The American Studies Center Student Journal Volume III | Fall 2016
ALEKSANDRA BARCISZEWSKA Editor-in-chief PAULINA NIEWIADOMSKA Art director Illustrations: pages 25, 29, 38 NATALIA OGÓREK
Associate editor The next issue’s theme: JULIAN HORODYSKI AGATA KLICHOWSKA Editorial board
Make Stars, Love Wars We’re still recruiting! If you’re interested in writing for the Wasp, please contact us:
MAGDA KRZEMIŃSKA Cover image Illustrations: pages 9, 19, 27
email@example.com ASC Journals: https://www.facebook.com/ascribbler A SCribbler: https://ascuw.wordpress.com/
KAMILA MARIA WYSZYŃSKA The Wasp logo Illustrations: pages 13, 33
American Studies Center: http://asc.uw.edu.pl/
I'm a Barbie girl, in the Barbie world Life in plastic, it's fantastic! – Editorial Notes Paulina Niewiadomska Aleksandra Barciszewska
Masochistic Joy of Sadistic Pleasure: (Sexual) Slavery and (Erotic) Power Imbalance Aleksandra Barciszewska
Barbie as a Role Model
Expressing Latino Identity: The Art of Carmen Lomas Garza Nadia Błaszczyk
Black is the New Black: A Transition of Blackness in God Help the Child by Toni Morrison Paulina Niewiadomska
More Than Innocent Lilies: What is Not to Like in Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments Trilogy and Its Representation of Homosexual Characters Marta Pytka
Satan Satan Dominika Kowalska
Dance of Silence; And The Truth Is What You believe As True Imran Hossain
5 The WASP
I'm a Barbie girl, in the Barbie world Life in plastic, it's fantastic!
For any more-or-less girly girl who happened to have been born around the 1990s, Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” was quite like an anthem. A fun song about a doll that every girl just had to have, sung in a high-pitched irritating voice announced that she, indeed, is a bimbo girl living in a fantasy world. A world where she sings to a bald-headed dude with his right ear pierced to announce that he’s just beyond straight. And what does that bimbo want? She wants him to dress her up, make it tight, because she’s his dolly. He can touch, he can play, and she can act like a star. Or she can simply beg on her knees. And since you might have sensed a bit of judging in my writing voice, you may ask: what’s so terribly wrong about that? And I will answer: absolutely, utterly, completely nothing. Nada. Nada in nada as it is in nada, pues nada. She’s just a white, attractive, possibly talented woman who just wants to have her way with some guy. Does the fact that she is privileged make the song less fun and less of a harmless way of making people’s ears bleed while belting it out during one of karaoke nights? In this issue, you will be able to find out about the actual Barbie doll, and assess yourself whether Aqua created an oppressed and blind bimbo, or a subversive figure of a feminist way ahead of her time. The playfulness and use of various gadgets and toys (however less child-friendly) will be continued in the piece on BDSM. If you know what that is already, you should be ashamed of yourself! Just kidding. But proper spanking will be administered any time soon. The article of the month will smoothly get you in the spirit of racial and ethnic diversity, providing an insightful and very descriptive analysis of The City That Never Sleeps. City which can be a cruel witch-with-a-b, yet everyone has wet dreams about it anyhow. And if you try hard enough, you can tame that shrew and swing freely from lianas in this concrete jungle where dreams are made of. This article will also open your mind and prepare you for this issue’s Colorful dosage of race, Blind fantasy of Gender neutrality, with a pinch of Deaf-ening arguments that will simply make you go nuts.
6 Volume III Fall 2016
7 The WASP
8 Volume III Fall 2016
Future-Defining Diversity Adam Radomski
My first visit to New York City wasn’t even half what I expected. Being anywhere other than in the confines of my hotel room, felt like a massacre. Once the doorman saw me walking down the hall he would pull open the Inferno gates. A tsunami wave of 8.5 million residents and 50 million tourists was chasing me as I tried to make a getaway to any place where I’d find at least a crumb of my desired and sweet solace. Unfortunately, that was not an option. Not only did the masses of people try to trample me underfoot, but there were also the enormous buildings caging me in. Then there was the stench of trash bags lining the sidewalks like castle walls, the urine soaked subway station floor, and to finish it off, there were various pollutants rising from the car-covered avenues. Now understand this – it is hot during the summer; hot as hell. The amalgam of these exotic toxins rises up and fuses in with the oxygen you breathe in and the air that settles on your skin. Nothing more refreshing than a bunch of odors being condensed together into that drop of sweat running down your lip. 9 The WASP – Volume III Fall 2016
Adam Radomski Of course, there has to be a cherry atop such a mouthwatering pie, and there is – the ceaseless tumult. A combustion of screams, shouts, singing, honking all 24/7 round the damn clock. That’s the “ba-doom,” but there’s also the “tsss" of the subway passing right under your feet. You can easily mistake a subway swinging by for an earthquake when you feel the ground trembling as you eat in what you considered as a calm, downtown burger joint. So, in a nutshell, if doing so is even possible: a stampede of humans trying to run you over as you inhale rotten metropolitan bouquets while trying to find the strength to tune out that damn paranoia and hysteria brought on by a disordered orchestra of honks and sirens. Quite a filthy handful, eh? How much does such a pleasure cost, you ask? A quite livable apartment away from the heart of the city – $2000/month to rent. You can’t possibly be thinking about buying a place in New York. Now add up the $116 per month that you’ll spend on your MetroCard, the obligatory tips, the parking fines, the drinks at the bar… wait… what drinks? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and our student income. You get the drift, no? For the kind of money which grants you a decent life in NYC, you could be living in an elegant and spacious house in some tranquil environment and wearing Gucci slippers as you eat lobster while sipping 18YO scotch and smoke a Cuban cigar by the fireplace on the weekends. After you get back home from the sunny weekend drive in your classic convertible Ferrari, that is. So having read all of the above, would you believe me if I told you that I absolutely love living… excuse me; love fighting for a living in New York City? No, really; I totally adore it; and to your surprise, so do many other people. But why is that? Even when they realize how good their lives could be somewhere else – say, even 100 miles out of the city? Well, let’s get one thing out of the way first. There is no way Ben Carson will win the 2016 election. He doesn't deserve it. But, what he does deserve is being thanked for saying something which plays well into this article and comes to my head at a time when I am completely out of things to write. During an interview Mr. Carson declared: "You know, I was asked once by an NPR reporter why I don't talk about race that often. And I said it's because I'm a neurosurgeon. And she looked at me quite quizzically. And I said, 'You see, when I take someone to the operating room and I peel down the scalp and take off the bone flap and open the dura, I'm operating on the thing that makes the person who they are.' It's not the covering that makes them who they are.” (SOURCE) What do Ben Carson’s words have to do with New York City? The fact that the wonderful people of New York don’t say such things; ever. They live by them. Whether it’s on the street, or in a crammed subway cart, all kinds of people pass by each other and every single soul is treated with a smile, sincerity, and respect. But is a high level of tolerance a strong enough reason to convince someone to pay such a high price to live there? No, it’s not, unless we consider the diversity associated with it. New York City is a town where only 34% of the 8.5 million residents are white, making the so-called “majority” a “minority.” This magical city consists of 50 10 Volume III Fall 2016
Future-Defining Diversity different nationalities, and what’s most magical about it is that NYC is considered being one of the safest metropolises in the United States of America. Does that make any sense at all? I mean, where did all the hatred go? Why aren’t these nationalities fighting over territory and their position in the racial ladder? While we’re on the topic of safety, here is another shocker: mass shootings mostly occur in cities and towns where white Protestants are the majority. (SOURCE) But it’s not the safety which is the most crucial element of a diverse society, but the effect that diversity has on the human brain. Prior to explaining that effect, let’s take a quick glance at the world we live in. Throughout history something unexplainable happened which made us suddenly disgusted with differences. We began striving towards fitting in which was usually paired with murdering what made us unique. And what did that entail? A society more monotonous than ever. Most people think about the same gizmos, listen to the same genre of music, and have no originality to share. Day-in, day-out we face this dull reality of black and white despite living in a century of perfected Technicolor. This is exactly why diversity is now more priceless than it ever was. Meeting and communicating with people whose beliefs and values drastically differ from mine worked wonders. Maybe it was because all of this time I’ve been growing up in a town where 90% of the population were white Anglo-Saxons. The first change I noticed in my train of thoughts was an amped up flow of creativity. Listening to someone express himself in a way which was individually unique, made me begin looking at the world from more than just a single perspective. The prime force which drives us towards genius is the belief in the power that our ideas carry, and those very ideas are shaped by the way we naturally analyze the things we see and experience. On the other hand, the way by which we look at those things is a result of past events, from the way we were raised to the faith we were ushered into following. All of those events and experiences of our past form the way we view everything around us. Now, imagine being able to get into the brain of somebody who was raised all of his life in Kenya, Peru, or Mongolia, just to name a few extraordinary places. How would we view the world knowing what that person knows? How would we feel? And how would those emotions influence the perspectives that give birth to the thoughts our cranium produces? But the benefits of a diverse environment don’t just stop there. Seeing all of these nationalities in one city made me realize how small I am on the scale of the entire universe. Suddenly, all thoughts concerning myself, how I look or how other people see me, all seemed meaningless. I am not what matters; what matters is what I do. In that state of mind I looked at this vast world rich in natural beauty, history, and culture around me and set my mind towards focusing on discovering all of it and gaining access to the perspective of a person from every nationality. The psychological changes then went even further. Before being exposed to all of this diversity, I was trapped in my own world. The type of music I listened to was fairly limited: a little bit of jazz, some blues, but mainly good old rock’n’roll. I was under the impression that since this is my favorite genre, I shall listen to nothing else. Then, it all changed for me. Suddenly, I was listening to classical music, hip-hop, rap, occasionally even foreign tunes. This euphonic form of 11 The WASP
Adam Radomski diversity made me feel more in touch with the cultures around me since the thoughts and emotions of those people were encrypted in the art they created. Also, on the margin, if Elvis never listened to folk and blues, there would be no Elvis, and if there would be no Elvis, there would be no Yeezy either. Diversity is this God-given gift thanks to which we have all of these various perspectives and knowledge. The more we learn about each other, the more we learn about ourselves. Ultimately, the more we get in touch with one another, the more positive change we can make on a global scale. Isn’t that what we’re all aiming at? There was this one New York City adventure where I became trapped in a Latino neighborhood. At first, I didn’t feel fully comfortable after realizing that I was the only white person there (holding a Starbucks cup in one hand, an iPhone in the other, and having an elegant shirt didn’t soothe that feeling), but out of the blue, all negative thoughts passed away. In between big New York building blocks there were these petit but vivid parks cared for by the Latinos. Best of all, they were not private but labeled by the city, under the permission of the owner, as public parks. After entering one garden as such, I was quickly offered a cup of coffee which I kindly refused, but the park’s patron insisted. We sat around in the park he nurtured and we spoke about each other’s views on life while sipping what was probably native java. A diverse community is like a gold-mine. By working with people of differing ethnic and religious backgrounds there will be debates, hence, work will take more time. But in the end, with everybody sharing their individual perspective shaped by their unique past, the final product will be something universal, something for all to use and understand. It is our world after all and we should all work together to grasp what it needs the most. Other than gaining such experiences by being around all of these various people, New York City had its delightful way of treating me. There was the best Korean food in Queens, the Chinese in Flushing, Midtown had the Japanese, the Mexican quesadilla’s in Tribeca, French bakery in Soho, or the Hungarian café in Harlem. Every part of the world was clashing in harmonious unison in one magical city. Put more trash out in front of your apartment blocks during a humid summer, honk ever louder, bring in another 8 million citizens, and oh, I almost forgot, spike the price of rent up while you’re at it – I’ll never stop loving the place and the knowledge it offers. So for 2016, I wish you all to discover the enchantment behind exploring the ways of different cultures and religions. I wish you all be tolerant towards one another and learn from each other; to broaden your horizons and think about the mark you are planning to leave on this world for the benefit of all of its inhabitants. E Pluribus Unum. Yours, Adam Radomski
12 Volume III Fall 2016
Barbie as a Role Model Natalia Ogórek
The first Barbie, introduced by Mattel, Inc. in 1959 as a girl who “can do anything,” took the toy market by storm. She is considered to be one of the biggest icons and the longest living toy in America. “She is Mattel’s best-selling item, netting over one billion dollars in revenues worldwide, or roughly one Barbie sold every two seconds” (Urla and Swedlund, 2000, p. 398). As an inspiration for many children around the world she has influenced not only the toy industry but also American culture and society.
13 The WASP – Volume III Fall 2016
Natalia Ogórek However, her beginnings were not that smooth. Before launching the new toy, Mattel conducted a research among mothers and their daughters. Barbie’s apparent sex appeal horrified many women who perceived her as a potential threat and bad influence for their daughters. They found Barbie’s body to be too feminine and therefore, inappropriate for children. For many years there has been an ongoing debate over Barbie as a sexual figure and her negative influence on children. Here emerges an important question. Is Barbie really that role model that people, especially children, should emulate? It all started in the 1940s with a company producing wooden picture frames. The original founders, Harold “Matt” Matson and Elliot Handler, coined "Mattel" by combining letters from their names. After some time Elliot started using wooden scraps from the picture frames to make furniture for dolls. Encouraged by the success, the company began developing the toy business. Many tales of Barbie’s origin exist but the most popular story holds that Barbie was invented by Ruth Handler, Elliot’s wife, who came up with the idea after observing her daughter Barbara’s interest in fashion and teenage life. The girl and her friends played with paper dolls acting out scenarios of college or adult life. Ruth realized that pretend playing with the future was an important element of growing up. Girls at that time played only with baby dolls, which indicated their role as mothers. Ruth wanted to create something with which girls could imagine themselves as adults. Noticing the lack of such product on the market, she decided to fill in the niche with a three-dimensional doll. Despite the circulating story of Ruth Handler as the creator, Barbie was not entirely an innovative toy. Barbie’s predecessor was a German doll, Bild Lili, an embodiment of men’s fantasies rather than a toy for children, sold in tobacconists and bars. Jack Ryan, a well-known missile designer, created Barbie basing her on the Lili doll. It exhibited Cold War ideologies and ideas of military technology (could this explain Barbie’s “torpedo” breasts?), but Ryan’s abundant social life could also, to a degree, have an impact on the way Barbie was considered at the time. Married five times, Ryan was keen on extravagant parties, prostitutes, and drugs. Jerry Oppenheimer (2009) stated that Jack was a “full-blown seventies-style swinger” with a “manic need for sexual gratification” (p. 6). Ryan’s assistants used to note down Barbie-like characteristics and sometimes even sexual interests of the women he met or even include their photographs. If Ryan needed a group of Barbie doll lookalikes, his secretaries would not have problems finding the right girls. His huge mansion was also a part of the topic. “Dream house that would make even Barbie jealous” (Rand, 1995, p. 31) had eighteen bathrooms and seven kitchens, about one hundred fifty telephones, waterfalls, lighted tennis court, a tree house, and much more. In comparison to Jack Ryan’s eccentric life, Hugh Hefner looked like a newcomer. Merchandised as the first ‘teenage’ fashion doll, Barbie undoubtedly helped to create the postwar teenage lifestyle. Her strong middle-class values were like a remedy for the society’s anxiety over teenagers’ sexual freedom and juvenile delinquency. She connected the idea of a girl being sexy and good but not having sex, and which was willing to spend money. Although she started as a somewhat sexy-vamp looking doll, she slowly transformed into a socially conservative, 14 Volume III Fall 2016
Barbie as a Role Model wealthy, and moral role model. Whilst the society worried about teenagers having sex in the backseats of cars, Barbie was having fun with her friends organizing barbeques, parties, and going shopping. Even though children may ignore or adopt some of the aspects of Barbie’s “authorized” presentation, the degree to which they stay in touch with the prepackaged world requires them to encounter a set of “beliefs central to femininity under consumer capitalism” Urla and Swedlund, 2000, p. 402). Among other things, girls learn about the significance of appearance and popularity among friends. Barbie is constantly engaged in various social events: teenage proms, dates, weddings, or barbeques and teenage magazines develop these concepts. The information provided girls an important lesson about hygiene, intelligent buying, popularity, or success. To what extent Barbie provides knowledge suitable for young girls who are entering a teenage life? Maybe what needs to be considered is the ability of skillfully managing the absorbed information? Another aspect, which is absolutely noteworthy, is Barbie as an independent and strong woman. During the second-wave feminism in the 1960s and 1970s, popular culture was experiencing the growth of self-consciousness about sexual representation of women. The toy industry was no exception. Barbie, portrayed mainly as a bride-to-be or a fashion model, was criticized. Parents were concerned whether she is giving a good example to young girls. Mattel reacted to that by changing Barbie’s image in the 1960s and launching dolls with varied career options such as a teacher, an astronaut, or a TV news reporter. This gave young girls a feeling that if Barbie can be successful, they can be as well. She became an independent woman who could achieve success in almost any domain. M.G. Lord pointed out that “there were no parents or husbands or offspring in Barbie’s world; she didn’t define herself through relationships of responsibility to men or to her family” (Lord, 1995, p. 134). Barbie did not have a family, therefore, she was responsible only for herself; she did not conform to the society but followed a revolutionary road to independence and self-control. This proved that girls could be architects of their own fortune. Despite Mattel’s attempt to avoid criticism and portray Barbie in a new liberated light, it was still certain that glamour and beauty underlie her image. We see a final package: a beautiful, good-looking, blonde doll than can work in any field. However, we do not know the story behind her success. Hence, on the one hand, Barbie is a symbol of fulfillment and encourages to dream big, but on the other hand, she is telling us that only good looks will give us everything we desire. Toys also play an important role in children’s development in the environment that surrounds them. Barbie’s “pink” world, in particular, is a dream come true for every young person. It encourages visualizing yourself as the doll in order to enjoy the land of fun, beauty, success, and glamour. If Barbie is considered to be a role model, where is her sexuality stemming from? Let’s look at Barbie’s wardrobe. Filled with different types of girdles, petticoats, bras, and garters, Barbie’s clothing was to guide young girls in the sphere of fashion and womanhood. Some may argue that Barbie was giving excessive knowledge about difficult-to-wear underwear sets from the 1950s and early 1960s and therefore symbolizing adulthood for most of the girls. 15 The WASP
Natalia Ogórek In today’s world, where the underwear became the outerwear, nothing much concerning the way women look can surprise us anymore. We got used to seeing half-naked women on the streets which still is considered vulgar but certainly less than forty or fifty years ago. Barbie makes no exceptions. Many of her outfits are full of vulgarity and sexual allusions. In 1991 a line of lingerie called “Fancy Frills” offered young girls, aged 5 and over, “four sets of accessories in which to dress their dolls, including lacy, see-through teddies and stain bras and panties” (duCille, 1996, p. 18). Therefore Barbie is not that innocent. She introduces children to the world of sex and seduction. Nevertheless, nothing causes more controversy than Barbie’s body. Women in the United States, obsessed with their bodies and looks, try everything in order to conform to society’s ideals even if it means putting their lives on the line. According to statistics released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) in February 2013, “14.6 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures, including both minimallyinvasive and surgical, were performed in the United States in 2012, up 5 percent since 2011” (“14.6 Million Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Procedures”). Women are convinced that they need to invade nature’s creation. What is more striking is that this body improvement madness starts very early among girls, at the age of about 9 or 10. Barbie wreaked havoc in this field because as a combination of people’s fantasies and desires, she was far from being realistic. Before analyzing Barbie’s proportions, it is essential to look at “Norm and Norma, the average American male and female…one of the most celebrated and widely publicized anthropometric models of the century” (Urla, and Swedlund, 2000, p. 411) created in 1945. Robert Latou and Abram Belskie gathered measurements from thousands of young Americans. Even though data was collected from living women, only one percent of the participants’ measurements coincided with those of Norma. This research proved how far society’s expectations were from reality. How this connects to Barbie? In 1988, the Physical Anthropology Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts decided to compare the measurements of Barbie and Norma. The results were striking. As Norma reflected the ideals of a fit woman soldier, Barbie depicted unimaginable thinness of a fashion runway. The dolls were taller, had smaller chest, waist, hip, and thigh circumferences. To make matters worse, if Barbie had been scaled “to 5’4”, her chest, waist, and hip measurements would have been…clinically anorectic to say the least” (Urla, and Swedlund, 2000, p. 416). So how are young girls supposed to admire Barbie if she is a figure impossible to exist in real life? Her exaggerated proportions are treated by many as a threat to womankind. As an icon and influence, she reduces girls’ self-esteem causing them to turn to radical solutions. Media maintain this obsession. Whether in colorful magazines, TV, movies, or fashion runways, we are presented with pictures of beautiful and slim models. One of the studies demonstrated that “hospitalizations for eating disorders in children under 12 increased by 119% between 1999 and 2006” (“Child eating disorders on the rise,” 2012). In 1992 Mattel released a Barbie aerobics video for girls that met with an angry response from many experts in the eating disorder field. Barbie definitely takes part in promoting 16 Volume III Fall 2016
Barbie as a Role Model “what Kim Chernin has called “the tyranny of slenderness” Urla, and Swedlund, 2000, p. 419). Despite the criticism of Barbie’s abnormal yet attractive proportions, various groups of women will still perceive the pursuit of thinness as an act of empowerment and liberation from a traditional role of a housewife. The same could be said about cosmetic surgery: for numerous women, changing or improving oneself is treated as a rebellion against the imperfect reality. Barbie in this case is a symbol of self-control that is hardly obtainable in the normal world. Valeria Lukyanova, better known as the living doll, in an interview for V Magazine when asked whether seeing other women who change their bodies in order to ‘get the Barbie look’ could be perceived as a beauty movement, she answered: “People don’t understand that it has nothing to do with looks…Many people think you need only good looks to be successful, but it’s not true—only spiritual work can bear tangible results” (“Living Doll”). The observations that were made where not intended to imply that Barbie sends a message of empowerment but rather to emphasize the complexity of meaning that her body has in the modern world. Another aspect of Barbie, which is quite disturbing, is connected to the absence of Barbie’s genitalia. She is anatomically inaccurate. Barbie, as a symbol of femininity, is trapped in the world where she must stay physical but never to experience sex. Children definitely cannot learn from Barbie about sexual intercourse but on the other hand, they are misled by the inaccuracy of anatomical portrayal. Is this anomaly a good or a bad thing? Barbie has been a huge topic for discussion since the 1950s. It all started with the uncertainty concerning her origin in which most likely she derived from a German “sex doll,” Bild Lili. What even more stirred up this discourse was the social life that stood behind the initiator of that idea, Jack Ryan, a missile designer whose life could be compared to that of Playboy Magazine’s owner, Hugh Hefner. Right from the beginning, Barbie’s overall image, especially her body, has aroused a lot of controversy. Many consider her as too feminine and dangerous because of the ideas she transmits, even though she will never be able to experience sex. Portraying in various media as a beautiful and successful young woman, her life is filled with stylish parties, barbeques, shopping, and much more. Parents are concerned that her influence will be too strong for their children. People strongly believe that her femininity and excessive sexuality causes young girls to lower their self-esteem. There are many contradictions and people till this day cannot decide whether Barbie’s title as an icon is righteous or not. In my opinion there is truth on both sides, however, taking into consideration the fact that parents are responsible for their children’s upbringing, it is their duty to reasonably approach the topics raised by the world of Barbie. If we do not allow them to overtake fantasy far beyond the borders of reality we may be certain that Barbie will be identified solely as an innocent toy.
17 The WASP
Bibliography: duCille, A. (1996). Toy Theory: Black Barbie and the Deep Play of Difference. In Skin Trade. Massachusetts, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Lord, M. G. (1995). Forever Barbie: An Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. New York: Avon Books. Oppenheimer, J. (2009). Barbie’s Untold Heritage. In Toy Monster: The Big, Bad World of Mattel. New Jersey, Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Rand, E. (1995). Making Barbie. In Barbie’s Queer Accessories. Durham and London: Duke University Press Books. Urla, J, and Swedlund. A. C. (2000). The Anthropometry of Barbie: Unsettling Ideals of the Feminine Body in Popular Culture. In Feminism and the Body. Londa Schiebinger (Ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
Webliography: (2013). 14.6 Million Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Procedures Performed in 2012. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Retrieved from http://www.plasticsurgery.org/news-and-resources/press-releasearchives/2013/14-million-cosmetic-plastic-surgery-procedures-performedin-2012.html (2012).
Child eating disorders on the rise. CNN. Retrieved http://edition.cnn.com/2012/08/22/health/child-eating-disorders
Doll. V Magazine. Retrieved http://www.vmagazine.com/site/content/261/living-doll
18 Volume III Fall 2016
Masochistic Joy of Sadistic Pleasure: (Sexual) Slavery and (Erotic) Power Imbalance Aleksandra Barciszewska
Sadomasochistic behavior tends to be perceived as a deviant, dangerous, dark, leather-and-latex pathological way of accessing something that inhabits only damaged individuals. Individuals so different than "us": they are the sexual Other which under no circumstances can be "us." Recently, the bestseller and the bestmisinformer, Fifty Shades of Grey, addressed the issue of kinkiness. Surprisingly, it turned many people (oops, sorry, women) on, opening the box of Pandora. Our Pandora, however, is a feminist. She is interested in how sexual otherness based on submissiveness and dominance can be titillating. Of course, she automatically links submissiveness to women and dominance to men, which is not the case in many instances.
19 The WASP â€“ Volume III Fall 2016
Aleksandra Barciszewska Feminists have had problems with BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, and Sadism and Masochism) for ages. Sexual power hierarchy is often translated directly into the real life, on the basis of "the personal is political" mechanism. Can it, however, be subversive or even empowering? In this article I will examine the issue of power, dominance, submission, pain, and humiliation. I will argue that every individual (yes, you too) gets aroused by the flow of sexual power. Sexual power that originates in the primitive and primordial selves, and getting in touch with one's animal side is nothing dehumanizing. No matter how much one would want to elevate one's soul and merge with the spiritual side, rejecting one's primitive side and one's needs will only result in neurotic and pathological behavior. BDSM has gained recognition due to the infamous attempt of E. L. James to create a BDSM romantic story, turning Fifty Shades of Grey into Fifty Shades of Abusive Relationship meets When Sexual Fantasy Met Toxic Love Story with a not-sosubtle rip-off from 2002 movie Secretary. The term itself, BDSM, is a relatively recent one. Margot Weiss (2015), one of the top BDSM analysts, traces it to the 1990s and Usenet – Internet discussion groups. The BDSM practices are often perceived as merely focused on pain and violence per se, but a more accurate description would be Weiss's "consensual exchange of power for pleasure" (Weiss, 2015, p. 1). Some of those practices do revolve around the physical acts like flogging, whipping, spanking, etc., but psychological or affective ones (humiliation, punishment, master/slave play, etc.) are sometimes even more important than the physical acts of inflicting or experiencing pain. The BDSM relation, as indicated in the acronym, relies on Dominance and Submission (D/s), where the power is equally divided: one partner (Dominant, top) assumes control while the other (submissive, bottom) willingly relinquishes her or his power. The division between the powerful, dominant, controlling party and the powerless, obedient, submissive one is not exclusive to BDSM (or the typical 50s' American family for that matter). A similar mechanism dependent on these element was certainly slavery. Although, the willingness in rendering power was certainly lacking in that sort of arrangement. However, Havelock Ellis in his very insightful study of pain in sadism and masochism, Studies in Psychology of Sex: Analysis of Sexual Impulse, Love and Pain, the Sexual Impulse in Women, examined physiological mechanisms that might contribute to analysis of slavery and lynchings in the BDSM terms. Ellis himself was a physician, therefore his analysis focuses on basic biological characteristics and mechanisms. He starts off with (and later on develops) the idea of courtship in the animal world, where violence is a means of getting the female. Violent behavior is both praised and chosen by the male individuals, but it also seems that the females are actually more into courageous, powerful, dominating, and Me-Tarzan-You-Jane-like individuals. However, let's forget about the gender for a second. Not only because it is a quite vast field (Are all women masochists? Are men sadists? Do women need pain? Does this explain and support patriarchy?) but also it doesn't matter here, for both women and men like pain, either inflicted or experienced. Ellis somehow contributes to this neglect of gender. He examined what Freud coined as primary masochism. The sadist – a person who gets sexually stimulated by giving pain – and the masochist – the one who enjoys experiencing pain – are not necessarily two different people. Freud's primary 20 Volume III Fall 2016
Masochistic Joy of Sadistic Pleasure masochism is a concept of a primacy given precisely to masochism: sadist is a masochist in a Sunday hat. In other words, sadism is masochism projected outward. Ellis adds that it is probable that the sadist actually enjoys his "victim's" pain precisely because he identifies with him or her (Ellis, 1903, p. 166). Therefore, the idea that women are clearly the passive ones enjoying pain while men are solely biologically-programmed as sadists, fails. Connecting BDSM rules and characteristics to slavery and lynchings seems obscene and naive. However, let us first examine sexual pleasure as derived from pain. Many researches have shown that regions responsible for pleasure and pain do overlap in (not only human) nervous system. Ellis examined first the concept of flagellation and how it departed from being perceived merely as a punishment. At first, it indeed lacked the sexual aspect, but later connection is not inexplicable and unreasonable. As stated by Ellis, it has a simple physical cause: a strong stimulation of the gluteal region might produce or heighten one's sexual excitement (Ellis, 1903, p. 137). Furthermore, the mere idea of whipping (either experienced or inflicted) could arouse very fundamental and primitive emotions of anger and fear, so common to the animal world (ibid., p. 138). Therefore, we are sort of back to the idea of masochism and sadism. The spectacles of lynching so popular in the United States can be understood in these terms. The pleasure of experiencing the victim's pain is both deliriously masochistic and sadistic. Furthermore, as noted in Ellis's study, the spectacle of suffering is stimulant of sexual emotions (ibid., p. 139). It is no surprise to anyone who has read James Baldwin's 1965 short story "Going to Meet the Man." The perverse idea of watching someone's suffering and, in addition, experiencing sexual gratification from it, doesn't seem so far-fetched. We all know this exhilarating sensation of observing "someone else" being told off. This is simply Schadenfreude to the extreme. Lynchings, furthermore, did involve specific kind of bondage, exposure, and technology of torture. If a BDSM-like mechanism happened, it was probably only from the audience's perspective. However, can we apply Ellis's and others' discoveries about experiencing pleasure from being hurt, whipped, cut, flogged, and tortured to the victims' experiences? Apart from cruelty in this inhuman performance of white superiority, could the victims feel traces of pleasure while being tortured? I don't think so. At least there's no way to find out. But BDSM largely exploits and thrives in these ideas: ideas of physical violence, humiliation, bondage, and dominance. They, however, work somehow differently. They are separated from the "real life," they are presented as a play to which all participants agree too. They subvert, challenge, and use the hierarchy of power as to obtain different goals. The erotic power imbalance is used to help individuals to deal with their sexual impulses. The side effect is often an individual's resilience, self-awareness, self-consciousness, and building of identity. Danielle Lindemann in her article "BDSM as Therapy?" provided a view of BDSM practices as being beneficial and therapeutic. She argues that these sexual (although very often lacking the actual element of sexual intercourse) practices performed by professional dominants can be a form of psychological treatment. She dealt with the group of professional dominatrices (pro-dommes) who tend to consider themselves as therapists, and they see their erotic labor as sex therapy. Lindemann gives examples from other literature noticing that BDSM or simply S/M 21 The WASP
Aleksandra Barciszewska practices can expand participants' self-awareness, "transform an individual by providing a window into [one's] identity" (Lindemann, 2011, p. 154). In general, she perceives BDSM as a self-help, a healthful alternative to sexual repression, and a way of gaining control over oneself. The way all that happens is through re-enactment of some troubling or even traumatic experiences on one's own terms. Considering that S/M and BDSM is often perceived as being directly connected to "having issues," she somehow doesn't reject that. The aim of such a therapeutic perception of BDSM (which I wholeheartedly support) has to involve some psychological problems. However, it renounces BDSM as the result and/or symptom of psychological issues. Instead, it tries to see BDSM as a solution and a potential therapy to those issues. The magical word here is "consent." The core concept of BDSM is SSC â€“ Safe, Sane, and Consensual. The last component focuses on the issue that every single sexual endeavor has to be agreed upon beforehand, and has to be agreed upon by two (or more) engaging parties. Thanks to that, submission becomes a conscious act of dedication, an inmost need to give up on one's identity and agency for someone else. From submissive's perspective, the beauty of BDSM lies precisely in finding power in giving it up. Finding control in temporarily losing it. Experiencing pleasure in getting lost somewhere in between humiliation and control. This is probably the most problematic component of BDSM; an issue which makes feminists go crazy. An idea that women would want to give up their power is something difficult to apprehend. But these are "women who consciously choose to give someone else control of that power" (Prior, 2013), in exchange for their own satisfaction. And there's nothing unfeminist about that. Of course, assuming that a woman just has to be the submissive party, which she doesn't. What gets more and more often acknowledged is that both submissive and dominant have their fair share of power. It's all about the consensual flow of power. Or even more, a consensual flow of control over that power. As some of the female submissives/slaves tend to admit, BDSM for them is about "control or authority over oneâ€™s personal power [which] is what is being given or exchanged" (ibid.). And what Lindemann shrewdly noticed is that all that has to happen on one's own terms, and that characterizes BDSM and distinguishes it from abusive relationships and rape. Lindemann also touches upon a very interesting concept of a "race play." It is nothing more than a session, a play, a scene, where the dominant uses ethnic stereotypes and epithets. Pro-dommes who were interviewed by Lindemann describe it as "restoring power to the clients by, like reenacting childhood trauma, providing them a degree of control over their own oppression" (Lindemann, 2011, p. 160). By using words like "nigger" they make the racial oppression real, but on one's own terms. It happens when, how, and where they want, and by who they want. The "who" element being, interestingly, usually white dominants, here, white women. Even more interesting is the fact that when the black man is a dominant, he tends to dominate a black woman (ibid.). BDSM sphere, therefore, becomes a safe sphere where they can deal with racism in everyday life. Therefore, by getting used to humiliation one can prepare to deal with it outside the BDSM realms. In other words, they themselves want to be in charge of how their oppression works. They embrace it in a similar way feminists use the word "slut" to call themselves. On their own 22 Volume III Fall 2016
Masochistic Joy of Sadistic Pleasure terms. Shame and humiliation may transform into pride. Engagement in these roles is only ephemeral, and after the play, they are no longer niggers, they are no longer dirty and disgusting pigs (ibid., p. 162). Also, something completely different tends to happen. Something that gets misinterpreted as an inherent sadism or masochism. It is quite common that people want to become a completely different character; a character that is the opposition of their everyday self. Men or women in high-status occupations, people who are in control on a daily basis, want to give up that power. Since every single day they have to make important decisions, they have to control everything themselves, they just want to let go. As one Lindemann's respondent noticed: "The more power you have, the more you wanna give it up" (ibid.). In order to understand that, it is enough to think about the one scene from The Wolf of Wall Street when DiCaprio's character engages in (what actually seems as a parody of) BDSM; he is a powerful zillionaire and in that scene he is shown as a sub, seeking help from a professional dominatrix. The concept of submissive and dominant, master and slave, characterizes basically every relationship I can think of. The power relations between two individuals, two groups of people, or between an individual and a group, are as old as the hills. Every single person is both more and less powerful than someone else. Therefore, everyone is a perfect embodiment of a "switch." In BDSM a switch is a person who tends to be both: sometimes he/she is a submissive and sometimes a dominant. Considering blurring the lines between sadism and masochism from biological and psychological point of view, this is quite acceptable. Anyhow, let's examine the type of domination which most people, and a large majority of Americans, engage in. Religion. Isn't God the perfect dominant? A perfect master who is always in the back of one's head, controlling every aspect of one's behavior. A dominant who tells people they are sinners (humiliation), they should marry and have children (bondage), and gives them original sin (humiliation again) and series of orders. In BDSM the idea of control â€“ sometimes not even sexual â€“ is very important. It could be seen in the movie from which E. L. James borrowed a lot, Secretary. The main character is in a BDSM relationship with her boss, who does spank her (which she loves) but he also controls her behavior: she is not supposed to do this and that, and she gets punished for doing that and this. He controls her meals â€“ she can only eat a certain amount of peas and mashed potatoes. The idea of being controlled even when he's not around, is the ultimate turn-on. God, then, seems like a perfect dominant, and religion is an ideal BDSM play. Moreover, one has to remember that the first instances of whippings had religious roots; it has always been considered as a religious penance (Ellis, 1903, p. 129). The idea of pleasure is very subjective. Pain is relatively easier to define. Pleasure is what tends to get labelled as deviant and persecuted due to the fact that it sometimes challenges normative sexual behavior. Yet pain and pleasure are bosom friends. They thrive in humiliation, punishment, control, dominance, submission. Pain and pleasure make life bearable. Pain connects us to ourselves, making us realize we really are alive, and perhaps this lies right next to this idea of pleasure. BDSM, therefore, is a way of connecting, experiencing, feeling more. It can have a beneficial and therapeutic value, helping people deal with what society and culture may want to suppress. Deal with that "what" on one's own terms, in a 23 The WASP
Aleksandra Barciszewska consensual relationship. It can help deal with demons, meeting them just to whip and spank them away. It can help one come to terms with one's oppression, trauma, or it is simply a sphere where one doesn't have to be a civilized, cultured self. The power dynamics and hierarchy is a play, theatricalized safe sphere, where one can find oneself by rejecting oneself. BDSM as a Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadomasochism, seems to characterize the primordial aspects which civilization wants to suppress, demonizing hierarchy and power imbalance. And BDSM reconnects us to those aspects in a consensual play, where everything that happens, happens on one's own terms.
Bibliography: Ellis, H. (1903). Studies in Psychology of Sex: Analysis of Sexual Impulse, Love and Pain, the Sexual Impulse in Women. Philadelphia: F. A. Davis Company. http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000429585 Lindemann, D. (2011). BDSM as Therapy? Sexualities April 2011 vol. 14 no. 2 Pior, E. E. (2013). Women's Perspectives of BDSM Power Exchange. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 16, February 28, 2013. http://www.ejhs.org/volume16/BDSM.html Weiss,
M. (2015). BDSM (bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadomasochism). The International Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality. Ed. Patricia Whelehan and Anne Bolin. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
24 Volume III Fall 2016
Expressing Latino Identity The Art of Carmen Lomas Garza Nadia Błaszczyk
North American culture is a mix of various other cultures, which contributed to its content throughout centuries. Different influences can be seen in music, literary works, and fine arts. The United States’ cultural heritage has evolved from a blend of customs and traditions of numerous foreign communities. Vast majority of American culture aspects has its roots in European or Hispanic heritage. The presence of international influence has its origins in the history of the United States, the colonization, and immigration processes. Each nation coming to the United States has played a crucial role in shaping American society. According to an activist and a pioneering scholar of Chicano and US Latino art, Tomas Ybarra-Frausto (2013), one of the most fundamental impacts on different types of American art had Latino artistic expressions, including literature and the visual and performing arts (p. 139). 25 The WASP – Volume III Fall 2016
Nadia Błaszczyk The influence of Latino culture is really significant since it is coming from more than one specific group of people. Latino communities in the U.S. have always represented miscellaneous customs and folklore. As a result of the vast variety, one of the characteristics determining artistic production is complex heterogeneity (Ybarra-Frausto, 2013, p. 139). Latino communities include native‐born citizens and immigrants from more than 20 countries in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Latinos in the U.S. can be white, including a range of European extractions, or mestizo (people of Spanish and indigenous or Spanish and African or Asian heritage). The mixture of Latino influences leads to significant questions, for example, what is exactly the factor uniting all Latino artists? One of the answers is the fact that since the very beginning, all Hispanic immigrants have continued to reestablish their relations with both the Spanish language and the culture of the ancestral homelands. Another idea which bonds Latinos, involves the struggles with assimilation, migration, and exile (Kennicott, 2013, para. 11). Moreover, all Latino artists are united by the awareness that in some way they are still “outsiders” in spaces which claim to speak for the nation. One very famous and significant Latino artist, whose work has been appreciated by art critics, is Carmen Lomas Garza, an active painter, printmaker, muralist, and children’s book illustrator since the 1970s. Her work is collected by galleries and museums around the world (“Carmen Lomas Garza,” n.d., para. 2). She became an artist thanks to her self-motivation and determination. When she was a young girl, she did not have any access to art lessons so she was trying to find ways to teach herself. She used to go to the library, checked out and read every book she could about art. She also practiced drawing every day by making pictures of her closest surrounding. As a result, by the time she started high school, she had developed an impressive portfolio of works (“Carmen Lomas Garza,” n.d., para. 1). Carmen Lomas Garza’s works are mostly inspired by her experience of living in a Chicano community. In her paintings, Garza decided to use images of every day rituals and situations to praise the community itself and to demonstrate her pride of being a Tejana. Her main point is to show how the Mexican American community has sustained a rich and vital cultural identity despite all racial inequities and urban pressures (Noriega, 2013, p. 2). Carmen Lomas Garza says: “I decided to present positive scenes of everyday events in the community through accessible imagery” (Lomas Garza & Marquis, 1995). Tomas Ybarra-Frausto in his article “A Panorama of Latino Arts,” puts emphasis on different eras of Latino culture and its characteristics. One of the periods mentioned by Ybarra-Frausto is the time after Mexican Revolution. Even though Lomas Garza’s art is mostly from 1970s, the post-revolutionary motives can also be seen in her works. In the period after Mexican Revolution, Mexican Americans had a strengthened emotional and cultural sense of being Mexicans, which served as a significant counterweight to resentment to the Anglo cultural hegemony. This is the reason why they put so much pressure on identity in their art. A similar attitude can be found in the inspiration for Lomas Garza’s paintings. Her personal experience of discrimination and racism strengthened the need to express her identity, also in order to find a way to combat racial prejudices (Smithsonian American Art Museum, n.d.). She created her works around the issue of acceptance. 26 Volume III Fall 2016
Expressing Latino Identity Both the identity theme and fighting with stereotypes motive are based on Lomas Garza’s inspiration by Chicano movement which covered a broad cross section of issues—negative ethnic stereotypes of Mexicans in mass media and the American consciousness, restoration of land grants, farm workers' rights, education, political rights, and awareness of collective history (“Chicano Movement,” n.d., para. 2). It resulted in self‐identification of the generation as Chicanos, signaling a new cultural identity apart from Mexican nationals and the previous generation of Mexican Americans. Tomas Ybarra-Frausto summarizes in his article that 1960s and 1970s Latino art is interweaving cultural and social contexts. One of the paintings by Lomas Garza, portraying everyday life of the community and family, is “Una Tarde/One Summer Afternoon” from 1993. Being aware of the artist’s background, we can point out that the painting represents three generations of a Mexican family. Knowing that Lomas Garza was depicting the life of Mexicans living in the United States, lets conclude that the family’s life is not different from the one lived by Mexicans in Mexico. The form of painting looking like children’s drawings contrasts with the serious issue of identity expressed by the painter. Lomas Garza struggled against total assimilation into mainstream cultural categories and aesthetic norms. However, she follows her own pattern and embodies the idea of self-determination and self-invention. Inspired by both Tejana life and modernist art, she embraces in her images most important symbols for Chicano community. Little alter with a painting of Lady of Guadalupe states for Mexican national symbol. It also depicts connection of the family with spiritual area of life. The doll sitting on the bed is a reference to the Mexican tradition of quinceañera celebration which represents girl‘s important step from childhood to adulthood (Monslave, 2014, para. 1). It can be also seen as a metaphor of the situation on the painting, a young woman meeting with her love while guarded by the mother. A young girl playing by the bed is a symbol of previous stage of the young girl who is in the center of the painting. The output of Lomas Garza is an example of the idea of “contact zone” explained by a scholar Mary Louise Pratt (Ybarra-Frausto, 2013, p.155). Lomas Garza goes back and forth between different variations of symbols, values, traditions, and styles. The experience of two powerful cultures became a source for creative praise of artistic resources and values. Looking at Latino culture from the perspective of Tomas Ybarra-Frusta lets shape an image of artistic mestizaje that consists of diverse forms of art rooted in different Latino communities. The art of Carmen Lomas Garza meets most of the characteristics of Latino art. Not only when it comes to topics of the paintings, but also when one wants to analyze inspirations and reasons to create art. The issue of identity drives the artist to produce more. For Lomas Garza, as well as for other Latino artists, the art is the way to express them, to fight with their personal struggles, to “heal the wounds inflicted by discrimination and racism.” The types of art, historic roots, different motives and forms of art, presented by Ybarra-Frausto give the overview of phenomenon present in Latino art. The categories analyzed by the author are a useful starting point in terms of understanding Latino art and Latino culture. Lomas Garza paintings, for instance “Una Tarde/One Summer Afternoon,” involve vast array of symbols. The simplicity of the images is supposed 27 The WASP
Nadia Błaszczyk to contrast with motives of the author. The artist fights with racial discrimination and wants to honor her Chicano community. Latino art has always been heterogeneous. It underlines diversity among Latino communities. Nevertheless, the art has become a tool to express different but connected Latino points of view. Its role is to strengthen deeper filiations and the bonding between Latino communities, sharing a sense of aspirations and collective cultural destiny.
Bibliography: Carmen Lomas Garza (n.d.). ¡Del Corazón! Latino Voices in American Art. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Carmen
Lomas Garza (n.d.). AmericanArt.si.edu. Retrevied http://americanart.si.edu/education/corazon/artistas_01.cfm.
Chicano Movement (n.d.). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicano_Movement.
Lomas Garza C., Marquis, A.L. (1995). Carmen Lomas Garza. Smithsonian Institution Press. Kennicott, P. (2013). Critic vs. artist: What “Latino art” means. Washington Post Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/museums/critic-vs-artistwhat-latino-art-means/2013/11/03/efd53cfe-44bc-11e3-bf0ccebf37c6f484_story.html. Monsalve, A. (2014). The Quinceañera Doll Tradition. Quinceanera.com Retrieved from http://www.quinceanera.com/traditions/the-quinceanera-dolltradition/. Noriega, C. (2013). Carmen Lomas Garza: Profile of a Chicana Artist. Apuntes, a Latino Journal. Ybarra-Frausto, T. (2013). A Panorama of Latino Arts. American Latinos and the Making of the United States: A Theme Study. Washington D.C.: National Park Service.
28 Volume III Fall 2016
Black is the New Black: A Transition of Blackness in God Help the Child by Toni Morrison Paulina Niewiadomska
Lula Ann, who calls herself Bride, is a successful young woman with licoricelike skin and crow-black eyes with an uncanny mysterious blue tint that together with skin color give her something supernatural. Elegant, tall, and slim, she attracts attention wherever she goes. Her attractive black body becomes her own manifesto. She dresses only in white to emphasize even more her midnight black skin and wild, exotic beauty. This stark contrast makes people think of “hand-dipped bonbons” or “Hershey’s syrup” and “whipped cream and chocolate soufflé” (God 33). Her look is alluring, luscious, and delectable. She is tasty like a white praline with chocolate filling that slowly melts in the mouth. In contrast to Ellison’s protagonist in Invisible Man (1965) who people refuse to see “because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes” (Invisible 1), Bride and her unusual blackness are noticeable and praised by others. Black is no longer repressed, abominable, or associated with something dross. Black becomes cool and beautiful, the hottest new thing, the new black. Why? Because it attracts, sells, and generates money. If one has never read any of Toni Morrison’s novels this may sound like a cliché story about a pretty African-American, Destiny Child’s-like beauty in her twenties whose line of cosmetics YOU, GIRL is an overnight success. She has 29 The WASP – Volume III Fall 2016
Paulina Niewiadomska everything she wants, drives a Jaguar, buys new Louis Vuitton bags, and has numerous lovers until her sex life becomes like “Diet Coke – deceptively sweet minus nutrition” (God 36). And then she meets a stunningly handsome AfricanAmerican man, Booker, who turns every piece of her body into “bolts of lightning” (God 38) and her life is no longer empty and trivial. Everything seems to be magical in the black princess’ picture-perfect life until her ideal man says that she is not the woman he wants, and her world turns upside down. Surprised and desperate, she chases him to find out the reason for their breakup. However, the story is not that simple, and one has to read the very first sentences of the latest Morrison’s novel to realize that. To intricate the plot in God Help the Child, Morrison mixes different modes of narration and shifts the reader’s attention from one character to another. She employs a number of first-person narrators and, thus, the reader, or as she says herself, “opens up a little door so [the reader] can step in” (Morrison, 2015). What is worth mentioning is that the first-person narration is assigned only to women – Sweetness (Bride’s mother), Bride, Brooklyn, Sofia, and a little girl Rain. Through perceptions and consciousness of those characters, not only does Morrison present the same story from different perspectives, but at the same time explores the complexities of childhood traumas and the way they affect their lives and ongoing events. Childhood, which is in general associated with light-heartedness, love and play that evoke positive and sentimental feelings, becomes in a way defamiliarized so as to offer a fresh perspective, or rather a number of different points of view, on how people construct their present selves basing on their past, traumatic experiences. And Lula Ann’s story lies at the core of the novel. The way she grows up and later lives her life is marked by her “blue-black” skin, which according to her light-skinned mother constitutes “a cross she will always carry” (God 7). The issue of race slaps the reader in the face since the very first sentences of the book. Sweetness, Lula Ann’s mother, says that her daughter is born with “terrible color,” “midnight, Sudanese black” so black that it “scares” and embarrasses her so much that she is not able to give her the least bit of love (God 3). She even prefers to be called “Sweetness” instead of “mother” or “mama” (God 6). According to her, being black is perceived as fault. It constitutes a problem to such an extent that it embraces some kind of guilt. Black is a stigma and she reconstructs some elements of this mark through her (grand)parents’, her own and her daughter’s experiences. She mentions her grandmother who “passed for white” and did not tell her children that she had “Negro blood” (God 3). Passing meant being visible to others, recognized and considered. It also meant different rights and treatment. And with remembrance of that times, Sweetness wants her daughter to be prepared for eventual racial discrimination, violence, and obedience. Her preventive and preparatory yet deprived of affection upbringing, as she explains, is driven by the circumstances that are dictated by the white middle-class, and articulated by law. As in other novels by Toni Morrison, the white middle-class family is used as a prism through which experiences of African-American individuals are perceived and measured (Willis, 1982, p. 34). Morrison gives voice to growing-up children – she often employs them in her stories to emphasize the
30 Volume III Fall 2016
Black is the New Black
constraints and difficulties of young African-American children as opposed to their white peers. In comparison to previous Morrison’s novels God Help the Child is set in the present instead of the past. Being black now, Morrison seems to say, is different than in the ‘20s, ‘50s, or ‘60s. African-American men and women have their careers. They are independent and liberated. As Sweetness admits: “things have changed a mite from when [she] was young. Blue blacks are all over TV, in fashion magazines, commercials, even starring in movies” (God 176). In other words, African-Americans are finally visible. They appear in mass media and are present in collective imaginary which confirms their existence. As Willis notices, Morrison’s characters often try to adopt values, ideology, and lifestyle of the white bourgeois society alienating themselves from their cultural origins and repressing the past (Willis 1982, 35). They try to accede to “the upper reaches of bourgeois society,” yet none of them succeed (ibid.). In God Help the Child, however, for the first time the situation is different – Bride manages to achieve something that was not possible in the past, namely she perfectly adopts to the lifestyle and values dictated by ideology of the white middle-class. This way she emphasizes and expresses her existence. But it does not mean that she tries and wants to become white, and represent the idea of beauty incarnated in the white world. Quite the opposite: Bride is proud to be black. Her blackness, no longer marginal and invisible, is turned into her greatest asset to such an extent that she becomes concerned only about her body. Yet, Bride accepts and finds her body beautiful not because it is black but because it brings profit, generates money, and thus helps her to fulfil her aspirations to climb the social ladder. Of course, this is only possible due to the social change and historical transition – transition to the new form of slavery – money and capitalism. Morrison seems to ask whether in these circumstances black identity has still its raison d’être. She also demonstrates how human relationships and lives are impoverished by consumer society. Bride is an embodiment of social change, a product of her times, a manifestation of the new generation that shapes new historical trajectory. She imitates whites, embraces their values and behaviors, and thus she alienates herself from her culture and traumatic past. As a child she is mistreated by her mother for being too black. She is starving for acceptance and love. So she makes a desperate attempt to gain a little bit of her mother’s affection and makes a false statement – because of her, an innocent woman is sentenced to prison for child abuse. Later in the future she wants to deal with the past and compensate her mistake with a fancy, brand-new bag full of money and cosmetics, but what she gets in return are violence and aggression. Her body, mutilated and beaten up, becomes unrecognizable and unuseful, so she withdraws from work and focuses more on her private life. Mutilation in Morrison’s writing, as Willis explains, often represents a “direct confrontation with oppressive social forces” that may lead to liberation and redefinition of one’s self (Willis, 1982, p. 40). The breakup with Booker, that happens just before her attempt to reach the woman whom she put in prison, constitutes the turning point in Bride’s life. Bride decides to chase her ex-boyfriend as she becomes obsessed with one question: why she is not the woman he wants. After all, she is a rich, empowered, beautiful, and 31 The WASP
Paulina Niewiadomska attractive woman who does not ask any questions. She thinks that she gives Booker everything he wants: pays the rent, buys beautiful shirts that he never wears, and lets him drive her Jaguar (God 12). After some time, when she stays alone, she starts to feel that her relationship was shallow, and realizes that she does not really know anything about Booker and about love. Her body is beautiful again – there is almost no trace of the recent mutilation. Yet, she is not ready to come back to her old life. She notices that her body starts to change: she loses a lot of weight, her eyes are wider and starry, she starts losing her body hair, and her breasts almost disappear. Her womanhood is questioned when she is left without Booker, and she needs him to feel herself and to accept her body again. The alienation from the body appears when she finally confronts real life and the regression to a little black girl that she was before she left home and changed her name may suggest the necessity to deal with the past, the return to origins, or something repressed that does not let her move on with her life. And because she leaves everything, abandons her aspirations and liberates herself from traps of the white bourgeois society, she may be considered saved. Her blackness is no longer just a trademark, or a brand – it becomes part of Bride’s new liberated self.
Bibliography: Ellison, R. (2001). Invisible Man. London: Penguin. Morrison, T. (2015). God Help the Child. London: Chatto & Windus. Morrison, T (2015, April 28) Toni Morrison Reads from and Discusses God Help the Child. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1c--uSctVg&feature=youtu.be Willis, S. (1982) Eruptions of Funk: Historizing Toni Morrison. Black American Literature Forum, 16 (1), 34-42. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2904271
32 Volume III Fall 2016
More Than Innocent Lilies: What is Not to Like in Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments Trilogy and Its Representation of Homosexual Characters Marta Pytka
There was the time when everybody laughed at the main heroine’s gay friend. Take a seat and try to laugh at a serious issue that is about to be presented. The reader meets the character predestined to appeal as likable and lovely for any kind of person turning the pages. Whatever he/she demands to find in a hero’s personality, it is simply there, written. Further explorations of the story include being, in fact, in love with the main character who happens to be of the same sex. The love is not only unrequited but also not accepted, even though both of them are not exactly human. The problem proves to be customs, tradition, and conservative views: looking familiar enough? However, a merciful author would not allow the poor reader to shed tears for too long, and consequently the unhappily-in-love-withthe-wrong-person literature hero meets another “object” to admire. Cassandra Clare, the author of The Mortal Instruments trilogy, designs that “object” with special care. He is the definition of glamour, eccentricity, and fabulousness, which Prada would not dare to reject. Finally, as he is made from another type of dust than the already unhuman and gay character, it must be a perfect match, mustn’t it? Opposites are attractive (sic!) as the proverb says. Or something like that.
33 The WASP – Volume III Fall 2016
Marta Pytka The Mortal Instruments trilogy introduces the reader to the world parallel to the known one, yet, being hidden and invisible for a mundane: a human without a sight. Cassandra Clare creates Alec Lightwood, a representative of half-angel, halfhuman Shadowhunters whose aim is to keep demons in their right place. However, Alec never killed a demon before, he is rather a safety net for others in the New York Shadowhunters team – especially one particular member, his friend and a crush, young and reckless Jace Wayland. Burying his sexuality eight feet underground, Alec is angry and frustrated enough for anyone with a brain to see him through (parents being obviously excluded). A young warrior struggling both with heartache and unacceptance, and having a second lead syndrome, is a perfect character for the reader to like immediately. Not to mention being written as the responsible, the conscious, the perfect son, and the innocent pretty boy. The last factor especially draws Magnus Bane’s attention – a high warlock of Brooklyn who happens to like guys… of other species. He is a mysterious, cat-eyed sorcerer known for his parties and glittery eyeshadow. Even though he is experienced and powerful, he is given the obligation to respond to requests. The reader meets him when protagonists are in distress and need of guidance. Even if he acts out of curiosity, feelings, or whatever more, his role in Clare’s books is to use those marvelous powers of his to help obediently, whatsoever. The audience immediately finds him likable, overseeing everything besides entertaining factors. Not to remain solitary, those two characters finally start a relationship challenging gay couple representation in the 21st-century literature, as some would proudly like to conclude, but does it really challenge anything? Fans defend The Mortal Instruments with an argument that the homosexual couple has its happy ending, in spite of the prejudiced, conservative society and the government. They believe those books introduce LGBT society to a wide audience who, under the books’ influence, will be enlightened and supportive. There are also views that queer theory, in fact, has an ethic responsibility to show what sexual prohibitions and discrimination do to people (Smith, 1998). However, what good the literature does when the only expression readers seem to find considering Malec (Magnus and Alec) is “that’s so cute.” Both of them may seem strong and independent, yet not in comparison to other characters that The Mortal Instruments trilogy includes who are simply more than adjectives used above. Consequently, wondering how far popular literature has reached since not-so-serious gay friend Tom in Bridget Jones, it is not as far as some would be pleased to admit. The literature has not been positive about them to a great extent (Brogan, 1994, p. 50). Taking the argumentation even further, there is something wrong with a relation Cassandra Clare’s characters have. The innocent, young Alec, taking his first step into the romantic world with much older, experienced bisexual Magnus, would not have been suspicious if it had not been for events happening in the trilogy. The distinction between child-oblivious and teacherparent behavior is present throughout the whole story. Welcome, yaoi readers, as you will experience failed attempt of “ukes” and “semes” implementation to the American market. The Shadowhunters’ government – the Clave – is a pick of a homophobic society Clare’s characters live in. Their world seems more conservative than the mundane one, where as in mirrored nowadays America, the debate over homosexual 34 Volume III Fall 2016
More Than Innocent Lillies
marriages is present (first book was published in 2007). The Clave strongly encourages young warriors to have a sort of a sworn brother relationship, but rejects the possibility of any romantic feelings between the same sex (Ningrum 2015, p. 5). Magnus is already as far from a perfect son-in-law as possible, thus, being bisexual is the taboo on the level matching mentioning his name during family dinner. Alec, as a shadowhunter, has no other option but to come out. Not the action itself but the events following his decision are exclusively interesting. The almost ancient discrimination vanishes, allowing the lovers to kiss publicly without any significant contempt. Long before those happenings, Alec’s sister, Isabelle, informs the reader that there is no official rule considering gay relationships, however, the majority of elders does not approve it. Simple as that, Malec cannot be forbidden, yet the book’s assumption forasmuch that prejudices and discrimination will disappear once an individual publically admits to not being heterosexual, is yet to be addressed. The author adjusts homophobia to the events whenever it is helpful for Alec to come out, and since after that it would be an obstacle, it is slightly removed (Ningrum 2015, p. 5). Even in the world where teenagers are being sent to a supernatural prison due to personal grudge, discrimination should not disappear so easily. In 2014, at Hay Festival, Cassandra Clare told the teenage audience that the characters made her realize things about their character. “Alec was angry,” she said, “and I realized he was in love with Jace.” She rewards his emotions by making his not-so-serious happy ending possible and, at the same time, giving the reader what was desired – Alec and Magnus’ story as the main plot of Bane Chronicles stories giving an insight into an even more cute life of those also cute lovers. The author is known for answering questions from fans on her Tumblr. When asked about her inspiration for putting LGBT characters in her books, she admitted to having strong relationship with that community. She listed her bisexual best friend, queer critique group members, her gay sister-in-law, and many others. She added that the world she sees in her head has always included gay people. In this respect, including homosexual characters seems natural. The reason for not treating them more seriously is a mystery for everyone except the author herself. What is not so mysterious is talking about The Mortal Instruments trilogy as it was not targeted to a particular sort of reader. However, self-evident is the fact that Clare’s books have been labelled as both young-adult fiction and urban fantasy genre the day of its publication, putting her audience inside more or less wide frames. The books' audience were typically women in their late twenties as well as thirteen-yearolds. It does not exclude males, however, they are a minority in that respect. Recognizing the target group as mostly young women, infantile reactions are not completely surprising due to certain stereotypes. However, their damaging power cannot be denied, especially if a gay person takes them more seriously and personally than the (straight) reader did. In order to allow a straight person to think about the gay character in a positive way or a gay person to see him as a mirror of himself, the hero must be treated seriously (Blackburn, Clark, 2009, pp. 29-30). The summary of arguments does not lead to the conclusion that Cassandra Clare’s books cannot be viewed as another brick in the wall of LGBT representation in literature. It raises a demand for a search of a kind of representation that would 35 The WASP
Marta Pytka break the pattern of half-serious, superior depictions presented widely in the 20thand 21st-century popular media. The Mortal Instruments trilogy case reveals that the audience is blind to issues hidden under the surface of admiration for the existence of representation alone, which makes them deny any further judgment. “So cute and innocent” expressions deprive the reader of authenticity and capability of being a critical thinker due to the fact that he/she fails to acknowledge the book’s possible perpetuation of stereotypes.
Bibliography: Blackburn, V. M., & Clark, T. C. (2009). Reading LGBT-Themed Literature with Young People: What’s Possible? The English Journal 98, No. 4: 25-32. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40503257. Brogan, J. (1994). Gay Teens in Literature. The High School Journal 77, no. ½(1993,1994): 50 57. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40364631. Sholehati Ningrum, A. (2015). The Concept of Masculinity Symbol Within American Society’s Perspective AS Portrayed In ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.’ Rainbow: Journal of Literature, Linguistics and Cultural Studies 4 (1). Smith, D. (1998). ‘Queer Theory’ is Entering The Literary Mainstream. The New York Times, January 17.
Cassandra’s Clare answers included: On her LGBT experience: http://cassandraclare.tumblr.com/post/21741714357/being-part-of-the-lgbtcommunity-it-was-really On gay characters: http://cassandraclare.tumblr.com/post/15855079639/on-gaycharacters
36 Volume III Fall 2016
37 The WASP
Satan Satan Dominika Kowalska
Four days ago I had an eye-surgery. Now I am feeling well, the sight is coming back. It is still blurry and will be for some time (at least for two more weeks) until it stabilizes. Laser vision correction was something I wanted to do for a long time. Why did I do it? For various reasons. Since primary school I had to wear glasses. Everyone who has to wear them (no, not the people who wear fake glasses in order to look smart) knows how it is not being able to run into the ocean as you stand, open your eyes under water and see fish, put on sunglasses on a sunny day, lay your head comfortably over somebody’s shoulder or on a pillow and read a book until you fall asleep and not destroy your glasses (and if you do, the next day you walk half-blind unless you have another pair or use lenses), go into the warm room/bus in winter without getting your lenses fogged, unexpectedly sleep over at somebody’s place wearing lenses (and not carry all the lens equipment with you, because usually 38 The WASP – Volume III Fall 2016
you just don’t) or simply put on a heavy (slutty) eye make-up that people can actually see, and enjoy the night while you’re still young. Coming back to the surgery, I had two friends taking care of me. It would be possible to do it all alone, as you do not lose the sight entirely, the vision is just blurred, but life is better together so I decided to go through it with friends. If it matters and makes the story funnier, one of them is deaf. For the rest of the details: Gender: female (x2); Color: fifty shades of rainbow (x2). First of all, it was scary. The night before I was more calm than one of my friends. The surgery was to take place quarter to nine a.m., and out of fear that she wouldn’t wake up on time to assist me in the morning, she didn’t go to sleep at all. When I called her in the morning to wake her up, she was already ready to go. Forty minutes after our phone call, she came to pick us (me and my flatmate) up. By that time, I was stressed out as hell. In my hand I was holding the consent for the surgery of which I was not sure whether I’d undergo. The friend who was driving was singing “Satan Satan” to make me feel more at ease. It was hard to find a parking spot in the center of Warsaw at that hour. Ten minutes and two circles around the blocks we finally entered the clinic. As we sat in the waiting room, I started thinking of what was going to happen. Weeks before the surgery I read all about it… it was a mistake. Sometimes it is better not to know, but it was too late. The nurse called my name and I followed her. She was the jester type. As she was giving me analgesia and drugs that would calm me down, she was telling me the medical jokes that only made me feel more anxious. She asked me what result I imagined to see after the surgery. “To be able to wink and shoot laser at the new government.” I said. The jester nurse didn’t have a retort so she silently dropped the medicine into my eyes one more time. After fifteen minutes I was ready to go under the laser (more or less shaken). I will spare you the details as it is not very pleasant and I know that eyes and things that can be done with them (have you seen Un Chien Andalou?) may disgust some people. It didn’t hurt half of what I was expecting it to. Fear exceeded the pain. The sight was already improved. I could read the hour on the clock hanged on the wall while still lying on the bed. The surgery lasted less than ten minutes. The jester nurse came to the surgery room. “Can you see me?”- She asked. 39 The WASP
“Yes.” “Do you know why?” “Because I’m alive?” “No, because I’m fat.” Five minutes later, I left the treatment room in sunglasses provided by the clinic. “Satan Satan” song welcomed me and it felt great to be able to see clearly the person who sang it. Both of my friends seemed disappointed as they hoped that I would be incapacitated and they could do whatever they pleased with me. But this is not the end of the story. The same day I listened to the audiobook for a while and fell asleep. I felt so good, that I decided to have more friends over the same evening. They were drinking red wine and kept calling my cat the wrong name. The hell started when I went to sleep around 1 a.m., after they left. I woke up in the middle of the night without being able to open my eyes without dropping the tears. My eyes cried rivers and I feared I would dehydrate if it continued. I gestured to my flat mate to put more water on my night table. I wanted to tear out my eyeballs as they hurt so much. I heavily overdosed the painkillers, not only the ones that were given to me, oh no, I am the type of woman who is always prepared so I had a bottle of really strong painkillers waiting on my night table. Unfortunately, they weren’t as strong as the pain. Sometimes when it was the time for eye drops I wasn’t able to open my eyes to receive it. I was howling and pulling the cover over my head. Luckily the friend whose task was to drop the meds into my eyes five times a day is deaf and didn’t hear all the cursing. This state lasted 24 hours. After that time, I was left with photophobia and a cat to take care of, as my flat mate already left for the Christmas holidays. The cat was very disappointed, as I couldn’t really pet her the way she deserved to be petted, with all the hugging and pretending that she was Simba from the Lion King, and she isn’t really a pettable-by-other-people type (especially if they call her weird names, she has pride). I couldn’t stand even the tempered-bright purple Christmas lights wrapped around the Mexican Saint-Mary picture instead of a spruce, like it should be in every good Christian house. My friend and I were eating in darkness the Iranian dish she was making for four hours that day. It was almost as we were in one of Dans le noir restaurants, which started to pop out two decades ago in cities such 40 Volume III Fall 2016
as Paris, London, or New York. Khoresh Bademjun was delicious. But was it because it was well-cooked or because I could taste it better in darkness? Now I’m feeling well. The photophobia disappeared. I can’t shoot laser, but I can read and write. Yesterday I dared to go out to the furthest grocery store in my neighborhood just to breathe the air and appreciate that I can actually do it on my own, something that I was taking for granted. During the last four days I’ve learned that most of the things we can do on our own, but it is way nicer when you have somebody who sings “Satan Satan” to you.
41 The WASP
42 Volume III Fall 2016
Dance of Silence Imran Hossain
Sigh meets silence at its end Hence silence is silent no more My words were unheard then My silence knocked at your door.
And The Truth Is What You believe As True Imran Hossain
Who says such thing That we've nothing in common Silly girl! Look into our eyes Don't they behold the same world And blink every now & then at the same way? Don't they look for what we've lost already? Tell me girl; do tell Aren't those tears that we shed Common in taste, color & zeal? Alright, may be you long for more proof And there are more things indeed That we have in common So many I'm telling you And I'm telling you the truth The truth is what we believe And the truth is what you believe as true. 43 The WASP
Adam Radomski – student of ASC with a major interest in how technologically and futuristically oriented progress influences society. His pessimistic perception of the upcoming years have made him hell-bent on working towards preventing negative impacts of a world that is developing at an unprecedented rate. Natalia Ogórek – singing is her biggest passion, but she does not connect her future with it. Lover of TV series and Marvel. 70% funny, 50% weird, 100% organized. Aleksandra Barciszewska – editor-in-chief. BA-program-survivor. Vampiricpsychoanalyst-by-nature. Extracting the sexual from the mundane, rejecting reality for the sake of the very-tale of momentary satiation of the urges for creation. Nadia Błaszczyk – her biggest passion is travelling, so she tries to travel as much as possible. She hates to sit in one place for too long so in her spare time she plans new trips and explores new places (even if they are just around the corner). Addicted to drinking tea, even in summer. Her favorite piece of clothing is a smile. Paulina Niewiadomska – a psychologist manquée and a would-be illustrator who instead of writing her M.A. thesis made drawings for this issue. Currently she is fully enjoying la dolce vita all’italiana. Marta Pytka - 2nd year student at ASC who does not give up on trying to embrace Korean Studies as her second faculty. Deeply convinced that the most effective time for a creative process of writing comes along with Spanish exams. She puts her interests inside a box of surprises and bets which gets picked: AsianAmericans, Assimilation Theories, Salem Trials History or Science Fiction mixed with Korean Dramas. Dominika Kowalska – in her spare time she plans a revolution, fights for women and minority rights, writes stories, and drinks coffee at midnight. Imran Hossain – Student of American Studies Center. Received 1st MA in Literature from Jahangirnagar University. An observer of emotions; tends to see beyond the edges and express himself through prose and verse.
44 Volume III Fall 2016