Do not come at Beyoncé.

In response to some disparaging remarks that a person who, in real life, is legitimately named Becky made about the queen in my presence, I had to send off the following email….

beyonce-hot-sauce

Dear Becky,
When you came back over to talk about Lemonade, I was so excited to engage in an exchange of ideas with you, and when I said, “I understand your point of view,” I absolutely did; I was just hoping for a more balanced conversation where I could also share mine.
 
When I watched Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade, I not only liked the music, but I was awed by the range of genres; the songs include reggae, ballad, pop, country, rock, gospel and more, so I found it hard to understand why you said she turned you off with her “gangster rap” right from the beginning.  Gangster rap is actually a specific type of hip hop music and there isn’t any of it on her album, but I could see how the term could get misunderstood and misused.  Outside of the music itself, since music is always subjective and it makes total sense that two people would disagree on whether or not an album is “good,” the messages in Lemonade are so deep and far-reaching and universal that I hate to see it incorrectly reduced to “gangster rap” and then dismissed without being able to represent alternative views on it.  For example:
 
NPR calls it a “a full-length visual album, following a sweeping narrative arc of rage to redemption.” 
 
The Daily Beast calls it “an ode to strong women, black love, and everyday magic… This is Bey at her most subversive and powerful” in one article and epic, cathartic, powerful, feminist, unapologetically black, transfixing, gorgeous, assured, groundbreaking, refreshing, and jarring in another.
 
The Root says it’s “a stunning piece of art…a burning, soaring love letter to herself and black women.”
 
So when you say Beyoncé focuses on one small facet of life, that doesn’t match what I know of her as a musician and performer or what I’ve read about her in the think-pieces referenced above as well as the others I’ve collected on a Pinterest board I used to use to keep track of resources I wanted to share with my advisory, but again, that may be your interpretation of what you’ve seen of her work.  To say though, as you did, that she “only uses her cunt” in her performances is straight up wrong.  She uses her brains and her voice and her self-possessed star power and, yes, her body, but there is nothing implicitly wrong with a woman choosing to move or dance a certain way, in my opinion.  You say you chose to remain asexual while being strong, politically vocal and business savvy, and that’s great.  I wouldn’t begrudge you that choice, but I also wouldn’t encourage women to judge one another for making different choices than the ones they’ve made for themselves.  Beyoncé does not only “fuck the floor,” as you characterized her dancing.  She’s an accomplished singer and dancer and it confuses and saddens me to think that all you see when you view her is someone using her cunt to fuck the floor.  
 
Another point of yours I listened to but disagreed with was that she and Jay-Z “use their blackness” to bolster themselves in events connected to President Obama, capitalizing on what you described as the likelihood that his young children like her music.  As you said, I don’t know you very well, so I suppose it’s possible that you’ve also speculated that white musicians and performers have been “using their whiteness” to align themselves with every single president that came before Obama, but if not, I would question why you choose to view Beyoncé performing at the White House as an exploitation of a shared race.  You asked me if I thought that was racist, and I said no, because, as Damon Young pointed out in this article, “something is racist if the act stems from either a belief of racial superiority or a position of constructed/structural racial superiority, or both,” but the term does not cover “all unfavorable acts which might be race-based.”  There was no reason for me to assume that your position on Beyoncé and Jay-Z “using their blackness” stemmed from a belief of racial superiority, so I was trying to reply to your question by saying that no, I wasn’t assuming you are racist, but I did think your statement was wrong and wondered whether you’d applied the same logic to white presidents and the musicians they’d invited to perform.
 
I understand that you don’t like Beyoncé and I wouldn’t try to convince you to change your mind; I would just ask that you listen while I explain why I do, as I listened to you.
 
Jillian
beyocne-who
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Final Project: An Op-Ed Submission on Drunk History

drunk history 2

Comedy Central’s Drunk History is an engaging, multimodal composition that reaches wide audiences with seldom told anecdotes in history that frequently recover women’s voices and accomplishments in ways that traditional textbooks do not.  And I want to write about it.  Specifically, I want to test drive my identity as a humor researcher in the field of  rhetoric/composition with skills in analyzing media.  To this end, I will be submitting an op-ed to The New York Times… here’s a preview of what it will look like:

NY Times

And This Is Your History on Booze

 

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Ignite Presentation

For my final project, I will attempt to get Derek Waters’s attention by publishing an article about Drunk History in a public forum, like The Atlantic or The New York Times, so I can pitch him the idea of doing an episode about stand-up comedians.  Here’s my Ignite Presentation about it:

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Multimedia Reflective Essay #2: Chickens, Mr. Bean, and Puddle Splashing

hatchingThis egg signifies the semester, and the footprints are a look ahead at the end of it, when I will hatch from it, having completed my final semester of coursework in the Ph.D. program, which has included my final course in the graduate certificate in digital literacy program.  What a happy chicken I will feel like then!  I don’t want to count any chickens before they’re hatched though, so I now turn to the task at hand…

From March 3rd (when the first reflective essay was due) to now, what have I learned and how have I learned it?  Well, the speedy answers would be: A lot, and in multiple ways.  But let me expand, because that doesn’t quite add up to 750-1500 words, now does it?

In my first reflective essay, I focused on empowerment, copyright and privacy.  For this go-around, I am thinking about what and how I have learned about identity, collaboration, and improvisation.

In the past ten years, I have considered my job as a teacher to be many things: Some days, I was a mother, some days a drill sergeant, some days a nurse, some days a coach, some days a friend, and some days all these things and more, at different times with different students.  But one thing I always considered to be a big part of my job in working with high school students every day was to help them figure out who they wanted to be, why, and how.  Identity is important.  I didn’t want my students to feel lost and confused, like Jennifer Lawrence in this gif…

confusion

I wanted them to feel confident and proud, like Ben Stiller in this one…

confidence

Digital authorship provides different opportunities for students to find out who they want to be, and why, and how.  This concept, for me, is tied to audience, another big idea we read about and discussed in this class.  In order to build units and lessons that leave room for my students to share what they’ve learned and express themselves as individuals, I tried to be mindful of audience, because as totally hip as I am (read: students may not feel this way), writing a boring paper for just me is not the best way to forge an identity.  BUT creating a video to share with the class, either in place of or in addition to a boring old paper, adds an element of audience that makes identity forging a more authentic pursuit.  I’ve definitely had students who have produced videos we might call “unwatchable” because the production quality was not that great, but those students were still crazy proud of their work, and their self reflection and peer feedback will help their next production to be more watchable.

mr beanAs I mentioned in my last post, I worked with Mark Davis to create our LEAP 4 video, and that experience was laden with lessons about collaboration.  Mark and I have both said that we learn through social interaction and meaning making with peers, and it’s a good think that’s a learning strength for us, because it made for a good partnership!  To the surprise of no one, Mark had more digital know-how than I did.  But collaborating together, and tossing ideas back and forth, made the learning and the making more fun and more dynamic, I think, than it would have been if either one of us had tackled the project alone.

improv
Improvisation has been a major theme for me this month!  First, I kicked April off with a panel presentation called How Many Discourses Does It Take to Screw in a Humor Symposium?: Theorizing the Pedagogical Possibilities of Humorous Media, which I presented at the 2015 Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference with Renee Hobbs, Mike RobbGrieco, and Will Luera.  If you want to see the PowerPoint presentation we used, I’m including that below, although I will warn you that the format didn’t transfer too perfectly, so there are some parts that don’t look right.  It was like a late April Fool’s Day joke.

Then we watched that great TED Talk called “The Way of Improvisation,” by David Morris.

And THEN another professor of mine mentioned this piece she heard on NPR about the folks from Second City hosting improv classes for business people to teach them how to work and play together. My major takeaway about improv from all three of these experiences is that it is a way to:

pole

  1. create something out of nothing
  2. bounce back from failure, and
  3. work together to listen and build off one another

The second one listed there reminded me of this excellent Sketchnote image I saw on Pinterest once, which makes an important point about the importance of productive failure, something that David Morris talked about in his TED Talk as well.  In Improvisation and Strategic Risk-taking in Informal Learning with Digital Media Literacy, Renee Hobbs framed improvisation as a way to take a potentially embarrassing and confusing encounter and turn it into a teachable moment for children.  Now that’s powerful.  And playful.

puddleSpeaking of playful, I just want to return to my egg hatching comparison from the beginning for a moment to clarify that although the counting marks on the inside of the shell imply a certain impatience, I don’t see this semester as a place of captivity that I’m waiting to bust out of; I’m having fun and learning on my way to getting hatched.  April showers bring May flowers, after all, and I love jumping in the proverbial puddles!

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LEAP #4: Collaborative Dialogue Video

What fun!  The one and only Media Magic Man Mark Davis agreed to be my partner for some reason, and without having met in person a single time, the two of us collaborated on a video for this assignment.  End product:

Through text, email, Google Docs, Google Hangout, phone, and Twitter, we concocted a plan and compiled resources for it.  Mark did a really great job of describing the process so rather than trying to duplicate it, I will direct you to his awesome post here.

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LEAP #3: Deconstructing a YouTube Video

For this assignment, I deconstructed an episode of Derek Waters’s show Drunk History, commenting on the creative process, representation, and what makes it comical.

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I have an academic crush on Gloria Anzaldúa.

gloria-anzalsuab

There are many reasons why this week’s readings speak to me.  Why don’t I just mestiza this post up by using a nice little numbered list to tell you about them?

  1. Crossing Borderlands is just a much more pleasant book to read out of than Norton.  Size matters, it turns out, and behemoth anthologies with onion skin paper and skinny little margins don’t bring the same satisfaction.
  2. The title of this week’s theme didn’t immediately ring a “transcultural” alarm in my head, so the mestiza-centered, borderland ideas sort of snuck up on me, and I was so, so happy to see them; unfortunately, I already used my “my jam” card, and Adrienne called this week, so I’ll have to just call this “my happy place wheelhouse.”
  3. Like Lindy stated in an earlier week’s post, I too enjoy identifying connections, and when I see links between my M.A. in ESL and Cross Cultural Studies and my Ph.D. program in Writing and Rhetoric, I am tan contenta.
  4. I have an academic crush on Gloria Anzaldúa.

It’s this last one I’d like to expand on, hence the title of my post.  See, I knew Andrea Lunsford was a smart, smart lady, because she has the good sense to follow me on Twitter.  But to frame an academic essay around interviewing someone as awesome as Gloria Anzaldúa?  That’s some next level ish right there, people.  While there’s plenty of awesomely exciting content on which one might center a “substantive response to something in the reading” this week, the thing that’s been at the center of my personal response has been more in terms of this thing we call “the field,” and, in even broader strokes, on the idea of academia in general.  

First of all, Andrea Lunsford and Lahoucine Ouzgane’s “Composition and Postcultural Studies: An Introduction” struck me as an extraordinary way to state one’s themes and designs for gathering together multiple texts.  They identify the themes as: “resisting the urge to speak for students, valuing student voices and student writing, a focus on access and agency,” etc. (5), and they write that the “essays collected here seek to build on composition’s traditional concerns– for access, agency and material conditions of student writers and their teachers– by situation these concerns in the context of postcolonial theory and in richly situated pedagogical practice” (4).  On both pages, my eyes lit up.  I appreciate when someone can describe a movement or an idea in “the field” that feels warm and important to me.  When Lunsford and Ouzgane described a kind of turning of the tables in the goals of composition, I legitimately grinned, like an overtired, overexcited scholar: “Rejecting the role traditionally assigned writing programs to ‘wash out’ a goodly proportion of those admitted to college, composition scholars instead developed robust theories of writing that went beyond traditional formalism” (2).  I’m sorry for doubling up, but actually, I really do have to call that my jam too.  It can be jam to us both, Adrienne!

Other ways in which this week’s readings made me think deeply and broadly about our field and about academia in general, in addition to thinking specifically and keenly about postcolonial composition theories, include the following:

  • Lunsford and Ouzgane refer to Andrea Greenbaum on page 4, and Greenbaum is my archangel of combining composition with comedy.  Seeing her name again sparked a re-interest in looking at a piece that she wrote, “Stand-up Comedy as Rhetorical Argument,” that will be one of my seminal texts for my dissertation proposal, and looking atthat brought me to another piece that she wrote, “Women’s Comic Voices: The Art and Craft of Female Humor.”  I tweeted that it was blowing my mind, and she retweeted it, and it’s always fun when your archangel retweets you, as a general rule.  That tangent also unearthed some other incredibly promising things that I have to put on hold for just a bit while I focus on current projects for class, but once I’m ready to start getting the ol’ comps list together and fine tuning my dissertation proposal, that stuff is going to rock my world so hard and I’m souped that I found it.
  • Revisiting Anzaldúa via Lunsford’s capable treatment was a reminder about how beautiful and enlightening and important, in a relative way, academic work can be.  I am never trying to hate on the ivory tower and the people in it, and I hope it doesn’t come across that way, but I am always questioning the frameworks and traditions of academia, not because I’m trying to be a dissenting pain in the butt, but because I have real questions that I’m sharing and working through.  Coming across a beautiful little piece like Lunsford’s “Toward a Mestiza Rhetoric: Gloria Anzaldúa on Composition and Postcoloniality” is a lovely reminder for me that academia is, in fact, a place I wish to be a part of, even if I do have questions about the way it all works.
  • Revisiting Anzaldúa via Lunsford’s capable treatment also helped me in the reading of our other texts for the week, because I read them through Anzaldúa, and as I said, I have an academic crush on her.  I really do wish we could have been roommates in college.
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