Thursday, June 05, 2008

"Eve ate the apple."

Diane Waff's article Romance in the Classroom: Inviting Discourse on Gender and Power really struck a cord with me. The quote (or phrase) that "Eve ate the apple" will not die. In my Religions of the World and Introduction to Philosophy courses we discuss the relationship between gender and religion and/or gender and power, and this phrase. For those not raised in the Bible Belt, fundamental Christianity holds that eternal damnation is secured from Eve's action in the Garden of Eden, original sin enters the world stemming directly from her initial disobedience--Adam follows suit and also eats the apple, but not first mind you. Historically, this phrase has been used over and over again, perpetuating many undesired outcomes and stereotypes. A few examples could include the myth of woman-as-temptress and to explain why women have painful childbirth experiences.

While I believe it is important to identify areas of inequality, addressing the historical roots that have been planted, I would rather focus on how we as a society can provide a more equal future. I believe as educators it is our obligation to bring issues of gender into our classrooms. How do we change society, or the value society holds of women without discourse? I have found it very helpful to bring newspaper clippings/magazine articles/documentaries with real-life examples into the classroom to begin these discussions.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Response to Right to Write

Earlier this week I responded to the writing invitation on the chapter "Drama." The message urges writers to stay balanced (which seems ever elusive in my life), resist stress (almost impossible), and "keep drama on the page." The point is, I am, as mother, wife, pet owner, student, employee, friend, sister, most easily distracted. Honestly, sometimes I welcome these distractions. They are, after all, what gives my life purpose, laughter, tears, hope, and yes, most certainly, a measured amount of stress. Yet, there is validity in what Cameron urges, writers keeping life in perspective and not allowing distractions to impact "our sense of scale in our emotional landscape." I was surprised and then delighted by the writing prompt. I did as Cameron suggested and numbered in my journal 1-100. I set out to list the 100 things that I personally love. I was even more surprised when it took me much longer than the 30 minutes to set these things down on paper. What I found myself doing was jotting ideas, stopping (distractions), and returning to my list to jot again. It took a day and a half. It isn't that I find little to be thankful for in the people and things in my life or that there is little I like. What I found was that I wanted my list to truly reflect what it is I like. Here are a few items from my list:

#5--When Mollydog bumps her nose, gentle and wet, against my leg, claiming me as her own.

# 16--being inspired by courage

#27--sitting on my husband's lap

#36 Paris

#39-- music washing out from under the door of my 16 year old son's room, he has quite an eclectic taste

#55 a real letter in the mailbox

#67 I know that all beagles have it, but that tip of white on Eddie's tail has got to be cuter than any other dog's

#77 my bro Steve's homemade chocolate chip cookies

#82 laying on a float in a crystal clear pool, eyes closed, sounds of children splashing, water ripples lapping

#95 hearing my son and husband laugh together

Not only does a list like this remind me of what matters in my life, trigger the need for perspective, and make me feel good, it provides some good jumping off points for writing in other ways. There is real power in writing about things that matter personally, our struggles, our victories, our gratitude, our experiences, our memories. After I finished my list, I read it to my husband. (Reading it didn't take near as long as writing it.) As I read the list aloud, I heard the words in a poetic way. They are, after all, my life. As Charles Frazier remarked about one of his characters in the novel, Cold Mountain, --and I don't have the source nearby, but it went something like this--"there was nothing remarkable about her story, other than it was her life."

I also realized that my list is relative. It will change as I change, probably daily. That is what growth is all about, almost imperceptible at times. The potted peace plant that graces my window with outstretched blossoms is a reminder of that. My husband gave the plant to me during a particularly stressful time of my life. Over the past few years, that stress has long dissipated and is almost forgotten, but the plant, already once re-potted, is almost ready for a bigger pot.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Typers of the world, unite!

Alright, I’m rebelling and I'm throwing it out here because I'd like feedback. I understand that there’s probably a very good reason that Cameron wants us to write longhand and I’m sure it’s a valid, well considered reason. However, she cannot have it both ways with me. She is asking us to write unedited pieces and I’m simply not fast enough at writing longhand in order to do that. That bears quite a bit more explanation.

Typing is an incredibly fast mode for me compared to longhand. Every typing test I’ve taken puts my WPM at somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-80. No, I’m not bragging, I’m sure there are a lot of people reading this who can move faster than that. However, I write longhand at what I would estimate to be about 30-40 WPM. I could probably make it up to 50, but you’d have to have several linguistics specialists standing by as both my handwriting and my syntax break down into a form best described as “Chris Martin pretending to be intoxicated.” It’s not a pretty sight.

Now, typing at the speed I do, my fingers and thus the words on the screen move at the same rate my thoughts do. Well, usually, that’s obviously barring such things as having to backspace because the idiot that designed my laptop keyboard decided it’d be a good idea to make the backspace key hide itself as far as possible from my finger. Also, mousepads are a fun little torture when you have the bad habit of letting your palms touch the spot in front of the keyboard. But I digress, as I’m often reminded by my wife. The point is, when I type, I don’t self-edit because I don’t allow my thoughts enough time between formation and recording for this to happen. Longhand, however, I always find myself trailing my head by about two sentences. So, things get weird as I’m sucked into a form of multitasking that probably has Torquemada howling at the unfairness of not thinking of it himself. I’m simultaneously trying to juggle writing whatever sentence is forming in my head, recording the sentence I just wrote, and editing the sentence that formed before the one I’m writing and after the one I’m recording. In other words, if I had been writing this longhand, I would have been scribbling the sentence starting with “Longhand, however…”, composing the sentence about juggling, and trying to remember how to spell Torquemada for the one in the middle. This whole bit actually probably wouldn’t exist.

That leads me to the better way to put it. Longhand robs me of my voice. When writing longhand, the internal professor kicks in and he’s a stodgy old cuss. He doesn’t like flash, he doesn’t like emotion, he doesn’t like pizazz. He feels jokes have no place in writing for an academic environment and Pythonesque silliness should only be even hinted at when one is writing an analysis of Python. Long story short, he hates everything about the kind of writing that I am most comfortable with and most happy doing. The funny thing is I listened to the old fart because that’s what I thought I had to do for A’s. I had this ideal of the academic voice in my mind and it brooked no personality. The fact is that the internal professor, stuffy jerk that he is, is remarkably comfortable making a spectacle out of himself until he’s listened to. I don’t always take his advice, but the internal argument robs me of words as it did yesterday when I completely lost a train of thought because I was busily trying to determine whether to use “its” or “it’s” in a sentence three lines out ahead of what I was writing.

I’m absolutely not saying that I can’t write longhand. I’m not even saying that I can’t write well in longhand. I’m just not able to move my hand fast enough to keep up with my thoughts and that drives me nuts.