Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Speaking Up

Hello all. Today Sunday Salon is going to be a true salon. Each week I'll post query. I'll do my best to present interesting topics and if I fail, send me a topic. Today's query is:

What holds you back from speaking up? How do you use your voice? How can we use online platforms like blogs to affect change? Do you believe you have something to say, why or why not? Do you believe your voice matters? Do we need many voices to build community? And to bring it to the everyday- do comments matter?

Often when I blog I'm hesitant (yes, I know I'm chatty but that has nothing to do with feeling anxious) because I fear I won't come across as credible. I fear tripping over my tongue but I act on faith and find courage in Audre Lorde's words:

When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

She also says silence will not serve us. Now, Lorde is a personal hero. Her life was cut short and that reminds me I can't take for granted how long I will have my voice.

The Internet is a powerful tool I believe we have not fully harnessed. My aim is to maximize the opportunities the Internet provides us for affecting change in my community and the world and change begins one person at a time. Color Online is about change.

Color Online exists to empower and to support you. Let your voices be heard.


Color Online said...

FYI, you are not expected to answer every question. The query is to serve as a guide.

I do hope many of you will share your thoughts.

Book Dilettante aka Book Bird Dog said...

I do a variety of reading - international authors. Hope you will visit my Sunday Salon at A New Year and a New Name

Color Online said...

Welcome Book Dilettante,

I visited your blog. I recognize your name from Book Bloggers?

I hope you come back with thoughts on this week's query.

Najela said...

I don't really speak up because I'm afraid of the backlash I'll get if I offend someone. I try to stay away from heavy topics, but when you think about it, we never talk about the issues because we're afraid that we'll offend someone. If we don't talk about the issues, then we can't beginning to work on the issues.

I think online blogs can connect people with similar goals, morals, and opinions and get them actively working on something such as charities or community service works.

I do have something to say, but I'm not exactly sure how to say. My blogs tend to be very stream of consciousness, and tend to be all over the place. I think I can blog more coherently to get my point across by writing and advance and editing.

Comments don't really matter too much too me because there are people who like to lurk. I do wish that some people would get into active discussion and be constructive about it. Most arguments I read in comments go in circular motions and everyone just ends up wrong and pissed off and we are back where we started. For comments to work, they have to be constructive and respectful, but this is just wishful thinking.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

This is a great line: When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

As the comment above states - I too enjoy a good conversation on the blog comments and like to be interactive with those who share their thoughts with me.

Ah Yuan // wingstodust said...

Hmm, I do think of myself as the type to speak out if I think I have something to say. It's just that, the more serious and/or close to my heart the topic is, the more careful I am with what I have to say. (For instance, I've been trying to get around to posting about Race, Class and Gender issues in Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers trilogy, but I'm still at the brainstorming stage, gathering together quotes and sorting out thoughts etc.) Almost every comment/post I type, I think about it for a looooong while before sitting down and writing it out. So I guess that makes me a bit slow in speaking up and perhaps by the time I do, the whole debacle died down. ^^;;

lol funny you mention the comments thing. I had an LJ before blogger and I was really used to the comment threads there, where people had conversations that went on forever and ever and ever. I find that with the blogger settings, people don't often comment back. I'm not sure why though... =Dv

rhapsodyinbooks said...

What holds me back from speaking up is (a) if I really am not expert on the subject matter and/or (b) if I lack confidence about what I think and/or (c) if I think what I say will be perceived as stupid, irrelevant, or fatuous. Nevertheless, since I probably make a lot of comments falling into the (c) category, I probably am not inhibited enough by (a) and (b)!

Color Online said...

Jill, I think (c)is largely our own thinking. If I had to wait until I thought what I had to say was brilliant and eloquent, I'd never speak up. LOL I can think of worse offenses so let us be fatuous.

Ah Yan, I agree, that LJ has wonderfully long, extended conversations. Oh, but the format at LJ turns me off. :-)

Mama C said...

Great topic.
What holds me back often, and should hold me back more is how online responses can be misconstrued, taken out of context etc.
And what holds me back, Like rhapsodyinbooks, is feeling not entitled to speak about certain content because of my life experience, even though the content may be all important to my life experience.
What holds me back is losing it's grip as my new connection here and elsewhere attests.
Your friendship, and the community online that I am finding is that hand outstretched.

Color Online said...

And we're going to hold on to you.

We have to be more willing to work out the misconstrued. Let's start with the premise that we intend the best and what is right.

Gavin said...

Wonderful idea, Susan, a real Salo, where we discuss thoughts and ideas!
What holds me back from speaking is my fear of offending someone, of making them angry.

If I speak passionately about my views I also think I will be perceived as "over-emotional". I believe this comes from my upbringing and struggle with it everyday. Internalized oppression?

I do believe I have something to say, am not sure how to say it. Thank you for this.

Color Online said...

I think many women are raised to be believe they are over-emotional and that we should only say nice and polite things. I believe that polite business is a way to condition us to be silent.

I care if I offend someone. I also care that about being honest and open. We can work through issues and misunderstandings but first we must address them.

Oh, thanks is due to Jill. I asked for suggestions and she said, "let's talk." :-)

Michelle said...

It's never been part of the culture when I grew up (whether in school, community or even at home) to speak up. Whatever it is that I'm pissed about, I'm told to shut up. That was especially the case when I was still really young, and it's just a big NO-NO to 'talk back' to people elder than we are, which was pretty much everyone.

It's easier now to speak up, partly because I'm a little older, and partly because of the internet. There are so many things I wish to say, and I believe that if we all spoke up, fighting for what we believe in, change could really really happen.

Do comments matter? Well, I think it depends a lot on the topic. Not all topics warrant comments and feedback, and not all platforms are suitable for long discussions that could get heated up.

I typically comment on topics that mean something to me, or if it's something interesting. I'm still not leaving my thoughts around as freely as I would like, but then sometimes I wonder if it's alright.

MissAttitude said...

I'm usally afraid to comment on meaningful discussions because as a young person I fear that I will make a mistake and be dismissed as not knowing something due to being a teenager. Also, sometimes I generally don't know all the details/issues about or surrounding a topic so I keep quiet.
I'm going to try and do a better job (new years resolution) of commenting on new blogs, old blogs and participating in meaningful discussions and sharing my thoughts.

susan said...

How you feel is as valid as the next person. Mixed up facts can be corrected.

Anonymous said...

I share the same reasons as rhapsodyinbooks. If I'm not extremely knowledgeable on a topic, I'm more timid about responding. It's hard to bank on passion alone and risk sounding stupid. This was probably a great question to warm us all up and get some looser tongues. :)

Eva said...

Sometimes I hesitate to touch controversial matters on my blog, because it's so much more difficult to talk about 'touchy' subjects over the internet, when there's no body language. Also, I'm not a big fan of drama and trolls. ;)

I didn't used to think I had 'something to say' on my book blog other than reviewing/discussion but books. But now that I'm reading 50% POC, I see reading as more political than I used to. Even if someone reads only white authors, they're making a decision to go along with the majority status quo, and I feel like since I make a conscious effort to seek out non-white viewpoints, I am making a political statement. I'm saying: black authors matter to me. Hispanic authors matter to me. Asian American authors matter to me. Native American authors matter to me. And I will not accept a publishing industry that marginilises them. That being said, it's a pretty quiet statement when I'm merely reading and reviewing the books. I'm working on a post about my experience, and it's going to be more overtly political and aware than anything I probably usually publish. I guess I'm hoping to bring some of my readers a wake-up call, like the one that I got, and challenge them to read 50% POC fiction too. But we'll see how it turns out! I'd also like to start linking more the wonderful POC discussions I read on various blogs (often thanks to links found at Color Online!). I think if more white bloggers were *aware* of the colour issues, they'd want to change things.

I've seen some wonderful discussions in comment threads, but I think often comments serve to create a relationship between bloggers, so that they begin to carry over ideas and conversations in comments on different posts and blogs.

susan said...


I think we make the mistake of believing that the only way to make things happen, to bring about change requires doing something spectacular, big and bold.

Well, going back to Civil Rights and the Rosa Parks, it was one woman who just said no. She was tired and she said so no to the status quo by a simple act.

There are not enough reviews of POC titles so when a voracious reader like you blogs brown it is a real contribution and I wholeheartedly agree it is political. What we read or don't read says volumes about where our interests, values and perspective lie.

You are welcomed allie.

susan said...

Hey, I know I'm a lousy speller so when was someone going to send me a polite e-mail correcting my 'allie'? LOL

TheEnglishist said...

I just started my book blog, and I am going to try very hard not to censor myself there, at least when it comes to my opinions on the books. I'm still figuring out how I'm going to use my website, but for now, it's going to be strictly book reviews with the occasional meme related to book reviews, and how I honestly feel about the books I review.

I haven't figured out whether or not my rants about book-related things belong there or not yet.

That said, with my livejournal, I tend to speak up when something irritates me, but only if I feel I'm adding something new to the conversation. When RaceFail09 happened, I was late to the shenanigans, and, by that point, there wasn't anything for me to add besides, "Wow, people are stupid."

mel u said...

Knowing about the Authors we Read-once there was a quite dominant school of literary interpertation that said everything you needed to know about a piece of Literary art was in the work-it did not matter where the author lived, if he was a man or a woman, an athiest or a Christian-sometimes it seems the focus on the ethnic identities of novelists takes away from our focus on the nove as a work of art-in part, no offense meant to anyone, this is because many book bloggers are educators and it is easier to teach books to younger people if we see them as political documents rather than as works of art-in my opinion first one should look at how the novel works-In the case say of the Good Soldier-look at how the narrative proceeds and some how tells us more about the characters because it is unreliable than otherwis-then if you want as a matter of human interest ponder the effects or meaning of Ford Madox Ford being white, straight, early 20th centurt English man-but I think there is too much concern on the backgrounds of authors as the primary focus-ok sorry to go on

Color Online said...

Mel- I know that the school of thought. I'm not a teacher but I do not remember nor believe that as a student I ever felt a teacher placed emphasis on the gender or race of the author nor do I recall even as a high schooler thinking a book was a political document. These ideas and examination didn't come till college.

But even if we had look at these things, most often the author was white and male. The dominant perspective was from someone who was not like me on every level. The author was white, male and the protagonist was often male. Those were the kind of books I was required to read. Only deviation came was during Black History Month and later in high school when there were a handful of black literary writers recognized but not really part of the literary cannon.

At some point in higher education I taught that history is colored by the perspective of the storyteller. The majority of my history instruction in school I was from the point-of-view of the dominant group describing how they discovered or conquered another group.

When I was in college, I remember there were 5 major schools of criticism. I favor cultural criticism. Culture is shaped by ethnicity, gender and mores of the society of the time when the work was written or of those of the author's time. How then can a work be pure? Be completely void of the political?

I remember when we looked at each form of criticism and I rejected this one. Nothing exists in a vacuum especially literature.

I'd argue that the proponents of the school of thought of critique solely on the text were likely white and male but I'd have to research or ask some of the academics here.

I think you can argue to what extend and how relevant race, gender, perspective can be. I do not believe you can divorce them completely from a work.

Back to the how students and adults process a work, perspective is shaped by experience and maturity so while we may spend a great deal of time here hashing out the political, I believe students often process a work very differently. However, I also believe that we take in information and are affected by it on a subconscious level and it is not until we are older do we perceive and process what we were exposed to later as we mature.

One writer recently commented that maybe we are wrongly expecting those with very different experiences and perspective to be able to process a work in a similar way to those of us whose perspective is significantly shaped by ethnicity/race and gender.

If you are a woman or a POC who has lived a life of marginalization, invisibility and considered of no consequence, you know there has never been enough concern for our background and perspective.

I strongly believe in commonality but not at the expense of individuality and voice. A woman and girl are not the same. A man and woman are not the same. An adult does not see the world as a child sees it. And when a writer writes, as objective as he or she may be in the telling the story no writer writes completely divorced from their experience. And therefore, on some level race/ethnicity/gender is relevant when examining art.

Mel, I hear you but do not think we are arguing that the background of the author is always primary. We are arguing when and why.

Lisa said...

I haven't been around in a while and what a joy to stop in and see such a great discussion! What great questions too. My couple of thoughts -- although the internet has made it easy for everyone to express thoughts and ideas, it's still difficult to find safe havens for honest discussion. The tendency I've noticed when it comes to topics related to things that are important for us to talk about is for people to gravitate toward an opinion, jump on bandwagons and react quickly, without much thought (note: I'm spending most of my online time on Twitter these days so that tendency is amplified there).

I'm so glad that forums like this one are here for people to openly express ideas and ask questions without fear of recrimination.

Missed you! Happy New Year xoxo

Mama C said...

You (all) have inspired again. I have enlisted the help of two colleagues at my middle school to work up a little ten to fifteen minute "Ethnicity Awareness 101" of sorts presentation/information gathering with our staff of 90 next week. We are going to offer a checklist activity for curriculum design and find out from the (entirely white- except for one of the colleagues working with me) staff what areas they would like resources about or feel uncomfortable approaching etc. It's a start. I speak up on the internet, and with my close friends, and now I want to explore/find that voice in my professional life for all kids including mine!

mel u said...

More on the issue of is there too much emphasis on the cultural background of authors-

Color Online-you make great points-you are right the literary theory I mentioned was formulated by white men (as were pretty much all theories of criticism up until very recently)-maybe I should say theories about how to get the most out of a book -critical theory is not the word I want but I do not have the right word yet-

there is no right or wrong way to look at literary works-it is a question of what works for us as readers

I fully see you point that the vast majority of classics and assigned in school novels and poems are written by white men-

Side note-is a Japanese a POC? Is a Filipino? (I think yes for sure), The post WWII Japanese novel is the equal of any other country as a category of fiction where there are not 6 really even readable Filipino novels and we have 90 million people here!-is this some how a POC issue?

things go in cycles-now the dominant theme on book blogs is social and political reading of books (I am not at all saying anything negative on this just observing the dominance of this way of looking at books)-I do think that this is partially caused by the fact that a lot of bloggers are educators and academics of some sort-I am neither-what this means is the account they give in their blogs of a work is catered to the understanding of a person at most 22 or so-and I think this can be a limiting factor and leads to the treatment of books within the framework of cultural criticism-of course just my thoughts etc-

Please if you have time ponder if a Japanese novel should be treated as written by a POC?-

mel u said...

Color OnLine-

as a point of interest after our exchange-I reviewed the backgrounds of the authors of the 70 books I have posted on since my blog began July 7, 2009

Male 37
Female 23

Americans 7
Canadians 3 (all Margaret Atwood!)
Russians 1
French 2
English 4
Filipino 3
Chinese 5
Japanese 41
Australian 4

So far in 2010 I have posted on six works

Males 3 Females 3
2 American
1 Japanese
1 Indian
1 English
1 Dominica

2 21th century works
3 20th century
1 10th century