My life swings in this usual cliche. Every time I round the calendar into spring, my life tends to change drastically along with the weather. I feel brighter, the sun shines longer. I learn important things, the apple trees blossom. Even when something goes terribly wrong, thunder clouds gather and the rain pours endlessly. My life is the definition of pathetic fallacy.
And every spring, I tend to look back. Reflect.
Though in New York March isn’t really considered spring, today’s warm weather has prompted me to gaze back at my life, back at the upstate snow and blistering winds.
I sat on the rickety, college-funded bus, head blaring, rain pouring on the window, listening to the woman behind me talk on the phone. As we passed soaking wet orange leaves, sadly drooping down from the trees, as the ground below sped by in a haze, I could only just sadly stare off as she spoke.
Your feet are sending a strange ache up both legs, a pulsating pain that stresses the ‘both.’
When the train almost fell off its tracks to the left, the tilt lifted your entire body, smashing your head’s back against the window pane in perfect synchronicity with those of a dozen others (you could swear that you heard the clonk, deeply satisfied, like an orchestra musician), then dropped you all back onto the benches. Only the benches had moved, too, and in some non-Euclidian reality, as it were, shaped by odd angles and dented lines. Your feet hit the floor, but your ass missed the seat, and though a reflex in your legs kept you from falling altogether–preventing much more serious harm, possibly–that reflex came at the cost of…whatever this is, you are thinking. Something permanent or temporary? A pulsating ‘both, both, both, both,’ which, you fear, will not be very…
“Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.”
― Cheris Kramarae
Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings. I chose this quote in particular because of the sarcasm, which is actually poetically ironic. You’d think that nowadays it shouldn’t be this abstract thing to be sarcastic about, females being considered pretty equal in society and the radical movement becoming obsolete. But it’s not.
Feminism is something that, especially with today’s media outputs, needs to be ever growing and stronger than before. Now, it’s impossible to cover every aspect of women, how women are portrayed, and everything under the scope of feminism, but I want to touch upon some things that are becoming more and more prevalent in what I’m seeing in the world around me.
Women in media has been a problem for decades. It’s been a problem that most of us are at least aware of, if not educated formally on. In my health class last year we watched this documentary on women in the media, and learned about all the photo shopping and standards that are set that no human being can really uphold. However, as important as we were told this was, we didn’t even watch the entire documentary. It was something that an entire semester could have been spent on… and we spent less than half an hour discussing it. You’d think that for all the hours talking about eating disorders and mental illnesses, we’d have at least had a discussion on the correlation between these standards and the illnesses that stem from them. But we didn’t. If we did, it wasn’t significant enough for me to remember. That’s the real problem.
You can’t escape pictures of women looking nonhuman, you can’t escape the marketing techniques and business practices that set up these standards. You can’t escape standards everywhere, and most people will tell you that they know they’re fake, and they are aware of the unattainable images set… but we do nothing about it. And every day young girls are admitted into hospitals partially because of this. And it’s not just things you read about, it’s not just the news trying to get viewer ratings. It’s not just health class trying to make more quiz material. Years ago I personally watched a friend of mine struggle with an eating disorder, watched her tell me how many calories a slice of bread has without even looking at the bag. Watched her do 20 laps in the pool after having 1 Oreo cookie. It’s real.
I could go on an on about this, about Anorexia, it’s correlation with modeling, advertisements, everything. And as a feminist I would love to start the movement that changes this. But the thing is, there are movements. There are many. I’ve read about and I’ve watched revolutions in modelling, in making advertisements, and they’re amazing, and it’s inspiring, but when I drove down the freeway a few days ago, I still saw a half naked women looking nonhuman while holding some name brand product.
Feminism is this radical notion that women are human.
“I love your style.” That’s been said to me a few times. And it’s a great complement, especially since I try and be as invisible as possible in most situations. The people who tell me these things usually dress nothing like me, and I don’t have many peers who dress like me, and that’s okay. Part of feminism, I think, is empowerment. Some women feel empowered showing their femininity, wearing dresses, makeup, all that. However, my wardrobe is mainly striped button down shirts. I feel most confident in a collar, maybe a tie. Not adhering to the “standards” of female fashion is something I strive to do. I hate when people dress different just for the sake of being different, and that’s not what I’m about. I still wear normal clothing, I still wear jeans, dresses, the floral shirt, but I do so in a way that makes people take me more seriously. Wearing less typical feminine clothing makes me less of “that blonde girl” and more of “Kylie”.
However, I shouldn’t have to dress a certain way in order to be taken seriously. I shouldn’t have to try and work extra hard to prove myself as capable of someone of a different gender. You can look up as many stats as you want about women in the workplace, and you can watch as many sexist old videos about such, however those “outdated” notions still rein true in many respects. Personally, living in this decade as a female, I can attest to being discriminated against due to my gender.
I had spoken over email with the manager/ son of owner of this local bicycle shop, and things were playing out well. So well that I thought I pretty much got the job. I went to meet the manager. “I’m Kylie, from the emails.” I said, with a smile. “Oh,” replied the 20-something shaggy manager. “I thought your name was Kyle. I was expecting a guy to show up.”
I didn’t get the job.
In my own high school I am employed doing AV. And though currently it’s basically all girls, when I was a sophomore the only girls were me and the girlfriend of one of the boy employees. We worked closely with administrators, especially this one guy, and he had a nice friendship type thing with most of the kids because he taught a tech class. Well, I had to work with him countless times and every single time, every single time, I had to re-introduce myself. I’m not saying he’s sexist, or anything, but since I wasn’t in the demographic of his “student-friends”, I just wasn’t very memorable.
I’m also employed by a local restaurant, and though I’m more qualified than most of the other kids, this being their first ever job and also being connected by parents’ friendships, I’m out of work because the owner hired too many people. There were four girls at the orientation, out of the almost 20 of us. One had been working in the food industry for quite some time, the other two were the types of girls who destroy everything females have worked for the past 50 years by simply existing. This creates a male dominated environment wherein the set norm for us women, just by population, are people who care more about our hair than working correctly.
If you think I’m exaggerating, then let’s reverse it.
You work with mostly girls and a few guys. One guy is a prick who uses phrases like “dat booty” and wears those flat baseball hats. Are all the males in the same area going to be treated like this guy? No, they’ll be treated better because anything is better than that one prick who thinks reciting south park quotes is cool. Treating someone human is different than treating someone as if they’re part of a hive-mind, and sadly that doesn’t always happen where women, or any minority really, are concerned.
Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.
While I wish for every woman to feel empowered, to feel comfortable in their body, to feel like they belong in society, I think that this can’t happen until we are treated like actual human beings. And by that I mean not objects.
Whenever I stand up for feminism or reference that whole object bit, some straight white male will usually counter my argument. On the internet, in school, wherever, it’s usually this demographic that hates the entire objectifying issue. They hate it because to them it’s not an issue, or they don’t think it is anymore. Sure, people don’t usually imagine women as housewives who only cook and clean, or the other extreme, which would be a form only used for sex, but as a society we still have an issue, and this shouldn’t really be news to anyone by now but its still important.
Women are still objectified. In advertisements, movies. In a strip club or on the street. It still happens.
In most high budget Hollywood action movies, the woman is only there to be a love interest, or a reward of some sort. The Bechdel test rarely passes for the most successful movies or TV shows. And if it does, it’s either forced and unnatural just so the movie can pass the test, or it passes while still having the women characters’ main interest be to find a man. Even movies about “strong young females” (Hunger Games, Divergent, both awful movies) only allow the female to become “successful” or “happy” by involving herself with a male character. With Divergent, the only way for Tris to be treated like a strong young woman among her peers is for everyone to find out that she’s fucking the hot trainer dude. It’s better in the book, but the movie takes this already marketed idea into only a love story in a fool-proof way to make money. This type of thing needs to stop, or at least change, and it won’t because unlike our quirky male lead, females are just simple minded objects whose only place in a movie is to be “relatable” to young audiences who already have these standards shoved down their throats and wont eat popcorn in fear of being fat, or “extremely sexy” in order to market to the men watching. There’s rarely an in-between.
Women are still objectified. I live in an extremely small farm town, and I’ve been “catcalled” countless times. This objectification is more than hearing “dat booty” from some prick while walking on a busy street. It’s random “whoops” directed toward you from a passing car full of teenage boys. It’s “hey girl”s from old men while walking alone at night. It’s uncalled-for recognition that you, as a female, are walking and someone, as a male, has noticed. One summer a friend and I kept track of how many honks or whoops we got while walking in our town. It was around 25, I think. For one summer. At first we started whooping back, you know, because of boredom. How often can this happen? It eventually turned into just ignoring it because it was so obnoxious and dehumanizing.
One time I was walking home and a car slowly pulled up from behind me with two guys inside. I could hear the “hey girl” from behind and I just kept walking because, as women are taught from a young age, people are going to try and attack us and probably kill us. We’re taught “always walk with a friend” and “carry some defense weapon on you” instead of having everyone else be taught “just be a decent human to other humans”. Anyway, when they saw my face, they either realized how young I was, or that my face was too ugly to murder, one dude said something to the other, and the car drove away. This shouldn’t have happened. And I’m angry that it happened not only because it doesn’t really happen to men, but that for some women, the driving away part isn’t where it ends.
And here’s where the straight white boy will tell me some bullshit like “its a complement” or “it’s just words” or even “I’ve never done that so not all men are the same”. And, yes, most decent humans treat other humans like humans. But even those non-decent people know that treating women like objects is wrong. They know women don’t like to be called at on the street, they are aware of this because women make them aware of this. But there’s no stopping it, really.
As long as idea that women are objects still reins true within the media, within advertisements, within big action movies and thrillers, people will continue to treat them that way. Not just males, either. As long as women feel less than, the’ll continue to feel as though they are clay to be molded to what society wants, to accept the social inequality for what it is, to just exist in this world where they aren’t human.
The world is getting more progressive, sure.
The time has never been better for women to feel empowered, to act how they want, to dress how they want. To earn the jobs they strive for, to have a say in government, in corporations, in the world they live in. The time has never been better for people born of another gender to feel free to express their femininity, at least in a first world society. And as much as we’ve changed, as much as feminism has progressed, and revolutionized there is still more that needs to progress, to change, to instill a revolution.
And this is common knowledge, and things are being done, things are progressing, things are changing, there are revolutions underway. But in order to make these changes the norm, in order for feminism to be viewed as this humanizing concept rather than men-hating crowds of women fresh outta the abortion clinic, we need as a society to unite on these views. To accept the change. To accept progress.
Sadly a lot of young people, especially young women, aren’t accepting this. They seem preoccupied with looking a certain way, acting a certain way, molding themselves to the set ways of society. Those who are outliers tend to be those females to make themselves as radically different as possible, not empowering themselves but being different for the sake of being different. There needs to be common ground, somewhere that falls between nonhuman sex object and super humanly down to earth hipster girl. Oh, wait. That would to just be a person. A human, if you will.
Because, as radical a notion as it may be, women are human beings.
***There is a disclaimer on the sidebar. On the mobile version it’s at the bottom of the page.I suggest you read it if you have a problem with this post or are easily offended. It isn’t intended to teach anything, I am a human and I know that feminism is widely understood. I write about my opinions in order to start discussion and allow for other viewpoints and sides to issues. I wrote this because I’ve recently been watching some documentaries and the like about beauty, empowerment, and feminism, and it was rather inspiring. I feel like feminism gets a bad representation. Here is my take on it, as a female.
I have a new teacher for the time being, and she is one of those people who’ll say everything like it’s the most profound thing ever. It usually isn’t. But today she said something that stuck with me. It was along the lines of “Teaching nowadays has become a more intimate thing, it’s more of a friendship between teacher and student, it’s more personal. It’s better than when I was growing up.”
I really agreed with her, and I really want to talk more about this because I think everything to do with teaching is rather important. We spend our entire lives learning, formally and informally, and whether it’s from a person or the vast amount of information on the internet, the way in which we learn them is key to success, key to retaining and understanding the knowledge presented.
I’ve had all kinds of teachers in my life. I’ve had those amazing, motherly figures, those harsh dictator individuals, and many who fall somewhere in between. I prefer lectures and having things verbally explained, but I don’t mind finding some things out on my own. The education system is filled with all ends of the teaching spectrum, it’s a unique and sometimes just a luck-run place. However, I think having some sort of relationship with a teacher is important. You don’t have to be best buds, but I think it’s good to have some kind of connection with the person who is giving you the knowledge that’ll determine if you’re ready for college, careers, or further opportunities.
These are best with teachers who are already good at their job. I don’t mean they have the highest test scores in the school, or make the most amount of money. I mean: they’re good at their job. I’ve found that the best teachers are the ones who aren’t fake or pretending they’re something that they aren’t. They know they’re just a regular person with the knowledge and degree that says they can give other people information. They’re the ones who actually listen to students and can have a good time yet remain authoritative and control the class so everyone can do well. I’ve been lucky to either have mostly pretty good teachers, and the ones who were awful were at least considered awful by most other people as well.
Last year I had an awful teacher who wouldn’t listen to students, who would constantly yell at our class and talk about how awful our class was to other classes. He’d take me into this little office, in ear shot of everyone in the classroom, and loudly tell me what my failing grade was. He yelled at a friend of mine because he was asked a question. He’d constantly refer to anytime not in the school day as “his time”, a time that couldn’t ever be dedicated to his job, and if it was, we were supposed to be super grateful as if he didn’t get entire summers off or have decent benefits from doing the bare minimum. It was awful.
And we’re all going to have that awful teacher in high school, or college, and it’s going to suck. But I think it makes me appreciate the good ones even more. I’ve a unique mix of teachers this year, and though currently I’m stuck with just one teacher due to circumstance, I’m actually glad to be exposed to so many different teacher tropes. Because for good or bad, it makes me think about how I would or wouldn’t handle that situation. I’m not going to become a teacher, but a lot of the qualities these people have are qualities that are prevalent in most situations. Whether or not someone chooses to be kind and understanding isn’t something only a teacher has to decide. After witnessing many bad teachers, people that are supposed to be “role models”, I know what qualities I don’t want to have as I’m immersed in jobs and eventually careers.
Having a relationship with other people, students or not, is one of those key aspects to life and succeeding. Not friendships, or even acquaintanceships, but just generally listening and understanding other people’s views, concerns, and figuring out how to convey information in the best way possible are all things that I think will be important in life.
My teacher today was right; teaching is much different than when she was in school. I think most relationships are different. I think people can be more real with each other nowadays, and that’s something I really appreciate and admire. We spend our entire lives learning, not just from teachers, but those around us. If we can’t be real, be understanding and personal, then what really are we gaining? Professionalism is best mixed with reality, and I’m glad that today my teacher reminded me of that. She may not always say the most philosophical things, but at least she can say things. At least she can.
I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while now, and I think I’m finally calm enough to collectively put my thoughts down without a plethora of exclamation marks.
Complaining is a very subjective term; something everyone knows isn’t the best thing to do, but something everyone, at the same time, needs to do in order to function and decrease some of the built up stress in their lives. There are also different levels of complaining, and different times and circumstances in which complaining is wholly justified and appropriate. Everyone goes through similar stresses and problems in their lives, and I completely understand that some of us have it worse than others. But there are also certain perimeters and limits to complaining and all of it’s concepts that I don’t think many people recognize.
Now, we’ve all heard this uttered after grumbling about something insignificant:
First World Problems
As applicable as that statement can seem to be, especially when someone whines about how their $5 cup of coffee has extra whipped-cream on it even though they specifically mentioned no whip, it’s a term I try and only use when 100% necessary. You see the United States, the only world I know, and subsequently all my peers know, is a first world. Everyone I’m surrounded with grew up living in a house, with clean water, and no major threat to their lives. And just as insignificant whipped-cream may be in the entirety of the world, in comparison to living in a rain forest or under the Juche, it’s still insignificant in our first world. There really isn’t any need to bring in the constant reminder that we, as United States citizens, are relatively lucky and don’t have any major threats to our lives. First World Problems is a phrase that tries to dilute our daily afflictions with the fact that other parts of the Earth are impoverished or going through a famine. As much as it should, it doesn’t really bring in any retrospective to anyone’s life, and no matter how many hungry kids there are in Africa, first world children still rather not finish the rest of their disgusting meatloaf.
Moving on from that, there are still so many issues I find with complaining. I’ve mentioned previously in some posts that people tend to overshare with me, and a lot of these things can come across as just blatant whining, however I think that if someone truly has a problem, especially in their home life, they should find someone appropriate to open up to. As much as I may make very sarcastic and vague comments with school friends about what I’m going through, I don’t feel like it’s okay for me to dump my entire life’s struggles unto them. There are specific times and people that I discuss my issues with, and sitting at a lunch table or before English class isn’t really the time or place to do so.
Now, I do have respect for those who say something along the lines of “I’m sorry, I’m just complaining” or another form of recognition for what they’re doing. I really appreciate that self awareness in their actions and it makes me less likely to form a potent sense of annoyance. I also don’t mind ranting and grumbling about life when it’s obviously an okay topic of discussion at the time. There are moments where I can tell people are really going through something, and I’ll flat out say that they’re not complaining in my eyes, and that I truly want to hear more and let them just talk about their stresses.
Another thing is when the problem starts to consume you, and you can’t seem to utter anything other than dissent on what’s bothering you. For example, if you have a headache, and it’s so bad it’s all you can focus on, I understand why you’d mention it. And I feel like it’s kind of human nature for this to happen, and it wouldn’t really be complaining. You see, complaining, or just mentioning these things is probably evolution trying to save your life, or the life of the group. If you have a headache that is so bad you can’t stand it, mentioning it to those around you may bring awareness on the subject if you were to just pass out all of a sudden. Having a weird, unsettling feeling may mean your group is about to get attacked by the Fire Nation, or some ghosts are about to spook things up. It’s in the entire gang’s best interest you mention this, and I wouldn’t really legislate this as “complaining”.
So, these would constitute as times wherein complaining is okay, and no one is going to resent the slightly discontented complainer.
However, there are some people who cannot distinguish what times are appropriate and when to
Just. Stop. Talking.
There is a girl in my lunch group who, without a doubt, without variance, will complain about her part time job. Every day. I have a sort of look I give one of my friends every time she starts talking about work, or just complains to complain. I’m beginning to feel it is the only look I make during that entire lunch period. And we’ve all made it pretty obvious that no one really wants to listen to her moan about her life every day. But will she stop? Never.
To her, it’s completely justified. To her, every time she complains, or what we perceive as complaining, she’s just making a passing comment about how tired she is. Or how much homework she has. Or how late she has to work. Or this. Or that. However, these are problems that everyone in the group is afflicted with, in one way or another. She views us as people who are cynical and don’t want to work to be granted things and opportunities. I’m sure she thinks I’m just a snarky girl who hates when people are handed things but won’t actually go out of my way to earn something. And as much as I try not to resent people who get handed everything, I sort of do. But I also have a job and I also work hard to get opportunities that wouldn’t even pass near me by chance. This girl, though, doesn’t know this because I don’t feel the need to mention all the 12 hour shifts I’ve had or all the 17 hour days I’ve spent at our school.
But, like I said, it isn’t just work she gripes about. It’s everything. And everyone in our little lunch group knows and deals with these exact problems. We’re all students. We all get homework, we’re all tired, we all think the senior project is bullshit. But these people rather talk about something productive, something with dense, than just sit round and collectively carp about our calamities.
Collectively carping about calamities is actually something that groups of people do and somehow find enjoyment in. I think the solidarity of having everyone understand the problems with a specific part of their life is comforting. Last year I’ve been in groups of people that do nothing other than sit round and complain about Advanced Placement United States History. Because that class was bullshit and I, proudly enough, had the lowest grade out of the entire school at that time. I failed that class like it was my job. And no one enjoyed it, and all anyone ever seemed to talk about was how awful it was.
But I really don’t understand how constantly talking about what an awful class it is helps anything. And whenever I hear this year’s students talk about it, which is all the time, I find myself getting really annoyed. Why only talk about something if everyone’s just going to end up angry? Why talk about something that’s never going to change and will have no effect on you in the grand scheme of things? If you know everyone feels the same way, and there’s no leeway of discussion, why even bring it up in the first place? People do this will all sorts of things, and for some reason it really bothers me. And I won’t lie, I’ve participated in it on some occasions, but it didn’t make me feel better. Knowing everyone is just as miserable as you doesn’t change anything. It just makes people more miserable and allows for them to find other aspects that are equally as grueling.
So my question is:
Whether you’re in a whole group of complainers, or you’re in a group with that one complainer, or you are that complainer… why? If you don’t have anything productive to say and nothing in your life is so extreme that you literally can’t not talk about it, then, just… why?
The weather is always going to be bad, your homework is always going to suck, your siblings will always be annoying, your teachers will always grade unfairly, you will always have a job and have to work long hours for minimum pay, you will always be a human with human problems.
If you can’t handle that without constantly talking about it, I’m sorry. But you’re a complainer. It’s inoperable. And it will spread. I suggest you take the time you have left on earth, and learn when to stop talking, when to appreciate the things you have. Feel free to take a leaflet on your way out. Good day.
Or at least, that’s what you’d think when you saw me. I don’t blame you, I’ve got blonde hair and pale-ish skin, and I only look like an interesting ethnicity when… well, when I’m around my family. And even then, it’s probably hard believing I’m somehow related to them when I’m the only pale person in the mix, this blonde singularity in a sea of Native Americans.
Now, I am not actually related to these people. I’m adopted. I figured it out a while ago; there were just so many clues. However, even if my birth father wasn’t Native, I’d still consider myself Native American. I was raised in a Native American-centric household with Native American immediate and distanced family. When I was a kid I went to a local pow-wow thing, dancing in this fancy native dress. I read books about Native American traditions and folk tales. I learned Mohawk words from my cousins when they came to visit every summer when we were young.
More recently I’ve been visiting family on the reservation more; the photo above is of my cousins and I after we left the reservation and took a detour with our grandparents to Boldt Castle a few years ago. As you can tell I was just so enthralled.
My heritage and ethnicity have always been a large part of my life.
And this isn’t a racist statement, but because of how I look, no one really knows this about me unless I tell them. It’s just hard to come to the conclusion that the girl with pale skin and blonde hair is half Native American. And if I ever do mention this, most people try and tell me that their half cousin’s second wife’s nephew’s sister in law was a member of the Sioux, so they are as well. But… no.
Growing up in Native American culture and not having darker skin and dark hair kind of sets me apart, sets my privilege higher than my family. I know it sounds odd, but not having anyone really know my ethnicity took me away from the stigma and the constant need to fight for my rights. Yeah, I’m the girl that will call you out for saying raciest things (*ahem* we are not Indians) but I don’t really have much to loose from them because no one can use raciest things against me, or at least, no one does.
If it were 100, or even 50 years ago, being a half native American woman would be one of the worse possible things for me. But here I am in 2016 without a trace of any ignominy to show for it.
There is a kid in my “friend” group (a gang of rapscallions I eat lunch with) who is also half native. I’ve known him for years, we were in the same 5th grade class, and it’s interesting how differently we’re treated. No, he’s not made fun of because of his heritage, but he can mention it more freely, not be questioned, and occasionally get some kind of “trail of tears” pun thrown at him.
I find this interesting because in 5th grade, when we learned about “thanksgiving”, my teacher said “We… not you so-and-so, invaded the Indian’s land and just took it from them.” Our teacher excluded him, and not me,which makes sense, but at the same time, I’m pretty sure no teacher in their right mind would exclude a black person from a talk about slavery.
That’s the kind of racism I don’t have to deal with, the kind of thing that I get to completely avoid because, for some reason, I didn’t get the dominant gene and I look like a “normal” white girl.
I kind of hate that I am not always attached to my heritage because it’s just such a large part of my life. Most other people with a strong subculture of ethnicity have their race to show for it. In other words, they look the part. This doesn’t mean every everyone who looks a certain way has a certain culture, it just means that it’s harder to defend mine to people. I’m not some white girl with a tiny trace of Seneca. I’m half Native American by blood and almost fully immersed in the culture because of my family and the ties I get from them.
But no matter how many reforms for the reservation I vocally advocate for, no matter how many times I make note of people’s insensitivity, I’m just the pale white girl to them.
“Nothing is original…Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent.”
Jim Jarmusch is an independent filmmaker, creating things like Coffee and Cigarettes, a movie that I vaguely remember falling asleep to once. Though I particularly didn’t find myself absorbed into his creative efforts, I’d consider that movie pretty original. It captured things like subtleties in dialogue and made something as raw as conversation into this tangible (and boring) movie. Normally you see action and adventure or at least conflict, at least something to get the viewer’s attention in order to portray whatever complex thing you have to say on screen. Not Jim, though. He did something different, something unique, and people really took that on and grew a liking for it.
However, the quote above is a snippet from this larger excerpt about how Jim goes on to say that it’s okay to steal things from other artists. I know it sounds bad, but as you can read here, it’s actually pretty insightful.
It also helps back up this point that I am now going to make.
Nothing is original.
Since I’ve put myself on the foundation of being a “writer”, and in my spare time I make videos and whatnot, I guess I could call myself an artist, in a way. I’m really trying not to be that pretentious here. But, as an “artist”, the only cool thing about my passion would be making something new, something engaging, something people want to read or watch or, most likely, criticize.
And I obviously love writing. I love making stories and poems and expressing myself and my feelings to the world in a way that can end up being slightly unique. However, nothing is truly original. I’m inspired by things in my life. From watching a book’s pages move in the wind, to spending time with someone I adore, everything I write is inspired by something else. The style I choose to write in is inspired by recent things I’ve read or things I’ve been planning to try. My vocabulary is taught in school and is then pushed around and added to by books, people, places. Nothing I can compose on paper, or on screen, will ever be truly unique.
And I know the old saying: It’s unique because you wrote it.
But, really, it isn’t. I’m writing in a classic style here. It’s a blog/essay/rant/thing that millions of people have done before. That whole one sentence paragraph thing isn’t mine, the overused parallel structure isn’t something I’ve whisked out of thin air. Nothing besides a tiny bit of Kylie flair differentiates my 3 view blog post from the countless others across the internet just like it.
Now, looking at Jim’s quote at a different angle, it can be proved wrong (and then proved right again because no argument can be that simple).
There is something that stands out to me when I think of originality. About a year ago now I happened to stumble upon something that really changed my outlook on writing. It was a poem:
Aram Saroyan, my favorite poet, created that poem above. He is known for being this revolutionary in concrete poetry, making one word poems that weren’t meant so much as to be read, but rather looked at. His sentences weren’t prose, but a picture on a page that held more than verbs and nouns, and signified something unique to his era. He actually, I believe, created something authentic, something original.
Aram is this representation for me of what is new, what is actually original. His poetry inspires me to strive to do something different, to try and create something idiosyncratic.
Withstanding, I don’t think I’ll ever be the revolutionary in anything. I don’t think I can convey everything I want to in something as simple as words. Even video and other forms of media can be limited and the effect I want to make just isn’t achievable. I admire what both Aram and Jim have done in their perspective fields of expression, however as groundbreaking as they were even they weren’t completely original.
It’s a paradox, maybe.
Originality is subjective. Henry David Thoreau, my favorite philosopher, didn’t create his ideas about society and values out of thin air. He actually mentions in his writings how fond he is of Homer and how everyone should be required to read the Iliad, or something of that nature. His beautiful prose is a combination of taught language, read literature, personal experience, and then, at the very end, sprinkled with that old Henry pizzazz. The length of time something has been around doesn’t directly show how original it is. And I think many people don’t really understand this concept, hence all pretentious people raving about classical music. Even Homer probably gathered his original thoughts from other people and experiences and
I’m guessing you get the point now.
Originality is subjective. And though it may not truly exist, and I may not become any sort of revolutionist in terms of writing or film media, at least I’m being an… “Artist”. I’m creating something new out of a bunch of other ideas and things that have happened in my life. I may not be completely content with that, with the fact that nothing I do will have any huge impact in the world of writing or otherwise, but at least I’m taking these ideas and adding the Kylie flair. It’s really all in the way you look at it.
Nothing is original.
And even when you see an original idea, it’s just another one taken, diluting the sea of authenticity.
I’ve been staring at the same poster for the entire hour. It says “Racism: Just undo it”. A square, laminated piece of paper, half black with white lettering, half white with black lettering. Not only does the declarative not make any sense, but it is virtually unachievable. People will always be fighting over something and a pathetic piece of paper isn’t going to change that.
The walls around the paper are a light gray color and the sun makes it almost look cheery. The sun casts a yellow line across the poster, cutting some letters apart, segregating them with the happiness of the sun.
My eyes slowly trace down the gray wall to the man sitting across from me. I think about how no matter how many posters they hang up around this place, around the world, he’ll always be African American. Not that he should have to carry the raciest baggage with him, but the poster might as well be saying “Race: just undo it” because the faults in society will always be as concrete as genes, if not even more so.
He adjusts his glasses, the glass glinting the sun into my own eyes. I squint, and for a second, I can’t read the poster. It all falls under the same blurry haze, fogging out specific words or facial features. He adjusts his glasses, but he might as well be pointing a gun to my head.
I look back up to the poster. I wonder who put it there, or if he even knows it’s up there, toward the top of the wall, kind of tucked away in plain sight. I wonder if he knows what it means. I wonder if I know what it means. Just undo it. In our world, sadly, I don’t think anything can be unthreaded that easily. It isn’t as simple as erasing the letting from a poster; everything is so cemented and embedded in human nature that nothing, not even the end of the world, could get rid of it.
I see that he is looking up at the poster as well, body turned around in the chair like a plane just landed in the office. He looks up at the poster for quite some time, brown suit wrinkling awkwardly at his disheveled disposition. I wait silently for him to turn back, and when he does, he nods. Maybe he finally understands how idiotic that poster is. Maybe he gets it.
“That came with the office.” He says, gravelly voice harsher than the sun cascading on his face. He folds his hands on his lap carefully, as if they might break. “I never took it down. I don’t know why. Maybe it was just because I couldn’t get a ladder in here. It’s awfully high up there.”
“And it’s a positive sign, I think. Positivity is always good to have in a place like this.” He says. I don’t know if I believe him though. He looks up to the poster one more quick time before clearing is throat, a sign that our hour is over. “It looks like that is all the time we have for today.” He says, standing up. I stand as well, taking one more glance at the poster. Racism: Just undo it. If only everything could be simplified into a declarative. If only everything could be undone on a whim. Just undo it. I wish it was that easy.
Last year, in my AP History class, I spent probably too much time looking up at a poster like the one described above. Now, I’m not blaming the poster for my ultimate failure of the class and exam, however it did inspire a lot of questions as to what it meant, exactly. My teacher said that it came with the classroom, but I wasn’t so sure as to why he never took it down. It obviously isn’t a very powerful message since things like racism are so embedded into society, even after the lettering hung on a classroom wall.
Anyway, it inspired this little piece as well. Hopefully my distraction and detachment while looking at the poster for the majority of the classes are clearly represented above. You can’t just undo things, and I hope this message at least gets through a bit more than the poster.