Author: Melissa L. Manzello

Words Are Just As Hurtful As Actions

Throughout reading “Wolfpack” I saw the power that words can hold over a human, and how they can bring hope or fear to someone in an instance.  While reading Verniece’s anecdote about her experience in the church I realized how much of an impact such a small phrase can have on making someone feel strong about themselves. By Verniece finding something that helped her put aside what people said about her lifestyle she felt freer to be who she truly was, and I found that inspiring. On the other hand, I got to see how scary and hurtful words can be when the encounter with the man was discussed. Being called a derogatory name is incredibly dehumanizing and completely wrong, just because someone may not agree with the way another lives their life it is not okay to ever speak the way that man spoke to Verniece.  Not only that but the verbal threat of rape is just as scary as someone physically grabbing you.  The man continued to make them feel unsafe and provoked the attack.

I also feel that throughout the piece the way the media portrayed the group of girls was highly prejudicial. They referred to them in an unfair manner and failed to recognize that they were also attacked.  This piece was really enlightening to the injustices that certain groups of people face and I had a hard time getting through it because no matter what I feel that these girls did lose part of their lives for defending themselves in a very bad situation.

A Balance Between The Power of Words and Graphics

I enjoyed the second half of “Fun Home” much more than the first half. I think this was not only because I became more adjusted to reading the graphic novel format, but also I felt a lot less uncomfortable with the way Bechdel portrayed her life.  I felt that, for me,  for most of this second half of the book the words and pictures were almost equal in their power over my reading and understanding,  but there were some times where the words were stronger than the pictures.

I found that the idea of Bechdel’s father living vicariously through her was much more pronounced in the second half of “Fun Home” as Bechdel shares more about her and her father’s relationship.  Their strongest connection did come in the form of her father and her working on her English class together and throughout those times Bechdel did always suspect something about her father due to his excitement over and connection to certain books.  When Bechdel and her father discuss their sexualities with each other it becomes apparent that he had a feeling that she was lesbian and that he was happy that she was able to live so openly. This connection over their sexuality is what drew them to be so close for a short time, and even for Alison to have someone to speak to her about her desires to be different as a child just like her father.  It was nice to see the two of them have a closer relationship than at any other point in the book and did help me understand how repressed he really was throughout his whole life.

The Inability to Grieve

Bechdel’s first three chapters are filled with the control ridden childhood that she lived because of her father’s issues. It was quite sad to see how the father’s repressed sexuality drove him to never develop relationships with anyone in his family, and that it caused him to remain solely focused on the redecorating of his house.

Bechdel uses many allusions throughout the first half of her piece, but the ones that stood out to me were the comparison of her father to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s  and her family to the Adams family. Both of these references bring a dark light to her family dynamic and her father as a whole.  She uses the Adams family reference to drive home the morbidity that surrounded her life due to a) her family working at the “fun home” and b) how cold her family unit was.  She spoke about how the most striking resemblance between her family and the  Adams family was the cavalier attitude that they had towards death due to the family business.  After continuing to read about Bechdel’s attitude towards her father’s death I wondered if growing up around death made her less subject to grieve or her lack of a relationship with him influenced her.  The comparison of her father to Gatsby and Fitzgerald himself really helped portray how unhappy her father truly was.  These references also helped me further understand the line ” … my parents are most real to me in fictional terms,” Bechdel not only employs the use of allusion to help us further understand the dynamic between her parents but also does this to help us understand her view of them. Bechdel talks about how their marriage always seemed fake to them and these references helped me understand how far apart her parents really lived even under the same roof.

All in all, her family dynamic was quite disheartening, but Bechdel does a good job of helping the reader understand it through allusions.

Learning To Accept Your Identity

In “Blue Talk and Love”, Sullivan scripts the journey of Earnestine, and how she comes to accept and embrace her race, sexuality, and overall appearance in relation to those around her.  Earnestine has many different issues in her life that she struggles with, but most of all she hates the fact that she doesn’t look and act  like the other girls in her school and ARYSE classes. Sullivan describes how Earnestine doesn’t fit the mold in any part of her life and contrasts that with Xiomara who is the “perfect” pretty, popular girl in everything she does.

Sullivan spends a lot of time throughout the piece comparing and contrasting Xiomara and Earnestine in order to help the readers understand quite how out of place Earnestine feels in her own skin.  Sullivan uses Earnestine’s encounters in school specifically to set the tone on how Earnestine feels about herself and how she feels about her relationship with Xiomara . For example, Sullivan describes Earnestine’s experience in the science classroom with the “oobleck” to show that Earnestine finds herself to be awkward, unattractive and strange.  Another example is when Earnestine has an argument with Jacob and he clearly brings out a sore spot for Earnestine by comparing her to Xiomara and even saying that Xiomara doesn’t like Earnestine. This situation proves that the relationship between Xiomara is seemingly one sided sometimes, and continues the idea that Xiomara is the “perfect” type of girl.  Xiomara throughout the piece serves as a contrast to Earnestine, but also shares some important things with Earnestine.  Xiomara and Earnestine share some similarities that in the end bring them closer and allow them to explore their relationship.

I overall really enjoyed this piece and found the way Sullivan wrote to be really captivating.

Melissa Manzello and Lizzie Gleeson

In the chapter “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories,” Roxane Gay iterates the importance of well known public figures coming out to the world in order to help advocate for gay rights. For example, Gay states, ” Still, prominent gay people need to stand up and be counted because the word “gay” is still used as a slur,” (p.165).  Gay states this to point out that these celebrities need to share their private lives to help improve the environment surrounding homosexuality, and she uses the reasoning of the existence of slurs still to demonstrate that there are issues that remain unresolved and celebrities have the platform to accelerate change in this sense. Gay’s use of the phrase” be counted” pushes the idea that more people standing behind change the greater the movement becomes. Also, the idea of continued sharing leads back to Gay’s argument that all people need to stand up and be apart of the change, but that the advancement of acceptance is fueled by figures that have a public following.

The Unfair Part of Living a Public Life

In “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories” Roxane Gay delves into the issues that celebrities face when trying to live a private life in the public eye. Gay specifically explores the task that society places on public figures to pave the way for change, in this piece she discusses the role of certain public figures that have made their private lives public to support homosexuality. Gay contrasts and compares the ability for certain celebrities to “come out” and the ease or risk that came with their decision to disclose their sexuality to the world.

Gay speaks about Anderson Cooper and how he made a statement when he came out about being able to make a statement and “be counted” (p. 163). When Cooper released his statement about being gay he acknowledged that although he would prefer to keep his private life private, he also thought there was a significant value in his “coming out” to the world because he, as a public figure, could progress this world (p.163). Gay then talks about how for someone like Cooper to come out is good and progressive for society, but he does fit into a label of the “perfect gay” and how that label needs to disappear because it makes it harder for some people to be themselves if they don’t fit into that label. I fully agree with Gay in this sense because not just a specific person deserves to be able to disclose their sexuality and have it be aceptable. Everyone deserves the same respect and to be “counted” in the same way someone like Cooper was.

Gay also talks about Frank Ocean and how for him in the R&B/ hip-hop industry it was much riskier to “come out”. Gay talks about how not only did his race but also his industry posed a more challenging process than for someone that wasn’t African American or in the “homophobic R&B and hip hop community”(p.167). Although Frank Ocean did receive very public support from many other artists and his friends the issue is still that many of his friends use homophobic slurs in their work with no regard for how it may make homosexuals feel or how wrong it is, simply because they can say it doesn’t offend their homosexual friends.This is a stigma I feel needs to be changed in our society for sure.

You Must Be Lonely If You’re Not Married

Cobb’s piece in response to Justice Kennedy’s comments stated throughout the case of Obergefell v. Hodges enlightens people to just how lonely he and any other single person feel since they are not married according to Justice Kennedy.

Throughout the piece, Cobb delves into how he is a very happy and dignified single person, yet just because he is single he may not receive the same respect that married individuals receive. Whether it be his grandmother or the general opinion of the 49.8% of married people that send pity his way because he is not married, Cobb takes great offense to the notion that he cannot be seen as happy just because he isn’t married.  Marriage does not signify happiness or a successful lifestyle for everyone and while for some it does for most marriage, if they are married, is an additional piece of pleasure in their lives. Also, many who aren’t married are living very successful and happy lives, but in this piece, the comments made signify that living as a single person one cannot simply be happy because they are not reaching the most profound thing in a human’s life.

This piece opened my eyes to how odd it is that the government is so obsessive over marriage, especially when Cobb spoke about Senator Lindsey Graham. The fact that a presidential candidate or senator would be purely questioned over the fact he doesn’t have a person waiting to fill the role of the first lady is ridiculous. It is almost as if the assumption would be that something is wrong with him because he isn’t married, or how could he possibly fit a political role if he can’t find a wife.

All these ideals diminish the mere fact that married or not every person is just as much human as another, and that every person experiences love and care in many different ways. The love and care single people experience for another human should not be diminished simply because they are not having sex with that person.

The Repressive and Negative Aura Surrounding Sex

Foucault’s introduction to “The History of Sexuality” focuses on the repression of sex and sexuality from the Victorian era to modern day. Foucault emphasizes throughout his introduction that with the start of the 18th century sex moved into the most intimate and secret parts of a household and became solely used for reproduction. He sheds light on how repressive the culture became by referencing the frank and open nature of the 17th century while contrasting that time with references to sex only being accepted in “the brothel and the mental hospital” during the 18th century.

Foucault also uses the introduction to pose interesting questions, for example, “By what spiral did we come to affirm that sex is negated?” or “… ask why sex was associated with sin for such a long time?” By asking these questions he does acknowledge that today people seem to recognize the negative undertone that comes with the discussion of sex but points out that we are still repressed today. He does acknowledge that there are small rebellions against this culture taking place, but that in order to change the culture different questions must be answered. Foucault uses the end of his introduction to question what power drives the repression and look into the institutions that drive people to address sex in the way that they do. Foucault provides very thought provoking questions and ideas that are helping one understand how sex is addressed but also these questions pose a way to change the narrative about sex.

Does obtaining “love” mean losing your freedom?

Kipnis emphasizes throughout her work that in order to obtain the long-lasting modern love it seems that one must give up their freedom to exiting the house without informing your partner where you’re headed or that one must acknowledge that there are parts of their identity that they should erase because they “irk” their partner.  She consistently points out throughout the piece that it seems that this “modern love” is a process in which to maintain one must be willing to lose part of themselves. While I have seen people completely change in order to satisfy their partner or to make their partner “stick around” in my opinion those are the least successful relationships and quite frankly don’t last long because the person is losing what essential to being them.

Kipnis makes every part of a relationship seem completely taxing and a game of loss on all sides. She remains very negative and cynical about processes such as: learning more about the intricacies of how your partner thinks or about their past. Kipnis illustrates these processes as the worst possible things for that other person to participate in. She assumes “opening up” is a very uncomfortable process for most people, when there have certainly been others who say that understanding each other better was not only rewarding to the relationship but allowed for the pair to live more freely.

Overall I did enjoy the piece because, although a cynical outlook on long-term relationships, the piece did point out that love can be examined in many different ways. Some may not see parts of building a relationship as rewarding and, in fact, see those parts as acts of submission towards their partner. It was an eye-opening journey into a look at how love is detrimental to the soul potentially, but only in the eyes of some.