Multiple Lovers, Multiple Parents

Society is shifting for the better. Gender roles and racial walls are beginning to be torn down and re-manufactured in new intriguing ways, celebrating our differences instead of our homogeneity.  And as the barriers between gender and race are being destroyed, alternative lifestyles involving romantic relationships are evolving as well.

As prime time television has shown, non-nuclear families and (semi)non-traditional gender roles are now part of the common psyche. However, for the most part, even same-sex marriages and partnerships are typically depicted as being monogamous in popular forms of media. The purely monogamous aspects of these fictitious relationships presented to us shows one aspect of the traditional sphere which is not being changed on unconscious level. Extra-martial sex and extra-martial romantic relationships are seen as morally wrong. But polyamory is an option which, although not for everyone, can be a viable, functioning lifestyle choice.

In an interview with journalist Roc Morin, attorney Diana Adams gives us a tell-all about the pros and cons of her lifestyle and the impacts it has on herself and her long term primary partner Ed. Adams recognized early in her life that she was bisexual and attracted to many persons at the same time, so, other than her long term partner Ed (with whom she lives), she is romantically involved with other males and females as well. She elicits different forms of love for each of her partners, Adams explains:

...[W]ith my female partners, I feel a different kind of power dynamic. I feel a protective impulse toward women I’m involved with. It's a different kind of love feeling. My partner Ed is a wonderful feminist man, though sometimes I’d really like to be out on a date with the kind of man who wants to open car doors for me and treat me like a princess. I don't want that all the time, but I might want that once a month.

Although Adams feel that and open relationship can be “the catalyst for powerful personal growth”, she also warns of the importance of communication and that “Polyamory will find your buttons and it will push them.”

Pairing will with Adams’ lifestyle is her work as an attorney. She focuses on extending traditional marriage rights such as healthcare coverage, visitation rights, and even parenting rights to a third person in polyamorous situations. The Brooklyn based attorney feels that there should be many more options than the traditional marriage available as well and works with furthering domestic partnership as a concept to include polyamorous couples.

I find that what Adams had to say is very important for everyone to read. Personally, I could never engage in such a lifestyle, but many persons may benefit from such. it is important that polyamory be accepted as a viable options if not legally than at least socially. Prior to reading this article, my only concept of polyamory was a Mormon polygamist model. Adams however, is leading a very full life, filled with love, and with a much stronger positive connotation than typically thought of or depicted.

Fraility, Is Thy Name Really Woman?

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Grace Bolander as Hamlet, Actors’ Theatre of Columbus, June 2014

Leslie Bennetts’s article, Why Not A Woman As Hamlet? was written in response to Joseph Papp’s production of the play at the Public Theatre in 1982. If you will all indulge me for a few paragraphs, first, I will cover the basics of what Bennett discusses, then, I will provide some of my own musings on the subject in preparation for my independent study next semester (and, consequently, my senior project next year).

In the article, Bennett (and Papp, whom she references several times) makes the claim that the role of Hamlet lends itself quite well to a female interpretation. Several acclaimed actresses (Sarah Bernhardt and Charlotte Cushman, just to name two) have portrayed the Danish prince, so a female portrayal is not something completely unheard of. “I have always felt that there is a strong female side to Hamlet- not feminine so much as female,” says Papp. He feels that there are certain aspects of the character, mainly emotional capacities, that a woman would handle much more adeptly than a man would, and that Hamlet must look passably young. By the time a male performer is old enough to have enough life experience to take on the role, he may look too old (Dr. Long- remember the production we saw for the travel learning course at the Royal Shakespeare Company? Hamlet had a balding spot and looked older than Claudius…). But, a woman of the same age will not only have enough experience to play the role, but she will also look young and boyish enough to play Hamlet. Of course, there have been many debates about how old Hamlet actually is. In my humble opinion, Hamlet acts like he is about seventeen. According to the gravedigger, though, Hamlet is thirty years old (see Act V scene i). Regardless of his age, much of Hamlet’s youthfulness comes from the fact that he is still a student.

In my independent study next semester, I will be examining women who have played Hamlet. I do not have a firm thesis set just yet, but as a starting point, I am curious to study what women bring to the role that men do not and/or cannot bring to it (and vice versa, to a certain extent). Then, for my theatre capstone project next year, I will be performing two scenes from Shakespeare, one of them being the “closet scene” from Hamlet. If my proposal is approved, I will be playing the role of Hamlet, and I will use what I learn in my study next semester to prepare for the role. I have been interested in playing Hamlet ever since I read the play my senior year of high school, but I have never been quite sure how to articulate why I am drawn to this role. To seventeen-year-old me, I wanted to play Hamlet someday because he is arguable one of Shakespeare’s most complex characters (and, I had just played a male role in the spring musical that year, so I may have been on a pants role high). Now, as a junior in college, I am interested in playing the role because Hamlet (like Midsummer…) is one of those plays that I have never escaped from. I keep coming back to it every year, and I am fascinated by this indecisive, snarky, tragic anti-hero. Shakespeare has added an enormous amount of layered, complicated characters to the Western theatrical canon, so why should only the male performers have all of the fun? One of the things I love most about theatre is how it allows you to step into the skin of another person through careful study and analysis, regardless of the gender, age, religion, or socioeconomic status of the character. I am curious to further study the impact of the gender of the performer portraying Hamlet has on the performance as a whole, and I am looking forward to what all of you have to say on “gender-bending” in theatre.

Passwords – Unlocking More Than Our Accounts

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I’m not going to lie – I hate having passwords. I, like most people, I assume, am not a fan of having to remember a multitude of silly little combinations for my various accounts. Yet Ian Urbina’s article “The Secret Life of Passwords” on longform.com has given me a newfound interest in these mundane little codes. In the article, Urbina claims that “we imbue them [our passwords] with our hopes and dreams, our dearest memories, our deepest meanings” (Urbina 1).

Upon first discovering this article, my reaction was something along the lines of: “Hah! Guess I don’t fit the rule!” My thoughts went immediately to my old passwords, all long-changed, which all used to be centered around a common theme: my dog. But the more I thought, the more I realized that this was more than just an easy-to-remember display of affection for my dog – by choosing his name, I did not have to pick a favorite sibling or parent (I would not have used my own name – even then I knew that would be too obvious), yet still chose a name from within the family. The password reveals the importance of my family to the ~10 year old me, which hits close to home, as my family and I have, despite our differences, always been exceptionally close. It also reveals my love of animals at the time (back in the days when I said I might want to be a vet – hah!) and, yes, the love I felt for my dog. This one word begins to sketch the outline of young me.

In his article, Urbina states that “many of our passwords are suffused with pathos, mischief, sometimes even poetry. Often they have rich back stories. A motivational mantra, a swipe at the boss, a hidden shrine to a lost love, an inside joke with ourselves, a defining emotional scar — these keepsake passwords, as I came to call them, are like tchotchkes of our inner lives. They derive from anything: Scripture, horoscopes, nicknames, lyrics, book passages. Like a tattoo on a private part of the body, they tend to be intimate, compact and expressive” (Urbina 1). Of course, 10 year old me was not thinking poetry while creating passwords. However, upon revisiting my more recent passwords with Urbina’s claims in mind, I found that the new ones are very personal, tying back to my past and allowing me to frequent fond spots of my recent history. They reveal a glimpse of what is important to me, how I think, what I admire, and what makes me happy…and sad. Even the numbers are revealing and personal! In Urbina’s own research, he encountered “the former prisoner whose password include[d] what used to be his inmate identification number (“a reminder not to go back”); the fallen-away Catholic whose passwords incorporate[d] the Virgin Mary (“it’s secretly calming”); the childless 45-year-old whose password [was] the name of the baby boy she lost in utero (“my way of trying to keep him alive, I guess”)” (Urbina 1). They touch on our secrets, what, for example, calms us or teaches us personally.

Of course, this may not be the case for everyone. Some of you may have heard the fabled password story:

Longest Password

(Yes, I did include this picture because I did not want to write that enormous password and all that backstory down.)

Whether this tale is true or not, I can’t say. But perhaps you do use your birthday, or some silly, simple word? My friend Carrie used “stapler” to get into her computer. When I asked her why, almost a year ago, she replied that she wouldn’t forget it because there was always stapler on her desk. Well…okay, that might not seem very revealing, but hey, it does cast her as an unsentimental, logical type of person, who sees a password as a necessity, rather than an opportunity to exercise her creativity, remind her of a pivotal life experience, echo an important lesson, etc. – all of which describes Carrie perfectly.

Now, maybe this concept just worked for me because I have personal passwords. If Urbina’s claim does seem to work with your passwords, I encourage you to think about why. I actually thoroughly enjoyed discovering why I chose the passwords I did!

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A texting diary? There’s an App for that

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Experts agree in the importance of writing about yourself. It’s said that writing regularly about your own thoughts and emotions is not only a good way to document your life, but also has health benefits. James Hamblin explores this idea in his article, “The Power in Writing About Yourself” on The Atlantic.

There are many good things about writing about yourself. Hamblin explains that “reflective writing, particularly in a journal, has been shown to have health benefits both physical and emotional, like increasing control and creativity, decreasing anxiety, depression, and rage”. It has improved the conditions of breast cancer patients and those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. It is good for people to take time to sit and reflect, introspectively.

As they say today, there’s an app for that: Emojiary, by Albert Lee. This app sends its users a text once a day asking how they feel, and the user responds with an emoji and a message. Its mission is to help our culture in this important task of introspection, and ultimately compile a journal of brief, daily statements so that users can look back over their feelings in the past. This app places a large importance on the use of emojis (interesting, in light of the last post!!) and prompts users first with the option of adding an emoji. Lee says, “at first blush, it may seem kind of silly or goofy, but we realized that the emotional lexicon that exists within the emoji set right now is actually really, really useful” and that “when you first start to think about how you’re feeling, you might not know how to describe that exactly in words. So the emojis are this first toe in the pool to sort of get a read on how you’re feeling”.

It was only a matter of time before an app like this surfaced in today’s world of rushing, limited time, and apps for everything. People now don’t seem to have the time or commitment to keep a full fledged written journal, so this app seems like it might be a quick fix for our need for self-reflection. That being said, can a few emojis and a sentence really replace the value in sitting down and really thinking about yourself with an actual journal?

The Emoji Age

0753Emojis have simultaneously enriched and ruined my life. I find it near impossible to send a text, e-mail, or even write a paper without wanting to put this little guy–> 🙂 into it somewhere. Obviously I know that putting any sort of fun symbol into a paper is unprofessional, but the feeling is still there, okay? I want the smiley face. However, when I first saw the article Smile, You’re Speaking Emoji by Adam Sternbergh, I was so worried that it would be yet another article on how technology is ruining the world. I was pleasantly surprised.

The article takes on a very forward-thinking angle to the world of emoji. Instead of beating up the younger generation for their gosh-dang iPods, Sternbergh talks about the emoji’s evolution. Refreshing, to say the least. He says of the little emoticons, “They have proved to be well suited to the kind of emotional heavy lifting for which written language is often clumsy or awkward or problematic, especially when it’s relayed on tiny screens, tapped out in real time, using our thumbs.” For some, this is the issue. More and more the world is communicating without actually speaking. Technology is taking over, but for better or worse is the question. Personally, I am all for the tech generation. If a friend far away is feeling sad, I can literally take one of the million pictures of puppies there are on the internet and send it to them for free. It has so many benefits for society if used correctly.

However, I do recognize that some do not use it in a way that’s productive. It can become an excuse for a lazy mind.If there’s an emoji for happiness, why take the time to write out that you’re happy? We’re all guilty of using emojis when you’ve got nothing else to say. The reason why I’m not too bothered by that is because an emoji has the same effect as a movement or nervous tick does when conversations in real life are happening. If you don’t know what to say after in the middle of a conversation with someone, what do you do? You smile, or shrug, or laugh. The same sort of thought goes into the action as when you use an emoji. If you were to speak with the person you were messaging in real life, then you’d probably be making the faces you were sending as an emoji (minus the obscure ones like the alien or the moon with the weird face on it).

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that Sternbergh gets it. Emojis don’t ruin language like some people say they do. They are an enhancement, and a fun one. As long as our culture understands that they are extensions of personality rather than replacements, then there is nothing to fear.

 

I hate to gossip, but…

 

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There is an adage that those who talk about other people with you will most likely talk about you to other people. This makes perfect sense, and it reminds me of an Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

Julie Beck delves into a topic with a less-than-stellar reputation in her article, “Have You Heard? Gossip Is Actually Good and Useful.” In it, she argues that gossip is, in fact, helpful to maintaining human society. According to Beck’s research, two-thirds of our conversations revolve around social topics, such as relationships, social activities, and so, these topics are more prone to fall under the “gossip” category of conversation. Since language’s function is to exchange social information because most conversation has this at its center, it is gossip that makes society and human cooperation possible. While, of course, gossip can be used to humiliate and shame colleagues, coworkers, and classmates, it can also be used to verbally relay information on social norms, to learn about events that you have not necessarily witnessed yourself, and even to gauge your own social standing in relation to someone else. Beck claims that gossip forces people to cooperate with each other, for the anxiety of being gossiped about keeps people in line and on their best behavior.

While I think Beck’s argument is a compelling one, I am not sure how comfortable I am with some of the claims she makes. What does it mean, exactly, to “keep people in line?” Beck argues that since people fear colleagues talking about them behind their backs, they are more prone to cooperate with each other. This seems like an unhealthy way to motivate people to work together. Instead of relying on this apparently instinctual anxiety, why not build a community of trust and respect amongst students, coworkers, and other teams of people? Of course, this would not be an easy feat, and I do not claim to know an alternative, but I think it is worth discussing.

To say that I never gossip would be quite the fib. Of course I gossip, and I am sure that you do, as well. We vent to our friends about our roommates, we whisper about how rude the waiter is, we chat about our coworker’s new haircut… the list goes on. Is this human nature, though, or is this something we have been inadvertently taught to do? It is hard to say. While I do not agree with everything Beck discusses in her article, I must admit that she makes a strong case in defense of gossip.

Fair Trade and Infant Mortality: What Do They Have In Common?

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When I grow up I want to become an elementary school English teacher. Why? Because I love children. So when I found this NPR article “More Birthdays For Kids Under 5 Around the World”, I was both hopeful, but also really awoken to the fact that infant mortality is still a big problem all over the world. The article talks about how the death rate for children under five has decreased over the years; 6.3 millions children under the age of 5 died in 2013, which was a 49% drop from 1990. This improvement can be attributed to many reasons, one being increased number of vaccines given to children protecting them against common causes of death like diarrhea and pneumonia.

So what does infant mortality have to do with fair trade? Infant mortality is actually one of the many negative side effects of the absence of fair trade in many countries containing extreme poverty. But what is fair trade? Well, just yesterday, my UC 160 Class had a service project at Global Village in Downtown Delaware and learned what that is. Fair trade is the idea that people who actually make a great deal of products in different parts of the world that us as Americans purchase get fair wages that they are able to live off of. Often times people who make many products, say for example coffee beans, live in extreme poverty and they can’t even feed their family one meal on an entire day’s salary. What organizations like Global Village try to do is to stock products from companies that are active supporters of fair trade to raise awareness and help in the effort to make sure these deserving people get decent living wages. Often, young mothers in such extreme poverty have to balance work and caring for their children, which is extremely hard to do; to be able to have money to provide for their children they need to work, but they can’t care for their children day to day if they are working long hours. An example that one of the workers at Global Village told us was that some women in Mexico have to go scavenging through dumpsters to find materials to make things like scrap metal jewelry, and they have to bring their babies along since there was nobody else to look after them. Sometimes rats would get to the babies, or trash would get dumped on them, burying them alive.

So as you can see, these two problems are intertwined and often finding solutions for one problem will benefit another. For example, nurseries have been built near such dumpsters in Mexico so these women can get materials to make their products that they can sell to make money and their babies can be taken care of while they do it. Such a wide-spread problem will take a long time to completely do away with, but we’re making progress and should continue moving forward to make more.

(Sorry it’s such a short post. I’ve been super busy this week, as I’m sure many have been. Have  great Thanksgiving Break!)

Who Has The Say In Naming A Country?

It may seem odd, but there is a growing population of people from Myanmar (or is it Burma?) in central Ohio. I have met with and served people from Myanmar/Burma at the refugee center I volunteer at, but I know little about their country and culture. When I found this article on The Atlantic titled “President Obama Is in Burma – or Is It Myanmar”, I felt as if I had to read it in order to gain a better understanding.

The article focuses on the question of who gives the title of a country – the people or the government? And, in the case of Myanmar and other post-colonial countries, are colonial names kept or does the country revert back to their original name? Myanmar is used as an example, as President Obama visited there this week and there is an international divide as to what country name to use. The United Nations use the name Myanmar, as that is the name deemed by the country’s government. The U.K. and the United States, however, officially use the name Burma, as that is Britain’s colonial name for the country and, according to those is support of the name Burma, “‘Myanmar’ lacks legitimacy because the name change occurred without the consent of the Burmese people”. However, those opposed to using Burma as the country’s name argue “the word “Burma” refer[s] only to the country’s largest ethnic group, and that “Myanmar” was the more inclusive term.”

The case of Burma/Myanmar is not new to the international community. Countries such as Zimbabwe, Cambodia, and Burkina Faso have officially changed country names, so why is there controversy over Burma/Myanmar? Human rights violations and corrupt government are cited as reasons against using the name Myanmar. Myanmar has had an unstable government for years, and while the country has improved greatly over the years, there is controversy over the forced internment of the Rohingya ethnic group on the Burma/Bangladesh border. However, is this a fair reason to refer to the country as Burma instead of the government’s preferred name of Myanmar? Should countries be required to use the official United Nations country name in referring to a specific country? Or does a country’s name not matter at all?

I found this article to be very thought provoking. While I disapprove of the government’s actions against the freedoms of its citizens and the Rohingya people in particular, I think it is best to refer to the country as Myanmar. As referenced in the article, the name Myanmar is inclusive of all ethnic groups residing in the country and replaces its Anglicized, colonial name with a name more congruent with the country’s language. I think a country’s name can be flexible, and calling the country Myanmar is most respectful at this time as it honors the wishes of the government. However, if there is a time in which the name Burma is better to be used, I believe it should be the name to use.

The Race to the Ivy League

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On the New Republic, and article popped up that I couldn’t ignore. Titled “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League”, author William Deresciewicz examines the push in today’s society to groom kids for acceptance into ivy league schools.  Kids can have a laundry lists of extracurriculars, spend their summers working in Guatemala, have perfect SAT scores, and 9 letters of recommendation, but what do they gain from this? Deresciewicz is inclined to argue that this not only does not benefit them, but hurts them in the long run.

This topic really hit home for me, literally, because I come from a very wealthy Massachusetts town and a very rigorous and well ranked public high school. 98% of students in my high school’s graduating classes will attend college. Most kids get 5s on their AP tests. Kids stop talking to each other around the time that the Ivy League schools send their decision letters, because who gets in and who doesn’t causes huge issues. For my high school classmates, where you go to college is by no means a means to an end. It is a measure of self worth, and an indication of the success of the past 18 years of your life. I had to have a bit of a different perspective on this, because my family is not wealthy, yet I had to participate in all of this because I needed to get scholarships, so I am still part of it. I see where Deresciewicz is coming from, and I think he is correct that this kind of approach towards what is considered important is bad. But I also am inclined to argue that while this environment took away my time and my sleep and some of my friends, it shaped who I am for the better. Because of where I went to school and lived, I had to get a 4.0. I had to join and lead clubs, and I had to have hundreds of community service hours. Being a three sport varsity captain was not only amazing for me, but for my application, and I am not ashamed to say that I fully appreciated that.

Deresciewicz talks about how grooming kids to be prepped for the ivy league is a huge and ridiculous game of spending money. I completely agree. Kids take so many SAT prep courses and go abroad on service trips solely for the purpose of the college application. I think that if parents want to do this for their kids, they need to be smarter about it. If they want their kids to do good service, do it in the US, not all the way in Nicaragua. If they want them to do well on the SAT, make sure they realize how lucky they are to be even getting the opportunity to be taking this test. He also talks about how kids who end up at these Ivies are so groomed for perfection that they are unable to deal with life in college. He suggests attending small, liberal arts schools (go OWU!) because kids become well rounded and they become students, not just people mindlessly going through the motions to get to the end.

So, my thoughts on Deresciewicz are a bit divided. I would not be who I am today had I not grown up alongside the exact kind of kids that Deresciewicz is complaining about. It made me a hard working, well rounded person. On the other hand, I have seen firsthand how detrimental this need for a perfect application is to a student’s imagination and enjoyment at school. People get so caught up in this idea of perfection that they forget that the point of school and college to is learn and grow, not build a resume.

Frenching Jennifer Lawrence

No, it’s not what you think.

As I theater major, the world of movie and television making (a world which I one day hope to enter) is immensely intriguing to me. So when I saw the blog post on long form.org titled “What it Takes to Be the French Jennifer Lawrence” by Mac McClelland, I couldn’t resist.

Kelly Marot is the name of the French J-Law, one of many actors and actresses employed in France’s large and spectacular dubbing industry. Also interviewed were French Daniel Radcliff (Kelyan Blanc), French January Jones/Keira Knightly/ Eva Mendes/Zoe Saldana (Nathalie Karsenti), French Samuel L. Jackson (Thierry Desroses), and French Sylvester Stallone (Alain Dorval). These actors opted not for a life in the spotlight, but of one behind the scenes, and the result is wonderful: a thriving, constantly employed movie/television-actor who is able to live without the constant presence of the paparazzi and raise a family without the pressure of judgmental press and fans.

Of course, these actors do give up some much-deserved attention – they have no roaring fan base, despite their incredible work on nearly half of French movies and television. In fact, McClelland remarks that “no one in France could pick [Kelly Marot] out of a lineup, and, at [that] moment, [he was] the only journalist on Earth who care[d] what she [was] doing ” (McClelland 1). Which, McClelland goes on to say, was eating a pastry the size of her face. But who cared? Certainly not McClelland, and certainly not Marot. Another perk of dubbing is that the face and body are invisible, yet the talent is perfectly clear.

Despite the hidden nature of these actors, however, they do receive a bit of attention for their tremendous work. Upon interviewing Keylan Blanc (French Daniel Radcliff) and “one of France’s most legendary dubbing directors,” the director commented that “‘if we replaced [Blanc] . . . it would be a big scandal. A big scandal'” (McClellan 1). Exactly 40% of programming on French television is American; in French movie theaters, roughly 50% of tickets sold are for U.S. features. It is clear, then, that these actors have quite a massive market, and quite an audience for their vocal talent – so even with their flying-under-the-radar qualities, they still receive at least a bit of the recognition they deserve.

This industry is enormously fascinating to me as a U.S. citizen – especially one with an interest in the construction of movies and television programs. And after reading this article, I have come to respect it. It gives talented French actors and actresses a medium to achieve success without having to maintain immaculately beautiful appearance or give up the quiet joys of a personal life. Not to mention, as long as their American counterpart is working, so are they. “French dubbing cultivates personae. Every time Tom Cruise opens his mouth, the same voice should come out, so that the audience can experience the same sense of intimacy and attachment that the original-language audience does with the real Tom Cruise” (McClellan 1).

In this way, these dubbing artists are able to to exactly what American stars do – using only their voice.

                             Kelly MarotJennifer Lawrence poses at the 85th Academy Awards nominees luncheon in Beverly Hills