Another Isolated Incident is a year old! On one hand I am proud of this project and on the other — I am wishing that I would have seen a decline in examples of those of us in the dominant groups sweeping the pain and lived experiences of those we subordinate under the metaphorical rug instead of realizing that oppression is real. I have a lot of job security — I am working towards my unemployment and feel comfortable with the reality that this is far off in the distance. Oppression is real. Before it was widely accepted that the earth is round, regular folks noticed that ships sailing directly to port were visible first from their sails. Common sense, logic, and facts aren't always enough to cause a shift in popular belief. So, here we go... Year Two of Another Isolated Incident starts here.
Reflections from the Road:
Working Girl Moments of Unrelated Clarity
I call these moments Working Girl moments. You might remember the Melanie Griffith, Joan Cusack, Sigourney Weaver, and Harrison Ford movie. There is a scene where Melanie Griffith is on the Stanton Island ferry reading newspapers and has this epiphany, "Trask Radio." Trask is a rich guy and his daughter's wedding is covered in one article while another piece is talking about changes in the Radio industry and she puts the two seemingly unrelated articles together. The rest of the movie revolves around the merger of Trask and his investments going to Radio. This scene and even the movie made a big impression on me for several reasons. One, I have a deep rooted fear of being a fraud or accidentally in the wrong place at a time awaiting the fateful scene in the elevator where Melanie gets to tells Trask how she got the idea. Two, I have a zillion examples where some of my better ideas have been "Working Girl" moments. I am a connector for people and ideas.
So, a powerful Working Girl moment happened on the way to the airport last week. Bear with me — it is worth it!
Totally unrelated reality #1
I'm a dork. Many of you know this about me and either embrace this fact or look past it to other parts you like. I recently purchased a "Great Courses" course on Understanding and Listening to Great Music. My husband listens to classical music and I am deeply moved by some of the songs but don't know why. So I got this course to listen to so that I could learn a little about this kind of music. Fair enough... I'm almost done with the course so I interrupt for a brief correction — First, my husband doesn't listen to classical music. He listens to symphonic or instrumental performance pieces some of which are from the classical period. There I feel better now...
So, while heading to airport I was engrossed in a lesson on Beethoven’s digressions from the norm set by Mozart's repetitive expositions and use of theme variations (yes, I feel smart and proud of myself for all that I have learned) the instructor said something about language. As music developed from Bach to Mozart, Beethoven came along and wrote pieces that didn't follow any of the prescribed methods used therefore; new language had to be created to describe Beethoven’s more self expressive style. (Are you captivated yet — I am!) Symphonic and Opera critics all around Europe scrambled to develop terminology to describe the powerful and very popular Beethoven pieces. An argument ensued about language development and who gets to decide what words get used and how other composers influenced by Beethoven’s work could express their art. As Weber, Wagner, Chopin, and Tchaikovsky, to name a few, developed a personalized sense of style, key elements were repeated while ground breaking elements appeared.
The instructor paraphrases some of these 19th century Rolling Stone-esque critics and stated, "Repetition builds perception. This perception leads to more terminology. The more terminology is leaned on for clarity leads to more confusion." The critics hear repetitive trends in new music and decide that these trends are patterns and need to be named. The more labels created the harder it is to decide how to name something correctly or that a label clearly describes all of its members as well as things that aren't part of the meaning. But, what do you do with musical crossover? One style that is informed by many styles? One piece that actually samples historical pieces in a new work? This could lead to musical theory changes or even the development of musical institutions of study that focus on particular types of work, theory, or influence. Soon musicians and their critics will be picking camps, those holding on to a Baroque style historical influence, Classical or National pride, or the Romantic period style emerging from popular culture. All of this division, labeling, in-fighting, who knows what, could be next for music?
I literally imagine 19th century music critics faces if able to listen to 'N Sync, David Hasselhoff, Taylor Swift, Bob Dylan... etc... I don't think words exist now or then to describe the mixture of reactions...
Totally unrelated unreality #2
Perhaps this is obvious to some — if it isn't, take a moment of empathy for what it is like to live with my mind and its random connections...
The need for the elite to be able to accurately name and label something to provide clarity to the masses happens all the time. The elite are academic theorists that also have clearly labeled and defined lenses of perception, study, inquisition, writing, and study. The need for new language is directly inspired by a high level of frequency or repetition from the grassroots or popular culture.
I am a liberal that supports the death penalty and abhors the industrialized prison complex. I am getting comfortable being identified as a feminist who grew up in Texas were being an "F Word" is a bad thing. I am an advocate for social justice and am racist, ageist, sexist, homophobic, and often unaware of how I marginalized those that my inherited dominant identities oppress.
Facebook has figured out something that neither the elite nor I are totally comfortable with while we also intellectually get it. "It’s complicated." This is an option for a Facebook member's relationship status. The elite have spent a lot of time developing language to describe sexual, emotional, spiritual relationships with others. "It's complicated" didn't come up, but pansexual, omnisexual, polyamorous, asexual, same gender loving, heteronormative and many others did. People's actual relationship reality fuel the need to develop clarifying language and yet by doing this — it just gets more complicated.
Using a race lens, white named groups that didn't look like them. To do this completely, they eventually had to name themselves as whites. All of the different racial groups divided underneath the umbrella terms assigned to them to further clarify who they are and who they are not. As popular culture changed and "mixed race" couples began to have children new words were developed. This need for a clarification lead to long series of words being used to describe individuals that may be raised by people with different genetic make up, appear visibility through multiple recessive genes. Biracial or multiracial are new umbrella terms that are now being further clarified within their reach.
The terms sex, gender, and sexual identity were developed to describe people and their relationships. The first is assigned at birth based on external body parts as it is not a typical practice to test for chromosomes or hormone levels. The last is defined by one's relationship with another and the assumptions a person makes on appearance of gender. Gender is defined by assumptions based on roles, identities, expression, and the validation of others. Language defined females and males. This provided clarity until things got complicated with those born complicated or with intersex condition. Language defined man and a woman until more and more people expressed themselves in ways that were normative. Furthermore, some people express and/or identify themselves in ways that don't align with how they were labeled at birth. Language was then developed to define transexuals, transgender people, into an umbrella terms of trans existed to be inclusive of people seeking or not interested in medical intervention as well as crossdressers, drag performers, and the like. This all got very complicated, but just before we threw in the towel; the term cisgender was deployed to describe those that affirm their birth assigned sex and socialized gender.
Just when it gets so complicated that I want to suck my thumb.... I roll it all back up again... I am comforted by binaries. Straight – Queer. White – Not White. Cisgender – Trans. I think popular culture is comforted by this. Sure, it silences the complicated truths of reality — but it just makes it easier for me to stay tuned in to the conversation. After all, we have a black president with a white mother. It is just too complicated to fully understand and allow space for the president’s life. I don't have time for that — if he has a problem with that — that is his problem... I mean really who does he think he is — oh... right — he is my president — I'll just stick with he's black with a white mom and a Kenyan father. It's complicated — he's black.
TRASK - RADIO...
Here's the truth. It's complicated. Being able to articulate complicated ideas and concepts is the justification for language. Language is at its root limited in its foundation, but popular culture tries to further clarify confusion. These limitations are frustrating and confusing and motivation to make more language and definition clarifications that ultimately lead to more marginalization and confusion.
Here's the connection in my mind. The music is moving, stunning, dramatic, and real. I may not be able to explain it, replicate it, or analyze it, but I am undoubtedly moved by its reality. I could deny its existence until I can intellectually understand it — until I have the words to utilize because of it. This is often how subordinated groups are further silenced until the dominant groups develop language. I can wait to define others. However, I will not wait to be defined by others. I am real. I exist. I might march to a different drummer or not even use a drummer. I may not be able to explain myself to others for others or by others. I exist. You exist. Those that I haven't had as a part of my reality exist too.
Haiti is still the poorest country in the western hemisphere. It was before the earthquake. Pakistan still suffers from devastation with little to no world aid. Baroque music sounds a certain way and follows certain rules. Symphonic music, and its classical period style pieces, can be generalized in my mind as similar music much like jazz or country can be generally unified under single terms. However, it is upon further examination that individuals can stand out and be clarified as unique. Now that I have the knowledge of differences, and I have the language to describe individual pieces I can apply large scale umbrella terms or utilize language that supports individuality. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony can inaccurately be called classical music to those that don't know better.
Even if you don't know much about "classical" music... most are familiar with the dramatic opening theme and its variations.... da da da dummmmmmm. Nothing sounds like this except Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony; not even his Fourth or Sixth symphonies could be confused for what is known in some circles as the Fate Motive. Da Da Da Dum.... later during WWII became the Morse Code (...-) for V known in military circles as V for Victory shortened to Victor post war. Beethoven was German and during WWII, in an Alanis Morissette style irony, his opening motive inspired soldiers to victory over Germany. You just never know when listening to language what it will inform or what new language will develop out of its limitations. Moreover, you just can't plan for the cataclysmic impact of language and ideas and other working girl moments.
An Update From the Kind Campaign: As many of you know, Kind Campaign was in the running for the $250,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant. Our hope was to use the money from the grant to fully fund our upcoming school tour, finish our documentary and put forth towards the many facets and projects that Kind Campaign... encompasses. Unfortunately, we didn’t end up receiving the grant and are therefore in a pretty desperate situation.
If you have been following the campaign, you know that we are packing our bags and hitting the road again to do a 2 month, 50 city tour, holding Kind Campaign school assemblies all over the country and screening the film. We have schools booked across the nation and we cannot wait to speak to more girls about this important issue.
However, our severe lack of funding is making it very difficult for us to make this school tour happen. We have spoken to thousands of girls across America and we can honestly tell you that this assembly is a NEED that changes lives. Basically, we need your help to continue this journey and are asking each of you to DONATE $10 TODAY. You have no idea how much this means to us and to thousands of girls in schools across America.
September's call was a GREAT conversation about the difference between bias, hate, and first amendment rights in the name of inclusion. It was intense and fantastic! Thanks for the great talk! I look forward to next month's call:
What is Go There?
No Safe Space Rules! No Guidelines! No Peace Keeper! No Debriefing! Just one thing... Go There! Join us and engage in deep conversations about social justice issues. There is no charge to join the call.
I am… proud of Gamma Alpha Omega for adding gender identity to their
non-discrimination policy! GAO's policy can be found under the "About Us" tab at www.gamma alpha omega.com.
Quote Jolt "When I think about the unintentional impact of my patterned actions –
I realize how I unknowingly support oppression."
Social Justice Quotations That Keep Me Going "Passionate and qualified are both really important and mean nothing without the other." Anonymous
10 Excuses Used to Not Make Change
#1 I’m horrible
There isn’t a point in which anyone can be “prepared” enough to do social justice work. Sure, the work may be intimidating and we don’t always know exactly what to do in every situation, but we still have to interact with others. Hiding out until we read enough to be perfect doesn’t make any sense. We have a responsibility to try.
The Notice Notes reflection journal has 52 examples of noticing privilege at play. It is designed for the reader to take one week at a time, with space for reflection. Here is one week's excerpt:
Week 4: Gandhi images were used in the January 2003, Maxim magazine to illustrate a story titled “Maxim’s Kick-Ass Workout.” The story called for a “healthy regimen of violent assaults” and urged readers to “teach those pacifists a lesson about aggression.” Gandhi was named in the text, and the magazine had earlier used Gandhi as the central focus of another so-called humor piece titled “Oh, Calcutta: Three Reasons to Hate … Gandhi.”
Personal Assessment of Homophobia
Homophobia and Transphobia may be experienced and expressed by LGBTQI people as well as heterosexual people. There are many kinds of homophobia and transphobia that happen every day. We often overlook more subtle actions and exclusions because they may seem insignificant. They are not. Subtle homophobia and transphobia are still homophobia and transphobia.
1. Do you believe that LGBTQI people can influence you to become LGBTQI? Do you think someone could influence you to change your sexual orientation or gender identity?