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A Response To ‘On Discovery’ by Maxine Hong Kingston

   On Discovery detailed a forceful and brutal transformation from man to woman in an older Chinese style. In this piece, an over-confident male explorer discovers the Land of Women. He is captured by the women, imprisoned, and subjected to physical modifications to become a woman. Over time, he accepts this change and it becomes his gender identity. Through this short tale, author Maxine Hong Kingston is relating how gender is developed over time into one’s identity, and representing a way in which oppression has been used to maintain a gender power dynamic.

The way in which Tang Ao adapted to his newly forced gender identity was through conditioning. It was framed in a way which was more condensed and drastic than the conditioning one experiences in society. Through media and our respective prevailing cultures, the characteristics which define men and women are ingrained into the developing mind. Cultural norms do not leave much room for one to diverge from these paths. When Tang initially arrived at the Land of Women, he paid no mind to the threat of being captured. “The women immediately captured him, not on guard against ladies” (Kingston, 12). This reflected both his conception of his masculinity and of his captors’ femininity. He assumed that, rather than being captured, he was on his way to the fulfillment of a sexual fantasy. “…if he had had male companions, he would’ve winked over his shoulder” (Kingston, 12).

I recall, just a handful of years ago, thinking the notion of gender as a spectrum or as something which diverges from sex in meaning was silly. It wasn’t until, in a discussion on the subject when I was prompted that my understanding of gender was misguided, that I began to explore the topic more deeply. I read literature on gender dysphoria, talked to friends in the LGBT community, and explored my own gender as an aspect of myself separate from my sex. I came to learn a great deal more on a personal level even more recently when a close friend came out as discovering her gender dysphoria and began transitioning to a woman.

I’ve always framed my gender in the context of my sex. This has been the framework of how that tale has woven itself over the years. Removing the gender-sex tie and framing the gender aspect to the development of my own identity told a new and interesting story to myself. While there were no great hidden changes waiting for me to take a fresh perspective of myself, I do feel I’ve come to understand my personal identity more fundamentally since.

I think that Kingston used the brutal methods of Chinese culture (like foot binding) to shock the reader to attention. This approach is contrary to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, where it is suggested that guiding one to a more enlightened idea should be done gradually, rather than abruptly, as that may cause one to instead more strongly oppose the idea, preferring their original understanding. “‘And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he’s forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.’ ‘Not all in a moment,’ he said. ‘He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world’” (Plato, para. 10).  However, the process Kingston placed Tang through also brings to light the brutal standards that existed in the culture she adapted. Femininity was firmly established in these practices through extreme body modification and painfully rigorous protocol. We saw similar, though less extreme, treatments of women in Victorian England through corsets. I recall an episode of WBUR’s OnPoint with Tom Ashbrook recently where Victorian life was discussed with British historian Ruth Goodman, and a portion of the show mentioned corsets and the ideas surrounding them. They purported that women did not have sufficient muscle to properly hold her abdominal organs, being the weaker sex. This myth perpetuated itself, however, as prolonged corset use weakened those very muscles (Ashbrook, 9:38). Even short of these extreme examples, the gender roles are laid out before us from birth and it isn’t until later, if we are lucky, that we discover our genders are not ordained by our sex, but by the identities we develop. “If being a woman is one cultural interpretation of being female, and if that interpretation is in no way necessitated by being female, then it appears that the female body is the arbitrary locus of the gender ‘woman’, and there is no reason to preclude the possibility of that body becoming the locus of other constructions of gender” (Butler, 35). In this way, Butler stripped away an appeal to nature logical fallacy and laid out developed gender in clear and precise logical reasoning.

  On Discovery effectively drives home a crucial point on gender identities, perceptions, and oppression. Kingston wraps into one succinct experience tropes of weaker sex concepts, gender oppression, undeniably brutal practices, and the development of identity. If I am interpreting Kingston correctly, I can be found in full agreement with her.

 

References

Ashbrook, Tom. “How To Live Like A Victorian, Right Now.” On Point with Tom Ashbrook. 26 Jan. 2015. Web. 1 Feb. 2015. <http://onpoint.wbur.org/2015/01/26/how-to-be-a-victorian>.

Butler, Judith. “Sex and Gender in Simone de Beavoir’s Second Sex.” Yale French Studies No. 72, Simone de Beauvoir: Witness to a Century (1986): p. 35. Web. 16 Jan. 2015. <http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2930225>

Kingston, Maxine Hong. “On Discovery.” Inquiry: Questioning, Reading, Writing. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2004. 12-14. Print.

Plato. “The Republic.” The Internet Classics Archive. MIT. Web. 1 Feb. 2015. <http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.8.vii.html>.

The 100 Day Decline: Trump’s Plans

In November, NPR published an article outlining Donald Trump’s initial plans for his first 100 days in office. A few things stuck out to me.

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Congressional term limits provides absolutely no guarantee of a better congress, in fact it deincentivises it. What incentivises congressional performance is the threat of losing one’s position to someone else (you know, like that free market principle the right likes to tout). Afraid of career politicians? Tell people in their district/state to vote for someone else. Like a representative or senator who has served their limit? Too bad! It is nonsensical and only sounds good as rhetoric.

For every new federal regulation, two federal regulations must be eliminated? That’s asinine. It asks to play numbers on regulation rather than allowing the quality/efficacy to be the determining factor in the existence of the regulation.

The removal of fossil fuel production restrictions is going to take a fat dump on our country. “Clean” coal is a joke and the removal of funds to climate change programs betrays a severe, severe idiocy and ignorance to blatantly clear science (as does his pick for EPA transition).

School Choice And Education Opportunity Act is going to perpetuate the education problem. Eliminating a national educational standard ensures the dumb states stay dumb, poor quality districts stay poor, and privately owned scam schools thrive.

I suspect the Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act sounds better than it is. The likelihood is that it creates these incentives while removing things like the childcare subsidy which is literally the only reason many working parents are even able to go to work.

Not only is the wall not actually going to stop illegal immigrants from coming in, it’s also going to be a massive burden on the taxpayer both in construction and in those proposed prison terms (which in some cases may even incentivise repeat offense for those three hots and a cot). No, Mexico is not going to pay for it. Anyone who believes they will is severely impaired.

It is interesting to me that the Clean Up Corruption In Washington Act has no specifics listed on said ethics reforms for “draining the swamp,” but I suppose we’ll see.

Don’t expect to see a number of these plans actually go into action, though. Many of them are opposed by both sides of the aisle in both branches of congress.

 

Eargasms For Your Genitals EP Review

Eargasms   Marianne Toilet And The Runs are an extravagant sex-positive comedic rock act from Massachusetts. This is a must see live band, which is something that doesn’t always translate well to record. In fact, more often than not, the difference is disappointingly staggering. Thankfully, this is nto the case here. Eargasms For Your Genitals is a really enoyable release that effetively captures the character, hilarity, and fun of their live performance.

Eargasms opens with a rousing southwestern-style religious sermon and the origin story of Marianne Toilet and the bowel-moving manifestation which brought this wonder upon our world. Having seen them live a few times, I expected the theme to follow (sadly absent from this ep), but FiFi was a great transition. What is a fifi? A fifi is a homemade pocket pussy made with a cup, a couple sponges, and a latex glove. It’s also a great upbeat love song you just can’t stay still during. Next is Frat Guy In The Closet. We all know a few and can rejoice in his hidden happiness. Gentleman And A Scholar is the most honest ballad I have ever heard. The tragedy of Lawnmowing will bring a tear to your eye. The Blumpy? The Blumpy is a wealth of ideas buried in an endearing story of a darling lady. In this mix, we have an ep that takes us on an emotional and very horny journey from the inception of Marianne Toilet and beyond.

Marianne Toilet And The Runs write very effective rock songs about hilarious takes on the debaucherous corners of our society. Pimp d’Crip’s guitar work and both Marianne and Cami’s vocals really stand out for me with The Red Nightmare’s solid drumming keeping it moving. The humor is infectious, the songwriting is very solid, and the production is clean and strong. The idea is wonderful and the execution is brilliant.

5/5 – an absolute must have album

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