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  • Writer's pictureThe Noteworthy Conversation

There's been a lot of debate over the past few years about the right way to react when an artist or creator says or does something widely viewed to be problematic. Now, of course, when placed under a microscope, it's doubtful that any person on this earth could be deemed one hundred percent unproblematic, but human fallibility is not the question here. The question is, where does that leave the art that person has created?

Sometimes, the reaction to finding out certain things about an artist is visceral. It can't be helped. The art can no longer mean what it once did to the consumer. It's tainted. Other times, the reaction is more conflicted, more nuanced, less black and white. This is where there's room for creative solutions and, if we're open to it, perhaps even a deeper understanding of the art itself.


Rewriting History

When it comes to tampering with existing material so as to gloss over its problematic aspects, most consumers won't have it. For instance, the Roald Dahl Story Company, and the publisher Puffin Books, enlisted sensitivity readers to evaluate Dahl's work. This is a common enough practice for new works in publishing today, but this team made the choice to rewrite entire sections of some of Dahl's classic works to remove potentially offensive language regarding weight, gender, and race. Given the many amendments and sizable portions not written by Dahl, there was a public outcry, especially considering the author is no longer alive to approve of such editorial liberties to his work.

On the other hand, Dr. Seuss Enterprises decided to no longer publish or license six of his works due to racist depictions. Rather than attempting to rewrite well-known books, the company decided to pull them entirely, and instead focus on the remaining, and still vast, catalog of work by the author. Largely, this move was applauded for its acknowledgment of both the issues with the original content, and the idea that standards can evolve, and it's reasonable to say something no longer aligns with those standards.

Another perfectly valid solution to address evolving standards is to include a preface note providing historical context. We saw this approach from The Walt Disney Company, when they included a message at the beginning of some of their older films as they made their way to streaming on Disney+. HBO Max also utilizes a disclaimer on the streaming site that appears prior to the start of Gone with the Wind. The fact of the matter is, there are blatant examples of racist stereotypes in some of these works of art that, although might have been widely accepted or flown under the radar at the time of their initial publication, are wildly offensive and damaging today. Historical context is key, and allows audiences to continue to experience the work while simultaneously acknowledging the potentially harmful impact of the content.


When Fandom Isn't Enough

Our interests grow and change over time. A book series, television show, film franchise, or music catalog we were once deeply obsessed with might not hold our interest so much these days. We've outgrown it, thankful for the joy it once brought, and now ready for a different entertainment obsession to dive in to. Realizing you are no longer aligned with a once-favorite artist and the opinions they share can be as simple as acknowledging that you've outgrown them and you're choosing to move on.

With moving on comes the power of the pocketbook. When we stop spending our hard-earned money on products aligned with people and opinions we can't in good conscience support, we send a message about what we are and are not willing to tolerate. Maybe the artist will feel the impact, and maybe they won't, but we'll know, and we can take some kind of satisfaction in that.

At Noteworthy Communications, we know that broad generalizations make for poor communication. We're not claiming to hold the key to the correct, unimpeachable way to react when an artist or creator crosses a line that we cannot overlook, justify, or forgive. There is no right way. Every instance is unique and brings up different issues that deserve their own conversation. This chapter is merely offering a small fragment of a much larger conversation.

The entanglements between an artist and the work they produce are natural. We cannot have one without the other. However, context is everything and, as with many things in life, what we are willing to endure as a consumer falls on a spectrum. While there is no right response, we can at least take comfort in the fact that we can decide the right response for ourselves, and that there is always new art and entertainment to enjoy.

There are many ways to celebrate Women's History Month, but at Noteworthy Communications, it should be no shocker that our method of honoring this month is through the study of words and its impact on storytelling. Language does tell a story, after all, and when that language is feminized to the point of creating an entirely new lexicon, we have to wonder what story is being told and why.

What is feminized language? Well, for the purpose of this conversation, feminized language is any neologism that turns a previously gender-neutral term into a female-centered term. For example, maybe March isn't Women's History Month after all, but instead Women's Herstory Month. This is a prime example of the feminization of language we'll be conversing about here.


The Language and the Linguistics of it All

Language and linguistics, although sometimes used interchangeably, are actually very different. Language is how we communicate information to each other, while linguistics is the study of language, including its evolution over time. Language does change over time, as we well know. We see this in generational slang and the creation of new words as new products, technology, experiences, and understanding demand.

We have proven that when the right word does not exist, we make them up. The feminization of language is what happens when the right word does already exist, but assumptions around the word default to the masculine. The conversation recently has mostly centered around finding gender-neutral terms for the sake of inclusion. What we are discussing is intentionally the opposite.


Girl Power, or Something Like It

Girlboss. Boss Babe. Boss Lady. Lady Boss. She-E-O. Momtrepreneur. Fempire. EmpowHer. Herstory.

We don't want to take anything away from someone who feels confident and empowered by calling themselves a girlboss, boss babe, or a SHE-E-O, a woman who is building her fempire. If claiming these terms makes a person excited to jump out of bed and get to work, then we say, you go, girl! Even still, it's worth considering why these terms came to be when the gender-neutral terms of boss, chief, and empire were already in circulation. The default assumption for a person in power remains masculine, but creating a new lexicon that inserts the feminine in catchy ways won't do anything to change that.

What is it about these feminized terms that so many embrace, while others find degrading? Is it all just about branding? Men deal with these assumptions in language, too. At what point does a bag become a manbag, after all, and can every man pull off a manbun? Is it because accessories and long hair have traditionally feminine undertones that we have to qualify that no, no, no, this particular bag or head of hair actually belongs to a man? Whereas, the gender-neutral words of "bag" and "bun" are automatically understood to belong to women.

At the end of the day, and at the end of Women's History Month, we can remember that all language is just made up by people to serve whatever purpose we need it to. Sometimes, these new words are just trends, quick to leave our vocabulary as quickly as they arrived. Others are in it for the long haul, and very much worth our understanding.

  • Writer's pictureThe Noteworthy Conversation

There's nothing quite like a fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning. We get to experience them with each new calendar year or birthday, or on the first of each new month, or week, or day. We are constantly given the opportunity to start again in whatever way we feel necessary.

How are our resolutions from the first of January holding up? Have we accomplished all that we wanted to by the time we blow out the candles on our next birthday? Did we hit our professional goals for this quarter? There are so many milestones to reach and so many ways for us to reach them, that sometimes a fresh start is exactly what we need in order to do so.


Fresh Perspective

A fresh start also offers the chance for a fresh perspective. When we are consistently working with our nose to the grindstone, we can sometimes forget to look up and look around us. A pause for reflection can allow us to appreciate how much we've already achieved. Before we take a breath and refocus on where we're going, we can benefit from looking at how far we've come.

This is the ideal time to reevaluate and consider what we're working toward and why. Are these goals we've set for ourselves just as important to us now as they were when we first decided to pursue them? Are there better, more efficient, or more enjoyable ways to achieve what we want? The opportunity to implement new, improved strategies is exactly what a fresh start can provide.


Fresh Motivation

A fresh start also offers the chance for fresh motivation. Perhaps we're not where we want to be with our goals, either personally or professionally. However, when we tell ourselves that this is Day One, and any perceived past failures are behind us, suddenly, the slate is wiped clean and we give ourselves permission to try again.

When we rededicate ourselves with a fresh start, we can tap into a new energy source. We're at the starting line, excited and raring to go, rather than winded and losing momentum halfway through. How can we not feel motivated by all the possibilities that lie ahead of us, just waiting for us to reach them?

At Noteworthy Communications, we are constantly looking for ways to incorporate fresh starts into our work, while honoring the standards that we've established for our practices. A fresh start can be as simple as changing up the graphics used to promote this very blog since the launch of The Noteworthy Conversation two years ago, which we did! The change reflects how our style here at Noteworthy has progressed and showcases a new era in our work.

A fresh start could also mean starting a blog, updating website content, rebranding on social media, or creating new partnerships. There are an infinite number of ways to begin again, and if you're looking for a fresh start in how you work, Noteworthy is here to assist. A fresh start, no matter when that may be or what it may look like, is an opportunity for change, for growth, for commitment, and for improvement. We should all be refreshing as often we feel compelled.

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