Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Frankly, My Dear...": Women Changing the World Through the Internet

Gone With the Wind is a story of Southern plantation owners trying to get through the pain and tragedy of fighting, losing, and rebuilding after the Civil War. After the Southerners lose much of their way of life, they are forced to deal with huge societal changes in the best way they can. Some of them, like Ashley Wilkes, are stuck in the past, unable to move forward. The two main female characters, Scarlett and Melanie, represent the ways in which women were able to break social boundaries for their gender while at the same time remain true to their identities as women. Like Scarlett and Melanie from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind responded to the Civil War and Reconstruction, women today are responding to the new digital age by using the Internet to break social boundaries while preserving their traditional gender role.

Scarlett and Melanie show the importance of women's traditional role as social butterflies. Women are generally considered more relationship-oriented than men are. In GWTW, Scarlett eventually gets fed up with always trying to please other people, and eventually abandons any attempt to build good relationships. She turns to her love of money, running a business and marrying rich Rhett Butler. In the end of the book, Rhett concludes that one of the only things Scarlett ever wanted was "to be rich enough to tell the world to go to hell." And where did Scarlett end up?


Melanie, on the other hand, uses the societal change as an opportunity to both preserve and transform her social role. She is not afraid to befriend Belle Watling, a prostitute, which would have been impossible for her before the war. She volunteers at a war hospital, which again, would have been impossible without the Civil War. Rather than abandoning her gender role, Melanie expands it. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Being Melanie: A Real-Life Example

In my last post I discussed different ways that women can use the Internet as a force for good. Well, that wasn't just a fantasy I imagined--women out there are really doing these things online, and I'd like to introduce you to an amazing person who did just that.

Susan Taylor is the founder of Living Equilibrium. Through her business, she helps people overcome challenges using scientific techniques. The many people she has helped witness to her incredible ability to help them change their lives. She is building, strengthening, and inspiring.

I asked Mrs. Taylor about her experience with the Internet and how it has both helped and hindered herself and those she knows. She offered some very valuable insights and graciously gave me permission to share her responses here.

I asked her whether the Internet has given her an opportunity to connect with others on a deeper level. A true mother, she immediately thought of her family. "Our family is so busy, the Internet has allowed me many luxuries, like...allowing me to keep my daytime hours for family and clients, it allows me to 'peek' into the lives of my children's friends." However, she acknowledges, "There is nothing that will take the place of getting to know them in person[.]" 

Mrs. Taylor has also used the Internet as a tool to better understand her family and friends and how she could connect with them. "When I see the faces of my friends and family and read their posts, there are times when my gut tells me I need to connect with them. I have many times found that either I had a message for them or they had a message for me--the answer to what I had been searching for." This is truly a powerful way for women to use the Internet. What many call "female intuition" allows Mrs. Taylor to see, just through reading a short Facebook status update, when she needs to connect further with a friend or family member. Even though she may not usually talk to that person on a daily basis, she's able to peek at their lives through a keyhole, which can sometimes lead her to a greater connection.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Social Discovery!

As I'm getting more into my topic, I'm realizing that I really can't understand it without social proof. I can't understand women's personal experiences online without hearing what they have to say.

Here are the people I've contacted so far.

A while back I commented on a review of Gone With the Wind by Jillian, a book blogger, on A Room of One's Own. She responded pretty quickly with some great insights on Scarlett's character (I quoted her in a previous blog post). I want to talk to Jillian more now that I have some more concrete claims. I think (well, I hope) that Jillian might be interested in linking GWTW and women's experience online, since she loves GWTW (she's currently doing a reading project on Margaret Mitchell) and she's a blogger herself.

I emailed some professors who had courses that included GWTW. Professor Luesebrink, a teacher of a Popular Literature class, emailed me back!...But she didn't have much to say in response to my questions. I had asked her about the popularity of GWTW and she said that she didn't really know much about it. I asked her how she thought the 1939 film influenced the way people viewed the story (the question I was most interested in hearing the answer to) and she said she thought it influenced people, but she couldn't really say how. Ironically, she suggested that I do a web search...which is how I found her syllabus! It was cool to get a response from her, though.

This week, I decided to contact some women that I already know who have used the Internet as a force for good. I sent a Facebook message to Susan Taylor, who is changing lives through her business, Living Equilibrium. She got back to me right away with some AWESOME responses on both the good and the bad of the Internet. She also gave me permission to share her responses here, so I'll have a blog post about that soon!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Being Melanie in the Digital Age: A Practical How-To Guide

As I wrote in my last post, Melanie from Gone With the Wind is a great example of using external change--even difficult external change--to broaden her horizons and to reach her potential as a woman. Women, much more than men, are using the Internet as a social place, to help, support, and encourage one another.

Check out this diagram:

(Click here for the original diagram.)

Take a look at the different websites that men and women are involved in. Women dominate not only in some of the most extremely popular social networking sites--Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace--but also in websites that are devoted to helping each other create, like Pinterest and Instagram. And when it comes right down to it, there are 99 million more female visitors monthly to social networking sites than there are male visitors.

Women are naturally good at using the Internet for social purposes. Due to the current efforts of many remarkable women, technology is shifting away from being a traditionally masculine, male-dominated area of interest and work. Melanie used the circumstances involved in the Civil War as an opportunity to reach out and do different things and talk to different people than would have been possible in the society that existed before the war. We, as women in the new millennium, can treat the transition into the digital age with the same kind of optimism and innovation. Here's how...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Women and the Web: Are You a Scarlett or a Melanie?

After my research and talking with my professor, I've narrowed down and figured out the comparisons and the points that I want to make between gender, Gone With the Wind, and the new media.

In a previous post I mentioned that the Internet is a gender-neutral place. That's what I thought at first--but it's not. Actually, I'm prepared to make the opposite argument: that current use of the Internet is actually amplifying traditional gender roles.

Think about it. You could look at a blog and probably be able to guess the blogger's gender before you read a single word. What are women using the Internet for? Women's main use of the Internet is not to neutralize gender and enter more into masculine roles; women use the Internet to help them cook, sew, shop, make handicrafts, cut hair, do makeup--all traditionally feminine pursuits.

But women aren't using the Internet simply as a means to a traditional end. They're using it to be part of a social community. Women, much more than men, are using the web to connect with others who share their interests, hobbies, and goals. They use it as a way to reach out, to find support and to help others.

Melanie, from Gone With the Wind, is a perfect example of social connection. Throughout the Civil War, Melanie seeks the company of other women, looking to connect with them and support them. Melanie isn't afraid to reach outside of her social circle from before the war; she's even willing to befriend Belle Watling. Similarly, women are taking the dawn of the new media as an opportunity to step outside of their geographically bound social circles and connect with people from all over the world. Women are building new communities with each other and creating social ties--something women have always done, but now they're able to do it in a new way.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Confederate Belles and Cyberfeminism: Scholarly Sources

Tweethis Statement: Like Scarlett O'Hara and the Confederate women learning to adapt to a new way of life after the Civil War, women today are trying to adapt to a new digital age and gender roles are changing.

Boswell, Angela and Judith N. McArthur, eds. Women Shaping the South: Creating and Confronting Change. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2006. Print.
I found this while looking for Censer’s book (on this list) in the HBLL. This is a collection of conference papers from a conference on Southern women’s history. It shows how women were willing to step out and embrace change in the South. I want to compare the real women who promoted change and what they did, Scarlett and her actions, and how women are reacting to change today.

Censer, Jane Turner. The Reconstruction of White Southern Womanhood 1865-1895. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2003. Print.
I found this book through the HBLL catalog. It details the confederate women’s attempts to rebuild during the period immediately following the Civil War. Interestingly, the author disagrees that gender roles were changed in favor of women; she believes that women actually tried to keep the oppressive gender roles the same way they used to be. This could provide an interesting parallel between now and then, and could provide the backdrop to highlight how different Scarlett really was from the women around her. 

Daniels, Jessie. “Rethinking Cyberfeminism(s): Race, Gender, and Embodiment.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 37.1&2 (2009): n. pag. Project Muse. Web. 20 May 2012. http://muse.jhu.edu.erl.lib.byu.edu/journals/wsq/v037/37.1-2.daniels.html
I found this on Project Muse. It discusses cyberfeminism and how women have used the Internet to promote feminism and goes on to compare that to the typical female experience with the web. I think I could get some very interesting insights from this on how women are using the Internet to rethink gender roles. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Yesterday I was doing some serious thinking on my topic and realized, as I was trying to research, that my topic is far too broad. And--I'm going to have an honest moment here--the kind of research that I was looking at was boring to me. Yes, boring. Not the GWTW part, but trying to relate it to people in general's responses to external change. Well, okay--maybe it wasn't so much boring as it just didn't seem to matter. 

Before the Civil War, Scarlett tries
to convince Mammy to tie her corset
as tightly as possible.
So I had a thought to stay on the same path but narrow it a lot down to gender roles and specifically, femininity. How does this relate to what I've been blogging about for the past while? Well, I want to look at how the Civil War completely changed the way women viewed themselves and their place in society. Scarlett is quite the picture of the strong, independent woman (by the end of the book, anyway). The other Southern women find it very difficult to let go of their old ways, but Scarlett is willing to move on and doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. Melanie is much the same, in her own way, willing to talk to Belle Watling and witness gory surgeries in the war hospital. The war forced the South to rethink the gender roles in their society.

So how does this relate to digital culture? Well, I was talking to Holly and Whitney, the other members of my cohort about this. I think one big aspect of digital culture is anonymity--even to the point where you can conceal your gender. The Internet is a pretty gender-neutral place. Even if you share your gender (which most people do), most of the time no one is looking at your face or seeing your body. Gender is not necessarily at the forefront of our consciousness.

I've come up with some more thoughts on this over the past day, as well. With the Internet, women can forego a lot of traditional practices that society has come to expect from them, like dressing up and wearing makeup. On the Internet, a woman has the opportunity to make friends, get a job, or fall in love while wearing a bathrobe and bunny slippers. This mirrors what happens in Gone With the Wind as well; in the beginning, a woman's appearance is very important. Have a tiny waist, wear gigantic dresses, don't eat too much in front of men, etc., etc. But during and after the Civil War, no one really cares what anyone else is wearing; they just wear whatever is practical.  This thought isn't fully formed yet, but it's an idea.

A last thought is that despite the many gender-neutral aspects of the Internet, there are still some clearly defined gender roles on the web. There are a lot of websites specifically geared toward women. Recently I found a great website for women writers called She Writes. Just yesterday I heard my professor say that he doesn't like using Pinterest because it makes him feel less manly. There are countless blogs dedicated to motherhood, cooking for a family, sewing, arts and crafts...all traditionally feminine activities, and the blogs themselves are highly geared toward women.

Basically what this comes down to is that the Internet seems like it can be used either to diminish or increase the importance of gender roles in our society. How do you see gender roles changing (or maybe staying the same) in our digital world? Any thoughts on all this?

(Annotated bibliography soon to come...)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Can We Really Change?

As I wrote in my last post, the Southern way of life in Gone With the Wind changes dramatically with the Civil War. This external change affects not only the way of life, though; it changes the characters themselves.

Scarlett: Scarlett probably goes through more changes than any of the other characters. She starts out as a foolish child who wants nothing more than to catch as many beaux as possible. She wants to be petted and taken care of. However, by the end, Scarlett becomes much more than a silly girl. She becomes a survivor, a bussinesswoman, a plantation manager, and yes, even a murderer. She is a woman who can and will do anything to save herself and those closest to her from ruin, hunger, or death.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Second Civil War

Gone With the Wind is so multifaceted, it's hard to say exactly what sort of a book it is. It's a romance, a war novel, a historical novel, a commentary on race, gender, society, culture... In many ways, I honestly didn't know where to start with this book. There are so many different places I could go with it.
A picture I found on Tumblr that I just had to share...

I've looked for topics of discussion that are current. Professors tend to focus on how the novel portrays race and racism or gender. Many of the somewhat more intellectual enthusiasts on Goodreads and blogs like to talk about the book as a representation of the South and how it was changed through the Civil War. But the general population of enthusiasts likes to focus on one aspect of the story: Scarlett and Rhett.

These are all very interesting critical topics in themselves, and I've decided to consider and think about all of them.

One of the big themes I see in GWTW is the idea of change. All the characters go through a change in their way of life, in their relationships, in their country, in their homes...exactly the same thing that is happening today as we transition into the digital age.

Okay, not exactly the same thing. I certainly don't want to trivialize the suffering involved in the American Civil War. But I see a lot of similarities between our time and theirs.

A gigantic external change is taking place, completely changing our way of life. A way of life that was, in many ways, beautiful in its slow and thoughtful pace, dreamy and wistful...but, at the same time, inadequate. A change is not only impossible to escape, it is necessary. But this change isn't easy. We have hurdles to face; we don't know how to adapt to the new world, we don't have the necessary skills to survive in it. Many people cling to the old ways and refuse to change. Others are adapting quickly and are capitalizing on the change, becoming rich in ways they never had been able to before. Some refuse to get mowed down and even though it's hard, they're plowing right into the new world, determined to use it to their advantage. But no matter who we are, the change is having an effect on our relationships, the way we view others, the way we view ourselves, how we work and how we live. Despite the difficulties of transition, the change promises a brighter tomorrow.

See the connection? That entire paragraph could describe either the Civil War or our current transition into the digital age.

So I'm going to focus on change and look at how each of the characters adapted to it. I might also look at how the story itself has been and is being adapted to fit our time. I'm excited to dig deeper into this book!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Scarlett O'Hara's Prerogative

I've discovered that the homemade Youtube music video is alive and well in 1800s Georgia.

I didn't expect much from GWTW music videos, but I actually really enjoyed them! Not to mention, I thought they were very interesting interpretations of the story and the characters (mainly Scarlett).

This video is set to the song "Apologize" by OneRepublic. At first, I found it ridiculous and nearly laughed my head off in the computer lab. I mean, come on--do you really think OneRepublic could beat the amazing original score? It seemed to trivialize the story to put it to a modern song.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Scarlett O'Hara: Role Model

Fan art of GWTW that I found yesterday
that makes me laugh...
I checked out a blog I happened upon with a review of Gone With the Wind. The author is pretty cynical, which I love. You can find the original blog post here (but as a warning, there's quite a bit of language in it).

One thing the author said really got me thinking about Scarlett's character:

"...If she were nice EVERYONE ELSE IN THE BOOK WOULD DIE. I'm not saying I want to be her friend, but I am saying that if she were around in the days of Margaret Sanger we'd all be working for her worldwide empire."

I've never thought about Scarlett in exactly that way before. I've always thought of her mean-ness as a character flaw, not as a strength, but this blogger makes a really good point; if Scarlett were a nice person, would any of the major characters still be alive by the end of the book? Scarlett has the guts to shoot an intruding Yankee dead, marry her sister's beau for his money, force her family to work on the plantation, and plenty of other things that are, frankly, just not nice. Yet, those were the things that saved lives.

I've found it interesting as I've explored deviantART and Tumblr that some people say that they love Scarlett because she's the symbol of female empowerment. My first thought was...What? Who actually likes Scarlett? Understand her, sure; respect her, even; but look up to her as a role model? I just didn't get it.

But the more I look at people's understandings of the book and film through art and writing, the more I see how much people really do connect with Scarlett's character. She may not be nice, but people admire her strength and power. People want her kind of power. Maybe it's a deep American desire that gives people an immediate kinship with Scarlett's passionate, volatile character.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Gone With the Wind Art

Pencil drawing of Gable and Leigh

Today I tried looking on deviantART to see what different takes people had on Gone With the Wind. I was surprised at some of the various ways people applied the story.

A lot of the art were drawings of scenes from the film, which wasn't too surprising. Some people added different effects to these scenes, like this picture mosaic. 

Others took these scenes a step further by replacing Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh with their own characters.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gone With the Wind: On Paper and On Screen

Nearly all Americans have seen Gone With the Wind. The film is an American classic, like Singin' in the Rain or The Sound of Music. Interestingly, the book by Margaret Mitchell is not nearly as often talked about. The book lies in the shadow of the iconic movie.

So, in my research on Gone With the Wind, I really had no choice but to re-watch the film. The last time I watched it was right after I had first read the book, and I could hardly watch it all the way through. It seemed so petty and childish compared to the novel, no more than a weak attempt to imitate the deep emotion of the original story. I couldn't understand why the movie is so famous. 

But this time I felt differently. My last post was a pretty good segue into this topic because the question of Book vs. Movie is extremely important in the conversation about Gone With the Wind. This time, I could really enjoy and appreciate the film version. I tried to look at it with the same views I expressed in the last post, remembering that the film and the paper versions ought to be very different. 

So which is better: the book or the movie? 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Books vs. Movies

With the recent release of the film adaptation of The Hunger Games, the age-old (well, cinema-old) question is returning: Which is better, the book or the movie?

Two of my classmates have given really good answers to this question (click here and here). I also really enjoy this guy's take on it:

Now, let's get one thing straight: I am definitely a "book person." I don't believe I've ever read a book, seen a film adaptation, and liked the film adaptation better. But I think that we all--including myself--need to look at the situation of books and movies with a different paradigm.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Traveling Across the Web

I figured it out. 

Well, I still have a ways to go before I feel fully confident in my web surfing skills. But so far, so good! After my frustration (described in the last post), I started looking at things differently. With direction from my teacher, I realized that I needed to start focusing on connecting more than consuming. I needed to see my Internet use as a more social thing.

I can't even say that I necessarily did much differently. I just looked less for specific content than just for interesting people that I might want to connect with.

Paris, one of my favorite cities
I want to be a travel writer, so I had a lot of fun looking for travel websites, blogs, etc. I had fun exploring the National Geographic website for a little bit (click here for one of my favorite pages there). I also found some really cool travel blogs and commented on them. I spent at least an hour exploring via Twitter and IceRocket, and I didn't want to stop! The best part is, I know exactly where I'm going next with this thread of consciousness. Sometimes I think I could just do this all day.

It's really amazing how much is out there, and I finally was able to tap into it a little bit today. I'm excited for next week when I'll be researching Gone With the Wind. Now I feel confident that I'll know better where to go and what to do!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Surfing the web? More like swimming in it...

So. Social discovery takes work.

For those of you not in my English class, social discovery is one way of using the Internet to your advantage. Instead of doing isolated research, drowning in massive amounts of (peer-reviewed ONLY, of course) dry articles on the subject written by experts, social discovery involves finding others who are interested in the subject and connecting with them. Click here for a more detailed explanation of social discovery.

Honestly, social discovery is so exciting to me. For a long time, I've felt like it's at the edge of my fingertips. I know the Internet is good for something, but what? So far, most of what I've done is just a new way to waste my time. But it doesn't have to be that way! Social discovery is the answer! 

However, as I've been getting started, I'm realizing that social discovery is a skill that must be learned, mainly through practice. We're learning about a lot of great tools in class, and I've been dabbling in most of them: Twitter, Diigo, Goodreads, and Ice Rocket, not to mention Blogger and Google+. Each seems really cool in its own way. 

But before these tools can be useful, I have to learn to use them. I have to figure out which tool (or tools) fits my situation the best. I have to figure out exactly what to type into that little search box in order to find what I want. And when I get a gigantic page of results, how do I most efficiently sift through them? Do I narrow my search? How do I narrow it? And what do I look for in the results in order to know which ones are of the most interest to me? The answers are different in every situation. 

As far as I can tell, these are skills that will only come with practice and persistence. Admittedly, I've never been the best at this sort of thing. When it comes to surfing the web, I still haven't caught a wave. But I have faith that I can get there. I can only move forward from here!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The First Ghost-Ship

I've never really loved poetry. I know, all you literature lovers out there are probably going to hunt me down and lock me in the English department dungeon for saying that. It's not that I don't enjoy poetry when I read it. Over the past couple of years, I've come to appreciate poetry much more; the way the words flow and spill over each other, the simplicity in its mystery. But I don't know all the major poets, I don't have any poems memorized, and I don't own any tomes of poetry.

But there is a very thin book on my bookshelf that stands apart from the Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, and Bronte: Dancing In Odessa by Ilya Kaminsky.

Ilya Kaminsky--young, modern, Ukrainian, and deaf--seems like the last person who would be a teenage girl's first favorite poet. In fact, when I first read the book, he wasn't. The poems were just a class assignment, not anything to write home about. But then I got to see him read, and everything changed.