Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"What is the butt?"

So, I've asked some informants what do they think butts mean personally and socially. The responses have been very amusing. Generally, people like to shake their butts when dancing. Although grabbed and oogled at, their butts remain their own. It's not anyone else's. Socially it would seem that most are not happy with their butts but find them useful just the same.

Thus far, the responses are:

Informant 1 reflects, "The butt is a study in contradictions. Most women long for their butt to be smaller, rounder, tighter, while men seem to think that big is beautiful. The butt is very useful on the stage and dance floor, clenching it lets you spin faster and have more balance, while sticking it out and shaking it gives you the confidence of Beyonce!"

Informant 2 asks, "
What is the butt? My personal cushion I bring with me wherever I go. The largest muscle in my body, it keeps me from falling over as I trot around on these two legs. Socially? It is an acceptable thing for others to grab and hang onto (if I know you). Gives me a little thrill every time someone does. But my butt is still MINE. My butt is not a ghetto booty, but it still likes to shake and dance."

A more musically inclined person, Informant 3 notes, "
Naturally, the first thing that comes to mind is "Baby Got Back." The second thing that comes to mind is that I do not, though I am rarely bothered by a lack of moneymaker to shake. I shake it anyway."

Informant four finds butts (maybe her rear) problematic:

"here's my take on the butt:

I've never really been a huge fan of the butt in general. Probably because after I hit puberty at the end of my sophomore year in highschool, it just seemed to get in the way of my cross country and track events (not that my butt is gigantic, but we're talking pre-10th grade :)). I don't have an aversion to big butts on other people, but I have never understood the reasons behind their sex appeal, probably because I'm from Hawaii, the land of the small Asian butts."

Informant five finds that rears can be in one's face and maybe even in one's mind:

"I think that society thinks of butts as kind of like a walking personal add that others can see, read, decide whether or not they'd like to "tap that" without actually testing out the goods, and then fantasize about it (which leads to fantasies involving other aspects of the other person). For example, John may glance at Jessica's ass, and if he decides that he likes it, he will stare at it and think about having sex with Jessica. However, if John does not find Jessica's ass particularly attractive, there will be no significant response, and he will act like it isn't even there. Another example is that when I was thinner (and considered myself more attractive at the time... but that isn't the point of this discussion), I would make an effort not to wear anything ass-tight, or to ensure my ass was covered if I knew that I would be in a situation where I REALLY did not want the people I would be with to get any ideas.

My ass is also a source of my frustrations because I consider mine to be large, and I have difficulty finding clothes that will fit it properly."

Hopefully, more commentary to come!

Monday, April 23, 2007

neuromancipation of the body

The body seems to be something that is limitless, privileged, and binding throughout "Neuromancer." Limitless because it seems that body modifications are huge in possibilities. Molly has mirror lenses, knife-like objects under her nails. She can always know what times it is. She is linked to Case through the computer. It just seems like almost anything is possible to do to the body. Case, on the other hand, whose nervous system was previously destroyed can rejoin the matrix and be a cyber cowboy. Body modifications changed Cortes to Armitage with the help of the AI Wintermute. Nevertheless, this technology is for those who can afford such procedures. Case would not change his situation without the help and money of Armitage. Not everyone can participate in the huge realm of body modifications, but it appears that many can. The body is also binding. It appears that individuals are in constant search to escape the body through drugs, body modifications, or the matrix. The body is "the meat." Its urges tie the mind down. The body limits what the mind can accomplish. If the body desires sex, this "need" can override one's thought process. The body needs to be escaped, changed, in essence, destroyed so that the mind can win over it.

Gibson's dystopic scenes about the body are prophetic in such cases like Julius. He doesn't appear to be human anymore. His constant fight against aging has left him seeming timeless, odd, and unsettling to both Case and the reader. I found Case's killing of Julius in the matrix almost a relief, as if it stopped Julius' pursuit of the fountain of youth. Also, on Straylight (?), the body is a site of privilege. Gibson goes into great detail describing the fake tans, the "perfect" youthful bodies, that all come with a price. Few seem happy with the body they were born with. There is always something wrong with that body, and always a way to fix that. It seems like we can see that today in Southern California. I have never heard so many commercials or seen so many advertisements for plastic surgery or weight loss until I came to Scripps.

Laser eye surgery reminds me of Molly's eyes in Gibson's novel. Laser eye surgery can correct one's eyes if they needed corrective lenses, but some use this surgery to have better than 20/20 vision. Botox helps individuals retain the appearance of youth longer. Tanning lotion and foams one can buy at a drug store is like the spray tan that Molly uses on Case.

Unplanned/Desired(?) Body Modifications

I interviewed my mother to further understand her reactions to her own body modification journey. As a whole, I would say that my mother is against body modifications beyond ear piercing (one hole in each ear, females only!). She still reacts to my navel piercing even though it is covered almost all of the time. But beyond having her ears pierced, my mom does have other body modifications. First of all, she has birthed five children. Not having gone through childbirth myself, I would venture to say that this will modify one's body quite a bit. Second, my mother is a breast cancer survivor. I originally planned to interview my mother and some of her breast cancer survivor friends. They call themselves the Bosom Buddies. However, after one of their members passed away this past March after a reoccurance, I no longer felt it appropriate to reach out to these ladies, despite my mom telling me that it was ok. I am so proud of my mother. She is strong and courageous. Heck, when she broke the news to me and my siblings with my father, Mom was comforting us instead of vice versa. Sheila, my mom, has been five years cancer free this past March! The five year is exciting for my family because while it doesn't say that she'll never have a reoccurance, Sheila's chances of a reoccurance greatly decrease with each passing year. Besides being incredibly proud of my mother, I was also interested to hear her story about her cancer and her having a mastectomy. That's right, my mother only has one breast. She had the other one removed during her treatment. Breast cancer is scary for many people, but, for me, I will sometimes be very scared for my future and other times feel a little resigned to let fate go its course. My sister (and my brother since men can have breast cancer too) and I are in a high risk category for developing breast cancer in our life time. Whereas my mother has no family history of breast cancer, I now have this history on both sides. My paternal grandmother is a twenty-year survivor of breast cancer, and my paternal great-grandmother had a double mastectomy to remove lumps which were later found to be benign. I feel sometimes that I have my breasts on loan. I would not be surprised if I died without one of them. The idea is scary, but it's something I feel that I need to be aware of. So without further ado, I shall record for you this phone interview with my mother about breasts, mastectomies, and in the end what it means to my mom.

Amy: When were you diagnosed with breast cancer?
Sheila: March 2002

Amy: What was your initial reaction upon learning you were to have a mastectomy?
Sheila: The mastectomy? Or learning I had breast cancer?
Amy: Both, why not
Sheila: I had a choice between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy. But Dr. Breaux said I had such little breasts and that he wanted to remove alot of tissue to ensure that he would remove all cancerous cells. So, in the end, my breast would have looked deformed. I chose the mastectomy because I wanted it all off. Let's see, I found out different than most people because Daddy called the pathologist at the hospital. I kept telling him don't keep anything from me. I was at the computer when he called, I remember that. I forgot the term he used, but I knew what it meant. You just go numb. I wrote it out and you keep looking at it. We didn't talk much. You're just numb; you're looking at it but you can't quite believe it. It's not real.

Amy: Do you ever miss your breast?
Sheila: Not really. No, not really. Paul Breaux tried to get me to do reconstruction. He wants me to every time I go in. No, I don't really miss it. I don't want to have my breast reconstructed. I have to be careful when I wear low cut things when I bend over. I think the biggest reason why I don't miss it is Daddy. Daddy have never blinked an eye, made me fell less than a woman. If I wanted it, he would support me, but he doesn't want me to do it for him. He let me make the decision between a mastectomy and a lumpectomy. But he was very happy I chose the mastectomy.

Amy: Does the mastectomy ever make you self-concious?
Sheila: No, but some shirts for some reason make me look lopsided, so I put extra padding. Otherwise, you can't tell. Self-concious maybe at first. I don't like to stare at it in the shower. I started to look the bathroom door after my surgery, and I still do today. I feel less self-concious in front of Daddy -- he never let on. Only thing is and that's come up from time to time if I can't wear my bra [specially made bra with a prosthesitic breast] I can't get it. I'm choosing to stay within the confines of the bra. I'm not a big fashion person, so I'm not going to pay the money for a new bra.

Amy: Do you believe your breasts compose part of your identiy as a woman?
Sheila: To a certain extent, especially when I was breast feeding and when I was dating and younger. [Overall, this researcher was under the impression that no, breasts did not compose part of my mom's identity as a woman, that her female identity was more than that.]

Amy: How long have you been cancer free?
Sheila: Five years and almost one month.

Amy: Does the place where your breast was ever hurt? Do you have phantom pains?
Sheila: No [phantom pains]. I never feel as if it's there. Now, sometimes I forget which side is the prosthesis. I'm trying to think which side so I can put on my pin and I don't want to puncture it.

Amy: Are you scared that your daughters will develop breast cancer?
Sheila: Yes, just because y'all are at higher risk. I viewed mine as a fluke.

Overall, it was a fun hour conversation with my mom. We were "off" topic quite a bit. The main thing I learned from this conversation is that I have so much respect for my parents. Their relationship is still so strong, and I'm so happy that my mom has a husband who is so supportive of her and makes her feel beautiful, loved, and desired. And, so by then end of talking with Mom, I just think my dad is a wonderful, wonderful man.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Cyborgs and "women of color," eh D. Haraway? What is the connection? Is there a link? This one forces me to think. Not identifying as a woman of color, I cannot make a personal connection to this idea. So, I shall do the best I can. A woman of color must preform many roles, contradictory roles. She is a different person depending on who she encounters. She represents so many different ideas: socioeconomic class, sexuality, etc. She is in some ways Haraway's monster. I do not mean monster in a negative sense but a monster in that the woman of color embodies so many different facets, so many different roles in life. She must be able to transfer from role to role seamlessly, automatically, machine like. To me, the cyborg reference for a woman of color focuses upon what a cyborg is. A cyborg is part human, part machine. A woman of color operating in a world that can be racist and sexist must also be part human and part machine. She must be able to deflect racist and sexist comments or be swallowed by them. There are times when she utilizes her human side: emotional, fragile, biological. But many times she must tap into her machine aspect for the strength to persevere. One of Haraway's qualifications for being a cyborg was the ability to transcend the division between animal and human. With a hierarchical society, people of color can be treated like animals. So a woman of color embodies this animal/human duality. She may not have chosen to take part of this dual nature, but society forces it upon her. The woman of color is akin to a cyborg because she plays so many roles in her life. But, ultimately, she remembers who she is despite her continual performance.

My tongue:
It tastes. It's pink but collects white plaque. It told the doctor that I was dehydrated. Swimming in my mouth, my tongue taps against my permanent metal retainer and is restrained in the cage of my teeth. It is rude or childish when I stick it out alone, but sensual when I stick it into my boyfriend's mouth. My tongue wet and covered with little bulbs that give it a textured surface. It allows me to speak the way I do. Sometimes it become tied and I lose the ability to speak altogether. My mother calls my tongue razor sharp. Tongues become so intricately linked to the term "language." A sign hangs on my mirror reading, "I speak patriarchy but it's not my mother tongue." I force it out in yoga to make my lion face. I can twist it into an "S" but not into a "U." Laura, my older sister, taught herself how to make it into a "U." I'm the only one in my family who can't do that trick. I have failed to use my tongue to tie a cherry stem into a knot, I guess that means I can't give a good blowjob. Have you even gotten your tongue stuck on a piece of ice? It feels so weird when you finally remove the ice. It's as if for a small instance your tongue is smooth. I've used my tongue to taste my way in Europe. Part of travel is the tastes. Eating different foods from different regions. At home, Louisiana, eating is practically a past time. I enjoy food so much, especially spicy food. It's not good food unless your tongue is on fire. Speaking of fire, I burn it so much on hot beverages. I hate when I burn my tongue because I lose the ability to taste for a day. It's really gross to be licked. I hate being licked. The feeling of someone's tongue across my skin is just . . . it makes me shiver. I also hate the taste in your mouth when you wake up in the morning and your tongue feels stiff from lack of motion. I have to warm up my tongue in the morning, move it around, let it be free and loose. I use my tongue quite a bit. I'm a wordy person. I give college tours. I like to talk, informally, shoot the breeze, shoot from the hip. Language is so impaired at times with our own reservations. Our tongues are powerful. One of the most powerful muscles we have. It's long too, going pretty fair down our throats. But the power, I'm referring to is the power to speak using our tongues. Language is pretty amazing, and our tongues learn the minute movements necessary to speak in our particular language. It's one of the reasons why speaking another language can be so difficult. Language is crucial to spreading ideas, and our tongues do quite a bit of wagging.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Where my clothes are from

1) Boycut Underwear - Egypt
2) Bra- China
3) Yellow Dress- India
4) Polka Dot shirt- Indonesia
5) Sports bra- U.S.A.
6) Jean Jumper- Hong Kong
7) Monkey Slippers- China
8) Pointy toe kitten heals- Romania
9) Plaid Skirt- Turkey
10) Blue Jeans- China

I wondered looking at my garments and where they are from is what do people in the countries where this labor is outsourced think of that particular garment. Do they think what I'm wearing is scandalous, immodest, perfectly acceptable. I'm not quite sure. I thought my yellow dress looks like the dresses young girls where in India before they begin to wear adult attire. My kitten toe shoes were purchased in Europe and made in Eastern Europe. Are many garments worn in Western Europe made in Eastern Europe? I do not know. I don't think my plaid skirt would be too popular in rural parts of Turkey. I cannot tell if I'm appropriating another culture wearing clothes made from that country or if my consumption forces other countries to appropriate American capitalist consumer culture. I guess there is not good way to discover that. My participation in the global production of clothing is slightly like Orlan's "cultural appropriations;" however, I do not go as far as she does. If I were to wear an "authentic" African shirt, most people would probably find my outfit not too radical. If I were to wear a sari around campus, I would probably get some unusual looks. There is a degree to which one can appropriate another's cultural image and still be within the bounds of acceptability. What makes Orlan's work so controversial is that she completely appropriates the look of the "Other" even down to the skin tone. She pushes the envelope because it's as if she is trying to become the other. She's rejecting the privilege of her white skin. I think the major link between the Orlan and my clothes is that while Orlan appropriates a look, I'm appropriating labor. It makes me feel quite sleazy to say such a thing, but that's what happening.

The Body Social

I feel that others (being a woman) view the body as something that traps the body. The body restricts how one wants to express herself or himself based on outward appearance. As a woman, I may feel safe walking home at night, but physically (my size, physical strength, and the fact I have breasts) I am in danger. The social reality at times can overwhelm the all other possibilities. At the same time, the body is a space of reclamation. I was born with a vagina, breasts, female-gendered but I do not have to accept the labels others put on me. I can use my body to reclaim my identity and combine my mental perception of myself with my physical body. In our readings, transsexuals, transgender people, and hermaphrodites appear to conceptualize the body as an entity that they need to reclaim and mark as their own. They appear tired of having other place labels on them. To reclaim their body is to create a safe space. One will always have their body. It's not exactly something we can just get rid of, so to make the body a safe space is to have a portable safe space. The body is full of contradictions, but ultimately it's important to feel comfortable in one's skin no matter how much a person chooses to alter it.

Monday, March 5, 2007

"Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails


"I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end
You could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of shit
Upon my liar's chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end

You could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt
If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way"

So, I'm listening to Johnny Cash singing this song, and it makes me think of our last class discussing the idea of self-harm.