Sunday, June 1, 2014

Editing Headlines

       As I was browsing the online news, I noticed a headline that commented on a change in a woman's appearance, which read: "Hello Gorgeous! Sinéad O'Connor Goes Shockingly Glam for New Album Cover". The focus of the article, the new look of artist Sinéad O'Connor, overshadowed the actual reason behind the change; the artist was supporting the Ban Bossy campaign. Instead of highlighting the cause that this woman was supporting, the article analyzed her new appearance, and made that the main point of the article.

       This overshadowing of women's actions by their appearance has become a fairly frequent occurrence, exemplified in many other articles. The dominant theme and headline of the article shown to the right is a wardrobe malfunction of celebrity, Heidi Klum. This article doesn't adequately recognize the heroic action that Klum took, and instead focuses on what she looked like while she was saving two lives. Is her appearance in this situation really that important? Isn't the priority here saving people's lives, not preserving your own appearance?
A headline regarding actress Amy Adams is rewritten.
  A magazine called the Vagenda was fed up with seeing these kinds of headlines. The magazine asked their twitter followers to replace the headlines of articles that spotlight the physical appearance of women to an unnecessary degree. The Vagenda and their fans reworded many headlines, an example seen to the right, in ways that favored women's accomplishment rather than their looks.
       This one-sided description of women may be due to a lack of acceptance of women's accomplishment. Both these women accomplished great things, 5 Academy Award nominations and saving two peoples lives, and in response, people find fault in their appearances. This picking at unimportant matters could be meant to draw away from the action that the women is performing, either because people just can't accept that a woman is accomplished, or that people feel threatened by their achievements.
      To me, this also shows that is valued in a women the most: her appearance. Do matter what great thing a woman will do, she must try to look as pretty as she can. Such thinking draws away from the pursuits of women, and demands that appearance be the focus of women's energy.

Friday, May 30, 2014


     If you have been on Twitter, or any form of social media, in the past week, you have seen something about the trending hash tag, #YesAllWomen. This new trend was largely a reaction to the recent shooting in Isla Vista, California. Elliot Roger, the shooter, was targeting a sorority house, but began to open fire in the surrounding area when no one answered the door of the house; he killed six students, and then himself, also severely injuring seven others.
      Roger made his motives for this killing spree very clear through a 140-page manifesto, which described his strong hatred and resentment towards women, specifically those who have rejected his sexual advances. Roger continues his misogynist rantings in his final video of many he posted to YouTube before the shooting (now available through the blog Gawker), where he expresses his jealousy and hatred of women and also sexually active men. Roger believed that he was always rejected by women even though he was a self-proclaimed "perfect guy", and said in his video, " I do not know why you girls aren't attracted to me but I will punish you all for it". His plan, according to the video, was to "slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see". Roger's misogynistic ideology, an obvious cause of this tragedy, was shocking to some, however, this attitude towards women is really not that out of the ordinary; people were not as alarmed as they should have been by his sexist manifesto and series of YouTube videos preceding the shooting, because women-hating is not an uncommon idea.
       #YesAllWomen began trending after the shooting as a way for women to express their experiences with misogyny as a way to demonstrate that this mistreatment of women exists without many realizing it. Jessica Valenti of The Guardian explained that "the reason women mobilized so quickly after the shooting is because we recognized immediately the language and ideology in Rodger's videos and manifesto: the over-the-top sexual entitlement; the rage against women who "dared" to reject him; the antiquated, but nonetheless terrifying, belief that women should not be in control of their own sexual choices." A key word in this quote is "control"; Roger did not like it when he could not control a woman's response to his advances, and cannot handle the rejection because the decision was out of his control. This thinking behind loss of control is evident in creation of the well-known term "Friend-zone", which is simply a comfort for men who are rejected and cannot handle a woman's right to say no to a relationship. This shooting was an extreme way for Roger to gain back his control over women. Will this tragedy, and the response to it, finally prove that sexism is still a huge issue in America? Will this event bring any change? 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

"The Order of Never Hide"

         Ray Ban, a sunglass and eyeglass company, just recently launched a new contest titled "The Order of Never Hide", which they described as a "non secret secret society" on their website. This new way of advertising was particularly interesting when you compare it to the presence of secret societies that can be found in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

         The Order of Never Hide is a giveaway contest in which a participant must complete five tasks in order to enter the competition. One must "climb the Hierarchy Ladder" through these five requirements, as described by the Terms and Conditions of the contest. "The Hierarchy Ladder" directly relates to social class, and for the same analogy of the rungs of the ladder to the upper class is used.
       I looked further to see if there were any indicators of exclusivity in this society, just as societies of different classes often are exclusive. All of the five requirements for the contest require creating or watching videos, which calls for access to a computer with a webcam. The need for a computer already eliminates people without access to a computer from this contest. 
        I think the fact that this company thought that this approach to advertisement was revealing about American culture and class. I believe that this is seen as effective because people desire, conscious or subconsciously, to be part of a secret society. Membership to something exclusive results in a somewhat elevated status. People naturally look for approval in others, and having something that others don't have can create a feeling of superiority. Because of these social behaviors, advertising a product through a promise of membership into a secret society can be very effective. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Connection Between Wealth and Exercise

       With our recent discussion of obsession with health in affluent areas like the North Shore, I have begun to think more about the cause of this specific interest of health and fitness. Other than the exposure to and ability to purchase healthy foods, I believe that the frequency of exercising is also contributing to the health obsession. This theory has been proven by statics released in a NewYork Times article.

A chart that illustrates the finding of the survey, by the NewYork Times.
 "In 2009, just 46.6 percent of Americans earning less than $36,000 a year exercised at least three days a week. That compared with 54.3 percent of Americans earning more than $80,000 a year."

  So what is causing this gap of 10%? I believe that a contributing factor is the increased amount of leisure time that the more wealthy have. This extra time can then be used to exercise, instead of working or being consumes with other responsibilities. Another connection this this distinction could be a result of different types of jobs.
        Lower class jobs, which provide less income, are sometimes more physically demanding, and could be physical labor. Therefore, after work, these people would be too tired to exercise additionally, or they may feel as though they have already exercised enough for the day, although it is a different type of physical activity that they are preforming then say jogging or biking or weightlifting. On the other hand, more upper class jobs are less physically demanding, such as jobs in an office that leading to a somewhat sedentary day, which then require additional exercise after work.

This is just a rough idea as to why there is a difference in exercise between people of higher and lower income. What do you think can explain this gap?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Joint Effort

As I've been doing some research for the Junior Theme research paper, which I am writing on why the amount of people who identify as feminists is decreasing, I've noticed a trend that was apparent in an article that I read by Martha Rampton. It seems as though the three waves of feminism and their movements seems to coincide with other popular movements for the rights of minority groups.

The first wave of feminism took place in the late 19th and early 20th century, formally beginning with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. This earliest wave "was interrelated with the tempereance and abolitionist movements" (Rampton). Abolitionist and feminist figures often overlapped, such as  Sojourner Truth, who is remebered when saying "ain't I a woman?".

The second wave of feminism took place from the 1960's through the 1990's, which encompassed the Vietnam War, therefore the strong anti-war efforts as well. There were also large civil rights movements as there was a "growing self-consciousness of a variety of minority groups" (Rampton).

The third wave of feminism emerged in the 1990's and continues to the present. This wave rose with the fight for gay rights. The gay right movement's new era began in the 80's with the emergence of AIDS, but the 90's brought new youth movements and organizations. Progress has been seen fairly recently, for in 1994, the first Gay Pride March happened, taking place in the Philippines, and in 2001 the Netherlands was the first country to allow same-sex marriage. The 90's also created a push for a transgender movement, which went along with the third wave feminsms beliefs that "shuns simple answers to artificial catergories of identity, gender, and sexuality" (Rampton).

We obviously see this connection throughout all three waves of feminism; womens rights movements cannot stand alone and must be joined with another movement. I think this could be because the cause of women's rights tends to be marginalized and disregarded, for it has been a struggle for women's ideas and opinions to be taken seriously. Why is it that a feminist movement cannot get attention without joining with another movement?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What Feminism Really Means

While doing some research for my Junior Theme topic, exploring the stigma that the word "feminist" or "feminism" carries, I came across some disturbing data which proves that people have a misunderstanding of the real definition of the word. Americans were asked by the Huffington Post, "Do you consider yourself a feminist, an anti-feminist, or neither?". The response was alarming:

As we can see from the data above, only 20%  of those polled considered themselves any kind of feminist. Those who were polled were also "asked if they believe that 'men and women should be social, political, and economic equals,' [and] 82 percent of the survey respondents said they did, and just 9 percent said they did not". We can see that people believe in the idea of feminism, but shy away from the label. Why is that?

Merriam-Webster defines feminism as "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes". However, it seems to carry a different meaning to Americans, for "thirty-seven percent said they consider "feminist" to be a negative term". 

I was initially very shocked by this data, which in turn, prompted me to deepen my research into this misunderstanding. As I continue to explore this topic in the context of my junior theme, I will hopefully find an answer to this question, as to why feminism carries such a stigma. In the meantime, what are your opinions on this issue? What is your explanation? 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Racing to Gender Equality

Today, my rowing coach forwarded my team an interesting email linked to a New York Times article titled "In Rowing, Women Catch Up With the Men". It discusses a change in the future that will bring gender equality to one of the biggest rowing events in London.

Oxford and Cambridge have a strong and well-known rivalry, and every March, boats from the schools come together and race each other. This a hugely popular and historic event; with "live television coverage by the BBC, which first broadcast the race in 1938, it is a national institution, watched by millions on TV and by hundreds of thousands along the towpath". However, "the women have a shorter — and separate — history".

The women have not been allowed to race the same course as the men, instead racing a shorter and easier course. "'Like any tradition...there wasn’t really a rational reason for it.” This proves that gender bias does exist, and is actively effecting women's lives without "rationals reason". Women have been discouraged from the start; at the first women’s race in 1927, “large and hostile crowds gathered on the towpath” to heckle the crews.

Years later, not much had changed. In 1962, the response to female rowers illustrated through the words of "the captain of Selwyn College at Cambridge [who] wrote: 'I personally do not approve of women rowing at all. It is a ghastly sight, an anatomical impossibility (if you are rowing properly, that is) and physiologically dangerous.” He added, “Wouldn’t you rather be playing tennis or something like that?!'"

Since such times of disapproval, this gender issue has improved. In 2015, the women are allowed to race on the mens course, on the same day as the mens race, therefore receiving more attention. Although this change is great, I am concerned that it has taken so long until this situation has been resolved, and I realize that much of the sexism that I thought was in the past still perpetuates to this day.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Rules of Aging

More magazine, appeals to an audience of older women, and many of the headlines on the cover of their magazines are sending some disturbing messages. Their website states that they are a magazine "for women of style and substance", but do these restricting rules of aging really have any "substance"? These kinds of rules aren't unusual; the media creates many ways to make aging women feel terrible about this natural process:

In the top left photo, the statement that being over 40 was "never" so "fabulous", suggests that this age is normally miserable for women.

The top right photo tells the audience exactly what is their "best haircut", defining rules that women of different ages must follow in order to look their best.

The middle picture shows that Jennifer Beals is not expected to be enjoying her life, and its is a huge "reveal" as the surprise that she does actually love her life. To me, this suggests that older women are not expected to be loving their life, for age brings misery.

The bottom left seems to show that fulfilling your dreams is different after you turn 40 versus when you are younger. Does that much really change when you hit that certain age?

The bottom right suggests that there is a specific way to age well, which therefore means that they is a way to age badly. This is another example of a kind of rule that is put in place to make women feel restricted during the aging process. The media's construction of age as a frightening idea that should be avoided has created a fear of aging in women, which then leads women to try to defy the process:

Headlines that feature ways to combat aging are not uncommon, but us there actually a healthy way to stop aging? Why do women feel the need to stop this process? Why is it necessary to create definite rules to follow based on exact age?

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Burrito Box and Yik Yak

I never thought that discovering a new fast food option, the Burrito Box, would tie into a relevant controversy today, the app Yik Yak, but the two are related in a somewhat unexpected way; they both revolve around the idea of anonymity.

 People are calling the new Burrito Box the Redbox for burritos. It is a type of vending machine that allows you to choose between 5 different types of burrito, and cook it for you within a minute. The first machine has been set up inside a Mobil gas station in West Hollywood, California. The Huffington Post Los Angeles commented on this launch:

"It may seem strange that the Burrito Box debuted in Los Angeles, a county that is jam-packed with authentic and delicious Mexican taco trucks and restaurants. But we're not surprised -- Southern California is already home to vending machines that sell gourmet cupcakes, caviar, cold-pressed juice and marijuana.

Because sometimes you just don't want to look another human being in the eye while giving in to a craving."
I found the last line very interesting, for it was hinting at the idea of anonymity. People are moving away from in person interactions, and prefer social settings like Facebook, and communication through texting. In turn, people are losing their face to face communication skills, and have begun to favor these alternate modes of communication. If you can order a burrito without other people knowing, it increases the likely hood of you getting that burrito; as the quote mentioned above, you don't have to deal with the feels of guilty or judgement from others. If the anonymity makes it easier to order a burrito, doesn't that mean that the anonymity of the Internet make is easier for people to say things that they normally wouldn't say in person? This theme seems to be very popular today in America, proven by the rising popularity of the new app, Yik Yak.

Who hasn't heard about Yik Yak at New Trier. It's exploding (I came home yesterday, and my mother was talking about it; I walked into advisory this morning, and my advisor was talking about it). It is creating a dangerous environment that is leading to many cases of cyber bullying, upon which some schools are taking action, and some cases even leading to arrests.

Some of our new technologies like Yik Yak present an immeaiate issue, but other like the Burrito Box may lead to some more disnant consequences as we move further and further away from direct person to person communication. Are we going to far with the idea of anonymity?

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Salem Situation in Papua New Guinea

20-year-old Kepari Leniata was burned alive after being accused of witch craft. Sounds like The Crucible, right? Well, this didn't happen in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, it happened last year in Papua New Guinea.

The abuse of women in Papua New Guinea is not a new problem, but the increase in its severity has caused nationwide concern. Yahoo News found that "more than two thirds of women report being subject to domestic violence". This shocking statistic has been the case in Papua New Guinea for at least the past twenty years and nothing has changed.

"Rasta was accused of sorcery by the people in her village after the death of a local young man in 2003. She was set upon by a crowd at his funeral then beaten and strangled before she escaped. She lost her hand in the attack. (Photograph by Vlad Sokhin)"
"'Sorcery' is often used as a pretext to mask abuse of women", says  Amnesty International. This shows that people often have alternative motives behind their accusations of witchcraft. This parallels events in The Crucible, during the Salem witch trials. In Salem, people accused others of witchcraft for revenge, acquisition of property, jealousy etc. People in Papua New Guinea are acting in similar ways, covering up their actions with sorcery.

The citizens of Salem were not protected from these accusations under any Constitution, therefore making these accusations easily to legitimize, and the people of Papua New Guinea are not protected either, but on the contrary, their attackers are protected under the Sorcery Act of 1971. This act says that the accusation of sorcery is considered enough defense in murder cases. This strong connection to The Crucible is concerning because many countries, like the United States, have advanced towards providing more civil liberties to their citizens, while Papua New Guinea seems to be stuck in 1692,  time with much injustice as illustrated by The Crucible. How did Papua New Guinea end up so behind?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Code Switching in the White House

Michelle Obama was on Jimmy Fallon the other night, and I noticed a very interesting code switch during her interview. She was reenacting a conversation with her husband, the president, when she switched tones. She said, acting as if she was talking to her husband, "Yo babe, hook me up". This was very interesting because she had spoken with such sophisticated language for the whole rest of the interview previously, and suddenly her tone completely changed.  This  language reminded of stereotypical  African American slang, which to  me proves  that Michelle Obama was trying to show that they can be the typical African American couple, to relate to more people.

Is code switching necessary when you hold a position like the president of the United States?

I did some research to annswer this question, and came across an article by NPR which explored the reasons that people code switch. It said that "A lot of folks code-switch not just to fit in, but to actively ingratiate themselves to others." I believe that this is what the Obamas are trying to do by code switching. They are trying to appear more relatable to the people, and gain their approval..

 I think it is neccessary for people in power, like the president, to code switch to the degree until they are being fake or are lying. Everyone code switches; people speak differently to their friends than to their bosses. It is a natural occurrence that helps people navigate different social or professional situations. To what degree can the president, or other people of power, code switch? Is there a line that is should be drawn?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

"Fit to Print"

As I walked into my kitchen today, I was greeted by a familiar newspaper, spread out across the counter. The New York Times has become a common household object at my house, and is a generally very widely read newspaper. Its stories reach thousands, and many people rely on the New York Times as a major source of current events.

As I glanced across the page, I noticed a small box in the top left corner, with what appeared to be the motto of the newspaper. It read: "All the News That's Fit to Print". This made me wonder:

What defines what is "fit to print"? What goes into making this decision, and what is the impact?

In order to answer these questions, I realized that newspapers in general are, in a way, a construction of history. Newspaper editors determine which stories are most important to be remembered and reported, based off of their own opinions through their own interpretation. This selection process tailors the news to create a certain picture of the world, either a picture that is as accurate as possible, or skewed in one way or another. Many things influence the decision of what is "fit to print", making the decision making process even more complex, and sometimes corrupt.

The public has realized this, and created an answer to that corruption. An organization called FAIR works "as an anti-censorship organization" to "expose neglected news stories and defend working journalists when they are muzzled." This group describes their opinion on bias in the media on their website:

 "Mainstream media are increasingly cozy with the economic and political powers they should be watchdogging. Mergers in the news industry have accelerated, further limiting the spectrum of viewpoints that have access to mass media. With U.S. media outlets overwhelmingly owned by for-profit conglomerates and supported by corporate advertisers, independent journalism is compromised."

Does this quote define the process of finding what is "fit to print"? Is that decision made through relationships with allies of other companies which is mutually beneficial, but overall harmful to the audience of the media? We must be aware of the bias in the media, and realize that a popular newspaper like the New York Times heavily dictates what people know about current events, and what they don't know. Is that what news is supposed to be?