Monday, January 30, 2012
And it got me thinking about the various people who influenced my decision to continue with higher education. When I was growing up, my mother always told me that it wasn't enough to get a Bachelor's degree (which is what she had at the time), but that as part of a younger generation I'd need to get a Master's degree too. So I always intended to go to college and grad school - and I don't think any of my teachers ever questioned whether I intended to go to college and at least get a BA. And even when I dated a very conservative boy who was distraught by my determination to go to grad school, I had no problem standing my ground, even when my educational goals factored into our break up. But it wasn't until a college professor rather forcefully encouraged me to pursue a PhD that I really considered that path.
So, I suppose other people have factored into my educational goals quite a bit.
How about you? Who influenced your educational goals, either for good or for bad?
I'd also find it interesting if commenters wouldn't mind sharing their gender, as gender may very well factor into your answers.
Friday, January 27, 2012
I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me. A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not. Why can’t it be a choice? Why is that any less legitimate? It seems we’re just ceding this point to bigots who are demanding it, and I don’t think that they should define the terms of the debate.That is all.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
|Red Tails (2012)|
- A movie is nominated for some serious awardage.
- A movie tells a story about women (other than ladies getting hitched), or is told by women.
- A movie’s cinematography demands the big-screen, public experience.
- My movie dollars are political speech.
|Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Major Emanuelle Stance, sans pipe|
|cast of Red Tails|
Monday, January 23, 2012
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
When I came across an article on feministe about being a vegetarian, as well as their link to a similar article in the New York Times, it got me thinking about my own experience as a vegetarian (albeit a somewhat loose use of the term), in an environment that isn't always vegetarian-friendly. And while the connection between vegetarianism and our discussions here at NAW probably isn't automatically apparent, I think it connects in many ways - it connects in discussions of how and to whom food sources are allocated, it connects in discussions of cultural differences and community foodways, it connects in perceptions of some foods as masculine, others as feminine.
But catered events and large church functions can be tricky. Of course, with catered events you can just call ahead of time and request a vegetarian option, but occasionally even that plan goes awry. For instance, at one event last year, I explained that the only meat I could eat was chicken, and I was assured that would be okay, as that was the main course. But the chicken dish included ham. And once at a restaurant, I ordered a chicken dish and asked them to leave off the bacon. When the waiter forgot and I asked to send it back, he said, "Ok, I'll just scrape it off." It took a friend lying and pretending that I was allergic to bacon before I got a new plate.
The real problem, more than anything else, seems to be that in the perspective of most people, vegetarianism is just a matter of taste, and therefore something to be discarded when politeness dictates. For instance, one time I went to a party with a friend, and some people at the party were making empanadas. When I noticed that they were only putting vegetables and cheese in the empanadas, I excitedly grabbed one, only to realize, a bite in, that it had ground beef too. I looked up at my friend, and she said, "I know, there's meat in it." When I continued to stare at the empanada, unsure how to toss it out without being rude, she said, "Either you can suck it up and eat it, or I'll eat it for you." She didn't even seem to realize that she'd said anything rude.
So, there's always that lingering belief that I could eat meat if I just "sucked it up." In fact, when I told one boyfriend that I didn't eat any red meat, he said, "Don't worry, we'll fix that." So there's also that view of vegetarianism as a phase or a flaw that a person can work out over time. That same boyfriend later confessed to his fear that if we married I wouldn't be willing to cook meat for our children. To him, not giving meat to kids was tantamount to neglect and malnourishment.
And then there are others who have good intentions but who don't understand that a vegetarian diet doesn't consist of taking a meat-heavy diet, and just removing the meat. I eat a lot of vegetables and legumes to fill that gap. Which is why, when I ask what will be served at a social function and receive the answer, "Don't worry - we'll have potato salad too," I know I'll have to bring my own food or go hungry.
I'm not suggesting that everything should change in communities where meat-eating is more common than vegetarianism - non-vegetarians shouldn't have to rearrange everything for vegetarians like me. But even in a conservative place like Utah, there are a lot of vegetarians, and it would be nice if those who plan large social functions could be more aware of those needs. A simple, "contact so-and-so with dietary needs" could make a huge difference. Or, at the very least, listening when someone says that potato salad is not a meal and that they can't just "suck it up" and eat meat.
And then, if nothing else, there's this: whether I eat meat is my decision. If you accidentally serve me meat, I won't be mad - but I also won't eat it. And no, I don't owe you any explanation for why I'm a vegetarian, anymore than you owe me a lengthy explanation for why you eat meat.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Also, Jill at Feministe has a fantastic post about the persisting impact of racism - she links and highlights quotes from a couple interesting articles.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
I've talked in the past about my experiences with diet and body image, and included in there a little bit about how my cultural and racial identities shape it. But I don't think we at Not Another Wave have contributed much to conversations about how body image- particularly how it's marketed, and to whom- shape and influence a general culture in the US that perpetuates racist body norms and expectations.
In western Europe and its subsequent colonies, it's been a long-standing tradition to compare the bodies of African and Indian slaves and indigens with the bodies of the culturally declared norm, the White European. This happened (and continues to happen, but we'll get there in a moment) to both cis men and cis women, in efforts by the imperialists to prove European superiority over the Other. Where European men were classified as intellight, African men were childlike. Where European men were tall, Indian men were short. Where European men could be gentlemen and restrain themselves around European women, African men were hyper-sexual. As an article in The Western Journal of Black Studies put it,
Colonial invasive powers bring with them their own myths, beliefs, and forms of colonial ordering which create a bifurcated form of hierarchy that is designed to distinguish between the natives and the colonizers, a form of hierarchy where the colonizer (white, good, intelligent, ethical, beautiful, civilized) is superior in all things, while the native (dark, exotic, sexually uncontrollable, bad, stupid, ugly, savage, backward) is inferior.
The discourse of opposites, of lauding the "Us" and demeaning (and even criminalizing) the "Other," was justification for invasion, dominance, and control. Rudyard Kipling went so far as to refer to it as "the white man's burden," explaining that it was a "moral imperative" that Europeans colonize the Other, for the sake of the Other.
The discourse of Us vs. Them that the European colonists applied to their subjects was also, of course, applied to female bodies and the identities of women. Similarly to the discourses used to subjugate African and Indian men, European discourses painted African and Indian women alike as childlike, subservient by nature, and hyper-sexual. African and Indian women, in the colonist eye, represented the constant threat of temptation into every sin the Christian European imagination could come up with. To support this discourse, European soldiers actually kidnapped a woman from South Africa, nicknamed her the "Hottentot Venus," and paraded her around as a sideshow attraction in Great Britain and then in France. Of particular interest to spectators were her butt and her labia, which were both described as "abnormally large." Think about it: in the day when a person's cranial shape was supposed to determine intelligence and personality, an "abnormally large" pubic and posterior signalled a lot about supposed sexual appetite when compared to the "normal" physique of European women and their "normal" sexuality.
I go through all this because I think it has bearing on current discussions about bodies and their shape here in the US. There's a lot of publicity given to the "majority" culture pressure that is put on White women to be thin, which has a whole field of feminist research devoted to it. As one bloggerrightly puts it, "This is about power. It's about wanting women to be small in the world, to take up less space, literally and metaphorically." It also relates to sexuality. Twiggy became popular among White women during a period of time when White women's sexual options were expanding drastically, thanks to advances in hormonal birth control and the emergence of the second wave feminist movement. While everyone's figure is different, the overall effect of weight loss is a body that's contained, restrained, and thus- depending on your build- significantly de-sexualized. The use of clothing to highlight curves only goes so far to refute this argument; accentuating one's breasts, hips, or butt is acceptable and often encouraged, but if a woman's breasts are "too" big, or her hips "too" full, she's "too" sexual. As another blogger put it, "It is...crucial to mention the mental anxiety caused by constant badgering by the chauvinists of the world, and the sexual harassment that seems to find large breasted women because of the stigma that goes with large breasts; and that is that those women must be 'easy'." Essentially, the loss of weight to maintain a minimally curvy body feeds directly into an ages-old series of assumptions about White women- particularly that they shouldn't be "overly" sexy.
What I'm trying to get at is that the whole "thin is in" movement really is a very White-centric movement. While pictures of women laughing alone with salad- one of the trademarks of the weight loss movement- occasionally include a woman who's presumably of African descent, the vast majority are White. And those who are Black have been, for lack of a better term, "whitenized," with light skin, controlled hair, and Romanesque features. Essentially, they are the Other as the European colonists wanted them to be: under control, "saved" from themselves, and "just like Us."
This brings me to the topic of another, less marketed-by-health-companies body standard: the standard of Thick (or Bootylicious). We've all heard it mentioned, either by rappers (especially in Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back"), activists, our friends and families, or our partners. Instead of pushing the ideology of thin, the Thick movement promotes curves and planes that would make fashion designers fall over. It's the idealization of a body that's slender (but still curvy) through the breasts and waist, and flares into a round, perky set of hips and bum connected to a pair of muscular, curvy legs. Is it a hard ideal to live up to? You bet, and don't ask me how hard I worked before I discovered that my butt wasn't built to be perky. But I digress- the point is that the ideology of Thick has become a high-held standard for many women, particularly Black women, instead of the skinny White body. And while I'm thrilled that women of any race could reasonably look to that shape as an example of how many body types are sexy, I'm also concerned about the cultural influences, both from Black and White sources, that have given shape to the Thick ideal.
Latoya Peterson on Racialicious gives a great breakdown of the idea of Thick and the meanings and validation it can carry for the women who identify with it. The valorization of a large butt, for those whose basic body shape involves one, is hugely liberating in a world that's dominated by images of bodies with flat or hardly existent butts. At the same time, however, I find it hard to forget the features that Sarah Haartman was famous for- particularly her posterior- and I have to wonder how much influence the earlier European readings of Black female bodies has had on the current uplifting of Thick. If large breasts on a White woman still read as a measure of her sexual appetite and ability to consent, does the size of a Black woman's butt get interpreted that way too? If so, is the valorization of a Thick body type simply a marketing scheme designed to re-sell the image of the Other? One of the authors of Colonize This!, Serina Riley, addresses the same problem:
"As much as we get praised for loving our full bodies, many young white women would rather be dead than wear a size 14. They nod their heads and say how great it is that we black women can embrace our curves, but they don’t want to look like us. They don’t adopt our presumably more generous beauty ideals. White women have even told me how lucky black women are that our men love and accept our bodies the way they are. I’ve never heard a white woman say she’s going to take a cue from black women and gain a few pounds, however. In a way it is patronizing, because they’re basically saying, 'It’s OK for you to be fat, but not me. You’re black. You’re different.'"For me, the fact that Thick is so strongly associated with Black women and Black identities is the part that's concerning: while I understand the desire to have ideals and cultures separate from those of the White hegemony, I also have a hard time believing that the Thick ideal in particular is really all that liberating.
The counterargument, of course, is that many cultures in the US find great pride and power in reclaiming images, ideals, and vocabulary from their discriminatory pasts. Words like cunt, nigger, queer, and bitch have all been reappropriated by cultural movements to confront the bigotry that used to dominate them, and there's merit to the argument that the current chart-toppers of hip-hop, who valorize overindulgence in sex, drugs, and violence, are manipulating stereotypes about Black men to gain power over the White imaginations that created them. Sex workers forming unions and declaring pride in their trade are refuting the myth that they're the victims of pimps and johns. In theory, if the stereotype is being used and evolving in the hands of the people it's supposed to harm, its creators- the ones doing the harming in the first place- lose their weapons. In theory. Whether or not it actually works that way is a debate that merits its own article.
Regardless, the point remains that the "ideal body" that's promoted in magazines, billboards, newspapers, TV, and movies that are marketed towards the hegemonic (predominately White) culture is really only intended to be ideal for a specific group. The current popular ideals for White women and Black women, I think, retain a lot of the racist and sexist assumptions that were prolific during Europe's imperialist years, and contribute to a culture that still believes Black women have uncontrollable sexual appetites as compared to White women. Furthermore, the notion of separate ideal bodies is offensive in its own right- that anyone from any culture should be expected to live up to a standard based on a small percentage of the population. Even if it were unproblematic to assume that Black and White women should have completely separate body goals, the fact remains that not all Black women are built to be Thick any more than all White women are built to be skinny. Instead of idealizing bodies based on stereotypes and minorities, we should be idealizing the people who are happy and comfortable in their natural shape. Instead of buying into a diet industry that's upholding racist ideals about bodies and appetites, we should be investing our time and energy in other ways to improve ourselves, such as challenging the idea that self-fulfillment comes in wearing a particular dress size. Let's do away with the Madonna vs. Hottentot Venus dichotomy once and for all.
Erica's Note: this article has been notably Black-and-White focused, while leaving out ethnicities and identities that also have stereotypes associated with female bodies (i.e. the "skinny Asian" stereotype). I'd love to hear from you what your perceptions of these are, as well as how you think they fit into a global history of domination and subordination.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
So I decided to instead share a list of everything I've been thinking of posting.
1 - New Years Resolutions and Health - How Do We Maintain a Healthy Attitude in the Face of Pressure to Drop Weight for the New Year?
2 - Wearing Men's Shoes - My recent discovery that for more than two years I wore sneakers that were men's 9 1/2 instead of women's 9 1/2. How did I not notice the different size, and what are the implications of switching to clothing designed for another gender?
3 - Primary Surprises - On the one hand, Romney's recent success is a promising sign of religious tolerance, given the US's history of oppression against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On the other hand, it's triumph of riches. Plus, as little as I supported Bachman and Cain, it's disheartening to see yet another rich white boys' club election.
4 - A fun post full of interesting links that don't make me feel upset with the state of the world.
Monday, January 9, 2012
A friend of mine argued that the saying came from the biological urge of a man needing to know that the young he was protecting and raising, were actually his own. Apparently, by knowing your companion is a lady precludes the fact that she is monogamous with you and assures that the children your female companion has born are yours. The freak in the sheets part caters to the needs of men for pleasure.
You can tell where I stand on this issue. I argued that it wasn't biologically determined, that instead it was part of a societal construct to keep one gender (obviously the female one) under control. By controlling the sexuality of one gender, you thereby maintain control over the way that specific gender interacts with and views the sexually dominant gender.
We went round and round about it. So what do you think guys, is it biology or society that determines this little piece of pearly wisdom?
Sunday, January 8, 2012
My post today takes on an issue that I haven’t written about much: class. In many ways, this post is a very personal one as it reflects on some of the issues that I’ve been thinking about a lot going into 2012.
As many of you know, I currently live in South Korea, a country whose population is swiftly moving into one of the fastest growing economies. At first I thought Koreans were incredibly class obsessed, but the longer I'm here, and the longer I engage with the world and different cultures, the more I rethink my snap judgements. The ideas of hierarchy, wealth, success, stable job, and designer clothing influence every aspect of the Korean lifestyle, perhaps even more so than in the United States, (at least on the surface). Here, the goal for every young Korean is to work themselves to the bone during their high school education, get into a good university and find a high-paying, incredibly respectable job (such as teaching English), marry a similarly respectable young person, have two children and dress them in Ralph Lauren (literally—I see two year olds wearing Ralph Lauren beanies and two hundred dollar Ugg boots). Maintaining an upper-middle class lifestyle is key.
Where am I going with this, well in the United States we’ve started to see a bit of a shift recently. While we still value monetary success, my recently graduated from college generation seems to be more focused on making enough to get by and doing what they love.
This is great, don’t you think? Many of us take a few years to travel the world. We cheaply backpack around Europe, staying in small, bohemian hostels before we trek off to sight-see and “get off the beaten road.”
But isn’t this still a function of our class? We trek with our iPods and Canon Rebel cameras; we blog about our train rides and purchase “unique” souvenirs from flea markets and bazaars. We partake in and purchase the world's exoticism. Is it not still our upper-middle class, college educated background that has allowed us to do so?
I would say yes.
Now I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. Traveling and seeing the world is NEVER a bad thing in my eyes, but for me, personally, I’ve realized that it’s done something to me.
I’m currently on my fourth, living abroad experience. I’ve loved them all. Despite the amount of student loan debt I racked up to have three of those four experiences, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
However, since these experiences, especially this last one in Korea I realize I don’t want the things I always thought I wanted. Moving into suburbia and staying in one house for the rest of my life literally gives me a panic attack. Literally. Doing the same thing everyday, seeing the same roads, doing the same activities, it feels incredibly confining.
It’s become a ridiculous catch 22 because I realize that I’d like nothing more than to spend my life hopping around from one state to the next, from one country to the next. The more I see of the world, the more I realize that I haven’t seen that much of it.
And then I see the poverty. And it makes me sad that I have so much. And then I read an article about child prostitution in Thailand in the New York Times on my MacBook Pro, with my oh-so-enlightened, English literary eyes and I feel grateful that I was lucky enough to be born in the country I was born in, with the incredible parents I call my own. And then I feel guilty that I have so much and that some beautiful young woman out there doesn't. In my mind, this young girl, she'll never get to go to college because she was forced to marry a man twice her age and she already has three kids. Or perhaps she was sold into sex slavery by her starving parents at the age of eight and so now she'll live out her very short life as a toy for the lust of a sick man and the greed of her owner.
And then I think I should just suck it up and stop whining about wanting to travel the world.
And then I feel sad because I just want to sit on an exotic beach somewhere and read a book and write about the beach and chill with my friends and siblings.
And I realize how silly my fears of the "cage" of suburban life are. That panic attack I'm having right now, just thinking about it, is selfish. Somewhere the innocent young girl in my mind would love to have the choice I was given. How entitled am I, that I should scoff at the background that allowed me to do the things that I have? But then I think about the rampant consumerism that is a tenet of my cultural background in the United States and I'm ashamed all over again.
This is a really depressing post, I know. Sorry.
But how do you do it friends? How do you reconcile all of these things? How do you not have panic attacks about silly things like this? How do you help those that need our help?
No sarcasm here, just a sincere question.
Help. I don't know what to do with any of this.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Ah, 2012: a new year filled with hope for new prosperity, new opportunities, new peace, and, in the US, a new me/you/us. The tradition of establishing resolutions for the next twelve months goes back for an eternity- at least as far as popular culture is concerned- and, over the years, has managed to develop an exciting pantheon of products designed to “facilitate” your success. While some of the most popular make a certain amount of sense- including “spend more time with family and friends” and “learn something new”- I’m concerned by the #1 goal: the enduring “lose weight.” A quick Google search for losing weight and New Year’s resolutions turns up 55 million results. 55 million.
[The creator] had never intended for the BMI to be used in this way. His original paper warned against using the body mass index for individual diagnoses, since the equation ignores variables like a patient’s gender or age, which affect how BMI relates to health.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
And yes, I still refuse to name that series. I promise you, it's better this way.