Capstone Project Introduction

Hello writers!

I am excited to have finished my capstone project, which has been pretty difficult during this COVID-19 pandemic. Is anyone else feeling like their writing brain has totally shut down right now?

Still, I managed to finish the project, and it’s bittersweet to be done with MiW. For capstone, my project was meant to be a small collection of essays that attempt to critique neoliberal feminism and introduce feminist scholarship to new and young feminists. Some of the essays are personal, some of them are theory-based, but I hope all of them deepen one’s understanding of feminism and how necessary it is for all of us.

You can find my project here.

Thank you to all of the wonderful professors I’ve had in MiW, specifically Professors Shelley Manis and Jimmy Brancho, and all of the advisors and support staff who help all of us so much.

Fully-Realized Experiment Rationale

For my fully-realized experiment, I am choosing to continue working on the personal essay I proposed in experiment three. This essay is centered around experiences with my chronic illness, which I would hope to connect to large problems in the healthcare industry and social issues of how poorly we treat dis/differently-abled people. I am writing a piece exploring living with a chronic illness and chronic pain as a person with a chronic illness and pain. I want to share this experience with my audience because it is really stigmatized and invisible in mainstream conversations. Hopefully, this piece will have a broad audience, but I hope to speak directly to young women in order to make them aware of this illness as it takes an average of seven years to receive diagnosis and affects more than ten percent of all women. I want to write about this both to spread awareness about it and to share a story that makes structural critiques of the healthcare system in the United States. Today, the Trump Administration announced plans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which insured millions and made it illegal to deny insurance to people with pre-existing conditions, by instructing the Department of Justice to stop defending it in court. This may affect how the reception of my piece because so many people will be affected by the destruction of the ACA, especially as what I am talking about means insurance companies could deny me coverage for me so-called pre-existing condition.

This experiment spoke to me more than others because it allows me to express thoughts and pressing concerns that have been swimming in my head for a long time. It also allows me to reflect on my experiences as part of a larger system, which may be helpful in understanding and processing them. I am excited to work on it because I can challenge all the rage and resentment I have towards my chronic illness and the healthcare industry in a (hopefully!) productive way. This genre lends itself to my purpose because it allows me to demonstrate the importance of this issue by showing how it has deeply impacted me. I think this essay could be published in many venues, but I think it would work particularly well on Bustle, which is an online publication dedicated to women’s issues and focused on young women as an audience.

A Day In The Life of Angelica Dass

For my first experiment, I chose to reimagine my origin piece as a photo essay. In order to understand photo essays as a genre, one of the examples I used was Angelica Dass’s “Humanæ.”

Angelica Dass is a self-described photographer. However, much of her work acts as a sort of activism. Because she assembles her photos in collections with some text, I consider her a photo essayist in this instance.

I think much of Dass’ research is borne out of her own experiences as a black person who is from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and currently lives in Madrid, Spain. This photo essay is a commentary on how small differences in skin tone are, even while they are the basis for harmful stereotypes and false images. I imagine that her experience as a person of color who lives in places primarily inhabited by people of color, she is able to see how little these differences actually are. I think she is commenting on how we think about race, particularly in the United States and other countries with white majorities.

Her photographs are most often published in art museums as a traveling exhibits, but the essay I analyzed was actually published on a Tumblr site. Publishing in art museums obviously has more barriers to publishing than a Tumblr site, but her art clearly demonstrates a lot of work prior to publishing. Once she has an idea, she has to find willing subjects. She probably has to find studio space and technical tools to make her idea happen. Then, she has to do a lot of post-processing work to the images. In “Humanæ,” she used the color matching software Pantone to match skin tones with backgrounds.

As for getting paid, I assume she is paid by the art museums in which her work appears. However, I do not know how she is paid for her online work. From what I can tell, there are no ads or paywalls for her work. Potentially, her online work is a way for her to get exposure to promote her work to art museums that will pay her. It also does not seem like she does private photography for people, so there is no income on that end either. According to her website, she does a great deal of public speaking, so I am guessing this is her primary source of income as she presents on her artwork to various companies and nonprofits.

Finding My Way in the MiW

Hello writers!

My name is Marisa, and I am originally from Northwest Indiana, right outside of Chicago. At U of M, I’m studying Political Science and Women’s Studies, but after undergrad, I hope to attend law school focusing on constitutional and civil rights law. Whilst taking classes in the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program, one of my professors, the lovely Dr. Shelley Manis, introduced the Minor in Writing program to me after I inquired about studying journalism. Since U of M unfortunately does not have a j-school, she recommended the MiW program as a space to develop writing skills that are not explicitly creatively focused.

Now in the program and beginning the experimental process, I have chosen an origin piece I wrote somewhat recently.  Last semester, I began working for The Michigan Daily as a columnist covering the intersection of gender, politics, and health. About a month before the midterm elections, of which I was intensely focused on, I read a book called Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister. In it, she recounts the history of women’s anger as something that is undermined and not taken seriously (and in many cases, persecuted and prosecuted), despite it being a catalyzing force for change and social movements. So, I wrote a column about it because I, too, am an angry woman. And until reading Trasiter’s book, I hadn’t realized, hadn’t allowed myself to realize, how truly angry I have been for so long.

And this whole study of women’s anger has been in the back of my mind for months now. I see it everywhere. I see it in myself. But I also see it in almost every woman I know. And then I see how they hide it, how they minimize it to take up less space. I also see how men, both now and historically, are allowed to express their anger openly and unabashedly, for which we almost always reward them. For instance, we think of the anger of the “Founding Fathers” as dignified, as virtuous rage, but we do not give the same deference to Rosa Parks or Anita Hill or even the millions of women who marched in the Women’s March.

And it infuriates me.

At the end of her book, Traister describes her experience of being allowed to spend six months taking women’s anger, and her own, seriously. She is researching it seriously, talking about it seriously with friends and family, writing about it seriously, thinking about it seriously. In doing so, she found she was finally about to clear her mind, which had been foggy with raw fury since the 2016 election. She even found she was craving fruits and vegetables, wanting to work out, feeling less anxiety, and having the best sex of her life.

So, I want to spend a chunk of time solely dedicated to taking women’s rage, and my own rage, seriously. Not for all of the benefits Traister experienced but to understand this historical moment and most importantly, to openly and loudly recognize the power of women’s rage.