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Friday, March 13, 2015

The Harms of a Single Story by Megan

Link to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk:

 In the TED talk from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, she says, “Show a people as one thing, and only as one thing, over and over again and that is what they become.” I heard this and thought of history. We know through our own research or through higher education that the stories we have learned of the early British colonies are only vague, one-sided versions of the truth. Native Americans, as they are seen in text books, are vague figures of our history, associated with violence and statistics. Almost no information about their way of life is taught in our high school education, although we see some attributions to their culture sold in stores or in markets. This single-story isn’t done just in our text books. Ernest Hemmingway wrote many famous, well-known novels that continuously attribute rugged heroic qualities to his white male protagonist while the few African American characters in his books are considered doltish and remain nameless.

Imagine searching for a character you identify with and finding only the vague unintelligent versions available, written by writers totally uninterested in them. As a kid, I remember watching horror movies with my sister and knowing exactly when the female character will die. In no way was I an expert in horror movies, but I had seen used so commonly before that I could guess that woman character, if there was one, would generally die first or second in the story, often by a fault of her own. Queer men and women existed in shows as jokes or brief, token characters that would die off an episode or so later.

For Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, she said she had become a single story character in the eyes of people who did not know her. When coming to America, her roommate immediately assumed that Adichie had a tragic story simply because she had lived in Africa. Adichie said this assumption wasn’t made out of malice but simply because stories of Africa that are not centered on starvation or poverty do not reach the public mainstream media. She said, “the consequence of the single story is this: it robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.” Single stories can dispossess a people. It can them out to the public eye as unintelligent, as removed of personal individualistic spirit that connects people to each other, that often seems to define humanity. But stories can also be used to empower and humanize people; they can be used to explore people and their individual faults, their strengths, their dignity and their tragedies. It can make lives of minorities more known to the public in a way that does not demonize or sexualize their way of life, but make it as simply another part of the human experience.

I would like to end with Adichie’s powerful words: “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.”

Thursday, March 5, 2015

When Rape Looks Different by Madeleine

Disclaimer: Topics on this post deal with sexual violence and may be triggering.
 So often we are taught that rape is violent, that it happens in dark allies, away from those we trust and love. Rape does not occur in your own house, in your bed, or by your partner. And if you did not scream and kick and resist with all your might then the conclusion has to be, “You must have wanted it.” The most commonly told story is of rape being committed by a stranger. That singular story has been the metric stick with which we have ruled what is and is not rape. If you never said “NO!” what does it matter that you had never said “Yes.”? So what does rape really look like, in all of its variations? Its definition shifts with the people involved, like all crime. We must continue to unpack our incorrect notions of what rape looks like to continue to give voice and support to survivors.

Minerva Arias does a great jon of unpacking this topic here: