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'memories of Chinatown' - CommonApp - Changing my culture/society through art

birdcages 2 / 11  
Dec 31, 2011   #1
In which I spend my New Year's Eve frantically revising my personal essay, hahaha.
Anyway, I'd really like help regarding the overall tone and message of it - my writing style's always been... pretty much exactly the opposite of good-essay-writing, but I didn't realize how much so until now!

I don't know much Chinese now, aside from slang and the odd broken sentence, but I miss it, the quiet slur of words and strong syllables. Sometimes I hear it on the streets from foreign businessmen who make it their jobs to learn every language under the sun, but the words are clipped, impersonal, and without any of the rich accent that I've come to associate with elaborate handmade paper lanterns and elegant ceramic vases.

But all the beauty and art does little to disguise the details I started noticing when I grew older, things that are subtle but speak volumes of how the culture treats women. Soon, they're all I can think of: memories of Chinatown, of my mother piling rice into her husband's and children's bowls at the dinner table before scraping the leftovers into her own bowl; of the press of a parent's palm, firm, to the base of his daughter's neck, reminding her to stay quiet when a man speaks.

I move to Queens, New York. It's noise and grit and color, a jumble of honking cars and rusty fire escapes and asphalt. The women who live there reflect that; they are unapologetic and provocative and so unlike the good Chinese girls I've been told to to take after. They fascinate me, and there's something about the unbarred effrontery that is infectious. It makes me restless and reckless, louder and ready to snap at every throwaway misogynistic remark from my Chinese tutor. It's as if I can compensate for the meekness of my aunts and sister and mother, and the hypocrisy of it all doesn't hit me until-

-one day, when I'm taking the 7 train to Manhattan and looking mindlessly out the smudged windows at 5Pointz, a broken-down warehouse completely covered in graffiti. It's a display I see biweekly, but a black-and-purple square catches my eye: a hijab-wearing woman, emblazoned with the words "LIBYAN WOMEN HAVE GUNS."

A week later, I make the trip to the 200,000-square-foot space and the art is brilliant up-close: a heavily-tattooed woman snarling at a leering man, a depiction of Lady Liberty crushing a man and turning him to gold, and pieces on the sides of dumpsters that speak of violence and poverty and racism. It's in-your-face and obscene and absolutely mad, everything I love about Queens, and it bowls me over. These people are passionate and angry and doing something about it. They're throwing their names up on walls and demanding to be heard. They're scrawling profanities and political statements on tidy corporate buildings. They're using art, something they're clearly in love with, in its most basic form - as a way of mass communication and self-expression - to change things that they desperately want to love: their communities, weighed down with sexism; their world, led by men who refuse to change it; their friends and families, who are too silent.

I pick up a paintbrush.

I think about Chinese culture, how it's about art and boldness and strength, too- dragon performances on New Year's, all stomping feet and power, and the ballad of Hua Mulan, who loved her family and fought for them under the guise of a man.

I think about what I love about art, what I want to change and what I want to do, and the world looks brand-new and terrifying from here. I think about being angry and bitter and demanding my culture and society to change, and I think about being angry and passionate, about using art to change them myself.

My main complaints have been that it's too esoteric, all over the place / not to-the-point, and that my point isn't very clear. Suggestions?

Thanks in advance - happy New Year's Eve, all!
pinkcheetah 2 / 13  
Dec 31, 2011   #2
Sorry I'm running out of time, but I'll try to do some helpful edits quickly.

but I miss it, the quiet slur of words and strong syllables.

but I miss it. The quiet slur...

I don't really see anything else. But through a quick read, I'm not really seeing much of you. The things about your personality that I see that isn't said is that you're observant. Sorry. Maybe just read through and try to add, where you can, little insights.
maroon5 9 / 57  
Jan 1, 2012   #3

I don't think it's esoteric at all since i got the whole point of the essay very easily. The only complaint i have is that you sound too feminist if you know what i mean. You paint yourself as someone who is a bit too hostile. If you could cut down on this and just add a bit more introspection, I am sure it will be much better.

Thanks for checking my essay...
OP birdcages 2 / 11  
Jan 1, 2012   #4
Ah, thanks very much! I was actually trying to communicate that I used to be really angry and hostile/bitter in my feminist views, but I now realize that's not the point - it's about trying change the things I see as sexist by doing things that will impact my culture/society positively, not just being angry and doing nothing. Thanks for letting me know that's not how it came out - will def. try to fix that!

Quick question - I'm still getting complaints from my friends about how it's 'all over the place' that is, first it's about Chinese culture, then it's about feminism, then it's about art. My point is to tie all of them together by stating my goal to change society (the point of including Chinese culture was to show how sexism taints things that I desperately want to love) to not be as prejudiced/unfair towards certain people through art. Since I'm getting told that it's not coming across well, should I just delete the first paragraph about Chinese culture?
crystal77 8 / 13 1  
Jan 1, 2012   #5
very intriguing essay

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