Using pictures with the tag #americanparty on Instagram, Buzzfeed put together a non-scientific collection of what “American Parties” thrown in other countries look like. it’s an interesting window into how they view us. Themes include red cups, popcorn, marshmallows, and sports jerseys. Happy 4th of July weekend everyone.
I recently came upon the Jewish greeting card section at Target, way down on the bottom row. I could tell it was the Jewish section because all of the dividers that tell you what kind of card is in that slot (birthday, anniversary, etc.) had a Star of David on them.
I was interested in what a specifically Jewish birthday card might look like, so I picked this one up. It draws on the idea that Jewish people are particularly prone to feeling guilty.
The inside said:
…but is cake and ice cream mentioned anywhere? I think NOT! It’s your day! Enjoy! Enjoy!
Mary Waters found that people often believe that ethnicity explains all types of behaviors that are in fact very widespread. She interviewed White ethnics in the U.S.; they often attributed their families’ characteristics to their ethnicity. Take the idea of the loud, boisterous family, often including a mother who is constantly trying to get the kids to eat more of her homecooked meals and worrying if they aren’t married. Many individuals described their family this way and claimed that their ethnicity was the reason.
People who identified their background as Italian, Greek, Jewish, Polish, and others all believed that the way their family interacted was a unique custom of their ethnic group. Yet they all described pretty much the same characteristics. The cardmakers’ (and others’) allusion to guilt to signify Jewishness seems to me to fall into this category: take out the Stars of David and I bet a range of religious/ethnic groups would think it was tailored to them specifically.
So you take a card, say guilt in it, add a Star of David, and you’ve got a Jewish card. Take out the Star of David, maybe it’s a Catholic card, especially if you added a cross, since they’re often portrayed as feeling a lot of guilt. I’ve had friends who grew up Southern Baptist or Pentecostal joke about having felt guilty about everything, so you could market the card to them, too! I think it’s a good example of how we often treat characteristics or behaviors as somehow meaningfully connected to a specific ethnic background rather than being a pretty common way that people in general, across ethnic lines, behave.
Originally published in 2010.
Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.
Today is the first day of the Christian season of Lent, a period of voluntary self-denial that is the excuse for the indulgence of Mardi Gras. Last year a credit card processing company traced spending in New Orleans on both Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. They found a spike in the days leading up to the big day (below) and then a crash the day after.
According to Mark Waller at nola.com:
…people spent 30 percent more at restaurants in the weekend before Mardi Gras than they did in an average of the four previous weekends…
What were they buying? Indulgences: “duck fat fries, king cake burgers, and crab and crawfish mac and cheese.” Mmmmm. The week before they’d mostly bought lattes.
…restaurant, retail shops and other merchants logged about half the business on Ash Wednesday compared with the Wednesday before.
What was the most popular food item that day? Soda.
The first Mardi Gras parade wound its way through New Orleans in 1856, over 150 years ago. Today there are, by my count, sixty-eight official Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans and the vicinity. No doubt there are many more informal groups. Each is a private organization, typically still called krewes, wholly funded by its members.
In this sense, Mardi Gras is truly a product of local New Orleanians who choose to play a role in creating its magic every year. That is, unlike other spectacles — like the city of Las Vegas or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a non-corporate holiday facilitated, but not put on by, the city or state government. Even in light of it’s oppressive past and present, it is truly one of the most purely generous, creative, and authentic things I have ever had the pleasure to observe.
Understanding why there are so many parades is part of the story.
First, krewes have traditionally been segregated by race and gender. New krewes have formed to enable the participation of excluded groups (Zulu 1909, Iris 1917) or integrate the tradition (e.g., Orpheus 1993).
Krewes have also emerged as commentary on this sort of exclusion. The Krewe of Tucks was started by two white male Loyola students in 1969. They wanted to parade as flambeaux carriers — a nod to the original form of parades in which slaves or free men of color carried flames through the streets to illuminate the floats — but were denied. No white person had ever carried the flambeaux.
Annoyed, they started their own parade aimed at mocking the whole parade tradition. Their king sits on a toilet throne and to this day they TP the city in toilet paper as they parade through the streets.
Tucks, 2014 (New Orleans Advocate):
Other parades simply reflect the unending creativity and ingenuity of the people of New Orleans. Responding to the increasing grandeur of Mardi Gras floats over time, ‘tit Rex (as in “petite”) decided to go miniature. Every year, members build tiny floats on a theme and parade them through the Marigny neighborhood. The theme in 2013? “Wee the people.”
‘tit Rex, 2013:
Not enough sci-fi in the super krewes? There is the Krewe of Chewbacchus — riffing off the famous Krewe of Bacchus. These BacchanAliens offer an intergalactic parade, tripping down the streets of New Orleans with a Bar-2-D2 and other creations.
Other parades came about to serve neighborhoods or individuals who were isolated geographically or by mobility. The Krewe of Thoth (1948) was founded in order to offer a parade to the residents of 14 institutions, off the typical parade route, that served people with illnesses or disabilities, bringing Mardi Gras to those who couldn’t come to it. Other krewes emerged simply to serve neighborhoods that tourists rarely visit.
Thoth, 2014 (notice the Tucks TP in the tree on the left):
So there are the stories of a few Mardi Gras krewes, helping to explain the bounty of parades available to enjoy in New Orleans. If you have any favorites, please add them in the comments!
Cross-posted at A Nerd’s Guide to New Orleans.
New Orleans has been celebrating Mardi Gras since the 1730s, but it took a hundred years before we began to see street processions. The first processions included carriages and maskers on horseback. The first floats appeared in 1856 with the formation of the first Mardi Gras krewe: the Mistick Krewe of Comus.
Enslaved and free men of color lit the spectacles with torches. They were called the flambeaux. Eventually, they became a spectacle in themselves, dancing for tips. In the historical engravings below from the 1850s, you can see men carrying torches among the festivities (Wikimedia Commons and the Library of Congress).
Today, there are still flambeaux carriers and they are still mostly black men. The tradition has been passed down through generations. In a video at nola.com, a flambeaux carrier named Herbert Long explains that he’s been carrying flame for 18 years, following “generations of [his] family.” Today they carry kerosene torches. These photos were taken by David Grunfeld for nola.com:
Unbelievably, the first white men to carry the flambeaux appeared in a parade in 1969, something I’ll talk about tomorrow. Meanwhile, the first ever all-female flambeaux troupe, the glambeaux, debuted in 2014 (images from @dmassawwl, wduv, and pspo on tumblr).
Today, the flambeaux are a beloved part of the Mardi Gras tradition, good and bad.
Cross-posted at A Nerd’s Guide to New Orleans.
Here’s a bell hooks Valentine card for you:
POSTS FROM VALENTINE’S DAYS PAST
Cultural and Historical Variation
- “Vinegar Valentines”: Happy Valentine’s Day, I Hate You
- Valentine’s Day in Japan
- Before Love: Puritan Beliefs about Sex and Marriage
- Valentine’s Day as Youth Rebellion in India
- Racist Vintage Valentine’s Day Cards: My Cheap Scottish Valentine
- Racist Vintage Valentine’s Day Cards: American Indians
- Racist Vintage Valentine’s Say Cards: Asians and Asian Americans
- Racist Vintage Valentine’s Day Cards: Africans and African Americans
- The Feminization of Love and Masculinization of Sex
- Violent Metaphors in Vintage Valentine’s Day Cards
- Do Men Want Flowers?
- The Sexes are “Opposite”
- Steak and a BlowJob Day (for men)
- Pretty Girls Get Lots of Stuff
- Buy Flowers or You’re a Dipshit, says FTD Florists
- Measuring Love with $$$
- Men are Loved and Women are Property
- Valentine’s Day as Sex-For-Gift Exchange
An article at Scientific American draws attention to the environmental cost of the commodification of flowers as a symbol of love. Carolyn Wheelan writes:
[Roses] are… fragile and almost always flown to the U.S. from warmer climes in South America, where roughly 80 percent of our roses take root; to warm the hearts of European sweethearts, they are most often imported from Africa. They are then hauled in temperature-controlled trucks across the U.S. or the Continent and locked up overnight in cold boxes before their onward journey to the florists of the world… sending the roughly 100 million roses of a typical Valentine’s Day produces some 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from field to U.S. florist.
When flowers aren’t shipped in to cooler climates, they must be grown in greenhouses, like the Yuzhny Greenhouse Farm in Russia pictured above. Some flower farms take the form of vast arrays of greenhouses that use energy to maintain a microclimate out of synch with the climate in which they are situated.
The SciAm article does a good job of pointing out that not all flower farms are equal and there are lots of more and less environmentally- and socially-conscious choices.Fair trade, worker-conscious, organic, and otherwise environmentally-friendly flower companies claim to offer an alternative. Florverde, for example, advertises its flowers as “for the earth, for the workers, for you”:
Originally posted in 2009. h/t Jezebel.