Friday, February 27, 2009

Before I watched the hip-hop documentary, I had never thought of hip-hop being a culture. I just thought of it as a style of music--one that I like. Even though I've recognized that the lyrics are mainly about sex, drugs, control, violence, criminal activity, domination, objectification of women, etc., I think I've been desensitized by it and it really never occurred to me that these things they rap about really happen. I was born and raised in Utah county, and I have never been exposed to anything like that and it's really hard for me to imagine that kind of lifestyle, where people just accept these activities as "just the way life is".

The only experience I've ever really had with different cultures and colors is when I went to Manhattan a couple months ago with a friend. When we arrived in the early morning and got on the subway, we were the only white people and the only females on the train. I don't consider myself racist, but I've never been in a position like that before and all of the sudden I had some stereotypes running through my head and I could feel the same things being directed toward me. Me and the people on the subway looked different, we talked different, we dressed different, and we probably had very different backgrounds. You can't help but notice people who are different from you, culturally and people of other colors-which is a good thing! I don't think we should be blind to color. But there's a difference between that and being racist. But the thing is, I don't know how to change people's thinking. I don't know how to fix racism, but we as society need to figure out how to recognize and embrace differences, and work on a ways that will maybe help fix the "system".

Friday, February 20, 2009

bell hooks

After starting the book, Black Looks: race and representation, by bell hooks, I decided to do a little research on hooks to learn more about her background and why she writes the way she does. There was a lot of information, and I just took some of the paragraphs that talk a little more about her views and experience with racism, feminism, and “white supremacy.” I really enjoyed finding out a little more about this author. I think the last paragraph really says a lot about her; it's kind of a long post but very interesting.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins, September 25, 1952.
Her pseudonym, her great-grandmother's name, celebrates female legacies and is in lower case because "it is the substance of my books, not who is writing them, that is important."
"Politically, our young mother, Rosa Bell, did not allow the white supremacist culture of domination to completely shape and control her psyche and her familial relationships." The author further described how this role applied to mothers in black communities in general: "Black women resisted by making homes where all black people could strive to be subjects, not objects, where we could be affirmed in our minds and hearts despite poverty, hardship, and deprivation, where we could restore to ourselves the dignity denied us on the outside in the public world."…

As a student at segregated public schools such as Booker T. Washington Elementary and Crispus Attucks High, hooks was taught by a dedicated group of teachers, mostly single black women, who helped to shape the self-esteem of children of color. …

The neighborhood where she grew up provided young Gloria with the affirmation that fostered her resistance to racism, but it also provided her with the negative and positive experiences that would shape her feminism, which she discussed in the essay "Ain't I a Woman: Looking Back": "I cannot recall when I first heard the word 'feminist' or understood its meaning. I know that it was early [in my] childhood that I began to wonder about sex roles, that I began to see and feel that the experience of being 'made' female was different from that of being 'made' male; perhaps I was so conscious of this because my brother was my constant companion. I use the word 'made' because it was obvious in our home that sex roles were socially constructed--that everyone could agree that very small children were pretty much alike, only different from one another physiologically; but that everyone enjoyed the process of turning us into little girls and little boys, little men and little women, with socially constructed differences."…

"I eagerly responded to the fervor over the contemporary feminist movement on campus. I took classes, went to meetings, to all-women's parties." But one of the significant weaknesses of that women's movement quickly became apparent to her: "It was in one of my first Women's Studies classes, taught by Tillie Olsen, that I noticed the complete absence of material by or any discussion about black women. I began to feel estranged and alienated from the huge group of white women who were celebrating the power of 'sisterhood.'"

That initial disillusionment would eventually fuel hooks's major contribution to mainstream feminism--her critique of its persistent racism. In "Feminism: a Transformational Politic," she translated that early experience in Women's Studies into broad political insight: "Within the feminist movement in the West, [there exists] the assumption that resisting patriarchal domination is a more legitimate feminist action than resisting racism and other forms of domination." It became hooks's main work to change that assumption. …

"Moving from silence into speech is for the oppressed, the colonized, the exploited, and those who stand and struggle side by side a gesture of defiance that heals, that makes new life and new growth possible. It is that act of speech, of 'talking back,' that is no mere gesture of empty words, that is the expression of our movement from object to subject--the liberated voice."


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Do you want to be fat or do you want to be skinny?

After class the other day when we were talking about the themes of normalization, we watched a clip in one of my other classes that made me remember some of the points we had discussed. I couldn't find the clip, and I've never seen the movie but I'll do my best to try and explain the situation. In the movie Little Miss Sunshine, there's a scene where the family is in a diner, and the little girl asks what "a la mode" means. When she's told it means "with ice cream on top" she is excited about her choice. Her dad (I'm assuming) starts asking her questions like, "Do you know what ice cream does to you?" "Do you want to be fat or do you want to be skinny?" "Are the girls in Miss America fat or are they skinny?" The little girl looks so confused and so hurt and disappointed.

The reason this clip made me think about our discussion was because we talked about some bodies being deemed as "normal", and if your body doesn't look like these bodies it is "abnormal" and in need of correction. Who has deemed the "skinny" girls on Miss America to have the normal bodies? And why is the father of this little girl teaching her that she should believe what the media is portraying to her about how she is supposed to look, before she even thinks of that on her own? She's just a little girl, and she should be able to have her ice cream without worrying about getting fat and viewing her body as her enemy.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Boys and girls, er, ladies and gentlemen...I mean men and women...?

Ever since we had the discussion in class on Monday about being aware of how you're referring to other people, I've been really attentive to how people address other people, and even how I do. I noticed so many times where people would say "girls" instead of "women" or even "kid" instead of "man," so I started writing them down :) I didn't take offense to any of this, they're just interesting observations. Here's the list of things I heard and the context they were said:

" that gentleman back there said..." --Professor in a class. (I pictured a man in a tux standing in the doorway rather than a student sitting in a desk with a sweatshirt and hat.)

"Me and my girls!" --Photo album on Facebook of several female college students, over the age of 18.

"...this kid that worked with me..."--Student in my HR class, talking about a man who wasn't very responsible. I found it interesting that he called this man a kid because of the childlike characteristics he had.

" guys..." --President of a club conducting a meeting. The room was mainly women.

"It's not called girl-talk, it's called women-talk when we're this age." --My roommate :) When one of our friends said he'd let us get back to our "girl-talk."

" this kid, well, this guy..."--Professor. It was funny that he kind of corrected himself.

"...he's 24 years old, he's a big kid." --My friend, talking about another friend.

Sometimes it feels weird to be "correct" in terminology, but this past week I just think it's important to be aware of how we're labeling or grouping people and to always just try and be respectful of people's age, gender, etc.