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Final Web Event: Losing My Voice

Somewhere between high school and college, I lost my voice.

Sitting the classroom circle, the same question is constantly circling and circling around my head: why, after all these meetings, books, essay, movies, tests, am I still silent? How can I come back to my room and excitedly recount what was discussed in class to my roommate, when I’ve left class without uttering a word? How is my eagerness to learn and to learn from the others in my classes untranslatable in my failure to externalize my thoughts?

Why is my silence such a hindrance?

Somehow in my head I’ve myself small, retreating inwards and renouncing any space my voice could take up in the conversations in class. Not just in this class, but all of them. Midway through my ESem class, I found myself in a conference with my ESem professor, assessing my participation in class. I was voicing regrets that I hadn’t contributed more to the discussion, for I was constantly hesitant to enter my perspective into the forefront of critical interpretation of one of the texts we’d read in class. My professor too wondered why my voice had waned to silence since the start of class, when I would participate regularly.

Why hadn’t I spoken more? Had I chose silence? Or had I fallen into comfortable shyness?

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3rd Web Event: Bounded Bodies

This morning I ate 5 sugar cookies for breakfast. Immediately after I washed down the last cookie with some lukewarm English Breakfast tea, I began carefully planning the rest of my meals for the day, excluding anything sugary, whilst reminding myself that I exercise twice a week (but that’s enough to keep off the weight, right?). This worried, calculating, self-shrinking mentality accompanied my logic for skipping meals in middle school, telling my mom that the cafeteria food too hard to chew with my braces so, yeah, of course, Mom – I had eaten when I got home when, in reality, I hadn’t.

It’s nearly 2014. Never before has there been a time more centered on self-care and abolishing the extreme, inaccurate mass-media portrayals of women. Despite this, though, how can women still have these self-defeating, body shrinking thoughts?  

Some Huffington Post statistics have taught me that women experience an average of 13 negative thoughts about their body each day, while 97% of women admit to having at least one “I hate my body moment” each day.

And women are bound quite literally by their clothes. Skin-itching, thigh and stomach suffocating, sequined, short, skinny clothes. So much so that the damage is left irrevocably on their skin with grooves in their shrunken skin from skinny jeans and bras. Only 5% of American women naturally have the body type advertisements portray as ideal.

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Misinterpreted Muteness

Since I wasn’t able to participate in the silence activity in class on Thursday, I thought I’d share my thoughts about it here.

Silence is solitary, personal; it reflects inner turmoil, past musings, incessant thoughts.

Inside that silence, there is power. Power to keep truths guarded and personal, or to refrain from conflict. There is also repression (but this is only perceived by others). In choosing not to express ideas, feelings, memories, stories, silence becomes what another interprets.

Inside that power is manipulation. The Silenced could be misinterpreted because their silence does not divulge their intentions, actions, thoughts, etc.

For Eva, I think her silence is stifling. She is a product of what people make of her. She has had no claim in who she is, for she relies on other’s mistaking the way she looks at them, the way she presents herself. I feel as though she has a childlike way of not speaking. She lacks self-awareness, and this prevents her from realizing early on how her self-presentation is being misconstrued. If she had known earlier how others were seeing her, before the recurrent abuse started, she then could’ve tailored herself to not be what was wasn’t an adolescent. It’s after years of abuse that she conforms to what others think of her. She assumes that identity as her own. Instead she just kept quiet. But, at the same time, she is almost passively defiant because when she speaks, it is usually to say, “Naw.” She has the power, but does not externalize it, never loud enough for her to be heard.  

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2nd Web Event: Where are the Women?

In the 1960s and 1970s, teachers and scholars asked, “Where are the women?”

This question echoes the second-wave mantra that turned attention to the rising issue that women were facing in regards to sexuality, familial expectations, discrimination in the workplace, and many legal inequalities. Women’s Studies was born from the student, civil rights, and women’s movements of the 1960s and the 1970s.

San Diego State University is credited as the first college in the United States to offer Women’s Studies courses. Cornell joined in the movement in same year, 1970. This came to fruition when students from SDSU’s Women’s Liberation Group, along with faculty and other women from the community, formed an Ad Hoc Committee for Women’s Studies. The committee, who felt women’s voices had little representation on campus or in the curriculum, collected signatures from over 600 students in support of establishing a Women’s Studies Program. They hoped the program would address issues such as political equality and questioning gender roles. In the spring of 1974, the Faculty Advisory Committee undertook a nationwide faculty recruitment campaign to develop women’s studies as a strong academic department. The initial course offerings mirrored the concerns of first-wave feminism. Some of their mission statement reads, “We will continue to host engagements that increase awareness surrounding issues of gender and sexuality, acknowledge the social change we hope to foster, and celebrate the transformations we have accomplished.”

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Merely a Suggestion

For this week’s post, I wanted to comment on our classroom structure reform because I don’t think the 5-second pause worked last Thursday. Topics, ideas, comments were lost amid the silence and confusion. Quickly it became difficult to keep organized who had just spoke and who was waiting to speak. I don't think we should be focused on restraining the oppurtunity to speak. Instead of sitting in shared silence, maybe we could promote more talking for the continually quiet by bringing back the ice-breaker activities we did in the first week of the class. We could use prompts from the weekly readings or from our Sunday Serendip postings and have one-on-one or small groups discussions to start off class. That way people who want to continue talking about a topic from Tuesday’s class have the opportunity to, and people who usually don’t speak during class can raise some questions or comments to someone in the class so at least on a small scale so they can be heard, then after 5-10 minutes, we can start the full-circle discussion and bring some of these smaller discussions to the forefront.  

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How I See Myself

“To be able to create our identity in terms of who and/or what we really are, we have to find out through individual interpretation and understanding of certain terms and connotations of language” (Fuss 1995; 233-240).

For my anti-self-portrait project, I asked my friends and family to describe me with their own words. Asking them to use language helped define different aspects of my personality. They used words like, “introspective,” “smart,” and “stubborn” to describe me. As the individual, I can interpret their meaning and gain an outside understanding of how I presebt myself through their choice of language.

Introspective, very self-aware. My best friend mentioned this, and she’s referencing countless times we stay up until 3 in the morning at sleepovers trying to figure out why we think and act the way we do. When I’m meeting new people or I’m in unfamiliar social settings, I’m thinking simultaneously about how I’m coming across to people (Am I being funny? Am I being friendly? Am I saying too much? Is it not enough to make an impression?). Sometimes I’m too trapped in this insecure, self-concious frame of mind that I don’t say much to someone I’m meeting for the first time.  

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Outside the Barometer

The barometer activity on Thursday highlighted the fact that my definition of feminism is under-developed. Every day in class, as I’m listening to others voice their viewpoints of gender and sexuality from such standpoints of age, ethnicity, time period, and society, I feel my perception of this broad, limited topic expanding. When I was standing on the outside of the barometer especially, I found myself agreeing with both sides for different reasons. To feel liberated wholly internally, some feminists need to express their personal experiences and theories in autobiographies. Others need to feel the repercussion of their words make a movement in a society. Feminism is about personal empowerment, and it’s about social movement. I think that’s what I’m getting from our readings and discussions. Through either medium, the voices that usually go unheard or have been in the past are getting the chance to express themselves. Isn’t that what connects the two extremes of opinion? It doesn’t matter how the voices get out to the public, which needs to listen (and,therefore, act) the most, it’s when and to what degree. That is what matters, and that’s why recognizing the both sides of the barometer is important.  

(I’m sorry if this doesn’t really relate to the topic we've been discussing, I’m just trying to get my thoughts all sorted out. I think this rant-y kind of post is helping me making sense of how my thought process has been changing throughout the class.) 

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The Comfy Couch Perspective

On Thursday my gender was represented as my partner Kalina's drawing of a couch. She told me that she chose a couch because they are comforting. Within the first five minutes of knowing me, she could discern that I’m completely accepting of all genders on the spectrum. And she’s completely right. When you’re around me, just do you. As long as I’m aware of your personal pronoun preference, I won’t hesitate to support you. It’s who you are. And I don’t care what society says, you’re normal to me. I believe gender is a personal spectrum set in a societal binary. It can fluctuate day-to-day. One of my best friends is genderfluid, and she’s told me that – on most days – she feels more comfortable in a more masculine style of clothing but on other days she’ll sport a dress. On both occasions she is being herself, and that’s what’s important. Society has tried to make gender a binary, but honestly the definition of gender depends on the person because it’s how they indentify themselves and how they feel comfortable presenting themselves to others. The definition of gender is expanding and evolving – and I believe for future generations, gender will be seen on personal and societal spectrum. 

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My Avatar: The Enchanted Rose

Hi everyone! The image I've chosen to be my Avatar is the rose from The Beauty and the Beast. Originally I meant this to illustrate the 'Rose' in my username, and what better image to use then one from my favorite Disney movie? When I was little I used to look up to Belle because, to me, she was the most relatable Disney princess. I admired her because she is intelligent, kind-hearted, loves reading, and had such a close, loving relationship with her father. And she doesn't let her first impression of Beast overshadow their relationship; with an open mind she takes the time to see him for who is truly is. These traits are a part of the person am I today thanks to a feminine hero of my past. 

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