For some reason the list “Stuff White People Like“ came to my mind recently. At first look I thought it was hilarious, and then I started to deconstruct its socioeconomic and political biases. All white people don’t like the Toyota Prius, for example. So, it probably would be better titled stuff upper middle class, liberal, urban/suburban, supposedly hip white people like. Then again the list is probably accurate when applied to the white people who would read that kind of list: people like me. Perhaps there should be another item added to the list, white people like to blog about diversity and in particular about being white.
This comic is really funny but also has a lot to say about gender stereotypes and expectation. The girl, Sara, is trying to shift the boy’s (Jeremy’s) gaze from her posterior to her boots, from a body part to a manifestation of her skill as a consumer. Jeremy is the standard adolescent male, focused only on Sara’s body, particularly a feature sexualized in the media. He is inarticulate until Sara helps him shape words so as to give a socially acceptable response. The presentation of Sara in this comic reminds me of the interview I heard with Peggy Orenstein about her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter where she says, “identity itself becomes performance for girls.” The comic also leads to consideration of how male artists, in this case Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, represent the female body.
For comparison one can also look at this comic from a little before the one above, a comic also focusing on the same body part.
Saw this piece online regarding lack of roles for black women on TV and in movies. I particularly agree that in the age of Obama with a black family in the White House and a strong (but not angry) black first lady, one would hope for better in terms of available roles. Then I remember that we asked our ninth grade diversity elective to watch situation comedies of their choice and report back on what they saw about American society. Except for the two (black) students who watched “Everybody Hates Chris,” as I recall no student reported on a situation comedy that involved black characters. The diversity came from Fez in “That Seventies Show” and various characters in “Outsourced.” That’s just a small sample of situation comedies, but perhaps it is a telling reflection of the ways shows target specific audiences. On the other hand, it is a bit odd to hearken back to the days when “The Cosby Show” was the great crossover hit.
Just noticed that while Akron East dropped the name Orientals for its sports teams there still is East High School (Rochester, NY) that uses that nickname. I wonder what the rationale is for keeping the name and if school officials have read Edward Said’s essay “Orientalism.” This naming does lead to larger questions regarding team names and stereotypical language, However, I also wonder if the naming came because both are “East” high schools. Did they used to have a fierce rivalry with the Occidentals of West High School? Also, if one buys and wears a school sweatshirt, what is one saying about the increasing geopolitical power of Asia? After all the wearer is “property of” the Orientals.
Read this comic in today’s paper. It led to meditations on the nature of God, the teaching of history, the perpetuation of patriarchy, and other topics–heavy material for Family Circus.
Nathaniel Rich at The Daily Beast is putting together a list of great American novels. The initial listing of sample texts is sadly lacking diversity (all white, mostly male), but selections have not actually been made yet. He will pick one book per month, each month corresponding to a year jumping by decade, so January is 1902, February is 1912, etc. Any literary types out there, join me in sending him ideas. These kinds of lists are totally subjective but great for discussion. Anyone remember the Modern Library’s list of best novels of the Twentieth Century?
Very troubling NPR story regarding the history of a Eugenics Board in North Carolina. The name alone evokes chills and dread. It is hard to believe there was a time when state sponsored and managed sterilization programs were seen as a good idea both for the community and the women involved. At least today that is a fringe opinion even though variations do pop up occasionally. See this Louisiana legislator’s ideas that include paying the poor to have their tubes tied while giving the higher income, college educated tax breaks to encourage reproduction.
Men are doing more grocery shopping so some stores are working on “man aisles.” Aisles where men’s products are concentrated so men feel more comfortable shopping (none of those awkward feminine products) and hence buy more. Check out the article at the Chicago Tribune.
The development might lead to serious questions of gender identity and the intersection with capitalism, but there are more important queries. How do men find the aisle since men never ask for directions? Do the aisles have their own separate music playing songs like “It’s Raining Men”? Will there be different shopping carts specifically for use in the “man aisle,” something more sports car than mini van? I like the tires on this one.
In this post Title IX universe, why aren’t there good, popular, underdog based, sports hero movies featuring female protagonists? A good, popular, underdog based, sports hero movie features the following:
1. Main character marginalized due to class and/or race facing daunting obstacles (such as Billy Mills in Running Brave as a native american from the Pine Ridge reservation, Rocky as a poor Italian American then Rocky as an undersized American fighting the Soviet Drago).
2. Main character faces an individual or group that is richer and or whiter than he is (such as the Cobra Kai in Karate Kid 1984 version, team Iceland in Mighty Ducks, ).
3. Through perseverance and original training techniques individual or team develops skill and toughness that will lead to victory (such as extreme practices in Miracle, wax on-wax off in Karate Kid)
4.Team or individual relies on a male coach who has issues of his own to overcome or is distrusted by the coaching community (such as Coach Buttermaker in Bad News Bears, Coach Boone in Remember the Titans)
5. (Optional) In movies with an individual adult or teen protagonist, after victory protagonist acquires or reacquires the affection of member of higher social class (such as in Major League and Karate Kid).
There are some exceptions. In Million Dollar Baby there is a strong female protagonist but she does not triumph in the end, at least in a literal sense. In A League of Their Own there is a heroic female team. The film is actually deeper than the average popular, underdog based, sports hero movie and thus does not fulfill some of the criteria on this list. The focus on the redemption of the male coach is also problematic. The best example of a movie with a female protagonist meeting the standards for a popular sports hero movie is Akeelah and the Bee. While it is a spelling bee movie, spelling bees are a form of competition shown on ESPN, and it does meet most of the criteria.
There is a British movie that fits this genre almost totally but Bend it Like Beckham is a uniquely English product as the title shows.
Why hasn’t there been a powerful, inspirational movie with a female protagonist (and even better a female coach) in this genre? Given the developing popularity of women’s athletics, an inspirational soccer or basketball tale could have a great audience. I, though, would personally argue for a film version of the Wilma Rudolph story about the athlete who overcame childhood polio to become an Olympic sprinter.
The court system again waded into the murky waters of loaded language recently in ruling that the use of the word “boy” by a white supervisor talking to a black employee did constitute evidence of racial discrimination. The fact that the court had to overturn its own ruling to come to this conclusion and that a list of civil rights veterans found it necessary to weigh in writing a letter explaining the impact of the term shows the level of difficulty or perhaps racial and historical amnesia involved. The court even got into the question of whether what mattered was how the person saying the term meant the term or how the person hearing the term heard it.
From an English teacher standpoint, I don’t see the debate. The Oxford English dictionary clearly labels the use of the term boy to refer to a subordinate, particularly one of a different race as offensive. But then again, how many people consult the OED before opening their mouth.