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Monday, May 28, 2012

I think I hear the fat lady singing.

Well, dear readers. All good things come to an end. Regardless of whether or not you'd call this blog a good thing, it's definitely coming to an end.

So I'm forced to say my goodbyes to you, dear readers. But I'd like to leave you with something before I go. Through research for this blog, if I've learned one thing, it's that appearances do matter.


Well, disembodied voice that I assume is my one dedicated reader (my mom), appearances really do matter. We live in a society that places value upon the outward appearance of its members. But what does this mean for us?

It means that we must fight to make sure that people are not discriminated upon based on this. Don't hate someone for the color of their skin. Don't hate someone for the color of their shirt, either (even if it doesn't match the color of their pants).

But we can also take away some cool tips from this slightly depressing realization. The system might change, but it will take time. In the meantime? Use the system in your favor. Realize its flaws and use them to better yourself or better others. Make a movie with accurate portrayals of race. Listen to what a female politician has to say instead of paying attention to what she's wearing. Be careful of the words you use to describe someone else's appearance. Be the difference you want to see in the world, kids.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Guest post: Alex

Hi everyone! My name is Alex, and I blog over at Socially Conscious Student, where I focus on a lens of social injustice and minority discrimination. But I also am really passionate and fairly knowledgeable about modern-day political cartoons; in fact, I have a separate tumblr with 15,000+ followers devoted to just that. So, since Meghana's lens is aesthetics, I'd love to combine some of her previous topics about visual arts and race.

If you live in the United States, your President is Barack Obama. He's African-American. One in five Americans and 52% of Mississippi Republicans think he's Muslim– he's not. Those three facts mean that he is not always a popular figure and has been the target of a lot of racism (such as the birther debate or a chain email depicting the Obama family as chimps, scroll to the bottom to see the picture).

As some of you may remember, this is not the first time where the President's cartoon depiction has been rather unsavory; the New Yorker caused quite a stir in July 2008 when it depicted Obama in a turban and Michelle Obama in an afro and with a machine gun.

Image from

The artist, Barry Blitt, said that the image was supposed to demonstrate how stupid fear-mongering is; standing alone, it seems to fear-monger itself.

I will admit straightaway that my own political cartoons blog is heavily liberal; tumblr users are generally a left-leaning group and I tend to lose followers when I post conservative cartoons. So, just for a day, I decided to head over to Townhall, a conservative site that has a political cartoons section, just so see how the other half lives.

I don't mean to be dramatic, but I found it a tad unsettling.

In my small sample, several cartoons pictured President Obama in uncomfortable black stereotypes. Click on the artists' names to see the original page.

Gary McCoy, 4/25/12

Michael Ramirez, 4/24/12

Chip Bok, 4/25/12

All of these cartoons depict Obama with exaggeratedly large lips and/or ears. In real life, he's not exactly Mickey Mouse.

Yes, it is in the nature of cartoons to overemphasize features, especially unsavory ones. But it's really important to note that this is racially charged. Big lips and big ears are a well-noted stereotype of black people. Andrea Sweets, a collector of racist black memorabilia, owns a 1960s bottle opener with "big ears and two protruding teeth that grab the bottle cap to pop the bottle open." In the same article, a Ferris State University professor notes that stereotypical depictions of black men include "slow-talking, childlike servants, wide-eyed, big-lipped buffoons or menacing, subhuman brutes."

Now, mainstream political cartoonists aren't depicting President Obama as a subhuman brute, nor are most of them attempting to emulate the New Yorker. But there's an important difference between the aforementioned political cartoonists and Bary Blitt. At this outright racist depiction, there was outrage and Blitt apologized. But at this more subtle racism that McCoy, Ramirez, Bok, and undoubtedly others perpetuate, no one says a thing.

Perhaps that's a common theme in the United States now. People think that just because we have a non-white president and no more Jim Crow laws, there's nothing else to do in race relations. But there are still large discrepancies.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Implicit Racism

I don't mean to be racist, but...

I hear this more often than I'd like. And I also get "but you're not black..." when I express distaste at an inappropriate racist joke or statement said around me. I think this is extra pronounced in the predominately white and Jewish suburb of Chicago I come from, but I also think that implicit racism is a huge problem ingrained in the culture of America.

It isn't accepted or allowed in 2012 to be openly racist, but tell a racist joke in my high school and you'll always get a chuckle. But for the few people of color (myself included) in my school, race is a daily reminder of how we're different. I often get jokes about Bindis, convenience stores, or the fact that my dad's name is Guru. Not that I think anyone's trying to be rude or to be racist, but there are often jokes that are a little too close for comfort.

Especially now, in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin, implicit racism is a huge problem in our society. I think that much of the problem is that much of the racism in this country comes more from a place of ignorance than of actual hate. People have been bred for so long not to notice this type of racism that it takes people of color to point it out over and over and over until someone finally takes notice.

How do we change people's views though? How do we educate people to realize that race should not be an issue for us in 2012? And what can I, as a simple high school student, do about it? This is a question I struggle with daily, and one that I do not have the answer to. If any of you readers have any idea on what to do, I'd be glad to hear it, because I'm stumped.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Are you racist?

Here's a test to find out!

It will also tell you if you're prejudiced against different religions, sexes, sexualities, weights, ages, presidents, and more!

But are these results valid? I, a huge advocate for equality in every sense of the world, showed up with a slight preference for light skin and a slight preference for straight people. But is this true? Honestly, I don't think it shows a lot about me, but I think that this test can illuminate something you may not have realized in yourself. The test measures the time it takes you to sort words into categories. For example, you sort the skin tones into two categories, but they can be matched with good and bad as well. But I think that like myself, many people would not say that they have a preference to a skin tone but may get a different result when taking the test. So as readers, I'd like to ask you something. Post in the comments if you take the test, and if you think it aligns with what you consider yourself to be.

Look out for my next post soon, I'd like to talk about implicit racism in our society, and maybe this test can help you realize some implicit racism that you carry with you before you read my next post.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spartans Connect

Sorry if this seems a little off of my usual topic, but I had an incredible experience today that I felt deserved sharing. Today, my school took a day off of a regular learning experience and engaged in an All-School Workshop we dubbed "Spartans Connect." The basic idea was that students and faculty would all come together as equals and share our passions. You could sign up for 45 or 90 minute presentations on someone's passion or expertise. There were presentations on things from travel to cooking to parkour. It ended up being a really fantastic experience, but I took away something really cool that made me think about my blog as well. In high school, you're judged daily based on what you wear or who you're perceived as. People see you wearing all black one day, they assume you're a goth. They see you carrying around a lacrosse stick, they assume you're an athlete. But what if you were just wearing all black because you thought the outfit looked cute, but you're really into painting. Or what if you were just carrying a lacrosse stick for a friend, but you're a fantastic poet? This Spartans Connect All-School Workshop allowed for students who normally wouldn't be able to indulge in their passions to do so, and it also allowed for students to find new passions. Even the teachers who were supposed to be chaperoning the sessions ended up taking a lot away from them, and I think that was a valuable aspect of this All-School Workshop. I'm so excited to see what my school does with this in future years (even though I won't be a student there anymore). This is a really interesting concept that is another way to go about educating our youth.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Women in the Oscars

While sitting around with my friends watching the Oscars yesterday, I got to thinking about women's roles in the Academy Awards. With a little research, I found some pretty astonishing (although unfortunately not particularly surprising) information. Women have almost no role in any part of the Oscars process, from the voting to the actual winners. Yes, there are awards for women only, but in gender-neutral awards, men tend to win.
Why was it that when Kathryn Bigelow won Best Director in 2010 for her film The Hurt Locker? Because she was the first woman ever to win Best Director. Just as astonishing, only four women have ever even been nominated for the award.

And why is this? Well, probably because women are tragically underrepresented in both the voters and the groups of people eligible for the behind-the-scenes awards at the Oscars. Women make up a minute piece of the people involved in writing, directing, and producing the movies nominated for Oscars (see the graphic on the right).

But this very small minority could be making incredibly fantastic films, right? But would they be recognized for them even if they were? For this, we can look at the demographics of the people who vote on the films and people that take home the prestigious Oscar statue. The LA times wrote a fantastic article on not only the gender disparities in the Oscar voters but the large number of old, white men that make up the Academy. Here's an infographic that sums up the findings about the demographics of the Academy:

Now are we all that surprised that women don't tend to win or be nominated for male-dominated awards? Not particularly.

If you're interested in the subject or a little more on how the male perspective is favored in Hollywood films, here is a great video (what I'm talking about is around 3:22):

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Perception of Body Mods

Since yesterday was my 18th birthday, I did what many teens do when they hit this milestone: I bought a lottery ticket and a lighter. Why? Because I can legally do it. But I also got to fulfill a wish of mine. I was finally able to sign my own name on the consent form to get a piercing. I got an industrial piercing in my ear and a stud in my nostril. I'd been dreaming of the day that I could do it for years, and it finally came. This got me thinking about how people perceive body modifications like tattoos and piercings. I got a pretty positive response to my new piercings, but I had a few friends tell me that they didn't like it. Now, I don't take it offensively, but it's interesting that they feel that way.

The majority of those who disapprove or dislike piercings are of the older generation (my mom said it was my decision, but she didn't like it). Why is that? The common perception and acceptance of body modifications are changing. It used to be a taboo, that only a certain "undesirable" set of the population got, but now more than 70% of Americans have more than one tattoo.

But the opinion is not shifting radically. Though having tattoos and piercings is more accepted, most people believe that they should not be visible, especially in a professional environment. In a 2001 online poll, 85% of 1,009  respondents believed that having a visible tattoo or piercing would hinder you in the workplace.

There is also a negative stigma associated with tattoos. With all other factors the same, a person will be given more negative descriptions if they have a visible tattoo than if they do not by an audience.

Is this a fair assessment? Coming from a young woman who now has 3 new holes in her body and is planning on having more and some ink under her skin: no. What is on the outside of your body and the way you choose to express it does not determine who you are as a person. But I'm interested to hear what you all think. Are body mods appropriate in all contexts or only in certain ones? Does a visible body mod change your opinion of someone? Leave your answers in the comments below!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Why do girls hate each other?

I have a confession. I have a little bit of a guilty pleasure: JennaMarbles on YouTube. And recently, she posted a video entitled "Why Girls Hate Each Other." Warning: her videos feature excessive profanity, but if you don't mind that, she has some really interesting things to say.
Jenna explains a phenomenon that many girls experience, but don't understand why. Girls are raised to be competitive with one another. If you're a girl, I'm sure you've experienced a time when you didn't feel as pretty as someone or thought that they dressed better than you, and hated or judged them for it. Women are constantly qualified and compared: you are nothing if you are not better than those around you.

And I'm not kidding, every girl has felt this way at one time in her life. Sociological Images posted another interesting blog about a meme of Marilyn Monroe, saying that the "new beautiful" (aka skinny) has replaced Marilyn's style of beauty (aka curvy).
But what purpose does this meme serve? Telling anyone who's not shaped like Marilyn that they're not beautiful. There are girls who are naturally skinny, like the photo on the right. And growing up, I could count myself into that category. I used to be made fun of for being "too skinny."And why? Probably because the girls who were saying that felt inferior (even though I in turn felt inferior to them).

Why is this exclusive to girls? Why do girls feel this need to be perfect all of the time? ItsKingsleyB***h on YouTube explains this phenomenon manifested in the females in his life:
One thing I find incredibly interesting about what he has to say is that he does not face these same pressures because he is a man. And this is true: men do not face the same pressures women do to be flawless at every hour of the day. The reason his female friends are putting on makeup to go out to the store? Because they feel like they have to. Because they can't be seen at less than their "best."

How do we stop this? I don't know the answer to that, but I can tell you how I personally combat these types of feelings. You have to love yourself more than you care about what others think about you. I know that's way easier said than done...I get it. But it's a process, and all it takes are baby steps to begin. Start reprimanding yourself for negative thoughts about your body or appearance. Don't let yourself think that you're not good enough. Be positive. If you train yourself to think that way, eventually it will start becoming true, even if it's not now.

Because every person is perfect exactly the way they are, and they should be able to do whatever they want. If you want to wear a full face of makeup for fun? Go ahead. But you also shouldn't be afraid to be seen without it. Crazy clothes? YEAH!

If you're interested in this type of mindset, I'd like to direct you to one of my favorite blogs, The Man Repeller. Part fashion, part feminism; Leandra focuses on wearing whatever she wants, bonus points if it makes men run screaming.

And I'm interested to hear what you think about this subject? Is there a way to combat this mindset on a macro level? What about in your daily lives? What do you think?