By Lilly Pelliccia, Grace Atlas, Alejandro Sánchez

Nowadays, the term feminism is frequently interpreted as women deeming themselves better than men. However, this is a very common misperception, feminism is a movement that seeks equality for any gender. Feminism states that any gender should have equal opportunity in society, whether it is in the workplace, at school, or simply just in everyday living. Feminism is a pro-equality movement that should be seen as a positive in society, not a negative advocating the belief that women are above all.   


The Oxford English Dictionary defines feminism as “the advocacy and equality of the sexes regarding specifically the establishment of the political, social, and economic rights of the female sex.”  The prefix “femin-” comes from the Latin word “feminia” which means woman. The suffix “-ism” which derives from the greek “ισμός” or “ismós”, turns the previous noun into a verb. Therefore, ‘-ism’ implies a belief, practice, or a worldview. The word feminism was first used in English in 1851, but at this time it was meant as “the state of being feminine”. However, in 1837 a French philosopher named Charles Fourier used the word “féminisme” to mean the advocacy of women’s rights. The issue of rights for women first came to light around the late 18th century during the French and American revolutions. This issue was specifically centered around property rights, marriage relationships, and the right to vote which women were restricted to, and with women fed up with this, they began to fight for themselves. Although the French and Americans saw this as a problem in the late 18th century, for Britain it wasn’t until the late 19th century around the time of the emergence of the suffragette movement that there was a significant change. And to follow this revolution, a ‘second wave’ of feminism began in the 1960s, which was specifically concerned with the economic and social discrimination among women. These women banded together to fight for their rights and focused mainly on their unity and sisterhood. Then around the 1980s and 1990s, there was a ‘third wave’ of feminism that was a reaction to a lack of focus on class and race issues in earlier movements. Lastly, the fourth wave of feminism began around 2014 which many had been anticipating, however, this wave is seen a little different than the previous ones. The fourth wave of feminism is one that is not necessarily defined as the fourth wave but many define this generation nowadays as the fourth wave of feminism.  With the popular media nowadays about women empowerment and positive body image the fourth wave is seen as one on the internet. Feminism has greatly evolved over time but the general ideas and values of this advocacy for equality have remained generally the same. The development of this word has been greatly influenced by the times as you have read but the general advocacy for equality of the sexes is still the main idea.


Feminism is a recurrent theme in literature. We can use it to analyze texts and have a better understanding of the author’s perspective on how they perceive feminism and how they want feminism to be the purpose of their literature. As audiences read literature throughout time, this historical context when reading periodical or modern literature can invoke better insight into the advantages and disadvantages women face. To take feminism into consideration when reading allows the audience to interpret a plot and stimulate an intended reaction upon the audience. Feminist literature presents itself as a relatable topic whether it be during any of the waves of feminism and how they significantly alter the everyday lives of women. Literature gives authors the power to use their voice to express this movement to the world through literature.

Feminist critics approach literature by examining power imbalances due to gender. We must look at whether a literary text reflects these imbalances or, on the contrary, challenges them. By using this lens, the reader gets to uncover instances or alienation, marginalization, oppression, or social biased perception of women. The feminist approach examines the experiences of women from all cultures, social classes or so-called races in an attempt to illuminate the sexual, social and political issues presented by an author.  Literature provides authors with the power to use their voice to express these statements. Beneatha Younger in A Raisin in the Sun and Myriam Gurba in her memoir Mean are examples of strong female characters. Through these characters, as we will later explain, Hansberry and Gurba advocate for gender equality which further suggests how authors utilize their works as a platform for their opinions. But before focusing on those texts, we will provide an overview of texts that can be considered milestones in the approach of the feminist movement in literature.

In A Room of One’s Own (1929), Virginia Woolf’s extended essay argues that in order for women to succeed in their writing, they must be wealthy and have a room to themselves to carry out their writing. In an excerpt about Shakespeare’s hypothetical sister, audiences are introduced to the suggestion of a difference in privilege between men and women. This hypothetical sister, Judith, possesses the same exact qualities as her brother Shakespeare. Judith was “as adventurous, as imaginative” but she “remained at home.” Woolf illustrates this sister to present the audience with the realities of being a woman and being overshadowed by a man because of the unequal opportunities and resources accessible to women. However, Woolf also notions of the fact that Judith was less likely to be a possibility because women didn’t have the option to become educated like men were. Woolf further depicts the character of Judith into straying away from the social norms of a woman and ends up committing suicide because of the repercussions from her father’s standards for her along with his beating and scolding. These social norms may include household chores done by women like to “mend the stockings and mind the stew” instead of reading and learning. Another social norm is the enforcing of marriage for women and how marriage was one of women’s sole purpose of life. It’s important to note that the recognition of this hypothetical sister is substantial as it gives an audience an insight into the reality of women that wanted to break from societal roles. Virginia Woolf consistently proposes that the setback for women in literature was that it was difficult to represent women because there−at one point in history−were limited women to write themselves into their stories because they lacked education and literacy.

The L’ecriture Feminine is a term formulated by Hélène Cixous to promote women into writing themselves into literature. Cixous encourages this to express towards women that they should not be shied away from becoming empowered and depict themselves their own writing. To create a female character to represent feminism will only boost the movement of pushing for equal rights. In Cixous’ “The Laugh of the Medusa” (1975) she claims that “a woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies,” to invoke the idea that only women can accurately represent themselves in literature and enforce the accurate representation for future works. Cixous argues that women are held at a disadvantage because they are forced into a language that is utilized solely by men that do not understand or experience what women go through. Men do not have a female perspective so that gives little to no room for an expression of women’s own language in literature. The representation of women in literature could shed light on feminism and empowerment. For authors to use their platform to invite feminism into writing will give a better insight into the advantages and disadvantages women face. Feminist literature focuses on how women handle drawbacks and the significance of a strong female character represented for women reading literature. Women often face disadvantages such as unequal pay, being forced into a strict role due to society’s standards, and inferiority in obtaining rights such as property. Female authors begin to utilize their writing to fight against these obstacles and impose the idea that equal treatment was necessary.

Getting even deeper in this domain, Alice Walker published in 1983  “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose”, which challenges the idea of feminism Virginia Woolf presented in “A Room of One’s Own”, going further than her in her fight against inequality and stating that black women and enslaved women suffered more limitations when it comes to having a “room of one’s own” and enough money; hence, the lack of artistic freedom was even bigger. We can see this when Walker states “what then are we to make of Phillis Wheatley [a well-known African enslaved woman who was the first African American that published a book], a slave, who owned not even herself?” (404). She goes on to claim their right to be artists and the capacity black women had had over time to achieve their goals in spite of the adversities, as she states that “to be an artist and a black woman, even today, lowers our status in many respects, rather than raises it and yet, artists we will be.” (405)

The term “race” starts to gain importance now, and one account of this connection between race and gender is Sander Gilman’s “Black bodies, white bodies”, which was published in 1985, and shows how African people (especially women) were represented in the social sphere in the European context: usually being sexualized; one notorious example of this is Sarah Baartman, known as the Hottentot Venus, who died after spending years in freak shows due to her body complexion and the “exotic feeling” she portrayed to European people.

As it has been discussed before, we understand feminism as the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes, but, the concept of black feminism, defined as the acknowledgment of sexism, class oppression, gender, identity and racism being tied together, starts to gain importance now. As we stated before, characters who represent this notion of black feminism are presented by Lorraine Hansberry in A Raisin in the Sun, and Myriam Gurba in Mean.

Hansberry presents a play that not only depicts the struggles and sufferings of a black family in the Chicago of the 1950s but also presents the character of Beneatha Younger, through by which the author engages with a black feminist perspective addressing the intersections of race and gender at the time. Beneatha stays true to herself and her mindset and speaks her mind as she acts according to her principles, holding a different view on racial assimilation, education, and religion, not only in the context of her family but also proving she is a symbol of a major fight in society, a fight against inequality that transcends time and space. For example, she has a critical view against assimilation into American culture; even though she is not familiar with African traditions, she shows a great respect and will to know them and get in touch with her past, as she states “You are looking at what a well-dressed Nigerian woman wears” (Hansberry 76). Moreover, she cuts off her hair as a way of embracing her ethnic background and claiming she has the power to make decisions over her own body. As for religion, she truly believes in human’s rational thinking and not in the idea of a God, as she points out, she “get[s] sick of hearing about God … It’s all a matter of ideas, and God is just one idea [she doesn’t] accept.” She does not accept that God always gets the credit of actions people make, making it clear that she is willing to be a doctor, and doctors are the ones that truly saves lives; when talking about doctors’ skills with Asagai, she states ”this was truly being God” (Hansberry 133).

Myriam Gurba presents in her memoir Mean a new concept to us: Chicana feminism, which can be understood as feminist thinking, writing, and action on behalf of Chicanas and Latinas, and, as a further matter, addressing issues of sexual assault and sexual orientation. In her memoir, Gurba uses mean as a way of socially fighting against situations of inequality, as a way of being present and seen, as a way of speaking up their mind, as she states, “We act mean to defend ourselves from boredom and from those who would chop off our breasts. We act mean to defend our clubs and institutions. ”

It is also important to mention that feminism also needs to be understood in a post-colonial context. Feminism is a crucial interest within post-colonial discourse; both patriarchy and imperialism can be seen as forms of domination. Feminism, like post-colonialism, has often been concerned with the ways representation and language is crucial to the formation of an identity. For both feminism and post-colonial discourses, that come together to present the idea of postcolonial feminism, language has been a vehicle for subverting patriarchal and imperial power, and both discourses have presented authentic forms of language against those imposed to them. Gayatri Spivak, an Indian scholar and feminist critic, and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, a postcolonial and transnational feminist theorist, have both contributed in an outstanding way with her works in this field; in  “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses”, for instance, Mohanty critiques the way Western feminism has glossed over the differences with Southern women, claiming the need for a redefinition of feminism and its power relationships between feminist in both First and Third Worlds.

Work Cited

Cixous, Hélène. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.

Ed. 2. Leitch, Vincent B. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001. 1938-1959. Print.

Gilman, Sander L., and Peter Boxall. Black Bodies, White Bodies: toward an Iconography of Female Sexuality in Late Nineteenth-Century Art, Medicine and Literature. 1985. Print.

Grady, Constance. “The Waves of Feminism, and Why People Keep Fighting over them, Explained.” Vox, Vox, 20 July 2018.

Gurba, Myriam. Mean. Coffee House Press, 2017.

Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun: a Drama in Three Acts. Random House, 2002.

Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses.” Sage Publications, Ltd., 1984. Print.

“Feminism” Oxford English Dictionary. https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/69192?redirectedFrom=feminism#eid

Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose. San Diego, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983. Print.

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1929. Print.

Women of the World Unite photo found https://www.society19.com/why-its-important-for-women-to-support-women-more-than-ever/women-supporting-women/

Racism in Literature

 Photo by Kate Clark entitled “Little Girl”

By Katie Goodman, Stephanie Kranenberg, Colleen Cousins

The definition of racism has changed drastically until becoming what it is known as today. Race is associated with a negative connotation, however it was not always that way. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, race in the early sixteenth century was defined as “A group of people, animals, or plants, connected by common descent or origin” and later as “A group of people belonging to the same family and descended from a common ancestor; a house, family, kindred.” This definition has nothing to do with the color of one’s skin. In the sixteenth century the word race had not even included a target at skin color and ethnic backgrounds. This target is a direct result of the formation of racism. It is essential to know how the definition of racism has changed over time when reading literature. Racism has been discussed in many texts over the course of the semester, such as Citizen by Claudia Rankine. Through this essay we will see the changes racism has gone through and how to apply these definitions when reading literature.

The word race became a topic in the late 1770’s by the famous German physiologist/ anthropologist J. F. Blumenbach, (Bhopal). Blumenbach had studied the concept of race through the skeletal brain and stature and skin color of human beings. He categorized the human species into 5 “variations”: Caucasian, Mongolians, Ethiopians, Americans, and Malays. Each variation showed differences in the cranial skeleton and skin color. Blumbach had stated differences in skin color were caused by the effects of environmental factors “Blumenbach attributed differences between these human types—such as variations in stature and colour—largely to climate…. Colour, he said, cannot constitute a species or a variety” (Bhopal). He did not aim to create racism, however, it was a byproduct of his 5 classifications. “Blumenbach’s name has been associated with scientific racism, but his arguments actually undermined racism. These errors were not the result of colour prejudice. Blumenbach refuted the notion that Ethiopians were inferior to other races. Blumenbach wrote favourably about ‘negroes,’ extolling their beauty, mental abilities, and achievements in literature and other fields.” (Bhopal).

The coming of racism after Blumenbach’s publications came out, ultimately created the racist ideal in today’s society, as well as the idea that race is “only a simple two-term distinction (such as ‘black’ and ‘white’)” (OED). We jump forward to a more recent definition of racism from 1940, the Oxford English Dictionary defined racism as, “A belief that one’s own racial or ethnic group is superior, or that other such groups represent a threat to one’s cultural identity, racial integrity, or economic well-being” Racism is also identified as “a belief that the members of different racial or ethnic groups possess specific characteristics, abilities, or qualities, which can be compared and evaluated. Hence: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against people of other racial or ethnic groups.”The examples of these definitions illustrate the drastic changes from the original “race” definition. The word race in the 16th century referred to plants, animals, or humans with a common origin or kindred, however now in the 1940’s there is a direct target at comparing racial or ethnic groups. Over time the definition grew to bring one ethnic group more superior than another, and form discrimination that people don’t realize is created. Throughout many literary texts, racism seems to be evident.

More people are becoming aware of racism and what it means as time goes on, therefore it is becoming easier to recognize in literature. If we are aware of race, and how it impacts other people’s lives, we can better understand what  specific characters are going through, as well as take a closer look at their experiences. If we inform ourselves on racism, we can look at the complexity of their lives and try to grasp what it may be like to be in their shoes. Literature allows us to look at racism through a different lense,  in a way we wouldn’t think about ourselves. Sometimes our outside knowledge of race allows us to go deeper into the meaning and get something out of it that was not intended. Different developments allow us to move past that racism, but in literature it stays in one time period; when it was written. We need to understand what they may have meant.

Being able to look at how race affects a character is a way for us to understand the complexity of race in a text. In Citizen, Claudia Rankine gives different examples describing how racism affected different people. One of these examples shows someone being racially profiled and how “still you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description” (Rankine 109). Many African American people experience racial profiling when being confronted by the police. This is most common with men, since according to some they are “always the guy fitting the description” (Rankine 109). Texts like Citizen raise awareness for these issues and can hopefully help people come up with a solution.  

In a talk at Yale University, Rankine describes Citizen as pointing out “what it means to be an American … who gets to participate and who falls out.” Taken from the stories and experiences from her own life, as well as her friends, she states that “Citizen” focuses on stories she has collected from friends, it details “day-to-day microaggressions” experienced by people of color in spaces “dominated by whiteness,” she said.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines microaggression as “A statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination or prejudice against members of a marginalized group such as a racial minority. Also as a mass noun: this behaviour generally” (OED).

Throughout Citizen, Rankine provides detailed accounts of what she has experienced. Two experiences in particular stand out to me in the novel. As a young girl, Rankine would experience these microaggressions. At 12 years old, she is told that she “[has] features like a white person” by another young (white) girl in her class (Rankine 5). As a child, Rankine does not know how to interpret this, so sadly enough, she understands it as a thank you in return for letting this girl cheat off of her test (Rankine 5). These are the things running through the minds of a 12 year old white girl. And Claudia, unable to detect the blatant racism, received this as a thank you. The second example of a microaggression is when Rankine is sitting on a plane and a young girl tries to take ownership of the seats on the plane, stating, “these are our seats” while the look on her face gives way to how she really feels– she really does not want to sit next to an African American woman on the plane (Citizen 12). The mother, clearly sensing her daughter’s uncomfort, does not correct her actions, but condones them by saying that she’ll “sit in the middle” so that her daughter doesn’t have to sit next to this woman (Citizen 12). Although the young girl does not necessarily know any better, it is clear that she already has a racist mindset, and her mother simply enables it. These microaggressions, whether intentional or not, deeply impact Rankine, and it can be seen in her writing. By pointing out what it means to be an American, Rankine is focusing on what it means to be black in America; Rankine anchors in on the microaggressions in Citizen to show “who falls out” in society: black people in America.

Claudia Rankine includes multiple scenes of racist accounts in Citizen. Throughout the book, we are thrown into different occasions where Rankine herself has had first hand experiences of race. Rankine’s use of the word “you” makes the reader feel as if they are present in every situation exposed in the novel. In another example of racism, Rankine meets with a new therapist in a beginning scene and is cruelly roared at when meeting her, “The woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get away from my house! What are you doing in my yard?…And though you backup a few steps, you manage to tell her you have an appointment. You have an appointment? She spits back. Then she pauses. Everything pauses. Oh, she says, followed by, oh, yes, that’s right. I am sorry.” (Rankine). People usually react like this to an unwanted child in their yard or and unwanted animal. In this scene Rankine is demoted to this unwanted animal as illustrated on the next page of the novel and at the top of this essay. The picture depicts an animal, looking like a small deer like animal that seems helpless, sad, and uncomfortable. The image was created by Kate Clark, titled “Little Girl” and the description includes “infant caribou hide, foam, clay, pins, thread, rubber eyes”(Rankine 364). The animal is not centered on the page it is located at the bottom of the page with a large white background. This continues with being thrown against a white background continually talked about by Rankine. Rankine was seen as an unwanted visitor on her therapist’s lawn due to the color of her skin. However, the animal can also be perceived differently then this. This creature could represent the therapist barking at Rankine in her backyard. The therapist acts like a violent animal protecting herself from a predator, even though Rankine is clearly not a predator.  

The examples that Claudia Rankine provides in Citizen help us to better understand racism, as well as all of the microaggressions that come with it. Reading Citizen forces us, as readers, to become aware of what is truly going on around us, thus allowing the readers to better understand how racism can affect one’s life. The definitions of race and racism have changed exponentially in the past centuries. Society has grown a lot over time, however, we have grown in the wrong direction in regards to humanity and race. Humans have divided themselves by color, but now is the time to be aware through literature and recognize what’s going on.

Works Cited

Bhopal, Raj. “The beautiful skull and Blumenbach’s errors: the birth of the scientific concept of race.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 335,7633 (2007): 1308-9. doi:10.1136/bmj.39413.463958.80

Gonzalez, Susan. “Poet Claudia Rankine Speaks about Confronting Racism Head on in Her Writing.” YaleNews, 13 Mar. 2018, news.yale.edu/2018/03/12/poet-claudia-rankine-speaks-about-confronting-racism-head-her-writing.

“Racism.” Oxford English Dictionary, OED Third Edition, 2008, www.oed.com/.

Rankine, Claudia, and Stephen Sachs. Citizen: an American Lyric. Dramatists Play Service Inc., 2018.


By Kristen Pyrch, Paige Knetchel, Mikey Marinelli, & Alex Plesnar

Power (n):

  1. Ability to act or affect something strongly; physical or mental strength; might; vigour, energy; effectiveness.
  2. Political or national strength.
  3. Control or authority over others; dominion, rule; government, command, sway.
  4. Capacity to direct or influence the behaviour of others; personal or social influence.

Power comes from the Anglo-French noun of the infinitive pouair, “to be able.” The first emergence of this word is the the 14th century (“Power” (n.)). By the late 14th century, power also meant “one who has power” (“Power” (n.)). It may seem like a simple word, but when applied in different situations and scenarios, one can recognize its multiple and complex layers. For example, M. NourbeSe Philip portrays the power of storytelling in her book Zong!. In Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun, social power plays a key role. Hansberry herself also demonstrates the power of advocacy as a writer. Maxine Hong Kingston expresses in her memoir, The Woman Warrior, the powers of both speech and silence. Power takes on different forms and abilities through each of these texts, and understanding its definition is helpful when zeroing in on its presence in works of literature and considering how it can complicate a work.

Zong! is a retelling of an actual historical event, the Zong massacre. The Zong massacre occurred in 1781, when British captain and crew of the Zong decided to throw the slaves overboard once the water supply became low, and some navigational errors were made. At that point in time, slaves were considered cargo. Insurance could be put on them to ensure that the captains and slave owners would not lose any money on the slaves. Because of this law, in the eyes of Captain Luke Collingwood, slaves were thrown overboard to keep the other passengers alive; meanwhile, Captain Collingwood could cash in on the slaves lost and not lose any money. However, the insurance company denied the claim. This is the only evidence of the Zong massacre: a legal document disputing, not the fact that living people were jettisoned off a ship to die, but whether ot not the reason for throwing the enslaved overboard fit the wording of the law.

Philip’s retelling and commenting of the Zong massacre is through the legal document, Gregson v. Gilbert, and using that source to form found poems. Found poems are done by taking words, sentences or phrases from a passage and piecing them together to create something new and unique. Philip used the law document as a way to tell the story of the complete disregard for human life that white slave traders and owners in 1781 held for black people, and how the laws amplified the disparity of power. Philip writes about her process for writing Zong! by saying:

The irony here is that the story is locked within the text of those individuals- members of the judiciary, one of, if not the most powerful segment of English society- who were themselves an integral part of a system that engaged in the trade of humans. A system of laws, rules, and regulations that made possible the massacre on board the Zong. It is a story that cannot be told; a story that in not telling must tell itself, using the language of the only public extant document directly bearing on these events. (Philip, 199)

By Philip only using words from the legal document and using those words to give a voice to the enslaved people killed aboard the Zong, she shows the reader a way that she feels she can give back what was taken from the enslaved: power. She removes the power from the judges that made the laws, and the captains that tried to find loopholes in those laws that ultimately killed the enslaved people. She then transfers that power to the enslaved men, women and children that were inhumanely murdered, by picking and tearing apart the words just like the white men chose their slaves. However, by using the legal document she is also restricting the power she has over the words. Philip shows us that: no matter the source, or how carefully and thoughtfully words are strung together, nothing can bring back the dead and there is no real meaning behind the violence that occured.

The enslaved dead and the senseless murder also impacted her emotionally. Philip writes: “I strongly feel that I need to seek “permission” to bring the stories of these murdered Africans to light… And so, not knowing what this “permission” would look like or even why I felt the need, I journey to Ghana in the summer of 2006” (Philip, 202). The power that the enslaved dead had over her was so tremendous that she traveled to Ghana without knowing for sure what kind of ‘permission’ she needed to be able to share their stories. She did not drive an hour or two from her house to visit a neighboring town; she deliberately travelled by plane to Africa to feel the energy and seek something she believes the murdered Africans aboard the Zong deserved. The event and writing process affected Philip- someone who was not involved with the tragic event at all- so strongly that it influenced her to travel a great distance. By writing in this way she gives the reader an insight to the many layers of how power can control and influence others, regardless if they were directly involved or not.

The play A Raisin in the Sun thematizes how power can take form of social influence. This is applicable to the fourth definition of power and describes the play’s main characters, the Younger family, perfectly. The Youngers live in a very discriminatory time where they were subjected to harsh living conditions such as tenements, overpopulated areas and extreme impoverished areas. The social power that caucasians have is evident throughout the entire play. More specifically, when Mama decides to buy a house in a dominantly white neighborhood, her entire family questions her motives. Ruth states, “Well – well- ‘course I ain’t one never been ‘fraid of no crackers, mind you- but-well, wasn’t there no other houses nowhere”(93). Being that Ruth is going to school to be a doctor which isn’t normal for this time, she is characterized throughout the play as a mentally powerful woman. Ruth knows what she wants and will find a way to get it, so for her to swallow her pride and try to convince Mama to rearrange their future living situations shows a lot about the influence white people have. Ruth typically is firm on her statements about her lack of fear, yet she still gives white people the power by wanting to avoid social interactions with those who live in their new town.

In addition, Hansberry also utilizes her personal social power to bring light to the social issues going on around this time. She is reiterating all the actions taking place through the Civil Rights Movement. It is stated in the introduction of this play, “If we ever reach a time when the racial madness that afflicts America is at last truly behind us… I believe A Raisin in the Sun will remain no less pertinent” (Hansberry 13). This statement is very true being that Hansberry’s play is applicable to the societal discrimination throughout history, this play isn’t definitively written for the late 1950’s, but can be used for future references. By writing a play in 1959 with a predominantly African American cast, discussing the social inequalities this culture faces daily, Hansberry had the power to socially alter the mindsets of those around her. She utilizes her power of influence by understanding that Broadway in the late 1950’s was majorly only viewed by wealthy white culture. Not only was she able to educate white people, but through a presentation in person, the oppressors were able to feel the tense emotions African Americans felt, by practically bringing them into the Younger home and presenting the problems right before their eyes. Lorraine Hansberry is a prime example of the idea that knowledge is power. Hansberry definitely knew the battle she was going to face when she wrote this play, and it is only imaginable the amounts of backlash she received for writing it.

Maxine Hong Kingston uses the memoir genre to make sense of specific spots of memory in her life that has had an impact on her. Her memoir, The Woman Warrior, chronicles her life as a first generation Chinese-American growing up on the West Coast. The memoir format allows Kingston to show the relationship power has with her family and events her family has been a part of.  In the beginning of her work, Kingston acknowledges that through silence power was taken from the no name woman, and through talking about the no name, Kingston gives power to her.

As a child Kingston understands that words have power: “I have believed that sex was an unspeakable and words so strong and fathers so frail that ‘aunt’ would do my father mysterious harm” (15). In this quote, Kingston believes the reason that her family doesn’t talk about her aunt is to protect her father from suffering. She thinks that if the silence were broken, it would have unspeakable consequences and hurt her father. She believes that speaking the word ‘aunt’ would bring to mind a culmination of emotions and memories repressed for so long that they would incapacitate her father.  

Kingston also discovers that the act of speaking words have power when she says, “But there is more to this silence: they want me to participate in her punishment. And I have” (16). Through this quote, Kingston realizes that silence takes power from the individual, and she realizes that silence itself has some power too. Through this epiphany, Kingston finds  that compliance and acceptance add to silence’s power. Realizing that she has been an active participant in this oppressive power, Kingstons makes a decision to not participate in this silence anymore.

The culture in which Kingston was raised places more power on mental punishment rather than physical punishment.“The real punishment was not the raid swiftly inflicted by the villagers, but the family’s deliberately forgetting her” (16). While the raid was violent and horrible, it doesn’t carry the same weight as being deliberately forgotten. The raid was a focused point in time and came and went. Deliberately forgetting ironically shows that the aunt’s dishonor will always be remembered by the family and will endure until the people who have living memory of her perish.

People typically associate power with physical strength, control, or even superheros. By looking at the many definitions of power, one can learn that power is about more than just abilities. In some cases abilities do in fact come in the form of physical strength, control, or a cape, but as demonstrated in all four example texts in this essay, power can be expressed through a multitude of forms that range from concrete to abstract.

Works Cited

Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun: a Drama in Three Acts. Random House, 2002.

Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. Vintage, 1989.

Philip, M. NourbeSe. Zong! Wesleyan University Press, 2011.

“Power, n.1.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, March 2019, www.oed.com/view/Entry/149167. Accessed 1 May 2019.

“Power (n.).” Index, Douglas Harper, 2019, www.etymonline.com/word/power.

Morality in Literature

Jenn, Noel and Greg

Definition and Etymology

As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, morality is “behaviour conforming to moral law or accepted moral standards, esp. in relation to sexual matters; personal qualities judged to be good.” The origin of the word comes from many places, but the most common route origins are from the “Old French moralite (Modern French moralité) “moral (of a story); moral instruction; morals, moral character” and the “Latin moralis “of manners or morals; moral” (see moral (adj.)). Meaning “doctrine or system of ethical duties” (Morality). Since the 1500’s, the term morality has changed and continues to change through time depending on varying cultures.


There is always some type of morality that comes into play in every story. Morality plays an immense role in storytelling, and the reader has the option to choose how to interpret the morality displayed in the story. We all have our own individual morals, but literature has the power to make you question, change or expand your views. Authors have the ability to do so by putting readers in the shoes of the victims and/or characters, thus immersing the audience in to a different mindset of morality for the story. From there, the reader can see a character’s perspective better because of the uncomfortable situations described by the author, such as the racism in Citizen and sexual assault in Mean.

Morality in Citizen
In Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen,” the speaker addresses the racism she, her friends and her family have encountered in various situations and how that makes them feel. The lyric is styled in a way to evoke emotions from the readers – a majority of the book is formatted where each page equates to a different racist scenario – and ultimately, the reader is intended to feel uncomfortable. The readers feel what the speaker experienced, ranging from anger and sadness to fear. In this context, morality would mean to refrain from racist slurs and acting upon those thoughts, and discouraging this behavior as well. This is known as the Social Facilitation Effect and Bystanding. The Social Facilitation Effect is how someone acts when they are in front of their peers or by themselves. Bystanding is when someone watches something happen that is wrong and watches without intervening. These two correlate with morality because people tend to question what is right or wrong compared to where they are and who they are with. This is important when it comes to reading literature due to the reader gaining another sense of morality when they see it from a different point of view through the speaker.

A person’s idea of morality may be subject to how they were raised; they may not realize that what they are saying or doing is wrong, but if an individual intentionally inflicts pain on someone, that is crossing boundaries. Rankine writes, “Someone in the audience asks the man promoting his new book on humor what makes something funny. His answer is what you expect – context. After a pause he adds that if someone said something, like about someone, and you were with your friends you would probably laugh, but if they said it out in public where black people could hear what was said, you might not, probably would not. Only then do you realize you are among ‘the others out in public’ and not among ‘friends’” (Citizen 48). Rankine singles out her readers by styling the lyric in a way where “you” are experiencing these situations. You are meant to feel ostracized and alienated from the rest of the crowd because of your skin color. Even though division was not the comedian’s intention, the “joke” involving the color of one’s skin contributes to racism. A few issues arise when applying the concept of morality to this scenario. Not only does the comedian display a lack of empathy towards the minority he’s picking on, but he’s also condoning and normalizing this behavior for the audience. These jokes and their justification are just an excuse. The audience may feel that it’s acceptable to joke like that as well, hence adding to the problem and creating a gray area where there should not be one. This bullying behavior is not only wrong, but the jokes are referring to something out of a person’s control which falls under racism. The speaker notes that the difference in setting (private versus public) would affect the humor behind the joke and therefore it’s allowed. The language used in this example further questions the idea of morality and how it’s perceived as subject to the individual. The fact that people understand certain comments should be refrained from because they are not “socially acceptable” is a clear indication that they know this is morally wrong. Racism is unacceptable regardless of its form. Even if it’s for comedic purpose, If it’s disrespectful and emotionally or mentally harmful to certain audiences, then it shouldn’t be encouraged in private settings either. By telling these jokes and creating a division, the victims of the joke feel “less than” their peers.

The jokes cause further damage when people don’t realize the “context” the comedian describes. Rankine addresses an issue she witnessed at Starbucks while waiting in line: “When the stranger asks, Why do you care? You just stand there staring at him. He has just referred to the boisterous teenagers in Starbucks as niggers” (16). Rankine places the readers as bystanders in this experience in an attempt to make us question our own morals. Rankine chose to use the “n-word” to stand out on the page and make the readers feel uncomfortable. Some people may not take offense to the word which causes us to question our own idea of morality and what is right or wrong. Rankine uses this instance to demonstrate that people may not realize the power of their words and just how harmful it may be; thus, it’s morally wrong to treat others like they are less important or valued than others because of their skin color.

Morality in Mean

In the memoir Mean, Gurba describes many instances when it comes to the basis of morality such as sexual assault and murder. The memoir goes into great detail when describing these acts that question one’s morality. Gurba intentionally uses such detailed descriptions, such as “he moans and shivers. His slack corn slides out of her. Cum oozes from between her legs. . . . A newscaster describes the murder as ‘the bludgeoning death of a transient in Oakley Park’” (2-3). Using corn to help describe a rape gives the reader a different perspective on the subject. Everyone knows what corn is and what it looks like, but most can’t imagine being raped. Gurba could have used any other language to describe this brutal attack, but she used this specific language to get the reader’s attention and to make a lasting impact by relating the rape to something so trivial in comparison, which is food. The language that Gurba uses throughout the memoir is critical because it can make the readers question their own morals as Gurba tries to provoke our emotions by describing tragic events in such detail.
Myriam Gurba’s memoir Mean describes various situations where an individual’s morals, or lack thereof, are put into the spotlight. Gurba describes people who lack morality in order to tell the tragic tales of sexual assault, racism, misogyny and homophobia.

Gurba uses specific language in order for the readers to feel a certain amount of discomfort as she is describing tragic events in her memoir. While describing the situation where a boy in her class begins to molest her, Gurba writes “I blushed as his fingers snuck into my crotch. I clenched my developing jaw. I looked at Mr. Hand. His eyes left the page he was grading. He saw” (31). Gurba’s specific choice of words in the quote was intentional and purposeful. She reminds us that she is still a young girl as she says she clenches her “developing” jaw. Also in the quote Gurba explains that as the boy began to molest her, her teacher saw what he was doing to her, yet he doesn’t do anything to stop it. Later she states “unable to look into a girl’s eyes or soul while she was being molested, something all teachers should be prepared to confront, Mr. Hand snapped his eyes back at the worksheet he’d been grading” (31). Mr. Hand’s morals are put into the spotlight in this situation, as he does nothing to help a girl who is being molested. As readers, this situation is intended to make us feel uncomfortable and question our own morals by thinking about what we would do in the same situation. Gurba wants us to feel angry at both her molester and the one who is enabling it. Readers should realize that both her molester, Macaulay, and Mr. Hand are displaying a clear lack of morals by doing this to her. Most of us believe we would do the right thing if we were Mr. Hand in this situation, and we would try to save the young girl from her molester. After reading how traumatic this event was for her, readers should have felt some sort of empathy and strongly believe they would have a morally just response in this situation.

Final Thoughts
Both of the authors displayed similar intentions with their texts. In Citizen and Mean, the authors try to evoke emotion from their readers and have them question their own ideas about what is right and wrong by describing situations filled with either racism or sexual acts. Whether it was a mental or emotional experience like the ones Rankine described or the physical actions that occurred in Mean, both authors play with the concept of morality. Readers may not find themselves in the same situations from the texts, but the authors want us to walk away with empathy and an understanding that just because we think something is “right” does not mean it actually is.

Works Cited

“Discover the Story of English More than 600,000 Words, over a Thousand Years.” Home :

Oxford English Dictionary, www.oed.com/view/Entry/122093#eid36037481.

Gurba, Myriam. Mean. Coffee House Press, 2017.

“Morality (n.).” Index, www.etymonline.com/word/morality.Rankine, Claudia. Citizen. Small Fires Press, 2017.

Public Lynching, August 30, 1930, Hulton Archive: altered image by John Lucas, Getty Images. In Citizen (91)


Photo credit to unsplash.com by Nong Vang

Ariana Connor, Skylar Locke, and Tai White

Stories Matter


The Oxford English Dictionary provides us with multiple, complex and often, differing definitions of  “story.” One way a story can be defined as “an oral or written narrative account of events that occurred or are believed to have occurred in the past; a narrative account accepted as true by virtue of great age or long tradition” (OED). There are a plethora of ways in which one can interpret a story and the ways in which it is told. A more unconventional perspective of a story is “an event, statement, or situation that supposedly epitomizes one’s life or experience. Frequently in that’s the story of my life and variants, used as a resigned acknowledgment that one has experienced a particular misfortune too often” (OED). Another way of defining a story is “a narrative of imaginary or (less commonly) real events composed for the entertainment of the listener or reader; a (short) work of fiction; a tale” (OED).


< Anglo-Norman storie (early 12th cent.; also estorie , istorie ), variant of Anglo-Norman and Old French estoire tale, narrative, history, account, source, text, etc.

Keyword in Action:

We are quick to fall victim to what Chimamanda Adichie portrays in her TED talk as “the danger of a single story.” According to Adichie, the danger of a single story is “[showing] a [person] as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” People have a tendency to only take a single idea, message, or lesson from a story and that becomes the entire story. This is problematic because storytelling allows us to make meaning out of the chaos of human existence and, in turn, understand who we are as individuals. If we only take single ideas out of stories then, we limit ourselves to one single perspective and definition. Through analyzing Zong! By M. NourbeSe Philip, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of A Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston, and Mean by Myriam Gurba, we can see how influential stories are and how beneficial it is to view stories in an open-minded and creative lens rather than from a single, limited perspective.

In Zong!, M. NourbeSe Philip creates found poems by retracing the horrific events that took place on the slave ship to Jamaica in November 1781. She turns the law document of the Gregson v. Gilbert case that views the event through a biased, restricted perspective into chaotic, confusing found poems. Approximately 132 enslaved Africans were killed in the Zong Massacre and were unjustifiably and intentionally chained together. They were then, thrown overboard by the captain due to illnesses from a shortage in water and food supply. The law document of the Zong Massacre gives a one-sided story from the court’s side of view rather than the stories from the victims. Philip’s found poems are the voices of the enslaved Africans that never had the chance to tell their story.  

Philip’s poems epitomize the horrors of the Zong Massacre and recover history by challenging the readers to create a story from the unsaid accounts of the enslaved people. She forces the readers to interpret stories in a new, unconventional way. There are multiple different ways in which one can read and understand the found poems in Zong! The abstractness of these poems forces the reader to imagine the outcomes of the massacre and attempt to piece together the events that occurred that day.

Photo from Zong! On page 3-4

The first found poem in  Zong! is complicated to read because the design goes against the ways that stories are formally structured; however, this is ultimately Philip’s goal. She is placing the responsibility on the reader to recreate the story of the Zong Massacre. The words one can easily pick out in the poem are “water,” “god,” “days,” “one,” and “won.” The overuse of the letter “w” and the word “water” are used to reflect the surroundings of the enslaved people. Whereas, the letter “d” and the use of the word “days” represents how long these enslaved people were held captive. Philip effectively scatters these letters to show the mess of the massacre that took place. Zong! brings light to this massacre.

Philip changes the original, unjust court document and takes specific words from it to express the turmoil under the massacre. The senselessness of these words further represents how foolish the captains on Zong were and the leaders in the court case. The law document from the Gregson v. Gilbert court case broke down the Zong massacre into a rational and simple event. If we compare the formatting of her found poems to traditional stories that are formally written and easier to digest then, we are able to open our minds to the different ways a story can be told. Stories are effective and are used in ways to separate the readers from the outside world and put them in a time warp to alter the ways they treat and read stories.

In Maxine Hong Kingston’s novel, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of A Girlhood Among Ghosts, single stories shape the narrator’s life and restrict her from finding her individuality as a young Chinese-American girl. The narrator rejects single stories which allow her to enter the world of multiple, creative stories. Storytelling allows the narrator to liberate herself from being stuck between the norms and identities of being both Chinese and American.

Kingston’s novel, a memoir (the story of one’s life) ironically, opens with the story of someone else. By opening the memoir in this intriguing and strange way, Kingston suggests that stories do not have to follow the traditional layout of what a story is. With that, her novel begins with the narrator reimagining the single story of her dead aunt, the No Name Woman. She creates three imaginative stories about her aunt to understand her evolving womanhood. In the first version, the aunt was raped by a man. In the second version, the aunt chooses to have sex with a man, leading to her pregnancy. In the final version, her aunt sleeps with a man because she was a “wild woman” (Kingston 8). The intention of this story is to create fear in the narrator and portray the danger of sexuality. The mother threatens her daughter by stating “what happened to her could happen to you. Don’t humiliate us. You wouldn’t like to be forgotten as if you had never been born” (Kingston 5). As a result of this story, the narrator becomes traumatized and is fearful of men. She states “as if it came from an atavism deeper than fear, I used to add “brother” silently to boy’s names” to make them “less scary” (Kingston 12). By listening to her mother’s story of her aunt, the narrator is restricted from the ability to explore her curiosity in romantic relationships and boys.

The narrator does not take the story as a cautionary tale that was intended to restrict her life possibilities; instead, she turns it into a story that expands on them. In the narrator’s stories of her aunt, she gives the No Name Woman freedom to be in control of her situation. However, the aunt was not allowed to have this type of freedom due to the strictness of Chinese culture. The narrator desires to break away from the roles given to her in Chinese cultures such as being a “wife” and a “slave” (Kingston 10). She refuses to let a single story restrict her role as a woman and more broadly speaking, as a person. With that, she creates multiple, imaginative stories that aid in her search for her identity. Kingston pushes against this idea that stories only come in one exact form with a single purpose. She wants us to understand that stories exist in many, different versions and perspectives and are allowed to be flexible in the eyes of the storyteller and listener.

Myriam Gurba’s Mean, a memoir of violence and dark humor, pushes against the traditional way a memoir is written by opening with Sophia Torres’ story, not her own life story. By doing this, Gurba is telling the world a story that would have never been taught or given the proper attention it deserved. She is portraying that a “story” has the power to bring awareness to stories that go unnoticed.

Throughout the majority of the book, Gurba writes stories that are focused on the sexual assault and death of Sophia and how Gurba feels emotionally guilty by this event. We do not find the exact reasoning behind her guilt until the end of the book. Gurba states “the man [who] . . . sexually [assaulted] me murdered Sophia Torres” (112). At this moment, we find out that Gurba was not only sexually assaulted but raped by the same man that raped and killed Sophia. In an interview with Gurba, she states “I carried around a lot of survivor guilt because I share a lot in common with the other victim that didn’t survive. But one of the things we don’t share in common is survival” (Racho). Gurba struggled for so long with the death of Sophia because she could have as easily been the victim that died; she was unable to come to an acceptance that she survived. At the end of the book, Gurba allows the ghost of Sophia to live within her and experience life through her.

If it was not for Gurba, many people would be completely unaware of who Sophia was and what happened to her. In the interview, she states “in some ways I wanted to make her somebody, at least in death” (Racho). Sophia’s story was viewed as one that did not matter and went unnoticed. However, Gurba uses her book to show that her story matters. She intentionally waits until the end to reveal that the story is not only Sophia’s but also her own. Through her book, she effectively to shows how a story is not only a single story.

As Adichie states at the end of her TED talk, “when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise” (TED). Stories matter and are influential in everyone’s life. They fill our society and in order for us to grow, we must not limit stories to one single definition and generally speaking, single stories. Stories are important because they provide us with the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of our experiences and who we are as individuals. If we reject single stories, then we are able to enter a creative realm where stories fly around with different messages and ideas.

Works Cited

Adichie, Chimamanda. “The Danger of a Single Story”. TED, July 2009.

“Discover the Story of EnglishMore than 600,000 Words, over a Thousand Years.” Home: Oxford English Dictionary, www.oed.com/view/Entry/190981?rskey=K2BqaW&result=2#eid.

Gurba, Myriam. Mean. Coffee House Press, 2017.

Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of A Girlhood Among Ghosts. Vintage International, 1976.

Philip, Marlene Nourbese. Zong! as Told to the Author by Setaey Adamu Boateng. Wesleyan Univ. Press, 2008.

Racho, Suzie. “Myriam Gurba’s ‘Mean’: A Memoir of Hurt and Humor.” KQED, 28 Feb. 2018, www.kqed.org/news/11652366/myriam-gurbas-mean-a-memoir-of-hurt-and-humor.

“Story | Search Online Etymology Dictionary.” Index, www.etymonline.com/search?q=story.

Gender Is a Keyword Throughout Literature

The “Oxford English Dictionary” defines gender as being “Either of the two sexes (male and female), especially when considered with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones. The term is also used more broadly to denote a range of identities that do not correspond to established ideas of male and female.” Today, we look at gender so differently, due to the diversity throughout the world, the ways people manipulate gender, and how one chooses to identify themselves. There have been so many new genders that people choose to identify themselves, for example, according to “7 Genders Beyond Male and Female”, new genders people choose to identify themselves with are “agender, cisgender, genderfluid, genderqueer, intersex, gender non-conforming, and transgender.” Gender plays a major role in the everyday lives of people and is also very important within literature and how we read and interpret ideas.

Many words starting with gen- like general, gender, and genre are from the Latin word genus, generis which means “class, race, sort”. Gender and genre were both taken from the French language, but at different times gender is older from the Medieval era, while the genre is from the era of French cultural dominance, surrounding the time of Napoleon and the rise of the Democratic-Republic in France. It is related to the Greek root gen- (to produce), appearing in gene, genesis, and oxygen. It also stems from the Latin genus (genitive generis) “race, stock, family; kind, rank, order; species,” also “(male or female) sex,” from the root gene- “give birth, beget,” with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups.

Gender has affected who gets to write and publish literature, which texts are assigned in a classroom setting, and how we, as readers, interpret any given text. Throughout history, gender has influenced whether or not we pick a certain text, what ideas we take from texts, and what texts we teach and what we censor. Gender affects what literature we have access to as well. Some stereotypes that revolve around gender within literature include; literature that is written by women is too emotional and boring, men only enjoy reading about literature involving sex, women do not enjoy reading political literature, etc. Certain works of literature written by men are somehow universal and relevant to everyone, but books written by women are only interesting to women. These stereotypes are directly based on gender and are frankly derogatory in nature. In fact, picking something to read that goes against these stereotypes brings about new information to the reader that they may have never known before. For example, if a man picks out a book written by a woman, going against the stereotype stated earlier, and finds the novel very interesting and enjoyed reading it, he has now expanded his background of knowledge in literature.

Gender plays a very important role within the background and history of the main character’s within literature as well. Some texts throughout literary history base their content on gender through the entirety of their story. For example, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is entirely based on the fact that the main character is a woman and the stereotypes surrounding women. The basis of the story is about the main character, Hester Prynne, who is shamed by her entire town for being an adulterer. She has to wear a letter A on her chest which is sewed into her dress, to show everyone that she is labeled an adulterer. The man she had an affair with remained nameless however the town did not go after him, only the woman. The town was only outraged that a woman had committed adultery, but the man got off without even a slap on the wrist. In literature, men are celebrated for being dominant and acting on their sexual desires while women are shamed for them.

In many instances throughout literature, authors may choose to write about stories of their own that can affect the reader. Novels like Maxine Hong Kingston’s, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts and Mean by Myriam Gurba are examples of literature that may help women identify themselves. Not only does The Woman Warrior shed light on cultural issues, such as growing up Chinese-American, but gender issues as well, such as the role of Chinese women in society. The memoir is based on different women who have a significant effect on the narrator’s life; her mother, her aunt, her sister. The memoir is also based around a male dominant background surrounding these women and how they overcome that dominance and thrive. For example, we can see the male dominance in the book when the narrator’s mom starts telling her the story of her aunt and how a man might have sexually assaulted her and impregnated her. Mean speaks on the aspect of women as objects and property to men. The main character, a woman, is sexually assaulted and speaks obsessively about the sexual roles of men and women. Gurba challenges the audience to think differently about sexual assault in how she is playful with the words and phrases she uses to describe sex. She pushes us to think about how sexual assault can change us, and specifically how it has changed her take on sex.

In Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun, the author tells a story about the Youngers, a low-income African American family depending on a life insurance check to support them. The play follows the Younger family, as they try to accomplish their goals and dreams while being discriminated against based on their race, class, and gender. An example where we see gender come into play is through the female character Beneatha. Beneatha has dreams and aspirations of becoming a doctor but her brother Walter and the cultural society she lives in makes fulfilling her dreams problematic. In the 1960s, there were not many opportunities for women to become doctors. It was typically an occupation white men would take up which in turn made it very difficult for a woman to pursue. For example, according to the article “A Black Community”, “It took decades for the general female population in the United States to attain the gender parity seen in professional, technical, and managerial occupations among blacks in Baltimore in 1960. Between 1972 and 2002, U.S. women’s share of total employment in the managerial, professional, and technical occupations increased substantially. The proportion of women employed in executive, administrative, and managerial positions more than doubled over that period, from 19.7 percent to 45.9 percent.” Furthermore, since Beneatha is an African American woman, this puts her at more of a disadvantage since she did not have an equal opportunity to education or equal access to finding a job in the market.

Walter and Beneatha’s relationship is an excellent example of sexism in literature between men and women. Walter is an example of a man who doesn’t support his sister’s decision with going to school and pursuing the career of her dreams. He said to Beneatha, “Ain’t many girls who decide to be a doctor” (36) and continued to question her decision to go to medical school by asking, “Have we figured out yet just exactly how much medical school is going to cost?” (36). In our opinion, Walter is being sexist towards Beneatha because he assumes that she will not be able to handle it since it was typically a man’s job.

In addition, Beneatha had little to no interest in getting married because she was so determined to become a doctor. Later, Walter tells Beneatha to “… go be a nurse like other women-or just get married and be quiet” (38) but she challenges the gender norms of women getting married at a young age and having kids by continuing her career. Not only did she stand up to Walter but she stood up to Ruth as well when she asked Beneatha when she is going to get married repeatedly. Beneatha responded to Ruth, “Get over it? What are you talking about, Ruth? Listen, I’m going to be a doctor. I’m not worried about who I’m going to marry yet – if I ever get married” (50). A Raisin in the Sun is able to help readers understand the importance of gender because the audience can see that Beneatha is standing up for what she believes in and what dreams she wants to accomplish, as a woman of color.

Citizen is an American Lyric written by Claudia Rankine, about different scenarios that everyday people go through. In the lyric, we see Black women being discriminated against, this time publically. Don Imus, an American radio personality, called the Rutgers women’s basketball team, “Nappy headed hoes” (42). Rankine might have included this in the lyric because she wanted to show the effects that the comment made on the team. Imus was discriminating against these women by calling them hoes. A basketball team of men would not have been slut-shamed like these women were.

Tennis-Brazil-Wozniacki-Exhibition, December 7, 2012 AFP/Getty Images”QTDin Citizen (37)

Another example that we see in Citizen, is the section about Serena Williams and her outburst during one of her tennis matches. The entire world depicted Serena as an outraged woman of color. Serena’s gender affects her whole career because the media and the news tend to play around with the fact that she is a woman and it is assumed that women are not allowed to have outbursts in public. For example, Rankine states, “Tennis superstar John McEnroe, given his own keen eye for injustice during his professional career, was shocked that Serena was able to hold it together after losing the match.” (27). The picture above of Caroline Wozniacki is showing her making fun of the way Serena Williams looks. The act of Wozniacki dressing up to discriminate against the way black women look would never have happened if this was a man. If a man ever made fun of another woman or man by dressing up like them, no one would ever take it seriously or even go to the news about it. Caroline Wozniacki wanted a reaction from Serena, and she definitely got it.

As readers, we are able to identify the different conflicts that characters might endure throughout novels or plays in literature. Gender is such a powerful word that has been able to affect literature and challenge the reader to think more deeply about the piece of literature they might be reading. In more recent years, the idea of gender has changed and drastically evolved, which is why it is hard to understand the meaning and interpret new concepts of gender that are different from the past. In addition, there are many different gender identities and literature has been able to capture the gender norms that are often prevalent in society today. Gender can help us read different kinds of literature with different understandings. Whether it is helping us to see the difference between different genders, or helping us understand the perspectives of each gender and what they might go through, gender is a keyword that is used to help readers understand literature in a more nuanced way.

Works Cited

“Discover the Story of English.” Home : Oxford English Dictionary, www.oed.com/.

Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. Methuen Drama, 2018.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter: a Romance. Vintage, 2016.

Mahmoud, Jessica. “7 Genders Beyond Male and Female.” Uloop, 2015, www.uloop.com/news/view.php/161240/7-Genders-Beyond-Male-and-Female.

McKay, Ruth B. A Black Community with Advanced Labor Force Characteristics in 1960. 2007, www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2007/02/art1full.pdf.

Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: an American Lyric. Penguin, 2015.

Tennis-Brazil-Wozniacki-Exhibition, December 7, 2012 AFP/Getty Images

The use of Meanness

Hey Everyone! I hope you all are finding Mean to be as interesting as I do. This reading has really opened my eyes to the extent in which sexual assault is occurring. Myriam Gurba is brave enough to share her intimate story with the world in order to bring awareness to the issue. What I found while reading this book is how she uses the philosophy meanness. Gurba is mean as a type of sublimation. I believe she is as mean as she is because it is her way of standing up for herself and preventing others from harming her. In this blog post, I am going to show different instances in which Gurba uses meanness.

“We act mean to defend ourselves from boredom and from those who would chop off our breasts. We act mean to defend our clubs and institutions. We act mean because we like to laugh. Being mean to boys is fun and a second-wave feminist duty. Being rude to men who deserve it is a holy mission. Sisterhood is powerful, but being a bitch is more exhilarating. Being a bitch is spectacular.” (page 17).

This quote addresses multiple reasons as to why Myriam Gurba is portrayed as mean. The first line in the quote really puts you in her shoes. Her being mean is a way to prevent what happened from happening again. She is mean because she doesn’t want to go through the pain of a man forcing himself onto her against her will. Gurba believes that if she is mean, a man will pay less attention to her and ultimately ignore the fact that she even exists.

The next sentence that stood out to me in this quote is “Being mean to boys is fun and a second-wave feminist duty”. Gurba is convinced that all boys and men are like the one that raped her. I understand this is her mindset, but this is obviously not true. She believes that it is her job to treat all men like they are pieces of trash because that’s how she herself views them. In a way you can’t blame her… you have to understand all that she has gone through has shaped the way she views the male species.

The last line from the quote I would like to talk about “Being rude to men who deserve it is a holy mission”. This quote is difficult to agree or disagree with as it is debatable. I could see why she thinks God would want her to be mean to men who deserve it. If anyone who is religious that reads this, knows that God does not believe in those types of actions and believes in forgiveness. Therefore being mean to men is not a holy mission, but is Gurba’s mission.

Questions to consider and elaborate on:

  1. Do you agree or disagree with “Being mean to boys is a fun and a second-wave feminist duty”?
  2. What are your feelings towards the quote above from page 17?
  3. What other uses of meanness did you find while reading Mean?

The new three “Gs”- Gay, God, and Ghosts

I hope everyone is enjoying the book so far, because I know I am. Myriam Gurba does a fantastic job at using humor to dissect different things that has happened in her life and brings us along through her story. She does a fantastic job at describing different characters as well as looking at the “ghosts”  that affect her life.

The characters are well described and the detail is easily noticed. She seems to have a lot of stories involving her friends (Frida, Ashley, Conchita, and Ida). Conchita holds a job so you can tell that she has motivation, but she’s carefree at the same time, saying “I don’t care what we do as long as I can smoke” (43) and Myriam describes her as “so European.” (43) she “loved high fashion and was half black and half spanish.” (42). Myriam believes her friends are the type of “girls whose best years wouldn’t be in high school.” (42), so she believes that they will be doing bigger and better things once they get out. She allows us to look at the different personalities of her friends without ever really being too direct. It is important to know everyone in the story so we can try to experience the same thing Myriam experiences.

Myriam is comfortable with being gay and even came out to her mother. She is open with her friends about it as well, which is nice to see because not everyone has the ability to be so open. She replied with “I’m homo.” (48) when her and her friends were at a festival to get out of performing a sort of activity. After talking about a show, she let us know that “Pedro partly made (her) come out to Mom.” (59)  It is important to be able to come out to loved ones so you feel more accepted and don’t have to hide anything from anyone.

She uses the ghosts to talk about guilt, her past experiences and portrays her sister. Ofelia, as a ghost when she is sick. She hangs out with ghosts (60) which can imply that she is dealing with her guilt all the time. She constantly thinks about what has occurred in her past which makes it so she shows little compassion and uses humor to cover everything up. “Guilt is a ghost…Ghosts have no etiquette…” (55). When Ofelia was sick, she “got as wispy and quiet as a ghost” (52). Anorexia is a terrible disorder that plagues many girls (and boys for that matter, everyone can have an eating disorder). Myriam uses the ghosts to explain things she can’t see or things that are sad to see.

Some questions to consider…

  1. Is describing her friends and family a good way to let us into her life? Or are their pieces missing?
  2. How does her use of humor hide the abuse she experienced and witnesses around her?
  3. How does being gay affect her relationships with family and friends so far? If at all?  


Hi everybody! I chose to base my poem off of an article I found called, “The First Amendment in Schools: Censorship” on the National Coalition Against Censorship.

This article discusses the dangers of censorship being introduced in school and the effects that it has on students and teachers. I chose to arrange my found poem similar to some of the Zong! Poems, I did this because I like how the words are arranged on the page and how it makes it less comfortable to read and forces the reader to really focus on each individual word.
I chose this specific article because I am an AEN major and I am going to be a teacher someday, so I feel very strongly about this message. One full quote from the original article I would like to share with you guys says, “By limiting resources and flexibility, censorship hampers a teacher’s ability to explore all possible avenues to motivate and ‘reach’ students. By curtailing ideas that can be discussed in class, censorship takes creativity and vitality out of the art of teaching.” (5). The basis of censorship in schools is a certain group of people telling the teachers what they can and cannot teach and telling students what they can and cannot read, based off of a small group’s personal beliefs. A few examples of books that have been censored in schools are Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men,The Diary of Anne Frank, and Romeo and Juliet. These books were banned in certain schools due to criteria including; their level of profanity (which can even be one word), ideas of sexuality, or their ideas were “objectionable”. None of these reasons were based on facts, they were chosen because of personal beliefs, some even based off of one’s religion. I created my found poem to highlight the harmful effects of censorship in hopes that someday the First Amendment will be held up in schools.