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Dark Ecology: Race, Gender & the Environment

English 252 @ Hunter College

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women

Women’s Rights are Human Rights

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On March 8, 2017 I attended the women’s Strike in Washington Square Park. Knowing that we were all there for a common goal to speak on issues that affect us as women daily really inspired me want to do something more for the cause. A photographer who started a women’s series project for the month of March reached out to me about possibly sharing my story. While we were there he interviewed me to be featured in the series. At first I was a little spectacle to volunteer, I didn’t want to get judge for sharing personal feelings. After much contemplating I decided to do it because being scared of getting judge wasn’t a good excuse. It was silly for me to turn down an opportunity that would possibly impact other women in my same position. Below is my interview. It is extremely personal but I’m sharing it because I know it is an issue that many daughters and mothers faced. It’s a relevant issue for women.

 

Interview: In High School, I didn’t have many worries. I often would be hours at school because it was better than being at home. I avoided drama whenever possible because it remind me of what I was trying to escape. In high school I used to have fun, I was passionate about things and I remember always having a smile on my face and laughing all the time. When you are that young it seems like nothing can really ruin your life, until something actually does. When my father left it was life changing. And not because I was destroyed in the fact that he left. I actually wished countlessly that he would go. When your dad starts. But my mother and I didn’t have similar feelings. So when he left it destroyed her. She didn’t know how to pick up the pieces. She didn’t know how to pick herself back up again and I had to pick up the pieces. I was no longer carefree because I spent my days worrying and caring for her. It was a heavy burden to bare and it definitely took a toll on me and our relationship. She went through a deep depression and I was forced to grow up not because I wanted to but because I had to. Everything was different; I wasn’t passionate about things anymore. I think I lost myself through my mother’s pain. I wasn’t even able to deal with my own pain because I was worried about fixing hers. I was concerned with her healing; I was obsessed with her getting over it. In an odd way I thought, “If she got over it then our lives would go back to normal”. But that didn’t happen, for a long time things weren’t normal. When I was younger I was really artistic and it came natural to me, it was one of the only things I was passionate about and suddenly I just stopped, I quit making art. I put it aside for a long time because in a way I felt guilty for pursuing things that I enjoyed. My mother’s misery weighed heavy on me and giving up art was one of the hardest things I think I’ve ever had to do. I lived a lost and stressful life for a very long time. One night I broke down, I just started crying and I couldn’t stop. I think that after maybe hours of dry heaving and ugly crying I realized how unhappy I was and came to the realization that even though my mother was going through something it wasn’t my burden. So, I turned to art, I needed a way to release my pent up emotions. Eventually it helped me find my youth and myself again.

 

My advice or I guess mantra to other women would be to embrace challenges. I feel like embracing challenges made me who I am today, without them I wouldn’t have a story. I dealt with resentment towards my mother and her decisions after my father left. she often talked about taking her life away and is was painful to hear because I had this image and expectation of her. I wanted her to be strong and courageous but she wasn’t. I realized I had to be those things for the both of us. what i’m getting at is that many of us like to judge other women and put them down because they aren’t the “ideal” woman. I was guilty of it, but this only creates barriers between us when we should be untied rather than out casting other women for choices that you don’t agree with, why not lend an ear, a hand, a hug, why not help? why not embrace your challenges and understand theirs?

 

 

Trip to the Botanical Gardens (Blog Post #3)

It’s finals week for CUNY students. People are burning their candles late into the night, just to finish the third paper due, just to study a little more for their exam tomorrow. Anxiety rises among students quickly, causing nerves and emotions to fray easily.

These kids need a break. So, we went to the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx!

Upon entering the Mertz Library, we were treated to several, well-preserved works from multiple points in history that stuck to the theme of Dark Ecology, most specifically nature. My favorite book here was the one French work where the characters were humanized flowers — each “specimen” was made into a woman in a dress that fit the image of the flower itself; if I were a fashion enthusiast, I would have definitely used that book for inspiration. The work entitled Sea and Land was comprised of stories and descriptions of monsters and flora from the prehistoric era to the then-modern times of approximately 18th or 19th century. These accounts would be of great help to someone like me, with the almost storybook and fantastical-style of recounting this book had.

The Botanical Gardens were absolutely awe-inspiring and filled with plants I had never truly seen in person. It brought upon a weird feeling of being lost, even though I knew exactly where I was. I felt absolutely relieved of the stress finals was pressing onto us at that time.

I’m absolutely returning to the Gardens at some point this summer.

Not A Chameleon

Growing up, people around me often made fun of cross-dressers on television, or anything remotely different from gender-conformity; kilts, for example. That was me as well, conforming to the mentality of others, until when curiosity was in cahoots with boredom, and I borrowed the VCR named “To Wong Foo,” which was a film with some of the most seasoned drag queens (you should never say “oldest” drag queens). Continue reading “Not A Chameleon”

Nature As Mirror

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Remember
Joy Harjo, 1951

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.

As part of National Poetry Month, I have been trying read or post a poem a day. When I encountered this poem, I couldn’t help but think of the works we have read in class this semester: Mother Nature by Emily Dickinson; The Last Man by Mary Shelly; and, Prospero’s Daughter by Elizabeth Nunez. As Joy Harjo has done, Dickinson, Shelly, and Nunez all personify nature in order to raise awareness about or strengthen our connection to the natural world. Nature, in these works, is seen as having both positive as well as less than noble characteristics similar to traits and flaws possessed by humans.

All of these authors have understood that humanity is not only one aspect of nature, but humanity is also dependent on the natural world for survival. Mankind is but one component of the ecosystem—it is not separate from this planet’s ecology. As Mary Shelley expressed, without man, nature will continue; however, without nature, mankind will disappear. Therefore, it is incumbent on us all to protect the very world that has given us a great deal of what may be extremely dear to us: clean air, water, sunshine, nourishment, shelter material, and familial bonds.

In their own way, these women want to remind us how all life that exists emerges from what is in existence and has already existed. Woven through these works, the awe-inspiring aspects of nature are described. Through the characters, the authors show how, first, nature seems to have an innate appeal—serves a primitive need in humans; and, secondly, temperamentally, man and nature mirror each other. All life appears to operate on both a balance and a spectrum. Dickinson introduces us to the unconditionally benign “gentlest mother” Nature. Shelley, on the other hand, begins with an authoritative veil by calling Nature “herself was only his first minister”; however, as the story progresses, Shelley depicts an unleashed, angry, and revengeful Nature who answers to no one. Finally, Nunez depicts a Nature oppressive to some but not to all—where some reject it while others embrace and welcome it as is. In all three works, we glimpse moments where Nature demonstrates its duality as well as our human powerlessness against its ferocity. And, in not so many words, this is what Joy Harjo is expressing in her poem, Remember. For Harjo, hubris has no place in this world as we are all one with nature. Man has the ability to provoke nature, but man cannot control it. Ultimately, man is but a small player in the universe.

 

“Remember” By Joy Harjo YouTube Video

“Remember” by Joy Harjo

Mother Nature by Emily Dickinson

Beauty of Nature (YouTube)

Nature’s Fury: The Science of Natural Disasters (AMNH)

 

A Stolen Voice

The content may contain subject of disturbance.

Timothy Morton explains ‘dark ecology’ as a means of expressing the “irony, ugliness, and horror” of ecology. So, what does that mean in the real world? It is the deformity in nature, be it environmental or human. One example of this deformity is rape, a subject our culture demeans but does not put an effort to prevent it. It degrades women, if she is the victim, but is not the case for men. If a man were to claim that he was raped, he would be ridiculed by society. According to society, men are not seen as victims but rather seen as the culprit. Hence, we do not hear about those cases often. In cases of rape, the fight that women have to put up with in order to make their voices heard on a larger scale of the justice system, is unbelievable and unimaginable. One would think that in a time where we are incredibly advanced in technology, justice for rape might be clear as well right? Well in reality, compared to technology, justice for rape is similar to the technology in the 1800’s, barely there. That is only because the world is run by men, who do not see rape being a problem and do not see it through the victim’s eyes. They are not able to comprehend what being a rape victim feels like or how undermining their actions are. To them, the idea of rape is not rape, it is a means of pleasure, not only for the man but the woman as well.

I chose this topic because it has been a problem ever since the creation of men and women and it is relatable to our class. Recently, I was asked to watch the movie “Thelma & Louise” directed by Ridley Scott, a movie about two women, Thelma Dickinson and Louise Sawyer. Thelma is a married woman with a controlling husband, who makes her decisions for her, as if she has no opinion of her own. Louise is Thelma’s friend who works as a waitress and has a boyfriend who is a musician. Tired of the same lifestyle, they both decide to go on a two-day mini-vacation away from the problems. Thelma goes without her husband’s “permission” which according to the society at the time that the movie takes place, is inexcusable. On the way to the vacation place, they stop at a roadhouse, where they drink a little and dance with people and let loose. After a while, Thelma starts to feel uncomfortable in the environment and starts to feel sick so, Harlan, the person she that she dances with takes her out of the roadhouse for some fresh air. Once outside, he starts to forcefully kiss her and rip her clothes. He, in this moment would have taken this chance to rape her if Louise had not come to save her. As they walk away, Harlan makes nasty remarks toward the women forcing Louise to kill him. Because Thelma did not give into Harlan’s advances, Harlan takes the chance to ridicule her. This goes to show that if a woman does not give into a man’s sexual intentions, then the woman is the one who gets humiliated because of her choice not to give in. Louise helping Thelma escape from Harlan shows his failure. If Thelma and Louise were to go to the cops to tell of this, they would be the one who will be blamed because they were the ones drinking and they were the ones who decides to dance with Harlan. In the end, they would be the one getting blamed. The fear of no one believing them as they were drinking, forces them to go on the run. Louise asks her boyfriend to bring her life savings which she gets robbed of by a man she had tried to help by letting him hitch a ride. After that moment, they commit a series of crimes, some to survive and others to teach creeps a lesson, all of this escalates only because of one fear, which was whether or not the society would believe Thelma if she were to tell about the attempted rape and Louise killing a MAN in self-defense? Louise knows the answer already because she had been raped in Texas but no one was there to help her. No one stepped in, to help her serve justice. The dark nature of men was revealed to her then. Hence, the answer at large was no.

This issue should not only be raised in a movie, but also has to be questioned in reality. Recently a female was raped by a drunk Stanford student whose father described the rape as, “20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” What the father did not think was, how the “20 minutes of action” had impacted the young woman. He did not think of the pain that the “20 minute of action” had caused. He did not think of his son’s prosecutor who had publically defamed, and humiliated the victim, for his son’s “20 minutes of action.” He did not think the “20 minutes of action” had taken her life from her. Not only did it physically affect her, it affected her psychologically as well. It took her dignity from her. It took away something that she cherished the most, her independency, her freedom. After his son had the “20 minutes of action”, the son told the world “She Liked it.” Not only was the father who believe in the “20 minute of action” but so did the judge. In fear of not causing a “severe impact” on the 20-year-old, the judge gave a rapist only six months of jail time and three years of parole. So, the “20 minute of action” by a 20 years old men was not taken seriously as even grand larceny offenders will receive 1- 4 years of jail time however this man whole stole something so precious from a woman that because of it she will live in fear for the rest of her life however, her dignity, her independency was not enough to be worth of 1000 dollars. This showed that robbery of something worth a 1000 dollars was more criminating than taking someone’s innocence, and her pride from her. This shows that the justice system had failed her and not only her but all other rape victims out there. It failed to show that rape victims should not fear to raise their voices against it. It did not protect the other weak innocents by giving a more meaningful sentence which would instill fear in other perpetrators. Instead a rapist was given jail time so lenient that a year worth of fighting for it and facing the humiliation seemed worthless and embarrassing. The young women walked out with more fear than she had walked in with, fear of the justice system and fear of men. For the man it was a sense of pride for taking something forceful from a women and putting her on display for the mortification. For him, it was a win, something he could be proud of and something his father is proud of, but for the woman, it was a horrid situation, something that will haunt her for as long as she lives and something that she cannot take back from him.

This essay/blog showed the ugliness the world has within it. The aspect of dark ecology that is manmade. That despite being put on trial a rapist got away with a lenient sentence. A woman had lost her privacy and her confidence, two women had lost their freedom and all of the other victims that are out there, had lost their voices because of the unjust done to them along with many other women who or did not try to fight it, because according to the world “20 minutes of action” would ruin a life, the person who has performed the action, not the victim who is the recipient of the malicious crime.

work citation

Movie:

 

Thelma & Louise. Dir. Ridley. Scott. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1991. DVD.

 

Picture:

Thomas, Emily. “Rape Is Grossly Underreported In The U.S., Study Finds.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 21 Nov. 2013. Web.                                     <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/21/rape-study-report-america-                      us_n_4310765.html>.

 

For more information on the case:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2016/06/04/you-took-away-my-worth-a-rape-victim-delivers-powerful-message-to-a-former-stanford-swimmer/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.5d14a54270eb

 

Chopin for the Syllabus

Short but rich; while blunt and mysterious also; The Awakening by Kate Chopin remains of one of the most thought-provoking novels I have ever read. The words, for the most part, are clear (despite an occasional French or slang); the sentences are simple and sturdy; the paragraphs are tight; and the chapters are short, no more than two or three pages on average. But after reading this novel twice, I can’t quite break through the text to understand what it’s about.

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(This is the version I read: Barnes & Nobles Classics, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/awakening-and-selected-short-fiction-kate-chopin/1005693355)

Within the novel, Edna Pontellier is a woman of high class in late 19th century Louisiana, while married to the successful Léonce Pontellier, with whom she has two sons. The novel opens with the Pontellier family on vacation at a Grand Isle resort on the Gulf of Mexico. While there, we subtly learn of Edna’s displeasure with her life, especially as she spends most of her time with her friend Adéle Ratignolle, who encourages her to be more wifely and motherly. But Edna wants to feel meaningful as an individual, not just as a wife or mother. While on resort, she falls in love with Robert LeBrun, who takes her to the water where she does not know how to swim. She eventually teaches herself little by little to swim manageably. When she falls in love with Robert, she is “awakened” to the earnestness of this unhappiness in her life and “awakened” to a self within, that is not just meant to be a wife or a mother. This affair does not last, but the effect it had on Edna remains with her so deeply, that when the family returns to Louisiana, Edna grows more and more distant from her family and, after some time, separates herself from them to have her own place. The rest of the novel concerns Edna as a woman attempting to explore the depths of herself as an individual and expressing an inner life through painting. Edna has a friend, Mademoiselle Reisz, who is a renowned pianist. Mademoiselle Reisz is an inspiration for Edna, because she is an independent woman, with no ties to a husband or children. Edna’s predicament, however, is that she is a wife and a mother, and her self-exploration will be cut short, due to her family or her society. At the end, after Robert returns and leaves again, to tell Edna he loves her and that he cannot harm the reputation of a married woman, Edna revisits the ocean at the Grand Isle, where she had learned how to swim, and she drowns herself.

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(Photo, taken from https://mixedupsaydee.com/2015/12/07/the-awakening-by-kate-chopin-an-analysis/)

After I read it the first time, I spoke with my cousin, who had been taught the novel in high school. My cousin hated it, because she saw Edna as a selfish woman, who cheats on her husband and abandons her family, only to kill herself, because she can never be satisfied. I, on the other hand, had read this novel shortly after I had read Dostoevsky’s The Demons, in which he writes: “He who kills himself only to kill fear, will at once become God,” of which God is “the fear of the pain of death.” I read this novel as a story of existential survival, with her suicide being a triumph of will, a total forfeiture of oneself to oneself, death as the eternal ecstasy to life and all its chains; for Edna teaches herself to swim in the ocean, the symbolic place of her awakening, but she chooses to drown there. When I went back to the novel years later, I could see Edna’s occasional petulance, her spitefulness, her unnecessary wickedness, her lack of thoroughness, especially in thinking things through. The novel can be an easy read…but only if you chose to ignore its ambiguity.

I think this would be a great addition to the syllabus for many reasons: 1) it is short, so it is definitely manageable for professors and students who have busy schedules; 2) it is an American novel, which also includes the French language and issues of race (with its subtle mentioning of indentured servants and peoples of mixed racial backgrounds); 3) it is not just a novel about a woman, it is a novel about an individual against herself, against her society, and against nature; 4) it revolves around the questions ‘What does it mean to be a self?’ and ‘What is human nature?’; and lastly, 5) it offers a provoking mystery about the role of nature in an individual’s life.

“The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude.”
― Kate ChopinThe Awakening

Quotes on The Awakening:

https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/1970518-the-awakening

A blog read (by someone else) on The Demons:

https://projectdblog.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/he-who-kills-himself-only-to-kill-fear-will-at-once-become-god/

A blog read (by someone else) on The Awakening:

The Awakening by Kate Chopin: An Analysis

Carrying Our Words

 

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Carrying Our Words
By Ofelia Zepeda

We travel carrying our words.
We arrive at the ocean.
With our words we are able to speak
of the sounds of thunderous waves.
We speak of how majestic it is,
of the ocean power that gifts us songs.
We sing of our respect
and call it our relative.

Translated into English from O’odham by the poet.

’U’a g T-ñi’okı˘

T-ñi’okı˘ ’att ’an o ’u’akc o hihi
Am ka:ck wui dada.
S-ap ‘am o ’a: mo has ma:s g kiod.
mat ’am ’ed.a betank ’i-gei.
’Am o ’a: mo he’es ’i-ge’ej,
mo hascu wud. i:da gewkdagaj
mac ’ab amjed. behě g ñe’i.
Hemhoa s-ap ‘am o ’a: mac si has elid, mo d. ’i:mig.

 

Ofelia Zepeda shares nature’s beauty in her own words hoping to awaken us to man’s need for a natural world, its delicate nature, and our stewardship.  Above, we read her poem, Carrying Our Words, where we are reminded that we are connected, we are relatives, says Zepeda, to nature.  According to Zepeda, as relatives to the ocean we must respect it.  As seen in The Last Man or The Tempest, the ocean cannot be controlled–it possesses its own rhythm, passion, and power. Although man cannot control the ocean, man can help take care of it by implementing measures that will reduce the damage inflicted by environmental improprieties .

Ofelia Zepeda, Renowned Poet & Linguist Expert

Ofelia Zepeda Native American Poetry Reading

Ofelia Zepeda @ Universe of Poetry

Ofelia Zepeda @ Poetry Foundation

Ofelia Zepeda @ Poetry.Org

Carrying Our Words

Inspiration by Mary Shelley

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After viewing the archives online, I definitely would prefer to see them in person. I decided to look at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein notebooks. I found them fascinating. Seeing her handwriting and her edits make me appreciate having access to a word processor! It made me think about how those who did not live during the handwriting era are not familiar with that experience; and, therefore, do not view the notebooks with the same appreciation as those who have written a great deal by hand. Mary Shelley’s word choices and sentence deletions give me a sense of her skills as a writer. Even in 1816, there was a great deal of revision, revision, and more revision! Examining the writing, I wonder what type of pen Shelley used to write in her notebook. I found myself trying to figure out if she wrote in a hurry as to catch all of her ideas; or, did she take her time? Having seen the notebook, the handwriting, and the revision makes Shelley seem much more present. Seeing the work allows us to see the process as well as reinforces the image of a committed author as she writes a timeless classic. I’ve never taken the time to read Frankenstein, but after viewing the archives I’ve decided to add it to my reading list!

I imagine that advantages of archival data include having the information located all in one place (i.e. Building or website); the information is accessible—permission is not needed to view; and, archival information can be used to track changes in field of study as the archives are historical in nature. The struggles of archival research may include having found out the information you are looking for is not available; or, it may be available, but difficult to decipher. Also, perhaps the archival research is not online making it take longer to find the documents you need—travel may be required. Lastly, there may be archival information written by the author you are researching but the information available is not of any use to you.

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein Ch. 2 Archive

Mary Shelley: A Biography

Beatrice’s Song

I chose a song that would reflect the relationship between Beatrice and the men that controlled her life. As well as an in depth analysis of Beatrice’s gift in relation to the toxicity of their relationship.Wild Annotated

My decision of choosing the Screaming Females holds many reasons. One being the band is composed of two guys and one girl who happens to be the lead singer and lead guitarist. Marissa Paternoster (lead singer/vocals) is known for her own stylistic singing. At only 5’1 she’s able to command the attention of a room with her booming unique vocal stylings. As well through her energetic and expressive performances at live shows with her constant manipulation of pedal boards. To me she just oozes talent and inspiration because she’s an artist in every definition of the word. She’s a visual artist who holds gallery exhibits, creates zines, and teaches workshops. She’s definitely a force.
Their songs carry some sort of a punch. A vicious, unapologetic, garage rock sound that charges out of the speakers. She sings at times in a guttural and raw fashion yet in person she’s the shyest and most sweetest person. Yet she’s able to channel this animalistic side of her from stage diving, messing around with the pedal boards, to just screaming her energy out for the audience to absorb. The duality of stage and off stage persona mimic’s Beatrice with her personality of wanting to experience life while being tethered to a natural force. She becomes to enthralled with her performance that it becomes her. In this specific song, the instrumental and the vocals often are played at the same volume or at least close to each other. This sort of gives the allusion that they’re battling each other, just as Beatrice is at odds with the domineering men in her life. Hopefully this song and annotation will offer some insight or at least be amusing. Screaming Females Edit
 

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