Monday, October 5, 2015

Voices from the Line: The Clothesline Project as Healing Text

I am very familiar with The Clothesline Project. Last semester I was on the proposal and grant writing team for The Advocacy Center of Tompkins County and for our grant pitch, we presented The Clothesline Project. We had shirts hanging in the front of the room during our presentation, as well as digital versions of the shirts that I created on our Powerpoint. We used the shirts as a personal way of telling and showing the stories of those that would be helped via grant money. Though the shirts are very impactful from an audience stand-point, which is one of the motives of the project, Laura Julier discusses the healing aspect of the shirt's creation in chapter 14 of our textbook.

Through her exploration, Julier wishes to see how women voice themselves on the shirts, and how that reflects their healing process. She categorizes different themes she's observed in the shirts (i.e. telling what happened, speaking back, etc.), and discusses her interpretation of the rhetoric in regards to the healing.

As myself and Kirsten lead the discussion, I think it will be important to touch on public vs. private healing, the varying of time and space of the project, and the sense of community created within such a diverse range of survivors.

Specifically in regards to public vs. private healing, I would like to explore with the class how the public healing of speaking out (whether it be on an anonymous shirt, or something like SYM panels on our campus), can be more or less beneficial than private healing (journal writing, etc.). I am a sexual assault survivor and have only ever healed through writing publicly. I wrote a piece about my experiences that was published, and then gained the confidence to speak about my experiences in panels and on video in order to promote others' healing. I have done all my private healing through time passing, and want to not only explore the benefits of private healing in writing, but contrast that to public, and then discuss how The Clothesline Project manages both simultaneously.

Reflecting on Julier's piece on a basic content-level, I really enjoyed her inclusion of various texts, but wish there were more photos included as well. A lot of times, the text is given more or less meaning based on how and where it's written on the shirts, as well as the use of empty space. There is a reason the project is not exclusively printed word, and it is rather an artistic and visual project as well, and I wish the piece included more of that angle.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Personal Essay

I've never been one to pace away my nervousness. The pitching and rolling of my thoughts is enough to induce sickness, let alone accompanied by roused legs. My chest is tightening, but not just in my chest. It has engulfed the entire area from the top of my throat to the part of your stomach where you can feel gas rumble. It is tightening and squeezing and choking. I wiggle my toes inside my shoes to make sure I still can. Outside the window, cars slowly pull out of parking spots and escape from my view. I think there might be people inside them. Inside the window, I am whispering every word I intend to say and using my hands to guide one word into the next.

Though I am the president of Active Minds at Ithaca College, I have never once participated in a Speak Your Mind Panel–my schedule is usually filled with a heavy combination of high expectations and self-loathing. I bullied myself into signing up to panel under the guise that my story could help someone else, and keeping it from them was hurting them. The last thing I wanted was for anyone to feel half the pain and suffering that I felt I had. I was the only one who deserved it.

I walk into the lecture hall and sit down at a table in the front, beside other officers and Active Minds members, from which I demand respect, and before a room of curious onlookers. Some of which I see everyday, others I will never see again. I am the final panelist, yet it is not long until all eyes are on me.

I begin to speak the words I had practiced so vigorously by the window. I look out into a sea of strangers, bouncing my eye contact from person to person, while I stammer to tell a story of perseverance. I tell them about the times I was sexually assaulted. I tell them about being diagnosed with a chronic auto-immune disease. I tell them about losing my father. I tell them about being bullied, fighting with my sexuality, abusive relationships, and suicidal ideation. I tell them about a happy ending in which I'm smiling and taking things one day at a time. For a moment, that is true. They clap and for a moment I feel accepted and wanted. I smile at the thought of the boy in the back deciding that if I had enough strength to stay alive tonight, maybe he did too. Though I'm not sure if I can hold up my end of the bargain, for the moment, it might just all be worth it.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Whose Voice Is It Anyway?

I believe Anne Ruggles Gere's argument in "Whose Voice Is It Anyway?", is that as long as the relationship is there between the author and the reader (or the speaker and the listener, etc.), the receiver of the story can retell it in the originator's place. Gere has spent much of her adult life speaking on behalf of her mother living with dementia, and her adopted daughter living with fetal alcohol syndrome, and therefore recognizes the importance of speaking for those who can't for themselves. Gere discusses writing and reading as being something that can be done together, whether that's the act of workshopping, co-authoring, or even forming words for another person. I think her experience with her family makes her argument compelling, in addition to her personal anecdote regarding cheerleading. The personal element, or in other words, putting her argument/ideas into practice in everyday life, validates her argument. 

What I would like the class to focus on for discussion would be the conflict between retelling one's story for them, and allowing the originator to tell it themselves. By learning to be a part of a collective voice, are we losing the authenticity of the individual? Gere brings up the line from Their Eyes Were Watching God, and though Janie from the story was willing to allow Phoeby to give voice to her story, do we lose a critical opportunity to hear Janie's story how Janie would tell it?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Writing and Healing Introduction

The key terms/concepts I picked out in this introductory chapter regarding a conception of "healing" would include trauma, re-externalization, survival by way of telling stories, importance of community, and normalcy. The opening chapter discussed trauma—what it is, examples of such, who experiences, etc. The authors specifically discussed how trauma comes from a gap in normalcy, and the survivor of trauma feels different and isolated, and can therefore be reluctant to seek help from the community. The community, in this sense, is very important to this person's healing process, as whether they accept the person's experiences or not directly affects these feelings of isolation. The chapter also discussed Dori Laub's idea of re-externalization (p. 6), which is a result of the traumatic event's lack of linear normalcy. Re-externalization is when someone brings the moment outside of his or herself (i.e. in writing) in order to reassert their dominance and control, furthering healing. This, then, leads to the idea that we need to tell our stories in order to survive. 

Regarding the discourse of writing and healing, the authors greatly emphasized self vs. society, therapy vs. writing, and informed practice. Teachers and professors of writing are required to make a decision on the subject of how to handle personal writing of this sort. The authors emphasize that this type of writing will not cease to exist in the classroom, therefore it is important to decide how one will approach it. The idea of therapy vs. writing is introduced by teachers and professors trying to walk the fine line of promoting healing in this way without providing therapy. This balance is an informed practice. "Informed practice leads us to value both the writing and the writer, the individual and the community, the public and the private, to see ourselves in the work of those with whom we write and to see them in what we do and who we are" (p. 16-17).

Though I find much of the work to be very interesting, when prompted with this question my first thoughts are that of the opening. The story describing the demographics of the authors' first students and how their life experiences prompted writing that was highly discouraged as a culture. I think it is very important to recognize that those with different identities (whether race, class, ability, gender, sexual orientation, location, etc.) will be faced with different traumas, yet all will go through a somewhat similar process of healing. It is also very interesting to me, as someone who greatly advocates for sharing stories as a means of healing, that students of this time were denied the chance to open up about their lives, further isolating them. In my mind, a writer opening up and sharing an experience is one of the beauties of this field.

I think, as a class, we should discuss the conflict that arises between the passages on and around page 12 regarding Bartholomae's and Freud's resistance, to that of Allen's discoveries mentioned on page 18 regarding the way in which this writing improves students' abilities across disciplines.