A Bookish Beemer is now on Twitter!

I’m excited to announce that A Bookish Beemer is now on Twitter! You can instantly get updated on new posts, in addition to links that I find interesting. There will also be quick commentary on current news events and things I experience in my day-to-day life. Follow me here!

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English 100: Lesson One

Satire.

You hear that word a lot. It’s usually accompanied by “political correctness,” “Offensive,” “free speech,” and “censorship.” It’s usually used to describe a particularly shocking and controversial story, poem, article, or blog post. Like many words that find themselves in the cultural narrative, it’s a oft misused word.

Let’s begin with some definitions:

Satire

–noun

1. The use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
2. A literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
3. A literary genre comprising such compositions.
-Random House

1. A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.

2.The branch of literature constituting such works. See Synonyms at caricature.

3.Irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity.

-Heritage Dictionary

To sum it up, satire is a style of writing that takes something and mocks it, displaying the stupidity or ridiculousness of that something. It is a style that demands that a reader be able to see through the text itself that the subject matter is worthy of disgust, that the writer despises it, and the text is attacking the subject matter.

You cannot take an ideal and simply recreate it. This is not satire. This is parroting a cultural narrative.

The most important thing for writers to know is this: if you, as a writer, have to explain your work, you have failed. Once it is written, it is not a part of you–you will not accompany your writing everywhere it goes. So, it must be able to stand on its own.

In satire, you take a trait, a behavior, and you turn it into a physical characteristic. You take that opinion, or behavior, or habit, and you make it into something solid. What’s more, you dramatize it. Blow it up, exaggerate this physical entity, and make it ridiculous.

The key is, whatever you choose to satirize, to change it in some way. You change something essential about your topic, and then you exaggerate it. Give it flair. Add some humor. Satire doesn’t work if you don’t change anything. It will only seem ridiculous to those outside the cultural narrative, and your goal is for those inside the bubble to see the folly and think.

All writing makes a statement. Your goal in writing is to ensure your piece makes the statement you want it to make. If it doesn’t, you’ve failed. Take the piece back to the drafting table.

With satire, you want your reader to think about something they normally wouldn’t think about. You want the reader to be entertained, to think, and to even talk about it.

I repeat, if your piece resembles that you’re attempting to satirize, it is not satire. You cannot rely on tone or voice alone to show that it is satire, and not simply a work like every other work.

Inspiration: the Little Things Edition

As part of Western’s Erase The Hate week, there was a showing of the film Milk on South Lawn. I’ve seen the movie three or four times now, and it never fails. You know those movies that just make you cry–every time? Milk is one of those movies for me.

If you haven’t seen it, you should. If you have, you should watch it again.

The people of Castro moved. It started with Harvey Milk, but the gay community moved, they fought, and they won. It was a beautiful grassroots movement.

It was chilly and damp, but fifteen or twenty of us sat in the grass and toughed it out. We laughed. We made a sarcastic comment here and there. But mostly we just sat and watched in companionable silence. Sometimes it’s the little things that inspire you. Sometimes it’s the little things that give you the energy to brace your shoulders and confront the world.

Tomorrow is just another day, but maybe I can do something good tomorrow. Who knows, maybe you can, too.

(Now I’m going to get my butt in bed, because otherwise, my body is not going to be happy with me.)

Special Rights in a “Normal” world

During a conversation with a friend last night, my epilepsy came up. We were talking about housing, and something my friend said really struck me.

“You know, you probably could have gotten private [on-campus] housing because of your epilepsy.”

I was dumbfounded for a moment, stumbling over my words. While I didn’t get angry or upset, those words resonated, and they bothered me. My friend had only the best intentions. I only replied that I hadn’t been comfortable disclosing my medical issue, and that it’s better that I live with someone anyway.

But that’s not the point. I had never, ever thought about using my epilepsy for personal gain, and basically, that’s what that would be. I have no need of having a private room.

That conversation was my first experience with someone focusing on my epilepsy as a means for gain or personal benefit. Differently-abled people experience this all the time from abled individuals. Accommodations for us are often labeled “special rights.” See, we get to sit down all day! We get deadlines extended! Private housing! Aren’t all these things great?

No.

“Special rights” is a term I view with contempt. It’s a malicious, inconsiderate, ignorant, and hateful term. We call ourselves differently-abled in a world that views us as other. We call ourselves differently abled because the world views us as other. We’re some kind of anomaly. We’re not normal. The world isn’t constructed with us in mind. Hence, the need for “special accommodations” for us. If this world was truly one that accepted people in all their glorious diversity, “normal” would be an extinct, useless word, and accommodations wouldn’t need to be made. Our cities, homes, and schools would be constructed with everyone in mind. As it is, these places are constructed with only the “normal” in mind, and if we’re lucky, the rest of us are tossed a breadcrumb or two.

That is not to say, that everyone who says things like this are hateful. My friend is not hateful. He is equally contemptuous of the term “special rights.” But he is privileged in a few ways, and one of them is his ablism. Many incidents like mine are due to ignorance. However, this is not to say that their ignorance is acceptable. Everyone should make an effort to understand, or at least empathize, with others who experience the world differently. This makes us better people, and it slowly improves the lives of Different People.

All of this to say, that to me, epilepsy is normal. I live my life around my epilepsy. I have no other choice. It is not “special” and it is not something I have for use to my benefit. It simply is.

I will take medication twice daily for the rest of my life. I will still have partial and grand mal seizures. Stress and sleep deprivation are triggers, and I cannot avoid those. Sometimes I have to stop and sleep. Sometimes that means I can’t meet deadlines, or fulfill commitments. That’s not a special right. That’s something I have to do to ensure my safety.

It’s not a special right. It simply is.

Poetry Has Power

goldenrod 2010 winner

Creative writing is one of two things: commenting on social issues or creating them. A mistake that is commonly made in the American conversation is that when something is socially unacceptable, irresponsible, disrespectful, etc , and the speaker or writer is called on it—the reader is accused of violating someone’s free speech, or censoring someone. This is not so—a writer has the right to write anything they like, and the reader has the right to opine on the piece.

A poem where the narrator fantasizes about hitting women is disturbing, disrespectful, and socially irresponsible, not to mention insensitive. It is a distasteful subject in the first place, and unpleasant to read by most. In a society where it is not uncommon to hear songs, novels, movies, and everyday speech referring to, threatening, or making a joke of violence against women—a poem of this sort is not surprising, in one sense. That this poem was written by a student of an institution of higher learning, thought to be appropriate to be submitted to a poetry contest, selected by a committee of representatives of a higher learning institution for a guest poet to choose a winner from is shocking.

A college campus is a world within a world, isolated from the very things that are being taught and commented upon. However, not only do students, faculty, and staff come from all different backgrounds, but universities are looked to as an example of maturity, learning, and social and philosophical awareness. What example are we setting when we decree that a poem dreaming of doing violence to a woman, because of her womanhood, is chosen as a piece of literature worthy of elevation?

Every human being knows that violence done to another human being is wrong. It is even more so, to the point of horror, for violence to be done to a fellow human being because of a physical attribute. Violence toward people because of who they are or how they appear is wrong. Elevating the promotion of this is wrong. We are a country that idealizes free speech. But this is not an issue of free speech. It is not an issue of censorship. It is an issue of being good, of being respectful toward our brothers and sisters. Conscious of the struggle that our brothers and sisters struggle against for who they appear to be to the world.

Literature’s purpose is recording the human experience. Literature is about human struggle and exploration. What were the motives for choosing this piece? No one can know the motives of the committee, not even, dare I say, the members of the committee themselves. As an attendee of the Goldenrod festival, I can say as a lover of literature and poetry, as a writer of it that this poem was not on par with the rest of the pieces chosen for the poet’s consideration. I can only speculate, but my gut, my heart, and my mind are all in concert, telling me that this poem was chosen for its controversy and shock value.

Choosing a poem with such a motive is unthinkable. Poetry is not in the business of garnering attention via shocking and attention-grabbing content. Poetry is not a university’s gossip magazine.

Poetry is not in the business of sending yet another message to the women of the world, and in this instance, the women of Western Kentucky University, that being beaten, tortured, and killed, for who we are, for the entertainment of others, is something that is not only tolerated by our society, but acceptable to our institutions of higher learning.

It is heartbreaking, even as we become more welcoming, accepting, and warm toward our homosexual faculty and staff, that we are becoming crueler toward the women of WKU.

Having someone stand in your face and threaten violence to you for no reason other than who you are is frightening. Having your university stand and say, in the acceptance and elevation of this piece, that this horrific reality for millions of women is acceptable is horrific.

I cannot describe how I felt as I sat there, in Cherry Hall, my unofficial home of my undergraduate years, and listened to this poem being read—not, as the writer meant, experiencing the poem from his perspective, that is, wishing to beat a woman and fantasizing of all the different ways he could do so. I was in the shoes of the woman he stood in front of, walked beside, lived next door to, knowing he wished to do me harm, and living with that threat, and that fear. I sat in the same room as this man, knowing from personal experience the likelihood of it being a poem simply of whimsical speculation was low. I marked his face, feeling less safe, and wondering how many times we passed one another in the hall with whatever inspiration for this work in his mind.

Then I realized that this man’s disgusting poem had been pre-selected by my peers! I wondered then about them, too.

I felt ashamed to be a member of the English club.

I felt ashamed to be an English major.

I felt ashamed to be a Hilltopper.

I wanted a goddamn cigarette.

Blog Note

Hey everyone! I’m sorry for the lack of posts recently. I graduate from Western in a few weeks (I can hardly believe it!) and I’ve been unbelievably busy. While I’m rushing around trying to complete my coursework, I’m still finding time to lurk the blogosphere.  I’ve found so many things I’d like to write about. Hopefully I can share my new discoveries and my thoughts with you soon.

In earnest,

Brittany-Ann

PS Is it bad that I wrote this, and the last post in class?

“They” Don’t Need Marriage, You Say?

So, this is for all you out there who think that our homosexual brothers and sisters don’t need marriage. This is what happens when you try to downgrade people into second-class citizens: even if they “do everything right” they still will be treated like second-class citizens. When you elevate marriage above all, and deny it to people because of arbitrary characteristics, those denied will not be given that social validation, and decades-long  relationships are disregarded, and lovers are called “roommates.”