Reviving a Hashtag

My repurposing project begins with a letter I wrote to my friends about a black woman’s experience at white parties. My intention is to create an op-ed like piece, that one would see in the Daily or the Atlantic that explores what the #BBUM campaign is actually about, beneath the social media aspects, the press release, and the negotiations with the demands. I haven’t decided yet if I want it to be expository, because I think there is too much potential for drama.

#BBUM. for those who don’t know, was/is “a social media campaign geared toward highlighting the unique experiences of black students on campus.” I want to get into the intersections, tensions, and challenges of what it is like to be black here. This project is similar to Coates’ piece in that it is inspired by my brother’s adolescence. I get to reflect on my experiences as a black teen, as he goes through that journey. It doesn’t matter if the institution is collegiate or secondary, there is an intersection of identities: race + campus culture + idiosyncrasies + SES, that shape our experiences. As he thinks about college, I think about what truths I need to tell him before he buys into a false dream.

The first piece of writing I’ll be mapping is actually an Atlantic article about stereotype threat by Claude M. Steele. It searches for an explanation for the underperformance of black undergraduates. Steele’s piece is meant for a general audience, probably of American adults, who show a general interested in race or education. He refrains from use high diction, and keeps the piece rather accessible. The context is around affirmative action debates and topics related to these debates. He refers mostly to the assumption that middle class blacks don’t suffer from disadvantages of race due to their SES. Steele wants educational institutions to mediate for stereotype threat. The research findings that Steele and his colleagues unearthed through experiments prompted him to write this piece. Constraints are probably the place of publication and those who strong and unyielding opinions regarding affirmative action, race, and standardized testing. Steele’s writing is straight forward and convinces the reader that stereotype exists, and thus we have a window into the lives of black students. I hope to accomplish something similar.

The second piece I’ll map are the 7 demands that the Black Student Union released in 2014, sort of in culmination of the #BBUM campaign and a history of racial injustice on UM’s campus. It was composed, most likely by all members of the executive board of the BSU and maybe with help of their academic advisory. While its composer is unknown, it is presented as if the former statement is true. The subject is a delineation of the unfilled promises the administration made to black students. The context was a) that it was MLK day when the speech was made, and b) that the racial tensions on campus & the challenges black students face at a PWI had been exposed with the #BBUM campaign. Its audience is UM’s administration but also the students of the university. The medium is actually a speech that has been transcribed. Its exigence is the administration’s passive aggressiveness over the last 40 years and the inability for the BSU to continue to be passive in light of recent events. I hope to mimic this piece’s ability to speak, at first, as one man within the black community, yet still call to action change that would effect the masses. Because the speaker’s exigence is almost palpable, even in written form, there is a sense of authority present. 

Rhetoric. Adventure. Project 1.

I think my idea for the repurposing project might fall under the genre of “expository” or “investigative” journalism. That genre brings to mind courageous acts of journalism like Andrea Elliott’s “Invisible Child | Girl in the Shadows: Dasani’s Homeless Life,” or Eric Lipton’s series titled “Courting Favor,” both of which are products of the New York Times, the brand I want to emulate in my writing.

It is this type of writing that brings to light and exposes to the general public complicated situations or aspects of society that are not so obvious or have been slipped under the rug. What they expose is, by the nature of the writing, bad news. They should (at least try to) transform their reader into a truly informed citizen on the given topic, allowing them to create their own opinions and maybe even take action. The journalism, of course, remains objective. It is this writing that many successful journalists are given prizes for, and it is this writing that serves in most people’s minds as the quintessential form of good journalism. Those examples I just gave are expository pieces that have stuck with me and many others; they are pieces for which the author won or was snubbed a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Journalism. I would love to win that award for Project 1 in Writing 220… But maybe  I can safely aim  a bit lower.

Taking Elliott’s works surrounding “Dasani,” a homeless child living in a run-down shelter with her family in New York City, and the everyday struggles she must face, pose interesting rhetoric. The author is clearly very close with the family and with Dasani, and the writing is extremely detailed. She depicts everything, bringing the reader into the room with her, while also providing the broader context of the situation, informing them on many key topics and issues surrounding Dasani’s situation, not just her life in a microcosm. Her audience is the inquiring New Yorker, the parent, the friend of a friend (of a friend) of a person who has struggled with homelessness (and in New York, this audience reaches just about everyone).

Her exigence is the most intriguing part of her writing: Dasani is 11 years old, and her life is a difficult one. As the reader gets farther into her story, the question arises of ‘what next?’ How will this girl fare? That in itself is powerful enough to kick the reader’s ass, as they realize how real and important this issue is. Homelessness now has a name and a face, and you cannot believe you never just took the time to turn around and look into the shadows and see what you’d find.
I want my writing to pull in the reader as hers does. I want it to show its purpose and its exigence without having to say it. I will not be there, but I have already done the on-the-ground sociological research. I can combine that with the research I will conduct, and hopefully hit home in a way similar to how Elliott does. I care deeply about my city, and more so, about those within it. I want others to care as well.

The Story of a Girl in the Professional World

My project’s topic consists of how young professional women today continue to face adversity in the work place, different yet too familiar of the discrimination faced in the Mad Men era. My original writing was an op-ed piece about my own personal experience interning at a technology firm juxtaposed with the issues presented on AMC’s show Mad Men. I plan to re-purpose this into a creative story that conveys the view point of a young professional woman today to the viewpoint of Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway from Mad Men.

In my search for writing in various genres on this topic, I came across many different rhetorical situations, ranging from op-ed to “how-to” and an article that speaks directly to the employers of tech companies.

First up: The Mad Men Woman of Today: The Next Chapter

Published in the Forbes Woman section of Forbes, this article reaches out to a narrow audience of women who work in the business world. The piece’s exigence surrounds the season finale of Mad Men and how women today should see the end of the show as an opportunity to pay homage to the primary female characters, Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway. It eloquently combined statistics of the Mad Men era with statistics of today, illustrating how much women have succeeded but how much more room there is for improvement.

I think my only critique of this piece was how limited its goals were. Why not publish this for men and women to see? After all, men and women both watch the show. Furthermore, the piece talks about women leaving traditional men-centered cultural businesses for entrepreneurial ventures. Why don’t we encourage women to spark a change within the organization they already work for? There is room for entrepreneurship of thought and culture within an already established company.

Second: Oink Oink: When you Work with Sexist Pigs

I have to say, I do appreciate this title. It perfectly describes some of the men I worked with at my internship over the summer. This post included a user’s story of sexism in their workplace, and how to best deal with that situation. Long story short, this woman had to deal with actual pigs. Here’s an excerpt:

“Most of the men (five out of six) started discussing which women in the sales department they’d like to sleep with, joking about planting webcams in the women’s bathroom, responding to advice I suggested about a software problem with “Oh, but you’re a woman, so you don’t know anything about computers, am I right?””

ARE YOU SERIOUS? At least, that was my initial reaction. This blatantly misogynistic behavior is completely unacceptable. But… is it? Many readers suggested to A) Get away, B) Grin and Bear it, or C) Leave the company. I don’t know about you, but I would select option D) None of the above! Why should you satisfy these men by doing any of these options, especially leaving the company? In my perspective, they are in the wrong here, not you. If anything, they should be reprimanded while you are admired for working to create an open-minded, ethical and diverse culture.

Last but not least: Fixing the Leaky Bucket: What Tech Companies Must Do to Retain Their Best Female Talent

This article, published in The Huffington Post, speaks directly to employers and recruiters at tech companies. It speaks to the need for more diversity, specifically more women, in the tech industry. One excerpt that really resonated with me was:

“Women are leaving the tech industry because they feel unfulfilled and unsupported. (And Silicon Valley’s reputation as a boys network endures, as underscored by the recent news of a “Twitter Frat House” party held while the company was contending with a gender-discrimination lawsuit.) No amount of energy dedicated to hiring more women makes a difference in company cultures when current female employees slip through the cracks.”

This passage could not be more true regarding my personal experience in the tech industry. Believe it or not, when sitting in on an interview as an intern, fellow colleagues described the company’s culture as a “Frat House.” So don’t be too quick to judge that Twitter is the only company with these gender discrimination issues. If a company’s culture truly resembles that of a frat house, it does not matter how hard recruiters work to hire women. Those women will come, and then they will leave. As soon as possible. The article really drives this point home in the last paragraph:

“But without a culture that supports women and responds to their legitimate needs – one that encourages them to not only remain but fosters their growth as employees – these efforts are essentially pointless. Rather than putting all of our water into the recruitment bucket, those cultural problems first need fixing if we are to prevent the further loss of key talent at any company. “

This article echoed all of the issues I encountered as a female intern at a tech start-up. Before hiring women, the root of a company’s problem is its diversity and culture. I think this article will help me understand the key audience I am trying to address in my project as well as the points to drive home in terms of various demographics. For example, it needs to be apparent to males in the tech industry that women are vital to success, and success is vital to them receiving a high paycheck – which according to this article, is the 3rd most important reason that they stay at a company. On the other hand, women valued satisfaction in their current role and honest communication. Understanding these key statistics will help me cater my creative story to reach audiences personally and professionally.

Peace. Love. Peggy Olson.

peggy olson

 

Living Out a Story

The topic of my repurposing project is telling a life story.

To tell my life story, I plan on repurposing an alma mater that I co-authored this summer into an outline for a synopsis of major vivid events occurring in my past 19 years of living.  My goal is to create a reflective piece that will stand as a reminder of things in my life that I am afraid I will forget as time passes.

When I first searched for examples of people telling their life stories through different types of media, I came across a website called “My Life Story: A Diary for a Whole Lifetime of Memories”.  This site is based out of the United Kingdom and it sells 1080 page diaries for around 60$.  Part of the catch is that you can buy one for someone who isn’t capable of recording their own life yet, so you can start it for them.  For example, you can purchase one for your newborn child and keep a record of their firsts until a time when the child is capable of recording their own life in the diary.  As I read through their pitch, all I was thinking was “wow I wish my parents had bought me one of those when I was a child!”  If I had recorded my life events up until now, I wouldn’t have to rely on my memory to conduct this project.  But through using my memories now, I can create a reflective diary; one that I will be able to look on for years in the future and be reminded of things, just as I would have been if I had started the diary 15 years ago.  Now is the perfect time to make this all happen.

The second thing I came across was “My Life Story” written by Gordon Dioxide. Gordon is an enticing author.  He comes across as a witty and funny guy, and he was able to turn his rather average and long life into an interesting story. Here is the  LINK to check out his work.

Rhetorical Map of Gordon’s “My Life Story”

Composer: Gordon Dioxide

Subject: An arbitrary run-through of Gordon’s progression of age while attempting to get a job

Audience: Anyone who likes a good laugh.  Especially good for readers on a lunch break or someone who has some extra time for a quick read while commuting throughout the day.

Genre/Medium: Comical Fiction or article in magazine 

Context: A reflective piece written by a man at the end of his life.  He has nothing to loose.  This is something his kids and grandkids can read over to remember his charm and dry humor.

Exigence: The motive of writing was to give people something to remember him by.  Not something that necessarily outlines his life, but something that captures his personality.

Constraints: He was constrained to writing something that would be catchy but not too lengthy so that the reader wouldn’t overanalyze it, but rather accept it for what it is.

 

Gordon writes as if he has no major topic to write about, where as in this LINK, you will find text about a memoir written by a director named Ruby Yang who has a long and vivid story to tell.  Gordon writes about his life in a way that makes it sound so simple and average, but Yang explains life as her protagonists overcome adversity.

I hope to strike somewhere in the middle of these two extremes when writing my memoir but I still want to maintain the same effect.  I want to move my audience in the same ways that I was moved by Gordon and Yang’s pieces.

Continuing the Fight Against Dress Codes

I decided to repurpose a research paper that I wrote my freshman year. The prompt was pretty wide open and my peers and I were free to write about anything we cared about. At the same time as the assignment, I was following a story about a girl in Florida who was fighting her school administration for unfair dress code regulations. The issue of dress codes and its underlying messages always interested me because it was an issue at my own high school, too. So for my research paper, I wrote about Marion Mayer and her fight against everyday sexism and defended the position that the enforcement of dress codes are damaging to the education of girls and boys. I chose to write about this topic again because I still care strongly about the topic and think I could better express my argument with different media. I began to research some of my original sources to see if any follow-up articles had been written and looked for new forums for the discussion of this issue. I found some interesting sources that I will use when repurposing my argument into an article for The Atlantic.

 

The first source I found is an article from The Atlantic by Jessica Lahey that discusses the impacts of dress codes on young girls. This article models the type of argument I am making and it is what I will use as a base when formatting my repurposing project. As a middle school teacher, Lahey talks about her concerns for her female students and describes the extra care she takes in teaching them to respect their bodies. Also, as a former high school teacher, she expresses her shock that body image issues caused by dress codes begin at such a young age. In one of my favorite parts of this article, Lahey quotes on of my favorite books, Little Women. Marmee is talking with Meg when she says,

Susan-Sarandon-Little-Women1“I only care what you think of yourself. If you feel your value lies in being merely decorative, I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that’s all you really are. Time erodes all such beauty, but what it can not diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind. Your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage. These are the things I cherish so in you.”

Lahey’s article will support my argument because unlike students or parents who are affected by dress codes, Lahey offers a staff position. Rather than following the lead of other school administrations, she speaks out about an issue that affects her students. Her perspective is unique in this way, she does not have a sense of personal defense like students or their parents do. She simply sees what is happening to her students as a result of dress codes and warns other of the effects.

 

The second source I found is a Time article by Laura Bates, who co-founded The Everyday Sexism Project. The project documents gender inequality that people experience everyday. The posts on theScreen Shot 2015-09-28 at 11.19.00 AM project’s website, which I will also be using as a source for my project, sometimes seem unbelievable while others seem common because it has become so engrained in society. Many of the posts includes the unequal enforcement of dress codes on female students as everyday sexism. Lahey quotes various posts that describe run ins with dress codes. She also links a twitter account that also posts stories of everyday sexism that women experience. Both the website and twitter account show how common gender inequality is and how many women it affects. I plan on using all three of these sources in my repurposing project because they are an article written on the subject by a credible author and first hand accounts of something that I claim to be normalized in society. I can use some of the posted stories and the trends that I find to support my argument.

 

My Two Year Plan [Repurposed]

After much deliberation (and countless hours spent searching the depths of my MacBook documents), I’ve decided to repurpose a two-year plan essay from a mini-course I took freshman year. The topic I am focused on is goal setting and the ways in which goals motivate people while simultaneously restricting them. When I first wrote my two-year plan, back when I was a naive and inexperienced freshman, I anticipated going into the fashion industry and even traveling throughout Europe after sophomore year. Now, as a junior, I’ve realized that fashion is more of a hobby and that I would much rather travel to Australia. I plan on repurposing this essay into an article for The Huffington Post. The following three pieces are all from different websites and discuss the concept of goal setting in different ways.

man on top of mountain

  1. “Consider Not Setting Goals in 2013” by Peter Bregman is an article published in the Harvard Business Review in 2012. Bregman argues that goals aren’t necessarily bad, but they can have lasting side effects such as a rise in unethical behavior. The article is written for the business-minded reader, but is written in such a way that even those not interested in business can enjoy and benefit from the information. Furthermore, Bregman begins the article with an anecdote about his children, which draws the reader in and appeals to their emotions. This is one aspect of Bregman’s piece that I hope to incorporate into my own. Bregman’s suggestion that individuals should focus on the task, not the outcome is intriguing for me and something that I am going to think more about while writing my own article.
  2. “The Importance of Setting Goals” by Ohad Frankfurt is a blog post published on Medium, which is a blogging platform similar to WordPress. Frankfurt discusses what goals are and how to ensure that individuals’ reach their goals. Since Frankfurt is the CEO of a startup company, the post is geared towards entrepreneurs and individuals looking for inspiration. Since it is a blog post, Frankfurt employs colloquial language and personal stories. While this type of writing works for a blog post, I want mine to adopt a more professional tone. Along the same lines, Frankfurt does not provide any evidence and focuses solely on his own experiences. In order to establish my credibility, I will be providing both traditional evidence and qualitative evidence (i.e. interviews) to support my argument.
  3. “The 3 Things That Stop Most People From Achieving Their Goals” by Chris Winfield is an article published in The Huffington Post and most closely mimics the voice I hope to achieve in my repurposing project. In the article, Winfield provides quotes from famous scholars and condenses his argument into three separate bullet points. The post appears in the “Small Business” section of The Huffington Post, which suggests that Winfield’s audience is small business owners. However, as he mentions, “I’ve never met one person who hasn’t had thoughts just like these. From CEOs to someone starting their first job out of college, we all have fears.” Thus, anyone interested in business would enjoy his article. While I don’t wish to employ bullet points or provide hypothetical situations for my reader, Winfield’s argument that there are specific obstacles preventing people from achieving their goals is something I would like to touch on in my repurposing project.

road block

The exercise of going through and mapping the rhetorical situation of the pieces above has opened my eyes to the amount of detail that will go into the creation of my article for the repurposing project. Furthermore, I have realized that my argument, much like the arguments made in these pieces, needs to be crystal clear to the reader. I look forward to continuing to work on my repurposing project and learning more about the topic of goal setting along the way!

Preventing the Inevitable: Are We Preoccupied?

For my repurposing project I will be discussing the role of preventative health care in our society, and how advancements in medical practice and research have created a preoccupied patient base. My “original source” addresses this issue in the form of an argumentative essay. I plan on repurposing this into an Op-Ed for The New York Times. The following three texts are all from The New York Times but address the topic of preventative health care and aging in a slightly different way.

  1. Jason Karlawish’s Op-Ed titled “Too Young to Die, Too Old to Worry” questions the role that
    Leonard Cohen
    Leonard Cohen, 1988

    preventative healthcare and cautious living has taken in our society. The piece is written for casual readers of The New York Times, and is written in such a way that does not limit the audience to only doctors or people interested in medicine. In that sense I hope to mimic this article in the Op-Ed I will be writing. The article is framed in the context of our societies growing obsession with disease prevention and subsequent preoccupation in some cases. Karlawish writes to reinstate the importance of day-to-day happiness and pleasures. May it be extreme, Karlawish exemplifies the triumph of day-to-day pleasures through Loenard Cohen, a famous singer who proclaimed his return to smoking when he reached age 80.

  2. Abigail Zuger’s article “A Pound of Prevention Is Worth a Closer Look” was published in the “Health” section of The New York Times and has a topic extremely similar to mine: the pitfalls of obsessive prevention. This article takes a different angle than Karlawish’s in that it focuses on the prevalence of over-diagnoses and over-treatment by medical professionals as opposed to over-obsessive lifestyles of the patients themselves. For this reason, I believe a more medically oriented audience will likely find and read this piece as opposed to Karlawish’s. Here is a thought-provoking quote from the article: “In the finite endeavor that is life, when is it permissible to stop preventing things?”
  3. Peter Bach’s article “When Care Is Worth It, Even if End is Death” was also published in the “Health” section. This article is interesting in that it argues last resort healthcare aimed at prolonging lives (even when the end is death) is worth the time and money of medical practices. The audience is likely the medical community and those involved in creating medical policy, and its context is modern day medical spending guidelines. In a time of budget cuts and economic spending shortages, Bach defends the value of prolonging life no matter what condition the patient is in.  This article added interesting insight into the forthcoming production of my Op-Ed as it essentially proclaims a very different argument than the one I plan to make. With that said, the contexts are slightly different and I support Bach’s goal of treating all patients.

In all, this process of finding and mapping articles related to my repurposing project gave me a better understanding of what I hope to achieve.