Poetry: What Matters

Matter

Oh, what is matter?

 

Ask a scientist and they’ll say,

“Everything.”

Spout explanations of atoms

And chemical bonds

 

Breaking everything down into the same pieces

Gives my soul no peace

Humans can’t care about

Everything

 

What makes something

Matter?

 

I suppose

We have to choose

What we care about—

What we think matters

 

But what a horrible freedom

That gives us

To close our eyes

And ignore

The most important moments

Out of fear

Of opening up our hearts

To the horrors of humanity

Once we allow them to matter

 

But what about the greater horror

Of cramming any death

Any crime against our humanity

Into a dark, forgotten corner

Under the label

“Does Not Matter To Me”

Because it did not happen

To you

Or because it happened

A century ago?

 

Remembrance

Does not mean

Sorrow

Any more than it mandates

Celebration

You do not have to let these deaths

Consume your soul

All we ask

Is that you remember

That they matter.

Combating Chauvinism With Writing

I saw this on Pinterest:

how to write a male
I tried to follow the link embedded in the pin but it gave me an error page. The site it’s from is bookjacketblog.com.

And it struck me as really, really sexist.

I thought #1 was interesting, a little stereotypical but also something you might keep in mind if you wanted to strikingly juxtapose a male and female POV.

After that point, it basically spirals out of control.

Don’t get me wrong: I like writing advice, and I know that not all of the advice out there will be stuff I agree with. But this list goes beyond advice to paint a picture of the male character that is stereotypical, insulting, small-minded, and out of place in the modern environment.

The first time I saw the Pin, I read through it, had a small “wow, way to be sexist” moment, and moved on. But then I came back to my Pinterest feed and it was still there. And I had to think about it again. And being a speech-and-debater who hasn’t been to a competition in a while and girl who has spent way too much time talking about feminism with her journalism class–I couldn’t let it go.

So here’s what is wrong with this check list, and why I can’t just let it disappear into the recesses of my Pinterest feed.

Writing has the power to change society–to change it’s stigmas and challenge it’s chauvinism. The stories we read can humanize people we’ve only ever judged, can make us care about people we want to hate. Novels can be and should be a mechanism for social change, especially in this day and age, where we stand on the precipice of a massive societal movement towards tolerance and understanding.

The mentality behind this checklist is a roadblock to such progress. It tells writers that they do not have to strive to look around them and take the human elements of the real world, boil them down, and recast them into stories that make their readers look around and see the human world (thus beginning a cycle that could honestly change one’s perception). Instead, this checklist proposes that men can be boiled down into seven–seven, not even a round ten–sentence-long descriptions. It removes the drive to search for the right word or scene to convey a character and replaces it with a simple To Do List.

I’m not saying that there aren’t some male characters to whom this checklist applies. The reason this checklist exists in the first place is that it is rooted in reality. However, the issue is that it isn’t titled “How to Write a Stereotypically Alpha-Male Character.” It doesn’t present itself as a resource for writers who want help with writing a certain personality type. It just presents the checklist as if every male character one could ever want to write should have the same characteristics.

First of all, imagine how boring the world would be if that were true. And second of all, imagine how divorced from reality writing would become–it would lose all power to change society, except for the power it had to perpetuate it’s cookie-cutter ideal of masculinity.

I hope that no one saw this check list and took it to heart. I hope that no one saw this checklist and from that point forward, never challenged themselves to write a male character that broke the mold set forth. But I’ve seen the hate-filled posts on social media and the protests on the streets, and I find it hard to believe that there is no one out there who didn’t see this graphic and add it to their writing mindset.

And maybe you’re thinking, “This is just one graphic. I’ve never seen it before. Why all the hullaballu?”

You can dismiss the graphic, sure. It is a far cry from going viral. It’s just something I stumbled upon.

But you cannot dismiss this conversation. You cannot turn your back on the importance of combating chauvinism with writing. And you cannot deny that there are people out there in the world who do not see this checklist as sexist in the extreme–who see it as a list of goals to accomplish, a list of parameters to meet in order to “be a man.”

Writers–you have the chance to change the way people think. Don’t make the mistake of only reinforcing social stigmas and prejudices. 

Break the mold.

I know it’s easier said than done. In my WIP, I constantly struggle with writing innovative characters that don’t rely on stereotypes. Do I always succeed? Probably not.

But maybe it’s a good thing that I saw this graphic on Pinterest. Because from now on, I’ll have a constant reminder of the importance of pushing past stereotypes to find the true essence of the characters I’m trying to create.

Poetry: A Tired Ballet

Our lives are a tired ballet

Ducking around social stigmas

Folding ourselves into delicate poses

Of model citizens

Faces schooled to hide the pain

Of holding unnatural positions

So much weight—

Expectations are not light

Like dreams, you know—

Balanced on tiny, struggling bones

 

Hair pinned back, stiff skirts, shoes laced tight—just so

Only numbered positions allowed

Smile—look graceful!

Be a swan, as if you cannot feel the chains

Coiled around your ankles

 

You have to learn when you’re young,

They say,

And even your bones

Subjugate themselves to the will of the dance

Just try to survive

As you twirl from responsibility to responsibility

Dizzy with stress but you’ve got to

Stay on your feet

Poetry: Being Polite

Being politically correct

Is getting old.

 

Online

Girls say “sorry”

Every third word

For having an opinion

 

And people say,

That’s bad

That’s sad

That’s a Societal Issue.

 

But what if you didn’t say sorry?

Or “not to offend anyone”?

Or “just in my opinion”?

 

Criticism lurks in every corner

Let’s not judge those who

Try to avoid it

By diluting themselves

When we still get uppity

At those who don’t.

 

For once

Can we just say

This made me mad

And this is why

And this is what I think

And I’m not sorry

And if this offended anyone

Let’s look at it rationally:

I probably didn’t mean to offend you personally

Unless you are the person or thing or Societal Force

That offended me in the beginning

In which case

Trying not to offend you

Tends to remove the heart from my argument

 

We don’t want a mean world

And we should be politically correct

We should be kind to each other

But let’s also have the courage

To not say

“In my opinion”

Like it’s a bad thing.

Poetry: Inertia

Inertia:

It is not that I run away

From life

And its

Responsibilities

Chances

And maybes

 

It is more that I let myself

Sit still

While the rest of the world

Runs past

Because “no”

Is shorter

And easier

And less scary

Than any version

Of yes

Poetry: Claustrophobia

Claustrophobia:

I am not claustrophobic

In small spaces.

Caves of rock

Feel secure

And a blanket

Pulled over my head,

Like a fort,

Is comforting

 

I am claustrophobic

When I feel penned in by

Society’s expectations

And do’s and don’ts

And past mistakes

I’m making again

 

I feel claustrophobic

When what I should do

And what I can do

And what I want to do

Zig-zag into each other’s ways

And I’m too tired

From watching the war

To do anything at all

 

I am claustrophobic

When I realize

Forever is impossible

And that there simply aren’t enough

Hours in the day

To be myself

Not with all these walls in the way.