A Review of Roxane Gay’s book, Hunger

By Kali Nelson

A black and white photo of the author standing in between lots of chairs.
Roxane Gay standing in between some chairs.

“I often say that reading and writing saved my life. I meant that quite literally,” Roxane Gay.

Bad Feminist was the first time I had ever heard of Roxane Gay and I am glad it was not the last time. Hunger is one of Gay’s latest books, and it looks deeper into her past, her struggle with her weight, and the event that changed her life.

I will always have a special place in my heart for her, and I am always excited when I get to read something she wrote. She writes from a sincere place, and it shows in her work. She writes about what is true for her. She writes about her truth, which is combined with her feminism, and it doesn’t feel like reading a textbook. Hunger is a memoir of Gay’s body.   Continue reading “A Review of Roxane Gay’s book, Hunger”

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A is for Anxiety B is for Bold

Kali Nelson

A metal arch that was lit up with pink lights for breast cancer awareness.
An Arch light up pink for Breast Cancer Awareness

 

Disclaimer! I am not a scientist, I am not a biology major. What I report in this post is what I have found on my own. I am learning about this along with you, so if you see something wrong let me know. Thank you.

Since October is breast cancer awareness month, I am going to continue with the breast cancer theme. According to breastcancer.org, a nonprofit dedicated to providing reliable, complete, and up-to-date information about breast cancer, one in eight women in the USA will be diagnosed with breast cancer. It also states that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women; in 2017 it was estimated that about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be in the breast. Another fact on their website states that in women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African- American women than white women, while in Asian, Hispanic, and Native women the risk of developing and dying of breast cancer is lower than African American women.

There is not much of a focus on the women that breast cancer effects in the media, the media that comes out in October is pink ribbons emblazed on everything. There are two main examples that I want to talk about. The first one is The Bold Type, specifically the episode titled “The Breast Issue” and a book I found called A Breast Cancer Alphabet.

The Bold Type is a tv show on Freeform in its first season. There are currently only six episodes, but the one that I want to discuss in more detail is the episode titled, “The Breast Issue.” The main characters are friends named Jane, Kat, and Sutton who work at Scarlet magazine, which is much like Cosmo in our world. Jane is the journalist one of the group who aspires to be the finest feminist writer. Kat is the social media coordinator and is a very big feminist. And finally, there is Sutton. She works in fashion but her story in this episode is not relevant to my post so I will be excluding it. We start with the girls going to what I think is a #freethenipple rally.

Jane, the journalist of the three friends, faces her past in this episode when the editor of the magazine wants her to write about the BRCA test and why women in their 20’s should or should not get the test. This may seem like a run of the mill article to write considering this is a women’s magazine, but for Jane, this is personal because her mother died of breast cancer. Jane does not believe that women in their 20’s should get this test.

But what exactly is this test?

The BRCA gene test uses a blood sample to look for harmful changes to a person’s DNA (that’s the stuff that makes you, you). It can be used for both breast and ovarian cancer. It looks for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These genes are the breast cancer susceptible These proteins help repair damaged DNA, but if there is something wrong (aka a mutation) then the protein cannot do their job right, and cells can develop more alterations as a result. The harmful versions of these genes can be inherited by a person by either their mother or father. For specifics on your risk of getting breast cancer, please see a professional.

This test is recommended to anyone who is likely to have an inherited mutation, and is based on your family history or a specific kind of breast cancer. Even if a person receives a positive result, that does not mean that they will develop breast cancer. Your doctor can help you understand your risk.

The free the nipple hashtag is the story arc for Kat, the social media coordinator. She is a forward thinking, go-getting feminist who decides that since she can’t post women’s nipples on Scarlet’s Instagram, she will go around taking photos of men’s nipples and post them instead to challenge the Instagram rule that men can show their nipples but women cannot. She does this because she is getting ready for Scarlet’s breast health issue. Although she doesn’t use the free the nipple hashtag, I think it is important to talk about this because women’s breast are sexualized in today’s society and then women get breast cancer and their breast which women are taught are a private part of body, are everyone’s business. Society tells women that they need to cover their breast, that the breast is a sexual organ, not secondary sex characteristic. This is exemplified in the debate over women breast feeding in public. People say that women’s breasts are for male pleasure and therefore cannot be shown in public. Shame is placed upon women who dare to breast feed in public or show more of their breast than society has deemed appropriate. So basically anything above the areola (the circle around your nipple) or below it is A-Okay. Just don’t show your nipple.  But once there is a cancer diagnosis, your breast become public property. People ask you questions, doctors take photos, nurses examine. They invade the privacy that society used to force on you.

A Breast Cancer Alphabet by Madhulika Sikka talks a little bit about what it felt like to have her breast go from a private part of her body to something that everyone discusses when she dedicates a chapter to breasts (B is for Breast). After a cancer diagnosis, a woman’s personal space is invaded in the name of her health. Sikka talks about reconstruction, and how that affected her. I thought it was a nice reprieve to read this book because Sikka did not give me facts and figures. I saw next to no numbers and that is what I wanted. Sikka said her reasoning behind this book was because she wanted something that was easy to read and wasn’t too scientific or self-indulgent and I feel that that is what she wrote. Reading this book is like reading a letter from my mother, comforting and not too shallow. A Breast Cancer Alphabet covers topics that might not be found in the literature, like what it feels like to shave your head and lose your hair, what it feels like to have a mastectomy and how cancer can affect your sex life.  Sikka even has a tumblr where anyone can submit a sentence or photo to create your own breast cancer alphabet.

Calling all Buzzfeed Fans: Anne Helen Petersen is Coming to UI

Photo of Anne Helen Petersen with blonde hair, smiling with mouth closed, wearing a denim jacket.

By Alexandria Arritt

A wonderful opportunity is coming to a University of Idaho campus near you! Anne Helen Petersen, senior Buzzfeed writer, author of Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of Unruly Women is coming to the university. October 13th from 8:30-10am, all English-majors are invited to attend a breakfast with Anne.

 

The multimedia company Anne writes for has become extremely prominent the past few years. Buzzfeed churns out videos, news, opinion and multimedia pieces, quizzes and much more. Typically, the multimedia company focuses on inclusive feminist views. The voice that Buzzfeed brings to mass media is one of empowerment, hilarity, and vulnerability.

 

These things and more can be found within Senior Buzzfeed writer Anne Helen Petersen’s book, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of Unruly Women. Anne Helen Petersen has a PhD from University of Texas in media studies and she focuses on celebrity culture within her writing. After years of studying classic Hollywood stars and gossip, Petersen has a strong idea of how studying celebrities can illuminate how women are perceived by the public. The book focuses on 10 female celebrities that have been criticized for their actions as women. For example, Serena Williams, Madonna, and Hillary Clinton. Peterson uses examples like these to show what celebrity gossip says about those who read it and participate.

 

The opportunity to sit with Anne is, most likely, not one that will come around again. Anne Helen Petersen taught media studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington from 2012-2014, and more famously wrote for The Hairpin from 2011-2014. The Hairpin is a well-known “general-interest site aimed at women.” Anne was interviewed by The Hairpin about her life success and about her thoughts on Audrey Hepburn. The Hairpin allows us to get an in-depth look in the head of Anne Petersen. During the interview, Anne speaks about her first class in graduate school where she realized what she really wanted to study. She took a class called “Female Stardom” and that class led her to her dissertation on celebrity gossip.

Anne has always been interested in celebrity scandals and how the public perceived the women that were involved. After writing columns for The Hairpin, Anne went on to write her first book, Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Sex, Deviance, and Drama from the Golden Age of American Cinema. This book is well connected to her columns for The Hairpin, and she analyzes the scandals in a similar fashion, although Anne does say that the research that went into the book was far more expansive. The main point that the book shows the readers is how white, straight males tend to get away with scandals, whereas women do not. Surprisingly though Anne lets us in on an interesting opinion, she hates Audrey Hepburn! Anne believes that Audrey is “the same trope(s) over and over again.” When Anne did her research for Scandals of Classic Hollywood she wanted to stray from the overarching attitude the public had towards the stars. Anne focused on the star themselves to really gain an accurate understanding of the scandal.

 

After her time with The Hairpin Anne was offered a job from Buzzfeed. Anne Helen Petersen has posted over 200 articles to Buzzfeed in the past few years! As a writer for Buzzfeed Anne has creative freedom to write about what truly interests her. And in a time like this where scandals and celebrity gossip, even within our presidency, have no end, there is a lot to write about. Anne’s most recent post on Buzzfeed from two weeks ago is titled, “Top Of The Lake” Is The Anti-SVU. Top of the Lake focuses on a detective that specializes in sexual abuse crime. Top of the Lake’s second season began on Sept. 10. A common criticism for the new season, according to Anne, is that the future for the show is unclear. There is not enough coherence. Disregarding the struggles the show is facing regarding structure, Anne notes that this is the first piece of fiction that has made her emotional within the past few months. Top of the Lake explores the facets of motherhood, rape culture, sex and misogyny. These things portrayed on screen are what make the show watchable. In this article, Anne dives into the idea of watching your own troubles on a screen. It’s relatable and the problems within are fought by tough women that become survivors of their own tragedy.

 

Anne writes incredible articles about women in pop culture. She is an experienced and talented writer and it will be a pleasure to have her here at the University of Idaho. On October 13th, the Lewiston native will be here for breakfast and questions. If you’re an English-major remember to take a little time out of your day to speak with one of the great female writers of our generation.

Alexandria Arritt: An Introduction

IMG_6075.JPGBy Alexandria Arritt

Hi all! My name is Alexandria Arritt. I am an incoming Sophomore at University of Idaho studying English with an emphasis in Professional Writing, and I am minoring in Public Relations. I absolutely love writing! I am currently reading two different books, and I have a long list that I am working on as well. One of my favorites is Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing. The craft of writing is certainly something special, and I believe literature affects us in a variety of ways. I write on my own blog, lovelyliterature.net, reviewing novels and attempting to begin a conversation about literature. I am interested in eventually attending law school and studying criminal law. I love staying busy. I am what many people would call a ‘true extrovert’. I love socializing and discussing ideas with a variety of people. I think it’s very important to reach across the aisle and speak with those who may not share the same views. I was stuck in my bubble for a long time because it made me angry to have people talk to me in a way that I felt was unfair, but I have now dedicated my conversations to those around me to more thoughtful and insightful. I am always learning, and I am willing to alter my opinions to become more correct.

Continue reading “Alexandria Arritt: An Introduction”

On Dirty Bathrooms and To-Do Lists

some notebooks near a computer

By Cindy Fuhrman

I should be cleaning the bathroom.

My partner Caleb is working out in the field (by which I mean that as a fish biologist, he is camped along a river with a crew sampling fresh water) and it would be the perfect opportunity to do some deep cleaning. I should go so far as scrubbing the walls and washing the light fixture, for I am not working this summer, and it seems like the right way to earn my keep, to feel like I am doing something useful.

Those were the thoughts going through my head this morning as I was walking along a two track behind the house. I have certain roles that I feel I am supposed to fulfill.  Certain tasks attached to my gender, and also certain unsaid rules I have attached to the relationship. But I am writing instead. The bathroom and all the other things I think I should be doing will have to wait. Along with the walk that was for my body, for my health and sanity, the writing is also part of my self-care, something that seems for women to fall in line behind caring for others, behind doing what we think should be done.

Continue reading “On Dirty Bathrooms and To-Do Lists”

Get the Job Done (Later)

Three young women playing around on the beach - West Palm Beach, Florida, 1953.
Women at play

By CMarie Fuhrman

I come from a long line of women who get the job done. No matter if it is making lunch for a haying crew of thirty hungry ranchers, or rallying resources in the last minutes before a Christmas morning gathering to make sure the late additions to our table would have gifts to open after dessert. We accomplish the task. My female friends are equally driven. I’ve been on a crew of five that made all the food for a wedding with over 300 guests. We stayed up all night peeling potatoes for salad and rolling up pieces of lunch meat for the buffet and got up the next morning in time to set it all up, dress the bride, get to the service, and smile in the photographs. My girlfriends and I have cut firewood, branded calves, painted, packed, and proved over and over that no matter the job, we can get it done.

And now many of those same women and I have joined the ranks of our sisters all over the globe to get other jobs done. Together we are marching for change, for peace, for climate, for the environment. I’ve joined sister-friends in democratic calls for action, given a thumbs up on every single photo another friend posts about wild spaces and our need to keep them. And I have sat in a classroom with the wonderful bloggers that I share this space with, and talked about the challenges and the rewards of being female and the best way to showcase those.

And I am tired. Continue reading “Get the Job Done (Later)”

Unwanted Ink

Picture of a neck tattooed with the words: If you're reading this its too late"
Ad for Too Late Drake Tattoo Removal Cream

By CMarie Fuhrman

I love unique, colorful, and beautiful tattoos.  I have one, a dragonfly, that I had tattooed on my lower back 15 years ago, and though I have not sought any others, I have come to admire the art that women have given their skin to.  I also love serendipitous events.  For example, when you are thinking of someone and they call, or in the case of this blog, when you are researching one idea and all of the information leads to the formation of an entirely new project.  Thus is the case while doing research for an article on the word squaw.  I was looking for information for my blog, reading various sites, and articles and books such as: “My Body, Myself” and Reading Native American Women and they all seemed to start to resonate with each other.  It doesn’t stop there. I have been reading essays by Roxane Gay in her book Bad Feminist and in a couple of weeks, I will be teaching a lesson to another class about the poetry of Claudia Rankine, these texts read together, with my own personal interest, made for a choir of excellent reading.

Excellent reading, that along with the information I was gathering about the word squaw (an article I promise to post soon) created an awareness for me of something that I am almost ashamed to admit.  I realized that many women have not had the same experiences with their bodies (at least the reception and expectation of their bodies) as I have as a Native woman.  Though I think that as female we have shared many of the same experiences, such as discrimination based on gender stereotypes or medias portrayal of the ideal, Felly Simmonds’ essay, “My Body, Myself,” made me realize how many of my experiences, mostly negative, have to do with my physical body.

Continue reading “Unwanted Ink”