still worked up

i’ve been chatting with a friend/co-worker who is also in beautiful robert’s class with me:

me: i wonder if she will show next week
me: how much you wanna bet she bails?
him: I was wondering
him: even money
him: too bad really
me: i just can’t believe she was that sensitive
him: she just seems uncomfortable
me: it really stunned me
him: yeah. it was weird
me: like blew me away– speechless, stunned me
me: by the time i had gotten home i worked myself into a pretty good froth
him: I don’t think it was you
me: i’m an absolute free speecher
me: who was it then?
him: I think it was her trying to lay out “rules”
him: in reaction to words she saw coming down the road
him: I think Roberts reaction was weak
me: how so?
him: He should have said any words that moved a story were OK
him: and left it at that
him: or said any discomfort was part of workshopping
me: yeah, i got the feeling that he was a little stunned
him: and would be discussed there
me: and didn’t have a clue how to handle the situation
him: for sure. He wanted to be sensitive and that’s cool
him: but yeah.what do you do?
him: white male alarm bells go off loud
me: i just can’t believe that in a writing class someone would want to limit the words we can use
me: and if you’re that sensitive, you don’t belong there
me: if you can’t appreciate the power and the beauty that some words still have over us, even if they aren’t positive words, you don’t deserve to be a goddamn writer
him: yeah!
me: well, it’s like when he was saying that you control when someone breathes when you write, it’s the same sort of thing
me: it’s power, and it’s mind-blowing
me: and if you don’t want it, can’t handle it, then get your ass back to dr. seuss and leave the rest of us alone
me: grrr
me: free speech, it gets me hopped up

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  1. dweebie 26.Sep.03 at 5:50 pm

    Being a lawyer, and a liberal, I think free speech is very important. Trying to think from another viewpoint however, after reading Stones From the River, by Ursula Hegi, about the Holocaust and how people in Germany let hateful things be done and said, I also realize that at times it’s our job to exert peer pressure and stand up for someone being being belittled or branded because of their race, sex, sexual preference or religion.
    In your case you were not using the word to belittle anyone. If you had a gay friend in the class, I doubt that you would have avoided quoting the quote. You were using it to get to the mindset of the character, that’s what writers do, using images and language to convey states of mind, to suggest what type of personality is speaking.
    I applaud gay folks who have taken the slurs and starting using them to take away their power and negativity. I love Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, because the gay guys on it are proud of being “Queer” and call themselves queer in an empowering way. When you’re with a group of gay guys many of them love referring to themselves as queens and ladies and all that.
    I remember the first time I read Tess of the Durbervilles and was surprised the word faggot was used–but its meaning in that novel meant a pile of sticks that people were carrying for their fuel. The word itself is not bad, it’s the intent behind it and its context. Hate speech shouldn’t be condoned, but people do have a right to voice opinions. KKKers have a right to march, as do those who object to their practices.
    It may have been a big step for her (your classmate) to stand up against what she thought was hate language, but I think she missed the point when you were merely quoting a quote to get to the motivation of the brother. So possibly you can find it in your heart to cut her some slack in that she was trying to help social evolution, but she was a bit misguided and lacked a little in critical thinking, but the more she speaks up and there is a forum for discussion, everyone benefits, especially she does in that her horizons are broadened to realize that you can’t assume everyone else thinks like you. Jodi, you should start writing for the ACLU.

  2. Suzy 27.Sep.03 at 10:32 am

    Does it change your discussion any to know that Michael Cunningham is gay, and if he is comfortable using the word “faggot”, why should she be uncomfortable? Esp. in the context in which you quote it.

    I am all for free speech and also do a lot of work in diversity training and tolerance training, but really have a difficult time with people who take offense at words in literature – there is so obviously a huge gulf between using words in the context of a story (even if the point is to illustrate how insensitive and hateful a character might be) and “hate” speech. Shame on your teacher for not making the difference perfectly clear, if at all.

  3. jodi 27.Sep.03 at 11:13 am

    we even discussed cunningham’s homosexuality! and it’s not like i said, “so when mr. brother says ‘out faggot’ do you think he knows his younger brother is a god-hating gayboy?” or something equally reprehensible. i just quoted the text and i don’t even think the word faggot was uttered againt throughout the discussion.

    can you tell i’m still flabbergasted?

  4. Bonny 27.Sep.03 at 12:04 pm


  5. Joots 29.Sep.03 at 10:10 am

    If we can feel for the woman in question for just a second, there’s more than a good chance that she’s trying to find a way to live with the words that haunt her most, for whatever reasons. By not having a firmer stand, or, by god, not having considered this in his own time to have an answer ready and waiting, your instructor has unwittingly left her a target and the rest of you unclear as to what the heck you’re allowed (?!?!?!?!) to write about. I hope he picks up the ball next class. If not, someone – nudge, nudge – should.

    Incidentally, I’ve been out of town and reading these entries from the bottom. If I comment on something that’s already happened, feel free to ignore me. 🙂


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