Likies… you know.

I ran into one of my best friends today. I was working my part-time retail gig, and she and her fiancé stopped in to say hello.

We had a nice conversation. Talked about how they are going to Mexico for Thanksgiving break. I asked her how med school was going, as she is also pursuing her degree at Loyola University. She asked me how my program at Loyola is going. We talked some gossip about our other friends, asked each other how our families are, and shared our holiday plans. I wished them safe travels on their trip and we said our goodbyes.

What you would not know up to this point is that my friend is gay and that her fiancé is a woman.

This friend is one of my best. How do I measure that? She dubbed me the greatest nickname I have ever received, which is Likies (pronounced lee-keys). I always knew my friend was a lesbian. She never had to say it. But to this day, I have never heard her say anything along the lines of “I am gay” or “I am a lesbian.” And I don’t think that I will ever hear her say that. The closest she ever got to telling me this was a time in high school, and she said, “Likies… you know.”

I am a cis gendered, heterosexual individual. My Greek family, although unreligious, and the Greek community value heteronormitivity. To find out that someone in the Greek community is gay is juicy gossip. No one forgets that piece of information. And you bet that the gay individual’s family starts to get judged for raising someone like that. Yet, it is okay or understandable when non-Greeks are gay. The Greek mentality–as I have grown up and experienced it in the Chicagoland area–is that Greeks are superior, and, therefore, not gay.

When my mother found out that my friend was engaged to a woman, her jaw dropped. I never explicitly told her that my friend was gay. Because that was not my place. From time to time she will ask me if they are still engaged, like it was a phase or something. Would she ever ask if a heterosexual friend was still engaged? Probably not.

During my senior year of college, I lived with a  gay man and a sorority sister, who had celebrated four years of sobriety. I start to wonder what my family thinks of me and my choice in friends.

They are always surprised by me and the things that I do. What are you going to do with a degree in English? Why do you want to live on campus? What do you need a sorority for? Why do you need a master’s degree? What are you actually studying in grad school? Why don’t you have a boyfriend?

THAT, my friends, is their biggest concern. Why doesn’t Vicki have a boyfriend?

Vicki does not have a boyfriend for a lot of reasons. I know they think that because I have gay friends that it might be rubbing off on me. Maybe Vicki is homosexual. And THAT, my friends, would be their biggest fear.

How do you shake the heteronormitivity that accompanies a culture or religion? How do you you disrupt homophobia?

I stumbled upon this TEDTalk:

Hearing how different countries, cultures, and religions experience equality or homophobia is important. How can we, the United States, model social justice? How can other countries model social justice? At what point will these stories weave into the fabric of love and respect?

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A Different Kind of Day

I’m having a hard time this week with social media. Millennials are up in arms about the election results, writing all these long, convoluted Facebook posts rationalizing a vote for Trump or Clinton, which is not going to resolve much of anything. I get it, though. I’m upset, too. I woke up on Wednesday, feeling heavy and under.

I looked at the posts from some of my best friends from high school and I nearly lost my mind. They were attacking the President-elect. They were freaking out. I saw posts from young Republicans about how they felt targeted for their vote towards Trump. I saw so much hatred in these posts; so much energy used to spit fire.

I have never voted until this election. And I really did not want to. I voted for my mother, who breathes politics. So, here I was all excited that I voted. I watched the electoral college votes roll in on Tuesday night and I really could not believe what I was seeing. I was so sure that Clinton was going to win.

Was I naive? I grew up in a  liberal neighborhood, I have liberal parents, I attended a liberal arts school, I work with liberal individuals, and I am enrolled in a graduate program with individuals who appear mostly liberal. Do I just live in a liberal bubble?

Then I looked at the map. How can states or regions with such big cities, such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York be isolated in blue while the rest of the country sits in this sea of red? This pattern intrigues me.

Today–and each day that follows–is a different kind of day. And it was going to be like that no matter which candidate won. The conversation in America was ready to change. Both candidates held identities and experiences that have been vastly different from the typical candidates in the past. As social-justice-learners, we already had a lot of work to do. The battle between a successful business man and a woman in politics was not going to remedy anything for us. I know people, old and young, who would have thrown a fit if a woman had been elected President of the United States. This election brought so many more issues and conversations to the table for us.

It’s not about winning or losing. It’s not about a misogynistic man or a sneaky woman. It’s about the dialogue that clearly needs to happen across the nation about racism, sexism, ableism, classism and other isms. I can understand why people voted both ways. The reaction and behaviors are what keep me up at night and what concern me for the future. The energy towards hate and hurt has to be spun around into love and dialogue. How can we talk in a healthy way? How can we facilitate these topics in schools and the work place? How can we make these isms a concern for our students? And how can our students help us learn more about the underlying pulse of oppression from this election?

The Blue and Pink

I recently realized how obsessed I am when it comes to baby boys and baby girls and the need to associate each with blue and pink, respectively. My father’s cousin has a 5-month old daughter, his first child. He and his wife talk about how they want more children, which is why they have purchased neutral clothing. Each time I see their baby, she’s dressed in gray, white, or pale yellow. Nothing distinguishes her as “girl” because they want to utilize the clothing for their future children. Each time I see the baby I always want to comment on the fact that she looks like she’s dressed as a prisoner. She is typically dressed in a gray and white, striped onesie. How neutral!

Perhaps the reason why this shocks me is because her parents are spitting images of Disney characters Belle and Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. The mother is incredibly girly and the father is incredibly manly. I cannot understand why that baby does not come dressed in pink and frills. Beyond that, I cannot understand why it bothers me so much.

I bring up gender-neutral baby clothing because it was really the first thing I thought of when thinking about trans and cis gendered individuals’ self-categorization. The readings discussed how children can determine this about themselves early on in development. Gender-neutral baby clothes have been a topic of discussion in recent years. Some parents are aware and want their children to be able to categorize gender on their own terms. Despite this awareness, it seems impossible to shed the blue and pink for good. Just look at all of these ideas for gender reveal parties (side note: since when is that a thing?). ALL of them indicate girl as pink and boy as blue. Even before the child is born, we have cast this binary system on them. Some of those ideas poke at “he or she?” We have even decided their pronouns. These tiny humans have so much picked out for them before they have a real chance to experience life and categorize themselves.

I never even considered the idea of genderqueer, which Tate, Youssef, and Bettergarcia (2014) described as either blending gender or outside the male-female binary (p. 308). In my daily practice, I feel as though I would have been accepting of this idea. But I have not given much thought into how someone may not feel either of those. I am a cisgendered individual. The cis experience appears to be valued more in our society than the trans experience, which is part of the reason why I may hold the views that I do about blue and pink. I’m sure it’s not the only reason, but I am understanding in how it plays a role in my identity and the way that my experiences in this society shape my understanding of the world.

I am obviously guilty of placing individuals into this blue-and-pink binary system. I need to be more aware of how it is not my job to identify people, particularly babies, in that way; rather, it is my job to identify the opportunities for inclusion, making sure that I do not call anyone out on their gender or assume their pronouns. I think that the article by Dean Spade (2011) was helpful in recognizing ways to go about being more inclusive to trans and cis experiences.

Though, I am leaving this post with a handful of questions regarding the way that we predetermine the gender of tiny humans. Even the way that we react to a gender reveal, which isn’t even revealing of one’s gender, is biased. I wonder if finding out the sex of a baby is part of the problem in perpetuating the binary. I’ll just leave this here for now.

What’s the Point?

I appreciated reading Hilary’s blog this week. I have had some of the same thoughts, and I wanted to reflect on how I’m feeling now that my first semester is approaching crunch time.

In her blog post, Hilary wrote, “In a social system that is so vast and so diverse, what difference will my single voice have on the current structure?” This question is precisely what I have been struggling with throughout the semester. I have this greater understanding of systems of oppression. But I have no idea what that means for me in terms of the bigger picture.

I think that the real issue is coming to terms with the fact that I am not a superhero. The ELPS 432 course exposes us to so many new ways of thinking and pieces of knowledge that have altered our habits and behaviors. The point of the course is not to turn us into the social justice police. We have to live our lives. Sometimes, that means that we may not be able to confront social injustices. Some systems of oppression will hit us harder than others. And we have to be okay with that.

Which battles do we choose to fight? I think that those choices are more telling of our identities and how we wish to use our voices to impact the current structure that Hilary describes. What kind of social justice warriors do we wish to be?

As I reflect on my blog posts, I realize that I have written all of them at my parents’ home in the suburbs. I think living and working in a city like Chicago is overwhelming when combined with our studies in ELPS 432. We see systems of oppression in action daily–on the bus, on the train, and on the streets. When I come home to the suburbs, perhaps I see it less; perhaps I turn off my social justice radar.

What’s the point? Why learn about racism, classism, ablism, sexism, etc.?

When I think about my future as a student affairs professional, I imagine my life working like that. To understand identities and systems of oppression is vital to working with college students. I can only try to understand their stories and moments of vulnerability if I can be aware of the types of oppression that they may have faced in their experiences. I can only create change that will impact students or an institution if I am aware of the isms. But I will exhaust myself if I have to think about social justice when I go home, as well. Just as we talk about setting boundaries with students and colleagues in the field, we have to consider the boundaries we build around social justice.

Sure, it will never go away. We will experience the isms in our personal lives and when we leave the work space. We have to realistic about how we want social justice to play into our professional and personal lives. As much as we might want to look away from the isms, we cannot predict what we will encounter on the way home from work or once we get home. I suppose we are signing ourselves up for lifetime learning and awareness to social justice.

Ready or not, here it comes.

 

Language Performance

I’m struggling with what to write about this week. Diversity and inclusion have been on my mind. So many individuals I am connected with through social media post about these topics. And I don’t understand why we humans share unsolicited advice or mini lessons about these topics via the online platform.

I turned to some TEDTalks for a fresh perspective on diversity and inclusion. These two videos resonated with me:

I really like the questions of identity, calling, and service that Dr. Marylin Sanders asks at the end of her talk.

Who am I?
What is my work?
How will I contribute?

I also really like this idea of blind spots that Helen Turnbull describes in her talk.

These things are reflective. Each person should ask him/her/themselves those questions. Each person should check his/her/their blind spots. To be self-aware of your own thoughts, values, and privilege is crucial to the work of social justice.

I scroll through Facebook, Twitter and instagram (photo challenges and descriptions) only to discover competitions to see who is the most inclusive or who is the most aware of diversity. Just because you post about BLM does not mean you are the authority on the topic. Just because I don’t post about BLM does not mean I don’t know what it is.

I am perturbed. The things I read do not mirror the behaviors and language performances of the individuals in real life. I look to social media to relish the human experience and connect, not to brag or compete. If these people were constantly bragging and competing about their knowledge and awareness in person, then I would be very turned off by them.

THIS ARTICLE summarizes my thoughts on this matter.

“I’m finding that the more I learn about people’s public persona, the less I want to know them privately.”

Humans will always exist with language and culture. Within that existence, they will acquire communicative competence, the knowledge of shared norms appropriateness used in one’s culture or reality through language. When humans enter the world, we’re not fully formed. I am not born Vicki Gerentes. Rather, I create Vicki Gerentes and the Vicki-ness that accompanies the name. Thus, I perform myself with the rules and scripts of Vicki. Those performances help me perform myself as a unique entity. When I do not perform Vicki, others do not feel the sameness of Vicki; they sense something is wrong or different about me. This feeling is directly applicable to that of a ritualistic moment in language. If the performance of the ritual, the utterances, or the scriptedness is different, then the performative is not there. Essentially, if I do not perform the Vicki-ness of Vicki, and if the scriptedness of a ritual does not follow its norms and conditions, then the performance is inappropriate.

What does that rant really mean? Someone who posts about racism on Facebook, but has nothing to say in person is not someone I want to know better. If we utilize language in one way online and perform ourselves another way in person, then do we really have a grasp on our identities?

When we do things in, through, and by language we are performing certain acts. By no means do I do social media right. I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way. I do like to believe that the way I choose to direct my posting energy online to portray Vicki parallels the Vicki you know in real life.

Perhaps this post is more about how identities play into the way in which we perform ourselves. How do language and culture shape our identities? How do language and culture shape the work that we do? How do language and culture influence they way in which we will contribute? How do language and culture create our blind spots? How do our identities change the way in which we use language to engage in dialogue online?

Money Crazy

I have been trying to articulate a post about classism and money for the past hour. And I am really struggling to write about this without sounding like brat. Here is the initial introduction I wrote for this post:

I get really quiet when people talk about their grandparents. I don’t think anyone has really picked up on it, which is great news for me because the last thing I want to talk about is how classism and money are the reasons why my grandparents are not that great. Family drama is always too hard to put into words. So, I will spare you the details. We can talk over a drink some time. What I would like for you to know is that my grandfathers are millionaires, and that their wealth has played no role in my financial future, as I learned very early that their money would never be inherited.

Both of my parents claimed bachelor’s degrees from DePaul University. My father owned a restaurant for 18 years and has worked in food distribution (product import/export) since 2011. My mother has always been an accountant and has always worked. In other words, I have only ever known my parents to be part of the working class.

I grew up knowing that I would have to work to earn a living. I used to work at our restaurant so that I could get gas money from my dad. I used to babysit my little sister so that my parents did not have to pay someone else. I worked in college. And I work two jobs now.

The readings this week really have me wondering about how my experience in college has differed from that of my parents. I went to a liberal arts institution located in an affluent suburban neighborhood. I have decent loans from undergrad, and I am grateful that my parents want to help me pay off those loans. Graduate school, however, was not in their budget. I pay my own rent, I pay my own bills, and I will have to pay for graduate school.

And I think they feel bad.

My paternal grandfather was one of the first to export Greek olives to other countries. We discussed the adjective “crazy” in class recently. I just want to be clear that my paternal grandfather was crazy; crazy about money. He was so crazy about his money that he made sure to blow it all away before he died so that his wife, four children, and five grandchildren would never reap the fruits of his labors. As a child, my father traveled to countries, like Egypt, spent summers in Italy, and attended an English school. His parents paid for him to get an education in the United States and do whatever else he wanted.

My maternal grandfather immigrated to the United States and made a lot of money through his real estate and grocery store. Like my paternal grandfather, he was also crazy about money. Greek immigrants with families struggled to make a living in Chicago. My grandfather wasn’t just making a better living than other Greek immigrants, he was succeeding. But his hunger for money meant that he would make choices that affected his family. He lived in a small home in the city with his wife and four children because it was cheap. He never encouraged his children to go to school because it would be a waste of his earnings. My mother had to fight him to pay for her education at DePaul University. Yet, she grew up knowing that money would never be an issue.

I do not rely on mommy and daddy financially or emotionally. I do not know what it’s like to be rich. My parents raised me with the idea that if you can provide for your children, then you should.

The relationships my grandfathers had with money ultimately decided their class and the class of their children. Their identities are rooted in the amount of money they were able to make. I think my parents have struggled with their inability to provide in the way that their parents did for them.

My father never experienced real discontinuity in college. Yes, he was an international student, but his father paid for everything and he lived with his aunt and uncle, who let him do whatever he wanted. He had a solid pass from professors. I do not say this to discredit my father’s hard work or insult his intelligence. I say this because his classism created a very different experience for him as a college student.

School was easy for my mother. She got good grades and was an average student. She studied accounting… perhaps there is some irony there.

What I have to force myself to remember is that my parents grew up in different countries in very different time periods. Education was so much cheaper then than it is now. No matter how much money their fathers made, their tuition was always going to be cheaper than mine. They attended college during a time when young adults were not as educated. EVERYTHING was cheaper–gas, parking, produce, THE COST OF LIVING. They lived with their families in cities near Chicago and commuted to school. They cannot expect their salaries (which have not increased in the way that college tuition has over the years) to support those same things for their children in today’s world.

I have no relationship with any of my grandparents for a number of reasons, but classism certainly plays a role. My maternal grandfather judges my father for not being able to make as much money as he did in his life. My paternal grandfather judged my mother because her parents had to move to America to make a living.

I know that classism in this sense is a little different than what the readings discussed. But this is how I chose to reflect on it.

Free Speech

We will not have Ripped From the Headlines this week since there is no class during Week 7, so I thought it would be a good idea to share a headline and reflect on my own time. I could not figure out how to pull the video from this news story. Please read for context.

Denver University has a free speech wall, which allows students to share ideas and spark dialogue. Recently, some racially-charged messages have appeared on the wall. Students feel unsafe and threatened.

I learned about this happening from a post that my good childhood friend shared on Facebook. She is a DU alumna, and was very upset by the writings. The post she shared on Facebook had some interesting comments from current students and alumni. The President of the Young Americans for Freedom chapter at DU commented on the post, inviting everyone to a meeting to discuss the messages. He also noted that someone from his organization was the one who wrote the messages on the wall, and that, although those messages were not written on behalf of Young Americans for Freedom, he supports the member’s right to free speech.

What?! Does he understand what he is supporting? Yes, we should fight for our rights, but we should not support the abuse of those rights. The BLM movement is both a hot topic and very current event. It is a sensitive time for many students and individuals who might feel threatened or unsafe. We should not have to walk on eggshells; we should not have to wake up to this type of defacement.

Seems like alumni were not surprised by this event, which leads me to believe that DU has a feeling/culture that has yet to be addressed.

The University responded to the free-speech wall writings with this message. I’m not even sure how the University should respond. So my thoughts on this letter are simply that I am glad a response exists. The letter included a link to upcoming events and resources to continue the dialogue. I think those spaces are great. But are they enough? And who is facilitating these programs?

I’m just pretty shocked at how relevant this story is to our current studies and readings. I find the wall to be another unique way to create dialogue. But I’m sad that these racially-charged messages are the reason why these programs now exist. Would these spaces and conversations be there without the defacement of the wall?

I suppose we need to consider how to approach something like this before it happens. At the same time, we should not have to worry about something like this happening. Perhaps I’m mostly shocked at how my friend feels affected by this even after graduating from the institution. I feel, to some extent, obligated to address this for her. If something like this happened at my alma mater, then I would hope others would spread awareness, too.

I tend to learn about what’s happening in the world from my family and friends. I like that I can rely on class discussions and Facebook for news. Part of me sharing this is to build my own awareness about the importance of staying current on current events. Consider this post a baby step–I hope that you all will continue to challenge me.

Talkless Talk

We are all talk–without the talk.

We agreed to challenge each other. I want to call us out on the silence we had during our Week 5 class session. We had the space and time to discuss anything, and so many of us, myself included, really missed the mark.

Those of us who spoke… what conversation were we in? A conversation is a two-way street. We were not listening to each other or responding appropriately. Were we unprepared? Were we confused?

I was confused about the dynamics of the conversation. At one point during our silence, I truly thought about asking why we were so quiet. Maybe peer pressure got the best of me. As a creative writer, I do better on this sort of platform. But I should have taken the risk to ask. Would have been something great for us to address. And it may have sparked the musings of a real dialogue.

I am ashamed that the instructor had to be the one to address the elephant in the room. He had to be the one to tell us when it is appropriate to engage and when it is not.

Why did we spend so much time on expectations at the beginning of the semester? We had the opportunity the other day to honor those expectations in what could have been a great conversation. Instead, we chose to sit quietly and uncomfortably.

Was the silence a defense mechanism?

Were we scared of offending one another?

I hope we can agree that the gaps of silence were a mistake that we can learn from. Roughly 15 class sessions are not enough to discuss and share with one another. I suppose that is why we have the blogs. Are we even reading them?

Many of us live in the Loyola community and can easily get together to discuss outside of the classroom. Some of us do not have those opportunities. The time we dedicate to discussing whatever we want is sacred–no one outside of ELPS 432 can touch that space for us. Talkless talk breaks our commitment to better understanding social justice.

I can respect silence in the form of self-care. I just highly doubt that the majority of us were engaging in self-care last week.

I request that the next time we have the opportunity to converse that we are prepared to do so. Be prepared with readings (both assigned and unassigned), experiences, feelings, and opinions. Be prepared to listen-and-respond.

I will leave you with this:

And Another Form of Dialogue

I was surprised by the fact that no one brought up the term “bystander behavior” during our last class. We concluded that we need to focus on the understanding as part of the process; how social justice isn’t just about action. But, during our discussion, we were pretty focused on talking about how to take action and when to take action. Hilary shared her story about the boy on the bus, and then many us shared other stories about a time we did step in (and how), didn’t know how to step in, or didn’t want to step in.

The show What Would You Do, hosted by John Quiñones, is something that always comes to mind. He fabricates very socially interesting situations with actors in order to see how ordinary people in society will react. I do not watch the show with much frequency, but I am familiar with it, and have heard Quiñones speak. I searched through some of the clips on YouTube to find one that I thought was worth sharing with everyone. I did not want to find one where someone had to intervene as a result of a physical abuse or one where a child was the target; rather, I was looking for a clip that involved verbal injustice. Here’s my pick:

How do we use what we know about social justice and what we are learning to be the kind of humans on this earth who take a risk and assist others? In this particular clip, I do appreciate how both men and women–gay and straight, old and young–intervened to say something to the hairdresser.

Although the first woman in the clip had a very aggressive approach, calling the hairdresser “stupid” and calling her a “bird,” I found her moment critical to the conversation. When we hear/see ignorance, we need to find the courage to call people out on it. This practice is not solely for strangers; rather, we should be able to do it in class and with each other on a daily basis. The woman at the end of the clip had a more gentle demeanor, resulting in a more real conversation to inspire and elevate the hairdresser. She talks about rising together, to be bigger and better than past generations. She tells Quiñones, “Sometimes you have to step up so that you don’t fall back.”

I do think that this show creates situations for people to engage in dialogue. Quiñones is a facilitator in his own right. He uses these moments to give people the opportunity to be champions, as well as to give viewers (of the show) the opportunity to examine how we can be champions. The show obviously only shows what it wants to show. There may have been more people who stepped in to speak to the hairdresser, but we will never know that.

I also like that Quiñones interviews the bystanders at the end to ask why they chose not to do/say anything. Most of the time, as we heard, people want to do/say something, but they find that it is not their place to do so. Why? Where do these barriers come from that stop so many of us from action? Your response or action towards a moment of social injustice would be based on your experience. But that almost means that bystander behavior is fueled by culture/experience. My parents never taught me or modeled for me what it is like to take action. That’s not to say that they didn’t teach me the Golden Rule or how to treat people. But what I know from my Greek culture and from my experience with bystander behavior certainly influences what I would do in a situation like that.

During class this week, we posed the question: Who gets to decide what good dialogue is? I think that between this post and my last one, it is starting to become clearer (to me) that dialogue can present itself in many different ways. The title of my blog is Higher Dialogue. Of course, I have the play-on words. Higher as in higher education. But “higher” can also reflect the higher standards and higher level of thinking that I am working on. Dialogue is something that happens between two people. The platform for which that happens on does not necessarily have to be talking face-to-face. I think that dialogue can come through writing, videos, photos, and other media.

As a creative writer, I took a course about remixing and unwriting. How can we alter the presentation of a piece of work so that it presents a different story or idea? Writing does not have to be written with words, paragraphs, and proper grammar to be considered writing. And the way in which we choose to share our work plays a major role in the way that people interpret it. For instance, if Quiñones transcribed that episode and you had to read it, rather than view it, then you would probably have no sense of the atmosphere that was created in the barber shop. A transcription would not necessarily tell you that the people who stood up to the hairdresser were people of color. But would that even matter? Does the video hurt our understanding of this situation when we realized that everyone who spoke up to the hair dresser is of color? or does it enhance our understanding?

If we are to facilitate discussions with each other and the students we will eventually work with, then it is imperative that we consider the way in which we choose to present that dialogue. We live both in possibility and in choice. We must consider how powerful that is and how we can channel such power to help us through our journey as M.Ed. candidates in Higher Education at Loyola University Chicago.


References

WWYD? All episodes. (2014, January 20). Ep:49 WWYD? What Would You Do- Interracial Couple Faces Criticism [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/9WLbPC9vDrM

A Different Form of Dialogue

** The disclaimer here is that this blogpost solves very little; rather, it serves as a way for me to explore my love for creative writing with the topics we have been discussing in class. I end this entry with a lot of questions that I do not know how to answer or discuss. I hope you can follow along as I explore a new realm of dialogue.

After reading Audre Lorde’s “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” I wanted to consider her reference to Adrienne Rich, an American feminist poet. I am most familiar with Rich’s poem entitled “Diving into the Wreck”. I remembered this poem being about a journey into the wreck that is oppression. I do hope you read the poem before reading on, as it is an important creative piece that delves into complex issues that we have been discussing in class.

Rich takes me through a vivid underwater dive of the ocean; however, towards the end of the poem, I start to  wonder what this “wreck” is actually about. I hope to use this blogpost as a way to explore the “wreck” as it relates to the “master’s house.”

The voice in the poem is trying to show how he/she is surviving; how he/she is about to embark on this dive alone. He/She travels down the ladder–perhaps a societal ladder–only to realize that no one is around to tell the voice “when the ocean / will begin.” This writing is powerful. The dive itself is perhaps the story of someone’s life; perhaps someone who exists in a space where systems of oppression are in full force. As this person climbs down this ladder, it is evident that he or she is looking for a moment of clarity. When will the ocean begin? Water is fluid and has no sense of chronology. Even the voice in this poem is fluid, which is clear when Rich writes “I am she: I am he”. There is no gender, sex, race, age, (dis)ability to the voice.

Rich adds, “the sea is not a question of power.” As we travel deeper, we may not be looking for privilege or the master’s house, per se. Rather, we may be looking for the place where the master left his tools (which may be in the master’s house). Rich writes:

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.

If the wreck is the master’s house, and the voice has come to explore that house, then the wreck must be the place where the master’s tools are stored. When Lorde (1984) said, “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change” (p. 2). If the ocean and its fluidity are not sources of power, but the wreck exists in the ocean, then what is the point of this dive? Is diving into the wreck a lens for turning differences into strengths? This poem is about the exploration of the wreck and maybe the idea of dissonance. People are a sort of element that does not normally combine with the element of water. In other words, people cannot live in water. Until we explore the wreck, we may not be able to find our awareness of how systems of oppression affect us.

But what about the treasure in the wreck? Certainly the treasure is not the master’s tools. Perhaps the treasure is the knowledge, or what Lorde referred to as “learning how to take our differences and make them strengths” (p. 2).

Consider the very last stanza. Rich writes:

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife,
a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

The conclusion of this poem leaves me feeling deserted. The voice began the dive alone and is now realizing how truly unaccounted for he or she may be. Even if I am able to find the master’s tools in the wreck, how am I able to use them? Do I want to be able to use them? or do I want to repurpose them? Is there a point at which intersectionality can be found in the wreck?

As I mentioned earlier, I know I have not fully analyzed or concluded much in this post; however, what I have discovered is an interest in how the stories of women (as they relate to Lorde’s piece) come to life through a poem. The differences between Lorde and Rich as writers are many; yet, their pieces seem to have a conversation and facilitate dialogue. Are people the only facilitators of dialogue?

I replied to Hilary’s post from this week in regards to some feelings I also have about the ability to have courage and take risks. I think this post was a very different kind of risk. I hope you, the reader, is able to follow this post in a way that inspires you to consider how dialogue is more special than we know.


Readings & References
Week 3

Lorde, A. (1984). “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Ed. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press. 110-114. 2007.