I found both of today’s readings to be pretty dense, to be honest. Foucault’s Body Tropes and The Symbolic Body and the Rhetoric of Power are both very wordy and contain a multitude of ideas that were a bit difficult to weed through. I was able to get a few good points out of each of them, however.
Foucault’s Body Tropes discusses the normalized body, which I think is a big part of society today. Societal norms are rules and guidelines that society deems as normal or correct, and everyone and everything that does not line up with these guidelines are looked down upon or shunned. I think that having grown up with these norms, it is easy to overlook them. Particularly for people who have never taken a class like this one, or a sociology class or something of the like. Growing up, we have always been shown by the media that it is desirable to be thin and undesirable to be over-weight, but why is that? I’m very curious about what kind of body image I would have if I hadn’t been trained by the media and society to think of my body in a certain way and desire the “normalized” body.
The Symbolic Body covered a lot of different perspectives, but I was most interested in the end of the reading where more present day ideas were discussed. I particularly liked the expression “The body is a mere wrapper, better if beautiful” (110). I felt that this resonates very well with society today. Everyone likes to say that the body isn’t important and it is what is on the inside that matters, but in reality it is clear that everyone makes judgments based on outward appearances. So even though the body is just a wrapper for the mind or the soul, it is better if it is beautiful because people will make more favorable judgments of you if you are outwardly attractive. This relates to the normalized body idea as well. If you have a “normal” body on the outside you will have an easier time of things than those who do not.
September 14, 2014
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
"The Symbolic Body and the Rhetoric of Power" by Laura Verdi, started off as a difficult read for me. Some of her phrasing and language seemed too wordy and I found myself getting lost from her reasoning behind her points. However, by page 102, I started to get us to her style and was able to pick up and understand some of which Verdi was saying. One of the points I highlighted, was when she discussed the use of binaries. She said that we use them in order to cope. By putting people or things or concepts into two distinct categories, usually one opposite from another, then we can simply look at the options and say it is either A or B. This idea has a lot to do with the body, more than Verdi even went into. Simple statements about being ugly OR pretty, fat OR thin, put people into categories without room for a gray area that might define them as more than one identity. We as people are always going to be more than one thing, sharing parts of multiple categories to make us who we are.
Another point I found interesting was towards the end of the article where Verdi discussed the change in perception of bodies with the Industrial Revolution. "Nudity was no longer looked upon negatively, nor was it removed through the conceit of the natural distance of mythological studies. A healthy body did not need to hide behind a sacred body to be portrayed or behind a sick body to becomes the object of public devotion," (109). As people become more aware of how to take care of their bodies, they respected them more fully, taking care of their health and going for higher education. I thought it was interesting that nudity was now seen as art and as something that people would want to capture and view, where as they were so oppose to it before. I think that by moving away from a scared image of a saint or an angel, for example, and portraying as human how they naturally are, made a human made more natural and even more appealing. Looking at a holy figure seems almost unattainable. But looking at a "real" person, in their natural state must of almost been a relief because the viewer could seem themselves in the art work.
Daniel Punday's "Foucault's Body Tropes" I found less interesting since I am not at all familiar with Foucault and his theories. However, I noticed that both articles spoke of the two bodies of a king. I never thought about how a leader is basically the body that represents a nation, leading the people with his own physicality in ways that we the people can not. I liked how it was phrases in Punday's article, that a monarch "embodies the whole of the nation," (515). In one of my Shakespeare classes, while studying King Richard II, we discussed the Great Chain of Being (God, Angels, Humans, Animals, Vegetation, etc). This concept coincided with the play because the king was seen as having both a human side, but also being closer to God than the average, lowly human. In this way, he was both worldly and divine, chosen by God to lead the nation. Both Punday and Verdi's articles touch on this subject which shows our value of leadership and how we assign bodies to watch over or unify a society as a whole.
14 September 2014
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
“The Symbolic Body and the Rhetoric of Power” and “Foucault’s Body Tropes”
In Laura Verdt’s “The Symbolic Body and the Rhetoric of Power” and Daniel Punday’s “Foucault’s Body Tropes”, there was a shared discussion of body politics or how the body is conceived within society. Both articles detail how the body is affected through the space in which surrounds it, but also the factors that put pressure or control upon these bodies. They acknowledge that bodies can be and are looked upon through specific lenses and therefore gain a rhetorical importance; thus, these lenses (or forces) must be examined closely to understand the true impact on the bodies themselves.
Verdt’s work puts a particular emphasis on the power structures of society and how they influence the bodies themselves. It appears as if she views these bodies as being smaller parts of a larger system and they belong to the system itself; bodies share pressures created by this society and they often conform to the system as a result. What was especially interesting to me was Verdt’s mention of the Internet, where she states: “Individuals are once again gathered by their likeness, and the individual personality is absorbed into the collective personality.” I interpreted this as meaning that individual internet users (or “bodies”) come together in virtual spaces where they find similarities within each other and then engage in a rhetorical discourse; this is translated into a larger discourse in which their similarities blend together to change these individual perspectives into a shared (“collective”) personality. However, I thought this idea might be complicated by the fact that the Internet does not always bond over similarities, but differences. I find that often members of online communities can come together to acknowledge problems that certain individuals do not necessarily experience themselves, but wish to promote as well; the recent ALS “ice-bucket” challenge comes to mind, as well as the Internet coverage of Ferguson – many non-affected individuals have shared these events out of a desire to acknowledge differences within our society and how attention must be paid to these differences. To Verdt’s credit, she does state that, “The social perception of the body is always changing, diachronically and synchronically, according to the time and space where body is inscribed, taking on different valences in the social.” The rest of her work explicates this idea by discussing historical perceptions of the body and how this has evolved through forces such as religion and technology.
Like Verdt, Punday focuses on the body and the pressures put upon it as well as the spaces the body occupies. However, Punday puts a greater emphasis on the body itself, referring to it as a site – the body is an origin of discourse. He discusses Foucault’s first use of the body-as-a-site trope in reference to the transition from torture to incarceration in the 18th century and onward. I thought this was an intriguing event to consider since society went from purposefully inflicting pain (and even death) on the body itself to a more subtle long-term form of control. Incarceration, surely, is a form of torture for the mind as well as the body which is forced into submission. This is an extension of societal control in which bodies are expected to adhere to ideas of normalcy and when they go out of bounds they are meant to be disciplined into obeying to an expected performance. In a more general sense, Punday views the body as occupying a space in which society utilizes its power upon it: “The modern body, we can say, is the normalized body – a body subjected to scientific, social, and economic survelliance.” This suggests that the body is constantly monitored without consent or control by the mind operating it. The body is part of a greater system that dictates the expectations well before the mind is aware of what is happening – think of baby girls dressed in pink and given dolls while boys are given trucks and action figures. This is only one suggestion of expectations, of course, but the important fact is that there are these expectations and pressures. The body occupies the space in which these pressures exist, and thus the body is in fact a site to be considered – they must be studied through a rhetorical discourse to understand the body as well as the site.
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
14 September 2014
“Symbolic Body and Rhetoric of Power” written by Laura Verdi, as well as “Foucault’s Body Tropes” by Daniel Punday were difficult to read. They both discuss how the body is used as a source of power.
The article written by Laura Verdi goes more into depth about how the body is seen within society. The article only begins to discuss the body in modern times in the last few pages. While it still very difficult to understand, this section is a little bit more interesting. As time moves forward, the body begins to change and develop to match the society. For example, the article mentions how, “after the Industrial Revolution, the new division of labor, the introduction of ordinary medical practices in the daily life of an increasingly greater number of people, the changes brought about by the improved eating habits of adults and babies, higher schooling levels, and women’s participation in the production processes—all these allowed the body new visibility, which was also due to the now prevalent tendency toward rationalization” (109 Verdi). All of these inventions led to a change within people’s daily habits. As people begin to learn and grow, with these new inventions, people began learn how to take care of their bodies so they could not only live healthier, but longer as well. As I’ve learned, nothing ever stays the same. Over the years, the body has changed greatly.
The second article, written by Daniel Punday, discusses Foucault’s ideas in which the body is treated as a site. This article was even more difficult to read than the first one. This was because more of the topics being discussed I haven’t learned before. Punday compares Foucault’s theories to that of Freud’s. He writes, “Foucault makes clear here that Freud has provided him with far more than a foil against which to develop his anti-repressive theory of sexual discourse” (517). He even writes how, “This spatial model is clearly an important part of Foucault's thinking about the disciplinary system and, consequently, about the body as a “site” in which power and discourse operate” (518). Freud is extremely important in Foucault’s ideas.
Corporeality and Cultural Rhetoric
According to Aristotle, rhetoric is supposed to be used in order to guide people towards learning. The examples that McKerrow gives of western rhetoric show that not only does western rhetoric refuse to guide women to an understanding of knowledge, but often purposefully leads them to an opposite goal.
As O'Meara (1982) notes, the exclusions in the female version "are structured .. . to fit their readers into the hierarchy of power represented by the society of their time" (p. 204). While the male text seeks to empower the Prince, the female text "acclimatizes" women "to a role that excludes political power" (p. 204).In other words, men are taught to create history; women are taught to consume it. (McKerrow 315-316)
This style of rhetoric is transformed into a male dominated one sided argument that guides women toward political and theologically constructed ideals. As Plato would state, it is nothing but bad rhetoric, if it could be considered rhetoric at all.
This construction of rhetoric was formed due to the age old ideal that women’s bodies were predisposed to be inferior in the art of rhetoric. Their emotional faculties were more suited for the private sphere. This argument is still sometimes used today. Just recently a journalist made the off handed remark that Hilary Clinton would make an unfit president due to the fact that her daughter was pregnant. The assumption that as a grandmother she would be softened by her emotions and unable to think logically is the same argument that McKerrow makes note of on page three hundred and seventeen:
As Jane Sutton (1992) illustrates, rhetoric developed in a culture that saw
it's practice in terms of taming excesses (a sense reflected in later historical references
to rhetoric as the "harlot of the arts") through the male-dominant exercise of reason.
Thus, rhetoric unbridled is womanly; rhetoric tamed is manly (McKerrow 317)
McKerrow also states that this ideal leads men to believe that any emotion during rhetorical work would be considered contamination. That “They are the products of bodily impulses and forces that have mistaken themselves for products of mind.” (McKerrow 318). The idea of arguing from only one faculty and completely excluding the mind is similar to trying to solve a formula with only one half of the equation.
The idea that men and women are so different mental and physically that they cannot even use rhetoric the same way, is in itself a product of rhetoric. These ideas have been argued and persuaded for centuries in order to become part of the cultural construct. Ironically the only way for it to become an extinct form of rhetoric is also rhetoric.
Reading Response 3
In the Symbolic Body and Rhetoric of Power the author seems to focus a lot on the idea of how the body is seen within a social culture. This article talks about how the body plays into basically ever part of human nature. People use the body to judge each other and they use it to create laws. It talks about the body in relation to stardom and how stars bodies play a large part into their career. It talks about how people create laws based on things that the body needs or desires. It talks about how the body is used as a basis for the creation of most different art forms. People need to use their body physically in order to do certain jobs. The body plays a role in every part of human life. It mentions how social wise ideals about the body change on a regular basis. People are constantly changing the way that they look at and judge the body. I believe this is very true. People in society today focus very much on the way that everyone looks. People obsess about their own looks and compare them to everyone else’s. They try to reach what the media tells them is the way that they should look. The way that people look can affect every aspect of that person’s lives. It can affect whether or not they get a job or a promotion. It can affect the way that people view them as a person even though the way that someone looks does not necessarily tell you about the character of that person. There are a lot of parts of the appearance that people cannot change. All they can really change is the way that they present the way that they look.
Foucalt’s Body Troupes seems to focus more on the body as being a site. He focuses more on the physicality of it all. He talks about how the body is subjected to surveillance of scientific, social, and economic. He talks about how each individual person has their own place based on the way that their body is judged in these senses. Using this information he talks about the fact that people can use the body as a source of power. He seems to talk a lot about the idea of discipline such as manipulating the body into doing what people want it to do. He even goes into talking about the individual parts of the body and how they can be used. At the beginning he even mentions they idea of how people are punished for varying crimes. Originally the way that they punished people for their crimes was by physical torture but somewhere along the lines it changed to incarcerating people. Both forms of punishment affect the body and show how people can manipulate the body in order to have power over other people. He also talked about the idea of pleasure and how people can also use that to manipulate other people. Power seems to have a lot to do with the way that the people in power decide to treat a person’s body. I never really thought about the idea of power that way before but it definitely makes a lot of sense.
Critical Response 3
The most interesting portion of Laura Verdi’s “The Symbolic Body and the Rhetoric of Power” comes out of the subsection titled, “The Reasons of the Body”. Towards the end of the first paragraph Verdi writes, “Removing the body from the subjugation of the mind and from mechanisms of social control has always meant giving unbounded satisfaction to body drives…”. This brought up an interesting point regarding the body that I do not believe I have ever given much thought. What would happen to the body if we, as a species, were to just sit back and allow it to be. The way a rabbit wakes up in the morning and does not look into a mirror to check and make sure his ears look okay, what if we were to behave like that? There is a need to tend to the body in order to make it appear as close to the “ideal” as possible, however no one really enjoys performing those tasks. I doubt girls truly enjoy spending minutes, sometimes hours putting on make-up and fixing their hair before going out. It is the body’s “subjugation of the mind” that causes us to act this way. If we were more focused on tending to the natural needs of our inner body I cannot help but think we would be better off.
There is another side to this argument though. What if someone’s “bodily drives” are desiring something immoral. There have been plenty cases of murder and rape that have been defended by saying that the person just simply could not fight off the desire to perform the act. The only way I could think to defend this in the context of Verdi’s argument is to discuss the pre-existing nature of the perpetrator’s mind leading up to this intense desire. I do not believe that anyone is born with a desire to kill and rape. This is a very controversial topic and this, of course, is only my opinion, but I believe that the brain of someone “evil” has been conditioned that way as a result of society’s subjugation of the mind. As you grow up you witness al of these things in the world that represent some sort of power. You see presidents, wealthy people, firemen, athletes, and so on. As you get older and strive to be in a position of power like these people your brain becomes identified with the idea that you need power to survive. When you feel less capable of achieving power through any of these moral ways, your mind looks for other ways to achieve large amounts of power in a relatively short amount of time. This is the cause of rape and murder, again, in my opinion.
September 15, 2014
The Symbolic Body and the Rhetoric of Power & Foucault’s Body Tropes
Daniel Punday’s Foucault’s Body Tropes discusses Foucault’s theory of “speaking of the body as a space where various discourses conflict.” In relation to Foucault’s theory feminists understand that females are subjective in relation to men. The differences are not only sexual but they go on to be more difficult and complex noticing women’s racial and economic differences. How we describe bodies plays a role in how we think of a person as a whole. What a person looks like and how they present themselves is a reflection based upon what we may infer about their “look.” The body is thought of as a “site” and changes with the times. Foucault “treats the normalized body as a spatial “site” because normalization depends on space to order and differentiate individuals.” How we view “norms” is based upon the body view according to the gender of the body. We are used to seeing people based upon our own ethnicity, race, culture, and “norms” that we have come to know and understand but the knowledge of different cultures and ethnicities can allow us to break the views we are used to and allow us to use knowledge to see people in a different way as “once knowledge can be analyzed in terms of region, domain, implantation, displacement, transposition, one is able to capture the process by which knowledge functions as a form of power and disseminates the effects of power.” Knowledge will provide us with the power to see people as people in the body they are in and not based on their image of what we classify them as, but rather who they are.
LauraVerdi’s article The Symbolic Body and the Rhetoric of Power allowed me to think about the human body in a physical and social aspect. In relation to Daniel Punday’s article, I can think about the human body in a physical and social aspect portraying to the “norms” and customs based upon gender, ethnicity and race. The body is sexed to be seen in a male or female standpoint. How the individual dresses the body is a reflection upon their individuality, race, ethnicity, and sometimes even gender. Males and females are expected to dress in a way that shows their gender. Males are supposed to be dressed in pants and shirts, while typically women are to wear dresses and skirts. The cultural perspectives of the bodies determine how the individual will dress their body. Regardless of gender, our culture has changed over years to allow the gender of the bodies to be able to dress our bodies as the individual sees fit. If a woman is wearing pants, it is more culturally expected and accepted in today’s time than it would be years ago. “According to the stereotype of manly classicism, moral values were embodied and realized in ideal measures, any variations on which had to be seen as deviance (Mosse 1996). The body is to be seen in a social relation to how a person will dress based on their social engagements, and also physically as to its gender. “The social body, yet again, was reflected in a powerful and normative male body, both in the iconography of power and in medical theories, like those of Lavater (1803), of the second half of the eighteenth century.” This shows the dominance of the male gender in our society in the past, as well as the present.
September 17, 2014
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
Raymie E. McKerrow's article "Corporeality and Cultural Rhetoric: A Site for Rhetoric's Future" made a lot of informative and thought provoking points about the perception of woman in terms of their bodies. This is a subject I have very interested in so I enjoyed reading this.
Of course, I am very aware of the lack of woman throughout history and the disrespect and discrimination they have undergone throughout the years. However, I liked the part in this article that shed light on the idea that "much of western history, was truly inhospitable to women," (315). McKerrow further differentiates between the perception that men are taught to create history while woman are taught to consume it. At first thought, it seemed like an outdated statement, something we as women on 2014 don't have to deal with. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that our society does not push for woman to make history. Yes, there are some programs or ads or college campus' that may put the ideas into our heads, but it is not in most people's thinking today. This idea was further expressed in the section where McKerrow talks about the mind/body split. "Women's identity has tradtionally been associated with the body and nature, just as man's has been located in their transcendence as mind and culture. Woman are therefore positioned as man's attentuated inversion, as a mere specular reflection through which his identity is grounded," (316-317). This really blew me away, partly because it was explained so beautifully but also because it is true! I immediately thought about the music videos on TV, particularly the rap and hip/hop ones, that show the main male performer surrounded by women we doing nothing but decorate him, showing his own power. I am constantly frustrated when I see these because I don't understand how these woman are okay with wearing basically nothing, while they run their hands all over this male, honoring him in a sense while they either stare at him or the camera. This quote connects to this because her identity is only her body. The male gets his his identity from the lyrics he is singing (and supposedly wrote), the expensive clothes and jewelry is his wearing and the woman (basically just bodies) that surround him. He is seen as someone to look up to and aspire to be, while the woman are only looked at because of their exposed bodies.
It was also very interesting when McKerrow spoke of the public/private spheres. Men usually occupy the the public, while woman occupy the private. I am not exactly sure how to take that and I hope we talk about it in class. I understand what McKerrow is saying in terms of a position of power, how the higher men are in power the less it matters what they look like, however that is not the case for woman. I think that basically our society focuses so much on woman's bodies that we can't escape the attitude that a huge part of our identity is because of our body. In my opinion, a lot of woman (and I speak mostly of woman in the media) do not value themselves as anything much more than just a body, therefore their audiences don't either.
I found Corporeality and Cultural Rhetoric: A Site for Rhetoric’s Future by Raymie E. McKerrow to present many ideas about the rhetoric of the body and gender that I had not yet thought about. It is obvious that throughout history books, men are the dominant sex represented. I like the phrasing on page 316 that “men are taught to create history and women are taught to consume it”. I found this very powerful because it is something that I think exists very much in society today. While feminism is becoming a much more common viewpoint today, it still has a stigma and that alone is evidence that it is still a male dominated world.
On 317 the author proposes that instead of writing women into rhetoric, we have to write rhetoric into the history of women. I like this because it creates a whole new world of rhetoric that has been dismissed prior to this. I found all of this interesting because while I knew that women had always been accounted for less than men, I did not realize that this was such a significant binary in the world of rhetoric. The many challenges that are touched upon in this reading, such as male-oriented language for example, show a depth of subject that I had never considered.
My attention was also caught on page 319 when the author rephrases her ideas in a way that I was more easy able to relate to: “Bodies are trapped inside cultures, and exhibit those acts promoted within the culture – they in this context, neither inherently male nor female, neither inherently reason-based nor emotion-based”. I find this concept to be fascinating. If we had been raised in a society where all gender roles were non-existent, I’m certain that none of us would be the people we are today. Society imposes far more expectations on us than I think most people realize.
Overall, I liked McKerrow. She covered a lot and it was a bit of a whirlwind but she had a very clear voice and distinct opinions that made it easier to follow and understand. I enjoyed the way she ended the work but emphasizing that corporeal rhetoric will “allow the soul to recognize its own humanity”. I found this to be a beautiful line that really sums up what she was working towards.
16 September 2014
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
“Corporeality and Cultural Rhetoric: A Site for Rhetoric’s Future”
In Raymie E. McKerrow’s “Corporeality and Cultural Rhetoric: A Site for Rhetoric’s Future”, rhetoric is discussed in its current and previous limitations and the freedoms that McKerrow imagines for the future. McKerrow connects the history of rhetorical discourse to the bodies it reflects and impacts; this is to establish the power of rhetoric itself and how this must be acknowledged to bring diversity and greater freedoms to the entirety of civilization and not just those in power.
McKerrow begins his work by focusing upon those in power and how it affects the rhetoric currently in place. He states: “the proposition that the history of western rhetoric is predominantly male-centered is incontestable. Rhetoric is an expression of power, and power has been in male hands for most of western history.” While this statement could be considered common knowledge (at least among most adult women in Western society), the phrasing of this is particularly interesting, as it does acknowledge that this dynamic is not necessarily the same in non-Western cultures. Furthermore, he implicitly declares that rhetoric is a form of power and since this power is in the hands of males, it suggests that rhetoric is constantly reaffirming power structures and privilege already in place within our society. Thus, rhetoric has the power to put bodies in a specific place within our world and can keep those bodies there; it is a form of control.
McKerrow then delves into the attributes of rhetoric that naturally block freedoms and diversity within discourse. For example, he discusses how rhetoric “developed into a culture that saw its practice in terms of taming excesses…through the male-dominant exercise of reason. Thus, rhetoric unbridled is womanly; rhetoric tamed is manly.” In all of my studies within rhetoric, I have noticed a definite focus on being clear and concise; while sometimes emotional appeal is encouraged, the style rhetoric tends to mirror is the behavior and thoughts of men. There is an inherent exclusionary aspect to rhetoric as it exists today which discourages women from joining in and expressing themselves.
After the discussion of the exclusionary nature of rhetoric, McKerrow posits a solution to the broken system: “Thus, I am arguing that only by re-visioning rhetoric – by casting it in terms other than its western manifestation – can we properly credit the rhetorical voice as expressed in all of its cultural diversity.” This statement alone seems to summarize the overall intent and thesis of McKerrow’s work, as he wishes for rhetoric to grow to become inclusionary rather than exclusionary. He values the differing perspectives that people have to bring to rhetoric as a whole, and recognizes that there needs to be more freedom to allow the perspectives of those not in power (such as women, people of color, and nonbinary identities) to join in the rhetorical discourse. The rules of Western society must be broken but in McKerrow’s opinion these rules need not be replaced with new ones. Rather, people will enter the rhetorical sphere from all types of approaches. For some, the rules already in place will provide a structure for them and they will be able to express themselves through those rules. For others, they may alter the rules slightly or completely throw the rulebook out the window. Rhetoric can accommodate all bodies by implementing or accepting all perspectives or lenses in which one can begin a rhetorical discourse. As we have learned in class thus far, there are almost limitless ways as to which the body and rhetoric can be intertwined; each author we have looked at has proposed a different perspective, from Descartes to Foucault, from breaking down the body into its muscles or its parts to looking at the mind and the soul. All these rhetorical lenses are acceptable forms; and McKerrow seems to suggest that the abundance of perspectives will allow total freedom of expression which will give us a fuller picture of the world, both rhetorical and corporeal.
September 17, 2014
Response to “Corporeality and Cultural Rhetoric: A Site for Rhetoric's Future”
I had never really thought of rhetoric as male dominant, but after reading this article it became clear that, as with most things, it is powered by men. I found McKerrow's statement, “Rhetoric is an expression of power, and power has been in male hands for most of western history,” annoying, to say the least. I have never defined myself as a devote feminist; however, I do believe in equality, and I get upset when women are spoken about or to as though they are inferior. Women play just as big of a role in society and culture as men do. Taking women out of the equation when discussing rhetoric is ignoring half of the population who actively contribute.
I have always known that there is the belief that women should occupy the private sphere while men occupy the pubic sphere; however, I was not aware of the “mind/ body split” with men associated with the mind and culture and women associated with the body and nature. While I do not see being associated with nature to be a negative thing, it is implied to be. Nature is natural, beautiful, and pure. Humans did not create nature; it was here long before us and will be her long after us. Being attuned with nature gives a person knowledge that can not truly be acquired from any textbook. On the other hand, culture is not a natural concept. It was created by man, divides people, and makes room for discrimination. Culture is not something a person is born with. A person will adapt to whatever culture they are born into and/or move to throughout the course of their life. For this reason, I do not see the sense in viewing women as inferior.
In regards to culture, I found it interesting when McKerrow states, “Bodies are trapped inside cultures, and exhibit those acts promoted within the culture –they are in this context, neither inherently male nor female, neither inherently reason-based nor emotion-based.” I have mixed feelings about this passage. I completely agree with the first half, but I disagree with the second half. Bodies are definitely trapped inside cultural expectations. If a person strays from the cultural norms, they are seen as strange and someone to stay away from. In Western society, the “ideal body” is set to ridiculous standards that are impossible to reach. The media shows the model for what the body should look like. When that model is digitally and surgically altered and enhanced, where does that leave real people with real bodies? The second part explains that we are not inherently male, female, reason-based, or emotion-based. I disagree, because people are born, for the most part, being either male or female, and each gender/sex have unique characteristics that make them that gender (this includes transgender individuals). In addition, everyone is emotion-based. Both males and females act on emotion in almost all situations. Children do not learn to reason until later in life. It is something that is taught to them.
Viewing women as connected to the body as opposed to the mind explains why women are constantly judged based on their appearance rather than her ideas. This is especially true in cases where women are speaking on subjects that are related to male dominated fields or when women are in positions of power. For example, on Youtube, there are many women who speak on scientific subjects who give important insight, yet the comments are filled with judgements about her appearance. A similar instance occurred when Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were speaking during the time of election. These women were criticized for their homelife and their appearance rather than their ideas. This virtually never happens when men are placed in the same position. They are judged solely on their ideas and values.
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
September 16 2014
“Corporeality and Cultural Rhetoric: A Site for Rhetoric’s Future”
Within “Corporeality and Cultural Rhetoric: A Site for Rhetoric’s Future” by Raymie E. McKerrow, themes regarding future research in rhetorical studies is discussed. Within the second paragraph, the author even describes western rhetoric as to be centered on the males. Rhetoric has even been an expression of power, and since power used to be associated with male bodies, rhetoric was not associated with women. She writes, “Not only has Western Rhetoric denied women a place, it also has, in privileging specific “sides” of dichotomous binaries, severely limited its applicability in a multi-cultural world” (315). I hadn’t thought too much about Rhetoric being male centered, so this idea really surprised me. When we read all the articles so far, I never even thought about how rhetoric could be constituted as more of one gender.
Raymie E. McKerrow also talks about how in the western rhetoric that is male dominated, the mind has been seen to be split from the body. She mentions how this split represents the sexes. She observes, “Women's identity has traditionally been associated with the body and nature, just as man's has been located in their transcendence as mind and culture” (516). Once again, women are seen to represent the private sphere, while men are in the public. I have never seen this idea as fair. Even when the women are capable of entering the public sphere, there is still this split that separates them. I don’t think it’s fair that women are incapable of the success that men were in the past. There were many women I have read about that were extremely intelligent and have been extremely successful, but due to the constraints of the time period, her success was severely limited. The author also mentions how the purpose of the mind is to control the body. These methods of thinking need to be changed. In history, there were instances where women proved to be just as, if not smarter than men. In most situations, men and women should have been seen as equal, but since the time period was so into the idea that men had to be in control, they ignored all of the aspects of life that showed women with power.
Critical Response 4
This weeks reading, though difficult, was very interesting. Raymie E. McKerrow’s “Corporeality and Cultural Rhetoric: A Site for Rhetoric’s Future” discusses the issue of female rhetoric in regards to power. McKerrow’s claim is that history has, thus far, been written from the position of masculine power and it would be impossible to “[write] women into the history of rhetoric”. The author does however suggest that we “write rhetoric into the history of women”, as a means of improvement.
The author quotes Catherine Fouquet and states that, “for men at least, the higher the role in society, the less importance the body has”. This sentence was very thought provoking. It is true that men of high ranking do not have a lot of focus put on their bodies. Obviously there are the ones who’s fame and popularity are only based on their good looks, but still that number is just a small percentage of male stardom. The focal point of male fame seems to be based more on talent and intellect than body presentation. Just rattling off some names of notable male figures in Western Culture we can see the diversity of body; Think of Donald Trump, Barack Obama, LeBron James, Justin Bieber, and Seth Rogen. All of these men have achieved some sort of notoriety within the culture, yet their bodies do not get criticized they way the famous women of western civilization do. Almost every female that has some sort of star power in Western Culture has some, usually most, of the attention on her body. They are less appreciated for their talent and more for their appearance.
This correlates to the pedantic set that McKerrow presents in the article:
“Women / body / emotion / nature / private sphere
Men / mind / reason / culture / public sphere”
The issue here is the sexing and gender roles applied to both male and female. McKerrow suggests that the way to undo this labeling is to bring awareness to it and proceed with a new knowledge of truth regarding both genders. In contrast to what McKerrow writes earlier on, women have the capability to create history just as men do. Both genders, together, create and consume history simultaneously.
September 17, 2014
Critical Response: Corporeality and Cultural Rhetoric
Raymie E. McKerrow’s article Corporeality and Cultural Rhetoric: A Site for Rhetoric’s Future was interesting to read. Learning about the women’s role in regards to rhetoric of the past in relation to the present was interesting to read. I never paid much attention the women’s roles of the past, probably because they did not play a large role in history. Everything I learned in history was always about a man. From what I understood about the article, McKerrow discusses the history of rhetoric in relation to the body in the past and the change it has made to be discussed within the current time. The future of rhetoric seems to have been adapted to the culturally diverse world. When McKerrow discussed rhetoric of the past, “history of western rhetoric is predominantly male-centered. Rhetoric is power, and power has been in male hands for most of western history.” I agree with McKerrow because all that I know about western history has been male-centered. All men have been in a position of power. In the household, men worked while women stayed home to tend to the home and family, and within public gatherings. Men were mayors, and congressmen, Presidents, and leaders. Every white male held a position of power and women were denied a place. Moving into the future, we can see that today while men still hold most of the power, women are not subjected to having no power. It seems that women had no place in history. I think the quote: “men are taught to create history; women are taught to consume it” fits well into the history of rhetoric. The question posed is “we are prohibitive from writing women into history because to do so perpetuates their bondage in a male dominated world?” I think that women’s role in history is very limited. Women would be captured and held captive and held for ransom in some parts of the past. Rarely, if ever, was a man captured in this way.
McKerrow also wrote that “women’s identity has traditionally been associated with the body and nature, just as man’s has been located in their transcendence as mind and culture.” Women are therefore associated with their bodies, emotions, nature, and are to remain private while men are associated with their mind, reason, culture, and public sphere allowing men to have dominance over women because they are seen to be more rational and full of culture, and have an education while women were in the home. Without sex or gender, the body is an object. Sex and gender is what takes the body and makes it into something greater than what it is. Sex and gender physically makes us different while what remains on the inside is equal to one another. Nature is what leaves the body sexed and it seems that our culture determines how the sexed body should look and act to behave in that way. How we move, behave and dress is a code that determines our sex and “bodies speak, without necessarily talking, because they come coded with and as signs. They speak social codes.” Bodies ay occupy space, but how they relate to a culture is what defines them.
I like that the focus of this article was on the fact that males have always been the dominant ones. Men were the dominant ones in rhetoric originally and they could focus on things in a more public sphere. Women on the other hand had to remain in a private sphere because they weren’t supposed to be involved with rhetoric. The author also made a point about the fact that men tended to focus on the idea of the transcendence of the mind while women tended to focus on ideas of the body and nature. Even when women were allowed into the public sphere they had to focus on the physical rather than the mental. Women were basically seen as the inversion of males as a way to be a sort of reflection in order to keep them grounded. The author mentions the fact that rhetoric is an expression of power and that is why it used to be mostly male dominated, because throughout history men have mostly been seen as the powerful ones.
It seems to me like even with the study of rhetoric in the past they used it as a way to control women. Males wanted to make sure that they were the dominant ones in everything and keep the women under their control. Women were never able to escape the control of men. I am happy that this is no longer the case. Women today have much more power than they used to and are allowed to study whatever they want. I think it is important to remember the past but it is also good to look towards the future.
Nowadays women are more allowed to be involved with the study of rhetoric and even focus more on the mind. But in studying rhetoric it still goes back to the fact that women have not been involved for very long. The author talks about how women cannot change the fact that that was the way it used to be but they can use that as a study of rhetoric. Women can focus on the idea that it used to be a male dominated study. The author talks about how she originally tried to escape the fact that it used to be a male dominated study but she eventually realized that there was absolutely no way to do that. So instead she decided to find a way to incorporate it into what she was studying.
The author also talks about the fact that she is focusing on corporeal rhetoric which has to do with the body. She talks about the idea that bodies can speak to each other without actually speaking. Corporeal rhetoric is not exclusive to any particular thing really because it basically incorporates everything. Corporeal rhetoric includes the discourse of both men and women. It does not focus on just one. The corporeal perspective of rhetoric is inclusive, it does not focus on just one thing but rather all things.
I think it is good that the author is able to focus on both. She was trying to avoid the males part and realized that it would be a good idea to include both instead. The way rhetoric was set up in the past can influence the way that rhetoric is set up today. The fact that she is focusing on both male and female views of it from the past also shows us how much the study of rhetoric has changed and progressed since that time.
Verdt and Punday
While I found both Laura Verdt’s The Symbolic Body and the Rhetoric of Power and Daniel Punday’s Foucault’s Body Tropes to be slightly difficult reads, I did find their topics rather insightful. Once I had understood the primary thesis of both articles, I decided to pull a quote from each that I felt highlights the argument of each text. In Verdt’s The Symbolic Body and the Rhetoric of Power she talks about the current shaping of the body in the cultural spotlight, “It is indeed here, and not earlier, that the ascending course of overexhibition of the body reaches its climax and the body disappears, behind and within its media simulacra. A prisoner of excess, the body becomes invisible, and almost transparent, as a social and symbolic, as well as individual machine” Verdt (110). In this sense her earlier preamble is only a buildup to the influence that culture has had on the body. At this point in our society, our body is no longer flesh and body corporeality. Instead we are symbolic representations of “norms” that work like cogs within the societal machine.
Similarly, within Punday’s Foucault’s Body Tropes, Punday makes comments about societies influence in shaping our bodies and their working representations. “In describing the body as a site, for example, critics treat individuals as connected to each other only in that they are affected by the same discourses and powers” (Punday 525). Both authors have the same understanding that the body becomes less a physical aspect and more like a computer running on a wifi hotspot. In the same way a computer can be affected by a virus, a human is influenced by culture and the symbols embedded within it.
I found “Becoming White: Contested History, Armenian American Women, and Racialized Bodies” by Janice Okoomian to be very interesting. I actually just learned about the Armenian Genocide last week in my Middle Eastern Societies class, so it was ironic that we’re discussing it now. I had never heard of this genocide prior to that. The Armenians who came to America underwent court trials and were determined to be “white” (217). As the author states, this gave them a certain degree of white privilege in the United States, despite the fact that they were, in fact, immigrants. The descriptions of the multiple trials regarding the race of Armenians was actually kind of surprising to me. While I know that race is a big topic in the United States, and was even more so in the past, it just seems silly that it even mattered that much. Their status on the border of whiteness definitely puts them in an interesting position and this is what links this reading together so well with the reading by Alvarez.
I enjoyed the second reading by Julie Alvarez a lot. It was easy to relate to because I felt as though I were really getting her story as a person. And she has a very interesting one. I found it surprising that even in the Dominican Republic “lighter was better” (141). It never really occurred to me that this would be the case there. However, I think that it was important that she pointed out that there was no segregation whatsoever there. People found lighter skin to be more pleasing to the eye, but it didn’t seem to really impact one’s quality of life. She contrasts this very strongly with the racism in New York. In America at that time race wasn’t just a matter of aesthetic preference. It was a big deal.
I think that both of these articles make a point to emphasis people, women in particular, almost creating their own race once they arrive in America. Okoomian discusses the Armenian women giving up some of their past in order to be perceived as white and get the privileges that being “white” comes with. Alvarez also discusses not cleanly fitting in with any one particular racial group. Just as the Armenians were on a border, so was she. She states that “ethnicity and race are not fixed constructs or measurable quantities”(148) and I think that this sums up these two readings perfectly. Race and ethnicity aren’t made up of clean cut lines and this is important to remember when considering the rhetoric of bodies.
21 September 2014
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
“A White Woman of Color” & “Becoming White: Contested History, Armenian American Women, and Racialized Bodies”
The works “A White Woman of Color” by Julia Alvarez and “Becoming White: Contested History, Armenian American Women, and Racialized Bodies” by Janice Okoomian share common themes, all centered around the major theme of race – specifically, races that are often referred to as being white or part of a spectrum of whiteness. This racial erasure leads to the discussion of the other common themes such as the struggle to form an identity, the acknowledgement of culture in a white world, and the remembrance of the past that has contributed to this erasure. While Okoomian’s work gives an extensive background of all of the circumstances that led to the erasure and simultaneous oppression of Armenian Americans, I felt that Alvarez’s work was especially poignant and deserves a closer look.
In reading Alvarez’s work, the first lines suggest deeper meaning beyond what she is explicitly telling the reader. She says, “Growing up in the Dominican Republic, I experienced racism within my own family – though I didn’t think of it as racism.” This is particularly revealing as it implies complex family dynamics that cannot be covered extensively in her short essay; however, this also hints at internalized racism within her entire family unit – the racism she experienced and writes about goes further than just her. If her memories and experiences were to be compared to her parents’ and extended families’, I believe she would observe many shared qualities among each member as well as a greater explanation as to how this internalized racism manifested within the family.
Later in her work, Alvarez discusses her Mami’s family “who were really white. They were white in terms of race, and white also in terms of class.” I found this phrasing to be eye-opening because it suggests multiple forms of “white” and the implications that follow each. I think it is easy to just assume white is just visibility, but Alvarez definitely puts it into perspective. Whiteness has an assumed class in Western society especially, where all white people are expected to fit into the middle and upper classes. In fact, when whites do not fit within these classes, they are given specific terms to differentiate them (such as “white trash” and “redneck”).
As Alvarez continues in her work, there is an emphasis placed upon her identity as a white-presenting Latina and how that has impacted her. There is a great sense of internal conflict, as she is often in a position of privilege but when her “other”-ness seeps out it causes her discomfort through others reactions such as her classmates’. When she discusses looking for a job, this discomfort comes through in clear ways when she is asked to choose which race she belongs to on her job application. Despite America’s reputation as being a “melting-pot”, there are so many practices within our society that demand people place themselves in strict categories; and even if these people refuse to, outsiders will often assume or designate a category for them. This made me think of the actress Rashida Jones, who is of mixed race but she is assumed to be white by those who never give it a second thought. She appears whiter than her sister and thus she was given and accepted “white” roles within her career thus far; yet this is based on other’s perceptions more so than her choice of presentation.
Overall, Alvarez’s story is a heart wrenching and troublesome look into the struggle for an identity when one is already decided by society. Her final plea at the conclusion of her essay is reminiscent of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, where Alvarez looks toward a future that embraces a multicultural and multiracial model – something that is embarrassingly far from reach in 2014 America.
September 22, 2014
Prof. Joyce Rain Anderson
I feel like my history classes have failed me because I know little to nothing about the Armenian genocide. I never knew they were treated that way. I know a few Armenians, like my sister’s best friend, and she has never been treated differently for being Armenian. Also one of the most famous families in America are Armenian, the Kardashians. When Okoomian said that “Armenian whiteness is repressed” and “Armenian Americans enjoy white privilege in America”, really sheds light on how different races are viewed in different way around the world. Race is not a real thing, just simply a social idea and this is a great example, even though Armenians are viewed as white in America and Turkey they perceive the color in other ways.
In the second reading I completely understood what Julia Alvarez was talking about racism within her own race and how darker girls were viewed as uglier than lighter skinned girls. One of my bestfriends is black and I remember when were in elementary school she used to never want to be in the shade because she didn’t want to get darker because she thought she would become ugly. It is sad that even within a person’s own race they treat each other like enemies all because a shade of skin. I couldn’t even believe that dark women were killed in the Dominican at one point. It really brought light to my eyes in how lucky I am to live in country that may not be perfect, but that doesn’t take such violent measures towards one another due to the color of their skin, today at least.
I really enjoyed these two readings. I found them extremely interesting and I learned a lot. They both reinforced the idea that the color of a person’s skin can automatically put them in a social class even without looking into an educational or financial stance. This does still go on today and it happens all around the world. It’s not only black vs. white but its races hate or judgments towards their own because a difference in shade. I wish I could say the color of skin is not important to the body but unfortunately that just is not true at all.
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
Janice Okoomian 's essay "Becoming White: Contested History, Armenian American Women, and Racialized Bodies" made a lot of interesting points when discussing the feminine body and race. By mapping the ethnic origins and historical hardship on the female body in a work of literature, we can see how this genocide effected people, in this case woman, who weren't even a part of the massacres. It also found it interesting to be looking at a part of history through a body at all, never mind looking at specifically a female body.
In the novel Rise the Euphrates that Okoomian discussed at length, all three generations of woman have in some way been effected by the genocide. "Yet the production of the characters' bodies according to American norms of femininity is in tension with an alternative mode of embodiment toward which the novel reaches, one that is more disruptive of the norms of white dominance," (226). It is though these woman's bodies that we learn about their struggle in being accepted into American society as well at there acceptance into womanhood. If what Okoomian is claiming is true, than I am fascinated by this idea. As a writer, I appreciate the complexity and thought that goes into creating characters like this, and then showing generational difference and struggles through each characters body. The scenes discussed about the lipstick was one I particularly liked and I loved all the references to mouths and lips to show the repression of speech and identity Arminian woman had to go through.
Julia Alvarez's "A White Woman of Color" brought up some points about race also and being seen as "white" in one country and "black" in another. I liked the line about a "Hierarchy of beauty." I thought this was a great way to described how we as a society (even today) have a certain standard of what colors, ethnicities, hair type, eye color, etc. are universally named as beautiful. Everyone has an individual opinion, of course, and I think that is important. However, there does seem to be a standard that universally people try to uphold to. Even things like the term "too black" that Alvarez mentions, with its "bad" conitation attached to it, is actually still present today. In my Recent British Fiction class last semester, we talked a lot about Caribbean literature and race. My professor brought up that there is a certain body cream being advertised right now that is suppose to lighten dark skin to a "white" shade. It is called "Whitenicious" and the advertisement shows a black woman getting lighter and lighter. We were all shocked that this type of thing would still be accepted and that some dark woman feel they need to lighten their skin to be beautiful. It is very upsetting and this article reminded me of the many conversations we had around this topic. There should be a hierarchy of beauty, because beauty can be found in every race and gender.
September 22, 2014
Response to “Becoming White...” and “A White Woman of Color”
I found these two articles both informative and disturbing. In the article “Becoming White...,” the author states “many Americans are not well-informed abou the Armenian genocide.” I found this very disturbing and realized that I had never heard about it. Later in the article, the author states that the “Turkish government has also successfully prevented the United States from officially recognizing this event.” This really upset me. What other catastrophic events are being hidden from the pubic's knowledge, and why? It is also scary that a government has the power to erase a memory like that.
In the opening of the article, the author poses the question “What are the effects of the traumatic events of the past upon the body when those events are denied?” After a traumatic, catastrophic event such as a genocide, the survivors most likely live in constant fear and feel alone, especially if their loved ones were killed, and have flashbacks to the events. If the events are denied on top of the trauma, that is like killing a second time. The author states that denial is the final stage of the genocide. I have read extensively as well as taken courses pertaining to the Holocaust. Despite the fact that denial of the Holocaust is illegal in Germany, people around the world still deny the existance or claim that the facts of the events are exaggerated. With survivors fading away due to old age, first hand accounts are becoming extinct. When this happens, it will be easier for the deniers. It is so important to keep the memories of all genocides alive so that 1) we can recognize the signs so that it can never happen again and 2) prevent the final stage of the genocide from occuring.
The other idea present in both articles was the concept of white and the determination of the white race. White people have held power in the world for centuries, especially in Europe and the United States, but I have never understood what gave white people the concept that they are superior. Okoomian states that “'common knowledge' and 'scientific evidence' were the main rationales used by courts to determine who was white and who was not.” I'm sure that it was the same “scientific evidence” used during the Holocaust to determine if a person was Jewish. It bothers me because it does not make any sense and why does it matter. It shouldn't matter if someone is black, white, yellow, purple, or any other color. Everyone is unique and brings something different to the world, but we are also the same. In the article “A White Woman of Color,” Alvarez explains the “heirarchy of beauty” in her family. The daughter with the lightest skin is seen as the prettiest in the family and the one with the darkest skin is seen as the least pretty. What kinds of psychological effects, insecurities, and self-consciousness will that daughter who is not seen as pretty by her own family have? People do not understand that labels create problems.
This world would be a much better place if the labels were taken away. Alvarez states “I began to see that literature could reflect the otherness I was feeling, that the choices in fiction and poetry did not have to be bleached out of their color or simplified into either/or.” Literature stems from people's imaginations. In fiction, people can create perfect worlds where evil and prejudice do not exist. Fiction writing can include dreams for the future. Reality should take some pointers from these fiction novels. As Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Critical Response 5
My response of this does not come from a topic discussed within the readings, it is based more on the readings as a whole. It is kind of remarkable how much work goes into identifying race. In the “Becoming White: Contested History, Armenian American Women, and Racialized Bodies” piece by Janice Okoomian specifically, race is treated as such a (pardon the pun) black and white “issue”. I put “issue” in quotes because I personally do not believe race is even a proper way to label someone, never mind have an entire debate about it. The document constantly discusses the differences between races while noting the court cases that determined Armenians as white. She writes things like, “Cypriots, Iranians, Syrians, and Indians” were at various times legally excluded from the category ‘white’ even when they, like Armenians, could claim to be Caucasian”
This sentence alone discusses the extremity in which race and ethnicity has come to play a part in people’s lives in regards to their place in the world. For one, the distinction between “white” and “Caucasian” as labels sets up another dichotomy within the realm of race. Here it seems like “white” is a more desirable label than “Caucasian” where they entitle essentially the same meaning. Secondly, they are presenting both labels as something someone would strive to be.
It is an unfortunate fact that society clearly has created a hierarchy of race labels with “white” being the most desirable of them. This has been done so extremely that countries are having court cases to be able to identify themselves as “white”. If the favoritism simply didn’t exist this would not have to happen. It is a shame that people of a different ethnicity would strive to be anything other than what they truly are because of how much oppression they have faced. I am not blaming Armenian people or any non-white people for wanting to be white, nor am I blaming white people reinforcing the power stereotype. I think it is the collective whole of society that constantly feeds into these labels and makes one better than the other and so on.
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
16 September 2014
I really enjoyed reading the article, “A White Woman of Color” by Julia Alvarez. She talks about her experience growing up in the Dominican Republic and her arrival to New York in 1960. She goes into depth about the way people were viewed in society during this time. Throughout the article she talks about how he was constantly being judged by her skin color and her culture. When she was in the Dominican Republic, she was judged because she was “too white” so she wasn’t a “real” Dominican. When she arrived in the States, she says “We were lucky we were white Dominicans or we would have had a much harder time of it in this country. We would have encountered a lot more prejudice than we already did, for white as we were, we found that our Latino-ness, our accents, our habits and smells, added “color” to our complexion” (144 Alvarez). I didn’t really think it was fair that she was judged wherever she went, and not really fit entirely in either place. While I’ve read different stories in other classes where similar events, it was still sad to read. Even living in the United States, she was treated with such little respect. I really liked the part where she states, “These Americans were so blind! One drop of black and you were black” (143-144). It really makes me think about society, not only in terms of race. People always seem to judge others before they even get a chance to know them. Someone might take one look at another and automatically separate them into another group. For instance a blonde girl might suddenly become the “dumb blonde,” but without taking a minute to actually talk to the girl, someone might not know that she could actually be really intelligent.
People were all treated so differently just based on the lightness of their skin color. Within the author’s family, the youngest sibling has the lightest skin and the silkiest hair. The judging based on skin color needs to be changed. People can’t control what their skin color looks like, or any other feature on their body. People just need to focus on their inner characteristics.
In the other article, “Becoming White: Contested History, Armenian American Women, and Racialized Bodies” by Janice Okoomian, there is a section where the author discusses how Armenian Americans’ skin color, at one point, affected their life in the United States. They even had to go through two court trials before Armenian Americans were determined to be legally white. The author writes, “The construction of that contour of the racial borderland inhabited by Armenian Americans took place through two courttrials which determined that they were legally white” (217). People from places all over were often judged and placed into many different categories, but I don’t think it was fair. Sometimes people would move to get a better life for their families, but when they move, all they get is similar treatment.
In the first reading about Armenian American women I thought it was interesting to learn that there had been a time when there was an Armenian genocide. The only genocide I have really learned about is that of the Holocaust simply because of how big it was and that it was involved in a World War. I have never heard of any other genocides really, although I am sure that there have been quite a few of them. I also thought that it was interesting to learn that Armenians were treated relatively ok in America because their skin was considered white. However, I had no idea that there was a way in the court system to determine whether someone is legally white or not. I do not even see how that she even be a factor in any kind of court case unless determining the true parents of a child. Even then, that would involve more DNA then determining if someone is legally a certain color.
In the second reading by Alvarez I thought it was interesting that even in the Dominican Republic it was considered more appealing to have lighter skin. I thought it was interesting that their own mother favored her daughters based on the color of their skin. It did not seem that their father necessarily cared probably due to the fact that he was of a darker shade of skin but the fact that their mother cared was interesting. I don’t really expect people to be racist against their own children so that is just such a strange concept to try and digest. I am glad that it did not necessarily affect their way of living in the Dominican Republic, just got them more attention attractiveness wise. She even makes a point to say that most of their political leaders have in fact been somewhat colored. People judged each other for the color of their skin but they in no way attempted to segregate people from each other based on it.
I thought it was interesting that everything changed so drastically when they came to New York. She talks about how Americans generally judge anyone who is colored to be bad no matter how much color they actually have in them. The tales that they heard from their aunt show that even in the 90’s in America people still cared about color. In fact a lot of people still care about it today. People with darker skin are still highly discriminated against in this country. It just no longer is as severe as segregating them. She even points out the fact that on most documentation people have to put down what race they are to be identified in that way too. It was almost like being anything other than white American might be considered bad.
Ink Shedding: Martin and Ferguson
Patricia J. William’s’ The Monsterization of Trayvon Martin and Reparations for Ferguson by Ta- Nehisi Coates are both powerful examples of rhetoric. William’s article not only highlights the incredible influence that rhetoric had within the courtroom, but the paragraphs themselves are seeded with triggering and persuasive phrases. “his wet clothing was tossed carelessly in a plastic bag to rot, possibly degrading key evidence. Zimmerman was lightly interrogated, then released without charge” (Wiliam’s 18). Before the argument is even fully developed, the reader is won over and has begun thinking with their pathos rather than their logos.
Similarly, William’s exemplifies how the defense “proved” that Trayvon had to be guilty. I thought of that story when listening to the trial, to the repeated insistence that Trayvon Martin must have been guilty of something, to Don West speaking sneeringly to Rachel Jeantel. It was he who fouled the water with racism, did he not? And if it wasn’t he, it must have been one like him, isn’t that correct? (Willaim’s 22).
This idealized rhetoric is so deeply imbedded within the cultural psyche that it became viable without actual evidence. So much so, that even with proper evidence to disprove it, it could not be. To those that wonder how powerful rhetoric can be, we’ve seen in class that rhetoric can shape the physical body. Our models are photoshopped to levels of unrealistic proportions, and ideas of beauty our stunted to mythic proportions. This however is life and death. A young man bled out on the streets, due to an ideal that was shaped in the cultural psyche, by rhetoric.
A quote on page twenty one perfectly summarizes the problem within our culture and skin color.
Behind any ability to apprehend the good is a preconceived image of its opposite. This is a problem for people who look like Trayvon Martin: empirical tests have shown over and over the degree to which Americans still associate dark skin with negative attributes such as ugliness, stupidity and danger. (Williams 21).
This embodied ideal is deep rooted and dangerous. As we’ve discussed in class, previously rhetoric is powerful, it is a current that transforms our everyday to our entire being. In this sense, while it is terrifying that an ideal like racism can be shaped by rhetoric, on the same coin, it can be undone.
September 22, 2014
Critical Response: White Woman of Color and Becoming White and
A White Woman of Color by Julia Alvarez was an interesting read. She was a dark skinned woman, and she had come from a family where her sisters had been of different shades of dark skinned. She began her article by focusing on beauty and how beauty was dictated by skin color. She than discussed the color of her and her siblings skin which put the focus on the color of her skin and how she did not like being dark skinned. The main focus in this article was about beauty and how dark skin and course hair was not considered beautiful. She had mentioned her mother was slowly bleaching the color out of her children. I have heard about dark skinned women bleaching their skin to appear lighter in color.
This reading was interesting because she had experienced racism within her own family which is something I was never aware of. Her father’s family was dark skin and her mother’s family was white skinned. I thought it was interesting that she described her mother’s family as really white; the same goes for when she described her youngest sister as white white. Going back to beauty, she made it clear that her light skinned sister was the true definition of beautiful, as she did not appear to be dark skinned. Not only was the focus on the color of their skin, but there was also a focus on the types of degrees they earned. Her father’s family had degrees with an education that was “totally island-no fancy degrees from Andover and Cornell and Yale” (141). Power/privilege checklist, the fact that white people seemed to have a greater advantage in the world than people of color. Thinking about the checklist, it seems that she had also realized that “People of color were treated as if they were inferior, prone to violence, uneducated, untrustworthy, lazy-all the “bad adjectives we were learning in our new language” (143).
Janice Okoomian’s article, Becoming White: Contested History, Armenian American Women, and Racialized Bodies had a focus on the United States and racial privilege. In the article she said “the construction of that contour of the racial borderland inhabited by Armenian Americans took place through two court trials which determined that they were legally white” (217). I believe that this reading was about being “labeled,” categorized and associated with being white or Caucasian as white was the race to be. I think these two readings connected with each other in the way that Alvarez focused on wanting to appear light skin because light skinned people were less subjected and stereotyped than people of color were. Also people who were white were considered “beautiful” and did not have negative terms associated with the color of their skin. The article from Okoomian talked about Armenian women being able to associate themselves with the white label. I think both these articles focused on the importance of being white as white skinned people had greater opportunities and were more privileged than people of color.
September 24, 2014
Critical Response: Trayvon Martin and Reparations for Ferguson
The reading from the Monsterization of Trayvon Martin by Patricia J. Williams was interesting as it relayed information about a topic we see all too often. The article discusses the defending of George Zimmerman and the stereotypes to justify the fear of black men. In the article Trayvon Martin had been reimagined as an immense drug-addled “thug” as well as been labeled as other titles to describe his monsterious look and applying demonizing titles to his name because due to the color his skin color and how he was dressed. The article “depicted Trayvon Martin as a violent gangbanger, while casting Zimmerman simultaneously as both victim and protector of the unruly street” (21). In the case, Zimmerman had shot Martin in self-defense. Thinking about the stereotypes that black people have I can relate it to personal knowledge. I live in the city and I know that when other white people speak of dark-skinned people, they always describe them as “thugs” as well as other negative things. I have friends who live in the ‘richer’ section of the city and they say that when they see a person who is black, it is more suspicious than if they saw a white person walking down the street in the same way. It seems as if all black people are automatically associated with titles such as being “thugs,” troublemakers, “gangbangers,” as well as other stereotypical labels just because of the color of their skin. This point proves true because in the article, it is stated that “Americans still associate dark skin with negative attributes such as ugliness, stupidity and danger” (21).
The reading on “Reparations for Ferguson” by Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses the occurrence where a woman hears a group of young people fighting outside her home. Her husband recalls the days where he was a child and seeing older boys fight in the streets. This article connected to the article about Trayvon Martin by discussing the fighting of young people and their threat to each other. Thinking about the body, they body can cause harm on its own without using weapons. The body can be destroyed as well as it can cause destruction. It can have harm placed on it, just as it can cause harm to another. The article discusses the involvement of the police. Gene Demby has noted, “Destruction is merely the superlative form of a dominion whose prerogatives include frisking, detaining, beatings, and humiliations. All of this is common to black people. All of this is old for black people. No one is held accountable.” I think this statement is saying that black people are more subjected to detaining, and humiliations simply because of their skin color and the stereotypes of black people. I think this article places the last article about Trayvon martin into a perspective where the black stereotype is affected by everyone whether they are black, or white, they are all subjected to the thinking of the stereotypes and how they assume they are true. They seem to treat blacks as criminals even where they can be no criminal action being done.
“The Monsterization of Trayvon Martin” by Patricia J. Williams and “Reparations for Ferguson” by Ta-Nehisi Coates both make very sound and important points about racism in America today. It is deeply upsetting that racism is so prevalent in the United States today, but I think that acknowledging the problem is the first step towards eliminating it.
The details that Williams discusses from Martin’s trial make it clear that George Zimmerman did not have a fair trial. The jury was won over by stereotypes and not real solid evidence. I particularly appreciated her suggestion that we speculate what the trial would have been like had Zimmerman been black and Martin been white. She backs up this invitation for speculation by discussing a case in which a black man shot an unarmed white teenager. Despite the teenage looking to start a fight with that man’s son, the man was convicted of manslaughter instead of being granted self defense. Zimmerman, a white man who shot a black teenager, is granted self defense. Williams argues that this is due to the races of those involved.
I also enjoyed the perspective of Coates. To hear from someone whose perspective on the police is so affected by racial ties is very interesting. The fact that his wife was concerned enough about the boys outside to ask her husband what to do, but despite the violence he told her not to call the police really shows how he feels about them. And he certainly isn’t alone in that. As he says: “Black people are not above calling the police—but often we do so fully understanding that we are introducing an element that is unaccountable to us. We introduce the police into our communities, the way you might introduce a predator into the food chain”.
I think that racism in this day and age is foolish. The cases of Martin and Brown really do exemplify the ease with which African American young men can be killed with little to no consequence. I honestly think that Williams is right, and the cases would have been treated differently had the boys been white. I also think that the boys would have been shown in a different light in the media had they been white. But how can the country as a whole reverse racism and advocate for equality? Is this something that will come to us over time, or are we doing something fundamentally wrong that is allowing this to go on? I’m really not sure and I hope that we discuss this further in class.
23 September 2014
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
“Trayvon Martin” and “Ferguson”
In reading “The Monsterization of Trayvon Martin” by Patricia J. Williams and “Reparations for Ferguson” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, all I could think and feel was fury. Most of what was written was already known by me, as I remember watching the news back during the Zimmerman trial and this summer I remember staring in horror at my computer screen watching the footage of the protests run on repeat. There is so much that can be said about the Trayvon Martin case and all of its implications, and the situation in Ferguson is far from resolved – even if the news has stopped broadcasting stories about it. Still, these essays by Williams and Coates begin to paint a picture of the injustice and how it has manifested within our “free” society. They could write dissertations on either subject, yet their short works display enough tragedy and injustice that by the end of reading, I was merely shaking my head and muttering about how disgusted I was.
With the situation in Ferguson still dreadfully unresolved, there is no clear resolution that Coates can offer in his article. However, his perspective on Ferguson and how it is mirrored by his home offers a lens to look through and consider what went wrong over a month ago. Ultimately, it comes down to trust and how African-Americans feel they cannot trust the police, for good reason. Within a mere paragraph, Coates links to five shootings that are sadly so similar to the one that resulted in Michael Brown’s death. While I found the details of these crimes to be terrible, I was not really surprised – I have read so many stories like this that show the hypocrisy of the American justice system and how the police force treat the non-white members of our society. As Coates writes, “The destroyers of your body will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.” This exposes the truth of the matter: these deaths are resulting mainly (arguably solely) due to the race of the victims; frankly I have not heard a single case of a cop shooting a white teenager in such a blatant or careless manner. Each cop must go through extensive training to get their job; I know for a fact they must pass marksman tests (or at least they are supposed to). Yet so often it seems that they shoot to kill when they could easily have remedied the situation in so many ways, like aiming for the leg instead of the chest – it’s not ideal and it does not fix the injustice of racial profiling and bias among cops, but it would hopefully cut down on this senseless death. When a black teenager like Michael Brown dies, it is the cop’s word against a dead child. There’s no real threat to members of the police force it seems, when they’re allowed to shoot without a thought to the consequences (because there are none).
After all, in Florida, murder is apparently legal – by any white person with a gun, of course. Trayvon Martin was murdered – the facts around the case prove this to me without a shadow of a doubt, yet the courts let Zimmerman get away with it. Williams details this, and how the justice system allowed Zimmerman to be portrayed as a victim and the deceased Trayvon to be some big scary “thug”. I remember watching the coverage of the trial on the news as it progressed, and I told my mom, “He’s going to get away with it.” She didn’t believe it; she said he was so obviously guilty, that he so obviously created a story after the fact. I agreed with her. Still, I saw how they were talking about Trayvon, how they were trying to find some justification as to why he deserved to die. Zimmerman was to be pitied, because this was so hard on him. Yet, when he was declared “not guilty” (which by all means, he didn’t seem to feel any guilt so maybe the court was right in that regard) he…became a celebrity? In the years after Martin’s death, I’ve seen Zimmerman come up in news articles since – reports of domestic violence and his wanting to fight some famous boxer, among others. Trayvon is dead, and he was no monster. The monster runs free, because of a verdict of “not guilty”.
September 24, 2014
Response to “The Monsterization of Trayvon Martin” and “Reparations for Ferguson”
I had mixed feelings about these articles, especially the one that addresses the Trayvon Martin case. I feel badly that Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown lost their lives at such a young age, and it is true that racial profiling is still thriving today, which is wrong and needs to be stopped, but this is one side of the story. I am not by any means condoning the actions of Zimmerman; I am simply addressing that there is more to the story than this article points out, and if this was the first time a reader was hearing about the case, it could greatly skew their opinion of the case.
I have many family friends who are police officers, and they just want to make it home to their families every night. Being a police officer is a scary job, and I give those men and women a lot of credit for doing it. As Coates's article points out, “The police are but the tip of the sword wielded by American society itself. Something bigger than Stand Your Ground, the drug war, mass incarceration or any other policy is haunting us.” Police are not the main problem, they are acting within their legal rights as citizens of the United States. Society is what needs to be regulated.
I was not there during the altercation between Martin and Zimmerman, but I can almost guarantee that the author of the article wasn't, either. The author seems to completely leave out or gloss over the fact that there is evidence of Martin attacking Zimmerman. In this case, Zimmerman was acting in self defense, which is a constitutional right.
The author addresses the public resistance to the media displaying pictures of a younger Martin. I do not think the offense was due to the younger pictures. It was due to the fact that the media was distorting the case. Some news channels were only displaying the twelve year old picture of Martin making it seem as though Zimmerman came up to a twelve year old boy and killed him in cold blood, when in fact Martin was much older and bigger than the pictures were showing.
While self defense is a right of all citizens, I do think that police officers particularly should have less lethal weapons readily available that are used instead of guns. Guns should be the absolute last resort. I do not think there is such thing as a perfect society, but American society needs to be regulated greatly. Racism is a major problem in this country, and is only dividing people further. We can only hope that some day these tragedies will be a thing of the past.
Critical Response 6
Patricia Williams’ “The Monsterization of Travon Martin” was a very informative article regarding the biases and stereotypes put in play to justify the murder of a young, seventeen year old, black, male in Florida. This reading seemed to be a lot more practical than the others we have read. This may be due to my familiarity with the story being discussed. The Trayvon Martin case happened only a few years ago so the debates and news stories are fresh in my mind. An interesting point brought up by the article is the dichotomy between the image of Trayvon Martin before and after the trial.
I never realized that the trial had “monsterized” Martin as much as it did. It was obvious, at least from what I would consider a moral standpoint, that Martin was innocent. Rather than claiming self-defense, Zimmerman’s case had turned Martin into a threatening person just because of his skin color and outfit of choice. The analogy of the Aesop’s fable really spoke volumes about the type of work that was going on in order to monsterize Martin.
The case had people trying to find any way possible to make Martin out to look like a threat. They compared him to a black male who was a neighborhood burglar long before the Martin incident. They tried to blame Martin for bringing race into the altercation by using the evidence of him saying there was a “creepy-ass cracker” following him. Anything they could use against him they were sure to use.
It is sad that we live in a world today where people can sway other’s opinions so easily even though once you sit back and look at the incidents there is no way if certain dynamics were reversed would the same ruling be declared. The article even states, if the shooter is black they will most likely be found guilty, if the victim is black, the shooter will be found innocent.
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
Both these articles gave a really eye opining look at how racism is still heavily prevalent in our society. "Reparation for Ferguson" by Ta-Nehisi Coates had some lines in particular that really struck me. "The police departments of America are endowed by the state with dominion over your body." I highlighted this right away because I was really taken a back by it. I think because the author says "your body" instead of just saying "you." When he pin points how physical the police's domination over people is, it becomes more personal and more real. Our bodies are strong but they are also fragile. When I think of some cases where people are completely helpless or their bodies are at the mercy or authority of others, I can't really think of a situation that could be more scary. Not having control over your own self, over your own physicality, is a fear that I'm sure is universal. We have agency over our bodies and when someone takes that away, that is the true meaning of helplessness.
As Coates talks about the police, I realized just how physical they can be. "Destruction is merely the superlative form of a dominion whose prerogatives include frisking, detaining, beatings, and humiliations." All these listed are forms of physical touch and abuses that some cops inflict on other people. I can understand how scared or angry people can become at the police force, because in some cases they have the ability to take away their protection of their own body. Unfortunately, cops can get a bad wrap all together because of how some bad ones behaved. I have a cousin who is a police officer in Boston and I knew he would never do anything like this. It's hard to have these stereotypes inflicted on someone who does not deserve them.
The article by Patricia J. Williams "The Monsterization of Trayvon Martin," shows how the press, media and written word can change the perspective of an entire nation. I have written about the power of words before, but I will say it again. I am always amazed at how powerful they are. They can take a story like this and create "characters" that are real human beings and people will believe what they say. This case was a difficult one where stereotypes and fears motivated most of the verdict. It is frustrating to see race and racial issue still playing a huge part in our lives and in our legal system. It is an understatement to say that its not fair.
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
23 September 2014
Before reading these two articles, I had no prior knowledge about the readings. Even though I have heard Trayvon Martin as well as Zimmerman’s name many times in the news and in passing as people talk, I never followed the story. In the beginning of the article, “The Monsterization of Trayvon Martin” by Patricia Williams, she mentions, “For all the legal language of the courtroom, racialized narratives will emerge and form…” (18). And in turn, mentions that the “200-pound Zimmerman, despite martial arts training and a history of assaulting others, was transformed into a soft, retiring marshmellow of a weekling. The 158-pond Martin had been reimaged into an immense, athletically endowed, drug-addled “thug.”” (18). The immediate assumption here is that Martin, the victim, was the bad guy in the situation just because of his skin color. People sometimes assume that because someone might have different colored skin than that makes them the immediate bad guy. Even before the trial, the people wouldn’t allow the police to arrest Zimmerman, but treated Trayvon Martin’s dead body awfully. When there was evidence to prove that Martin wasn’t a bad guy and did not rob the convenience store like people were trying to prove, they still looked at Trayvon Martin like it was his fault he was killed. Even though I don’t really know what happened that night, I do know that people need to stop being so biased. People within the courtroom just need to look at the situation for what it is, what they know, and not use race as a way to accuse someone of a horrible crime. If Zimmerman did commit the crime then he should be punished for it, not be found guilty, when there is clear evidence proving him guilty.
Patricia Williams mentions how people began stereotyping Martin. People would often post pictures online of people who looked similar to Martin, doing bad things such as giving the finger, breaking into a house, etc. This stereotyping makes the jury feel less guilty (if they let them see it as truthful) about making Zimmerman innocent. The witness that they called to the stage also made everyone side in Zimmerman’s favor for the fact that she was 19, could neither read nor write, and had no experience speaking out loud.
In the next article, “Reparations for Ferguson” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author talks about his community’s relationship with the police. His wife wanted to call the cops about a fight that was happening right outside of their apartment, but he told her not to. In their experience, when the police are called, it doesn’t matter if it was an accident, or an overreaction, or if one was trying to protect someone else, or many other things. They will still be held responsible based on the color of their skin. By the time the police are actually called, it is when someone is either dead or close to it. If this racial stereotyping stops, maybe then there might be more people alive.
I think that the article on Trayvon Martin shows a lot about the way that people in society behave and think about other people. It reminds me of the power/privilege chart that we got at the beginning of class. It shows just how men in general can get away with things but especially white men. Being white definitely seems to give an advantage over being someone of color. We keep seeing this again and again in a lot of the articles that we have been reading.
I think that it is absolutely terrible that Trayvon Martin got found guilty but not Zimmerman. They made it out to seem that just because Trayvon was a man of color meant that he was automatically guilty of something illicit. I mean aren’t people of color more likely to commit crimes then white people? That is the way that society often makes it seem even though that is most likely not the case. It does not matter the skin color of the person but rather the character of a person. Someone with either color skin is perfectly capable of doing something illicit. It just made me really angry that even though the Zimmerman weighed more than Martin and was a bigger guy they made it out to seem like Martin was this big intimidating thug that needed to be brought down and that Zimmerman was this poor weakling who’s only self-defense was to shoot the thug. It just baffles me that people can be so callous sometimes. People should pay more attention to the facts then the color of someone’s skin. Now I am not saying that Martin was necessarily innocent. I mean I wasn’t there, I don’t actually know what happened. But from the general sounds of it it sounds like he didn’t really do anything and that Zimmerman had no need to shoot him.
In the second article I thought his point about people of color calling the police was interesting. I had never really thought of it before but that makes sense. I know that in shows, movies, and the news it always shows that people of color are not treated well by the police and often those people hide. However, I had never thought of the idea of them calling the police themselves. I can see why they would be hesitant in doing so considering how poorly they seem to be treated. If I was in their position I would probably feel rather sketched out about calling the police myself. It’s strange to think that something as simple as the color of one’s skin can change the whole concept of whether someone is going to call the police or not. I feel everyone should feel more secure in the fact that they are able to call the police to help them, regardless of their skin color.
Responses to and thoughts about course readings