I Will Not Be Silenced

I forced my family to head to Boston with me today, to attend the rally Unite Against the War on Women.

Jaclyn Friedman was an amazing speaker who articulated what I am unable to say.

I found myself sitting on the steps of City Hall, crying silent tears.

In the midst of all these people who had come out to show concern and express anger, to share stories, to speak out against repression and injustice I felt very much alone.

Nathan is interested, but not nearly as passionate about the issues as I am. Sarah really had no interest, despite my explanations that everything happening there had to to with making the world a better place for her. She was distracted by pigeons, the Circus that stood right next to the rally, and the fun potential of steps.

So when I cried, I cried alone.

Where did the tears come?

When I first walked into the plaza, my heart tightened. Around me people carried the signs that should not have surprised me, signs about not being sluts, or stay out of my vagina, or whatever. But seeing them made me realize that the issues we face are so much broader than contraception/choice. If we only focus on those issues, we are focusing our energy in the wrong direction.

The issues move beyond our bodies, to the fact that women are not inferior, second class citizens who serve no purpose other then as incubators for future generations. We are being treated as less than men, as barely human, and that is the real issue.  The laws that are being made affect anyone who is marginalized, and that is a bigger problem than a vaginal ultrasound. I am not diminishing the importance of those aspects. I’ve already written about them as passionately as I could. But, I’ve had the growing sense that we might be fighting the wrong part of the war, and if that is so we could be heading to disaster.

When I heard Jaclyn Friedman (pictured above) speak  I felt pressure release. She broadened the message, speaking of the effects on all people, especially poor people or people of color. She reminded us that this is a battle for all people, where men and women must stand together. She spoke for my thoughts.

But it was not enough and I still ended up in tears.

The tears started when I heard Reverend Aaron Payson Minister of Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester speak. The title of this post actually comes from his use of “We will not be silenced!” His words showed me that there are some truly religious people out there who recognize that perhaps the words of the bible are being interpreted incorrectly, or perhaps they were written by people who want to keep control of their own power. He too, spoke for my thoughts.

Some of the tears came from hearing people express themselves so beautifully. Some from the power of the stories. Some from the sadness and frustration expressed by women who started this fight in the 70s and could not believe that we were fighting this battle again, now.

But I admit, that some of the tears were personal.

Two incredible women spoke. Idalia, who is described as “” a Puertominican (Puerto Rican and Dominican) writer, performance poet, healthcare advocate, and kitchen table feminist” (http://idaliapoetry.tumblr.com) and Spectra, “n award-winning Nigerian writer, women’s rights activist, and the voice behind the African feminist media blog, Spectra Speaks (www.spectraspeaks.com). [Note that I shortened their bios for this, these women are truly amazing.]

They spoke with the honest voices of their hearts, including their sexuality, their race, and their womanhood. They spoke and the floodgates opened as my heart broke into a million tiny pieces of confusion.

Why? Because when I hear the voices of the truly marginalized I am reminded that I am a white, middle class, heterosexual woman. True, I am a Jew, and that carries with it a different kind of marginalization, but I do not experience rejection based on the color of my skin or my sexual identity.

Sometimes the reality of my identity makes me feel like I should not speak.

I flash back to a time when I presented my dissertation for an award. I wrote a doctoral dissertation entitled, “Theorizing Diversity in Three Professional Theatres for Young Audiences.” Basically I was looking at the fact that most professional TYA companies were white owned, white managed, and yet the audiences they served represented diversity. I wanted to understand the messages being sent in that interaction. I wanted to explore the intersection between what we thought we were doing and what we were really doing. When I presented this for the award, the only thing I was attacked for was the fact that I was a white woman looking at issues of diversity, of race. I explained my position on that, but the explanation was not enough and the question kept coming, “Why do you think you have the right to speak for others?” I did not try to speak for others, I tried to observe and learn and use their voices, but that did not matter to the questioner.

I won Honorable Mention for that award, but nobody won the award that year. Everyone was shocked that I didn’t win.

But this isn’t about that.

It’s about the fact that I should not feel silenced because I haven’t experienced the same level of struggle. If we separate ourselves that way, then we only hurt ourselves. I’m not saying we ignore the differences, but we must embrace those differences and acknowledge that all our voices have the right, the need, to be heard.

I am a white woman. I can’t change that. Nor should I have to apologize for it.

I also have a daughter who is a woman of color. Will she face different challenges than I did?

I can’t answer that, except to say that if we allow the powers that be to control women then her world will be even more challenging than mine.

I can’t allow that to happen. I will not be silent.

Two Years

Two years ago today I started this blog.

Since that first pathetic post I have:

  • written 585 posts
  • approved 7629 comments
  • been protected from 5738 spam comments
  • had (supposedly) 39,054 views
  • written hundreds and hundreds of comments on other people’s blogs
  • gained and lost subscribers (right now I have 155 blog followers).

But these numbers really don’t mean anything to me. Since I started this blog, I have also:

  • lived in four states (Colorado, Iowa for summer theatre work, Kansas, and Massachusetts).
  • taught several hundred students of all ages in theatre, writing, English lit, puppetry and other areas.
  • driven thousands of miles (including across country three times)
  • read approximately 118 books
  • walked miles and miles in beautiful locations
  • taken hundreds of pictures
  • created a couple of pieces of “art”
  • directed shows
  • taught camps
  • written hundreds of morning pages
  • met amazing people
  • traveled out of the country
  • played too many computer games
  • been angry, scared, sad, happy, excited, lonely, content, frustrated, confident, doubtful and any other emotion you can think of
  • gained and lost weight
  • shared ideas with wonderful women
  • eaten chocolate, laughed and celebrated life
  • cried millions of tears

In other words I’ve lived my life. I’ve tried to share honestly on these pages. I’ve written words from the heart. I have been honored to interact with many incredible people. I admit that I still envy bloggers who seem to ease into successful blogs: the ones who get Freshly Pressed repeatedly while I limp forward slowly, the ones with hundreds and hundreds of followers and hundreds of thousand of hits. I admit that there are days that I feel frustrated and wonder why I bother. What do I hope to achieve with this blog?

That question looms large as I celebrate this, my second blogiversary. What do I hope to achieve with this blog? Where do I go from here? Do I continue as I’ve been doing, posting about whatever inspires me at any given moment, including rants and rambles along the way? Do I start something new, coming up with a more focused vision? Or do I simply give up, saying, “it was a good try but now move on to something realistic” ?

I am in the middle of reinventing myself, of discovering who I want to be and what marks I want to leave in this world. Saturday I spent the day with theatre educators and others who are passionate about the importance and value of arts education in the schools, and arts as part of life. I discovered people who are doing incredible work, on both a large and a small-scale. I was reminded that I do belong in that world in many ways, I just have yet to figure out how I contribute.

I live in a world of creative energy, and am slowly finding a foothold in that world. Blogging has helped me in many ways. I have learned so much from fellow bloggers, that I’m not sure where to even begin. But, I will try.

  • I’ve learned how to see the world a little differently from people like Piglet in Portugal and Terry at The Incredible Lightness of Seeing. Because of them I carry my camera with me wherever I go, and began incorporating my own images into my posts more often.
  • I’ve learned about courage from many sources, but particularly: Kathy at Reinventing the Event Horizon who is delving into her past with beauty, compassion and courage; Mark at The Idiot Speaketh who faces the challenges of his disability with humor and honesty, while still offering compassion and support wherever needed,  Ré at Sparks in the Shadows who is heart-breakingly honest with her struggles in life, but works daily to improve herself as a writer and challenge her world; and Dory at If I Were Brave who challenges herself daily to bring joy and face her fears. She’s now embarking on a fiction writing course and I know she will shine in that.
  • I’ve learned about love from Christine (who has also helped me see the power of photography). Ahab and Tori. I’ve learned about the craft of writing from Broadside and Wordsxo. I’ve learned about pursuing passion from Julia’s hundred word challenge and Stuart’s commitment to the arts.

My list could go on and on, but I honestly don’t have time to link to all the fabulous blogs I’ve read. Because, one of the downsides of blogging is that I have blogged away all the time I need to do other things. I am just starting on a book project with actual deadlines. I need to focus my energy on that to some extent today, or I will not make my deadline. But, this blogging world is now a home, that I am afraid to leave. I am more comfortable writing here then I ever thought I would be in the early days of my blog. I have found a community. I have met a few bloggers, and hope to meet more. I have discovered amazing people who I connect to on many different levels.

In many ways my blog has become my home. But, I wonder, is it time for this little bird to leave her nest?

Satisfaction with Mediocrity

Math Cards Icon

Image by Sagolla via Flickr

I just turned in my grades for the past semester.

As usual, my emotions are a mixed bag: relief that I finished (early this semester); frustration at myself for what I didn’t accomplish; elation because of the few students that I actually reached and saw shine; anger at the students who were willing to scrape by in mediocrity.

This last feeling is the most frustrating for me. I have seen it in numerous situations lately; not just in the classroom but in people’s general attitude toward life . There seems to be a willingness to accept the mediocre. Why work for an A when a C will do? And, if you don’t get the A, then of course it is the fault of the instructor, never oneself. If you are getting less than a C, particularly an F, you can always beg for withdrawal as long as you can come up with a heart-wrenching explanation for why you never bothered to attend class or turn anything in. I am giving lots of “F”s this year.

I gave an assignment for students to create a portfolio of their work. “Lay it out nicely,” I said. “This will be useful for you in the future. Create something that you would turn in if you were applying for a job. Create a cover, label your images . . . etc.” I get a collection of images labeled with a blue pen. The cover is notebook paper, blue handwriting scribbled across.

I give the students the opportunity to create a final that is interesting to them, where they can latch onto whatever intrigued them throughout the semester and pursue that topic. I set guidelines, but I allowed. I get, an odd mixture of well thought out work merged with half-accomplished efforts.

This is not just a refection of the school I am at, but a general attitude of students today.  They want knowledge handed to them in the simplest way possible, and then they want some kind of guarantee that all of this work will lead to a lucrative job. I cannot give those guarantees, because I would never hire them. If I owned my own company, I would only want to hire people who are willing to put something more than mediocrity into everything they do. I want to work with people who can find inspiration in anything, so that they do it all with joy. I want to work with people who are not satisfied with a C.

I wonder if this is a reflection of American culture. Have we become so complacent that we are somehow “the best” that we no longer strive to become better. I hate to think that the best we can do is middle of the road.

What do you think?

Wearing Purple

 

Purple color

Image via Wikipedia

 

My family is wearing purple today. I haven’t noticed if anyone else is wearing purple, but I won’t be surprised if they don’t.

I have a dream of seeing the streets of someplace like New York filled with purple. Streets filled with Spirit! Streets filled with the idea that people have the right to love who they like, believe what they like, worship as they please without being bullied, abused, or tortured. Streets filled with people who recognize that every life is valuable, and would never push someone to end his/her life.

Is that a realistic dream?

I dressed in purple today because I want to believe in the possibility that human nature is not as wicked and petty as it sometimes seems. I want to believe that we can be filled with joy, love, and support for one another.

I asked my daughter to wear purple because I want her to know that it is okay to love whoever she wants to love. I also want her to learn to stand up against bullies when she sees them. She’s only seven. She doesn’t quite understand, but she heard what I said and embraced the purple.

My partner chose to wear purple for his own reasons, but I am sure they are similar to mine.

My family wore purple today because we believe in the power of spirit and the value of life.

“Playful Kiss”

 

WED/THURS - MBC - PLAYFUL KISS  장난스런 키스 (2010)

Image by dramatomy.com via Flickr

 

The other day as I was browsing through Hulu I stumbled on the Korean show Playful Kiss and I got hooked. I found it to be a sweet, fun, quirky romantic comedy about a less-than-smart high school girl (Oh Ha Ni) who has feelings for a genius boy (Baek Seung Jo) who thinks he is superior and shows it.An earthquake destroys Oh Ha Ni’s home and she and her father move into Baek Seung Jo’s home (because the two fathers were close as children).  The show, based on a Japanese manga, reveals those roots (at least in the first 2 episodes) with some moments of pure fantasy.

After watching episodes 3 and 4 last night, I thought about the cultural differences that are reflected in the show. Doing research this morning, I recognized those differences are even greater than I thought. Insight into what others are thinking really made me see that we all perceive things differently. In those differences lies the complexity of our world.

I saw Playful Kiss as a comedy. I’ve even experienced the ever so rare laugh-out-loud moments watching this show. BUT, it is billed as a drama (and I believe that is how it was billed in Korea). If it is a drama, then some of the objections to the show might be legit, but if it is a comedy it looks at the world through quirky rose-colored glasses.

Some of the complaints I read this morning surrounded the idea that the 4th episode showed the Oh Ha Ni as drunk, and because Baek Seong Jo made a sexist (or harassing) comment about her small breasts. This is where culture comes to play. Yes, she was drinking, but under the supervision of the adults. They were celebrating her grades and offered her one drink which, of course, went straight to her head. Now, I’m not saying that parents should hand drinks to all there children. But, how often have American audiences watched as the parent figure on-screen (and in real life) turned a blind eye as their  perfect child throws a wild party that included enough alcohol to poison half the town?

As for the comment about small breasts, it seemed natural given the circumstances (Baek Seong Jo was carrying the drunk girl home by piggy back) especially as girls at that age worry about breasts and boys are fascinated by them. What I found more interesting (and reflective of culture) were the clear expectations that females should clean up and take care of males. Evidence of this appears throughout the show. Of course I notice these things, as I still reflect on remnant sexism that exists in American culture today, but I recognize it for what it is–different cultural values.

I think the show is interesting for the contrast it makes to American values in that the hero is the smartest kid in school (in addition to being cute and talented in every way). Yes, he is wealthy as well, but he is the heart-throb at school because he scores 100% on every exam. Wouldn’t it be nice if that happened in American high school dramas more often?

It seems to me that, in this time of technology providing so much access to other cultures, we should really spend time evaluating the things that make us different as well as the things that make us human. Meanwhile, I’ll keep watching Playful Kiss and enjoying ever sweet moment.

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