Erika T. sent in this 30 second commercial for Frito Lay chips and dip. Masquerading as simply “cute,” instead the cartoon sends strong normative messages.
It straightforwardly suggests that single people are inherently sad. Being coupled up is presented as the norm and single people’s pathetic-ness is visible for all to see, even if they try to hide it. It’s also implicitly heteronormative (different colors = the perfect blend) and overtly promotes monogamy between two and only two people.
This animated poem, sent in by Dmitriy T.C., artfully addresses the stigma of being alone. It begins by differentiating between social contexts in which solitude is expected or accepted (libraries) and those in which we are taught it is embarrassing or sad (restaurants). It ends with a defense of the pleasure of being only with oneself.
Video by Andrea Dorfman; poem, music, and performance by Tanya Davis. Originally posted in 2010.
I am always surprised when Valentine’s day rolls around in America as the fiery public outbursts don’t seem so prevalent. In contemporary India this day holds a special significance especially for youngsters. More than the average date-night with an exchange of chocolates, gifts, and flowers, Valentine’s Day provides an opportunity for young practitioners to authenticate and reify their practice of dating and pursuing “true love.”
While arranged marriages are considered the moral norm, pursuing individual love fantasies are potentially frowned upon and discouraged in a lot of modern Indian homes. Hindutva followers (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) also recommend boycotting the day labeling it western, anti-Hindu, a moral corruption of Indian youth.
Indian youngsters, however, represent a marketable youth desiccated by parental norms, traditional values, and mixed sexual messages. Valentine’s Day appears as an oasis of freedom, filled with everything the society and parents condemn. They are marketable not only with chocolates, pretty red roses and heart-shaped goods, but also marketable for practices that condone a “way of life” very different from those their parents seem to follow.
In this sense, participation in Valentine’s Day is a kind of religious act. Counter-culture, anti-traditional, and even anti-caste (according to the DMK), participation is of the utmost necessity to its ardent young fans and signifies their socio-cultural milieu.
While some think it’s quite inauthentic for Indians to be celebrating Valentine’s Day, Indian youngsters see it as a natural display of their modern values in response to their conservative parents. They may even connect across religious diversity upon this issue. As a mode of rejecting the anti-dating model culturally imposed by parents, kids take to streets kissing in public, exchanging cards and flowers, hungry to share their love with each other.
“For charity and for love” seems to provide an example for a more neutral celebration, condoned by older members of the community. Each time the day is evoked the ritual is transformed. Even in America some call this day a “Hallmark holiday” and refuse to buy into the propaganda that tells you to monetarily express your love. Others reject the day, crying that it forces gender stereotypes and creates unwanted expectations. Far divorced from the roots of a religious tradition called Christianity, St.Valentine’s Day has morphed into a Hallmark holiday for Americans and an excuse to publicly proclaim your dating culture for Indian youth.
What the Indian haters of Valentine’s Day need to realize is that it’s probably nothing personal. Young people have always wanted an excuse to make-out in the back rows instead of pay attention in class. India also just seem to “love love” as a friendly visitor once told me. But, we cannot ignore the fact that these practices are changing based on the lifestyle needs of modern urban Indians, and that they are also changing peoples expectations and expressions of love.
The Hindutva respondents are like some Christians and Muslims who argue that participating in yoga might make you Hindu. They certainly aren’t wrong in implying that participation in a practice could transform your worldview. Far from being irrelevant to religion, opposing meanings of what the practice of Valentine’s Day may create only indicates that “you never know what you’re gonna get!”
Deeksha Sivakumar is a Ph.D. student in South Asian Religions at Emory University, GA. Her current research interests surround a particular enactment of a goddess festival and its unique celebration in Southern India as Bommai Golu. You can follow her on Twitter. This post originally appeared at Bulletin for the Study of Religion.
Sociologist Sangyoub Park forwarded us a fascinating account of Ikea’s business model… for China. In the U.S., there are rather strict rules about what one can do in a retail store. Primarily, one is supposed to shop, shop the whole time, and leave once one’s done shopping. Special parts of the store might be designated for other activities, like eating or entertaining kids, but the main floors are activity-restricted.
Not in China. Ikea has become a popular place to hang out. People go there to read their morning newspaper, socialize with friends, snuggle with a loved one, or take a nap. Older adults have turned it into a haunt for singles looking for love. Some even see it as a great place for a wedding.
This is a great example of the social construction of spaces: what seems like appropriate behavior in a context is a matter of cultural agreement. In the U.S., we’ve accepted the idea that the chairs in our local furniture store are not for socializing. Some of us, depending on our privilege, could probably get ourselves arrested if we took a nap at our local Mattress King. But this isn’t an inevitable truth. If we all just collectively change our minds, the people with power included, then things could be different.
The Pew Research Center has released the data from new survey of religious and non-religious Jews. They find that almost a quarter of Jews (22%) describe themselves as being “atheist,” “agnostic,” or “nothing in particular.” The percentage of Jews of no religion correlates with age, such that younger generations are much more likely to be unaffiliated. Nearly a third of Millennials with Jewish ancestry say they have no religion (32%), compared to 19% of Boomers and 7% of the Greatest Generation.
A majority of Jews with no religion marry non-Jews (79%); 67% have decided against raising their children with the religion. As a result of intermarriage, the percent of all Jews who have only one Jewish parent is rising. While 92% of people born between 1914 and 1927 had two Jewish parents, Millennials are as likely as not to have just had one.
The Centers for Disease Control have released new data comparing the involvement of black, white, and Latino fathers. The study found more similarities than differences. Men of all races were more likely to be living with their children than not. Defying stereotypes, black fathers were, on average, more involved in their children’s daily care than white and Latino fathers.
We’re celebrating the end of the year with our most popular posts from 2013, plus a few of our favorites tossed in. Enjoy!
Here’s some great news. The vast majority of young people – about 80% of women and 70% of men across all races, classes, and family backgrounds — desire an egalitarian marriage in which both partners share breadwinning, housekeeping, and child rearing. The data come from Kathleen Gerson‘s fabulous 2010 book, The Unfinished Revolution.
In practice, however, egalitarian relationships are difficult to establish. Both work and family are “greedy institutions,” ones that take up lots of time and energy. Many couples find that, once children arrive, it’s impossible for both to do both with equal gusto.
With this in mind, Gerson asked her respondents what type of family they would like if, for whatever reason, they couldn’t sustain an equal partnership. She discovered that, while men’s and women’s ideals are very similar, their fallback positions deviate dramatically.
Men’s most common fallback position is to establish a neotraditional division of labor: 70% hope to convince their wives to de-prioritize their careers and focus on homemaking and raising children. Women? Faced with a husband who wants them to be a housewife or work part-time, almost three-quarters of women say they would choose divorce and raise their kids alone. In fact, despite men’s insistence on being breadwinners, women are more likely than men to say they value success in a high-paying career.
Look at this absolutely stunning data (matching ideals on the left; clashing fallback positions on the right):
One of Gerson’s interviewees, Matthew, exemplifies the egalitarian willing to fallback on a neotraditional family form:
If I could have the ideal world, I’d like to have a partner who’s making as much as I am—someone who’s ambitious and likes to achieve. [But] if it can’t be equal, I would be the breadwinner and be there for helping with homework at night.
And this is what women think of that:
My mother’s such a leftover from the fifties and did everything for my father. I’m not planning to fall into that trap. I’m really not willing to take that from any guy at all.
Alas, what appears to be a happy convergence between men’s and women’s ideals — both are egalitarians — can turn into an intractable situation: a man who won’t give up his role as the breadwinner and a woman who would rather do anything than be a housewife.