Susan Stinson’s collection of writings explores the relationship that society holds on women’s bodies. Today, young people are spending an alarming amount of time browsing and posting on social media platforms and being exposed to unrealistically edited bodies. Social media has become such a prevalent aspect of culture and the accessibility to online platforms has spread to a much younger and susceptible audience, it has made it harder to make distinctions between edited and unedited photos. In regards to Instagram specifically, it is an extremely unregulated platform; there are no guidelines and anyone can post essentially anything. This also means that it is up to individual participants to decide whether or not they let photos influence their own body image. Women try their best to make themselves look pretty in order to cater to social expectations. Therefore, digitally manipulating one’s body and photoshopping imperfections have become habits that women depend on in order to feel beautiful online. Stinsons collection of readings made me feel extremely empowered as an individual who has struggled with diet culture. Two weeks ago Professor Ambwani came to one of my classes and spoke about the effects of diet culture. As I have gotten older I have noticed the vicious effects that social media can have on someone’s body image. I have compared myself and diet culture feeds body shame. We live in a society where living in a thinner body increases value and will help you live a happier lifestyle. Diet culture places thinness as the pinnacle of beauty and success. Stinsons and Professor Ambwanis’ messages are extremely important. Both encourage women to find love through their bodies, identities, and self worth.
Death is fearful to every individual but what’s more fearful is death seen in the eyes of a disease. The epidemics that have confronted our world include Covid19, Black death, AIDS, Yellow Fever and Typhoid. As a college student, the pandemic and sicknesses that are feared on campus are the most recent Corona Virus, flu, herpes, and gonorrhea. In present day, getting vaccinated helps protect us against the serious epidemics that can arise. As an individual what I do know is that all these viruses are contracted by human or blood contact. We live on a campus where human contact is daily with individuals on a small campus footprint which allows for infections or diseases to transfer quickly to one another. It makes you feel vulnerable when you know that an infection or disease can break out quickly. I never thought that we would be reading and talking about one epidemic while in a current pandemic. While researching about the history of AIDs and the epidemic, it is apparent that the disease came on quickly and that it was being labeled a “homosexual disease” due to the mortality rate of this community. The biggest confusion in the AIDSs epidemic was the actual transmission of how Aids was contracted from person to person. Because of this confusion, surviving this plague became fearful and the perception of risk was exasperated due to lack of control of information of the disease. After reading How to Have Sex in a Pandemic by Richard Berkowitz and Michael Callen, it is clear that the issue is the disease and not sex. I did some more research and watched, the documentary film How to Survive a Plague which presents the HIV/AIDS crisis in a similar light as the panic and uncertainty created by the Bubonic Plague of medieval Europe. How to Survive a Plague offers various strategies for individuals suffering from or at risk for HIV/AIDS to outwit or at least withstand the epidemic
The most prevalent theme throughout Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself 51 and Judy Grahn’s, Ella in a square apron, along highway 51 is “strength” and “individualism” in terms of femininity and masculinity, respectively. Grahn’s collection of poems illustrates the experience of what it means to be a “common woman” during a time shaped by patriarchal values and sexist stereotypes.
Grahn compares the Common Woman (Ella) to “as common as a rattlesnake.” Ella is dangerous, powerful, and violent; she embodies the animal’s strength, as described in lines 6-7.
“She keeps her mind the way men keep a knife-keen to strip the game down to size.”
Although she puts on a strong exterior, the problem persists as the reader is given specific insight into her abusive past in line 16.
“once, she shot a lover who misused her child.”
“Before she got out of jail, the courts had pounced
and given the child away.”
Although Ella shows her strength as a woman and mother, society wins by entitling men to control even when the situation is their fault. Ella’s child is taken from her, and she is left alone as a victim of patriarchy.
In Walt Whitman’s section 51, there is the theme of possibility. The poem opens with a new chance by stating.
“The past and present wilt—I have fill’d them, emptied them.And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.”
The speaker is striving for a new future and desires to manifest this experience through self-identity, something that Ella rejects.
After reading Adrienne Rich’s poem Diving into the Wreck I was immediately drawn to the vulnerability of diving into an ocean. My skin tingles as I recall diving in the Caribbean surrounded by the tepid water and sinking into the depths. Similarly, I ran into a shipwreck and was surrounded by murky obscurity with the unknown staring back at me. When someone is diving into darkness all things seem equal. No one is stronger or weaker than the other person. In the fourth stanza, the narrator says:
First, the air is blue, and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out
The ocean is an abyss where one can feel universally free and escape the oppression that they are receiving from the world above. As one sinks lower and lower the weight of oppression is lifted. All souls are equal. Rich uses darkness as a spiritually uplifting message versus how the Bible refers to it as death. The narrator is no longer afraid of being alone in an underworld and believes the domain of darkness creates equality.
In the sixth stanza, the narrator says
I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done.
The narrator “came to explore the wreck” which perhaps is a metaphor for human suffering. Shipwrecks usually contain human suffering and as a diver explores this suffering it is the words and the maps that reveal the sadness. The wreck is left to be remembered and available to be revisited again.