Category Archives: terminology

The 2nd Year Begins/Terminology “Confluences”

My second year of grad school has begun. I’m taking four classes this semester:

Contemporary Queer Writers of Color
Fiction Workshop
20th & 21st Century Poets of Color
Queer Poetics

So there’s a lot of reading, a lot of literature and a lot of theory. In addition two of my classes require me to blog once a week. So yes my dreams of blogging regularly again seem to be coming true just not the way I thought. All of this is in addition to being co-fiction editor of the literary journal 580 Split and running a school sponsored reading series.

In conclusion I may be insane, the good part is that a lot of my reading are awesome folks I would read anyway if not quite so quickly. I’m also reading a lot more stuff by Women, GLBTQ folks and People of Color – which was one of my goals for this semester.  So for my first week I read Langston Hughes, Barbara Smith & Gloria Anzaldua.

On top of this I’m researching various PhD programs in the Bay Area. So far the most promising ones seem to be Literature @ UC Santa Cruz, Modern Thought & Lit. @ Stanford and Rhetoric @ UC Berkeley.

*Terminology:  Confluences

Last week in my class I was introduced to the word confluences as opposed to intersections and I’m doing my best to replace the terms in my vocabulary. Not that intersectional is now “out” or anything like that it was just the more I thought about the reasoning the professor put forward, the more I agree with it. Intersectionality implies static connections, the the places and situations in which our identities meet and influence each other happens the same way every time in the same way at the same time. The truth of the matter is that our various identities shift and change depending on the situation.

The imagery I’ve been using to thing of confluences is wind currents. A separate current representing each identity, two or three or more may merge into bigger systems depending on the situation, or one current itself can interact on it’s own and even if some of your other identities do not feed directly into the confluence those other winds are still present shifting the focus and perceptions of the larger storm system co-existing.

Haven’t worked out the whole metaphor or interactions yet but overall really liking the terminology of confluences of identity as opposed to intersections of identity a whole lot right now.

Terminology – Metrosexual

I heard someone called a metrosexual on the street yesterday, in a joking laughing matter and remembered why I hate the term so much. Metrosexual is a supremely gendered term that just goes to reinforce gender roles.

A “metrosexual” is what exactly?

You might be “metrosexual” if:
1. You just can’t walk past a Banana Republic store without making a purchase.
2. You own 20 pairs of shoes, half a dozen pairs of sunglasses, just as many watches and you carry a man-purse.
3. You see a stylist instead of a barber, because barbers don’t do highlights.
4. You can make her lamb shanks and risotto for dinner and Eggs Benedict for breakfast… all from scratch.
5. You only wear Calvin Klein boxer-briefs.
6. You shave more than just your face. You also exfoliate and moisturize.
7. You would never, ever own a pickup truck.
8. You can’t imagine a day without hair styling products.
9. You’d rather drink wine than beer… but you’ll find out what estate and vintage first.
10. Despite being flattered (even proud) that gay guys hit on you, you still find the thought of actually getting intimate with another man truly repulsive.
“Some people think he’s gay, but he’s actually metrosexual.”
-via Urban Dictionary.com

Okay let’s unpack this a little bit. It’s a vile mix of enforcing gender roles, sexism and queerism. And a lot of this ties into the fact that for a lot of men the term metrosexual has taken the form of an attack on their masculinity.

Metrosexuals care about their looks, care about style, have taste and are refined in a general sense. These are trait societally expectedof women. I have many a female friend who can tell you of the horrible interactions they’ve had because they don’t practice hair removal or prefer Pabst to white wine or dress in a casual style all the time. The contempt for men who do these things not only reveals the contempt for these practices in general, practices more associated with women but also attempts to reinforce gender roles by strictly defining certain acts as “womanly” and “manly”. So there’s that. 

The contempt for metrosexuals and use of the term as an insult is a large scale version of schoolyard bullying. “These are things that men don’t do! If you do them you’re weird, not normal.”  The term itself is problematic because it exists at all, it’s main purpose seems to be to create a division between metrosexuals and “real men” who would never think of doing any of that “girly shit”. In addition to this it also acts as a form of protection for metrosexuals. It’s a defense mechanism that can be called in when they are accused of homosexuality, because any deviation from the strict male gender roles obviously must be a symptom of homosexuality but metrosexuality is still better than homosexuality. You can see this clearly in the definition above (#10). In fact almost all the definitions of Metrosexuality at Urban Dictionary contain a reference to homosexuality, usually an insult.

The discussion becomes even more complex when you bring race into it and point out that I’ve never seen anyone not white termed metrosexual, no matter how dressed up, refined or dapper they were. Because on the rare occasions we do get to see a Man of Color dressed up in any way 99.99% of times what is his role? He’s a mobster/gangster/defendant/crooked businessman/yakuza/drug dealer/pimp…you get the point.

So… in one term we have a confusing and intersecting web of misogyny, strict gender roles, queerism and racism. Is it any wonder I hate the term?

Terminology – Savagification!

In my post last week about representation of Africa in the media I talked about the savagification that bleeds through in these articles. If you haven’t heard of “savagification” used in this way let me explain:

Savagification is the way in which countries/continents, not in the affluent West (This does of course have exceptions. It also happens in articles about Indigenous People located in the West, brown folks who live in the ghetto in the West, etc.) are dealt with in the press. Often the articles are written to be as inflammatory and “fear the brown invaders” as possible and very often include very little input from folks from that region except for small soundbites that bolster the reporter’s view that the people are just a bunch of savages. There are a couple of methods used to achieve this end.

Savagification means that the acts the people/country (because often the articles do not distinguish between individual acts and the country as a whole, so if Gambia has one serial killer all the people must be serial killers in the making) are accused of are described in loving gory detail. There will often be pictures that accompany the article that do their best to show the person in their “native dress” or poised with a machete or in some way that depicts them as savage and untameable. Those are often the only pictures that accompany the article unless there are to be some pictures that show the victims of these acts, often bloody mutilated and sitting on a filthy dirt floor with big tearful eyes staring up at the camera. This is a deliberate scare tactic used to bolster the West as some bastion of truth and civilization while painting the “others” as “savage uncivilized places” (and of course any people of the Diasporas of this country also carry that violent brown blood!). They won’t show the skyscraper cities with computers, cars, etc. because that would refute the “this whole country is just a backward savage place” notion they’re trying to promote. And of course they wouldn’t think to examine the colonialism that profits off of this view, the destabilization of the country and the continued subjagation of the people there.  

Another way savagification is achieved is by ignoring any history in the situation.  This is seen when the Rwandan genocide is discussed and there is no mention of the fact that colonialist policies are what instituted the original separation between the Hutu and Tutsi. When there are articles about witch-hunts in Africa that fail to point out the West’s own history with women accused of witches and the pagan-bashings that happen everyday in America. Because if they showed that horrible things happen in America too that would undermine the sensationalism of the article itself. Articles written about horrible things in the West are always carefully formed to present the atrocity as an isolated incident, actions by sick individuals but not part of the fabric of the country. (In a way you can zero this in to how POC are treated in the media versus White people, where anything that POC do is seen as representative of all POC whereas whiteness doesn’t hold that monolithic idea.)

There are other ways the people/countries in these articles are savagified having to do with word choice and the angle at which facts are presented but these were two of the big ways I wanted to touch on. So now you know what to look for in these articles and knowing is half the battle (I’m sorry, I’m a child of the 80’s I couldn’t help it).

 

Terminology: “Gay Marriage”

Just a quick post that’s semi-related to my post yesterday. So in that post I used the term “gay marriage” a few times, in the title and in the post itself.

Something about that term made me uncomfortable all of yesterday and this morning I hit on why. I remember a conversation I had with someone about the term “white trash” and how they had massive problems with it, not because they found it insulting but because the need to add the descriptor “white” to it implies that People of Color are trash anyway.
It’s the same with the term “gay marriage”. It works on the assumption that marriage is a heterosexual union. If it wasn’t working on that assumption there would be no need to qualify it with the word “gay”. So I’ve gone back and changed the post to read “Marriage Equality” instead because I just think that’s a better phrasing altogether.

I may not agree with marriage and want it abolished wholesale but I’m still an Creative Writing graduate, terminology is important to me.