Monday, May 16, 2011

Contribution to Feminst Theory Presentation

For my part of the Feminist Theory presentation I helped look for videos and images to use. I contributed the Man's Last Stand car commercial and I was the one who spoke on the subject of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Analysis 7: Ethnicity Studies

So is it racist to want to mix our races together so that we are all one race? Part of race, after all, is enjoying the culture that often follows race. Mexicans, for example, enjoy celebrating Cinco De Mayo, El Dia De Los Muertos, and so on. Would something like that no longer be acceptable after the mixing occurs, or do we incorporate it as well as all other cultural traditions to make into a brand new culture? What if we can't agree on this kind of decision? Would we not then judge those who chose to incorporate it, or in turn judge those who choose not to? It's simply not likely that something like this would put some kind of end to racism. Racism, after all, is a socially constructed issue. It is not something that has to exist for nature to function or anything like that. It's made-up.

"I am Incognegro. I don't wear a mask like Zorro or a cape like The Shadow, but I don a disguise nonetheless. My camouflage is provided by my genes; the product of the Southern tradition nobody likes to talk about. Slavery. Rape. Hypocrisy. American Negroes are a Mulatto people; I'm just an extreme example. A walking reminder. Since white America refuses to see its past, they can't really see me too well, either. Add to that a little of Madame C.J.'s magic and watch me go invisible. Watch me step outside of history. Assimilation as revolution. That's one thing that most of us know that white folks don't. That race doesn't really exist." (Johnson 18)

I think too many would rather think that mixing the appearance of our skin colors would change race issues in the world, but quite frankly its not the color of our skin, its the assumption that we know what and who a person is from first glance. If one person from one race can easily assume the appearance of another and no one knows any better, then isn't that already in itself a mixing of some kind? Doesn't that mean that we should just let go of what we attribute to certain races in our minds and go, I don't know, psychologically color-blind? To mix our colors is more like trying to hide from the racists rather than trying to remove racism, so I see no point in the idea of a mixed race. It seems fanciful and silly to me, and it seems like an attempt at a lazy way out. Besides, having similar skin color hasn't kept racism or discrimination from happening in the past. Both being from Germany and having light skin didn't stop the Nazis from killing the Jews. More recently there's been issues of blacks discriminating against each other for exactly how dark or how light their skin is. It really doesn't matter how similar we ended up looking, or how different we look either. What matters is that we all think that we can place certain personality traits on people that look a certain way because its just easier to do so that to be open minded and considerate.

Works Cited
Johnson, Matt. Incognegro. New York. DC Comics. 2008.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Problem with Modern Day Gender Issues

I've been studying gender and women's issues for a few years now, and there's something I've noticed that tends to come up as an issue when people try to have a discussion over this subject. Now, when there was the first wave of feminism and the second wave, it was a lot clearer to see what the goals were. We wanted the right to vote, we wanted better wages, etc. Third wave feminism, however, either doesn't have a specific goal or has a whole lot of them. Modern day gender issues are being discussed all over the place in all kinds of ways. We have various feminist groups that have different ideas on what feminism is and we have various groups for men that have their on take on these issues. There are women who don't believe feminism has anything good to offer the world, that it's the cause of all the modern day family issues we face in the United States (high divorce rates, delinquent teens, etc). There are those that think the only way a woman can be a true feminist is by becoming a lesbian and removing all connections with males in her life. These ideas have some merit-- although I don't think it's reasonable to just insist all hetero women to turn lesbian since I'm not of the opinion that it's a choice we can make-- but these ideas all scrambled together in one era makes for a heck of a lot of confusion amongst men and women. It's why there's such a stigma attached to the mere word "feminism", we can't often say that word with someone else assuming that we hate men and don't believe in shaving.
So this issue of having so many contradicting, scrambled opinions means that those who aren't aware that not all feminists share the same opinions will assume that one man-hater means they're all man-haters. So when the time for discourse arrives you have men and women pitted against each other with men becoming increasingly defensive and women trying very hard to clarify they're personal stance without adding to the already existing view that women as a whole are unable to agree or be organized on any matter. Not that I think we are able to agree, although I do think we can be organized. I don't think we need to agree, and I think others need to see that as well. As a woman, my feminist concerns aren't going to be the same as another woman all the time, in every situation. We might even agree on everything except prioritizing. She may think it's more important to focus on women's issue in the work place whereas I might find that my time is better invested in women's reproductive rights. There's also the same issue with men, with those who feel that it's true, they hold the privileged position in this binary, whereas others feel that they were being emasculated or that they are now included as targets of advertising in which they are being told that they need to look buffer and thinner in order to be of any worth (note emerging terms such as "Manorexia").
I think all these grievances with society on each gender's side have a very complicated background and source, and I don't think it's easy to really discusss any of these but I think it's important to be aware of that fact. Too many people, it seems to me, see gender issues as being very black and white. Us against them, one side being right and the other side being absolutely wrong. The gender issues are ridiculously layered, it isn't as easy as saying, "This is the issue, this is the group at fault, and this is how you solve the problem". I have had too many instances in which men particularly feel that once I'm talking about feminism I'm directly attacking them, when in reality I feel women are just as much to blame for the issues we have today as men are, and I don't ever automatically assume that the man next to me sees me as an object rather than a human being. We need to take the time to stop ourselves from assuming we know what the person next to us thinks on these issues and simply ask what this person's stance is. Then we can find common ground, if there is any and I bet there is in most cases, and then work up to discussing the things we disagree on. Without that process we all end up talkiing over each other, disagreeing left and right without fully comprehending, and then getting nowhere in the end.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Analysis 6: Feminist Theory

Simone de Beauvoir informs us of the problems with Othering that happens in sex and gender. Too often women are secondary to men in language and in acts, and men are seen as the original, the independent, the normal. In the video below we see a slight switch in the way this is handled specifically when concerned with the role of breadwinner and parent.

So the issue here is that the man is insulted at now being the "wife". He does not bring home the money and he takes care of the kids, so he's not secondary to his actual wife. I would say this would be an interesting way in making men feel secondary, however the fact that the title "wife" is still being used is more or less insulting to women. If one were to take this aspect out, however, and maybe discuss experimenting with the use of Woman and Husband as opposed to Man and Wife, then that would be interesting. So since this commercial doesn't do that (although to be fair, could it? that might be confusing in such a small amount of time) I'm more or less inclined to think that the message behind it is that the role of a woman, given to a man, is emasculating and embarrassing. This is unfortunate, because the language used here is just as bad as anything else that keeps us all in this frame of Man as the original and correct and Woman as the Other, the secondary, the wrong. It pulls away from the attempt to just see men and women as two sides of the same coin, it does not allow for mixing of gender roles even though the comfortable initially seemed comfortable with his choice. Those defending commercials like these could argue that Yiayia is merely traditional because of her age, and so it's funny that she's so traditional, but it doesn't look that way to me considering the wife does not argue the point Yiayia makes, and the children laugh. The husband himself looks almost ashamed. It's all portrayed as though that were the appropriate way for him to react considering he's lowered himself to such a position. So what we see is a shaming of the attempt on Man's part to take some roles from the Other. Another way to separate the two so that they're always seen not as opposites, but as superior and inferior, oppressor and oppressed.

Works Cited
"Yiayia on Parenting" 25 February 2011. YouTube. 03 May 2011.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Analysis 5: Discipline and Punishment

The video above illustrates the way that fashion works as a way for us to keep each other in line by monitoring each other and internalizing what is right and wrong. Fashion is something more than just what you're wearing depending on the temperature outside. Fit matters, color matters, trends matter, material matters, and so on. Clothes don't often exist for the mere practicality of keeping yourself from being nude, they exist to express personality but also to establish status and opinions. A guy choosing to wear loose fitting, cheap clothes is no more rebellious than the man wearing an expensive suit, because both styles are statements, both were chosen with something in mind, both send out a message that others will receive and decode.
We use fashion to judge each other all the time, and though many think they are rebelling, no one ever truly rebels unless they chose to go naked altogether, and even then I'm not sure. As I said, we all judge: the girl with the jeans and loose fitting shirt is too lazy to care about her appearance, the guy with the baggy jeans and oversized shirt thinks he's a baller or a player or something or another, the girl with the short skirt and the top that might as well be a bra has no self-esteem so she dresses in such a way for attention, the man who dresses in tailored pants and jacket is stuck up and privileged and therefore not likable. We do all these things, along with their positive flip sides to keep each other in line. We do it so much that it now appears in television all the time with titles such as "Fashion Do's and Dont's" to remind us of all the minor details of what's appropriate when and where. It is another way to easily check if anyone in society is stepping out of line, because all it requires is a quick glance in that person's direction.

Works Cited
"Fashion Dos & Don'ts" 22 August 2007. YouTube. 26 April 2011.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Panopticon and Feminist Theory

While recently learning of the concept of Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon and Foucoult's take on how this works for the general society I couldn't help but make connections to how women are treated in our society specifically. The idea is that in a prison shaped like a circle with prisons along the border and a guard in the middle we eventually develop a greater sense of being watched and thus are likely to behave better. We also would develop a habit of regulating each other and making sure no one gets out of line. We do that in our society as well, by criticizing the choice of cars others own or the choice of garden decorations displayed in front of a neighbor's home. One would argue that this supervision of each other is great because it's like a large community watch to keep anyone from committing crimes, and it keeps us all moral.

But doesn't it also work to oppress us? Specifically, doesn't it work to oppress women? (It works to oppress many other groups as well, but women's issues is the area I've put the most thought in.) Don't we have a problem in which we regulate the way we all think of women by judging their appearances, making sure they're aware of what we think of their various actions such as the kind of sex life they lead or the way they dress? At this point, we're monitoring the behavior of another person in such a way that we are not keeping them from committing crimes, but rather we are limiting their freedom by making them feel as though they could be outcasted if they did not become submissive quickly and readily enough. A woman might not date a certain person because of what her friends and family will think of her. A woman might not wear certain kinds of clothes because she's afraid she'll be branded a whore. A women will be afraid to voice opinions in an assertive way because others will likely brand her a loud-mouthed b-word. I believe there simply comes a point where society monitors itself far too closely so that it becomes unhealthy. It is a neighbor's business if the person next door is fighting roosters illegally, but it is not their business if a single woman has a man over at two in the morning. It's unhealthy to monitor each other in such a way that we all end up feeling like we have to follow rigid rules in order to be accepted.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Analysis 4: Marxist Theory

So Marxist theory deals with the value of labor and many criticisms against capitalism. I've always found it interesting to consider the kind of people that would despise Marxist theory and the kind of people that would embrace it. It's more likely than not that the poor people of a capitalist society will embrace it, considering they stand to gain something and hardly lose anything. In my current position in life (specifically financially) I think I stand somewhere in the middle when concerning what I have to gain and what I have to lose. I'd much rather look at the extreme in this case, particularly the poor, because in the United States we have such a problem with only every considering the rich.

The concerns of the rich are the concerns of all, but the benefits and consequences of the behavior of the rich aren't evenly spread. Considering the recent economic crisis, it can be argued that the rich benefited from their behavior while the poor reaped the consequences. It specifically makes me think back to a book I read, Germinal, by Emile Zola.

The story within this book deals with the lives of the poor working class that live in the area of the mines, toiling away underground in order to at least put food on the table for their family, while the rich become even richer off of all the poor people's work. Marxism comes into play here with the character of Etienne, who believes that the middle class need to be removed so that the working class can have their fair share and would no longer have to suffer the way they do. With the character of Etienne, Marxism comes off as almost being too ideal, like some kind of utopia that can be easily achieved if one only sets their mind to it. I think this is more or less the fault of the character for being naive in the way he sees things.
At the centre was still the idea put forward by Karl Marx: capital was the result of theft, and labour had the duty and the right to recover this stolen wealth. As to putting this into practice, Etienne had at first been seduced, like Proudhon, by the attractions of mutual credit, if one vast clearing bank that would cut out all the middlemen; then it hand been Lassalle's idea of co-operative societies, funded by the State, which would gradually transform the earth into one great big industrial city, and he had been widly in favour of this until the day he was finally put off by the problem of controls; and recently he had been coming round to collectivism, which called for the means of production to be returned into the ownership of the collective. But this was all still somewhat vague, and he couldn't quite see how to achieve this new goal, prevented as he was by scruples of humanity and common sense from enjouing the fanatic's ability to advance ideas with uncompromising convition. For the moment his line was simply that what they had to do first was to take power. Afterwards they'd see. (242)

I think that Marxism wouldn't really work regardless, though. You see throughout the book that even characters of the poor working class constantly strive to step on their comrades necks in order to get ahead, and I genuinely think it's a reflection of human behavior in the real world. You'd need a considerable amount of laws to keep everyone even and make sure that no one thought about finding a way to get ahead of their fellow people. I know many would argue against this, but I do believe it's slightly part of human nature to be competitive. I should explain that I think in a much smaller group, a set of people could work quite fantastically together to create a little village (or what have you) into something that resembles Marxism, but considering how large the world is, and how it's getting bigger by the second, I don't think something like that can be maintained on such a scale. In the larger scale, in other words, systems like Marxism just don't work. It's a shame, but I see the example of this in the way the United States is currently run. If we were incredibly smaller, then I'd believe much more strongly in the ideals of capitalism.

Works Cited
Zola, Emile. Germinal. England: Penguin Books Ltd. 1885