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Archive for the ‘pop culture’ Category

I liked Kim Brooks’article on motherhood and creativity but a lot of people didn’t. Here’s a very thoughtful reply to that article from Sarah Menkedick in Vela.

And yet, as a new mother, I wrote. And I needed to write. Not because I needed to make a name for myself or prove my genius, but because I needed to work my everyday experience into larger truths, to see it anew and connect it to a bigger realm. I needed to honor that everyday experience by scrubbing it and scrubbing it into polished, spot-on sentences that reflected it clearly.

It is rare for me to write this way. So much of what I had written before had an intellectual motor behind it, the wheel of my brain churning and churning out product. This writing did not. It both illuminated and paled behind the quotidian, the acts— huge, breathtaking, and so small as to be nearly invisible—of parental care.

In many ways, I think this writing made me a better mother. It made me pay attention to mothering, which I began to see as an incredibly complex, difficult, beautiful, personal, universal realm so underserved by literature; it made me see my daughter the way Annie Dillard saw Tinker Creek, the way Peter Matthiessen saw the labyrinthine ravines around the Crystal Monastery, as intricate mysteries worthy of rapt, careful attention.

There’s much to love here and it discusses many important points in reply to Brooks’ like who says mothering isn’t creative energy and who says the purpose of art is to disrupt.. but, controversial… I have a bit of ‘wait and see’ reaction whenever new mothers talk about the journey of motherhood and what is and isn’t.

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This is really interesting! From “What does it mean when we call women girls?” by Robin Wasserman in Literary Hub.

Here’s how Louis CK draws the distinction between girl and woman:

[22-year old girls] might say, I’m 22, I’m totally a woman… Not to me, sorry. To me you’re not a woman until you’ve had a couple of kids and your life is in the toilet… when you become a woman is when people come out of your vagina and step on your dreams.

If it’s easy to see how the girl label attaches to unmoored millennials, it’s less evident how it applies to women firmly rooted in the adult phase of life. But it makes sense if we read the “girl” narratives as corrective to the Louis CK threshold, the “girls” as women who refuse to let a little thing like people coming out of their vaginas ruin their dreams.

All the Single Ladies, journalist Rebecca Traister’s recent take on the rise of the single woman, opens with her childhood conviction that the marriage plot was less fairy tale than Shakespearean tragedy. “It was supposed to be romantic, but it felt bleak,” she writes of the nuptial trajectories of her girlhood literary heroes. “Paths that were once wide and dotted with naughty friends and conspiratorial sisters and malevolent cousins, with scrapes and adventures and hopes and passions, had narrowed and now seemed to lead only to the tending of dull husbands and the rearing of insipid children to whom the stories would be turned over.”

The girl books crowding the nonfiction shelf are written by and about women who insist on sticking to that wide path, women who refuse to Jo March themselves into a supporting role in their own life: girlhood as a state of mind.

The word attaches itself with special frequency to women in music and the sciences—not as diminishment of their achievement, but as its trophy. Girl in a Band, Lab Girl, Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl, Rise of the Rocket Girls: these are women who followed their girlhood passions into male-dominated fields and triumphed. Their stories speak of subverting gender expectations, breaking barriers, and—at least on the page—prioritizing work and art over the role of domestic caretaker.

In Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon pauses—briefly—in her tale of Sonic Youth’s rise to acknowledge the birth of her daughter: “Yes, she changed our lives, and no one is more important to me. But the band played on.” Gordon spent the first half of her career answering journalists’ inevitable question about what it was like to be a girl in a band; the moment she gave birth, they instead wanted to know: “What’s it like to be a rock-and-roll mom?” Her daughter might well be the most important thing in her life, but she’s nearly irrelevant to this story, which is about music, ambition, and the need to create. Gordon writes about her difficulties expressing her true self, relieved only by art: “For me the page, the gallery, and the stage became the only places my emotions could be expressed….Art, and the practice of making art, was the only space that was mine alone.”

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This is an interesting little interview on BBC radio with Rachel Cusk, one of my favourite writers about memoir writing. Cusk covers all sorts of ground including how personal writing is evolving or not evolving, and the difficult question about invading your children’s privacy in order to write about your own experiences as a mother.

“Getting close to the truth of your own experiences is, for me, an artistic goal rather than a choice of genre”

 

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There are lots of spoilers in the link below if you are not up to date with Game of Thrones, but otherwise, an interesting take on what the show is currently exploring. (The picture I used is from an old episode and not a spoiler. The quote selected below does not include any spoilers either, because I love you so).

From Megan Garber’s “Game of Thrones’ Epidemic of Kid-Killing” in The Atlantic:

Childhood, according to this logic, is a form of social sacrifice, and in that of personal indulgence: It is a luxury unfit for a time in which, yes, winter is coming.

It’s a sad suggestion, but a resonant one for a show that is operating in a culture that finds itself asking similar—if, thankfully, much less violent—questions about childhood and adulthood and the line between the two. Helicopter parenting, emerging adulthood, boomerang kids, sexting, playgrounds designed to be safe and dangerous at the same time—these are all components of a broad cultural conversation that redounds to a basic question: What is childhood, at this particular juncture? How sacred should childhood be?

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There’s lots to ponder here in Harry Giles’ post, “Shock and Care”. He does some really satisfying mulling over with the topic and pushes it in all sorts of directions . I think there’s a lot here that can be applied to writing, too, in addition to visual and performance arts. Recommended reading.

The argument I’m trying to build through these examples is that experiences of deep and genuine care are themselves shocking, shocking through their incongruity with a wider uncaring world. They are also necessary, because so few of us have the option to be cared for. And they define your audiences, because to choose not to care – to not take account of – audiences made up of different people with very different needs, whether those are needs based on disability, class, mental health or otherwise – is to limit your audience, which is to limit the conversation your art is having and thus the possibilities of the art you can make.

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More recently, a Western Australian study aimed to quantify the relationship between art and happiness in the general population. It concluded that people who had two hours a week of ‘arts engagement’ were much happier human beings, all other variables being taken into account. This two-hour period was called the ‘dose-response’ – in other words, the minimum ‘dose’ required for a positive effect.

‘It’s awesome,’ said Dr Christina Davies, who led the study. ‘If you break that down it’s only fifteen to twenty minutes a day. That is a colouring book. It’s easy to get that amount of art into your day.’ Art, she suggested, could be ‘prescribed’ to enhance the wellbeing of entire populations. So why not? Why not launch public health campaigns to make the population healthier by giving them more art? What is wrong with that?

There is, after all, a kernel of truth in this: art can be therapeutic. People who are engaged with art probably are happier. I’m all for everyone being happier. And I’ve seen how art can change lives – it opens worlds and possibilities, articulates difficult and complex truths, and liberates the mind from crushing social shackles.

But while it might be very restful to colour in pictures for fifteen minutes a day, that has as much to do with art as Soylent has to do with actual food. And art by ‘prescription’? That is one letter away from ‘proscription’. I worry about what might be made of this study, about the sidelining of art and artists into a substructure of the wellness industry. The disconsoling truth is that when art is absorbed into institutional structures, those aspects of it that matter the most tend to disappear altogether.

Look at the appropriation of ‘creativity’ by corporate culture. The ‘creative’ executive – according to Businessweek, the most desired quality in twenty-first-century business leaders – attends ‘creativity’ workshops to get in tune with his inner buzzwords. Often these are given cachet by museums or other arts organisations cashing in on the corporate dollar – in reality, it’s just How to Win Friends and Influence People with a new, grandiloquent vocabulary.

Corporate ‘creativity’ feeds parasitically on the perceived status of art – an aura of unconventional genius and inspiration – but refashions creativity itself to suit its own ends. Artists, after all, aren’t primarily interested in making money, but in making art. Arts practice, with its necessary failures and open exploration, is in fact completely antithetical to the aims of a corporation. This distorted notion of ‘creativity’ is then projected back on art itself. It’s depressing to see how artistic culture has embraced the language of the ‘artspreneur’, even as artists’ incomes wither on the vine.

From Alison Croggon’s “On art as therapy” in Overland.

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This is a good and very useful examination of vertical and horizontal concept creep around topics like harm, trauma and addiction. I would argue that the concept of co-dependence has also experienced a broadening to the point of becoming virtually useless as a term.

Some of the concept creep is about increased sophistication in our understanding of impact, but some of it is about a failure to examine interactions from multiple perspectives. The perspectives most overlooked will tend be those of the most marginalised, as demonstrated below.

Two stories illustrate how concept creep can be a force for good or ill.

Story 1: During the 1950s, third graders would climb into their parents’ cars and ride around without seatbelts. When stopping short, fathers and mothers would use their right arms in hopes of keeping their little ones from hitting their heads on the dashboard. These kids lived in houses slathered with lead paint and spent hours in family rooms thick with cigarette smoke. Today, there are laws against letting children ride around without seat belts, lead paint is banned, and there is such a powerful stigma against exposing children to second-hand smoke that far fewer kids suffer from poor health outcomes related to such exposure. Society’s concept of what constituted an unacceptable risk, harm, or trauma expanded for the better.

Story 2: During the 1950s, third graders could walk to school, play alone at the park, or bike 10 minutes to a friend’s house without anyone worrying or objecting, so long as they came home for supper or before the street lights came on. Today, though kidnapping is just as rare, a parent who allows that same behavior is at risk of arrest or even losing custody of their children to their state’s child protective services bureaucracy. Society’s concept of what constituted an unacceptable risk, harm, or trauma expanded for ill. In Hanna Rosin’s words, it  “stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery—without making it safer.”

From Conor Friedersdorf’s “How Americans became so sensitive to harm” in The Atlantic.

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