Musing as a word has always appealed to me. It’s a moment of reflection or thought. It builds off of the inspiration-giving muses of Greek and Roman mythology that are also connected to early scholarly pursuits. In these two meanings alone “musing” combines history, religion, scholarship, and reflection. It doesn’t hurt that “musing” makes me think of “moo” and then I laugh, because — well, cows.
In many ways, musing has come to represent my intellectual life. I’ve used it as a name in multiple blogs since high school and I always come back to this word when I muse on the process of thinking itself. (Yes — that was a bad pun.)
My Oh So White Voice
I am returning to this beloved word to finally begin the blog idea I had four years ago. Mediated Musings was what I imagined my very scholarly blog would be called when I entered my doctoral program. This would be the public facing writing that would connect me with folks from the far corners of the internet who are also interested in religion, politics, and media. Alongside the podcast Religionish, this blog would provide me the location to have my voice heard.
Well, I’m four years wiser now and recognize this blogging aspiration as a by-product of academic ego and naive hope.
I also can hear myself saying “to have my voice heard” and I cringe. This isn’t the cringe that comes from a discomfort of hearing a recording of yourself. I got over that years ago when I decided radio and podcast were some of my favorite media (though it can still make me wince). This is the discomfort of understanding the elitism, ego, and white privilege in that statement.
I may be female, but I’m white. And I grew up in a nice socioeconomic status to boot. Except for personal struggles with mental health, self-esteem, temporary physical immobility, and the recent loss of my father — my life has been grand. I’ve even been afforded the privilege of spending years studying topics I love without feeling the impacts of academic exploitation too much.
This privilege makes me want to ask myself four years ago, why should your voice be heard? What else can you contribute?
Now, take a moment before you try to help with what you think may be a case of imposter syndrome.
I ask myself these questions because they’re important in acknowledging how the many voices that dominate public spaces and claim expertise or authority reproduce white supremacy. Who is the first person that comes to mind when you think of an expert in [insert any topic here]? Are they white?
They’re probably male, too.
Asking myself why I believe my voice should be heard (outside the realm of personal relationships) and what I have to contribute helps outline the limits of what I should say and talk about. It’s the self-checking of privilege that reminds me: Oh yea, I’m a white, cis-gendered woman who in the grand scheme of things does not need to be another writer about racial social justice, race and religion, and all the other topics that are better heard from voices that have personal experience with the issues.
Just because I can claim authority about a topic does not mean I should, in spite of the years of study that grant me a piece of paper and letters after my name. There are others out there with the same pieces of paper and letters who need to be heard and should be heard.
Speaking From A Mediated Reality
So why am I writing, then?
In short, because I need to and I want to. I’ll completely own up to it.
The need comes from understanding that writing needs to be practiced just like any other skill. It’s been too long since I’ve written in a non-academic format and I need to keep the writing muscle strong.
The want comes from a personal practice of needing to stop holding everything in until it becomes overwhelming. This doesn’t mean that I’ll be posting journal-like entries or bemoaning about life like a moody teenager.
It means I will be writing for myself primarily and speaking to those similar to me. I’ll be writing from whiteness, from identifying as female, from privilege, and from an (overly?) educated perspective.
I want and need to write from within my mediated reality — or the worldview as shaped by my body, experiences, and consumption patterns.
I’ll be making observations about current events and society related to my work in religion, media, and politics, but these writings are not me speaking as the final expert or authority on a topic. My writing serves as an attempt to extend the scholarly conversations I have to those folks outside of universities as one entry point or perspective in the messiness of nuances and history.
I will be writing my opinion as it has been informed by years of study. But — these opinions are my own “mediated musings.” They come from all the privileged identity markers noted before and should be considered within that context.
As I tell my students — don’t just take my word for it or rely on any one source. Be critical. Be curious.
My hope for Mediated Musings is that it will lead to constructive conversations that will expand the horizons of both readers and myself. There is so much to learn and only one lifetime in which to do it.