Final Reflection/Goodbye

My last few days of high school end before the close of this week; with the end of an era comes too the conclusion of this independent study. At the beginning of this blog, I hoped to research women writers from all corners of the world, or at least all seven continents. Now, here I am, ten months later, having covered only Asia and South America. Within those two categories, though, live thousands of years and countless variations of creators and creations.

 

In South America, I covered magical realism and the impact of religion on gender roles and expectations. Asia included haiku, sijo, and waka poetry, as well as Indian and Pakistani novels and short stories. More important than my own work was the exposure I experienced to a demographic of writers I might never have found otherwise: AnQi, Bapsi Sidwha, Teresa de La Parra, and so on.

In this independent study, I have looked outside of my country as far back as the year 500 AD. So now the question has to be: have women made a lot of headway? How far has feminism come?

My feeling is that, although forward progress has been made, there is always more to be done. Until the day all genders are treated as equals politically, economically, and socially, feminism will remain relevant. The recent American election indicates a lack of respect for women as human beings. To be fair, a majority of college-educated white women supported the misogynistic president in the polls, thereby shooting their sex in the foot.

Additionally, in my research, every time I tried a quick internet search for “Korean writers” or “Venezuelan poets,” I had to specify “female” or “women” in the search engine in order to pull up any ladies in the search results. Perhaps this is due to the historical erasure of feminine voices in most patriarchal societies; for example, in America, the “land of the free,” Zelda Fitzgerald and other talented writers had to be sponsored by a man in order to publish not even 100 years ago. Therefore, as Virginia Woolf once said, “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”

Feminism can be elusive, difficult to define. To some, it is synonymous with man-hating; to others, more accurately, it is the pursuit of equality for all sexes and genders. Feminism has also changed with the ages: since the time of the suffragettes, newer feminism largely focuses on micro-aggressions and societal mindsets (stereotype) rather than institutional inequalities. For instance, there is still pressure put upon women to give up their careers to raise children. At the same time, certain parts of the far-left encourage women to forfeit motherhood altogether and shame women who choose to stay home. Surely, there is an option in the middle, where both parents can keep jobs and spend time with their children, or where a mother who wishes to stay home may do so for her child and for herself, not because of the idea that a good woman will choose her children over her own ambition.

Powerful women are more easily accessible than ever before thanks to the Internet. Poetry and art give voice to people who might not otherwise be heard; although always a fan of journaling, I only ever became interested in creative writing after discovering internet poet Ming D. Liu on Pinterest in middle school.

Contemporary feminist writers are abundant if you only know where to look. Rupi Kaur’s book Milk and Honey envelops themes of love, loss, abuse, and recovery, as well as ownership of one’s own body. Much of her work is also archived on Tumblr.com and Google. Trista Mateer, a bisexual/queer poetess, has several books of feminist poetry available on Amazon, as well as an active blog (http://thoughtcatalog.com/trista-mateer/). Nayyirah Waheed’s poems document her experience as a Woman of Color in today’s America (https://www.instagram.com/nayyirah.waheed/?hl=en). Her book Salt hurts my heart in the nicest way.

These writers, and many others, continue to put work out into the world to further the feminist cause. One day I hope to join their ranks with a book of my own. In the meantime, I will keep reading. I will continue my literary journey around the world, although probably not on this blog, seeing as I am about to be working a full-time job and then starting college. I will keep reading, and I will write. And I will not forget what I learned this year about femininity, identity, and the power of the written word.

Thank you to Mr. S, who made this whole thing possible by agreeing to oversee my independent study; and thank you to the seventeen people who have followed this blog since the beginning. I hope you enjoyed my journey as much as I did.

I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Gratefully,

JM

Sources

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2017/04/01/tiny-fey-tells-college-educated-white-women-who-voted-for-trump-you-cant-look-away/?utm_term=.81da6a48c186

http://www.biographyonline.net/writers/virginia-woolf.html

Xu Hui (627-650)

Xu Hui (徐惠) was a Tang Dynasty concubine of Emperor Taizong. She began as a child prodigy, supposedly speaking before she was half a year old and writing poems by age eight.

Because Laurel Blossoms were a favorite topic of Xu Hui’s poems, she is now known as the “Goddess of Laurel Blossoms” in parts of China.

Although rumored to have written over one thousand poems, Xu Hui is survived by only five poems. One of the most famous, “Regret in Changmen Palace,” deals with her fear of being replaced by another woman in the Emperor’s eyes. Shortly after the death of Taizong, Xu Hui fell ill and died of a broken heart.

 

Regret in Changmen Palace

You used to love my Cypress Rafter Terrace,
But now you dote upon her Bright Yang Palace.
I know my place, take leave of your palanquin.
Hold in my feelings, weep for a cast-off fan.
There was a time my dances, songs, brought honor.
These letters and poems of long ago? Despised!
It’s true, I think–your favor collapsed like waves.
Hard to offer water that’s been spilled

 

Sources

http://history.cultural-china.com/en/48History11997.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xu_Hui

Featured image from http://history.cultural-china.com

Hwang Jin-Yi (1506-1560)

Hwang Jin-Yi, a sixteenth-century female escort and entertainer, made a name for herself writing elevated verse about beauty and love. She largely wrote in sijo ( ), a classic form of Korean poetry. Sijo, an uncommon art, involves three short, lyrical lines per poem in which a situation is introduced, develops, and concludes, often with a surprising twist in the final line.

 

Hwang Jin-Yi’s poems are hard to find in English. However, they still portray extreme love, pain, or awe even after translation. Here is one such sijo poem:

 

Mountains are the same as in the old times, but streams are never the same;

They keep flowing day and night, so they can not be the same.

The men of fame are like the streams; once gone, they never return.

 

And another:

 

I will break the back of this long, midwinter night,

Folding it double, cold beneath my spring quilt,

That I may draw out the night, should my love return.

 

The same poem can also be translated as follows:

 

Oh that I might capture the essence of this deep midwinter night

and fold it softly into the waft of a spring-moon quilt;

then uncoil it in the night my beloved returns.

 

This is the poem in its original Korean:

 

동지달 기나긴 밤을 한 허리를 버혀 내여

춘풍 이불 아래 서리서리 넣었다가

어론 님 오신 날 밤이여든 굽이굽이 펴리라

 

I decided to try my hand at writing some sijo. Here’s my first attempt:

 

Forceful flailing in the seething water, he cuts through a

brisk, raging river like a sword through unguarded flesh.

Pushing forward, fighting on, but one can only swim so long.

 

 

I’d like to continue practicing this form of poetry. Normally I don’t restrict my writing to such a short stanza, so sijo presents a new challenge for concision while still being longer than, say, a haiku. I hope you enjoyed learning about Hwang Jin-Yi and sijo poetry!

 

🙂 JM

 

*Note: The featured image for today’s post is from a 2006 Korean drama called Hwang Jini/Hwang Jin-Yi.*

 

Sources:

https://www.thoughtco.com/who-were-koreas-gisaeng-195000

http://blog.writinginflow.com/2013/09/slut-of-month-hwang-jini-korean-poet.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hwang_Jini

https://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/hwang-jini/

Image from https://www.pinterest.com/moxiebeauty/geisha/