A Gold Medal Portfolio Award is the highest honor students can receive in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Each year, jurors choose portfolios of sixteen high school seniors whose works best represent the Scholastic Awards’ judging criteria: originality, technical skill, and emergence of a personal vision or voice. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll be profiling two of the 2017 Gold Medal Portfolio recipients. First up are Keiji Ishida and Carissa Chen.
Keiji’s and Carissa’s works both touch on the culture of today. Through their art and writing, each explores how society’s views on technology and gender inform our individual identity and shape our culture. As Keiji mentions in his artist statement, “no matter how different one’s culture may be, there is always a common thread that connects us to each other.”
“Teaching Little Girls to Turn into Plastic Dolls”
Personal Essay & Memoir by Carissa Chen, Grade 12, Age 18, Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH
Inspired by Jamaica Kincaid
I think, therefore I am
a man. Woman is free
but everywhere in chains;
let your gender shackle you
to the kitchen cabinet;
As your children grow up, feed the boy more, he needs it for his bones; feed the girl less, she must be pretty and skinny; As your children grow up, give the boy the books, the Legos, the swords. Give your daughter a doll; give your daughter a doll with ridiculous proportions; tell your daughter as you give her the doll that this beautiful, beautiful, sexy doll is a gift; do not think about the doll’s mocking waistlines, platinum blond hair, plastic, plastic smiles; This, honey, is how you undress a doll, yank off the clothes forcefully; and darling this is how you braid her hair; a repetitive weaving motion–in, out, in out; Mamma, why isn’t my hair straight and blond? Why can’t I braid it?
Do not ask questions! Questions are for boys! Do not read, books are for boys! Here, take this toxic glitter eyeliner instead! Do not construct Lego buildings, knowledge is for boys! Here, take this scratchy, itchy dress instead! Oh honey, do not speak, words, thoughts, and opinions are for boys! Here, take this fake easy-bake instead and cook dinner instead!
Honey, come here and look at the mirror. Take your finger and pinch the skin covering your eyes. Trace your nails in a moon-shape semicircle, do you notice how the skin folds now? Look how much bigger your eyes seem! You don’t look sleepy, bored, or Asian anymore! Honey, you really should try double eyelid surgery. The kids won’t make fun of you on the school yard.
Oh darling! That much glitter eyeliner? People will think you’re a slut just like you really are! Oh honey! That ugly dress? People will think you’re fat just like you really are! Oh baby! That pink cupcake from your easy-bake? Don’t you listen? You need to be pretty and skinny if you want to find a good husband.
Mamma, I think I want to be a doctor! But all girls faint at the sight of blood! Oh now, stop crying, girls always cry too much! And then they ask why they can’t be in business or science or law? Tears would spool over the dollar bills! They can’t make money! Tears would ruin the DNA samples! They don’t know how to control themselves! Tears would flood over their law cases! They don’t know how to speak, let alone save themselves!
Come here, I’ll teach you a trick: Mix rice wine with mahlab if your stomach swells, get rid of that baby girl. My grandmother taught me, mix an ounce of the wine, perhaps a dash of apple cider vinegar, and season with mahlab. Some call it gendercide: 10 million Indian baby girls dead in ten years, 200 million baby girls aborted in China. Swallow the liquid all, let it lick the back of your throat,
over and over,
and now honey,
begin to clean the sink.