Wednesday, February 28, 2018

“The Same Old Story: Tamed Women and Their Misogynistic Male Counterparts” by Anna Rudegeair

After stripping away the distinct features of the film Swept Away, at its heart the storyline follows a trope seen throughout history: a headstrong and independent woman meeting her match in a misogynistic man set to “tame her.” While watching Swept Away, I was eerily reminded of the Shakespearean classic The Taming of the Shrew. Though these stories end differently and vary in time period, location, and character backgrounds, the common themes of gender roles and the purpose of relationships remain. These two relationships are built on misogynistic and fragile men who need to suck the life force from women in order to feel powerful and fulfilled. If one explores these stories with more scrutiny, perhaps they are not as black and white as they seem; perhaps the tamer will in his own way become the tamed.

Swept Away, directed by Lina Wertmuller in 1974, tells the story of a “manically self-involved blonde named Rafaella” and a “hunky and brooding and self-righteous Communist Party member” named Gennarino, who is a crew member on the yacht of Raffaella’s husband (Ulaby par. 2). The two clash immediately due to Rafaella’s demanding presence and hatred for the Communist party. Early on in the film, Rafaella aligns herself with the views of many of today’s feminists, pronouncing her beliefs that abortion should be free and contraceptives advertised on television (Wertmuller 4:43). Though shrill and often scornful, Rafaella is introduced as a woman who speaks her mind, and does not easily back down. Gennarino despises everything that Rafaella stands for, saying to a crew mate, “If that damn bitch doesn’t keep her mouth shut, I’ll murder her. She’s getting on my nerves” (Wertmuller 7:21). Despite this, Gennarino finds himself sexually attracted to Rafaella, and can only act on this when the two are swept away to a deserted island with no immediate way of escaping. As Roger Ebert puts it, "Ashore and on board the yacht, the woman held the unquestioned upper hand because of her husband's money. But on the island, it's the man, with his survival skills and (most controversial, this) his very masculinity, who's the dominant figure” (Ebert par. 4). Because this shift in power has occurred, Gennarino abuses Rafaella, verbally and physically berating her, and denying her basic human resources like food and shelter unless she submits to his dominance. Though at first Rafaella fights back, she transitions to submissive behavior. Her change is shown in a disturbing  scene, in which she comes to Gennarino crying and saying that she feels “like that rabbit [he] killed” (Wertmuller 1:15:54) before laying down at his feet. Wertmuller presents a troubling relationship in which the more sexually and verbally submissive Rafaella is, the more ecstasy she encounters, to the point where she believes that she is in love with Gennarino. He cannot accept her love as an equal however, saying to her, “If you only knew how beautiful you become when I beat you” (Wertmuller 1:28:03). The two characters spend the rest of their time on the island becoming more intimately intertwined in their lusty relationship. Up to this point in the film, it seems that Gennarino has tamed his woman into what he wants her to be, a notion that calls to mind Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

In this comedy, the tempestuous Katherine, known throughout Padua for her tantrums and shrewishness, is wooed by the brutish Petruchio against her will. Like Rafaella, Kate is subject to the whims of men in power. In order for Kate’s beautiful (and complacent) younger sister to marry, Kate must first be handed off to a worthy suitor. Unlike Gennarino, who wins over Rafaella with his assault, Petruchio insistently flatters and threatens Kate despite her protests. Kate and Rafaella, both presented as feisty and unwilling to comply, find themselves in need of what the men can provide: marriage and a way to survive. If these women acted as society dictates a proper lady should, perhaps the men would not feel the need to break them down and build them back up again. While it is true that both Kate and Raffaella are often rude and caustic, the real problem stems from the reality that they are women with those traits.

Though Petruchio and Gennarino both intend to tame their respective women, their reason for doing so contrasts one another. Petruchio clearly states that in looking for a wife, “I come to wive it wealthily in Padua; If wealthily, then happily in Padua” (I.ii.62-73). Conversely, Gennarino holds disdain for the rich and privileged, using it as an excuse to beat Rafaella. Despite this difference, these men can be viewed in two capacities. Either they are both brutes who thrive off domineering in relationships, or they are indeed capable of loving these woman, and believe the way to do this is through dominance. Regardless of their reasoning, these two men are misogynistic and fragile in their masculine identity. Gennarino says this of a woman’s purpose, “Women were meant to serve men, understand?” (Wertmuller 59:34). Petruchio says this: “Women were made to bear, and so are you” (II.i.194). In order to feel successful in their status as men, these two feel the need to put women “in their place.” Without women succumbing to their beck and call, these men have no purpose. These stories provide an example of how possession is linked to manhood; it is not enough for these men to be in equal, reciprocating relationships, they must own. Before Katherine, Petruchio, was a wandering bachelor, and before Rafaella, Gennarino was merely a crew member on a Yacht. Though Katherine and Rafaella may be the most “tamed” at first sight, the men become tamed in a way as well. Petruchio can wander selfishly no more, but must now be a faithful husband to match Kate’s obedience. Gennarino will be haunted by his feelings for Rafaella.

Though both
Swept Away and Taming of the Shrew present very difficult relationships to watch, perhaps it is possible for these characters to change and live in happy, albeit unconventional relationships. The subject matter of Wertmuller’s film seems to suggest that women are most happy when they are under the sway of a powerful man. “This is a notion the feminists have spent the last 10 years trying to erase from our collective fantasies, and it must be unsettling, to say the least, to find the foremost woman director making a whole movie out of it” (Ebert Par.5). Though feminism is based around gender equality, perhaps it should also include a woman being able to choose what kind of life makes her feel happy and satisfied. Though the relationship of Rafaella and Gennarino is not in keeping with the gender roles (or lack thereof) that modern feminism promotes, if the two are happy in their own way, it might justify their behavior. Lisa Dillon, an actress who played Kate in The Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2012 production of The Taming of the Shrew says this, “It’s not just men versus women, there is one specific woman, and the things that happen to her. So, you can’t generalize it being about all men and women. Kate behaves quite badly, and nobody can do that long-term. So then it becomes about someone damaged who needs structure in her life” (Dillon 1:10).  To this, her co-star David Caves adds, “You have these people who are pretty messed up, that find each other, and work out a way of being together” (Caves 1:27). These comments could also apply to Rafaella and Gennarino’s tumultuous relationship. Perhaps Wertmuller was not trying to create the blueprints of a relationship that all men and women should follow, just that these two can. Perhaps Shakespeare was not trying to assert his belief of gender roles, but, “was demonstrating the way in which women are beaten down, criticised and derided for being themselves and in an ironic way was challenging this?” (Jamieson par. 5). Regardless of the creator's' intent, these two relationships are interesting mirrors of one another, and just two examples of this storyline. It is seen in the Greek story of Pygmalion, as well as the classic musical My Fair Lady. Despite the sometimes disturbing sequences in Swept Away, the film presents interesting questions with ambiguous answers, and will challenge audience members for years to come.

Works Cited

           Ebert, Roger. "Swept Away Movie Review (1976)." Romano Cardarelli, 20 Feb. 1976. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

           Jamieson, Lee. "'The Taming of the Shrew': A Feminist Reading." ThoughtCo. N.p., 24 May 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

            Shakespeare, William. "The Taming of the Shrew." Taming of the Shrew: Entire Play., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

            Wertmueller, Lina (Dir.). “Swept Away.” Perf. Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato. Romano Cardarelli, 1974. 28 Aug. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

            Ulaby, Neda. "'Swept Away' — Twice." NPR. NPR, 03 Sept. 2004. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.

               'A Warts and All Kind of Love' | The Taming of the Shrew. Perf. D
avid Caves and Lisa The Royal Shakespeare Company, 7 Feb. 2012. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

"I Am Who Am: A Photographic Eye to Identity" by Jennifer Scully

The mere topic of identity is already an extremely controversial discussion based on religion, philosophies, nationalities and heritages. For many, religion is a major part of their character, while others exist with no such presence in their lives. Religious and nonreligious people have more in common than one would think. Both parties believe in something; secular or not. A nonreligious person may adopt psychological outlooks into their lives just as a religious-oriented person may adopt catechismal dogmas. In both situations, however disparate, those beliefs become an element of their identity as being in this world. Despite the exhausted trend of highlighting differences in each other, we are all one human race. As Walt Whitman says in "Song of Myself," Section 1, “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you” (Whitman).

As a person who was raised in the Catholic Church, I knew little about other religions and ways of thinking. My entire career as a Catholic  school  student had consisted of being forced fed parochial  ideologies. As expected, I regurgitated all this information onto meaningless tests and quizzes. Though I had learned and retain these things, I never digested any of it. The whole objective of schooling children in “their” religion is not only to be knowledgeable, but develop a deep faith as well. Teachers, parents and clergy just assume that, with the religious education, comes the faith. Despite this, I never had faith. I never truly believed in anything I was being taught. Perhaps I did not ponder enough or I just did not care. Either way, I have gone through life sitting in church every Sunday. And for what reason? I did not gain anything from it nor did I lose anything. No harm no foul, right? Not until quite recently did I begin to open my eyes and wake up to the disturbing reality of the Catholic Church. ‘We don’t hate homosexuals, but we can’t allow them to marry because it's contrary to natural law.’ Barring someone from being themselves and depriving them of the happiness they deserve just based on their sexual orientation seems like enough to label the Church as homophobic. This is just one of many examples of  my realizations about the truth of the Church. The word “catholic” alone means something that is “of interest to all” and has “sympathies with all.” I find that rather ironic. 

Homophobia, prevalent in the Church, stems from  fear of unknowing. Within a book called The Four Agreements, the author Don Miguel Ruiz explains an ancient Toltec (Mexican) wisdom. He discusses a conscious relationship between ourselves and the world. These entities are referred to as “dreams.” There exists our “personal dream” and the “outside/society dream.”  Though very separate, these dreams feed into each other.  The outside dream “includes all of society’s rules, its beliefs, its laws, its religions, its different cultures and ways to be, its government, schools, social events and holidays” (Ruiz 2). On the other hand, the personal dream is “what you believe, all the concepts you have about who you are, all the agreements you have made with others, with yourself, and even with God” (Ruiz 16). Everyone’s personal dreams are different yet we all live bound by the society dream. According to the Toltecs, we make agreements throughout our lives without even being aware. When we are born, we are given a name. We did not have a chance to choose that name, but we agree to it anyway. It is the same with religion. As children, our parents may bring us up in a certain religion and without choice, we agreed to it. As we grow older, we are able to choose for ourselves. Despite this, “the agreement is so strong that even if we understand that concept of it not being true, we feel the  blame, the guilt, and the shame occur that if we go against these rules” (Ruiz 11).

In regards to my Catholic upbringing, I feel that exact way. I have personally rejected all of the teachings, but the people who raised me have not. In refusing to attend mass on Sundays, my dad was extremely disappointed. When I told him that I no longer identify as Catholic, he was perplexed, asking “what about your faith?” He could not understand that I never had faith. I started to feel guilty. I did not only want to dissatisfy him but, most especially, my grandfather. Due to the fear of shame, my grandfather still is unaware of my parting with the Church. Being the case, I cannot be honest about myself and must censor my (lack of) beliefs. Fear is everywhere. Fear controls the outside dream (violence, addictions, injustices), thus controlling the personal dream. Concerning the Church, “the whole dream is based on false law. Ninety five percent of the beliefs we have stored in our minds are nothing but lies, and we suffer because we believe all these lies” (Ruiz 13). Lies such as a gay person is a bad human being or that women should be suppressed (for patriarchal benefit) are perpetuated by the Catholic Church. This incites fear in both the oppressor and in the oppressed, furthering a division of  the human race.

In The Book: On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, author Alan Watts refers to one of the biggest taboos known to humankind: sex. Many parents avoid or hesitate telling their children about the source of all life. It is so taboo that Watts mentions a Japanese tradition in which the parents give their children what is called a “pillow book” instead of informing them correctly. The book simply depicts sexual manners, leaving the reader uneducated about the biological and spiritual aspects. Some may compare this book to the likes of pornography or other “dirty” material. This not only produces ignorant humans, but also maintains sex as a taboo. A similar situation is present in the Catholic Church. Growing up, I always had to dress nicely for Sunday mass. And when I say “dress nicely,” I mean covering up. Showing “too much skin” was inappropriate for that atmosphere, for I was in the presence of God. Physical modesty is valued, to say the least. Thinking back now as an educated (and religiously detached) eighteen-year-old woman, it is almost disturbing. If little girls are  told to “cover up” by  (usually) older men, wouldn’t that suggest that these girls are being sexualized? Most young girls are unaware of sex yet they are already victims of the taboo. This unwritten rule of modesty preserves the objectification of females. Throughout my schooling, I was always taught that sex was essentially bad and sinful. If it is so shameful, then why does the Church perpetuate it?

Religion is hardly a basic belief system. Watts describes it as being “divisive and quarrelsome.” Under the guise of a faithful international congregation, he calls religion as simply a “form of one-up-manship.” This is especially prevalent in the Roman Catholic Church. It is almost as if the entire religion is based on exclusivity, not Jesus. Even from a very young age, I could sense the strong emphasis of good versus evil. In most situations, “evil” was essentially anything that contradicted the Church’s teachings. Of course, everything about the Church was good and holy. If you prayed, attended weekly mass, went to confession regularly and received communion, you would be “saved.” If you neglected those duties as a Catholic, you were on a path to damnation. It is taught that only through Christ can one gain salvation from the fires of Hell. Though the message of salvation is not delivered as harshly as it was in the early Church, that idea is still in the foundation of  belief. Due to this attitude, the Church has been attempting to “save” people for hundreds of years through missionary conversions. Missionaries travel the world to different civilizations in hopes of converting peoples, disregarding their pre-existing belief systems.

Religions, such as Catholicism, truly place people in a box in which there is no way to get out.  Devoted Catholics declare themselves as followers of Christ. It is as if every Catholic is looking through binoculars, cutting off their peripheral views. Not only are they ignoring other beliefs, but rejecting them as well. This is an extremely close-minded and hostile mentality despite the fact that faith should be the epitome of open-mindedness. Despite that aspect, the teachings of the Catholic Church are haunted by the recurring theme of love. Nearly every homily that I have ever sat through was based on the significance of love. However, the entire scene implies a major contradiction. If God is love, why would “He” make existence so difficult? This was especially curious to me, as I was witness to hate and inequality towards women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community within the Church. As a young child, every Catholic is told that “Jesus loves them.” That phrase is repeated so often that one must wonder if the Church is overcompensating for something. The bulk of the “Catholic contract” expresses love, but most fail to read the fine print.

In accordance with Catholicism, Watts examines the human mentality of identity as me against them. He explains, “Most of us have the sensation that 'I myself' is a separate center of feeling and action, living inside and bounded by the physical body—a center which 'confronts' an 'external' world of people and things, making contact through the senses with a universe both alien and strange” (Watts). In reading that, I can relate greatly. This is the mindset that incites fear (just as the outside dream does in The Four Agreements) and thus is cause for my personal anxieties and feelings of aloneness. Common phrases, such as “I came into this world,” bolsters human division. As products of the universe, we should be saying that we “came out of the world.” Watts channels poet Walt Whitman in saying that “every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe” (Watts).  Though I know these things to be true, I do not have a conscious sense of  it in my daily life so I go on as viewing myself as an outlying entity. In recognizing the world as an external existence, humans feel obligated to conquer. So far, we have quelled everything known to our life such as nature, space, people and more. We must realize that the world is not foreign, but is merely an extension of our own bodies.

In reading Whitman, I immediately noticed a stark contrast to the Catholic creeds previously preached to me. With Whitman, you yourself is god, not a bearded man in the sky. In "Song of Myself," Section 24, he truly challenges the church with, “Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch'd from, The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer, This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds” (Whitman). With Whitman, everything existing around you, including yourself, is god as seen in Song of Myself 1, “My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil, this air” (Whitman). With Whitman, the human race is one with not only each other but with nature. He declares in "Song of Myself," Section 24, “No sentimentalist, no stander above men and women or apart from them…. Whoever degrades another degrades me, And whatever is done or said returns at last to me.” The same theme is present in "Song of Myself," Section 52:  "I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles…….You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, But I shall be good health to you nevertheless, And filter and fibre your blood” (Whitman).  For every  close-minded belief I was taught, Whitman has an open- minded counter thought.

In terms of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, the “cave” in my life was not only the Catholic Church, but my hometown as well. Poughkeepsie is a  cave in the sense that it is a one-track minded, isolated city where many of the people in the community stick to the status quo. Just as Catholicism does not allow room for other beliefs, Poughkeepsie is very exclusive in its way of thinking and the general lifestyle. My fellow high school peers were very insensitive and hateful towards people not of their ilk. I saw that same behavior in the Catholic Church. Arriving here at Hofstra was a culture shock of sorts for me. It is a completely different world where there is inclusivity and students can be whoever they are without receiving constant ridicule. Every time I go home, it is as if I have stepped back into that cave of ignorance and  animosity.

Works Cited

Watts, Alan. “Chapter One: Inside Information .” The Book: On the Taboo against Knowing Who You Are,

Whitman, Walt. “Song of Myself .” Leaves of Grass .

Ruiz, Don Miguel. The Four Agreements . Amber-Allen, 2012.

Plato . “The Allegory of The Cave .” The Allegory of The Cave .

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"My Subcontinent Is Always in My Subconscious: Indian Heritage in America" by Alisha Andrews

One’s identity can be found through life and the experiences within it. In our WSC class my peers found their identity in different ways: going into the army at the age of 18, living in a negative town their entire childhood, being a certain religion that is misunderstood in America. The experience that helped me find my identity was being the first generation, American-born citizen and living through the struggles of my immigrant parents.

The process of immigration is difficult, but the process of an immigrant adjusting to America is never ending. Both my parents came to America at the age of 18 with their cousins from India, all without their own parents. All 15 of them lived in a 3 story rental house in Queens Village where everyone lived paycheck to paycheck. My parents had 3 jobs at one point so they could live a decent life. My mom took on a job as a cashier at JC Penney and Walmart and as a bank clerk. My dad took on a job as a limousine driver, bank clerk, and a cashier at a local department store. Even though these jobs seemed simple, it was tough for my parents. They had thick Indian accents and would get yelled at by customers to “learn English” and comments like “you should not be working here.” When my dad was a limo driver he had to learn all of New York City's streets and directions to get his clients to where they needed to be. He had no GPS back in his day and would get awful comments if he made one mistake, but little did the people know that he was just learning about America, let alone these locations! Both my parents always got the comment to “go back to your own country!”

These comments reminded me of Gloria Anzaldua’s remark, “We know what it is to live under the hammer blow of the dominant norte-americano culture” (Anzaldua, par 43). The white Americans around her felt as if they owned this country. They believed not knowing fluent English, not having an American accent, and not having white skin means that you do not belong in America. They viewed people with brown skin as inferior and stupid and that they weren’t “qualified” enough to live in this white man’s world. But my parents had tough skin. They were ready to endure these kinds of indifferences and not let it affect them. I give them so much credit for staying strong because they are humans, too, who have feelings, but were treated like subordinates. They worked 7 days a week to save up money for a car so they could have a vehicle. Before they had a car, they were walking to all their destinations and this was hard especially in the harsh, cold winters of New York. Both my parents and their cousins saved up $3000 to buy an old, used car. Even though it was a junk from a shady store in Queens, it was something they could use to drive places. They gave the car dealer all the money they saved up for months to get a car that stopped working the day after they bought it. Yes, they got played. They were just learning the hustle for money in America. But this experience helped them learn that not everyone is who they say they are. My parents struggled so much their first years in America. They went through these hardships and sacrificed everything they had and started a new life all over again just for my brother and I to live a better life than they had.

My brother, Albie, and I were the first generation to be born and raised in America. We were the first to go to school and to university in our families in America. Both of us were exposed to the American culture right away as we entered the school system. We grew up with English as our first language and Malayalam, which is a South Indian language common in Kerala, India, as our second language. My parents made sure that Albie and I became adjusted to both the American and Indian culture. But these two cultures clash at times. In India there is a hierarchy with gender. The male is the head of the family and is seen as superior and has all the freedom in the world. The female is seen as inferior and taught to be conservative and quiet. My parents immigrating to America and seeing a different viewpoint instead of sticking with India’s traditional ways helped build my identity. “Some women can escape social conformity and become conscious of the incredibly sexist, patriarchal society we live in. Others are trapped and are incapable of realizing their true identity because they are the product of someone else’s identity formation” (Solis, par 2). Since I was fortunate enough to grow up in America, I was given the opportunity to put my education first before anything else. I could get a job that did not include housework and I do not need to settle to be a housewife like in India, where it is common for 18-year-old girls to get married off. America holds opportunities to show that women are just as equal to men and can succeed in anything they do through careers and having empowering platforms. In India these opportunities are looked down upon, so many women put a hold on their life so their husbands, fathers, or brothers can live the life they want. I learned that I am more than what a man sees me as even if it is an object, reproducer, or inferior. I was born a woman and therefore need to hold strong to this identity, especially coming from an Indian, sexist community.

The South Asian community also has a persistent point of view when it comes to careers. If you had a daughter, she was supposed to be a nurse or a doctor. If you had a son, he was supposed to be an engineer. Indian parents have such a limited mindset for jobs. They believe only the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) jobs can make you money and be successful. This gets me furious. As a woman not interested in any of the four choices, I feel as though my brown people look down upon me. I am a public relations major in the communications field, which is nowhere dominant with colored people. But this taboo on communications and how it is a “useless field” did not stop me. Constantly getting comments like “communications is not stable,” “you will never make any money with public relations,” or “you should switch your major before it is too late” did not hinder my decision. In fact, it encouraged me to prove them wrong! I chose Hofstra because it is one of the best schools for communications and will continue to go to this university for the next four years. “People might not always think the same way as me either because their identities have been more or less developed, or because their identities have been established in a completely dissimilar system” (Davis, par 9). The brown community does not see the value in communications, but I do. Communications is part of my identity. I am a social person who needs to see “the real” in every person and see the bigger picture of that person’s purpose. Working in public relations is not just a “hello” and “goodbye” conversation, which many people think it is, but investing value in a person, company, or venue. I knew that if I listened to these people, I would most likely be in a nursing program and dreading every second of it. These people have minimal capacity when it comes to career choices. I am proud of myself for keeping true to my identity and my own interests because my career in public relations will define who I am instead of being someone who I am not.

Staying true to my identity as a brown-skinned Indian woman was like fighting a battle with myself. Growing up I realized that I was different from other people in my elementary and middle school. The kids and teachers had lighter hair than me, different colored eyes, and fairer skin tones. To be honest. I felt out of place and wanted to fit in and the only way was to be white. This mindset of fitting in with the white kids destroyed my self-esteem entirely because the reality is that I am brown. I wanted to be from Europe and not Asia. In middle school we had culture day where we talked about our heritage and I was extremely embarrassed to tell everyone that I was Indian. I avoided using words like “curry” and talking in my native language so kids would not laugh at me and see me as the “weird girl.” I wanted straight, thin hair and not thick, curly hair. I remember one white girl coming up to me in elementary school and asking me, “Why is your hair so curly and black?” I just stood there and questioned my hair as well because I did not know why my hair was different. I wanted to be superior and not inferior. This hierarchy between races that I mentally created really affected the growth of my identity. When I was younger I viewed white people as a higher race. I belittled myself because of my own skin color.  I was one of the few colored people on my school bus in elementary school. This led to the white kids bullying me and calling me names like “Indian warthog” and such. This created the fear in my mind that the whites had power and control over me. If I saw a white person standing behind me on the lunch line, I would let them go in front of me. If I needed to pick a partner for projects, I would instantly pick the white girls first. In a sense, I idolized having white skin. I saw white skin as the key to having a successful, easy life.

Oh boy, was I wrong! As I got older I realized how limited was my mindset. There was no real reason to think of my brown skin and my culture with a negative connotation.“’re dumb enough to walk around continuing to identify yourself with that Party, you’re not only a chump, but you’re a traitor to your race” (Malcolm X, par 13).  I needed to accept that I was an Indian, brown-skinned girl and that will never change. I had to be proud of who my parents were and who they raised me to be. I had to get out of this narrow-minded environment where I superiorized white people.

Going into high school everything changed. I viewed everyone as equal and that no one was better than another because of their skin color. I realized that skin color is part of one’s heritage. Everybody is still human, as cliche as it sounds, it is true. If you live closer to the equator you will have darker skin. If you live farther from the equator you will have lighter skin. This is just geography and not something you can control. So to belittle myself off these factors that I could not control was insane of me. I started accepting myself for who I was and started being more confident in my heritage. If I could go back to the girl who asked me why my hair was so curly and black, I would tell her it is because I am Indian and this is what most South Indian girls have. I learned to embrace my Indianness and become aware of the rest of the world. As I grew older I realized that there is more than the white race and so many other cultures to be exposed to. "Whereas, our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being, and of the brightest and best of being, or, in other words, of the good” (Plato, par 46). Plato explains how I felt with my entire Indian crisis. I needed to find strength within myself to identify as an Indian and not be ashamed of it. I was stuck in this close-minded mentality that limited my capacity and power to find acceptance in myself. My viewpoint needed to be expanded from this “white supremacy” to seeing all races as one.

My viewpoint changing really helped develop my identity. I am nowhere the same person I was a few years ago. My homeostasis changed. My parents made a pathway by immigrating to America to be exposed to many opportunities which I will forever be thankful for. Being in communications field for my career adds onto my identity as a socializer and a barrier breaker for the Indian community. Accepting my skin color and being proud of my Indian heritage, while conquering my irrational fear of white supremacy, evolved myself to be true to who I am. As they say in Malayalam, നിങ്ങൾ നൽകുന്ന ജീവനെ സ്നേഹിക്കുക (niṅṅaḷ nalkunna jīvane snēhikkuka), love the life you are given.

Works Cited
Anzaldua, Gloria. "How to Tame a Wild Tongue."

Davis, Brittany.  "Mastering a Free-Thinking Perspective." 1 Jan. 2017,

Plato. The Allegory of the Cave. VII, ser. 514a-521b,,

Solis, Lola. "Is Feminism the New F Word? From Resistant to Responsive,"

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Walkabout & the Colored Man’s Burden by Xavier Eang Lee

Robert E. Howard wrote in his novel King Kull, “The more I see of what you call civilization, the more highly I think of what you call savagery.”  During the era of European colonization, western empires driven by greed sent out to stake claim of land, resources, and people not there for the taking.  The first British settlers of Australia were criminals and rejects who had the same western mentality of taking without giving.  The Aboriginal people of Australia were treated below the line of second-class citizens.  There was no mercy from white Europeans who wanted the land.   

The time known as the Stolen Generations was a period in Australian history in which many Aboriginal children were abducted and forced to leave all traces of their “savage” life behind.  This phenomenon of cultural genocide can be observed throughout the world, including Canada, when in the 1970s the Canadian government forced the Inuit people of the Artic Circle onto reservations equipped with unfit homes and schools. Far too often Native atrocities are neglected and overlooked due to the ignorance of the majority.  Nicolas Roeg’s 1971 film, Walkabout, brings to light the way of the Aborigine and the white man through artistic comparisons, using flashbacks and cut scenes to provoke an uninformed audience of the social injustices in Australia. 

The opening sequence starts with images of stone walls that then fade to a brick wall, signifying the difference between natural and man-made borders.  The camera then moves to a typical 1970s day in Sydney, Australia. Throughout the scene the screen switches back and forth between following the father, daughter, and son.  The father, portrayed by John Meillon, is dressed in formal attire and walks through crowds of people dressed similarly.  Everyone is rushing around systematically, creating a hectic environment associated with major cities like London or New York.  Jenny Agutter, as the daughter dressed in a school uniform, sits in class surrounded by other girls practicing their French vowel pronunciations.  Also in a uniform the son, Luc Roeg, plays outside with other boys, watching as army men march by. Roeg chose to introduce these characters alongside many similar looking people to give the impression of them being just another white Australian family. The didgeridoo, a traditional Aboriginal instrument, mostly plays in the background throughout the entire scene, with the exception of when the screen switches to the daughter in the classroom.  In this part the viewers only hear the sound of student practicing their pronunciations.  Roeg may be alluding to the Stolen Generations when Aboriginal children were forced to speak English, hinting the end of Native tradition.  This whole scene is painted with western civilization from the cars, clothing, and the ethnicity of people in the city---this is until John Meillon’s character brings both kids into the outback to murder them, changing the setting to a barren wasteland.  

After firing multiple failed shots at his son, the father sets fire to the car and shoots himself.  With their father dead and the car in flames, the siblings scurry away into the Outback armed with little food or water.  After wandering for days and on the brink of death, the pair come across this beautiful oasis with a small watering hole and a large tree inhabited with birds and edible fruit.  Getting comfortable, they stay for what seems to be multiple days.  The described scene opens with shots of green and yellow parakeets flying around playing, as the daughter sings.  The beginning of this scene brings to mind the story of Snow White, a common fairytale, singing with the forest animals as they clean her house.  Agutter soaks her feet while her brother, Luc Roeg, plays in the water and asks, “We’re lost, aren’t we?” She replies, “No, of course not,” with a look of uncertainty written all over her face.  The camera switches to show a bird drowning, unable to escape the water, then the next shot is of a grub worm picking at the fruit. 

The next morning, they wake to the water dried up and the tree covered in snakes.  Most humans today are not living sustainably.  No doubt in the years to come, many resources that are relied on will become scarce and the environment will fall into disrepair.  This culture of taking from the Earth and not giving back is killing humanity, and a detriment to the future generations For the kids in the film, the resources given to them were a blessing but overuse depleted it all.  The drowning bird and the grub both foreshadow the death of the tree and show that something is wrong, but they chose to ignore it.  This may sound familiar because it runs parallel with today’s environmental crisis. Many people choose to ignore the clear warning signs, not demanding a change.  Stuck again without food or water, the children stay, hoping the water will come back. The water never comes back, but in the distance they see a dark figure moving toward them hypnotically.  

The boy sits up and whispers, “Dad,” which wakes his sister.  They watch in amazement as the man hunts a large lizard.  The Aboriginal, portrayed by David Gulpilil, speaking in a tribal language, approaches with the lizard in hand, pointing at the moist ground where the watering hole once was.  He determined that they are white and after no response from the children, he walks away only to be chased after by the kids shouting in English begging for water, further confusing him.  Until the boy gestures to drink instantly it clicks in the hunter’s mind.  He then teaches them to drink from the moist dirt.

After they travel together, the hunter successfully chases, kills and butchers a kangaroo.  With each swing of his sharp rock, the screen continuously switches to a white butcher aproned in all white chopping meat with a large cleaver.  The switching between visuals shows the connection between the two ways of butchering. Although they are essentially doing the same thing, Roeg uses the constant changing between frames to show that what may seem savage or taboo from one point of view may not be so from another. The group continues to travel until they come across something which changes the dynamic of the hunter and the girl’s relationship.  

Eventually the trio come across a house. The daughter runs to it, hoping there will be people inside, but she is sadly surprised to see that it is abandoned.  Wandering around, she takes in the familiar sights of photos hung on the walls and the interior of a man-made structure.  The hunter approaches her speaking and the camera then switches back and forth between their faces.  As he talks and she listens, her eyes continuously dart over to a piece of a broken mirror on the floor reflecting a rainbow onto his face.  Her struggle of focus between him and the mirror symbolizes her internal battle between the modern (the mirror) and the savage  (the rainbow on his face).  She asks him to fetch water, switching his role from the provider to the servant.  The man who saved her life in the wild has been reduced to a water boy in her civilization.  As he takes the bucket from her he also repeats, “Water,” which is the first time in the entire film he speaks any English, alluding to the assimilation forced upon many native Australians.  This scene is the turning point in which their relationship changes.  The two kids, especially the girl, wish to return to their original lives.   

While the Aborigine is hunting an ox going in for the kill, white men in a large car drive by startling him.  He then watches with a blank expression as these men shoot an ox without hesitation or struggle.  The shot is fired and it echoes throughout the Outback as the screen switches to animals fleeing the area.  The sound of the shot continues to repeat as the film emphasizes that this animal is dead.  After the animal falls, a man gets out of the car and slits its throat.  Roeg adds this traumatic scene to show the Walkabouter’s death of innocence.  Hunting for sport is an outrage to most Natives and most uncommon in their society whereas the idea of only taking what is needed is often ignored in today’s society. 

This film brings to light Native atrocities by comparing cultures through intense visuals captured by Roeg. Culture is essential to human existence.   No one deserves to have their culture die.  Far too often are the voices of the Native people unheard.  From Africa to India, from South America to the Far East, the silencing of indigenous voices is indeed the "Colored Man's Burden." More films need to capture the idea of Walkabout, which inspires individuals to join the movement.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Art of the Real Hustle by Victoria Wetmore

Author Victoria Wetmore with Hammad Imran

Imagine yourself as a fish thrown into a new pond for the first time. You’re unfamiliar with your surroundings, things begin to feel uncomfortable, and you’re not sure where you can and cannot swim. College is the same type of atmosphere, Hofstra included. Starting a new life at college is difficult, but it is that type of ablution that exposes us to unusual places and opportunities, both academically and recreationally. When Hofstra University’s academics become demanding, it isn’t a bad idea to seek recreational activities, such as club billiards, to lessen one’s stress, create new friendships and offer unexpected opportunities that once seemed impossible.

No matter what major that one declares, there is a certain workload that comes along with each one. When work becomes difficult and our brains become exhausted, there is this period of time where relaxation is required in order to function properly again. Some individuals will choose to watch television shows or a movie, and others choose food as a way to reboot after working hard. Personally, I take a trip out of my dorm room, into the Student Center, and down the stairs to the game room. In this space, I am able to play pool with my friends and fellow classmates. There is something about the sound produced from the contact of each ball, and the sound of breaking the rack up that is soothing and satisfying to me. This environment is a little loud, but nothing to be scared of diving into. Kelsey Picciano states, “Homeostasis, the tendency of a system or a person to maintain internal stability and resist change, can get easily upset, especially in the change from high school to college” (Picciano, par. 1). Being in the game room may be something different and scary, but doing something with others tends to make someone happier. If that happens to be playing games, then this is the place to be. Not into billiards? Take a look around the rest of the room and one will find a wide variety of gaming consoles, air hockey, ping pong, pinball, and even foosball. No matter what one’s preference is, I would still recommend billiards to anyone that walks through the automatic doors. Everybody downstairs is cordial and willing to help teach someone the basics, like the concept of angles or lining up different shots, in order to keep playing. Most of the time, members from the Hofstra Billiards Club are playing games and honing their skills for competitions, so do not hesitate to ask them to teach you something. This beneficial relaxation activity is how I get through assignments that prove to be stressful, while creating new bonds at the same time.

When I first came to Hofstra, I knew that I was having issues making new friends and didn’t feel as though I fit in with the rest of my peers. However, the moment I was approached in the game room by one of the players from the billiards club, I was introduced to a whole new world of friendship. Immediately, I felt uncomfortable being the only female in the room. Then I realized that I had to drop my protective walls and comprehend the opportunity I was given when I agreed to join this club. I had become immersed in so many different ethnicities that I was missing a chance to interact with people from all over the world because I felt insecure. The moment my anxiety subsided, I was able to make conversations with students from Pakistan, Kenya, and more of the Middle East. I also have the opportunity to talk to commuters, and others from the same state as I. Not only are there various ethnicities to learn, but one becomes accustomed to this world of billiards that differs from normal life. Billiards can teach someone both ways of making friends and various cognitive life tools. For example, pool is a problem-solving sport that allows one to look at the lay of the table and read what the next shot should be. Parallel to life, one must learn how to look at what they have and figure out what to do and where to go next. “Learning of the upmost importance occurs within our one-on-one experience, and it is the heart-to-heart, eye-to-eye conversations with our equals that provide us with life lessons that will extend further beyond our schooling years” (Picciano, par. 6).

I had the opportunity to get the personal scoop on the coach of Hofstra’s Billiards Club. Hammad Imran is not only the coach of the school’s team, but he is the captain for the American Pool Association (APA) team at Hofstra; a team that competes against other adult teams in Nassau County on Sunday nights. He is in the process of completing his Masters of Science in Finance here at Hofstra University. Hammad brings his talents, garnered from over five years of play, to the other students downstairs. If pool skills isn’t what one wants to learn from him, go on over to the ping pong table---after all, he is ranked number one in the area. From talking to him, Hammad explains billiards as, “an opportunity to play competitively with a variety of different players on and off campus” (Imran). That’s the best part, too! One does not have to be nervous when playing for the first time because there are so many players of different levels. Translated, that means that someone who is super good does not have to play a beginner. Even if one is to play someone of a higher level, they have a chance to learn something they did not know before. Again, everyone is amenable and caring downstairs, almost like a little family, and is willing to show and teach some tricks and shots that will help mold others into better players.    

Now, this idea of talking to anyone does not just apply to ethnicity, but also to gender. The game room happens to be a man-led territory. For women at Hofstra, it is a good way to immerse oneself into this community of men that share a common interest. This is also a beneficial way to break out of one’s comfort zone if one has an issue talking to people of the opposite sex. One can also see the game room as a way to stay in one's happy place and keep one's internal homeostasis intact. For someone like me, I am completely fine spending my time with a group of guys because that's what my household is like and mostly what my friend group back home consists of. On a campus where every other place puts anxiety on my comfort level, it is nice to know that I have a place to escape to that I am accepted in, even if I am the only girl down there. Don’t get me wrong; guys feel the stress of trying to fit in, too, but they just do a better job of hiding it. So, let it be known that the other men down in the game room are super cool and willing to open up and hang out. It is a healthy environment for friendship. I promise.

With friendship and techniques comes unexpected opportunities. Developing fresh and useful skills for the future is something a lot of college kids are worried about. In essence, billiards becomes the perfect trifecta for improving one’s health, meeting brand-new people, and learning something exciting to apply to something else. The act of dialogue that can occur when playing pool with someone builds communication skills that can be utilized in the future. Even when one lines up a shot, the critical thinking section of the brain fires up. Also, playing billiards against someone else can help us pick up on visual cues and read the body language of others around them. These skills become assets for students for when they are in job interviews or meeting with important people. Instead of pool following Paulo Freire’s “Banking Concept of Education,” in which, “ the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat” (Freire, par. 5), one can receive, understand, and employ these critical thinking abilities, learned through playing pool, and apply them to situations in the future. People should know that they can physically learn, live, and experience things instead of robotically spewing back information.

In just seven weeks of being consumed by this environment, I have already done something I never thought I would do. At the age of eighteen, I am in bars on Sunday nights for fun. It is fair to add that I am on the APA Hofstra Billiards Team captained by Hammad, and they allow me to compete against the other adults in the area. I may not win every game I play, but I get the opportunity to not only put my newfound prowess to the test, but also meet many characters from around here. One of my favorite people I have met so far is a man named Jesse who is actually an alumni of Hofstra. Throughout the games, he talked to our group about possibly starting an alumni tournament at the university, which I thought would be a cool way to integrate the graduates and the current students in a friendly game. So, no, I guess I am not doing something everyone else does, but instead, I am gaining maturity and tools for the future.

By now, I have probably played pool for a combination of thirty hours since starting this assignment. I have learned to expand my little fish fins and swim to this territory of comfort to learn some techniques from my friends. I encourage other students to explore the game room a little more, and find something they like to do. Like I said, a lot of interesting people are down there and are willing to pull anyone into this fun and electric environment of crazy antics and inside jokes that keeps us laughing for hours. Even if one may think they aren’t good at something, don’t worry! Picciano told us not to worry about that and just embrace it. Learning how to deal with stress, making new friends, and building skills/ opening new doors is the true meaning to growing up, so don’t worry about it and just have fun while you can.

Works Cited

Corbett, Bob. “PAULO FREIRE: CHAPTER 2 OF PEDAGOGY OF THE OPPRESSED.” Philosophy of Education -- Chapter 2: Pedagogy of the Oppressed,

Imran, Hammad. Personal Interview. 11 Oct. 2017.

Weber, Deanna. “Leaping out of the Cave and into the Light,” Taking Giant Steps. N.p., 20 Oct. 2017. Web.