About Kaitlin

Kaitlin Dyer is a poet and editor whose writing has appeared in [PANK], Hawaii Pacific Review, Poetry International, and New Welsh Review, among other presses. Her chapbook is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press.

Coco Lynne Presents Us with “Warpaint”

If you have a minute, I highly recommend checking out this article on The Huffington Post about “Warpaint,” “a nuanced art project addressing the subtleties of gender expression.” It explains how photographer Coco Layne decided to play with her own physical representation in order to explore the subtleties of gender expression. What I find particularly interesting is her point about gender identity:

“It’s important to open up this conversation about gender presentation because its often confused and read as gender identity,” she added. “Gender presentation is not about sexual orientation at all! Playing around with gender expression is strictly an avenue to explore my identity as a queer person not my sexual identity.”

Since gender presentation is so often correlated with gender identity, it is interesting to note the nuance and distinction that she speaks of. It’s definitely worth a read.


Philosophical Spanish Lessons

Yesterday, my Spanish teacher and I were discussing Martín Fierro (1870s), a culturally significant epic poem in Argentina because of its depiction of gauchos. (If you’re not aware, gauchos are kind of like Argentine cowboys. At the time the poem was written, they were a sort of “sub-class” because they were multi-racial, being a mixture between the colonizing Europeans and the indigenous people. Traditionally, they weren’t land owners themselves, but worked with the cows and horses for other ranchers throughout the Pampas region of Argentina). Essentially, Martín is a gaucho who is drafted into the Argentine civil war, but doesn’t want to be a part of it. So, he runs away and escapes into the southern part of Argentina (Patagonia, really) until he is able to reunite with his children.

So, when Martín runs off to Patagonia, the book describes this by saying that he goes to “el desierto.” In some cases, based off of context, this could refer to a desert as we think of it in English–a place with sand, heat, and not a lot of water. However, in this context, it refers more to wilderness–a place which is “deserted.” (And, in fact, Patagonia is known for being extremely cold.) But herein lies the question: deserted by who? The poem itself describes how Martín and another gaucho, Cruz, spend their time with the indigenous people there. Obviously, this means that it was not truly deserted, only deserted by the European colonizers.

So, this prompted my teacher to pull out a hundred-peso bill. On one side is a picture of Julio Argentino Roca, an army general and president of Argentina in the late 1800s. On the other was “La Conquista Del Desierto,” the conquest of the desert (or wild as the case may be).

La Conquista del Desierto

The image itself depicts Roca and his men expanding and “uniting” Argentina, which pretty much meant killing or displacing the indigenous people living there and allowing more ancestral-Europeans to settle.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because my teacher made this point: these bills are being phased out. In 2012, the Argentine government started to make new bills depicting Eva Peron instead of Roca:

Evita on 100 peso bill

I (and my Spanish teacher) find this to be a fascinating indication of cultural priorities and the change thereof. Personally speaking, I was always aware of how commercials, newspapers, political campaigns, etc. were parts of a society that spoke to its greater cultural needs and how those cultural elements connected to the rhetoric performed in addressing those needs. But, the money. The thing that I carry in my pocket every single day. That had not occurred to me. The money itself–what we choose to put on it to represent our national identities–is symbolic for what we want to say about ourselves. And the changes to that imagery is important too. In Argentina (as in many other places), people are no longer persuaded by “the conquering forces.” Not only that, but choosing Evita is important. This is the first woman to be on an Argentine bill in over 200 years. Is that an indication of cultural priority? Are Argentines becoming more open to women in positions in power or is it Evita’s connection to social programs which speaks to the nation (even though Peronismo is a highly contentious subject here)? And when, for heaven’s sake, will there be a woman on a U.S. bill and not just being relegated to an unused coin? (Susan B. Anthony / Sacagawea, anyone?)


Speaking of rhetoric in everyday life, I love a smart and savvy Craigslist ad:


baller bikeGrab a paper bag, breathe into it and calm your ass down. You’re hyperventilating because you ain’t never seen a deal like this before. Now collect yourself, then keep reading this incredible description that barely serves to do justice to my 2003, 19″, KONA Muni Mula, 7005 Double-butted Aluminum, multi-gear mountain bike. Also known as the greatest bike the suburbs have ever had the privilege of existing around.
What makes this bike so much better than every other bike that has ever been pedaled? Glad you asked. It starts with the paint scheme. It looks like 24 Karat gold if they made bikes out of 24 karat gold. That’s bold, son. Curb appeal.
What else? Ryan, the paint’s a little dinged up. Yeah, well, that’s called real life. It comes at you fast, bro. Besides, you really want this glimmering, shimmering sex machine catching the eye of some small time thief? You really don’t want to be living your own version of PeeWee’s big adventure. Consider the lived-in feel a natural crime deterrent. If this bike were denim jeans, it’d be called “de-stressed” and you’d be paying extra for the privilege. I’m not gonna charge you extra for it, though. Cause I’m not trying to take advantage of you. But you should take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
What else? Let’s talk about that Marzoochi Bomber front fork for a second. It’s as gnarly as it is exotic. Like the tropical, saw-toothed platypus. Which is a species that does’t even exist. Fortunately this crazy front fork does. It offers bomb-a$$ shock absorption, as the name implies.
What else? Did you see those Shimano Deore Rapid-Fire Shifters? These shifters make you wanna take this thing off road in a big way. They also offers a terrific chance to introduce that dome of yours to a tree. So don’t trip. Ride safe. Get a helmet and if you’ve never ridden a bada$$ mountain bike, maybe it’s time to move along, young sir because this thing is made for big hills and mud trails. What this bike does offer is a one-way ticket to legits-ville. Find a bowling ball. Then find another one. Your nuts must be at least that big to even consider making this whip the dreamiest object to ever take up space in your garage. But you’ll be filled with joy once you throw a leg over this flawless piece of cycling excellence.
But, Ryan, aren’t you sad about selling the greatest bike on earth? No. When you ride this bike once it permanently eliminates your ability to feel sad about anything ever again. Even for little puppies who are afraid to walk down the stairs, because the stairs…they’re so big, and they’re so little. Puppies who are young, but have already discovered the world to be a cold, unforgiving place. But you won’t give a shit about it because you’ll be on your awesome new bike living the dream.
And you’ve just learned something else about me. That’s right, my name is Ryan. And your name is lucky motherfather if you make the best choice of your life and pay me cold, hard cash for this ridiculous ride.
2003, 19″, KONA Muni Mula, 7005 Double-butted Aluminum, multi-gear, hard-tail mountain bike with Marzoochi Bombers, Deore Shimano Rapid Fire Shifters. Barely Ridden, like new.
In no rush to sell, big ballers only, no low-ballers. $650 OBO
Contact Chris near Alum Creek Trails
In terms of rhetorical strategies, I love how this is simultaneously a spoof on typical advertisements and a genuinely persuasive advertisement at the same time. It has that sense of humor which builds rapport between the seller and the audience as well as talks up the bike in that “and that’s not all” infomercial genre. Very clever.

Cultural Rhetoric

I moved to Argentina. No, really. It’s true. I just graduated with my MFA in May (woot!), packed everything into boxes, sold what I could, and took a flight to Buenos Aires. Of course, here is your obligatory picture of French buildings in latin america:



Anyway, while in Buenos Aires, it has become incredibly apparent how culture plays a major factor in rhetoric. Of course, we all think about communication in different, individual ways, but the culture that surrounds us has a large impact on the framing of that communication. As a foreigner, coming into contact with that different use of rhetoric reveals the kind of audience and culture that rhetoric is geared toward. Argentines are known for being very forward, a little ego-centric, and, really, all up in yo’ business. Por ejemplo, I had a friend get some money out of a wire transfer and the teller proceeded to ask what the money was for. In Argentina, this guy is just making small talk. In the US, he’s rude. Herein, we can see the cultural differences of customer service. What might be rapport-building in one culture is offensive in another.

I think this might be an interesting discussion when applied to teaching. In my own classes, I would tell my students that it’s important to avoid colloquial phrases because academic writing is intended to be a global endeavor; therefore, what may make sense to us and our culture may not be translatable to other academics in other countries. Similarly, this issue of what is cultural accepted or appropriate also speaks to audience. In one culture, being very direct and pointed may be persuasive and in another it would actually work against you. It’d be interesting to see a rhetoric class framed around that–the rhetorical awareness of cultural appropriacy. Has a ring to it, no?

Sitting will F*%$ You Up

Since we talked about moving our bodies last week, it seems only pertinent to bring up this poster that everyone’s been talking about in the blogosphere:

The creators of this poster seem to have struck an interesting balance between pathos and logos. They provide plenty of statistics with the scary goblin-like images to scare us into standing up. Plus, even though there are scary-Halloween images, the people themselves are hardly ever villainized. The objects themselves (chairs, tvs, etc) have shadows that are out to get us, but the people themselves tend to be bright cutouts. The obese cutouts, however, are represented in black much like the evil shadows. So, we’re clearly supposed to favor one over the other–feel aligned toward one of the other. It certainly does grab your attention, for sure.

Honestly, though, I will always favor the ads that offer a solution over the ones simply pointing out the problem. I mean, don’t most of us know we should be more active? Well, may I suggest more GirlTalk? I think that counts. 😉

Why Beyonce is Perfect for Rhetorical Analysis

My students and I were recently discussing context and how context can impact our analysis of a text, so I, of course, was scouring for the best materials to discuss context in the various ways we can interpret that. This led me to Beyonce. Or, more precisely, Beyonce’s video for “Move Your Body.”

We can, of course, analyze this video independently. Based on the setting of a school cafeteria and population of younger backup dancers, it seems natural to surmise that this video is aimed at the youngun’s of America, for instance. However,  a lot of these elements gain deeper meaning when we place the video in context.

Actually, in the interest of full disclosure, I first saw this video posted on a friend’s facebook and I could see that there was something going on that didn’t conform to all the typical moves of the music video genre. Usually, there would be more time spent on glamorous close-ups of Beyonce, cut-aways to other scenes, or some austere, artsy move (e.g. lighting, quick editing, black and white). So, I went in search of this greater context that must’ve been fueling the decision to approach this video differently. And, yes, there was a reason for all these things.

This video is connected to First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. No, really. You can see Mrs. Obama herself doing the dougie (and the running man!):

If nothing else, it takes a brave woman to dougie for all of youtube. But, I digress.

This campaign is intended to teach children how to eat healthier and become active so that they grow up creating a healthier America. This is important context for the Beyonce video. “Waving the American flag” actually makes sense now. As does the emphasis on apples, bananas, and other fresh foods that show up in the Beyonce video. And, of course, the campaign is in direct reaction to the increase in child obesity and diabetes that have occurred in recent years. That is a specific surrounding context as well.

Above all else, the long shots of everyone dancing together rather than a video that is cut up so you can only see portions of the choreography is important and related to this campaign. They want us to copy this dance. And they enable us to do that. Not only is the Beyonce video shot so that we, the audience, can see the specific choreography, but there are subsequent videos detailing the choreography steps.

A still shot of the entire dance:

An instruction of the steps:

And, you know what? My students dug it. I dig it. I find this to be one of the most persuasive music videos I’ve seen and I say it’s partially because it’s so connected to this greater context. They’re so focused on the purpose they want to achieve and, because of that, they’re able to appeal to their audience in a creative, yet ingenious way. (Oh, and the fact that she can dance in those heels just blows my mind.)

They know it too:

Beyond the Main Story

So, sometimes we watch things and pay attention only to the important story line and other times we notice what’s going on in the back ground.

This classic Disney cartoon seems innocuous enough:

And then we notice a particular wall-hanging:

father as sausage links

Disney is sort of known for these moves. His films and productions are often picked over to unearth hidden texts and hidden meanings. I find this interesting because, at least in this instance, it’s so very blatant. I wonder if adding these kinds of details work as a way to keep the viewer around. We watch it once and we enjoy it. We watch it again and we start noticing the ominous underbelly. It’s a thought.