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.
At a health food café in central London, I recently drank my first ‘Bulletproof Coffee,’ a surprisingly ingestible blend of espresso, butter and coconut oil which has a texture not dissimilar to yak butter tea. To be precise, Bulletproof® Coffee ought to be made with a blend of grass-fed butter, Upgraded™ coconut oil (from upgradedself.com) and low-toxin Bulletproof® Upgraded™ Coffee Beans. And it is indeed no coincidence that Bulletproof Coffee tastes a little like yak butter tea. Dave Asprey, the ‘Bulletproof Executive’ was struck with the inspiration he needed to develop the drink during a yak butter tea break on a climb of Tibet’s Mount Kailash. As for why I found it in a health food café – and why all the concern with the quality and composition of the ingredients? Well, Bulletproof Coffee enthusiasts overlap significantly with fans of the ‘paleo diet,‘ which is designed to imitate as far as possible the pre-neolithic dietary ecology to which our hunter-gatherer ancestors were adapted.
There is indeed some good anthropological evidence showing that diets of contemporary hunter-gatherers – including those that are high in animal fats – reduce the risk of chronic ‘diseases of civilization’ like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. There are however equally good reasons to question the notion that we and our food species ended our evolutionary relationship before the neolithic revolution. (And using studies of contemporary hunter-gatherer populations to make claims about ‘paleo’ lifestyles can easily slip into ahistorical retellings of what Adam Kuper terms the myth of primitive society.) So what really intrigues (and frankly disturbs) me about Bulletproof Coffee is precisely the extent to which it comes wrapped up in a discourse that you might term ‘paleo-primitivism.’ In telling the story of Bulletproof Coffee’s origins, Dave Asprey marries his enthusiasm for the paleo diet with a depiction of Sherpas as ‘ubermen’ or ‘a race of Bulletproof genetic freaks.’ Asprey’s fascination with both yak butter tea and the genetics of the Tibetan ‘ubermen’ is presented on his website in terms of his interest in biohacking. The biohacking discourse surrounding Bulletproof Coffee seems to reveal quite neatly something about the idea of the ‘hacker’ that Brett Scott recently discussed in a piece for STIR Magazine. The figure of the hacker exemplifies collective possibilities for creative and mischievous subversion of contemporary capitalist organization – but it can also reflect an avowedly individualistic, masculine libertarian drive towards self-empowerment through those same stifling structures. (more…)
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.
It is that time of year when theses, dissertations, and proposals are being prepared for defense. My thesis intends to examine the scripting of a normative student identity with special attention to sexuality in study abroad orientation programs. Only, when it came to prepare my literature review, it came as a shock to me that there is little discussion of homonormativity in education, let alone a conceptualization of homonormativity and organizations more generally. In a world where non-heterosexual identified individuals are increasingly visible, included, and accepted, we need to consider how this is happening and what are the implications, consequences, and stipulations.
But wait, first, what homonormativity? Why hasn’t anyone talked about this?
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…)
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.
“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…)
My PhD compatriot, Jens* leans over to me, a glint in his eye and a bemused smile on his face that makes it difficult to work out whether this will be a joke, a statement, or something to deliberately challenge me. Past history tells me probably a combination of all three, but lets see.
“Can I ask you a question, before you go?” (I am just on my way out of the PhD office** we share, coat on, mug washed, ready).
He continues; “I know you are something of an expert on the subject…”
Oh here we go. This means one of two conversation topics are about to be raised: headhunting, or gender. Which means gender is about to be raised. I put on my metaphorical*** ‘Will Dispense Pertinent Gender-Related Critical Analysis For Food” T-shirt, and wait.
It’s all over my newsfeed: Little girls swearing up a storm in the name of feminism. On Tuesday, October 21st, tee-shirt company FCKH8 released the newest online video sensation, “F-Bombs for Feminism: Potty Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Word for Good Cause.” The video features five six to thirteen year old girls, dressed as princesses, dropping the f-bomb left and right, interspersed with factual information about women’s inequality including the pay gap and sexual assault.
Not surprisingly, the video has had many, many mixed results. Some feminists are excited, spreading the word about a new popular video in the name of feminism, challenging the idea “pretty” girls as princesses, and of course, little girls being tough and swearing. On the other hand, there are many people upset with the idea of children using the “f” word, though they state in the video, “What the fuck? I’m not some pretty fuckin’ helpless princess in distress. I’m pretty fuckin’ powerful and ready for success. So what is more offensive? A little girl saying ‘fuck,’ or the fucking unequal and sexist way society treats girls and women?” But at the end of the day, even as a feminist, this video just doesn’t sit right with me. “F” in this case, is the grade I would give for the video (and no, I don’t mean F for fabulous).
Photo by: DonkeyHotey
Found on: Flickr Creative Commons
Iowa is engaged in an historical race, possibly sending their first female to the U.S. Senate. Republican candidate, Joni Ernst, while also an Army National Guard soldier, describes herself as a mother first. Albeit a mother who also carries a gun, castrates hogs and rides a motorcycle…just like most mothers I know. A recent NPR piece questions whether motherhood is a qualifying attribute for national office. The female focus group interviewed for the broadcast didn’t buy it. They all seemed to want the “right person for the job” regardless of his or her status as a parent.