“You are talking to me like I don’t understand what you are saying. I understand what you are saying, I don’t accept what you are saying,” shouted the bespectacled woman who would soon have tears running down her indignant face. “I’m not from this country. I don’t have a phone. I have kids with me. What am I supposed to do!?” The customer service representative at the airline desk spoke slowly and explained again, as if to a spoiled child, that all of the hotels were full and customers were now responsible for finding and booking their own, but not to worry, customers would be reimbursed after going online and submitting the necessary information with a paid receipt. The woman stared blankly at him, and stepped aside to wait for a supervisor. Now she would cry.
Several months ago, the CDC released a report on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). They found that as of 2010, 1 in every 68 U.S. children are on the ASD spectrum. This is up from 1 in every 150 children just ten years prior. This means that rates have more than doubled. The reasons for the large increase are fodder for some wonderfully interesting conversations and heated debates about biology vs. environment vs. culture vs. the Medical Industrial Complex. Putting these debates aside for another day, however, I instead want to talk about how new technologies can serve this ever growing population. As a quick caveat, I should say that I am a person who dabbles in disability studies research. My hope is that those who know more than I—through personal experience and/or professional expertise—will add nuance to the ideas I present below and help guide the discussion into all of the complex places I know it can go, but don’t quite know how to take it.
I find Pharrell’s massive hit “Happy” really, really irritating. And, for that reason, I love it. In the same way that The Sex Pistols were Malcolm McLaren’s massive joke on us, this song is, I think, Pharrell’s attempt to pull a fast one on the economy of viral “upworthiness”–an economy that, as David has shown, is really racist.
Concepts like “the male gaze” and “controlling images” are Gender Studies 101 material: they’re the basic terms in which many feminists understand the media’s oppression of white women (in the case of the male gaze) and black women (in the case of controlling images). The gaze and controlling images are how white supremacist patriarchy subject women to its control.
But I think contemporary social media and big-data political economies are using different devices to control women, especially black women. Social media and big data facilitate a specific form of sexist racism, one that controls women through racialized discourses of toxicity and unhealthy behavior patterns. Instead of turning women into objects and/or erasing their agency, social media and big data let non-white women do and say whatever they want, because their so-called “aggressive bullying” produces the damage against which white women demonstrate their resilience. A similar claim has been (in)famously leveled against “feminism,” especially “intersectional feminism”: it vampirically drains the lifeblood of the progressive, radical left.
What’s specific to the construction of WOC, particularly black women, as “toxic”? Or feminism itself (often represented by ‘intersectional’/WOC feminism) as ‘vampiric’? What about social media, and perhaps even to Twitter, makes the unruliness/threat posed by WOC to white women/white feminist culture industry function in a very particular way, i.e., as toxicity and vampirism? How is the construction of women on social media as toxic/vampiric related to economies of viral upworthiness?
Like many Americans, I spent Sunday evening watching the Super Bowl. This entailed tasty snacks, a comfy couch, and lots of head shaking because, well, the Denver Broncos. It also involved Facebook and Twitter. The day of, day before, and day after were full of commentary, predictions, snarkiness, and declarations of various sorts. Indeed, Sunday’s Super Bowl, like all media events, incorporated multiple media. One item, within one piece of this media ecology, keenly sparked my interest: The Twitter feed of @YesYoureRacist. (more…)
A classic Afrofuturist image and album.
This post is basically speculative. It’s a question, or rather, a hypothesis. I’m not citing empirical evidence so much as suggesting a line of inquiry, which then needs some grounding in empirical evidence. The question is this: If Afrofuturism uses UFO/alien spaceship imagery to describe slavery and middle passage,* can, and if so where, do drones fit in Afrofuturist mythology?
Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” have been two of the most controversial songs/videos in the last few years, so it’s not surprising that they performed together at this weekend’s 2013 VMAs. Thicke’s work has been widely criticized for its sexism, and Cyrus’s for its racism (Unsurprisingly, not nearly as much has been said in the white mainstream music/feminist media about Thicke’s cultural appropriation on BL…which is also going on, and also needs to be addressed.)
Is sexism-bating and racism-bating the new way for white artists to prove their edginess? In our supposedly post-feminist, post-racist society, is overt misogyny and racist cultural appropriation the new way to accomplish the sort of shocking “avant-garde” effect that used to be accomplished by more subtle means? Instead of “love and theft,” well, for lack of a better word, trolling? Instead of positively identifying with femininity and/or blackness (the “love” part of the equation), there’s just a pragmatic instrumentalization of them (no love, just the hustle)? (more…)
Jenny’s latest post on teen sexting, especially with its Salt-N-Peppa-referencing title, had me thinking about music, teen sexuality, race, and technology. These fears about newfangled technologies (and their means of distribution) corrupting (white) teen sexuality remind me of various mid-20th century (white) anxieties about (white) teen sexuality and rock music, and its circulation as records, radio broadcast, and TV performance. And notice all the repetitions of “white” in that last sentence. Race–specifically, blackness–was at the center of these anxieties. Back then, emerging technologies (recordings, radio, TV) could circulate racialized sounds, ideas, and affects in ways that confounded the institutions and informal practices that enforced a strict segregation between white and black bodies, white and black people. New technologies undermined older, segregationist technologies (like segregated theaters or clubs). So, these anxieties about media technology and teen sexuality were deeply and fundamentally racialized. John Waters’s original 1988 Hairspray does a brilliant job of connecting mid-century anxieties about racialized teen sexuality to specific technologies (i.e., records and television).
[First, I need to apologize for the poor formatting in this post--I'm on vacation and working from an old iPad, which is doing wonky things to the WordPress interface.]
I’ve been chewing on some thoughts about this summer’s big musical releases–Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail (MCHG), Kanye’s Yeezus, and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (and somewhat relatedly, Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop”). All of these records and singles used technology and social media in new-ish ways (or rather, ways relatively new to major-label releases and big hit records) to distribute, market, and generate buzz about the work. MCHG was released first as what Chris Richards calls “a data collection exercise disguised as a smartphone app,” and Yeezus’s “New Slaves” was debuted at guerilla listening parties across the globe, accessible via interactive map on his website (kanyewest.com now features an different interactive media object, the video for “Black Skinheads”). In an attempt to draw significant mainstream attention to mid-career artists who either never had or lost that sort of visibility, Thicke and Cyrus made sexist and/or racist videos to generate buzz on teh interwebs. (What’s new here is that sex and racial non-whiteness are no longer inherently outrageous and offensive to mainstream (white) taste–in post-feminist, post-racial America, that level of offense is reserved for certain types of misogyny and racism performed by people who supposedly ought to know better. This is a really interesting line of inquiry, but not, ultimately, the one I want to follow in this post.)
Sasha Frere-Jones has a provocative new piece about Jay and Ye’s new albums up at The New Yorker, so that spurred me to make my questions about these two albums a bit more choate. Frere-Jones’s article itself deserves careful analysis and discussion, and not only because he compares his disappointment with Jay Z’s politics and performance to his disappointment with the George Zimmerman verdict. (I’m happy to have that discussion in the comments here; I hope to have something up on my personal blog in the next week.) Here, however, I want to follow Frere-Jones’s general strategy of thinking about the broader social implications of MCHG. (more…)
(Expiation, n.: the act of making amends or reparation for guilt or wrongdoing; atonement: an act of public expiation.)
Dear reader, are you still thinking about the Zimmerman verdict?
Yeah, me too.
Over the last five days I’ve been thinking a lot about Trayvon Martin’s murder, and about George Zimmerman’s acquittal, and especially about the reactions to both that I’ve observed since the jury returned with a verdict Saturday night. I’ve been thinking (and somewhat obsessively reading) about these things not just because of my contractual obligation as a sociologist, but because as a person I’m saddened, troubled, and angered by what all of this says about U.S. society. Yet I’m not just a person; I’m also a white person, and as such I don’t know where to begin processing the fact that, regardless of my personal particularities, I am by this fact alone complicit in the systems of oppression that made Martin’s murder and Zimmerman’s acquittal possible.
Here’s the thing about white people, the Zimmerman verdict, and its aftermath: (more…)