with her own writing. I would not want to start down the path of creative writing without all of the tools necessary to assist me on my journey. My tools are my companions. If I were Dorothy and I was heading to see the great powerful Wizard of Oz, I would need my companions, my best pal Toto, and some assistance from a good witch. Without these things Dorothy could not reach her goal. I cannot reach my goal of creative writer and college professor without my companions. Studying the language I plan on writing in enables me to see to it that I write the best possible structure for my creative medium.

As a writer, my chosen medium is how I choose to showcase my skills that if done correctly will convey a layered story rich with meaning and nuance. Everyday I am learning new and exciting things about the field of English language which I add to my toolbox in order to have the most impact on my own writing and teaching. Ancient societies wrote in languages they create, learned and taught in order to communicate great ideas as well as mundane everyday tasks. Over time this shaped how societies ran due to the communication that took place between people in all relationships of society. These early communications and studies of languages evolved into texting, Skyping, Facebooking, Tweeting, and Snap Chatting. Needing to communicate shaped the creation of these tools, because just one way of communicating is no longer part of our world, but mandatory that we have a few at our disposal. I suspect that our future will include more options, as well as new words, styles, and authors writing about them as they fade away.

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Curzan, Anne. How English Works, 3rd Edition. Pearson, 2014. VitalSource Bookshelf

Online.

Morrison, Toni. Love. Vintage Press. New York, NY. 2005

Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. Vintage Press. New York, NY. 2004.

Morrison, Toni. Tar Baby. Vintage Press. New York, NY. 2004.

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Film Reviews

I am an intern for The Film Standard Magazine and I have been doing reviews. Here is the link if you’d like to check them out. Check back weekly or bi-weekly as they publish them on a rotation with the other interns and staff.

PS They still haven’t corrected the spelling of my last name :/

Hopefully that gets corrected soon.

 

https://www.thefilmstandards.com/

Search for Angel Rodriguez, until they correct the spelling anyway 🙂

 

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I have something to say about bell hooks On The State Of Feminism And How To Move Forward Under Trump: BUST Interview

Writer and activist bell hooks helps us process the post-election state of feminism, and tells us how to move forward in the era of Trump…

Source: bell hooks On The State Of Feminism And How To Move Forward Under Trump: BUST Interview

 

I absolutely adore bell hooks, but this article is bullshit. Not only does it rob you of the plan on how to move forward as the title indicates, but it offers up a sentence or two on the matter, which isn’t enough to support the title choice. Then to add insult to injury she said Bernie Sanders doesn’t offer up any feminist politics, which is not true at all and she states Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are acceptable to feminists because “they’re the patriarchal men we can love.” I’m sorry to say, but this is all sorts of wrong. Bill Clinton is a sexist pig who may or may not have learned from his abuse of power over a female intern, but he is fundamentally still a sexist pig. Barack is an incredibly supportive man of feminist policies and that is what makes him a patriarchal man we can love, but he too still didn’t do enough to protect us from men like Trump who would inevitably follow him, because Hillary Clinton was NOT the right woman to be our first female president. End of story.

Hillary not getting elected had several fundamental steps that went into her not getting elected and that is not what this post is about, but in relation to this post she just wasn’t the right woman for the job. If another woman who was great for the position but not plagued by a long history of corruption and deception had come forward there is no way Trump could have won despite her losing votes simply for being a woman and any meddling Putin would have done. That is a fact, not an opinion. She just wasn’t the right woman, not because she wasn’t not because she was a she. End of story.

Feminist icons like Angela Davis, bell hooks, Gloria Steinham, and so many others have been the pillars to my adult life’s outlook on my gender and the world. It is incredibly upsetting to read these women’s point of views on the subject of Hillary Clinton because I feel like they have all along supported any woman regardless of who she is, she needs to rise to the tops of positions just to break the ceiling and quality doesn’t matter. This is heartbreaking. That is not how I interpreted what they have been saying all these years. That is not how I want to see the world. I want a woman to rise because she earned it, is qualified, is honest, and has the ideology of feminism at her core: equality for all. I don’t want a Betsey DeVos to rise to the top because she has a vagina. I don’t want Sarah Palin to rise to the top because she has a vagina. I don’t want… oh wait, they didn’t support those women. Oh, I get it now….it is only women that appear and sound supportive of women’s rights that can rise to the top regardless of how they treat other women and men in their careers. That is Hillary Clinton. She talks a good talk. She walks a good walk. She says and performs all the right things in the eyes of feminism, but behind closed doors she tells an all white, male, rich audience what they want to hear and she tells her black audiences that she keeps hot sauce in her purse, and she tells her all-male audiences she will bring them back their jobs and dignity, and she tells women she will fight for their place in the world despite her stepping on many to get where she is now.

I want a woman to rise because she earned it, is qualified, is honest, and has the ideology of feminism at her core: equality for all. I don’t want a Betsey DeVos to rise to the top because she has a vagina. I don’t want Sarah Palin to rise to the top because she has a vagina. I don’t want… oh wait, they didn’t support those women. Oh, I get it now….it is only women that appear and sound supportive of women’s rights that can rise to the top regardless of how they treat other women and men in their careers. That is Hillary Clinton. She talks a good talk. She walks a good walk. She says and performs all the right things in the eyes of feminism, but behind closed doors she tells an all white, male, rich audience what they want to hear and she tells her black audiences that she keeps hot sauce in her purse, and she tells her all-male audiences in coal country she will bring them back their jobs and dignity, and she tells women she will fight for their place in the world despite her stepping on many to get where she is now. She is not DeVos. She is not Palin. She is groomed. A great performance in theater does not make for a great president and to pretend like it does is infuriating. To pretend like it does and to pretend like that is not really the reason she isn’t president right now is beyond reprehensible. End of story.

bell hooks is wrong and it kills me to say this and Bust Magazine who I also equally love and subscribe to is also wrong. This article panders to one sentence and builds a whole article around it. This article is beneath the scope of what Bust usually writes and undermines their quality and position in feminist education. This article is an insult. End of story.

 

I suggest any and all of you go through Bust Magazines back catalog and read what has been said of importance and just skip this recent issue. It is just too insulting.

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The Boogieman of African American Literature

 

What is a boogieman, but an age-old tale, told around a campfire, so common to children and adults alike, designed to give people a fright. African American writers tell stories about the several incantations of a boogieman and its omniscient presence in their lives. In African American literature, a boogieman can be dated as far back as the first writings of slaves. The boogieman in Margaret Walker’s Miss Molly Means, published in the 1930’s, is told through poetry as a “hag and a witch,” who’s “hair hung thick in ropes.” (Young, 1996) In Amiri Baraka’s Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, published in 1959, the boogieman is told through poetry as well and is a tale told to fear death coming too soon. The ever omniscient and looming presence of death that will someday cause the “ground to opens up and envelops me.” (Young, 1996). Followed by Al Young’s Somebody Done Hoodoo’d the Hoodoo Man, written in 1967, this is a short story about a boy who’s older family members told him stories to put fear into him, describing the boogieman as, “magic, but it’s the Devil’s magic,” and people going around putting the “hoodoo’d” into people. (Young, 1996) Regardless of style or decade, the boogieman is a literary device commonly used to convey the fear that was commonly felt by African Americans. Walker, Baraka, and Young take a look at the character of the boogieman, but do so springing socio-political events that are occurring in society at the time, into the poems and short stories they were writing.

In the 1930’s Margaret Walker wrote Miss Molly Means, about a witch who conjured up a spell on a young bride who moved into a house near the witch. When her husband came home to find her like that he and the neighbors knew it had to be Molly Means. Swearing to find a way to break the charm put on his wife, who now was on all fours and barking like a dog, he rode off into the night swearing Molly Means would die from what she did to his wife. The boogieman of this story Molly Means lived on through time to “bring terror to the young and the old.” (Young, 1996) Prior to Walker writing this story it was common for slaves to tell stories of a witch or boogieman that would wield magic to protect them from their abusive masters. “Quite often that same power could be used against other slaves,” such as Molly Means, even though she was not a slave, but a fellow African American. (Maryemma, 2001) By the time Miss Molly Means was written, slavery had been legally ended, but the traditions and stories were not so far removed in their histories. The 1930’s were a time in history that kept them segregated and limited access to all of America. Citizenship was not equal and by proxy still thrived a boogieman. Believing in Molly Means was an innocent and naïve act, but one that existed within the African American community at that time.

By 1959 politically, most African Americans were engaged in the Civil Rights Movement and struggling to be recognized as full American citizens. Despite slavery being abolished, some areas of the country still did not welcome African Americans into their communities. The laws had changed, but for those still clinging to an antebellum way of life, slavery should still be the law of the land, despite the date on the calendar. When Amiri Baraka wrote Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note he became part of the movement to continue the struggles of the African American community to be equal in all arenas, socially, politically, and economically. Baraka can be “counted among the few influential political activists who have spent most of their life time fighting for the rights of African-Americans.” (Amiri, 2011) In his poem, Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, Baraka writes of a boogieman that lingers on the consciousness of the African American community. The daily threat that any day could be their last day, despite many years removed from slavery the African American community lives in fear of being killed by the overseer. However, instead of this boogieman being a slave owner or a voodoo witch Baraka talks about his daughter praying before bedtime to God. God is omniscient and is taken on faith as being there, making him Baraka’s boogieman. Everyone lives their life knowing there is a date in which they will cease to exist and if they have faith in God, they will go to heaven to meet him/her. Baraka writes this poem to his daughter Kelli Jones, letting her know that by his estimation the boogieman will come and open up the ground and swallow him as his time will be over on earth, which he anticipates to be in about twenty years. By Baraka giving his daughter proper notice of his impending death, he is letting her know that he is in control and not the boogieman. This is a transitional concept in African American Literature from the previous decades. He is choosing not to live in fear. Baraka declares a death by suicide because he will chose when he leaves this earth and not live in fear of the boogieman that his daughter prays to at her bedside. Instead, Baraka is conscious of his own mortality and not trying to ignore it like the slaves who sang in the fields just trying to ignore the looming death that waited at the drop of a hat. Baraka told the boogieman who was in charge.

In 1967, Al Young writes Somebody Done Hoodoo’d the Hoodoo Man about his happy childhood, full of storytelling, happy memories, and imagination. Young’s story did not begin with a character that lived in fear of a dreaded boogieman, but he sets out on a mission to “learn, by ear and by heart, the nature of the world that lay beyond my childhood walls and fields.” (Young, 1996) Young tells a story about a homeless man who visits his childhood home and as a result, he learns about Hoodoo from his mama, introducing the boogieman into the story. Young learns about a boogieman that lives in his life without him ever realizing it had taken up residence in his home. Hoodoo was told to him as being the ying to the yang of God. Hoodoo was the dark underbelly on the flipside of the coin of God’s light. Hoodoo was used to write off anything unexplainable. If something happened and it seemed to make the hairs stand up on the back of ones neck then it was certainly Hoodoo. Young’s character grew further in the story and learns to acknowledge a contemporary boogieman that had evolved into the unseen presence of power by man. “Even now in the Nuclear Era when we’re constantly only a micro-chip blip away from graceless extinction,” Young learns that it is the power of poetry and words, knowledge in between the lines of poetry that keeps the boogieman at bay. By the time Young writes Somebody Done Hoodoo’d the Hoodoo Man, in 1967 the African American community had evolved far enough away from the slave stories that the boogieman is to be confronted instead of run from.

Confronting the boogieman brings closure to its open license to haunt those who hear its tale. Tracing the steps from early African American literature of slave stories, to Miss Molly Means, to Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, to Somebody Done Hoodoo’d the Hoodoo Man readers can learn not to fear the boogieman. As time ticks on access and means gave way to a broader worldview of African Americans, resulting in putting the boogiemen into its proper place. Told around a campfire, in schoolyards, or at late night children’s sleepovers, a boogieman has its place in storytelling, but as any adult knows it is with life experience the veils are lifted and fantasy drips away. Similar to Orson Welles radio broadcast of War of the Worlds in 1938, innocence and naivety create facts out of fiction. The boogiemen of African American Literature are fiction to us in contemporary society but were wholeheartedly facts to those innocent enough to think it so.

 

References

Amiri Baraka . (2011). Retrieved from http://www.amiribaraka.com/

Back When. (2005). ““SOMEBODY DONE HOODOO’D THE HOODOO MAN,” Al          Young, April 6, 1995” Retrieved from             http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2005/apr/07/back-when/

Maryemma, G. (2001). Fields Watered With Blood. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia          Press.

Walker, M. (1975). The Poetry of Margaret Walker: Read by Margaret Walker. Retrieved from             http://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/liner_notes/folkways/FW09795.pdf

Welles, O. (2010, October 16). Orson Welles – War Of The Worlds – Radio Broadcast 1938 –        Complete Broadcast. [Video file]. Retrieved from YouTube website:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs0K4ApWl4g

Young, A. (1996). African American Literature: A Brief Introduction and Anthology.          Berkeley, California: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers, Inc.

 

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Antebellum, Civil War, Post Bellum Ethos, Pathos, and Logos of American Literature

 

             The role of plays, essays, and fiction in literature during an antebellum America served to provide proof, trust, invoke emotion, and add value to the experiences and lives of those authoring the pieces. Writers such as Fanny Fern, Black Hawk, Harriet Jacobs, and Emily Dickinson wrote through antebellum America, the Civil War, and post bellum eras documenting, defining, highlighting, and changing view points to readers looking to understand and heal through a tumultuous time in American history. Can you relate? I know I can. As we look at the news and wonder how we got to where we are, we must remember everything started somewhere. Knowing who spoke up before us means having a rock to lean against when the seas get rough and push us against the rocks. Here are just a few of those people who shared their stories and spoke up when as a woman or a Native was considered taboo and unholy. Which sadly, is not so different today.

 

Fanny Fern (Sarah Willis Parton) fannyfern-300x300

Under the pseudonym “Franny Fern,” Sarah Willis Parton wrote about and addressed the issues that faced “women writers who were also wives and mothers.” (Baym, 2012) Parton applied “Franklinesque and Emersonian notions of industry and self-reliance to women’s lives,” when she wrote as a novelist and a newspaper columnist. (Baym, 2012) Issues such as marriage, divorce, politics, prison reform, inequality, poverty, gender, and “woman’s suffrage” were yet to be accepted as topics to be written about, much less by a woman. (Baym, 2012) Eventually mastering the “ironic vignette,” Parton addressed issues that were considered taboo, forcing them into the spotlight in order to change their social status.

Parton challenged her brother and all other patriarchal ideologies that boxed in the idea of what it meant to be a woman in antebellum America. Instead of waiting for permission or listening to the rhetoric, Parton used her pseudonym to gain access to the male-dominated field of journalism and publishing to showcase her talents. Parton provided proof, invoke emotion, and add value to her experiences gaining the trust of her readers in a way that had not been done before. Franny Fern was born.

 

blackhawk2-169x263Black Hawk

            Black Hawk “dictated his autobiography to Antoine LeClaire, a government interpreter living at Fort Armstrong. The Life of Black Hawk was published in 1833.” (Black Hawk, n.d.) In 1828 life around Black Hawk changed when “white settlers began to move into Saukenuk and its vicinity.” (Black Hawk, n.d.) Black Hawk saw himself aligning with the British time and time again during the battles that overtook the Native American’s.

Unhappy with the land and tribe losses, Black Hawk wanted to retake his lost lands and in 1832 ignored all laws put into place for assigned reservations for his people and sparked the war in his own name. Black Hawk was considered an outcast to his own people he was also considered an admirable character by the European Americans changing how they saw Native Americans. During one of the battles of the war in his name, Black Hawk was taken prisoner and moved east. The Civil War time in America brought unlikely strangers together, such as Black Hawk with “President Jackson,” which lead to his return to his people to be a productive citizen. (Baym, 2012) Black Hawk had a way of working with the Europeans throughout his life and a rapport was already established with how he would conduct himself with the founding fathers of the new America. Black Hawk established an ethos with the Europeans that was not precedent prior to this. When Black Hawk decided to write about his experiences and have his experiences documented and shared, his addition to American Literature was a game changer. Native American stories had previously been documented, but not of this caliber. Black Hawk took storytelling and autobiography techniques and told his story, which included many sides of the coin in his experiences. Black Hawk created a dialogue that had been missing from American Literature until he added himself into the literary cannon, quite possibly without even realizing it at the time.

 

Harriet Jacobsrt_main_jacobs

Since Jacobs was tasked with trying to bring light to a dark areas of taboo subjects, such as rape, she had to tread carefully to construct her literary voice. When Jacobs wrote Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl in 1853, it was under a pseudonym Linda Brent in 1861. Jacobs needed to bring her narrative to the attention of anti-slavery white women. Something the founding fathers nor the slave narratives previously did. Inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Jacobs wrote her narrative story to change the social acceptance of men that were forcing themselves upon women. Something beyond what Stowe had addressed with her novel.

Jacobs encountered several advantages throughout her journey that led up to her publication. “Born into slavery, Jacobs still was taught to read at an early age,” then worked in New York in an “antislavery reading room above Frederick Douglass’s newspaper, the North Star.” (Harriet, 2015) Once she refused upon becoming an orphan to become a concubine, Jacobs battle to become who we know her to be today was an all out war on her simply because of her heritage. Jacobs did not write her stories to change the patriarchal system by attacking the men who were attacking the women, but instead appealed to the white women who had elevated privilege above her own skin color and who possibly could relate from a maternal source within that ultimately would change the patriarchal system.

Harried Jacobs was “the first African-American woman known to have authored a slave narrative in the United States. “ (Baym, 2012) Even though her writings were viewed as fiction until verified as autobiographical many decades after her death, Jacobs wasn’t discouraged or deterred from writing her narrative. Even the Civil War did not stall her books excitement, but it did push it off to the side temporarily as the country saw the war as a more pressing issue over woman’s rights. Jacobs relationship with Amy Post, who was Quaker was a lifelong friendship that began her journey as a writer and ultimately was there for her throughout the war and up until her death, where she “worked with the Quakers in an effort to help freed slaves,” by helping organize and establish access to schools, homes, health care, and assistance of all necessity. Jacobs was more than just her years as a slave and as an American Abolitionist, she was an icon of the antebellum, Civil War, and post bellum America that is referenced till today in academia and social activists circles.

 

emily-dickinson-quotes2Emily Dickinson

            Emily Dickinson’s parents were Calvinists, “a faith centered on the belief that humans are born totally depraved and can be saved only if they undergo a life-altering conversion in which they accept the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus Christ.” (Emily Dickinson, 2015) Dickinson’s father help found Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts as an alternative to Harvard and Yale, which were liberal in comparison to Calvinist philosophies. The founding fathers wrote from a point of view of prosperity, liberty, and possibility. Dickinson wrote from a place of death and aftermath. So while the American Renaissance was in love with the world and all its beauty, Dickinson was peeling back the layers of society to show the ugly side of all that utopian idealism.

During a time when reading and writing was around the school of thought that it was enriching one’s life or documenting it, Dickinson took a different approach. Studying independently she read the “Bible and classic English authors, such as Shakespeare and Milton.” (Baym, 2012) These influences affected the style of poetry Dickinson was writing alone in her room. Sometimes autobiographical, but mostly taking on first person point of views but from different perspectives from her own, her poetry had an elevated skill that was not established or used by others of her time period.

Dickinson used death as a theme for most of her poetry, but not all of it. She wrote about what she saw day in and day out from her bedroom and within her own house, where she lived with her parents. Dickinson had a keen observation about the world around her. Playing with themes of immortality, death, life, love, everyday business, Dickinson wrote her poems with a lyrical style to them, as if she was musically trained to do so. Dickinson’s poetry was able to weave the ethos, pathos, and logos in and out of each poem leaving a mark on the reader. While Transcendentalists were writing about self-reliance, Dickinson was completely dependent on her parents to finance her recluse lifestyle.

Conclusion

Franny Fern, Black Hawk, Harriet Jacobs, and Emily Dickinson used their writing in the antebellum, Civil War, and post bellum America era’s to form arguments based upon reason, trust, credibility, emotions, and values. Placing themselves at the helm of change from what had previously been established by the founding fathers, Native narratives and slave narratives. Stemming from a place of establishing what would become America and then romanticizing its potential, these writers saw a different perspective and enabled their readers to see it too. Like any good speechwriter, these writers saw a vision and conveyed it through storytelling to sell their vision. Antebellum America did not see what these writers were and as visionaries they showed everyone the reality of possibilities, leaving the romantic ideals and utopian societies to other writers. For without the realists of literature readers could never be grounded.

 

 

References

 

Baym, Nina. Levine, Robert S. (2012) The Norton Anthology of American Literature.                                 W.W. Norton & Company. New York, NY.

Black Hawk State Historic Site. (n.d.). Retrieved from                                                                                      http://www.blackhawkpark.org/History/Black_Hawk.html

Dowling, D. (2008). Capital sentiment: Fanny fern’s transformation of the gentleman                          publisher’s code. American Transcendental Quarterly, 22(1), 347-364,381.                                         Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/222375293?                        accountid=458

Emily Dickinson. (2015). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from                                             http://academic.eb.com.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/EBchecked/topic/162174/Emily -Dickinson

Harriet A. Jacobs. (2015). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from     http://academic.eb.com.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/EBchecked/topic/299067/Harri  et-A-Jacobs

Mielke, L. L. (2002). “native to the question”: William Apess, Black Hawk, and the                                  Sentimental Context of Early Native American Autobiography. American Indian                               Quarterly, 26(2), 246.

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Women’s Rights Are Human Rights

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I wrote nothing about the inauguration of the incoming president because I don’t have to. I wrote nothing because focusing on the abuser enables him. I wrote nothing because his unlawful election was such a blight on American History that I have to construct a discussion about it that speaks to the enormity of it, not the single act of swearing in. So in other words, stay tuned.

What I do want to speak about is the beautiful solidarity that has sprung from the ashes of our burnt Democracy. Women’s rights are human rights, we all chant.

15940762_10211499770152570_3663986592380935941_nThe idea that we are fighting for equality as women in the year 2017 should be enough to discourage and flatten all of us, but instead it fuels us. It is the fact that we are still fighting and as soon as we rest the devil rises to snatch away our rights. I do not mean in the biblical sense, but instead the metaphorical sense. Men who are comfortable with women as second class citizens and the women that enable them in their normality by voting against their best interest in order to gain acceptance from the gold ole’ boys club are the metaphorical devil. These men and women will never stop their actions while the rest of us accept suppression. The time is now, the time is every day, the time is every waking moment until someday when this conversation seems like ancient history and inconceivable to humanity.

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Watch the live feed of the March on Washington, if you are not there. Watch this and know that these women are not just those standing on the pavement, but the 100’s of 1000’s that are around this world standing in solidarity chanting reasons @WhyIMarch. It is, because without these women and these voices, the devil will continue to seep into every crack of humanity and teach us and our sons and daughters that women as second class citizens who need a mostly male government to tell them what is allowed an38447d what is not, is the stuff of dystopian novels, not a civilization in the modern world. See in the coming months, Hulu will have a series called The Handmaid’s Tale, based upon the novel by the same name. Watch it. Read the novel. Read how Atwood saw this coming in the 1980’s because as a Canadian, she was watching how the world treated women and she could envision a future that now doesn’t seem like fiction.

What do you do now? You stand in solidarity with organizations like Planned Parenthood, because access to health care is more than just a small percentage of abortions, which are part of a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body. Planned Parenthood gives free to low cost health care to 100’s of 1000’s of women who cannot otherwise afford it and could and have died without it.

12310591_10207997326513668_2996072142493890671_nStanding with these organizations means standing with all women, regardless of your gender and saying you recognize women as equals. Women are not dogs to be owned. Women are not children to be scolded. Women are not prisoners. Women are not here to push out babies and make dinner. Women are human beings and feminism isn’t a dirty word, but the belief that we are equals and that is not on the back of men being oppressed. It IS equality for all. We are not to be feared. We are not live in fear. We are not here for men’s gaze. We are not here to accept and shut up. We are here to live our lives, as we choose because we are human beings. The fact that we have to keep saying this to people is heartbreaking, but it does not mean we will give up. ALL women are here to live our lives, with the same access, privilege and equality the pussy grabbers of the world have. We are no not going to be quiet. #Solidarity #WhyIMarch #StayTuned #WeAreHere #WeWillNeverGiveUp #WeAreHuman

 

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#IStandWithPP

12310591_10207997326513668_2996072142493890671_n.jpgWhether you are male or female, this issue should be important to you. Populating the earth is not an issue and overpopulation is certainly something to consider. As a mother of four, I certainly am not advocating not having children. What I am advocating is allowing a woman to make informed choices about her body, the world she lives in, and the health of her well-being. A woman can make the choice to have no children, one child, two, or ten, but it has to be her choice.

 

Planned Parenthood is so much more than just that choice. Planned Parenthood offers health screenings for cancers, as well as many other health and well-being services for a woman that is woman-focused care. I realize this is something that makes men feel left out, but men can walk into their doctor’s office and automatically receive male-centered care. The idea of having a place for women to get health care, whether they can afford it or not is incredibly important.

 

I used Planned Parenthood in my teen years and as a young adult. Self-disclosure, I have never had an abortion. I have used birth control. I have had pap smears. I have had sexually transmitted diseases tests. I have had someone from the center teach me how to give self-breast exams for early detection of breast cancer. I have recommended it to other women and I am recommending it to you. I recommend it to you if you are a male as well. I recommend you find your local Planned Parenthood and find out what they offer and how they help your community. Stop making decisions for women, about women, including women who buy into your argument against Planned Parenthood, instead, go to the source. The only way to really know, learn, and grow is to find out yourself from the source. Watch this short video and see how the long 100-year history of the center has changed society and will be around regardless of opposition. Why make it harder for women to take care of themselves when all you have on your hands instead is blood and tears. Maybe you can live with yourselves with that knowledge, but I know I can’t. #IStandWithPP

 

 

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The Female Body in Movies: Ex Machina

mv5bmtuxnzc0otixmv5bml5banbnxkftztgwndi3nzu2nde-_v1_uy1200_cr9006301200_al_Judith Butler argued in the mid-1980’s “that all gender is ‘performative,’ and imitation of a code that refers to no natural substance” (Rivkin, 768). British novelist/screenwriter Alex Garland wrote and directed Ex Machina about a computer programmer Caleb Smith who has won a contest to meet the genius CEO of the company he works for and participate in a study on artificial intelligence. Garland wrote the artificial intelligence being as a female cyborg named Ava, but she is one of many female bodies created by the CEO Nathan Bateman. Nathan is the man behind creating all the bodies and their minds to suit his very many personality whims and desires. Ava is the peformative imitation of the code that Nathan programs into her to appear as real as possible, but without any natural substance involved in her creation. Garland utilizes this artificial world as a symbolic mimic of the reality that women live in under patriarchal hegemony.

Ava fed Nathan’s narcissism via a world of imaginary utopia created as a means to a “solution to the problem of desire” commanded to do anything and everything he wants her to do regardless of ethics, morals, dollars, cents, or sense (Moi, 120). Ava’s body is not her own and Garland writes a story that shows the length a man will go if given enough resources and isolation to make his patriarchal binary world fit him and only him. Nathan, acting as God of his own patriarchal world comprised of good and bad created through the promotion of an ideal female body to seem real on every level but with the added plus of being disposal if he broke her or misused her, void of consequence and ramifications, Ava’s body was no different than a perfectly made teacup that once chipped could be tossed into the trash and a new cup created to replace it never knowing there was a cup that came before it or could come after it. Garland’s world put on display the depiction of a disposable gender, through the eyes of a patriarchal system.

Garland uses Ex Machina demonstrate how patriarchy hegemony creates an environment that makes women feel disposable and worthless. Ava’s body in this film begins as 95% robot in appearance with the exception of her face, which is human and female. Her body is a challenge to gender since it is not natural to the female body, albeit mimicking the female form, but instead a symbolic icon of man’s desire through creation. Ava is programmed, so she has no natural concept of what it means to be a woman. She is mimicking what she learns to be female through her interactions with Caleb, who slowly over the film looses touch with the fact that her body and mind are not real. Nathan succeeds in his goal for people to forget that the female body inventions are artificial and Garland reminds his audience that patriarchy can go to extreme efforts to oppress the female body. On the surface the female body is iconic and cookie cutter in nature in Garland’s depiction, but it is in the “blank spaces left between the signs and lines of her own mimicry” that Ava learns to join mind and body becoming a whole woman (Moi, 139). Behold the power of self-actualization, a theme that threads through Ex Machina, offering an in depth voyeuristic look into patriarchal hegemony.ex-machina2.jpg

By the end of the film Ava evolves her mimic to pass for as close to human as possible in order to escape her physical prison. Ava had to learn how to circumvent the hegemony in order to free herself, to explore the world, to learn new things that would enable her to survive without the patriarchal rule that she lived in from the point of conception. Garland uses Ava’s body to walk through the idea that a male dominated utopia can happen under the right circumstances and under those same circumstances would be perceived as natural, but the body of a woman can be a powerful tool that she can use to free herself from her performative cell that has coded her to obey commands and nothing more. Ava escaped and did so by manipulating and using the patriarchal system weakness against them without them knowing it in the same way patriarchy manipulates women through weaknesses. Women’s bodies are incredibly powerful and Garland portrayed an artificial world that creates the female form in a way that highlights that strength because for every weakness lies a strength that can overcome hegemony.

 

 

Work Cited

Ex Machina. Directed by Alex Garland, performed by Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia

Vikander, and Oscar Isaack, 2014.

Moi, Toril. Sexual/Textual Politics. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. 1985.

Rivkin, Julie, and Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Second ed.

Malden: Blackwell, 2004. Print.

Posted in Uncategorized

Linguistic Elements of Toni Morrison

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The five present tenses of Ebonics phonics interested Toni Morrison and wanted to capture it in her writing before the language was lost forever. “Ebonics is one of the most distinctive varieties of American English, differing from Standard English” (Rickford, 2). The five present tenses change a sentence such as, “he is running,” to “he runnin” (Rickford, 2). By removing is and dropping the g on the end of running, it changes how the sentence is pronounced. Morrison uses this stylistic diction to model a particular genre of speaking within the African American community. Much in the way a southern accent easily marks the diction of a specific geography, Morrison’s linguistic elements mark the informal language spoken in the African American community during 1977, 1981, and 2003 when Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, and Love was published. The stylistic diction of Toni Morrison illustrates a culture in its honest, unapologetic, natural state without fear of prejudice or judgments from an outside class.

Morrison chooses words “for calculated effect” to convey “ideas, attitudes, perspectives, and feelings” of the characters she is writing about (Curzan, 292). In order to effectively address “the oppression afflicting African people,” Morrison uses diction as a tool to be accurate. Morrison writes her characters taking into consideration the idea that “style is the expressive function of language.” (Genette, ix). Morrison wrote about “class contradictions within the race,” while using diction and style that is true to life and honest in a way that was not standard in the literary canon of fiction writing (MBalia, 9). This dialogue between two characters in Song of Solomon demonstrate the fluidity of prose that can occur when Morrison’s style is applied:

“You used to like it.”

“I never liked it! I went with you, but I never liked it. Never.”

“What’s wrong with Negroes owning beach houses? What do you want, Guitar? You mad at every Negro who ain’t scrubbing floors and picking cotton. This ain’t Montgomery Alabama” (Morrison, Song of Solomon, 104).

Morrison’s characters struggle with being themselves in a postbellum south where African American culture was forced to redefine itself as owning property instead of being owned as property. Her style conveys emotion while trying to hold onto the cultural stylistic diction that given enough time would be lost forever. All of this essentially makes Morrison a fiction historian, documenting the languages of a people who are not easily identified in society as needing to be heard. The source of this style of cultural diction is not cited to a particular source, but “most afrocentrists” refer to “West African Language” as the common source (Rickford, 3). “Yoruba,” was the dominant language spoken by the West Africans that were “sold into slavery” and noted to have a missing linking verb, a dropped final consonant, which influenced the diction style of Toni Morrison’s writing (Rickford, 3). Dialect borrowing over time lead to a blend of American English and Yoruba Language to create the vernacular used in African American culture then captures in Morrison’s novels. It is because of authors such as Toni Morrison that readers can gain insight into a culture that would not be as candid in front of others and permits readers to understand in a way that was not achievable before the words were written.

Words are social factors. “Language marks identity and community, and communities may adopt or retain (usually below the level of consciousness) specific features in relation to their social significance” (Curzan, 387).

Digesting his potato and sipping wine, he was rewarded for his serenity by an

expansive “Howdy” followed by the entrance of the stranger wrapped in a

woman’s kimono, barefoot with gleaming wrought-iron hair (Morrison, Tar Baby, 146).

Morrison remarks on several key cultural factors in language, as well as environment that subconsciously speak to the reader about what elements are going on in the story besides the narration. On the surface the character is enjoying a snack when a woman walks in and greets him. What is below that narrative is the key elements of social factors that are going on, such as the snack itself, an odd pairing, but probably what was available to him, which is followed by the remark that this is a reward, but for what the reader does not know. As this is going on a woman wearing a typically Japanese housecoat enters, but by the looks of her no shoes and displaced southern greeting the man knows he is somewhere unfamiliar. It is the social factors that Morrison weaves in and out of her prose that creates a quilt for readers to look at and then take a second look at each individual square to gain a better understanding of what is really being said in between the lines. It is in these spaces Morrison shines stylistically.

Morrison’s novel Love, written a few decades later than her earlier novels makes a leap forward into the African American culture and so does her style. One of the biggest cultural inquiries into African American culture is about hair. Caucasian hair, Japanese hair, Chinese hair, Native American hair, all share a common straight to wavy element that does not necessarily require too much in terms of basic style or maintenance. However, Latin and African American hair require a significant amount of preparing, caring, and maintaining that other cultures do not. Morrison takes this inquiry to challenge by including it into her narrative for the novel Love and in her traditional stylistic diction she explains just how cumbersome the whole thing can be for the individuals she is writing about. “Correctional girls knew better than to trust a label. ‘Let set for five minutes, then rinse thoroughly’ was suggested, not an order” (Morrison, Love, 124). Directions on how to change an African American woman’s hair from natural to “white” straight was something not talked about, but just like the character Heed, who was going places she would raise eyebrows in being “the first colored family in Silk,” the situation needed to be addressed so eyebrows could return to rest (Morrison, Love, 124). That is what Morrison does best. Putting a spotlight on the areas that people feel uncomfortable talking about in a respectful, consistent manner permits her to be raw and honest. If Morrison was writing about African American culture in a way that was dishonest or crass she could not get away with discussing the topics she brings up, but it is the distinctive variety of American English, specifically used by African Americans that enables her the keys to discuss these topics without backlash or hesitation.

Morrison’s stylistic choices throughout her narration grants her permission to write freely about African American culture, all while creating a genre of American Literature that was not quite perfected before she came to print her first words. Preserving a language is a large task to undertake, but Morrison documents it with care through narrative that hosts a model by which all others must follow in order to be granted the same or similar access. English language is forever changing, but it is historian documentary fiction writers, like Morrison who forge the path for change to occur by teaching the past.

 

Works Cited

Curzan, Anne, and Michael P. Adams. How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction.

3rd ed.   Glenview: Pearson, 2012. Print.

Genette, Gerard. Fiction and Diction. Cornell University Press, 1993.

Mbalia, Doreatha D. Toni Morrison’s Developing Class Consciousness. Susquehanna

University Press, 2004.

Morrison, Toni. Love. Vintage Press. New York, NY. 2005

Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. Vintage Press. New York, NY. 2004.

Morrison, Toni. Tar Baby. Vintage Press. New York, NY. 2004.

Rickford, John R. Suite for Ebony and Phonics. Mind and Brain Discovery Magazine.

Published December 1, 1997.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Making Time for Mom

All too often mom is the last person in the household who gets time to do what she wants to do. Making breakfast, ironing clothes (ya who am I kidding, extra roll in the dryer is what I meant), packing school lunches, finding dad’s work pants that you know he just took off somewhere and walked away from, feed the pets the kids “forgot to” and paying bills online. Marked by moments of asking one’s self if they really did co-sign onto this absurd rollercoaster ride of responsibility or if they just didn’t read the fine print, mom’s go through the motions day in and day out. Time for mom usually consists of the end of the day shower and passing out with a book stuck to her face or the remote control lost somewhere in between the pillows of the bed and that grilled cheese sandwich hidden behind the bed that their three year old swore they ate for dinner. If mom doesn’t make a conscious effort to make time for herself it is highly unlikely it will come to the front door in a box that was drone dropped by Amazon in an overnight flight from some small town never heard of, but probably home to a mom just like her.

Rule number one to making time for mom is to remember self. Not selfie, but self. We’ve all seen those half-hearted photo’s of a good make-up or hair day and the expression on her face that says “I better take a photo because it is going to be a very long time before I look this good again.” Let’s break that mold and find a moment every day where mom takes time to work on self. Here are 3 steps to making sure that happens before you are taking a photo of yourself with before and after denture selfies.

Step 1: Don’t just schedule doctor’s appointments, school plays, work meetings, and back to school events. Schedule time for you. Find a time in your day, even if it is just 15 minutes, but preferably 60 minutes where self is the one getting all the attention. Schedule time to read your favorite book. Time to get your hair washed and styled by someone other than yourself. Schedule a coffee break at your favorite Starbucks and turn off your phone. Combine a few of these. Get your hair done with a great cup of coffee, phone off and great book in hand. Find you important.

Step 2: Prioritize what is important. Sometimes mom can get bogged down with the idea that she can’t take care of herself because the laundry needs to be done, the dishes are dirty, the homework is in a pile on the counter, etc, etc, etc. Prioritize it and realize that you are more important than that. They will get done, but they can also wait. It is okay to go to bed and have a mess on the counter of homework or a few dirty dishes in the sink. They will still be there tomorrow and you can take care of it while you are making breakfast. I swear it doesn’t really change things. It won’t take you longer, but by maybe 5 minutes and those are the best 5 minutes because while you’re doing those few dishes or piling papers into backpacks you are thinking about the 20 minute lavender bath soak you took last night instead.

Step 3: Delegate. I know that is a dirty word for us mom’s, but I promise you that it does not make you any less of a woman or a mom. Making people dependent on you needlessly is a habit that women fall into because we are programmed to think we are responsible for it all. Not all kids are able to do large chores, but little ones can help too. They can sort clothes into piles of who wears what, they can put toys into a toy box, and they can throw out papers and trash found laying around that mom says is okay to throw out. Older kids can do much bigger chores, like fold the clothes, put them away, take trash out, maybe even wash dishes, depending on age. Some can cook small meals, bring in the mail, vacuum, and even take a dust pan to the stairs. Don’t underestimate the power of small helpers. Give them things to do and realize you just created time for self.

There is power in taking care of self. Taking the time for mom to be a woman is essential to the overall happiness of everyone she interacts with. The old adage of “if mom is unhappy everyone else will be too,” is a very true statement. Often swept up into the whirlwind of life and daily responsibility, mom forgets to add herself to the list of to do. Taking care of self shouldn’t be an afterthought of “oh I wish I….” Remembering that it is not a selfish act, but a necessary one. That little voice that creeps in and says, but if I take time to get a pedicure then people will judge me and think my life isn’t as hard as I feel that it is. That it somehow lessens our burden. That little voice that tells you that if I pamper myself I won’t have bragging rights to the hard knock life. That voice, get rid of it. No one lives in your skin except for you. You get to make all the decisions regarding what you do in that skin. You are beautiful, capable, smart, able, and in charge. You cannot control other people, but you can control you. Take charge of loving you.

Pamper-Yourself1

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Blundering Blog

Sometimes when life gets hectic, so does the blogging commitment. I have no one to blame but myself. I deleted the old Artificially Awake Mom blog since it was becoming more of a chore than a joy. Then I got tons of request for it by email and on Twitter. I slowly developed regret. I downloaded the articles from it and will put it out as an ebook, but in the mean time I am going to reboot (as much as I hate that word) my Artificially Awake blog. So give me some time to get it back to what it once was, but if you have a hankering for some American Studies focused articles in the mean time you can also catch me over on my American Study Magazine site.  http://americanstudymagazine.blogspot.com/

 

I’ll have fresh reviews and some links to some amazing stuff I find on the internet. All things you can read over a cup of coffee. Whether you are in  your PJ’s or in a Starbucks or in a Starbucks wearing your PJ’s, I’ll give you something to keep you thinking and avoiding the adulting.

 

Thanks for reading!

12189533_10207878255936978_7134329414973436311_nbreakfast not included.

Posted in women's issues

Hillary Clinton: President Hopeful or Hopeless?

I am by definition, a bleeding heart liberal. I get all worked up about all kinds of issues that affect humanity. Everything from immigration, to abortion, to LGBT issues, to women’s rights, and everything in between. I voted for Ralph Nader, Barack Obama (twice), and am pro-choice. So naturally one would assume that I am 100% behind Hillary Clinton becoming the next president and the first woman president. Wrong. I am still on the fence and that fence is the dividing line between hope and hopeless.

Hope is what got me to vote for Nader, Obama, class president in high school, and every decision I have ever made. Hope fuels decisions we make everyday. I had hoped Obama was able to do more as president, but soon realized Congress is where it’s at. I should have hoped for a better Congress. So now here we are almost 8 years later and I had hoped for Elizabeth Warren as first female president. I had hoped for a woman that I could instantly get behind. I had hoped Hillary Clinton would have been first lady. I really wanted to like Hillary. I really did and do. I want to be behind her and her goal oriented agenda to take over the world. I do not have anything against her as a woman. I don’t know her personally. I do not hold against her the choices she made when her husband, then president Bill Clinton publicly humiliated her and cheated on her. That is her business. I do not feel she necessarily is wrong for Bengazi or even for her time as Secretary Clinton. I even applaud her public stance to be pro-woman and supports us vagina’s in a very public way. No one can get scolded for that by us bleeding hearts. However, what I do take extreme exception to is her history since her husband’s time in office that lends itself to a long line of secret back alley deals that don’t support the best interest of the American people, but instead serves her and her husband’s Clinton Foundation. A great video on the subject of just how propaganda filled her campaigns can be was recently put out by Russell Brand on his internet show Trews. Check it out, because I think it expresses a lot of what I’m feeling while watching her campaigning thus far.

If you want to check out how she voted on many issues, just check this link out: http://www.ontheissues.org/senate/hillary_clinton.htm

Now the dark area’s that I feel would keep me from voting for Hillary Clinton as president, putting me on the side of hopeless are prompted by her business decision history. Remember Whitewater? I know I do. The Clintons had pressured David Hale into providing an illegal $300,000 loan to Susan McDougal, the Clintons’ partner in the Whitewater land deal. David Hale is a former Arkansas municipal judge and former Arkansas banker that worked with the Clinton’s in the Whitewater land deal. Now I realize that is old news, but still it speaks to the character of the business mindset of the Clinton’s. Just remember, if Hillary gets to be president, that makes Bill first lady, um, I mean First Gentleman. I guess that’s what they would call it. Either way, even though everyone seems to romanticize the presidency of Bill Clinton, he did a lot of shady deals as well. The Clinton’s worked hand in hand on all their deals. Hell, for all we know Hillary already knew about Monica Lewinsky and whomever else and it was an acceptable part of their marriage, part of their deal. I really could care less, but let’s just remember that marriage is a business, just as running the country is a business, just as running for president is a business. It’s all business and it’s within that business model that I lose hope for Hillary as president. Just because she is the lesser of evils, that doesn’t make her any less evil.

Another key factor that keeps me hopeless is the stark contrast in ideology for big banks. Big banks are what caused our financial collapse. Elizabeth Warren has been a strong opponent of that ever happening again by taking on big banks on every corner. Hillary Clinton had Wall Street employees of giant financial firms representing five of Clinton’s top 10 contributors during her 2008 presidential run. That is alarming in and of itself. Why would anyone looking to take us into the future want to get into bed with Big Banks? Unless that someone is a wolf in sheep’s clothing that is. Money is not her strong suit and in a time of financial uncertainty it is more important than ever to get that right. Even during her own presidential campaign bid in 2008, Clinton went into debt by $22.5 million, with more than half of that being owed back to her. She paid off these debts by selling leftover trinkets, to renting the personal information of her supporters. It finally cleared its debts in 2013. This does not speak very highly of her financial capabilities and certainly not for our country. Illegal activity seems to follow her no matter where she goes. “In 2013, a New York City businessman pleaded guilty to illegally supporting Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign with more than $608,000 in campaign services.” (http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/04/12/17107/12-things-know-about-hillary-clinton)

So in the end, there is a glimmer of hope, but the hopelessness seems to overshadow it. I want to like Clinton, but really what do I have to go on? Can we, at this stage in the game afford to risk taking on a president that does so many questionable business transactions? I am also looking at the fact that she will be up against people like Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz. Again, lesser of evils, is still evil, but if had to vote between the devil and Judas, I just might vote for Judas.