Poke the Bear: On Being Provocative

"Provocative" is a wonderful word. Those of us who speak and write in English would benefit from using it more frequently. Like most words, "provocative" has multiple definitions. Unlike most words, it has two separate and seemingly opposite meanings: 1) causing annoyance, anger, or other strong reaction; and 2) arousing sexual desire or interest. The both variations do, however, share one thing: the provocative action is "done so deliberately."

In knowing both flavors of the word "provocative," I had long considered the two polar opposites. It seems impossible for someone's deliberate actions to cause either "anger" or "sexual arousal". The two definitions were always separated by a Chinese wall with Kim Basinger stripping to "You Can Leave Your Hat On" in Nine and a Half Weeks on one side and Donald Trump, at the podium, barking vitriol to his followers on the other side.

It is important to keep those things which arouse desire far away from those things that make you so angry and annoyed that you want to strangle someone.

Unless you can't keep them separate because you have come to know that "The Political is Personal."

As a feminist, I believe that much of our social interactions are driven by being either "it" or "the other." My education in both existentialism and feminism -- coupled with sociology and law -- lends itself to the constant viewing of human encounters through the multi-faceted lens of individual experience, gender, cultural norms, and justice.

I have written extensively, and existentially, in the vein of the "political." I've also written quite a bit about the experience of being female in this time, i.e., 2016, and this place, i.e., America.

When I blend the political and the personal, I tend to get a strong reaction. By critics, I am seen as a "pot stirrer," a "bear poker," a rabble-rousing troublemaker who was deliberately going out of her way to be "antagonizing." In essence, my critics were calling me out for being provocative. Though no one used that word, it was clear to me that their conclusion was that I ought to have just keep my pretty, little mouth shut and not write about my observations of the ugly intersection of politics and gender.

As my essays are existential in nature, by definition, what I share is about my personal experiences and observations. No one can rightfully -- or even rationally -- claim that I "got it wrong." Certainly, critics are free to complain about my perceptions not aligning with their own, and detractors could even take the time to write thoughtful "op-eds" to what I have asserted.

In the many months that I have been writing for public consumption, I have found that only a very few have chosen to respond by constructing a "counter-point" to my initial "point." This doesn't surprise me. Writing is time consuming and takes concentrated cerebral effort to formulate an argument that rests on a foundation of critical thought and logic. Why bother when the critic can instead slap a quick label to characterize me based on my words: "antagonizing," "pot-stirring," "bear-poking" "bitch."

Does this make me feel good? Not really.

But neither does "keeping my pretty, little mouth shut."

I can safely assert that I will continue to write -- be it in essays or in novels -- through that multi-faceted lens of individual experience, gender, cultural norms, and justice.

If that's not what you want to read about, then don't. No one is forcing you to go to a place where you end up feeling uncomfortable. Surely, I don't want that for you. Life is too short to run around feeling angry and annoyed by someone you don't know and have already written off as being a pot-stirring bitch.

Rest assured, given the choice, I'd rather be provocative than insipid. Thankfully, I have come to believe that the many readers prefer the one over the other as well.