Stating the Obvious (I Think)

I think everything I’m saying is obvious, but you never know in this world. In any case, things that are known don’t suffer from being articulated again. So, here we go.

As far as I can see, if anyone truly professes to be fighting for a cause that is in any way bigger than them, it is necessary to realize that exceptions simply cannot be the solutions to the problems. What we really should be making our main goal is not to be exceptional, but to be perfectly ordinary. Does that sound strange? Let me break it down.

A lot of the oppression and marginalization we fight is systematic. That means it’s all entrenched in our societies, which in turn means that there are definitions of normalcy from which the oppressed or marginalized are excluded. Progress is only made when that is no longer the case – when those we (used to) think of as the oppressed and the marginalized are included in this definition of normalcy.

For example, I, Ivana Akotowaa Ofori, am a Ghanaian, female student in a higher education institution. And, although we certainly still have a long way to go in terms of African educational gender gaps, the fact that a Ghanaian girl goes to college is not mind-blowing news. It’s not something for my country or continent to throw a party over. Several African girls go to college or university each year, and it is probably a noble cause to make sure that this phenomenon continues to get more and more normal as time progresses.

It seems to me that, at the very least, the societies I have been exposed to have developed some internal conflicts about the idea of being unique, exceptional, “other.” At the same time, minorities and the marginalized seem to be fighting to be recognized, liberated, integrated, no longer “othered.” I suspect we are becoming increasingly confused about “normal.” Do we like it or do we hate it? We despise normality for the things it excludes, yet the core of our missions at the very least should be achieving the status of normativity. This doesn’t mean changing ourselves to conform to existing definitions; most of the time, the trouble is that the thing that marginalizes us is something that is unchangeable about us.

I want to acknowledge that there are quite clearly moments when distinction is a necessity. As a matter of fact, I think it is crucial for difference to be recognized – and thus emphasized – even before it can be integrated. For example, black hair products, in a section distinct enough for black people to be able to find what works best for their natural hair colors and textures. The problem does not arise with the fact that something is labelled specifically by ethnicity but so usual, with the notion that white hair is “default.” “Majority” need not always be synonymous with “default.”

What I’m trying to say? Our mission is, or should be, to expand normal. It seems obvious enough, but frequently, our actions suggest that we’re not aware of this. We often praise exceptions not just for their merit but for the actual characteristic of being an exception. We are proud of someone who is “the only black woman in…” or “the only trans person in…” And then we’re so caught up in acknowledging the exception to ingest that the fact that our hero(ine) is an exception is troubling.

So. Be like Ava DuVernay. She’s lit.

-Akotowaa

Satire

Satire

It’s for the laughs, you see.

This painting can’t be a reflection of me!

I won’t read anymore,

‘Cuz I know what I’ll find:

A piece that’s so funny it’ll blow my mind.

It starts with ‘Once Upon A Time’.

A story of fiction,

Outrageous scenes and impressive diction,

Foolish heroes on a foolish mission.

This author is mad!

These guys have ideas

I would never have had.

I’ve heard of a mirror.

It shows what is real.

But this image is too distorted

To show what I feel.

Comical, even.

Proportions are torn.

If it wasn’t supposed to be funny,

I’d look at it with scorn.

It’s just so outrageous

It couldn’t have been meant

For anything else;

My laughter was its intent.

How dare you get offended

At a work of art?

Shut up and laugh at it,

You old fart.

There’s no need to go on a protest

With banners.

It’s just comedy, darling.

Where are your ‘manners’?

 ——————————————————————-

Academic Literature experiences have made me rather weary of what people can do to the art of words when the author is not around to confirm or deny any statements. Some analyses are pretty out of this world, and I’ve wished on multiple occasions that I could just resurrect authors so they can give me – and a few of my teachers – the truth. (Watch out for a story along these lines.)

I’m sure Archibald MacLeish, author of the poem ‘Ars Poetica,’ which I am not exactly a fan of, would disagree with me in my views that words are SUPPOSED to mean something and serve a purpose. No matter what the world thinks, I believe artists have the right to, as much as possible, ensure that the work they create is used for its intended purpose, but more importantly, NOT misused. I’m trying to avoid misinterpretation here. Times have changed. People are different. Leave me alone.

This is a satirical poem about satire called ‘Satire.’ It’s all about the ironic intent, you see. The persona is a person who looks at satire which is meant for the mockery of the society to which he belongs, with blind eyes and denial. It’s about a person who misses the criticizing point of satire entirely and doesn’t understand people who get offended because they don’t know they are part of the society the satire is trying to mock.

The obvious thought here is that this was inspired by the recent Charlie Hebdo shootings. Well, not exactly. It was inspired mostly by Oscar Wilde and his many comedies of manners – hence the pun in the last line. The Charlie case is a different one entirely. I may, however, get into trouble if I give my views on that, though, so maybe a story will be forthcoming. Maybe.

-Akotowaa