Posts Tagged ‘ ENG363

ENG 363 – “The Argonauts”

I’m stuck on one line Maggie Nelson wrote on page 37.

I cannot hold my baby at the same time as I write.”

This is something that I feared when I became pregnant, when I decided I wanted to have children. I wanted more than one before I had one; but having one has made me realize that, mentally, I cannot handle more than one. And I think it is because of this sentiment I share with Nelson.

I cannot be a proper mother while being myself.

Nelson references her quote of D. W. Winnicott that echoes how I felt with “I had nearly four decades to become myself before experimenting with my obliteration.”

I don’t think I had that. I think I was still striving to find who I was before I had my child, while I was pregnant, and even after he was born.

Women struggle with identity in ways that men will not understand. We have feminists telling us to be ourselves, to make our own decisions, to do what we will, to find our own truth of life. We have the patriarchy telling us to be good and start a family while we can, before complications arise from age, before whatever. Before we’re whole. Be a mother before you’re human.

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ENG 363 – “The Rules Do Not Apply”

I will admit, I did not read the whole of The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy. I have been busy at work, getting back into the swing of things after being off for a week recovering from surgery. I skimmed the book, found a few short chapters that struck my interest, then ended up going back to find out who people were and what was going on. I was mainly interested in how Levy spoke on her miscarriage.

Miscarriage and infertility affect the majority of women, but seemingly are never really discussed. By discussing it emotionally, viscerally, socially … Levy is making a big feminist move. It’s a thing that can only happen to people with uteruses but no one talks about it because it’s a “women’s problem”.

I have my own issues with infertility that I haven’t really discussed, even with those closest to me. I usually just give them a run down version – physically incapable, my meds prevent me, something like that. I’m 35 now with a 9 year old, and I’ve not “given up” on trying to have a kid, I’ve realized that I don’t actually want another kid. I didn’t really want a second but convinced myself that I did because my spouse did. I’d have to get off my meds in order to attempt again, and we tried. I can’t handle my mental issues without my medication. We discussed this  between ourselves and both agree that we’d rather I be a human being than a baby factory.

I’ve had friends deal with miscarriages, and it’s a difficult feeling to know you’ve done everything right and it still goes wrong. I think that’s part of what Levy means with the rules not applying – you follow all the rules to do what you want, and it still goes wrong. Most rules are just best guesses anyway. I’m reminded of a great quote from Star Trek: The Next Generation from Picard that stuck with me for a long time: “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life.


A quote from last week’s email from the professor for this course:


As we hit the midway point of this course, it may be valuable to you to blog about blogging: what is it like to write online about your writing, in this (somewhat) public way? Have you blogged before this course? Why or why not? How does knowing you are going to blog about these books affect your reading?


I said in a separate conversation with the professor that I’ve been blogging since before blog was a word. That may be a slight exaggeration. I have definitely been blogging since before blogging was a profession. The word blog, short for weblog, came around in the days of online diaries. The anonymous over-sharing that came around first on people’s private web pages, then on sites such as livejournal, myspace, friendster, xanga, tumblr, wordpress, facebook, twitter, and whatever else will come in the future. I’ve watched platforms come and go. I’ve watched online friends come and go. I’ve followed the lives of people I’ve never met, and people who have never met me followed my life.

Look at the side-bar. There are posts dating back to 2000. They were backdated on this wordpress (installed 2007) but have been part of my life, my site, since the 90s. I’m ancient on the internet. I’ve been making my views known to whoever will read them for 20 years or so. It was new then. I was a nerd for doing it then. It’s just part of life now. Not just for me, but for society in general.

The only manner that knowing I have to blog for this course (and for other course(s) taught by this same professor) is that how much of non-academic me do I want to let bleed into my writing?

  • I am used to writing academic papers.
  • I am used to writing blogs.
  • I am not used to blogging academically.
  • I am used to writing gigantic blustery papers that take ages to get the point.
  • I am used to writing short, witty responses to media I’ve consumed.
  • I am not used to writing short-form responses to things I have read for an academic audience. 

This has been a fantastic writing experience for me and I absolutely enjoy it. I don’t know how many people, if any, are really reading any of this (my site stats tell me it’s not many at all—my dealings with Valve’s foreign transaction fees continues to be my most read post). I can only hope that those who come here for my writing for classes stay and read my other writing (and try not to judge to harshly what 15-25 year old me wrote).

ENG 363 – “Dear Ijeawele…”

The premise behind Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is what to do to raise your child a feminist and/or be a feminist while raising a child. Hot on the heels or reading Crispin’s so-called manifesto, I was thrilled to read something that actually added to the conversation of Feminism without just being an angry rant. Angry rants are for blog posts (see my previous ENG 363 for a prime example), not for printed publications. Those poor trees that suffered for Crispin’s independently published diatribe, may their spirits haunt Melville House for eternity.

My goodness does Adichie get it right; and by “get it right” I mainly mean she echoes what I already have decided is the best way to raise my child. She reminds her friend that she is more than just a “mother” and that “mother” does not mean “primary caregiver”. The first line that struck me and made me want to quote it is “The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina” (15). Damn straight it doesn’t! I can’t cook for shit! Even with mail-order recipe and food services I still can’t cook! I do not have the mental energy or attention span to do it at all! My husband does all the cooking and I love him so much for it. We started our life together cooking “equally” but soon realized that doing half of the work drained more out of me than him, so we adjusted.

The suggestion to abolish/ignore marketed gender roles is an absolutely important one, and one I absolutely live by. My son has a dollhouse (which no one in the family would buy him for Christmas, so we bought it for him afterward) in which live action figures, Funko Pops, dolls, and papercraft Minecraft animals. He rarely plays with it now, but it was an interest of his for a while to have Anna and Elsa living in the house, Doc Brown in the garage, and Groot in the yard, and so on. While he may be embarrassed at school to mention these things, we remind him that not everyone realizes that children can be “as much of a boy or girl as they want” without ridicule, and so they likely ridicule their kids or condition them to be ready for ridicule. Like Adichie suggests for her friend’s daughter, we don’t measure our son by how much of a boy he is, we measure him on how much of himself he is.

Adichie’s “Feminism Lite” is given a short section in suggestion four, but it is an important one. The idea that men do, and women are “allowed” to do, is insanity. I do not work because my husband “allows” me, I do not create art or write because my husband “allows” it. I do it because it is who I am, and he is supportive of it (and as Adichie points out, “support” is what women do). I’m reminded of the phrase, “Behind every great man is a great woman,” because it implies that a woman should be grateful that she is supporting a man.

“Feminism Lite” also bleeds into much of the rest of the letter/book, especially in section six in which she says to question language. I’m reminded of an article from 1933 about Freda Kahlo, headlined as “Wife of the Master Mural Painter Gleefully Dabbles in Works of Art“. I can 100% assure you that I have never learned about Kahlo’s spouse in art history, but I have always learned about Kahlo as an accomplished artist (and, to point out, not as a “woman” artist, but an artist outright). I have a mohawk and dye my hair, I get tattoos. I sometimes get asked what my husband thinks of it (he loves it, though he would not do any of this himself) and I reply, “he helps me with the hair.” I do not acknowledge what they’re seeking to find, that he “allows” it or that I am “rebelling” against him, but skip to the implication that he’s fully supportive of me being myself. The most important take-away from this section, though, is “Teach her that if you criticize X in women but do not criticize X in men, then you do not have a problem with X, you have a problem with women” (27). This is something that needs taught not only to children, but to adults, to managers, to people in power, to the media, to everyone, everywhere. It is something that I sometimes have to remind my manager; I am a woman in a male-dominated field (as an aside, I am an artist and writer, but I am employed in an engineering role and do my job quite well). He may be enlightened enough to know that my gender has no bearing on my skills (just as my hair, my tattoos, etc. equally have to effect on my work) needs to listen to criticism from my coworkers about me and take into account that they may not be on the same level. Are they complaining that the behavior is wrong, or are they complaining that a woman has behaved that way?

I am glad that Adichie address the ideas of sexuality and romance as well as the shame and insecurity that come from discussing it. I see too often in feminist literature that these ideas are brought up, but not truly discussed. Relationships between two people, whether the heterosexual norm or not, should be about communication and mutual benefit. Femininity is too often about sacrifice and Feminism is too much about about not-sacrificing. Rarely does Feminism and Relationship discussion come down to actual interpersonal communication, authors opting more often to take an us-vs-them approach that echoes the misogynist viewpoints found in history. Turning a bad thing upside-down doesn’t fix it.

Adichie’s central feminist message for the child and mother is that “Be a person, a whole person, and do not define your self, your worth, or your choices by what society says you, as a woman, should do.” She doesn’t once tell anyone to “Just Stop” being a certain way, but rather accept that everyone come from a different place and has different hurdles to cross, and that their choices are their best choices. You can have opinion about things, but you cannot force your views upon someone – you cannot make them “Just Stop” as Crispin would love to be able to do. Adichie’s manifesto is much more useful for feminism, and for humanity. Though her background is far different from mine, her advise is universal.

ENG 363 – “Why I Am Not A Feminist”

“Why I Am Not a Feminist” by Jessa Crispin starts out like so many other feminist manifestos: a plea to not be treated like “every other feminist”. She takes it one step further by declaring she’s not like the other feminists that are claiming they’re not like other feminists. The conversation about feminism internal to the movement seems to be a bunch of accusatory navel-gazing that completely excludes everyone who is not actively trying to be a feminist. Crispin directly calls out that feminism can’t be palatable to the masses in order to make a difference in society, but then who is this manifesto for? (Hint: not me.)

The first section of the book makes me think of why I don’t identify myself with (as Roxane Gay put it) Capital-F Feminists—Crispin comes from a place of privilege where one can just stop doing things that are damaging to the feminist movement, whatever that may be defined as. This “Just Stop” mentality is great for people who can do it, but they seem to forget that not everyone is them, and not everyone can “Just Stop”. Just Stop, Just Do It. Easy words to say when you’ve got safety nets, maybe that’s why there are still “reluctant sisters”. WE KNOW OUR “ROLE IN THE WORLD IS FUCKED” CRISPIN. Crispin keeps turning to the second wave as what NOT to be and what has caused so many people to NOT be feminists now. Growing up there were many “hairy biker dyke” stereotypes in the media I consumed, but I never associated that with feminism (or Feminism), but rather with assholes who fought against feminism. Why does Crispin keep returning to this strawman? Is she so out of touch with reality? Or am I? Crispin is right to call out the identity politics of the feminism label, but this seems like a really flimsy argument. She claims the label of feminist has become so weakened by trying to be mainstream—so why does she care at all about the label (even so much as to put it in her title)? Rather than spend the entire manifesto railing on the weakened state of the label and naming names of people who have weakened it, couldn’t she have, instead, I don’t know, actually provided suggestions and insight into how to make actual change?

Section two … again straw man arguments and false dichotomy. She rails on a fictional other faction for not taking into account all aspects of a woman’s life but then fails to take into account anything other than her limited “feminists” and “traditional women”. She ends with a real good question: “Has feminism created the space for men to take on traditionally feminine traits at the same level it has created the space for women to take on traditionally masculine traits?” (35-36), but the question I’m left with is why did it take so many pages for me to get the point where I’m actually interested in what she has written? Feminism is about smashing the patriarchy (which damages both men and women) and she has only thus far focused on how the label of feminist has damaged women.

Section three opens with insults to Andrea Dworkin, who I had first heard of in this manifesto as Crispin’s strawman’s scapegoat. “Obese, frizzy-haired, without even a hint of lip gloss.” Congratulations, Crispin, you just insulted the majority of American women, myself included. But wait! That insult you gave is what the strawman says about us, not you! Please stop. Please. Crispin again advocates for “Just Stop” radical feminism. She calls the counter to her advocacy “Choice Feminism” – merely the act of making a choice (without a man) is an act of feminism. She addresses reality only slightly but quickly dismisses it with her “Just Stop” attitude. She addresses the privilege white middle class women have with “Choice Feminism” but conveniently doesn’t acknowledge that her own choices, specifically her choice to JUST STOP doing non-feminist things, is from her privilege as well.

Section four acknowledges that the problem is people and society, not men and women, which I am in absolute agreement with Crispin on. She advocates getting into the system and being a rebel rather than getting into the system and begin comfortable. This is what feminism should be, and what she’s been arguing against up until now. I could have saved 30+ minutes of my life just starting at section 4. Everything up to this point has been logical fallacies and poor arguments of an angry feminist; everything up to this point would have made me stop reading if I didn’t have to read the book for a class.

Section five is full of hypocrisy. Crispin calls out human nature to form the dichotomy (us-vs-them) but the first three sections of her manifesto were doing just that. Again, this manifesto would have been much better without those sections. The psychology presented in section five is sound and something I’ve thought before reading this book; people use projection to paint their “enemy” with whatever bad things they see in themselves. It’s easier to paint a strawman with bad qualities and claim to be “not that” than to acknowledge your own failings. I think in this section Crispin is projecting herself onto a hypothetical “you”, a reader she’s pleading for forgiveness from for her failings in the first part of the book. She set up a human nature that refuses to examine itself and then claims to be “not that.

In section five, Crispin brought up that no one talks about “toxic femininity” in the way they talk about “toxic masculinity” – I think that in that sense both are part of the patriarchy and the patriarchy is the problem. However, Section six talks about the revenge culture of feminism: this is the “toxic femininity” that needs to be talked about. Shouting down and destroying someone for disagreeing or for saying something disagreeable will have the desired effect of silencing dissent, but it silences all conversation as well. “Using the excuse that men have controlled and dominated the conversation for centuries does not justify using their methods to try and wrench control our way” (103). Crispin is clearly an advocate for humanism over Feminism, as this sort of outrage culture tears down the humanity of all, degrading “them” to nothing more than another label, and making “us” just as shallow.

Section seven solidifies that Crispin and I are mostly on the same wavelength when it comes to the manifesto portion of her manifesto. Everything before she got actually serious was garbage that was either included to pad her word count or to draw in those that might disagree with her in order to get them to read what she REALLY means to share. Or its just fomenting literature, as the first section of section seven is summed up with “fuck off men.” She again has a “Just Stop/Just Do It” attitude in regards to how men become/remain feminists, but then wants cooperation in building a new, equal world, where romantic love and relationships are not central to personal worth.

Section eight is entirely on one point that I live by (though not in her exact words) – “The way we deal with other people’s inhumanity is to insist on our humanity, not by insisting we are somehow a better, more honest version of human” (136-7). “Our job is to act like humans” (137) echoes what I often tell my son why we do things like consider what we say before we say it, consider our actions before we take them, and apologize when we make the wrong choices. We exist together for each other, everyone. Make it a good existence.

Section nine, if the casual reader ever makes it that far, is serious backpedaling from Crispin’s earlier stance that Choice Feminism Is Bad And Hurting Feminism. She again takes a “Just Stop” stance at the very end, but this time says “Just Stop” calling yourself feminist if you aren’t going to be a radical feminist. By stating in the title that she is not a feminist, Crispin admits to not being a revolutionary that can change the world, but then why write a book? “I’m a western white woman, listen to me!” but she has almost nothing to say. “I’m not like other girls” but then explains exactly how she is like other girls. She decries the injustices of the world and says “you’re all doing it wrong” but then also does it wrong. Then says “but we’re all human and capable of doing it wrong!”.

Crispin said some things I agree with, but not in some insightful, inspirational way that would make me raise this book up and say “Read! Read and be enlightened!”; especially when she devoted several pages to how men should seek enlightenment elsewhere. Yet she wants to rally everyone to addressing how the patriarchy fucks over all humans? But fuck off men. Not a fan of this lady.

ENG 363 – Pop Culture & Diversity

The readings for this week were the “Race and Entertainment” section of Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and “Moving Beyond Pain” by bell hooks. One of my classmates touched on a point I previously hadn’t considered regarding these two takes on pop culture representations of race and women. There is a lack of diversity while being diverse. Shows with a diverse cast but not diverse roles are often lamented by actors of color.

I am reminded of the plight of new actors, which I’ve seen explained by Carolina Ravassa on her youtube channel Hispanglosaxon. While most of the episodes focus on her issues with being “too white to play Latina, and too ethnic to play white,” she also discusses on, when being cast to play an “ethnic” role she is often expected to play a hyper-sexualized service role (see season 1 episode 9). While shows may be casting people of color, they’re still casting them into the same, tired roles. Though it may be the entire cast (in the case of Lemonade), hooks laments that they are playing a stereotypical role (the body as a commodity in the background). With Orange is the New Black, there is a diverse cast (some latina, some african american, etc) they are all, still, some sort of criminal.

Jonny Cruz, another actor of color, in an interview at a convention was asked what to do when offered a role that perpetuates a stereotype. He admitted that he once took a role of a “thug” or “gangster” early on because he needed the work, but it made him feel awful. He knows he took the role because he needed a job, money, experience, etc, but he’s refused to do similar roles ever again. His advice for other new actors of color is to know that if you don’t feel right about a role, you do not have to take it. If you do choose to take it, you do not need to feel bad about perpetuating a stereotype so that you can eat. It’s a difficult position that the media puts minority actors in, but there is some solidarity and understanding in the actor communities.

ENG 363 – “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay (first half of book)

My fear with any feminism class I take and any feminist book I read is that I’ll be beaten with the two-by-four of feminist rhetoric telling me how awful I am for not embracing the gold-star feminism of hairy-pits and man-bashing. It seems Roxane Gay has this same fear. While she starts the book with essays about herself, she goes on to discuss how pop-culture has skewed her view of feminism and how it could (and does) skew others’ views as well.

I am particularly taken with the essay “Garish, Glorious Spectacles.” I’ve long considered gender (masculinity/femininity) to be purely a performance. It’s an act one puts on to get responses. I’ve never been attached to either femininity or masculinity, having spent much of my younger years being told I was a “tomboy” for liking the things I liked and never really having much interest in the script for “girl”. My lovely housemate found that she also didn’t have much interest in the script for “boy” growing up, and now is finding that the script for “girl” doesn’t quite fit either (but moreso than “boy”). She revels in her ambiguity now, and as I told her I love seeing her happy, “You make others as confused about your gender as you are!” Gay’s readings of “Green Girl” et al affirm/confirm our right to be confused about ourselves by showing how the media portrays the “act” of woman. We know what we are, yet here is a popular TV show showing us what we say we are is not the definition they want to portray. The stereotypes of women are entertaining—an actual woman is human, normal.

Gay’s “Not Here To Make Friends” elaborates more on the stereotypes of women in media negatively affecting women in general. A woman who is portrayed as independent and bold is unlikable, but the same for a man is the ideal. Such it is in life – a woman in leader ship is bossy while a man is just the boss. The essay goes on to to say that it’s foolish to thing of a character needing to be likable to be a good character, man or woman, but a man often gets a bye as the “anti-hero”. A woman is just a bitch.

English Classes – Summer 2018

I’m enrolled in two English classes this summer that require blog posts for interaction. I’ll be putting them here on SDO with tags for each class—ENG350 for Dystopian Lit and ENG363 for New Feminist Memoir. Use the links here or below the post to find all writings as they are posted for each class.