Society is Shameful.

Nowadays, anything and everything about you is constantly criticized. Whether that be the way in which you dress, the people you love, or the gender in which you seemingly present, there are always others who have something to say. Sometimes, one has the willpower to overcome these other voices, and can appreciate themselves and deter from what others think. Others simply cannot.

In Susan Stinson’s “Belly Song” piece, the narrator is seen as noticing various pieces of her body, that when together, are seen by society as ‘fat’. Specifically, Stinson describes the girl as doing daily activities such as eating, drinking, and even picking up miscellaneous items, whilst seeing “her sides, thighs, knees, calves, and soles of her feet” (4). Unfortunately, because of society’s norms, she feels the need to restrict her eating habits, when she states, “Most of the other half of the donut is left on the table. I consider my belly. It’s pale. I fasted. It’s loose. I never ate dinner. It’s under hairs. I went to the hospital every week. It swells out, then folds. They said my body was made out of cubes of butter. It shakes, it moves, it jiggles. They said each quarter pound I lost was like cutting a cube of butter off a big block” (4-5). In this excerpt, the narrator is seen as being directly affected by not only society as an entirety, but also professionals within the hospital. While reading this excerpt, I felt for the narrator, as the norms within society and the expectations for a woman’s body, forces her to engage in restricting her eating habits. Also, for those within the hospital to make the analogy of her losing weight, ‘cutting off cubes of butter’ only will further perpetuate the negative feelings she has towards her body, ultimately due to society. Unfortunately, society has the power to have people feel a certain way towards themselves, for the good or bad. In this case, Stinson sets up the scene of a young girl, restricting herself solely because of societal pressures and feminine beauty standards.

Hysteria and the Fear of Hate Crimes within “Dykes to Watch out For”

Within the LGBTQ+ community, fears arise due to the possible persecution and oppression one can face. Hate crimes are extremely prevalent and unfortunately, are most of the time, not even provoked. Within Bechdel’s “Dykes to Watch Out For”, she provides both a sense of comic relief but also relatability to the reader. In the section “On the Road”, Harriet and Mo are on their way to The March on Washington. Essentially, while on their way they decide to go to a rest stop. At the rest stop they begin to ‘knock’ on the other people in their area, questioning why the 5 year-old needed to know their gender in the bathroom and how everyone gives one of the women “the creeps” (17). The interaction that occurred between two cowboys and the women at the table was extremely striking, as it displayed the hysteria LGBTQ+ community faced. One of the woman stated, “Don’t look now. But there are two cowboys headed straight for us!” Within this statement, the reader is able to visualize the tension and uneasiness within the women. When they arrive at the table, they greet themselves, and as Bechdel portrays it, they are smiling. On the other hand, the women are seen to be having their heads down and eyes directed towards the table. The intense contrast of body language definitely indicates the lack of trust of the women towards the men. The cowboys then begin to say, “You all look like you’re headed for D.C.!”, to which one of the women reply “Yeah? What of it?”. The woman across from her, as Bechdel presented it, had an air bubble thought of a newspaper that was titled, “COED Stabs Homophobe at Hojo’s!” The title itself directly alludes to the fact that the women automatically feel threatened due to what they perceive to be their ‘outward’ sexuality. The men then directly reply, “Well so are we! All the way from Iowa! You have a good trip now, and enjoy the march!” Within the next picture of the comic, the women collectively discuss their mis-interpretation of the two cowboys and how they felt: “Hoo boy! My face was red!” and “Talk about assumptions”. Bechdel’s use of having one of the woman use the word ‘assumption’, while it seems to be making a joke, also shows the severity of how assumptions can somewhat backfire and invalidate masculine-presenting same-sex couples. Ultimately, Bechdel makes a commentary on both masculinity and the dangers of assumptions. Although the women were obviously in fear of their life, rightfully so, it does speak to how society dismisses, at first glance, male same-sex couples and unfortunately, fears the worst.

Ultimately, Bechdel’s comic is seen as relatable and humorous, while also giving the reader an insight into the assumption that two ‘masculine-presenting’ men cannot be a couple. Although these women make a joke about the scenario, the dismissal of male same-sex couples is essentially something that happens very often within the LGBTQ+ community and is somewhat stigmatized.


The Tragedy of Internalized Homophobia within the T.V. series “Atypical” and “Brokeback Mountain”

Within the LGBTQ+ community, internalized homophobia is something that can be considered a universal experience, feeling, or sometimes, (unfortunately), a way of life. In both the T.V. series “Atypical” by Robia Rashid, and “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx, all queer characters experience this sense of internalized homophobia, which hinders their relationships.

For those that are not familiar with “Atypical”, it resembles a show where Sam, a teenager on the spectrum, decides he is ready for finding a serious relationship. With the help of his therapist as well as family, Sam is able to explore the inner-meanings of what it means to have a crush and feel for someone. Along with Sam, the show follows the older sister Casey and her relationships. (Note: Bridgette Lundy-Paine, who plays Casey, goes by they/them pronouns, but the character uses she/her). In the beginning of the show, Casey has a boyfriend. Throughout the entirety of the first two seasons, she seems somewhat distant towards him, but nonetheless, continues the relationship. It isn’t until the most recent season released (season 3), that she has the opportunity to attend a private school due to her athleticism in track and field, On her team, is a member named Izzie. At first, Izzie is apprehensive of Casey, and ultimately, is not as kind to her as expected. However, later within the season, their friendship grows, and eventually, blossoms into something more. Casey eventually breaks up with her boyfriend and pursues this newfound relationship. While Izzie and Casey develop feelings for one another, Izzie has a difficult time accepting her sexuality.

In one particular scene, both partners are discussing their hangout from the night before. Izzie states, “Wait did you tell Sam about us?”, to which Casey replies, “Not really”. Casey then says, “Well I didn’t tell him anything, he just saw us at the door. Wh-what would be the big deal? He’s my brother.” Izzie then becomes visually upset and frustrated, as she states, “The big deal is that I don’t feel like broadcasting my personal business to the world”. A second instance of Izzie’s internalized homophobia is that at a small party, Casey tries to kiss Izzie. Despite being with Casey, and having feelings for her, Izzie is apprehensive of being public. In the scene itself, Casey moves closer to Izzie as they are both dancing together. Izzie quickly asks, “What are you doing?”. “Nothing I’m dancing”, Casey laughably replies. “We talked about this. I don’t need to advertise my personal business to the world”, Izzie states. “I’m not trying–“, Casey then starts to state. “I just, I need water”, Izzie finally replies.

Alike, in “Brokeback Mountain”, both Ennis and Jack are unsure of their relationship at first, and ultimately, cannot accept their feelings for one another. After having sex for the first time, Ennis states, “I’m not no queer,” and Jack jumped in with “Me neither. A one-shot thing. Nobody’s business but ours” (15). In this instance, both characters are seen as having a sense of internalized homophobia as they cannot accept their actions from the night prior. While Izzie’s sense of internalized homophobia in “Atypical” is more in the sense that yes, while she accepts her feelings towards Izzie, she is unsure of making it knowledge to the public, on the other hand, Ennis and Jack develop a sense of internalized homophobia at first because they do not accept their actions with a partner of the same sex. In this exact moment within the novel, both characters are not worried about their appearance in public (yet), as they have not even accepted their feelings for one another at this time.


the Desire for Suffering in Grahn’s “A Common Woman: IV” and Rich’s “Diving into the Wreck”

While initially reading “IV. Carol, in the park, chewing on straws,” by Judy Grahn, I envisioned the woman of focus within the piece, as disinterested with her life, putting on a persona to please others. After re-reading and pairing it with Adrienne Rich’s poem “Diving into the Wreck,” I believe both speakers in each poem, ironically, have a desire to face hardships, in order to grow and reach a sense of purpose. In particular, the narration is in third person, therefore it directly shows not only an outside perspective of Carol but also her inner monologue. This is ultimately examined in lines 13-21, where the speaker states,

On weekends, she dreams of becoming a tree;
A tree that dreams it is ground up
And sent to the paper factory, where it
Lies helpless in sheets, until it dreams
Of becoming a paper airplane, and rises
On its own current; where it turns into a
Bird, a great coasting bird that dreams of becoming
More free, even, than that—a feather, finally, or
A piece of air with lightning in it (1).

Grahn gives the reader an insight in this specific excerpt, where Carol’s deepest desires are unveiled. Line 13 begins her inner monologue as she dreams of becoming another, in particular, something that is inanimate. The tone of the speaker in line 13 is almost nostalgic, yet in line 14 it is drastically different. She then wishes that she was “a tree that…is ground up.” The switch of her tone from holding a positive connotation to a more gruesome one is quite shocking. From this immediate juxtaposition, I believe that Carol has an inclination towards death and suffering. Furthering this desire for suffering, in lines 15-16, it states, “And sent to the paper factory, where it lies helpless in sheets.” However, I do not firmly believe that this desire for suffering results in her ‘end,’ but instead, her personal growth. Directly shown in the following lines, the speaker shows Carol’s longing for change and growth. It states, “…until it dreams of becoming a paper airplane, and rises on its own current. Not only does this line show her desire for newness, but also her ability to be independent. By having the paper airplane form and be able to “rise on its own current,” Carol will not be at anyone’s disposure. The final three lines of the excerpt are riveting, as the speaker explicitly shows Carol’s longing for freedom and her ultimate means to do so. It is stated, “…where it turns into a bird, a great coasting bird that dreams of becoming more free, even, than that—a feather, finally, or a piece of air with lightning in it.” The overarching transformation of a tree to a feather heightens the amount of change Carol wants to have within her life. The smaller changes within, of tree to paper, paper to paper airplane, airplane to bird, and bird to feather, show the hardships and steps of changing, enveloped within the larger transformation.
Rich’s narration of “Diving into the Wreck” is similar, as the speaker gives the reader an insight into a wreck she discovers, and ultimately keeps going back to. In my blog post prior, I made a connection between the wreck itself and the speaker’s feelings regarding the wreck. I believed that the ‘wreck’ meant the speaker’s past and that the speaker wants to use the wreck as a learning experience for growth.

In the seventh stanza, Rich states,
The thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty (102).
If the reader were to assume that the ‘wreck’ means the speaker’s past, then the disregard for the story of the past only heightens the speaker’s distaste for being stuck within the past. Through the metaphor of “the drowning face always staring,” the reader can infer that the past is always lingering. By positioning the face “towards the sun,” this demonstrates how the speaker has the ability to use the past to their advantage. However, this has not been done yet and the reader can assume through Rich’s explanation of this image, being “the evidence of damage.” Both Rich and Grahn depict their speakers as longing for change and ironically, wanting to face hardships along the way, in order for their ultimate growth.

The Past and Suffering within “Diving into the Wreck”

At first glance, Adrienne Rich’s poem “Diving into the Wreck” tells a story of a person in the ocean, surrounded by a ladder, and enveloped within their equipment. While this rendition is quite literal, I ultimately believe that the poem is metaphorical, and that the ‘wreck’ can be synonymous to the past and its’ aftermath on the speaker. Other than the title itself, the first instance where ‘wreck’ is mentioned by Rich is in the sixth stanza. She states,
“I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed” (102).
In this specific excerpt from the poem, the reader is able to identify the speaker’s desires and that this ‘exploration’ was not forced upon themself, but rather chosen. Through the word choice and repetition of “I came to…”, Rich shows the speaker as willing to embark on this ‘dive within the ocean’. Following this phrase are verbs, such as “explore” and “see”, which display the reader’s ambition and eagerness to come in contact with things that may not be so pleasant. By pairing the verbs with this common phrase, there is a sense of irony. Why would the speaker want to “explore the wreck”? Why would the speaker come to “see the damage that was done”? I believe that the answer to these questions is within the next line, “and the treasures that prevail”. The wreck, being synonymous to the past, would allow for the speaker to make reflections upon their actions. Thus, “treasures” would then be available, and this past reflection would force the speaker to grow (in terms of how they dealt with certain experiences).
In the following stanza, Rich furthers the idea of the ‘wreck’ being the speakers’ past experiences. She explains,
“the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty” (102).
Rich begins the stanza by preparing the reader for an overarching idea of why the speaker ‘dove into the wreck’. She starts with, “the wreck and not the story of the wreck, the thing of itself and not the myth”. If the reader were to assume that the ‘wreck’ means the speaker’s past, then the disregard for the story of the past only heightens the speaker’s distaste for being stuck within the past. The speaker ultimately wants to use this ‘wreck’ as a learning experience and not dwell. Rich continues this idea by stating,
“the drowning face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty” (102). Through the metaphor of “the drowning face always staring”, the reader can infer that the past is always lingering. By positioning the face “towards the sun”, this demonstrates how the speaker has the ability to use the past to their advantage. However, this has not been done yet and the reader can assume through Rich’s explanation of this image, being “the evidence of damage”. Rich’s choice of words and imagery-rich style of writing allows the reader to infer that the speaker is referencing their life and the hardships they may face within ‘the ocean’. Even so, there is a sense of desire and eagerness of the speaker towards their past, and essentially utilizing such for their personal growth.