April 30, 2007

What is Culture?!

After our continuous class discussions and work surrounding the subject of multiculturalism, and after making an attempt at concluding what culture means, it was very interesting to sit down and see how much culture is around me each and everyday. What was most interesting to see was that I do not even take the time to stop and notice the different aspects and happenings of culture that surround me everyday. I decided to take about 15 minutes and observe the culture in Coffman Union down near Starbucks in “The Cube�. I sat down at a table and looked around, what I saw seemed typical, until I really thought about it. At the table next to me were two girls in sorority sweatshirts, one was on her cell phone drinking Starbucks, and the other one was on Facebook. To my right were two Asian guys, and as stereotypical as this sounds, they were working on math, what appeared to be an extremely high level of calculus or even higher than that. To my left were two girls who seemed to be from a culture from somewhere in the Middle East. They were speaking a language that I did not recognize and were doing some type of studying or project together. “The Cube� was not extremely busy, so there was not too much going on, some people were alone, most were reading or doing homework. Some adults were there as well, appearing to be working on projects or things for work. About 5 minutes into my observations, two guys sat down behind me, who appeared to be very smart. They had numerous textbooks, calculators and were dressed a bit on the nerdy side, once again, being stereotypical. Across “The Cube� I saw two boys in Gopher Football t-shirts and backwards baseball caps joking around and throwing pencils at each other, the divisions between groups of people were extremely evident. As we have discussed and concluded since almost the first day of class, people surround themselves with people similar to them. I think it is just natural, and something our culture has come to be, divided. It’s not a good thing, and it’s pretty un-American, but when it comes down to it, we will always be divided in some way. As I look back on my old notes, is says we defined culture as a system of shared meanings and symbols in a common group of people, including things such as clothing, religion, language, education, age, morals, traditions, ethnicity or race, social class, habits, music, art and priorities. If I took these aspects into consideration and look back on my observations at Coffman, the divisions seem to make sense. People are most comfortable surrounding themselves with people who have many of these aspects in common, I do, and I bet you do too. However, it is and will always be important to try and get as close to crossing these lines and divisions as possible, and expanding our knowledge of diversity and culture. After all, we do live in the most diverse nation in the world, and it will only become more diverse as the days go by.

April 23, 2007

Suburb Citizens or City Cats?

The Suburbs through the Eyes of a City Cat:
The suburbs are boring and quiet; there is absolutely nothing to do. Only rich, white couples with 3 kids each live in the suburbs. The only things people of the suburbs have are big houses and a lot of money. The suburbs are filled with children, nice cars, parks and mini-vans covered with “Soccer Mom� and “My kid was Student of the Month� bumper stickers. The suburbs lack activity or any sort of excitement. It is almost impossible to do anything or get anywhere without a car. Suburbs are clean and well taken care of, with trees and flowers everywhere. But what fun are trees and flowers? Applebee’s and McDonald’s are about all you can find in a suburb, occasionally a bank, as the rich people need somewhere to keep their riches. Kids on bikes, scooters and skateboards fill the sidewalks. Kids roam neighbor’s yards on their way home from school or just because they have nothing better to do. All of the houses look the same, so do the people.

After reading the articles about urban and suburban design, and after our in class writing activities and discussion, some new thoughts came to mind. I came to a final conclusion that people live where they want, and where they can. My family, for instance, chose to live in the suburbs because my parents prefer a quieter and secluded lifestyle. Through growing up in the suburbs, I came to appreciate them, and feel comfortable living there. However, this does not mean that I do not feel comfortable or enjoy living in the city, I mean; I DO go to the University of Minnesota. I think people tend to segregate and live around people similar to themselves, which I do not see as a problem. What I do see as a problem, is certain areas becoming so segregated, that certain places start to discriminate against certain groups of people. For instance, as we discussed in class, the suburbs would not be a convenient place for a family to live who cannot afford a car. As they would not be able to easily get around and carry on with their lives. As the city is not a place for a family who wants a quiet, secluded life and to keep to themselves. I suppose there are neighborhoods and developments being built everyday, but, eventually there is going to be a time when no more houses can be built, and things will just be as they are. These living circumstances and problems must be things that are extremely difficult to change, as it is just natural for people to live in places that meet their financial, social, cultural and personal needs. I think this is just another one of these topics, which we have been discussing all semester, which is “just the way things are�.

April 8, 2007

Advertising and People of Color

After reading the article “Advertising and People of Color� I was again surprised by the irrelevance of much of the information with respect to today’s time and today’s society. The article notes that most of its studies and collected statistics came from the 1970’s, where society and racial perceptions were much different than today. So immediately upon starting to read this article, I had to keep that in mind. A few things from this article struck me as interesting and worth a conversation or discussion, however the rest I thought was pretty absurd, much like the Disney princess article our class recently read. The argument in the article about the Asian woman being asked to cut her bangs for a modeling shoot was completely irrelevant, because any woman of any race would have been asked to do the same. If a photo company is looking for a certain look, they will find a model that will perform for them, therefore I do not think this situation had anything to do with racial stereotyping. Another piece I thought was a little bit out of context was the part about how blacks and Latinos were becoming incorporated into advertisement more, but Native Americans and Asians were not. Commercial companies cannot physically please each race in each and every commercial. In many commercials today, there are only 1 to 3 actors, making it difficult to display much racial diversity. I do not think that non-representation of certain races in advertisement is any sign of racism. My ideas may seem ignorant and biased; however, I truly do not think there is any intention of degrading racial minorities in advertisement today. Back in the 70’s it may have appeared this way, however, in today’s time, many of the races described in this article are not even considered minorities anymore. I also think the actual advertisement companies themselves have a lot to do with the representation in their commercials and ads. Is a company composed of mainly Caucasian workers really going to include no white people in their ads? There are a lot of factors that need to be considered when taking racism in advertising into consideration. I just do not think this article or its authors really thought through some of their arguments. I am not saying that there is not stereotyping in the media or in advertisement (although I cannot personally think of any major stereotyping in ads today), that is pretty obvious, but I do not think that there is a whole lot of intention behind it. I think it is just what American society has been accustomed to. This is by no means a good thing, and advertisement agencies should be careful when considering racial implications, but I think that they do, and there is no intention to be racially offensive in advertisement today, they are just doing their best to get the highest level of attention put on their product.

April 3, 2007

Pretty Little Princess

After reading the article “Construction of the Female Self: Feminist Readings of the Disney Heroine� and after participating in our class discussion, I am still not sure about what to take from this article or this subject of discussion in general. The way that these feminist critics look into each and every simple aspect of Disney movies, and try to see how they can depict them as giving little girls messages about being “the perfect girl� absolutely blows my mind. There is no psychological or biological way that girls in the age range that view these Disney movies can comprehend the implications these feminist activists are saying they do. These movies are a form of entertainment, what would be entertaining about a Disney movie if the princess did not end up with her prince in the end? I cannot think of a story that would appeal to little girls that solely involves aspects surrounding feminist ideas. I myself watched these movies as a young girl, and cannot think of a time when I thought to myself, or convinced myself that I was a girl and therefore I had to keep my mouth shut, be pretty and find my perfect prince. I think every child, regardless of what ideas they take from movies, will eventually grow to find that they are simply just Disney movies, and do not make significant implications for life in the real world. I thought the article and our class discussion were extremely over the top and almost ridiculous, the ideas the feminists pulled and manipulated from these movies were even over my head. I cannot think of one girl of the “Disney Princess� age that would comprehend those types of ideas. And once they do, they will be at an age where they are no longer basing their actions off of solely things they see in the media. They will be more influenced by their friends, teachers, siblings and family. At this age they will also be capable of making personal decisions for themselves, disregarding the ideas and expectations of others. I cannot think of any piece of media from my childhood that has anything to do with the personal beliefs, goals or expectations I hold in my own life. I know I do not need to live my life with my only goal being to find the perfect guy, I know I can be a successful person in the world without being a top model, and as we all know, I definitely do not sit back and keep my mouth shut.

March 27, 2007

"In Living Color" Response

After reading the article “In Living Color: Race and American Culture� and after taking part in our class discussion, I began thinking about the “invisible� lines between races and different groups of people in society. These “invisible� lines between groups in society have been molded into our minds through simply living in society, which is why many of us, as members of the American society, probably do not think about them very often, if at all on an everyday basis. However, when one of these “invisible� lines is crossed by someone, we do take note of it. When something seems out of the “ordinary� or someone is not acting “as they should� according to our molded stereotypes, we feel uncomfortable. For example, if I saw a Caucasian person walking around campus in overly baggy jeans, a XXXL t-shirt and a backwards baseball cap while listening to rap music, I may think that it somewhat out of the ordinary. In that one example, I just listed 4 stereotypes that I, personally, have molded into my head as what a certain racial group looks and acts like. If on an occasion I saw someone not included a specific racial group, acting as if they were, according to my stereotypical assumptions, I would possibly feel uncomfortable or make note that they are not acting as they “should�. These “invisible� lines not only exist between racial groups, but other classifications of people in society as well. Take for example a male, who acts very feminine, when we are faced with this on the street, we may feel uncomfortable, or take note that they are not acting according to the expectations of the people of society today. Most of the examples noted in this article were a bit extreme, and would be considered overt racism, such as saying black people cannot own baseball fields or teams, but they can only play. However, I think on a day to day basis, the racial judgments we make on others around us are more along the lines of inferential racism. These are stereotypes that represent people on the basis of their race, but do not necessarily discriminate them or keep them out of the production and development of popular culture. I do not necessarily think these are hurtful judgments, or are discriminative, and they are just a part of our culture and the way in which society has formed our minds to think about the people around us.

March 8, 2007

"People Like Us" Response

After viewing the video “People Like Us� and participating in our class discussion, I left the classroom feeling like I was one of few who held a certain opinion about social classes. Despite the opinions of others, I am holding strong to my beliefs. To sum up my opinion as simply as possible, “if there is a will, there is way.� I understand that social class has a lot to do with a person’s upbringing, their parents’ social status, looks and popularity. However, this does not mean people cannot break these molds. My mother grew up in the lower class in the middle of North Dakota, as did my step-father in Germany. My mom sewed all of her own clothes and picked food from my grandmother’s garden to cook dinner. My grandfather was an army sergeant and my grandmother was a schoolteacher. My mom has only 2 other sisters, my father is an only child, but yet still, they were both brought up in not-so-wealthy homes. Today, my family, consisting of me, my 2 brothers and my parents, would be classified as upper-middle or even upper class. My family is a specific example that movement between social classes is very possible. If there is a will, there is a way. My mother worked and saved through her adolescence to put herself through school. She went to the nearest school to her house, and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. My step father moved here from Germany at age 18 to attend college in the States, and was here on scholarship and grant money. Upon meeting and getting married, my mom and my step-father both came out of college close to bankrupt. However, through working with a strong will and determination, they made up their debts and kept us kids well taken care of as well. Today, my mother is a stay at home mom and a yoga instructor, and my step father is the vice president of a consulting company. If a person truly wants to achieve something, and puts 100% of their heart into their goals, nothing is impossible. There was a quote from someone in the video that was “you either have it or you don’t�. I completely disagree with this statement, if you don’t have it; you just need to work to get it. We are all here in college, working to achieve our goals. Granted, it takes a good chunk of money to be here, but with a little work, and a whole lot of heart, anything is possible. It may take longer for some, it may be much more difficult for some, and it may cause a lot more stress for some to get where they want to be, but everything is achievable. Getting somewhere substantial takes a lot of hard work, but hard work is much easier than living in poverty. I choose hard work.

February 27, 2007

"Class and Virtue"

In Michael Parenti’s article “Class and Virtue� he discusses many great examples about television shows and movies that present working people as less desirable and less moral than the people of the upper class. He uses a lot of strong arguments and many reliable examples, however, I think there are is a lot of media today that challenges Parenti’s ideas. I think a huge contradiction to Parenti’s ideas can be seen in the television drama “Grey’s Anatomy�, in particular, one character; Callie O’Malley. Parenti discusses how women, people of the working class and minorities in general are never seen plot in a position of power or meaning in the media today. Parenti states that they are always generalized as unlettered and uncouth, and are put in shows only to support the virtues of the upper class. However, Callie O’Malley is a pure contradiction to this argument. Callie O’Malley is a female, of Hispanic background, and is a member of the lower class. However, Callie holds a very prestigious and honored position as a resident of surgery in the hospital she works at. Not only does Callie have control over all of her interns, but she also has control over her own husband, who is also an intern. With this example alone, there are four major challenges to Palenti’s argument. First off, a woman is cast in a leading and powerful role. Second, a person of a different background; more specifically a Hispanic background, is cast in an authoritative role above many Caucasian characters. Third, Callie is cast in a position of authority over her own husband, which is not only expressed within the walls of the hospital, but outside as well. Finally, Callie is of the lower class. She sleeps and lives in a secluded room in the back of the hospital. She cannot afford to stay in her own apartment, and when she gets kicked out of this backroom, she must move into a house with a group of her interns, those who she is an authority over in the work world. I do agree with a lot that Parenti has to say, and I do believe in a lot of media today, the working class is depicted in a negative manner. Their form of speech, appearance, and character roles represent this class in a negative way. However, I think his essay is highly debatable, and there are many examples that prove him completely wrong; as in the example I already discussed. In the end, I think his essay is really strong because of this, he has a strong thesis, with a lot of supporting details, and most of all it is highly debatable.

February 13, 2007

"Society's Need for a Queer Solution" and "Facing the Facts of Bigotry"

After reading the article “Society’s Need for a Queer Solution� I was pretty indecisive about whether or not I agreed with Archana Mehta. On one hand, some of his comments, such as “society deems people who do not follow heterosexuality as abnormal� and “why is comedic version of homosexuality more popular than the realistic version of homosexuality on television?� really persuaded me to agree with him. I think it is very true that more people are drawn to the humor of homosexuality rather than the reality of it. But then I also thought to myself, that I can see this from another perspective as well. I realized when I truly thought about it, that there are a lot of television shows that are broadcasted today that comically represent heterosexuality as well. Now, I understand that homosexuality is not commonly accepted among society, and that turning it into humor would be considered being offensive more than turning heterosexuality into humor, however, humor based around any stereotype exists somewhere in today’s television. I completely agree that homosexuality is looked down upon in society, and I understand that it could come off as offensive to homosexuals, but so many aspects of television could come off as offensive to many people.
The other article, “Facing the Facts of Bogotry� by Kate Nelson came as a shock to me when I read it. I never thought about racism or prejudice in that way. I never thought everyone could be racist, and I still haven’t decided if I agree or disagree. I think the word racist is a bit strong, and I wouldn’t use it in describing the stereotypes humans make everyday. However, I would agree with the fact that everyone is ignorant about the world around them. In at least one form or another, each individual is a bit ignorant. I agree with Kate that ignorance is not an excuse for racism, but I do not completely agree that because a person is ignorant that that makes them a racist. I think, along with Kate that it is important to realize this ignorance, but I would not go so far as to say that by not understanding our ignorance we are being racist.

February 6, 2007

"Cop Out?" Reaction

After our class discussion about the article “Cop Out?� by Christopher Sieving I tried to come to a conclusion about my opinion of the song and of the article. After class, I went home and decided to download and listen to some rap songs, mostly ones I had never heard before. As I was listening to them, I was astounded by the amount of hostility and violent language I heard. Parts of songs about murder, drugs, sex, rape, violence and every other explicit topic one could imagine. This discovery is what put my opinion into perspective. I realized that although the song “Cop Killer� was intended and aimed at a particular event in history, that a lot of rap music could be considered somewhat violent. An explanation for this is simply that times have changed. Listening to rap music about murder, guns, violence, drugs, rape, robbery, etc. is overlooked and almost unnoticed in today’s society. Back in the early 90’s, rap music and all it entitles was not common to society. Rap was not a huge part of American culture, or at least not at a level it is today. Today, rap is a huge part of our culture, and a large percentage of American’s listen to it on an everyday basis. Due to the fact that it is such an engraved part of society today, often times what is beneath the music is overlooked. I personally could pick out numerous songs that have lines that could be offensive to me, not to mention a number of others. I can only imagine that if I can see myself being offended by these lyrics, so many others probably could too. But the fact is, I do not look into the lyrics of rap music, and with the rap music that I do listen to, the lyrics mean nothing to me, and I do not actually think about them rationally. Back in the 1990’s, when “Cop Killer� was recorded and then Ice-T was socially forced to withdraw the song from distribution, I am sure rap music, more specifically, rap lyrics, meant a lot more to the public. Each word and phrase, keeping in mind that this song had an uncommonly extreme level of explicitness, could have been blown out of the songwriter’s intended context. I truly believe that Ice-T wrote this song by means of personal expression. I think he had a very strong opinion about the situation his culture was in, and thought the only way to express his emotions was through song. I do not think Ice-T intended for the lyrics to be taken literally. I don’t think he was saying he was going to actually go out and kill police officers, and I don’t think he was implying that anyone else should either. I cannot imagine what crazy things and extremes people would go to in today’s time if they took rap lyrics literally.

January 30, 2007

"Shitty First Drafts" Reaction

After reading the article “Shitty First Drafts� by Anne Lamon, I was extremely relieved. I am never satisfied after I write a first draft, and reading her comment “all good writers write them� took a big weight off of my shoulders. I never feel confident when I sit down and whip out a quick and extremely unorganized first draft of a paper, and I am never happy with what comes out in the beginning. The good ideas always flow in after my initial thoughts are on paper, and I have gotten some feedback from either my peers or my teacher. I agree completely with Lamon when she says “very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it�. Once you see your initial thoughts, then your deeper and stronger ideas come out to be later put on paper in an academic, formal paper structure. I always feel that when I just throw my first thoughts down on paper, I am being lazy, and not putting 100% into my paper. However, after reading Lamon’s statement that “the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts� I feel better just letting my thoughts out and putting them on paper, knowing that I can shape them later. It is relieving to know that no one will see my first draft and make any huge judgments on it, because everyone reading my “shitty� first draft is in the exact same position. No one will roll their eyes and think I am a terrible writer in their heads, but they will work with my paper to try and give me some direction and structure, so when I do my self revision I have not only my developing thoughts to work with, but also the developing thoughts of others. I know there will be a lot of revision to be done, but I must take it solely as constructive criticism and use it to my advantage to tweak and clean up my terrible first draft. This article reassured me that papers never start well, and papers are never truly finished or perfect, we just run into due dates.

January 22, 2007

"Ways of Seeing" Reading Reaction

Reading the excerpt from “Ways of Seeing� by John Berger was quite a new experience for me. As I was reading it, it was almost as if I had to analyze each and every sentence or phrase for its inner meaning. However, this was interesting, because as I evaluated each phrase, Berger made me think about a lot of things, art in particular, in a whole new way.
Berger had a wonderful approach to defining the word ‘perspective’. Berger states that “everything is in the eye of the beholder� which, when I think about it, I don’t think neither I nor anyone else could state that definition any better. After this, Berger proceeds to talk about the invention of the camera changing this definition. It was interesting for me to think about how perspectives could be different after this invention. Before the camera, ‘perspective’ was what only the individual’s eye could see. With the invention of the camera, a person’s ‘perspective’ can now also be what other eyes have seen. If my friend takes a picture and shows it to me, I now have a perspective of something that I physically did not see with my own two eyes, but I still have some ‘perspective’ on it.
Another interesting aspect to Berger’s article was his point that simple explanations or previous conclusions about images, paintings, and art can change how we, as individuals, view the image ourselves. For example, in van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows, seeing the picture by itself, I created a perception of the painting and formed my own conclusions about what he may have been thinking as he painted it. After seeing the painting with the explanation “this is the last picture that Vincent van Gogh painted before he killed himself�, my perception and conclusions about van Gogh’s thoughts behind this painting changed completely.
It was fascinating to read about Berger’s ideas on original art. I did not by any means agree with everything he stated, however, I thought it was very interesting to hear his viewpoint on original art. He concluded that “original art has lost its power through reproduction�. He claims that in its place is a “language of images and recreations�. I think original pieces still hold a lot of power, just based on the simple fact that they are originals. However, I do see his point on how reproduction in a way lessens the originality of the artwork. The originality only lies before the original piece, not before the reproductions. He also said that “art of the past has now become a political issue�, which I couldn’t agree more with. Art today seems to be about critics trying to figure out what the artist was thinking or trying to create, when that cannot really be done because so many other opinions have been formed around much famous artwork. One single opinion cannot really be ‘correct’. Art is now something we debate about, something political, not so much anymore is it something we enjoy and imagine about.
After this article I formed my own conclusion that our individual “Ways of Seeing� are solely based on experience. How we were raised, what we have seen, what we haven’t seen, what we have experienced, what we want to experience, and what we believe all have a role in how we as individuals view the world around us.

January 21, 2007

URL Address

Here is the URL address for my Blog:

http://blog.lib.umn.edu/shank066/eng1012

It was nice to meet all of you, I am excited to get to know all of you this semester!