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For my social media marketing class, the penultimate blog requirement asked us to either compare two mainstream movies with a theme of solitude or to take the #solitudechallenge: 30 minutes of reflection with no distractions. This was a pretty difficult choice for me, as neither sounded particularly appealing. I am, gasp, not a movie person, and having two sit through not one, but two, movies about a subject that I have little to no interest in was definitely off the table.

So, I forced myself to sit and reflect for 30 minutes. Normally, this would be a task that I might actually be excited about. About a year ago I started to do yoga and began to enjoy the quiet moments to myself. I was getting better at meditating and actually, really, truly, clearing my mind and finding peace. Three months ago, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. It was a shock given my young age and despite my family history. In quiet moments, my mind goes to unsettled places of uncertain futures. I don’t really like to be alone with my thoughts for this reason, but it was still more appealing than watching movies.

Despite the emotional implications of the #solitudechallenge for me at this moment in my life, it was and is always a good reminder to be present and stay connected with the real world. We hide behind our phone screens and computers, sharing carefully curated content to convey our own personal brands. The #solitudechallenge helped me realize that I want to be present in as many moments of my life as possible. I do not want to have any regrets about the things I should have or could have done. The #solitudechallenge was a real challenge for me, and, honestly, I am glad that it is over!

Though it is quite rare, some acts of hatred and ignorance can be turned into enlightening, thought provoking exercises that increase awareness. This phenomenon occurred recently, in response to the removal of David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly from the Hide/Seek exhibition at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

Before the exhibition opened, I enthusiastically read about the first major retrospective of the most prominent and influential GLBTQ American artists. While I was busy looking up affordable flights to DC and checking out cheap hotels, I realized that some people probably weren’t nearly as excited about the show as I was, and that the show would inevitably cause unwarranted controversy.

Unable to take time off to make it to DC, my dreams of seeing the show in person slowly faded. When it was brought to my attention that the new speaker of the house, Mr. John Boehner, demanded that David Wojnarowicz’s video entitled A Fire in My Belly be removed from the Smithsonian’s exhibition because it was “hate speech,” I was infuriated. I couldn’t believe Boehner’s ignorance, hatred, and close-mindedness. I knew that Hide/Seek had a target placed on it by the conservative right from the beginning, but I did not think that blatant censorship and a disregard for the separation between church and state would be the result.

The four minute video, which was actually the extra footage not yet used in the unfinished version of A Fire in My Belly, can be seen on youtube here.

The controversy around this four minute clip started when conservative, Republican politicians threatened to cut museum funding if the film was not removed from the exhibition. They claimed that the parts of the film that show ants crawling across a crucifix were “hate speech” and that it was not appropriate, especially so close to the Christmas holiday.

First of all, these politicians are blatantly ignoring a separation between church and state. Every American is not Christian, and a public institution should not be denied funding for showing a film that criticizes or questions a particular religion. The work was also completely de-contextualized. In it’s context, a film created by a man who suffered through the AIDs crisis and lost many friends and his own life to the disease, is, in my opinion, allowed to have a crisis with Christianity. Most of the footage was also filmed in Mexico, a culture that is characterized by a zealous commitment to Christianity but incredibly different outlook and appreciation of life and death than that of the culture of the United States.

Censoring this film was an act of hatred and ignorance. Thankfully, many museums and cultural institutions around the United States and beyond decided to screen Wojnarowicz’s films in protest of Boehner’s unfair censorship. As a result, many more people became aware of the film and were able to watch the film in a museum setting where they could engage in productive dialogue with other viewers. For days after the removal of the film it was impossible to watch the news or surf the web without seeing headlines about the controversy. The acts of conservative politicians to try to censor Hide/Seek back fired, and many people went out of their way to see the censored film at other institutions as an act of defiance.

Kudos to the institutions who participated in the film screening and to the people who protested artistic censorship by watching the film.

So, I haven’t written/posted a blog post in quite a while. This is absolutely connected to the fact that I am currently working two part-time jobs and do not have any days off. I also attribute my decline in blog activity due to a funk that I’ve been in regarding technology.

Lately, probably because I am too tired from working every day, my limited time on my personal computer turns into a giant, unproductive time suck. I hadn’t logged into my computer for the past two weeks for more than an hour. Partially because I have too many other things to do, but also because I was enjoying weening myself off technology dependence. (I do have a smart phone, so I was not completely disconnected…just enjoyably limited.)

There is also something about the physical act of writing… pressing pen or pencil (whichever I’m in the mood for – right now, mechanical pencil) onto paper and literally manifesting and materializing my thoughts and ideas. For me, the creation and production of my thoughts into a material object, the process, is the most intriguing aspect of writing.

I would attribute my appreciation for the material object – the product of the physical act of writing – the notebook full of words vs. the hard drive full of word documents to my interest in visual/cultural objects. As an art historian, whenever I see an object, I automatically try to think about what it says about the culture/individual who created it.

I find this need/desire to physically write/create versus virtually write/create similar to the fact that I’d rather read a hold a book or a piece of paper than read on a digital screen. For me, the object-ness, “reifying” my writing, shall we say, makes the experience and process of writing more authentic and rewarding.

It might be sort of cheap, writing a blog post about why I haven’t been writing blog posts, but it definitely speaks to my character and personality. I am an incredibly thoughtful and reflective person. I need to think about (read: over-analyze) just about everything. Writing this post, working through my funk, has given me closure on my technology adverse writers block. So, be prepared for an influx of posts.

I had tried using Twitter to start a conversation, which wasn’t exactly effective (refer to this post), so in an attempt to quell unemployed boredom, I decided to post a thought provoking question as my facebook status. It read:

QUESTION to young, female facebook friends: if you think you’ll someday get married (or even if you don’t, make it a hypothetical), do you think you’ll take your partner’s last name? why or why not? ready, gooo.

Let me preface by saying that, although I am in a serious, monogamous relationship, I am not engaged, or any where close to getting married. I do, however, often think about whether or not I would take my future husband’s last name, as I have always been really partial to my full name (since high school, my first and last name have pretty much been smooshed together to form one name), yet my strained relationship with my father makes me less reluctant to keep his name. Out of intrigue, I really wanted to know what other women my age (early 20s), thought about this topic.

Response was sort of overwhelming, resulting in 56 comments of people, male and female, voicing their opinions on the matter. Some women who are already married tried to express to us unmarried women the effects of becoming Mrs. (insert name here) and feeling a loss of identity and agency as a result. Some women, however, were excited to take their husband’s name, and thought that giving up a part of their old life and identity was romantic.

I have to say that I am more in line with the ideology of women who are bothered by being Mrs. (insert name here) and abandoning their identity pre-marriage. I view marriage as a union of two, independent people who want to provide each other with support, love, and companionship. As a result, I don’t think it’s romantic in the least to have to lose my identity to start a life with my partner. It’s problematic and best and offensive at worst.

What I learned from this conversation is that people will probably, unfairly and inaccurately assume that if I take my partner’s last name it is because I think it is romantic and traditional, which would really bother me, as those are the opposite of my opinions. I’m also not religious, at all, so I don’t even think that marriage is a viable option for me. I think I’d rather opt for a civil union, as I don’t buy into the whole; two souls become one soul by the power of god. No, thanks. That’s not for me.

It was awesome to read people’s opinions on this subject, and to try to figure out a solution that “jives with my philosophy,” as one of my friends put it. Obviously, this is a very personal subject and there are many different reasons as to why or why not you’d decide to change your name. For me, though, I can’t seem to figure out an answer that pairs my ideology and feelings. Good thing I have lots of time.