Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog


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realization

Well for starters I really enjoyed reading Salvage the Bones, but of course I always yearn for more. :/ However, unlike Walker’s ending in The Color Purple, Ward’s was real, raw, and unhinging. The poetry throughout the entire novel was phenomenal..and I listened to it using an audio book and whoa. The descriptive imagery and personification made it so real and artistic and magnificent. I just kept thinking, “Failed poet????” HOW.

I look back to my childhood and I remember hearing about Katrina and raising money in my class for victims, but I never realized the severity. As I read I wondered why my mom didn’t tell me all about it. She’s very progressive but for some reason I can’t recall an explicit lecture. I mean I wish she had told me about the fact that the government screwed up with the levees and that the storm actually missed them. I wish she had told me about how long they were without food or clean water. Just thinking about it brings me to tears, because this is such a tragic moment in our US history. And there are so many adolescents who don’t pay their proper respects. Schools should still be actively working to fix homes and schools and libraries..but really just one home would make a difference.

I really enjoyed part 1 of the documentary we watched and intend to watch the other parts, but I have to recommend Trouble the Water since it’s told from first person, and she films days before the storm and days afterward. This way you get raw footage of everything that goes on. Here’s a clip from a song she made about her life (prior to Katrina). She lost everything in the storm, including family, but this one CD is hers, her one thing, just like Esche’s dad’s photos. 😥

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Gender norms vs Equality

I was talking to my boyfriend recently about raising kids. He talked about how we should teach our children to do what they can to accentuate their inherited characteristics for the good of their success in life. In other words, he thought that mothers should teach women to be feminine (the strong kind not the weak kind) in the workplace to uphold power for women, rather than being inferior, resorting to bland suits as Adichie mentioned in her Ted Talk. He said that it was empowering that Adichie could own the room, and still wear her shiny lipgloss. Before we connected this to Adichie, I kind of freaked in defense. I told him that I would not be encouraging my daughter to wear make up for any kind of aesthetic appeal because she would just be taught to succumb to society’s standards. We agreed that I would not do that until our daughter was at least in high school. Remember that there is a fine line between looking appropriate to show professionalism, and wearing makeup or dressing up because of dependence on society’s approval. He has a point. While we want things to be equal between men and women, they simply aren’t. A father is not going to choose to not teach his son to be tough when he falls because it is related to the standard of masculinity. He’s going to teach it because it is a good virtue to learn. A parent isn’t going to tell their daughter, sit however you want, legs open or closed, because we don’t want to conform to societies standards of a lady. Being tough is a good trait for men and women, and so is good manners, and so is dressing to the pin for formal occasions. If we want equality we have to uphold good virtues for both sexes, not diminish ones that play a part in gender binaries.


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Don’t Buy into the Bullshit

In the scene where Ifemelu and her friends are discussing old friends and who is getting married, Ifemelu notes that no matter how she tries to change the conversation, it always comes back to marriage. It is as if being married gives a woman worth. Which I’m sure they feel. Who doesn’t feel a sense of affirmation of existence or validation of worth when someone has vowed to love you forever and no one else? However it certainly should not be something people are fixated on or desperate for.

I found it sad that Priye is judging the success of her wedding by the amount of governors (esteemed, privileged, wealthy men) that attend her wedding. It did not matter if they were in a drug cartel business, or selling prostitutes in the black market, or actively using women as prostitutes. It only mattered that it gave the wedding significance.

“It shows you’re connected. It shows prestige,” she says.

In Adichie’s Ted Talk, she explains the ways that we as a society raise our children (male/female) very differently. To boys, we praise and teach confidence, masculinity, and entitlement. To girls we teach vulnerability, dignity, virginity, aka “mannerly” behaviors. Why shouldn’t we teach mannerly attributes to both? A man is praised for “nailing” a woman or more subtly for “landing a good woman–great cook, great mother, etc.. However women are discouraged from talking about boys or having sex, yet expected to find marriage quickly (and if not they are frowned upon for being loose).

“You marry the best man who can maintain you,” she says.

Typical notion of a woman being represented as inferior, subordinate, etc. This struck me as memorable because so often we (women) overlook sexist situations. At times we may complain, but too often we perpetuate it. Inherently, this is not merely a “men” issue. It’s a society issue. We must refuse to perpetuate our own oppression!


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Social Media

So I posted this portion, and the rest of this quote, on Instagram because the entire time I was reading I was resisting the urge to scream YES YES YES AMEN. I even got all emotional eyes watering and everything.

“..in America it’s white folks who have the power. How? Well, white folks don’t get treated like shit in upper-class American communities and white folks don’t get denied bank loans or mortgages..”

Guess how many likes it got? 17. (I only get angry about likes if I can compare it to much less worthy photo that somehow gets phenomenally more). This only shows that people are either 1. too lazy to read the entire passage or 2. they see the word Black or racism and swipe up *running for the hills* It is ignorant to run away from the conversation. This is why I posted it. Adichie points out the importance in becoming a color-conscious community as opposed to color blind. By circulating articles, blogs, good findings of any sort that support the cause, we are moving toward that switch. Even though I get little to none attention on  my endeavors to bring awareness of racism to my social circle, I will not give up. Calling upon my first blog BE FREAKING LOUD.

So, I have a video for you all to watch but I will warn you it is disturbing. I was in utter shock and disbelief. (there’s no physical violence shown though FYI)

When people say that racism is in the past..look we have a Black president.. you either delve into scholarly supported responses to those ignorant statements..or you could easily just show them this. Maybe use this as a preface and then tell them all of the ways in which institutional racism is oh so prevalent in America TODAY.


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Fashioning the Body as Politic

Wow what a film! I didn’t think the movie was strange at all. It was so artsy and the acting and cinematography was great. I was entertained the whole time. Although, I never would have appreciated it as much without reading the article we were assigned. [Disclaimer: the past two nights I’ve had three hours of sleep, no nap zone, so bear with me if my thoughts, punctuation, word choice, etc. are all over the place or just flat out wrong.]

Angeletta Gourdine offers wonderful insight to the many themes brought up in Daughters of the Dust. She uses the term “body politic” which is a recurring theme we’ve seen throughout the semester. In The Color Purple Morrison brings attention to the dynamic between Shug and Celie and their bodies. While Celie is seen as plain or drab (wearing a dress that, “doesn’t do anything for you anyway,” (mirroring her personal struggles and the oppression in her story), Shug’s image expresses the opposite, depicting her performer lifestyle of a confident, beautiful woman. Shug’s image doesn’t necessarily mean she’s prettier than Celie, Shug may just have this mask on perhaps to mask her misery or even just satisfy the body politic that her audience would expect. In Silver Sparrow we discussed the whole “silver” concept and what it meant to be beautiful to Chaurisse. She anxiously awaits the moment in which her mother deems her old enough to change her hair. To Chaurisse this means everything. It gives her a sense of hope that she could one day pass for silver in someone’s eyes. In the clip we watched of the women in the hair salon, women of all social strata were paying big bucks to chemically alter their hair to achieve the “natural” look. Well, obviously that looks isn’t natural for black women and you wonder if they genuinely like the style, or if it has any connection to body politic and how society views the concept of beauty. Gourdine calls this body politic a “social skin.” She uses a quote by Foucault that says, “because the self is not given to us..there is only one practical consequence: we have to create ourselves as a work of art.” The whole film was a work of art and it used symbols of clothing and the inherent body politic to paint a political picture for us. Gourdine goes on to address the fact that, “blackwomen have always had two bodies- their natural corporeal one and their political one.” The character Yellow Mary is a perfect example of this. While her natural, human, blackwoman features, characteristics, mannerisms, opinions, values, and so on make up one body, another body embodies a collective history of rape, conquest, enslavement that blackwomen have undergone in the past and further still, a “hard woman” in the present.

This is just one idea that Gourdine presented that stuck out for me. Bye folks, hope this made sense..energy drinks can only do so much.


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Let down!

Well, after reading the entire novel I was a little disappointed with the abrupt ending after so much leading up to that awesome climax. Gwen and Dana walk into the shop crossing all boundaries, knowing there’s no turning back, and then one little scene passes and BOOM, epilogue and she’s thirty. I wanted to see more about how James was going to have to suffer and how his absence would have shaped Dana further. I also wanted to see how Gwen felt about her decision to tell the wife and in turn, sacrifice the husband and father of Dana. I wonder if Dana even had a say in revealing the big family secret. Perhaps at that point, when Dana started to hang with Chaurisse more, Gwen felt that it was the perfect opportunity to release the burden she had bared for so long. The ending was just didn’t give me much satisfaction. Maybe Jones and Morrison envisioned the drastic change from start/middle to last few pages as eventful or ironic or something, but it only frustrated me. I didn’t like it in The Color Purple either.

What I did like was Gwen’s complexity of character. She was pretty ambiguous, and we know she went through a lot, but there were definitely some things that needed to be unpacked along the way. Although Gwen’s confrontation in the shop was inevitable, I was disappointed with Gwen’s immaturity. From the perspective of psycho-analysis, the defense mechanism she used was projection. The audience knows that she’s really only angry (pissed) at James, but instead she projects it onto Chaurisse and Laverne. To Laverne maybe I can understand, but to Chaurisse (all of that smug attitude in her apartment) was a low blow. Today we talked about disability, and I felt like this was Gwen’s. The inability to access emotions and process them in a healthy manner.  This ultimately blinds her and deeply impacts her role as the angry mistress, the neglected wife, and the dysfunctional parent.

I really wished we could have seen more of her character, and what she takes on as a bold, independent mamma proceeding her and James’ separation. 😦


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Paidea Moment

So as I read I cannot help but look at Dana’s actions from a developmental psychology perspective. There are a few types of attachment styles. The most common three are secure attachment, avoidant attachment, and anxious/ambivalent attachment. I’ve concluded that she falls under the category of anxious/ambivalent. I’ll tell you why I think this.

Even though Dana’s mother has most often been attentive to Dana’s needs and cries, she works full time and therefore, cannot always be depended on. Dana is given a heavy burden, which entailed a great deal of independence, beginning early in her developing years. Her father is probably the main reason for insecure attachment, since he is literally not in her life for half of the time. Because her father has never given her consistent attention and affection, and is at many times insensitive towards her feelings and emotions, she is an insecure young adolescent. She is also suspicious and distrustful, yet at the same time, clingy for his attention. This is classic for kids with anxious or ambivalent attachment. This is illustrated when she claims that the only reason her father will not allow her to see Marcus, is because he does not want his secret being revealed. Nevertheless, when her father shows sincerity in saying that he loves her, she reciprocates, feeling something interesting (for lack of a better word) as she tells her daddy that she loves him too. “The word tasted a little sharp, like milk about to turn, but still, I wanted to say it again and again.” Man this quote tears me up. I aspire to be a parenting counselor in the future, and this kind of thing just hits home for me. It worries me that she is already showing signs of poor psychological development. These traumas can be hard to reverse without therapy and support from family or peers. I can only imagine the dark roads her past will take her down, as a wife, and a mother even.