Category Archives: Culture

Into the Woods to Grandmother’s House: Justifying Plot Twists through Heteronormativity

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On Christmas, my family decided to spend some time at the movies watching the newly released movie Into the Woods, a movie rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s infamous operetta/musical by the same name.  The musical begins with an original story involving a childless baker and his wife and their quest to begin a family, though cursed by a witch for stealing magic beans from her garden. The show intertwines the plots of several fairy tales by Brothers Grimm  such as Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Rapunzel, among others and follows them to explore the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests: a classic “Be careful what you wish for” story.

Now, while I typically enjoy musicals as I grew up a kid on the stage myself, I couldn’t help but think sociologically about various plot twists and how certain unfortunate circumstances were justified and rectified through rules of heteronormativity and, arguably, homonationalism.  Granted, previous research has discussed almost ad nauseum about the heteronormativity of Disney movies, I was shocked at how theatre, a common place for queering and challenging concepts of reality and normality, still abided by heteronormative and homonormative rules.

**Please note: there are movie “spoilers” in this post.

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CONAIE Headquarters to be Shut Down: Indigenous Peoples of Ecuador Request International Support

Protestors gather outside the headquarters of CONAIE (The Confederation of Indigenous Nations of Ecuador) in Quito, Ecuador.

Protestors gather outside the CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nations of Ecuador) in Quito, Ecuador.

Yesterday, in Quito, Ecuador, hundreds of Indigenous people from around the country, including those from the Amazon, the Sierra and the Coast, gathered outside the offices of CONAIE (the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador), in the north of the city, to continue the fight against a government plan to close the organisation’s headquarters. CONAIE is among the largest and longest standing Indigenous organisations in Ecuador, and its work focuses on defending the rights, territories, culture and lives of millions of Indigenous people who make up approximately 25% of the country’s population.

I am writing this blog post to encourage academics and activists from around the world to sign the open letter, drafted by CONAIE, in support of the organization and the indigenous peoples that it represents in their struggle to maintain control of the building, which is a key strategic part of the indigenous political community. (more…)

Most “Insert List Here” of 2014: Ratings and hierarchies

feminist-fist.jpg

http://thesocietypages.org/sociologylens/files/2008/11/feminist-fist.jpg

Happy new year! I hope that this year finds you with accepted publications, good grades, and time for sleep.

Each year, starting mid-December, begins the season for “ratings” and lists of the “best” and the”worst” moments, outfits, songs, movies, actors, or whatever you can put in a list of the previous year. As my Facebook feed quickly turns from photos and status updates to comical BuzzFeed lists, I came across one interesting list this year that I had not seen before: Mic.com’s “The 39 Most Iconic Feminist Moments of 2014.” Of course I quickly shared the article, primarily so I can refer to it later for this post, but it received no “likes” or “comments” on my Facebook (a page with relatively frequent activity). That may come as no surprise, as the word “Feminist” was voted by Time Magazine readers as the word to be banned in 2015, and other significant backlash against feminist ideals (see also Rachel Rademacher’s piece here about how we still need feminism). Rereading the list today, however, I am unsure how I feel about this list: mixed feelings about the rise in publicity of feminist ideals but also what qualifies as feminist and how we must rank them.

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Festivus for the rest of us

Satanic Temple holiday display, Florida Capitol Rotunda

Satanic Temple holiday display, Florida Capitol Rotunda

For the second year, Florida hosts a variety of religious displays in the rotunda of the state capitol.  This year, for the first time, the Satanic Temple erected their seasonal exhibition of an angel falling from Heaven into a fiery pit.  The Sataic Temple presentation complements a Christian nativity scene as well as other anti-religion and atheist displays with seasonal depictions including a “Festivus” pole constructed from Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans and a Flying Spaghetti Monster with the sign that says, “A closed mouth catches no noodly appendages”. (more…)

Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon (part 1)

pink-ribbon-breast-cancer-prevention

http://ideborah.com/

As a belated nod to ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’ (October, in the USA), and the plethora of pink, breast-cancer-sponsored items now on sale,  I want to talk about the rise of the pink ribbon campaign and the concept of ‘pinkwashing’.

Breast cancer and the pink ribbon campaign is probably one of the biggest success stories, in terms of its ability to raise awareness and ultimately, save lives. Breast cancer activism started in the 1980’s, in part as a reaction to the patriarchal medicalisation of women’s bodies. Up until then, breast cancer was being silenced: the field was dominated by male surgeons with little information available for individual sufferers, and incidence rates were fast increasing. A huge, grass roots movement began, focusing on empowering and giving voice to suffers and their families. By the 1990’s the focus had been shifted away from the medical profession and onto the empowerment of patients, and this increased attention and exposure increased its status and cultural currency. This was furthered by the launch of the now now iconic pink ribbon in 1992.

This increased focus was incredible in its uptake. It allowed the breast cancer movement to become a prominent focus for the general public, ‘awareness’ was raised, huge amounts of funds were raised, and it was being run by women: by cancer survivors, sufferers and family members. Treatment improved, mortality rates declined.  It was a success. But, as Gayle Sulik notes: “By this time, there were already controversies over the benefits of mammograms, concerns over conflicts of interest, rising competition in pharmacology, and infighting among thought leaders and scientists. Yet cause promotion and the desire to do something for breast cancer held the public’s attention”. (more…)

How RAD is Cultural Appropriation?: Color Run Capitalizing Indian Culture

Photo of my Color Me RAD team before and after the race. (I'm second from the left in the top photo). Photo source: mine.

Photo of my Color Me RAD team before and after the race. (I’m second from the left in the top photo). Photo source: mine.

Recently, I ran a 5k called “Color Me Rad” with a group of friends from my department as a chance to just enjoy the southwest Virginia fall and not work for once. I was excited to participate in this race especially because unlike other races that I’ve run, this seemed like I would enjoy myself in a cultural event that I’ve always wanted to experience. As I got to the race, however, I couldn’t help but think sociologically about the cultural appropriation (ironic, as the race was a week prior to Halloween) of the Hindu Festival of Colors, called Holi. Was I culturally experiencing Holi, or was it merely commodified?

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“Nice Bag!” Discussing Race, Class, and Sexuality in Examining Street Harassment

Source: DennisCeeTv

Source: DennisCeeTv

Over the last two weeks two videos have repeated shown up on my social media pages: “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” and “3 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Homosexual.”  Both videos aim to illuminate the often unnoticed topic of street harassment.   And both videos clearly illustrate what day to day life is like for some women and gay men.  However, it is important to frame both videos within the context of location, race, class, and presentation.

“10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” was created as a collaboration between Hollaback and Rob Bliss Creative, a video marketing company.  In the video, actress Shoshana B. Roberts dressed in jeans, black t-shirt, and tennis shoes walked through various Manhattan neighborhoods recording the actions and comments of men she encountered with a hidden camera and microphone.

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The Unachievable Body Ideal Revisited: Fitspiration and “Everyone is Beautiful” Campaigns and the Regulation of Women’s Bodies

"1-1256217176zbgk" by Petr Kratochvil - http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=4469&picture=smal-mage-och-mata-tape. Licensed under Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1-1256217176zbgk.jpg#mediaviewer/File:1-1256217176zbgk.jpg

“1-1256217176zbgk” by Petr Kratochvil – http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=4469&picture=smal-mage-och-mata-tape. Licensed under Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1-1256217176zbgk.jpg#mediaviewer/File:1-1256217176zbgk.jpg

When I really want to procrastinate doing my work, I like to visit some of my favorite websites and catch up on the latest trends and news. Recently, on one my favorite sites, I have noticed an increase in “Fitspiration Porn” right next to messages of pro-fat, pro- everybody type of images saying “Everyone is beautiful in their own way.” These also speak to the increase in celebrities with curvier bodies (e.g. Beyoncé, Iggy Azalea, Jennifer Lawrence, Nikki Minaj, and even Lena Dunham) and body-loving anthems such as Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.” At first, all of this seems to be great- finally to see healthy, body loving, not-your-garden-variety, and real images and messages of real women celebrating the diversity of bodies.

Only- are they really that positive?  (more…)

Happy 20th Anniversary!

Google images screen grab

Google images screen grab

Pop Quiz! What do Brandeis, UCLA, and Fayetteville Universities have in common?  Answer: They all have The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty by Jill Quadagno on their 2014 syllabi.  This book is taught in departments of history, public affairs, social work, sociology, and political science.  Professors use it to examine sociological methods, poverty, race, politics, and welfare state.  For many students this was a life changing book.  This book ignited our interests in studies of inequality and even though it is already 20 years old the issues Quadagno raises are still fresh and relevant today.

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No Ma’am, This Is Not New York City

Source: Southern-Style.com

Source: Southern-Style.com

 

As teachers of sociology, we are constantly reminding our students of the ways in which culture and social structures shape our everyday behaviors.  We stress this point as it emerges throughout traditional theoretical frames and empirical studies.  The idea that society shapes our behaviors is a basic Introduction of Sociology concept.  However, it still catches me off guard when I realize how it works in my own daily life.

I recently took a trip to Georgia.  The flight from New York City to Savannah was less than two hours but in that short time I felt as if I had traveled into a new dimension.  Within ten minutes of landing, I witnessed a man in his early twenties offer to carry an elderly woman’s suitcase for her across the airport.  As shocked as I was by the young man’s offer, I was even more surprised when the woman agreed to hand over her luggage to a complete stranger.

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