Creating Controversial Content

Gina16Oct12-192
Photo & Editing: Dave Greensmith, 2012

Controversial content can raise awareness, right?
Often it does.
A “Fuck” in the title is almost a guarantee for clicks and reads, isn’t it?
And when you utter a controversial sentence, you can assume that a huge discussion will break loose, right?
Controversies polarise and that’s why they often gain attention.
That’s why many people use controversies on purpose.

I once created controversial content.
But not on purpose.
I created content. The story Underground.
And back at that time (still on the old blog) I got a response to it.
A response that showed me that I actually had created controversial content without being aware of it.
Suddenly, when reading this comment, I was confronted with a critique of this story, because the comment criticised the headscarf that is mentioned.
It was said the headscarf was a sign of oppression through the patriarchal system.

My first reaction to that?
“Sh*t, I need to delete this story, it’s controversial and bears the potential to polarise.”
I was shocked because I didn’t expect this controversy to arise from this story.

But you know what the good thing about a critical comment is?
It makes you shift your perspective onto the very thing you created.
Because what happened next was that I started arguing for the story, like I would defend my argument when it comes to literary analysis.
So I was wandering through my room with a cup of tea in my hands and hold an imaginary dialogue, or monologue, and said
Well, first of all, neither is the headscarf condemned nor is it glorified in this story, second, don’t read too much of the author into the work, as it’s only the character’s perception described, thirdly, take a postcolonial reading to it and you will see that Orientalism is at work here, as the character associates exactly the attributes to the woman that can only stem from an Orientalist point of view, like “I smell a thousand scents of the Orient, spices and perfumes, bodies and wood, sand and the sun.”. Furthermore, this aspect is even criticised in the story when it is said “[…] I want to listen to two thousand and two stories told by her.”, which aims at showing that still the stereotype of “1001 Arabian nights” is at play here, because although the amount of stories is doubled they are still limited, which shows a critical claim that the Occidental point of view is limited and doesn’t grant the woman of Oriental origin an unlimited number of stories. On the other hand, the story also shows a disappointment raised by the fact that the perception is shaped and therefore somehow limited to a certain extent, when in the end it is said that “And I will never know her stories. And she will never know that I wrote one about her.” after the two characters separate. So, it shows the sadness that those two characters and their perception of each other and of themselves will never be as close as they could have been.
This was just a little excerpt of the monologue, but I hope you can see what I mean.
Had there not been this critical comment, probably I would never have changed my perspective on the content that I myself created.
Because, to be honest, everything mentioned in this monologue had not been in my mind while creating this story, only after receiving the critical comment and when I started arguing and discussing my own work was it that I could read more into my own work and engage differently with it.
And today I’m glad that I didn’t delete it, and I’m thankful for that critical comment, because it opened my perception towards a new perspective.

It still didn’t make me want to create controversial content on purpose, but I think it helped me overcome the fear of putting something out there that might be controversial or have critical comments as a result.

It was a perfect example of inspiration through communication and I invite you all to think about it.
I invite you to overcome your fear of putting yourself or your work out there because someone might criticise it.
Critique can be a great chance to change perspectives, to see more, experience more, and it is an interaction between you and your audience, but also between you and your work.
I’m not saying “try to take sh*t from the naysayers as something good”, no, please don’t.
But if it is a constructive critical comment, don’t be afraid of engaging with it.

So long, my dears.
Be kind, spread the love.
Be creative. Be yourself.

Underground

I enter the underground. It’s packed, but there is a free seat next to a woman of distant origin. Round about forty. She’s rummaging in her handbag, but takes it onto her lap and shuffles around to make space for me. She gives me a smile, barely noticeable, but a smile so full of warmth that it touches me.
I sit down beside her and inhale. I smell a thousand scents of the Orient, spices and perfumes, bodies and wood, sand and the sun. Her headscarf is perfectly wrapped around her pretty face. She’s beautiful. And warm. A stubborn little strand of hair has loosened itself from under the headscarf and tickles her cheek.
There is only little space between us but neither our bodies nor our clothes or belongings touch. Still, I can feel her warm skin against the little hairs on my arm and the texture of her textiles against my skin. I can feel it through the air, the space between us.
It’s not even a deep wish or a need, but an utmost urge that is crawling up inside of me:
I want to tell her how beautiful she is, how wonderful her headscarf suits her pretty profile. But moreover, I want to rest my head against her shoulder and I want to listen to two thousand and two stories told by her. Stories of sand and scents and love and people. I want to dive into her stories, close my eyes and while inhaling all these scents from far away and yet so close, I want to feel her warmth through her garments on my neck as she embraces me and listen to her voice, taking me somewhere I have never been, a world I have never seen, and maybe never will.
And it wouldn’t even matter if she told me those stories in her mother tongue and I wouldn’t understand a word of those syllables that are unknown to my ears. Because I know the sound and the waves and vibrations of words would make me understand and let me walk right next to her while she is passing through her line of talk.
Three stops later we both have to get out.
She goes her way and I follow mine.
And I will never know her stories.
And she will never know that I wrote one about her.

Gina Laventura © 2014