Bodies and Oppression

So this was a question posed on an online forum for one of my classes, and apparently I had a lot to say about it.

How can we truly free the human body in this culture of shame we have around us? Women are called any number of derogatory terms when they attempt to understand their body, their sexuality. Why does taboo surround a completely natural thing?

The way I see it, people are afraid of things that are complicated, important, and uncontainable, all of which a body is and/or can be, and in an attempt to make their world safer, seek to change the object of their fear rather than themselves.

Bodies are complicated. On a strictly biological level, the human body is messy in basically every way. Once you factor in the mind, which has a biological basis, you essentially have an entire world, from the abiotic basis of an ecosystem to a higher conscious, contained within one finite object. That’s incredible! I want more words than “incredible” because it is uncontainably cool, but staying focused. People simplify other people into words, labels, types, etc. as a way of dealing the terrifying complexity of each person ever. That being said, we as individuals cannot fathom the complexity of every person ever, but that inability is not evil. We’d probably go nuts if we could. It is sufficient to understand that the complexity is there and to respect its existence the same way you respect your own. This is really hard for some people though, and if no one is willing to challenge a person’s unwillingness to recognize another’s humanity, every fails to acknowledge it and then we get oppressive systems.

Bodies are important. Phrases like, “It’s just [fill in any body part],” or “It’s just sex,” or any other phrase that simplifies the interface of two people and their bodies makes me absolutely nuts. Your body is yours, and you can do what you want with it. Yes. Absolutely. However anyone who simplifies their emotional experience with their own bodies and those of others does themselves and the other person a massive disfavor. They’re just boobs? Yes. They have the same kinds of tissue as any other boobs, and probably a lot of the same as what’s in monkey boobs. What is completely unique and worthy of respect though is how the owner of those boobs feels about them. How do they work with the rest of my body? How do they affect me? My significant other? What if they were suddenly missing? How do they shape my self-image, visually and conceptually? And the same goes for every bit of your body. Some answers will be longer than others, but they are all important and worthy of respect. Breaking any body part down to just tissue is facilitating your body’s oppression.

The idea of bodies being uncontainable is a little paradoxical, in that it is essentially a container of sorts. I suppose a more accurate way of saying it is that your body is a vehicle for expressing the uncontainable. Speaking, listening, feeling, sharing, all of these things are bigger than our body yet would never happen without it. Controlling a person’s body not only physically limits them, but also acts as a symbolic restraint that over time will likely break their spirit. A broken spirit is a complacent one.

So to actually answer your question, as a woman one of my first forms of protest to the way popular culture sees my body is to believe that it and my relationship with it is complicated, important, and limitless. The next step is to understand myself biologically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, all of it. Agency comes with understanding, and as soon as you have that foundation of self-respect it becomes much easier to understand the flaws with our cultural understanding of bodies and be impervious to them, and then work to break them down.

kiss

This is Kissing by Alex Gray. A lot of his work explores the interface of bodies and spirituality.

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Have You Ever Wanted To Kiss A Stranger? Here’s 20 People That Did It.

This is kind of hilarious and kind of beautiful. :]

Thought Catalog

We’ve all seen someone somewhere and just wondered what it would be like to kiss them, just once, and nothing else. But what I love about this is the lovely nervousness that everyone experiences. It’s a reminder that kissing truly can be an incredibly intimate act and this clip gives us a view, if just for a moment, of what it might be like if we could just act on those fleeting feelings with someone who felt the same. Plus, some of these people are really good kissers. [tc-mark]
image – YouTube

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Public library mobile kiosk

DUDE. This is the best.

Book of words

Mobile library kiosk
During my travels, I saw this mobile library kiosk at a train station and thought that this is a such a brilliant public library initiative. Owned by the Taipei Public Library, this automated machine is modeled very similarly to how regular vending machine works, allowing users to borrow and return books 24/7. The only thing you need is a library card and you will be allowed to check out any of the hundreds of book titles displayed for free.

I love that it is that is so conveniently located, giving travelers access to reading materials right before you embark on a long train journey to keep their minds occupied and entertained. Rather than expecting people to walk into libraries, this is great way of reaching out to people and to keep physical copies of books relevant in our increasingly paperless society.

Any thoughts about this book-lending machine?

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Art, Truth, Forgiveness, and Existential Angst (Rant)

When I look back on my writing from that time it fucking kills me. It’s so constrained, so limited, so desperate and terrified that it doesn’t even think it has the right to struggle. I want it to never exist, or I want to fix it because it feels broken and terrible and I am ashamed I ever produced something so false. I hate that it is this terrible, broken, contrived pile of bullshit, and that it is actually the most accurate representation of who I was as the time. I want to tear it to bits and put it back together, because it feels so out of place and wrong, like I’m wrong; I was wrong. But emotions aren’t wrong, and people aren’t wrong, they just are. So I am left with a moral and philosophical conundrum as both an artist and a human being. My work from that time is honest in that it reflects my desperate and obviously futile attempts to convince myself and everyone else that I had my shit together; it is the most accurate depiction of my lies. So the art in itself is a lie, but it exposes the truth of whom I was so desperately trying to hide. Do I leave it? Do I change it? Do I leave a disclaimer? I want to apologize for the monstrosities I’ve created. I don’t want someone to read these pieces and say, “Oh, but it’s beautiful!” because it is heinous to me. I don’t want it to resonate with anyone because every single note of that sick song is a ruse. I don’t want anyone to fall in love with it because I don’t want such a false thing to be shown such a true emotion. I don’t want any of it to have ever existed, but it did. And it still does. I don’t want to have been such a false and hidden and twisted thing, but I was. And this terribly true and entirely false collection of emotions is the only tangible evidence of that. It is a lie, and a truth. I hate it. I hate this piece of my past, and I hate everything and everyone associated with it. And by that last statement, I also hate the idea of forgiveness and the idea that I could ever let go of that pain and the person at the core of it, but I also hate that it eats a hole in me every day and makes me question every single thing I do. Every single thing. I want to be alive without feeling like I need to apologize for wanting to be so. I want to breathe in the same room as people who are different from me without wondering if it is my moral imperative to think I’m superior. I want to feel like – I want to BE, a complete person, and this pain has been a part of me for so long that I don’t know if I could withstand letting it go. No, it’s not that I wonder if I could handle it, it’s just the prospect of cutting so much out of my norm is terrifying. And it’s all irrational, but all the more real-feeling for being so. What if I fill the cavity with something just as, if not more, sinister? That’s what happened in the first place, I didn’t know that letting one person in would be so astronomically destructive. I don’t completely trust my judgment, and I don’t know if I could stand being so intimate with something, someone, so poisonous. And would I recognize it as such before I died to myself again?

And I’ve been working on cutting out the small daily reminders of that time – stickers, pictures, clothes, even related people – so that I might find more peace. And I also have to wonder, is it making me stronger? If I can’t ever stand to be in the same vicinity as any tiny reminder of that time, how do I ever expect to forgive him? To not be rattled by my memories? To look at my past calmly and nod to reality? But I suppose you don’t build callouses without some healing time in between the pain.

I suppose this is why people need God’s grace. People tend to be pretty pitiful examples of wise, collected individuals when left to their own devices, and the only thing bigger than an existential crisis is the one who made existence a thing in the first place.

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18 Things Women Keep In Their Lives That Only Hold Them Back

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Sassy First Drafts: Pilot

So I have this idea. I tend to have a really hard time starting papers, probably because the academic tone is just boring and makes me want to peel my eyes out. So to alleviate some of the stress of just starting out with an academic voice and creating something coherent, I’m going to write the first drafts the way I might tell someone about the subject matter when I’ve had too much caffeine. I did something like this for the introduction to a lit paper I was struggling with my freshman year, where I started out sounding like a pompous asshole, and then just toned it down slightly. My professor ate it up.

Original:

As aspiring academics in the vicious world of English literature, it is important to have a full arsenal of strategies to promote your superior and irrefutable opinions on any piece of high art that dare cross your path. It takes years to develop a sophisticated armory of derailing devices and callous claims to truth, but if you start with the proper repertoire of tactics, you are well on your way to dominating the world of literary criticism and all the pompous bastards that dwell within. I aim to illustrate the strategies I used to respond to the poem “I Think I Should Have Loved You Presently” and their effectiveness in formulating a coherent essay.

Edited:

As an amateur literary critic, it is important to have a set of methods to argue your views on a variety of types of literature. It is also important for you to develop a sophisticated understanding of your writing process so that you may hone your skills further and develop as a writer. There are several strategies available to you both in actively writing and in reflecting upon it and editing, though not all of which will work best for every writer. In this exercise I responded twice to the same poem, the first response being a purely emotional one, and the second being an academic free write. I aim to illustrate the strategies I used to respond to the poem “I Think I Should Have Loved You Presently” by Edna St. Vincent Millay and their effectiveness in formulating a coherent essay.

So for this mini-project I’ll just post a few paragraphs every now and then. It’s also a (hopefully) amusing method for the self-serving goal of keeping myself on track. I pulled a few all-nighters writing research papers at the end of last semester, and I don’t think I have any bigger academic regrets than trying to pass off one of them as an acceptable piece of scholarship. I’m hoping this will help. I’m already excited to start one, actually, except that I don’t have enough research. *frolics to the library*

And feel free to join me! I think there might be a potential for some really hilarious material

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Some Thoughts on Truth, Identity, and Misreprestentation

So, recently I’ve been thinking a lot about identity and misrepresentation; truth and the power of lies. We’ll see if this is a cohesive post by the time I’m done with it.

The idea of a spirit or soul

I’ve always believed people have a core to them, something that, while it may be unspeakably damaged or hidden away for all time, will essentially not change. I don’t know the nature of this thing, except that I don’t think you can give it away to anyone, it is immeasurably complicated, and in it’s own way is some sort of evidence to the existence of a higher power. It’s a little infinity within us, maybe a piece of a larger infinity that I call God, and is what causes us to look for meaning in our environment and a greater depth to our existence. Some piece of this higher power is within us, wanting to be in communication with its source.

Part of this belief comes from, or has at least been solidified by, an experience I had/am having. My first two years of college I was in an incredibly abusive friendship. One of the most damaging things he did to me was make me believe that everything I had ever loved, ever valued, ever feared, hated, or cast off; everything that made me me, had to be run through his filter of who I should be before it was “good” or even real. He puppetteered my every move even when he wasn’t around using the fear and shame he instilled about what I was allowed to think, feel, and be. After two years and one last, terrible conversation in May, I wiped myself of everything he ever said to me, everything I felt about anything and everybody, and started over.

It was the most terrifying thing I have ever done. I discarded the personality he had twisted around me and all I was left with was this sun-deprived, battered soul that I had forgotten how to listen to.

It was also the most liberating. It has taken some months, but I’ve regained a lot of self confidence, even more than I had before I knew him. And a huge part of that was learning how to listen to that core and ask myself what was truly good for me, what would help me know myself, how I best listen to other people, and how to express all of the complexity in myself and accept other people’s complexity. I’ve gained some new personality traits having gone through this – I am less trusting, especially of authority, and am less comfortable with ambiguity than I was. I am also more loyal to my friends and more vocal about my opinions. There are some things that really haven’t changed at all though since before: I’m terribly absent-minded, compassionate to a fault sometimes, I love writing and playing with words, and am eager to be enraptured by all the beautiful things in the world. These persisting traits, among others, and their indestructibility, are enough evidence for me to believe that there is some resilient, maybe immortal, core to each of us. I find that very comforting.

On truth

I don’t even know, man. That’s way too big a topic, with a lot of exceptions.

The one thing that should not be excepted though is that aforementioned core. You treat someone or something as they are. You treat a person like a person, regardless of whether or not they want you to. You treat an animal as an animal, which is less than a person but still a creature with certain rights. You treat God as God, which to me is a single higher power, unsurpassable and always greater than any other thing. You do not treat people like animals or gods; you do not treat animals like people or gods; you do not treat God like a person or an animal.

So, I suppose your rights are dependent on the nature of your core, on the core of your identity. I’m not exactly sure why right now, but that feels significant.

Misrepresentation and power dynamics

When someone misunderstands you, you lose power. They can be accidentally or willfully ignorant, but not acknowledging someone’s identity, any part of it, robs them of their agency. This is extremely frustrating because even though you didn’t do anything to remove your agency, you still have to pull yourself back up after someone else takes you down.

This is clip from The Crucible that seems appropriate (full scene at 3:30, and the most relevant to this topic around 5:20). It is the end of the play when John Proctor untruthfully confesses to dealing with the Devil, and then takes it back for the sake of his identity. At first I thought it was silly that he was fighting for his pride, his reputation, but I thought about it further and what he was really doing was repenting and fighting for his humanity. He was fighting for recognition of his inalienable right to be judged as a full person in the eyes of God, and defending that right for all of the accused.

You can also lose agency by not knowing yourself, or doing any number of things that give other people or things power you once had (not speaking up for yourself or someone else, neglecting hard work that would lead to growth, etc.).

In certain situations giving up your agency is ok and even healthy. Making sacrifices for people you love removes some of your agency. What makes it healthy is if the person for whom you make sacrifices also sacrifices things for you. That’s love. It reciprocates.

Something like a conclusion?

A lot of my source of anxiety over identity and reality recently comes from, I think, a fear of misrepresentation. I want people to know who I am and I want to know who I am so I can be fully functioning member of the human race, and not be fighting constantly for the voice I have the ability and right to use. If I am to be cast aside for any reason I’d like it to be because of something I said rather than for being complacent and willfully disempowered. So even though not all of these things are in my power, and even though I’ll probably royally fuck up a few (by that I mean many) more times in my life, I think that being confident and compassionate, in and for myself and others, are good goals to strive for.

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