Monday, April 28, 2014

Talking Points #8 on Teens Talk Back: Reflection/Free Post

I'd like to reflect on how I, as a teen, have talked back. Last semester, in my GEND 200 class, I conducted a survey online and throughout RIC, and did a lot of other research to look into slut-shaming and the virginity myth. I didn't put as much planning and time into this project as I wish I had, and I know it was not very well written, but I see now that I'm looking back on it that I naturally focused mainly on teenagers. I interviewed and surveyed people of different ages, but I think my primary goal was to look at these results in relation to teenagers- probably because I am still one myself. If anyone would like to take a look at it (warning: it's 18 pages), here it is. I think I'd like to revisit it one day and expand on it more.
I saw a lot of results about body image when I looked into this weeks topic, but I tried to steer clear of this subject, and see what other issues teens were talking back on. 

While doing research on how teens talk back online, I searched "teens talk back" which brought up a lot of results on how parents can stop their kids from talking back, and when I searched "teens stand up for themselves", I found a lot of results about how parents can teach their children to stand up for themselves. Just these two very contradictory results were shocking. Everything I found was about adults teaching their teens to ultimately alter them- which definitely shows teenagers as their own type of focus/research group meant for studying and testing on, rather than loving and accepting. This, I think, can absolutely contribute to the alienation of teenagers.

When I altered my search words a little bit, and searched "teens take a stance", I found these results:
1. Teens take a stand against violence
2. Teens take a stand against bullying 
3. Teens take a stance against dating violence

Although each of these projects and articles had wonderful awareness opportunities and messages, I was disappointed to see that not only were all of these projects adult facilitated, but all of the information provided about it was written by adults. I would like to see a teens talking back situation where the idea is thought of by teens, run by teens, organized by teens, displayed by teens, and written about/advertised by teens!

The fourth result after searching "teens take a stance", however, was surprising. It's a Twitter account about teens and the description reads "Adults are taking teens for granted. We want a solution for the failing education in this nation." Based off of that description, I'd like to think this Twitter account was made by and is being controlled by a teen, but I can't know for sure. Some of the tweets were very powerful statements that demanded attention and insisted that teens are not aliens after all, but people. I think one of the most powerful tweets I saw was a simple "Listen to us". Take a look, and tell me what you think.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Talking Points #7 on Rose: Free Write/Hyperlinks

Tricia Rose is a Yale University and Brown University graduate of Sociology and American Studies. She has taught at numerous colleges and is currently the Professor of Africana Studies and the Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University. Rose is well known for her work surrounding hip-hop culture and believes that Hip Hop is misunderstood—claiming, “no one is right about Hip Hop”. Rose’s most notable point is that we don’t share experience, but popular culture— which as we know is a source that provides a lot of dominant ideologies.

In her presentation at Brown University where she describes the evolution and innovation of Hip Hop, Rose demands the return of the creativity of the project. This creativity began on the basketball courts, she says, where people would freestyle while playing the B-sides of tapes. Hip Hop was really created, though, when CD’s an track players were used to edit and tweak already existing music to make new music. (Rose made this connection while she attended the Dalton School in Manhattan, which was explored in this really good article about her, which offers more background to her personal life.) Rose’s main points in this presentation were that the record industry has not been selling music or art, but rather blackness. The industry, she says, provides a limited concept of blackness that has little to do with actual people, and everything to do with “valorizing violence, drugs, sexism, and materialism.” Rose also points out that commercial hip-hop artists package themselves into what they think white people wants to hear…but at what cost? This question highly connects to our Queer Youth texts- specifically The Celluloid Closet, where Harvey Fierstein said he wanted “visibility at any cost”. This “cost”, of course, can be described in both situations as the emergence and strengthening of stereotypes, negative misrepresentations, and new ideology surrounding both cultures that has the potential to be ultimately more harmful than no representation at all. Tricia Rose ultimately wants to focus on how the genre of Hip Hop can be turned around to make people love better, and wishes to get it back to an outlet of social change.

I generally agreed with everything Tricia Rose said in her Q & A with TIME Magazine, except when the question she was asked was:

“In these hip-hop wars, what’s one of the more proment arguments from critics that you counter in your book?”

And Rose answered:

“Hip-hop causes violence.”

While not all Hip Hop, and certainly not earlier Hip Hop can be considered violent and vulgar, I think it’s notable that a large amount of newer Hip Hop artists are making music with lyrics surrounding drugs, sex, and violence. Certainly, most genres of music will have songs with this content, but because POC are largely associated with Hip Hop culture, the more violent and sexual the lyrics get—the more stereotypes surrounding POC are supported. Hip-hop lyrics more and more commonly make gang references, rape references, and more- all of which that (although may not directly cause violence) can definitely support it. Maybe I need to read more of Rose’s works to hear more of what she has to say about this topic, but in my Violence Against Women class, we just read an essay in “Yes Means Yes” (Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti) by Samhita Mukhopadhyay (which you can read here on p. 151) that said the exact opposite- Hip-hop music does cause violence. In her essay, Mukhopadhyay specifically analyzes the hypersexualization of WOC in hip-hop music and its affect on rape culture. After reading this text, I feel torn between these two sources, and which side I take more. What do you guys think? I do really like Rose, though, for acknowledging both sides to this dispute at the end of her Q & A and ultimately saying that the solution is to focus on making hip-hop a more loving genre with a focus on social change like it used to be. I believe she kept a very professional and optimistic tone throughout all of her answers. 

Take a look at this song by Nelly and tell me what you think. If you pause at 1:24 you see a short shot of a woman's vagina, and throughout the whole video there are constant references that WOC are used only for their bodies (which they only want to "tipdrill"). There's is also a visual suggestion that there is a connection between WOC and sex work because not only is the term "Tipdrill" commonly associated with strippers, but Nelly and all of the other men in his video are throwing money at these women the whole time. Towards the end of the video, a female even starts to rap and said "It must be yo' money, cuz it ain't yo' face".

Take a look at these lyrics as well from Snoop Dog's song "Ain't No Fun"....tell me what you see in these lyrics that could be harmful to WOC/POC, and how this could lead to violence.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Something Extra About Me and HELP

In case anyone is wondering, every weekend from Friday morning to Monday morning, I spend my time at the Coast Guard Academy and the Bennie Dover Middle School practicing to compete with the 7th Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps. I spin with the color guard, and each day we're woken up at 6am to run 3 miles, and spend our day in the wind, rain, or sunshine running, sweating, and spinning until midnight where we're released to sleep on a gym floor. I pay $1500 to be apart of this group and spend my whole summer traveling across the U.S. in a coach bus, competing at different stadiums in different states.
Because I spend every weekend in an area with no wifi, I read our readings online on my phone at midnight rather than going to sleep right away (even though I'm exhausted). I've been posting my posts under this area of no wifi, and they've been saving as drafts accidentally. I've published them all now, and I would love it if anyone could comment on them...I thought this whole time that just no one liked my blogs:(

Here is a video of our show in 2012: 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Talking Points #6 on Queer Youth: Extended Comments/Free Write/Connections

In our Queer Youth Readings for this week, Canada's Centre For Digital and Media Literacy brought up key questions to keep in mind while observing media representations of Queer Youth. These questions were:
1. Who created this media text? What is its purpose?
2. Whose voices and interested are  being represented?
3. What do the images and narratives being deployed say about queer people?
4. If the representations in question utilize humor, are queer people in on the joke or are they the joke?

In Jacki's blog post for this week, Jacki covers three main points gathered from these readings:

1. Queer representation has been assimilated into an image that only represents and appeals to a heteronormative, white, middle-class society by only presenting the queer community as white, middle class gay men, and leaving out a large chunk of the LGBTQ community- which can be just as harmful as no representation at all.

2. Queer representation is all about money! Companies use the presenting of queer folk to their own personal interests as a marketing tool, with usually no actual interest in queer issues.

3. Companies seek more money by jumping on the wagon of civil rights and using "queer agenda" support as a way to "buy" the queer folk business.

These last two points are very connected to our James Gilbert reading "Cycle of Outrage", which discussed the sudden use of teenagers as a marketing tool at the end of the 1950's when they began to dominate pop culture and changing fads. As teens began to be major consumers, businesses not only targeted teens, but also shifted their products so they attracted teens. Media images and pop culture soon began to not only reflect teens but impact them as well- shifting ideology.
This reading on Queer Representation in the media specifically touched upon ideology and said that to better understand the hidden ideological messages and meaning behind media representations of queer people, the questions listed above were the ones we needed to ask. This obviously very directly connected David Croteau's piece "Media and Ideology", because Croteau also discusses that media constructs a reality presented to an audience that then interprets and imitates these images to construct a new ideology.
I feel that both of these readings offer knowledge that give insight into how businesses are doing exactly what they did with teens in the 1950's by both trying to appeal to a queer audience and also by marketing towards them. This is shifting the ideology surrounding queer culture just as media affected (and still affects) teen culture. This makes me wonder what kind of representations society will have of queer folk 50 years from now...what do you think?

On a side note, here is a good blog that offers children books with positive representation of the LGBTQ community. My mom read Anna Day and the O-Ring to me growing up, and it was wonderful because the plot had nothing to do directly with the lesbian parents presented in the book.

If all books were more like these, I wonder what the "secret education" given to children would be then!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Talking Points #5 on Orenstein: Argument/Reflection

Peggy Orenstein argues that princess culture is marketed to young girls in a way that teaches them what it means to be female. Femininity is thus defined to young girls and boys as whatever they see in advertising and merchandise based off of toys and movies created by Disney, FisherPrice, MGA, Mattel, and more. In her book, Orenstein discusses this in relation to young girls' images of themselves, the effects is has on self-image and standards of beauty, the early sexualization in girlhood, and how parents are impacting the exposure their children have to princess culture. Orenstein closes in our readings with the question of why parents feel the need to amplify the differences between boys and it biologically driven? Are girls born loving pink and princesses? She concludes by leaving the audience with a lingering and eerie question: "what impact might this new seperate-but-equal mentality have on children's perceptions of themselves, one another, and their future choices? (p.53)"

I would like to discuss one of Orenstein's main points in detail here:

  •  The Princess Industry is damaging towards the image girls have of themselves and femininity: 

Orenstein brings up several examples of merchandise and industries that support this claim, such as:  1. The Disney Princess Industry, which supports female competition, the "have it all, be it all" mentality, and the "innocence" that parents want their children to keep as long as possible. 2. Bratz Dolls which combat this innocence with a sultry and edgy image of girls that defines "cool" as synonymous with "sexy" and as growing out of the "princess stage" and becoming less innocent. 3. American Girl Dolls which support materialism and consumerism by making their products so expensive, and leaving parents little choice but to choose their cheaper toy options, like Barbie and Bratz dolls. 4. Barbie dolls which support ridiculous beauty standards, and lost their once reputation as a new feminist product by (although making her figure less "sexy" and more achievable) limiting Barbie to all things pink and less career options.

All of Orenstein's examples and discussion of the new developmental stages created by companies (like the toddler and tween stages) had something in common that stuck out to me. Orenstein touched upon how young girls are now exposed to Barbie dolls and Princess Culture much sooner, making them identify "innocence" as a "baby" thing. Therefore, they grow out of their "baby stage" sooner, by playing with the "cooler" toys by their tween ages of 6 and 7. Once young girls leave this innocent stage that parents attempt to last as long as possible, their only other images of femininity are the hypersexualized ones of women in media and pop culture. Here, girls adopt and imitate two widely opposite images. Orenstein brings up Linsey Lohan who rebelled dramatically from the cute and innocent Disney world she was trapped in for so long to a suddenly very sexual one. This made me think of Miley Cyrus and other stars who were and are attacked for their sudden shifts out of the pure and innocent Disney world. These contrasting images don't just affect girls, though. I think we could look deeper into how these images affect male perceptions of women and the affect it has on rape culture. The innocent to sexy spectrum is shown to boys and girls and when girls imitate it, boys are shown that all girls have to be innocent and also sexual. I can argue that "secret education" taught through these texts ultimately support the virginity myth, and the idea that women are purse but also willing-- that they're always "asking for it".

Outside of the toy industry and the industries marketed at younger audiences and parents, I began to think about businesses that supported this innocence but also sexy ideal that's marketed for a young adult/adult, or specifically teenager audience, and I immediately thought about Victoria's Secret. Their "PINK" brand and "Angel" lingerie line proudly model (haha) the innocence factor, but their products include lacy bras and underwear displayed by able-bodied, extremely thin, attractive women. What do you guys think about this?

Lastly, I personally couldn't relate to this article very well, because my mom kept me from Princess merchandise, American Girl Dolls, Bratz, etc. pretty well and I recall reading specific books like this and this. I suggest you all check them out!:)

My question for the class is the same Orenstein asks at the end of our readings: "what impact might this new seperate-but-equal mentality have on children's perceptions of themselves, one another, and their future choices? (p.53)" Let me know in the comments below! Do you think you've seen any possible impact on yourself or others? Also, do you know of any good examples of merchandise, books, TV shows, etc. that fight princess culture and define a better model for gender roles?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Talking Points #4 on Exhibit Outline: Teen Pregnancy

For my Midterm Project, I will be doing Teen Pregnancy in regards to history, discourse, and policy. My focus will be to challenge dominant discourses of teen pregnancy by suggesting a more positive outlook on teen pregnancy that could be achieved through more support systems in institutions and family life, a better representation of teen pregnancies in popular culture, and avoiding negative language about teen parents (immature, irresponsible, slut, etc). This positive outlook could lead to a shift of the image of teen parents, and possibly even the teen pregnancy birthrates.

I'm thinking about doing a poster with 5 pregnant teenagers displayed, each representing diversity through different genders, races, classes, etc. Each of these teens will also represent a different time period, and I want to display my information on their pregnant stomachs some how, but I'm not sure how to properly display my info...thoughts?

Some of the sources I plan on using are:






I also plan on pulling from our Gilbert piece, because he discusses trends in teens and sex and marriage: "From the middle of World War II into the 1960s, adolescent behavior changes abruptly and distinctly in several categories: sex and marital behavior, work habits, consumption, and attitudes to peer institutions." (p.17)

Here are some info graphics I've found:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Talking Points #3 on Gilbert: A Cycle of Outrage- James Gilbert (Quotes/Connections)

In “A Cycle of Outrage”, James Gilbert beings Chapter 1: A Problem of Behavior with a blast to the past recollection of when Look tried to help parents figure out how to tell if certain teens were delinquents or not. They did this by printing common teenage lingo and what it meant so that adults could better understand their language.

1. “It’s purpose was to analyze the unfamiliar and make it less threatening (p.12).”

I believe this quote sums up the goal of most institutions and media texts, like Life, and the Ladies Home Journal, but I also think this quote sums up all of history, as well. From war to women, humans have always tried to isolate something, nitpick at it, and form (often false) conclusions about it. This may seem like a good idea when despair is around, but doing this with teenagehood set the groundwork that labeled teens as “unfamiliar” and as an alien life form— one of our course themes. Now parents and adults could look at teens as if they were a subject matter in some type of research study, rather than as their children. They could analyze and pick apart their children’s actions to better understand them, but really all this did was set them apart even more.

2. “On top of curiosity and worry came the increasing recognition that teenagers had a major impact on the shaping of American popular culture… We’ve stopped trying to teach them how to live. Instead, we’re asking them how they think we should live (p.13)”

This quote demonstrates David Croteau’s point in “Media and Ideology” that media texts create and shift how people see the world and, in effect, how people act and respond to these images. In addition, in “A Tangle of Courses”, Rebecca Raby discusses that teenagers are “courted as a high-consumer group, and are modeled in the media as the ideal age, with teenagehood constituting the onset of ‘the best years of your life’. This connection between the two texts made me wonder if maybe adults began to look to teenagers for fads because they wanted to revisit those “best years” in their own way.

“They looked and acted differently. Often they seemed remarkably hostile or even criminally inclined. In other words, they looked and behaved like juvenile delinquents (p.17).”

A few paragraphs before this quote, Gilbert discusses the dress codes instituted by high schools as a method to control and discipline teenagers. In this situation, teenagers were being told that expression and individuality were means of rebellion and danger. As soon as teens became a market for pleasurable consumption, though, as Raby also addresses in “A Tangle of Discourses”, their expression and possible “rebellion” wasn’t as important as a new market for businesses. The fear returned of course, as teens took these new markets of consumption as their own. As they were encouraged to participate in these markets, like the work force and car industries, teenagers began shift tastes and fads.

Although it was briefly touched upon, do you think the fear of juvenile delinquency existed before media and institutions began to separate teenagers as their own class capable of so much influence and power in business markets and pop culture?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Talking Points #2 on Raby: A Tangle of Discourses: Girls Negotiating Adolescence- Rebecca C. Raby (Reflection/Hyperlinks)

Although I brought up reality television, in my first blog post, I cannot help but mentally compare everything I read to media, specifically television and pop culture...

In this text, Raby examines the five dominant Western discourses of adolescence: the storm, becoming, at-risk, social problem, and pleasurable consumption. All of these discourses obviously connect and bounce off of one another to create an idea of teenagers that construct a new teen culture. This leads to a cycle that benefits and continuously redefines the image of teenagers. For now, I’d like to focus on just two of these discourses: at-risk and pleasurable consumption.

As the teen culture is redefined and molded by social and media representation, Raby points out that businesses follow these changes so that they can target and adapt to the teenage audience, which has been recognized as the largest group for pleasurable consumerism. Raby primarily discusses this topic in terms of shopping, but the teen audience is targeted in other areas as well, such as magazines, and television because 1. Media is a valuable source for advertising and 2. Teens invest in technology and media, making it a large market. Not to mention, most teens look to media for popular trends in areas like fashion and music as they are sent the message to define themselves through self-expression. Once these teens begin to self-express, businesses once again look to these self-expressions for more marketing campaigns, supporting Raby’s statement: “Consumerism and adolescence become equated (p.347)”

The focus on television for not only advertisements towards the teenage audience, but also for shows that will attract the teenage audience, have led to many reality television shows or shows in general that reflect the social view of teens (in the United States). These shows, mostly created by mostly ADULTS, provide an interpretation of teen life that influences the way all people (including teens themselves) see the youth.

As the creators of these shows reflect teen life, the paradox that Raby points out within the discourse is supported. Teens are taught to prepare for the future and be responsible but also be consumers and have fun. However, when they participate in consumerism to acquire their identity through the “neo-liberal freedom of spending (p.437)”, they see television shows about “at-risk” teenagers, and wild teenage life which send a variety of mixed-messages.

The main television show I couldn’t stop thinking about while reading this article that supports the framing of teens as “at-risk” is the reality show "16 and Pregnant". My mother had me at 16 years old while she was in high school, and because of this, many people assume that I am also “at-risk” of becoming a teen mom or of other “risks” like drugs, alcohol, depression, eating disorders, etc. While statistically, this could be supported, this bothers me because people generally see my mothers teen pregnancy as a negative thing that will ruin her life and my own based off of the negative representations of teen pregnancies from television shows.

“Girls are more likely to be considered at risk while boys are more likely to be treated as a social problem (p.435).”: This quote stuck out to me because I believe the consideration of girls as "at-risk" is supported by these media representations of teens, specifically girls with a focus on pregnancy, and that boys are treated as a social problem because they're presented as the causes of the pregnancy, a.k.a the "problem".

Questions/Comments/Points To Share: How does this article compare to and support the Croteau text? (Media and Ideology)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Talking Points #1 on Christensen: Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us- Linda Christensen (Hyperlinks)

In “Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us”, Linda Christensen discusses the stereotypes, gender codes, race codes, disability and class codes that lie underneath media, particularly in children’s cartoons. These codes, she says, are what shape young minds by the time a child has turned three, and teach them how to act, look, and perceive others. Dubbed as the “secret education”, these hidden lessons form and shape the identity’s of children all the way into their adult years, where the myths they were taught about the roles of themselves and others are supported even more in magazines, advertisements, and other TV shows.

While reading Christensen’s analysis of media and the secret education, how she taught her findings to her students, and her goal to spread her knowledge through her students with the hope of social change, I began to connect her analysis to reality television shows. Race and gender codes, stereotyping, and all of the portrayals of power and inequality based off of privilege are relevant in almost all reality television—which is an example of how the secret education extends outside of children’s cartoons and into adult life.
For example, in the reality competition shows like The Bachelor and Flavor of Love, women are taught that they have to compete for a man’s love by being the “best” and keeping that man’s attention through physical looks and effort to “prove” their love. These women are also given titles during the shows that stereotype them based off of their race, weight, personality, and more—just like cartoons that stereotyped a black person as the “buffoon”. Some of the titles given to the contestants on Flavor of Love have been: “Buckwild”, “Krazy”, “Miss Latin”, “Hottie”, and “New York”. Not only do these titles diminish women to what they look like and where they’re from, rather than who they are, but they also often create images of what women of different ethnicities are like based off of their titles. If a child grows up in a predominantly Caucasian area, and their only information about “others” (p.126) is from reality television, than the one black contestant titled “Hood” that got into a fight on TV will be their only representation of that race.

This reality television shows support Christensen’s argument that women are taught two myths: “Happiness means getting a man, and transformation from wretched conditions can be achieved through consumption” (p.133). She connects these myths to Cinderella because Cinderella fights with her sisters and the rest of the town for Prince Charming’s love, and because Cinderella is only seen as beautiful when she transforms her look from rags to riches. The story of Cinderella also creates a stereotype for the “Prince Charming” or perfect man that defines him as powerful, wealthy, and physically attractive. Both of these stereotypes and codes are found in shows like  Joe Millionaire  where women are attracted to a male only if he fits the “Prince Charming” criteria, and in the UK show The Swan where women undergo plastic surgery to transform from an “ugly ducking” into a beautiful “swan”.

Questions/Comments/Points to Share:
In class, I would like to point out that all of these "secret education" lessons are found in many more examples, and as Christensen points out, we all adapt to them without realizing it. I know most of these stereotypes are untrue, but I'll occasionally associate an Asian person as being smart, because that is how TV and media has portrayed the Asian culture.

This relates directly to how people perceive teenagers. When we wrote 5 words to describe a teenager in class, we wrote the ones that society has made us associate teens with- emotional, wild, angsty, shopping etc. because of our vision of teenagers from magazines that target the teen audience, TV shows like the ones on Disney Channel, and reality TV shows like 16 and Pregnant. Most of these terms may not have even based on personal experience, but rather the identity/idea society has provided us with for teenagers through the help of media.

Example of how teenage characters are scripted to act in TV shows: April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation is the only teen character in the show and is depicted as an angsty, rebellious college intern that hates working and is always whiny and bored.