Why it annoys me when people tell me not to swear.

Dear Reader,

Please cover your ears, there are about to be a lot of expletives. Or, rather, maybe none at all.

When I was in secondary school, we read The Rez Sisters by Tomson Highway, who is a Cree author. We had to do an assignment in relation to the play that examined whether or not we should swear because there was quite a bit of it in the play. Does swearing add value to our lives? Is it disruptive? Is it something that we should look down upon? At the time, I didn’t have a clue. I don’t think I referenced the play once. I basically made the argument that there are SOOOOO—emphasize that SOOOOOO, feel the O’s bouncing off your tongue, feel like the snake you sometimes are as you Sssssssssound it out-OOOO many words in the English language that you did not need to swear. Although, at the end, I went for a plot twist and said: fuck it.

giphy1

My problem with the “there are so many other words” thesis is many-fold. I am mad at myself for making that claim and that I did not reference the play, at the time. Swearing became about me and my context. I negated that swearing can be a release, particularly for a colonized and marginalized peoples. A peoples whose land I and other Canadians occupy daily. I did not think about what swearing meant in the play. It showed anger that erupts in the daily lives of women, of marginalized communities, of forgotten communities, of persons of colour. Swearing bluntly locates the play as one that deals with inherited and ever present systematic oppressions. The inheritance of this anger, from generation to generation, is highlighted as one of the characters is unable to have children. Swearing is a device in this play. It dictates class, as defined by white, western society. It expresses exasperation and the fact that sometimes there are no words to even begin to describe what colonialism means. There is a divide between those who have faced oppression and those who oppress and/or hold privilege. The privileged cannot fully grasp that experience, and swearing operates along a common language with which we can all empathize and understand.

So, I guess if I could go back to being fifteen, that is the answer I hope I could give.

giphy2

When I think about swearing and how people react to me swearing, I often think about that assignment. I always want to walk up to the person who judges me, and I want to explain, as I hold their hands in mine, really up close and personal, that you perceive swearing to be a marker of someone lesser, that is, holding lesser societal value. I do not. I’m not saying I always like to hear swearing, but I’m saying that your or my discomfort is not enough to tell people they cannot express what they feel.

Swearing is identified as lower class, in particular if its done by a woman–even more so if it is a woman of colour. Swearing is understood as something rich men can do but they might choose not to. Swearing is also understood as something that poor people and people of colour cannot but do. It is a constructed signifier for all of these classist, racist, and sexist societal trappings.

giphy6

Older generations make fun of younger generations for using text speak in spoken conversation such as YOLO and lawl. But, we also acknowledge that language changes. It is so important that we recognize that language is not immutable; it is varying and ever-changing. Comedians use YOLO to garner laughter, employing the older generation’s disdain for how younger people talk and communicate. But self-expression is meaningful, even if it seems stupid to unintended audiences.

 

If you’re angry or you’re scared, your fight or flight kicks in, and you react viscerally. Sometimes, people swear. Sometimes, you hear a story that someone tells you, and it is so gut-wrenching that all you can utter is a long, quiet: “ffffuuuuuuuucccckkkk….” Other times, you’ve explained something to someone many times, they begin to ask you again, and you say, “for fuck’s sakeeeeee.” Maybe someone uses their privileges, without even realizing they have those privileges, to silence you….so, you swear as you think or talk about that silencing experience. Employing a wide variety of language is so important. And, at the same time, we shouldn’t be restricting language like some ideological police from 1984. Swearing can be raw emotion. Sometimes, it’s funny AF! Sometimes, it’s shocking AF! But employing a wide variety and ‘language’ is the privilege of colonization and education. That does not mean that those who swear are uneducated, but if your argument against swearing is that there are so many other words that can be used, you don’t realize the privilege you hold.

giphy

Additionally, swearing is seen as something that women cannot do; it seemingly defies constructs of domestic femininity and elegance. But that’s just it,”Woman” is also a social construct. The negative meaning we give to swearing is a historical process. I remember being young, and one could not swear because it tainted one’s innocence. Innocence is such a terrible construct. Let’s stop with that, too. Go read some Foucault.

I want to use language; I want to feel the letters fall off my tongue, resonate in my nasal cavity, and boil from my belly. That doesn’t mean we have to be rude to one another; it just means that we should stop coding swearing coz, m8, it’s all made up fluff, anyhow.

 

Heaps of love,

WordPlay Xx

A Vengeful Tangle of Thread

coffee_stain_texture__hi_res__by_twinklepowderysnow-d5bj7cw.png
The page sat empty; full of its property to be,
An equation appeared, solve it to be free,
Discuss. Solve. Explain. Understand. Know.
For full marks, all your work you must show,

A pencil scribbles symbols, meanings, and truths,
An alphabet of day-dreams abandoned in youth,
Cognisance amongst those who comprehend,
The simple, diligent task of making amends.

As memory eats our heart-ridden sleeves,
One paces, lusting for a last-minute reprieve,
Words unsung, songs unsaid–a silence to hear,
Rethink our days, nights, dreams–tremble with fear,

Is it God’s revelations that we search for in skies?
For I’ve seen God’s truth in the glint of your eyes–
Of death and of life, I sigh and moan their beauty,
Caged together, wrought by love and by duty,

Slumber’s cold breath rattles my spine,
Restless thoughts abate as we entwine,
Like swimming deep in an endless sea,
At first we fear our path to timeless serenity.

When words become chess pieces across a board,
Prudently spent, a censored life is flat and unexplored,
Shades protect our eyes from too much light,
Withal, be wary, lest ye forget sight,

Look at the page with the equation on it,
Not one step in its solving do you omit,
Logic and training bring forth its solution,
Annihilating binary affinity in favour of one,

The formula untangles anatomy,
You become You and I become me,
The result conceals, rather than illuminates,
A vengeful tangle of thread littered by the Fates.

–fin
WordPlay Xx

Connect with me elsewhere:
facebooktwitter YoutubeinstagramTumblr-Icon goodreads

Reader’s Regret ⎜On Reading When It’s Right For You

IMG_5753

I’ve been thinking a lot about when we read books. It has been said that we come to the books we read when we need them most. I’ve been going through my shelves lately, and I kept thinking, I bought this when I was a teenager, why didn’t I read this then? Why didn’t I read this then? How would my life be different? What complex emotions would I have derived from this experience at that time?

Reader’s regret?

I have to stop myself from giving into that feeling, except as a motivator to keep reading as voraciously as possible. Or, as much as I can. My eyes hate day-reading, so I end up staying up really late to read. It makes no sense; but I think years of libraries have, in fact, ruined daytime for me. So I will use this feeling to spur on better reading habits, but I won’t let it define me or make me feel bad for *past me* not knowing or empathizing or understanding those emotions and feelings the author presents or limits.

I remind myself that those books are still open to me, and, in fact, because I understand language and its nuance more than I did before, those words will take me to places into which I had, previously, been unable to tap. Booktubers often do a year-end wrap-up video about ‘Books that Made Me’. It applies to my reader’s regret. All of the books that I have read, thus far, inform how and what I read in the future. I may pick up a book that I bought when I was a teen, probably a little inappropriately (some of the books I bought were quite mature), and read and enjoy.

For example, I can’t quite remember how old I was, but Costo sold some of Ophah’s Bookclub Books. My mom bought me A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. I have only read one of the three, so far, and I only read A Tree in 2013. I do plan on reading the other two, but not just yet. East of Eden seems like a summer novel—and Canadian summers can get sultry—so maybe this summer. Additionally, I think my reading was informed more by Canada’s links to the UK and slight idolatry of UK literature over American literature, so that also informed my reluctance to tackle American lit. (Sorry guys…but I’ll get there). The reason I haven’t picked up Solitude, is mostly that other people have said a lot of “it was a long book”…so peer-pressure!!

A Bit of Fry and Laurie / tumblr

***

Back on point, I was an avid reader as a child, so I read other books instead of these. I think they were also a little too mature for my preteen or early-teen self. I think the language and nuance would have been a little lost compared to my reading them now. I read Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men when I was in my early teens, and I did love it a lot. But, I had many other book to read and re-read. When I was younger, I definitely had an immortality complex when it came to books. I had/have all the time in the world to read. So, I read what I wanted and what I chose. I re-read books many time. I have re-read The Hobbit more times than I can count. Indeed, I read it so many times when I was so young, that it is a “gospel truth” to me. I don’t doubt the existence of hobbits. You all need to stop being such noisy walkers!!

Indeed, I read other books. I didn’t read some of the ones I was bought or took out from the library. I snuck books that belonged to my mom or sister. The books that I read then, have read since, and am reading inform what and how I read. I read Betty Smith’s book in the spring of 2013. I read it, and I saw myself so firmly in the character of Francie. Our childhoods were quite a bit different because I belonged to the sort of middling classes of a privileged country. Yet, I learned and could empathize and connect with the main character because of our mutual love of books and language, our desire to learn in spite of the expense of school, and our desire to share language with others. When I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I fell in love. I recommended it to everyone. I underlined passages and shared them on twitter. I would send photos via text of underlined pages. Pages upon pages, I underlined with love. Margins scribbled in a book that was warped from the final pressure my hands, heart, mind, and eyes exerted upon the covers and spine of this precious book. I loved it so much then and there and now, that I don’t regret that I didn’t read it when I was younger because I wanted to tell the world how much I read or how sophisticated my tastes were. I regret not reading it when I was younger because it was such a pleasure and I wish I had always known that feeling.

But, I remind myself, you did and do. I remind myself of reading The Hobbit and Harry Potter and picture books with my mum. I remind myself of dragging Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland around with me everywhere and not reading it. Sometimes we read books and sometimes we don’t, but books are our most exciting and powerful resources. Wielding a book means power. If you are reading right it is not a tyrannical power, but a power to engage and develop empathy. It gives us the power to engage with the creativity or frustration of the author.

IT Crowd / tumblr

I read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale the summer before I turned 14. I may not have really understood the stake of Atwood’s story: feminism, patriarchal structures of oppression, &c., but reading it exposed me to that language. I was exposed in a way that I had not been before. I may not have understood feminism from one book, but I was being equipped with the language to be able to understand. I read Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai in school, whilst gay marriage and homosexuality were being discussed distantly in the news or by our elders, this book provided a moment to engage personally and critically (literary not judgementally) with, for me and my peers, a new language: sexuality.

On a brief side note, this is why the internet is so important. It makes these types of knowledges so accessible. I read about these ideas through literature and later through various philosophers etc., but the internet allows young people to engage in discussions of feminism and LGBTQ+. Of course, there will always be trolls and havoc-causers, but I do think the internet has opened a space where language can instantaneously permeate through otherwise impervious spaces. The language of acceptance becomes normalized. But keep reading, young ones, it’s the stuff of life.

So, friends, I wish that I had always been capable of reading the way I do now. I wish that, at the age of fifteen, I could have picked up a book and seen through ideology. I saw the things I saw, even if I was still learning. I’ve read and listened; I’ve worked hard to read the way I do. It was never a chore, except sometimes. I wish I could see the nuance I do now. But, “we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” I hope that I am able to look back, in ten- or twenty-years time, and say, I wish I understood these (new) things back then, too.

The Great Gatsby / giphy

Heaps of Love,
Word Play Xx

Connect with me elsewhere:
facebooktwitter YoutubeinstagramTumblr-Icon goodreads