As many writers know, language can be used to express discontentment with and resistance of oppressive power regimes. At the same time, using the same words or concepts to convey dissatisfaction with extant inequalities can be boring for both the reader and writer. Because boredom can lead to indifference towards the subject at hand and occlude one’s opportunity to discuss the perpetuity of systematic inequality, it is important for writers to discuss the old theme of social injustice in new ways.
Several months ago, I stumbled across a term and concept that left me pleasantly stunned by the ingenuity indigenous to its form: sexxxism. Upon observing the term, my eyes were drawn to the ‘xxx’ signification sitting in the center of the word. In recognizing that the three letters represented the ugly awry world of the sex industry, I understood the entire term to reference the dimension of sexism pertaining to the objectification of women for the purpose of rendering them mindless bodies who existed only to satisfy male sexual desires. And although I was already familiar with this concept as a result of my former immersion in the world of feminist literature, this mode of expression intrigued me as a result of its iconoclastic expression of dissent from the patriarchal paradigms buttressing the sexual exploitation and misuse of women. Thus the term ‘sexxxism’ is an example of how one can refer to a commonly understood concept in new and intriguing ways.
In my own writing life, I have tried to make creative representation of feminist themes integral to my work. It is for this reason that I created the following microfiction piece:
i am not able to articulate or otherwise express what He did to me with words.
Here, the concept of being unable to verbally discuss the act of rape-and the emotions such violations engender-is common. Indeed, innumerable writers have discussed the role that sexual violence plays in making its survivors feel that silence is more advantageous than openly discussing what has happened. Despite its conventional dimensions, however, the sentence does contain originality, and this novelty is rooted in the tense interplay between the words ‘i’ and ‘He.’ In the sentence, ‘I’-a common designation for an individual identity that separates self from other and affords the person it references a unique and inalienable place in the world of humanity-is decapitalized. This nuance is intentional and was appropriated for the purpose of displaying the loss of identity and sense of significance that transpires when an individual is raped. To underscore the import of the loss of self made evident through decapitalization, I capitalize the pronoun meant to reference the rapist-‘He.’ In so doing, I emphasize the fact that my subject’s attacker has gained power and prevalence in her mind as a result of his ability to overpower her such that she is deprived of psychosomatic agency. Moreover, using a capital ‘H’ in the ‘he’ that references Michael highlights his ostensible omnipotence given that the ‘He’ referent is often afforded to God, the deity believed to possess all power in theistic scholarship.
As made evident by the aforementioned sentence and my subsequent commentary about it, rape is not a unique social reality. Nor is feminist discourse about the patriarchal paradigms that make it possible and prevalent. Nevertheless, there are new ways that this old theme can be discussed such that readers interested in interrogating oppression will not grow bored by writing that includes modes of expression that are too familiar or common. For this reason, I encourage writers attempting to construct interesting discourse about any form of inequality to strongly consider using literary techniques and narrative strategies which make their work stand out from the already existing body of literature about the topic.
Related Articles From Jocelyn:
Writing Tips: Reading to Strengthen the Logic of Your Claims
Writing Tips: Using Research to Help Formulate Your Thesis
Writing Tips: The Power of the Paratext
Jocelyn Crawley holds B.A.’s in English and Religious Studies. Her work has appeared in Jerry Jazz Musician, Nailpolish Stories, Visceral Uterus, Dead Beats, Four and Twenty and Haggard and Halloo. Other stories are forthcoming in Faces of Feminism and Calliope.