Monday, April 30, 2012

The Gender Pay Gap- A Sham?

In my sociology class right now we are learning about the “gender pay gap” in the workplace. I know we talked about this in class a bit, and I found some really interesting and thought provoking ideas from class and online that I wanted to share. There are many different arguments on this subject as it goes against equality of genders; a lot of people do not want to say this doesn’t exist because they are afraid of being “sexist.” I have, however, found that there are strong reasons for this gap besides discrimination.

Most women, when looking for a career, have the idea of “starting a family” in their head as well. They want a job that will allow for flexible hours, benefits, and less education time in order to spend more time raising their kids. Men, on the other hand, feel the need to provide for their families and tend to take more high risk, long hours, high paying jobs. Although this is a “stereotypical” way of looking at families, men making the money and women raising the kids, it is still very prevalent in America.

In my family, my dad was definitely always the “bread-winner,” while my mom stayed home to be the nurturer and instructor. I know that in picking a career for my future, I absolutely had my family in mind. It’s not that I want to sacrifice my education and opportunities for a job that is “below” me, I just firmly believe in raising my own kids and not sending them to day care for someone else to do it. I, personally, can say that I would choose a lesser-paying job if it meant better hours and more time with my family.

I think a lot of women put their need to be a “mommy” over the satisfaction of having a large pay check. I am not dissing my sex for this in any way, but think of it as a choice we have consciously made for our futures. I do, however, believe that we do not have the right to complain about a gender pay gap if the reason for this gap is our own doing. (I know that in some studies where a woman and man are both interviewed and the woman is offered less for the same job, there are reasons to be upset, but I am simply talking about the AVERAGE pay gap that feminists freak out about).

I found this article online about the "8 Reasons Why the Gender Gap is a Total Sham".There is a lot of it that I agree with, but also they don’t seem very understanding of why people are getting upset. They are just accusing women who want equal rights of being ignorant complainers.

Although I believe to a rather great extent much of what this article says, there is definitely a part of me that cringes at the thought of a woman being turned down for a position (or being paid less) simply because of her gender. This should never be the case, as equality should be guaranteed now in the 21st century. When discussing the same jobs and unequal pay, I agree with the feminists who argue for chopping the gap because it truly should not exist. However, when we look at the average pay for American men and women, it gets much iffier and harder for me to judge, as even I am choosing a job that puts my desire for a family over a successful career.

Buffy vs The Partriarchy: How much does it reflect reality?

As I way skimming through the Slayage website, an article titled " Are you ready to finish this?" : The Battle against the Patriarchal Forces of Darkness caught my attention but not only did it offer me a new perspective on the role that patriarchy plays in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it connected to an article that I read on how a group of nuns is under fire in the Catholic Church on the role in teaching sexuality.

 As is mentioned in the second article, a group of nuns in America has been chastised by the Vatican for supporting "radical feminist themes." Among these themes is support of contraception and feminine description of God. While I don't mean this as an attack of the Church, I think it's important to see that what the Vatican is doing is denouncing opposing viewpoints just for the fact that they are different from what the Church teaches. It is also rejecting reality. Despite the fact that it preaches against contraception, more than 90% of Catholic women use it. However, for the fact the Catholic Church is one of the oldest patriarchies on planet Earth, it can afford to reject reality and still hold power.

The first articles mention how Caleb, first introduced in the episode "Dirty Girls" is a caricature of the Church by not only looks, but what he says : "If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city." He seems intolerant at first, but not misogynistic. That is, until he sticks a knife into a young girl's belly as a warning to Buffy. Through Caleb, the article mentions, we get to see a different oppressive system at work- the Watchers Council. Whedon used Caleb's overt intolerance to show the Councils intolerance.  One may have noticed that there are always new Slayers, but the Council always stays the same. It's no surprise that they have to send Watchers for the female slayers, lest they break free from the Council's control. Buffy's, being as smart as she is, picks up on this fact and tries to break away : "See I've had a lot of people talking at me, last few days. People just lining up to tell me how unimportant I am. And I finally figured out why. Power. I have it. They don't. This bothers them."

So, the way that the show reflects reality is quite surprising on some levels. Both Buffy and the nuns are both fighting patriarchies which control them in different, but rebellious ways. The nuns are doing it by trying to reinterpret their faith, while Buffy does it by asserting her independence. It's important to keep that the universe that Buffy lives in isn't real. Rejecting a patriarchy is not easy to do in reality because there are few women who have as much power as Buffy. And even if women were able to get rid of patriarchies and set up matriarchies, there would be any difference. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hybridity in the Poem "I"

While I was looking through the texts we’ve been assigned over the past semester, I’ve struggled to find yet one poem that cannot be applied to Cole Swensen’s contemporary hybrid model. Especially when looking at modern and post-modern poetry. For example, in the poem “I” by David St. John, the persona of the narrator is constructed through use of specified and genuine diction, but also makes the memoire-like piece relatable and/or appealing to the general audience by allowing the audience to act as a confidante to this deeply sexual, and personal confession. The concept of Hybridization, as defined by Swensen which is to “mandate to renew the forms and expand the boundaries of poetry—thereby increasing the expressive potential of language itself—while also remaining committed to the emotional spectrum of lived experience,” can clearly be applied to this concrete yet simultaneously abstract moment; the text merely allows a place for the reader to interact.  While the first two-thirds of the poem are based on a superficial level, there is specificity and perceived truth to the various items mentioned: “Animal House,” “Dennis Hopper,” and “sushi at Hama” are all hyper-specific details that make the poem more believable, but I would argue that they are too specific to allow most readers with which to find connection. These somewhat mundane, meaningless opening lines, which consume most of the poem, still serve their purpose to act as a major contrast (or foil) for the ending,  “universal” lines of the poem.
All of the personal elements are implemented correctly, but (I think) what really makes this poem a confession is the sexual and passionate turn that the poem takes in the last third of the poem. The line ending with “But today…” act as a turning point from concrete to abstract. One of the most notable features of transcendence is the “body” vs. “shadow” complexity. This contrast helps to show that the narrator thinks of his body as a shell, and that intimacy is created through the interaction of the “naked” woman and himself.  This intimacy attracts the reader as not only a confidante, but may conjure up similar memories and feelings of the narrator.
I think one aspect of hybridity that Swensen fails to focus on is how the hybrid nature of a poem is constructed and does not make it specific where or if elements of concrete and abstract need to interact with one another. For example, in St. John’s piece, there is a clear disconnect between the elements of concrete specific nature, and the elements of universality. I would argue that a poem that weaves in elements of both (instead of having them remain in juxtaposition) is very different from the one that follows the pattern of the poem “I”.  I think that there should be a further distinction between poems of both types. 

Kanye West: A Modern Day Ginsberg?

In class we discussed the poem “America” by Allen Ginsberg and its deep resentment towards America of the mid-twentieth century. “America when will we end the human war? // Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb,” Ginsberg writes. When it was fashionable to condemn everything that was considered Communist due to an ongoing Cold War with the Soviet Union, Ginsberg wrote about his positive experiences at Communist Cell meetings where “the speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the workers it was all so sincere.” It is important to keep in mind that he previously had asked America when it would be angelic; this repetition highlights the fact that most of America lacked certain desirable qualities that Ginsberg could find only in socialist communities.
Meanwhile, in songs such as “All Fall Down,” rapper Kanye West highlights the issues that exist alongside the personal quest for acceptance by the mainstream industry. He renounces our emphasis on material goods and image (“the prettiest people do the ugliest things”), much as the beat poets—Ginsberg and others—did decades before. Additional thoughts on “All Fall Down” are well-described in Jason's and Brian’s posts Mind Over Money and And It All Falls Down?, not to mention my comment response. 
Chris’s article posted to Blackboard, David Samuels' American Mozart, brings up similar ideas about Kanye’s role as “a narcissistic monster who tore a massive hole of self-regard in the American cultural quilt.” The article asks “What did Kanye West do to deserve all this?” and answers by citing a controversial telethon outburst directed at President Bush in 2005 and the incident at the 2009 MTV VMA’s with Taylor Swift. Due to his often extreme and erratic behavior, American Mozart describes Kanye as a “petulant, adolescent, blanked-out, pained emotional mess who toggles between songs about walking with Jesus and songs about luxury brands and porn stars.” At the same time, though, his eighteen Grammy Awards attest to his brilliance as a producer and rapper. The article moves on to explain Kanye’s newest work, a collaboration with Jay-Z on the Watch the Throne album, as an attempt to move into the realm of respectability of his critics. This act is a demonstration of him “putting his queer shoulder to the wheel,” so to speak.
Although Kanye has obviously enjoyed mainstream recognition and success as a musical artist, I think he shares more traits (both in his lyrical work and public persona) with Ginsberg and other beat poets than most realize.

Mind Over Money

Famous people often seem to have a handle on life, to be in control of the situation. However, in “All Falls Down,” Kanye West suggests a contrasting belief. According to Kanye West, the attire, bling, and fancy cars, of these people are simply shields, blocking their low self-esteem. Although often times, people believe that the rich have figured out life through their monetary success, in actuality, these expensive items tend to be their way of making themselves less self-conscious, suggesting that wealth, although possibly a short term solution, does not solve all of life’s problems.
While it is common to see rappers or famous people wearing brand-name clothing, diamonds, or driving fancy cars, in “All Falls Down,” Kanye West claims that the reasons for these riches are self-consciousness and a low self-esteem. “We shine because they hate us, floss cause they degrade us.” Often times, rappers face criticism, which can cause them to compensate in other ways. One form of compensation is to look immaculate and buy the most expensive items, to shine. Slick Rick dedicates an entire half of his song "La Di Da Di" displaying his impeccable dress and brand name clothing.

Furthermore, Kanye West says, “I spent 400 bucks on this just to be like nigga you ain’t up on this.” The wealthy possess money that others do not, and therefore, by purchasing expensive apparel; they provide themselves a short-term Band-Aid of confidence.
Although money buys clothing, jewelry, and cars, it cannot buy long-term confidence or a clear head. “We buy our way out of jail, but we can’t buy freedom.” Despite this line and the one before referencing the way he treats jail and the police, Kanye West is not talking about the police as much as he is himself, and the limits of money. His persona in this song does not treat the police well because he can buy his way out of jail. He has money. However, when freed of the constraints of the jail cell, he is not freed of his own head. He remains so self-conscious from all of his critics and fans opinions, that he renders himself permanent slave. Kanye West’s claims extend further to famous people as a whole. Because they tend to constantly be in the spotlight, they must always worry about others opinions towards them. Therefore, Kanye West reveals, “We’re all self-conscious I’m just the first to admit it.”
Kanye West’s message in “All Falls Down,” is that money does not buy happiness and yet people constantly use money in an attempt to cover up their self-consciousness. “Drug dealer buy Jordans, crackhead buy crack… I got a problem with spending bills before I get it… Single black female addicted to retail.” These monetary problems exist in people in all walks of life. Yet in all of these examples, the people are buying the items to shield their own self-consciousness. While these attempts to shield their insecurity from the world may seem to work from the outside, they are only creating a larger problem on the inside. Because along with their insecurity that returns after the initial relief goes away, they sometimes create addictions to purchasing these expensive items. 

          This problem has lasted many years. Kings in the olden days adorned themselves with jewels and clothes of the age, years ago, some people wore elaborate suits and wigs, and today, rappers often wear bling and drive fancy cars as symbols of their wealth. 

While these riches may represent wealth, they do not suggest inner peace, self-confidence, and a strong handle on life. We are all self-conscience. Money is not always the answer. 

Gender Stereotyping Children's Entertainment

 In searching for a new topic for discussion, I came across a New York Times article that was written about a gender stereotyping controversy in television programming. The chief executive of the Fox Family Channel, Rich Cronin, wanted to create two new television networks called The Boyz Channel and The Girlz Channel. Cronin felt strongly that there are some forms of entertainment that girls enjoy while boys do not and vice versa. He also wanted Fox to keep up with the current programming trend of specialized networks; for example, MTV is geared towards the general teenage audience and ESPN for sport fanatics. In creating a specialized network, the television company can secure more advertisers with the promise of attracting viewers that would appeal to particular products or services.

Cronin believed that the network would not be exploiting the differences between boys and girls but rather acknowledging their existence. The selection of entertainment for each channel would be determined by boys and girls responses taken from surveyed focus groups and determined appropriate for children by developmental specialists. Cronin argued that he wouldn’t be making a girly girl channel or a super boyish boys channel; however, he doesn’t plan to put particularly boyish shows on the girlz channel just to disprove gender stereotypes.  In order to justify his positive intentions for the two stations, Cronin mentioned that he has sisters that have professional occupations and has two daughters. He likes to think of the channel separation as a “celebration” of gender differences.     

I find that it is not very surprising that many parents, feminists and other programming directors were opposed to this children’s network specialization by gender. Children are easily influenced by what they see on television and creating a channel for girls and another for boys would send a message that girls should want to watch this while boys should want to watch that. I think that Professor Sheri Parks brought up a good point about the concern for how a boy would feel if he enjoyed watching a show that was on The Girlz Channel. It is possible that boys would not want to watch certain shows just because they are on the television channel that is clearly labeled as girl’s entertainment. In bringing up his female family members, Cronin is attempting to subtly prove that people should not fear that he would be sexist in the making of the two channels. By making this claim, Cronin actually weakens his argument because by no means does the fact that he has female family members demonstrate that he understand women. Children’s activist, Peggy Charren, has a high concern about Cronin’s programming plans because Fox has a history of promoting boy dominated action shows. I feel that Cronin is so passionate about creating the gender-separated networks due to the fact that he could target more advertisers by channeling specific audiences. Overall, I believe that he is out to find a way to make a large profit for Fox and himself.   

            This article was published by the NY Times in 1998 and the plans to launch the two channels were for 1999. I have searched for reports on the launch of the two channels or if the plans for the programming fell through.Unfortunately, I have not found any news on if there were or are The Girlz Channel and The Boyz Channel on television. Please feel free to comment with any evidence about the outcome of Cronin's networking plans!

And It All Falls Down?

In his single "All Falls Down", Kanye West hits hard on the topics of (1) industry and (2) industriousness to keep up with what the industry portrays as the perfect lifestyle. The subject of societal standards is addressed in the first stanza, with the narrator addressing a female confused in her identity in the world. One national example used is the failure of finding one's interest in the college they attend (I use the word "national" as it can be applied to people all over the nation). The female is too preoccupied with satisfying her parents' desires that she begins to lose track in pursuing what she wants out of life. One can view such preoccupation as (1) the female's belief that her parent's belief is the utmost thing to achieve in life, or (2) the parent's belief that college education will always lead to success. Either way, someone is lost in what has been established by society as the "right" way to live, which could differ from individual views and lead to "some issues that you can't believe."

Kanye West creates a story that attacks the matter of industry in both the second and third verses. In the second verse, the concept is tied to the narrator's "road to riches", as they partake in different activities in response to societal reactions. Such competition in the industry leads the narrator to also be competitive, just to note to others that "you ain't up on this." Thus, the narrator loses the opportunity to perform actions for the simplicity of one's own desire, rather to establish a hierarchy of which they dominate. In the third verse, the most influential line seems to be "and a white man get paid off all of that." Thus, no matter how much individuals seem to succeed in life, it seems that the white man has a hand in part of this success (benefiting without any effort).

Through this song, in its entirety, Kanye West creates a story that inevitably sends a wake-up call to all those on the "road to riches", to forewarn them that sacrifices will be made to follow success as the industry portrays. But does all fall down as the title suggests? Is Kanye referencing success by the industry as "all" that one can achieve in life? There is an ambiguity to what Kanye references in the title of this song as "all", and I would like to get an idea of what you guys believe this reference is explicitly.

Lyrics can be found underneath the YouTube video in this link:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

KYFC and The Book Report

The Keep Your Friends Close EP is up-and-coming rapper Dylan Owen’s newest musical project. Its first track, “Bookmarks,” begins with one of multiple segments on the EP that are reminiscent of free verse poetry; these portions are spoken rather than rapped completely in sync with the underlying beat. Dylan tells his listeners that his newest work is dedicated to the camp counselors “who taught me how to tell ghost stories,” and the teachers “who made me write a book report about the story of my life,” in doing so teaching him how to express himself. He also explains that his music is “for anybody who woke up without a feeling or a sense of home, and hates being alone, cause honestly I know how hard it can be to find yourself when you’re lost.”

But what does all of this mean exactly? With songs titled “Keep Your Friends Close,” “The Comeback Home,” and “Ithaca is Gorgeous” (the rapper is based out of Orange County, NY and attended Cornell University for some time) it is fairly obvious that Dylan’s small-town roots have had a profound effect on him: as much of an effect as urban environments have had on artists from New York and other cities that we studied in class.

On that note, images of railroad tracks and a field of marigolds convey a feeling that is distinctly rural in the rapper's song “The Book Report.” In this song he also confronts personal loss (parts of this song address a childhood friend with a sick family member) and reflects on his past and future. Those allusions to nature call to mind the themes of pastoral poetry; those to grief and loss strengthen ties to pastoral elegies such as Milton’s Lycidas.

I recommend at least a quick listen to the EP for those who enjoy hip hop that blurs the line between rap and poetry—Dylan’s work is impressive lyrically, not to mention it also tells a story that is as genuine as any other stuff out there. Anyone interested should check out a few tracks from the EP, not to mention the rapper's song “The Book Report” (video below).

Women in Hop-Hop

Hip-hop, and the entertainment industry as a whole, is male dominated. There are definitely successful females in hip-hop, but they are not nearly as prevalent as successful male artists. When one names the most successful rappers, it is unlikely a female would come to mind. Rather, names such as Jay-Z, Biggy Smalls, and Kanye West would most likely be suggested. One could argue that this is because of the masculine nature of hip-hop--violence, drug dealing, and getting girls; at the surface, hip-hop appears to primarily contain lyrics of male interests. Does this then indicate that hip-hop is a male directed genre, majorly by males for males?

Artists such as Lil Kim and Nicky Manaj have seen great success as female rappers, but their names do not hold the esteem of the male rappers of their times respectively. Is this due to sexism as a result of the content of the majority of rap songs? To illustrate this point, in the movie Notorious, Biggy is portrayed as Lil Kim's mentor, where she learns to rap properly with the assistance of a male--Big instructs her on what males want to hear, suggesting that hip-hop is an industry for males. Although this is not an actual occurrence, but rather a fictional portrayal, it demonstrates that this is the mindset of male rappers and the genre as a whole, as viewed by the clip below.

(Begin at 2:25)

Thus, is it just to say that hip-hop is a sexist segment of the music industry, or is it simply a male dominated genre due to its graphic nature that males are generally attracted to? 


In our most recent class, we discussed the lack of score in the episode “The Body,” I found this to be interesting because in another Buffy episode, entitled “Hush” for more than half of the episode there is almost no dialogue at all. “Hush” is often regarded as being one of the scariest Buffy episodes to be created, I know we have yet to watch this episode, however I was intrigued with all the hype behind it and decided to simply watch it (therefore, for those of you who are marathoning the show: SPOILER ALERT!!). In “Hush,” the voices were stolen by these demons called The Gentleman from all the residences in Sunnydale, this was seen as a very turning and different episode for never before had a show been filmed almost entirely without any dialogue and was mainly based off of the actors facial expressions to convey emotions, feelings, words, etc. This is very different from the lack of sound within “The Body” this is described very thoroughly in a blog post entitled, “Cultural Catch-UpProject: “The Body” (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Within this blog, the author brings up many good points discussing the differences in lack of sounds and dialogue and compares them to see the completely different message they send off to the audience.
 In one of the more resounding points the author makes is that, “we need to pay careful attention to silence: it’s not only about what is being said, but about who isn’t speaking, what isn’t being said.” I found this to be very clever, because often times when people are in the stages of early grieving, it is often the comfort of someone’s presence, rather than their words that often times can help someone much more. Or rather, this shows just how hard these situations can be—no one really knows what to says, no one knows how to make it better, so instead people just gather together and be there for one another. 
 One of the best excerpts, which truly describes the silence within “The Body” follows: “…silence in “The Body” is less awkward and more unsettling than the silence within "Hush": in silence lies the cold truth of Joyce Summer’s death from a brain aneurysm, and in silence lies the absence of what you’re supposed to be saying, how you’re supposed to be responding to a particular crisis. While The Gentleman were meant to represent the terror of silence in “Hush,” an in their actions did demonstrate how the inability to cry for help endangered the citizens of Sunnydale, there is no need for demonification of silence in the wake of this tragedy. When all is silent, each character starts to think about the gravity of what has happened, and each character begins to break down; for the audience, Whedon’s purposeful use of silence throughout the episode forces the same reflection, delivering a statement about the power of which is unheard or said.”
This last statement can definitely be seen throughout the episode, in particular when Buffy goes to tell Dawn of their mother’s death and in Dawn’s art class they are learning about negative space, this silence that comes with watching Buffy tell her sister is a negative space, we might not be hearing directly the exchange, but the visual we receive is enough for the audience to truly understand the despair the two young girls are feeling for their mother.
In contrast to what the author said earlier about the silence making what is not said to be important, he also argues that “the silence also increases the power of the things which are said, or the things which we implicitly say within silences. The small exchanges between the characters mean much more due to the lack of sound within this particular episode, for example Anya’s speech in the dorm room about no understanding the meaning behind death is often regarded as one of the best moments within the episode for the lack of words and the sudden rush of her words create this meaningful message that we all take away from this episode.
What did you all think of the lack of sound, dialogue, etc. within the episode? I definitely have to agree with the author of the blog, that the lack of score make both what is not said and what is said all the more important, for example I found the word, “cold” to stick out very much throughout the entire episode—from the very beginning when Buffy tells the 911 dispatcher, “she’s cold,” all the way to the very end of the episode when Dawn is looking at her dead mother and asks Buffy, “is she cold?”. I find these exchanges and words much more meaningful due to the lack of score and other sounds within the episode, focusing on the few words that are said, but making them all the more meaningful .

How Does Marriage play a Political Role in “Game of Thrones”?

As a continuation of my last blog post, in which I introduced various female characters in the series “Game of Thrones”, I would now like to focus on the recurring motif of marriage. In the Seven Kingdoms, marriage is a whole other concept of what is in contemporary American culture. Mainly, marriage in Westeros is used as a tool to solidify a political tie between two parties. Almost all the marriages are arranged and females do not have any say in who it is they are to marry. As women are degraded as someone with no useful capabilities except to further solidify a political tie, they nevertheless are able to exploit their newly political status to further their power.

Unsurprisingly, Cersei Lannister’s political status as the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms is acquired through her arranged marriage with now King Robert Baratheon. She does not love her husband and instead, has an incestuous relationship with her twin brother, Jaime Lannister. Her clandestine relationship with her brother and her motivation to keep it a secret leads her to kill the Hand of the king, Jon Arryn. Her marriage to Robert only signifies a nominal political tie to him and nothing more. Consequently, as women were expected to belong in the domestic sphere of the household, Cersei’s character breaks gender barriers. She only appears to be the wife of King Robert Baratheon, but in reality is plotting and  calculating almost every move the Lannisters make. Here's a video more on Cersei:

Another female character who is married in order to establish a political tie is Deaenerys Targaryen. Her brother, Viserys, her brother, forces her to marry Khal Drogo, the leader of the Dothraki. Because she is docile and expected to conform to gender roles, she does marry Khal Drogo. In exchange, Viserys is promised the Dothraki army to reclaim the throne, for the Targaryen siblings were exiled children of the previous king. In this case, Deaenerys is objectified as a tool to politically benefit her brother. However, Deaenerys gains a sense of belonging and community, comes to love the Dothraki people, and becomes queen, the Khaleesi of the Dothraki. Her character develops from the docile and gentle girl to an assertive and determined leader. The video below talks more about Deaenerys's character, her marriage to Khal Drogo and  her relationship with her brother.

 We also see the marriage of Ned Stark and Catelyn Tully. Despite that Catelyn was initially in love with Ned’s brother, Brandon. However, after Brandon’s death, Catelyn married Ned. They eventually grew to love each other. However, she could not forgive him when Ned went away to war and he had an affair and came back to Winterfell with his illegitimate son, Jon Snow. Despite that Ned commits adultery, I still find that the marriage between Catelyn and Ned revolves around love and trust, unlike Cersei and Robert. Nevertheless, similar to Cersei, Catelyn does not let gender roles define her. For example, she ventures out to seek justice to find out the real culprit of pushing her son, Bran, out the window, when he saw Cersei and Jaime together. Her quest for the truth and her quiet tenacity allows to Catelyn Stark exert her political influence in the Seven Kingdoms.

Watch the Throne

The discussion we had in class about “Niggas in Paris” reminded me very strongly about an article by Alex Pappademas that I read in GQ magazine about the great Jay-Z. The article is extremely entertaining and relates directly to our class; I encourage everyone to check it out (Link provided below).

The article boasts that Watch the Throne is an album with many deeper meanings, and having listened to the entirety of WTT, I feel like I have two possibilities for WTT.

(1) One viewpoint is that the album is just about “two grandiose motherfuckers explor[ing] the theme of grandiose-motherfuckerdom,” which many people would consider accurate. I mean, come on, even the cover of the album is a solid plate of gold. To strengthen this view, the “Niggas in Paris” song is the unofficial anthem of this album and has been played numerous times during the latter leg of the concert to close. With this view though, it seems Jay-Z and Kanye (Jay-Z especially, coming from the projects) are creating a gap between them and the lower class. And without this lower class, their music wouldn’t sell as much or mean as much to many, so this view doesn’t make much sense to me.

(2) The article also boasts another thought, that “Watch the Throne is an honest record about trying to find your moral compass when insane wealth and success have knocked down every boundary that once gave shape to your world.” Many tracks on Watch the Throne have this theme at heart, such as “New Day.” “New Day” explores the feelings and goals that Kanye and Jay-Z have towards their unborn sons (at the time) after living their lavish lives of glamour. Watch the Throne is about ornate extravagance, but the root of the album is self-discovery and self-analysis rather than braggadocio. In class, we also talked about the luck and chance that had to be a part of Jay-Z’s and Kanye’s skyrocketing careers, and they themselves even say that much of the album is about being shocked that they’re here at the top, partying hard. They question themselves, “What are we doing here? How did we get here?” Now this explanation is more humble and humane than any political affiliation of the album. Perhaps Jay-Z’s and Kanye’s blatant ostentatious behavior on the album is really an expression of the inconceivable nature of how blatant ostentatious behavior comes about. The two top hip-hop artists today can’t even believe that they can afford Gucci, Louis, Fendi, and Prada.

Ultimately, Watch the Throne is a multi-faceted album, and despite efforts, I don’t think WTT can be labeled with just one theme.

What do you all think?

Does Feminine Attire Reflect Gender Stereotypes?

After our brief class discussion about how Buffy’s fashion can affect her character, it made me think about the significance dress can have on a character’s portrayal—in particular, the role that feminine clothing plays on the depiction of a female character's power.

In class, it was mentioned that Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer wears stylish women’s clothing, yet still remains incredibly adept in battle. Her stylish dress does not detract from her ability to defend herself or live up to the role of a superheroine.  

However, in many circumstances, this is not the case.  A movie that particularly comes to mind in this case is Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Elizabeth Swann is one of the main characters of the movie. Beginning the movie as a rich young heiress living a more than comfortable life, she soon finds her inner passion which leads her down a road of adventure and piracy. She lets go of her comfortable, carefree life of being the “governor’s daughter” to seek adventure on the open sea. She does not shy away from the violence in the battles she experiences, but instead, embraces it—loving the thrill fighting gives her.

Her dress and style throughout the movie visualize this transformation from an heiress to a fighter and show her reluctance to dive back into her old life. In fact, being forced to wear a frilly dress is used as a threat—a way of objectifying her and symbolizing the societal stereotypes of women as the weaker gender.

She was forced to wear feminine clothing by Captain Barbossa and told that if she refuses, “[She’ll] be dining with the crew. And [she’ll] be naked.” In the first 30 seconds of this video clip, two members of the crew are shown delivering this message to Elizabeth from Barbossa. You can clearly see the disappointment on their faces when she doesn’t choose the latter . . . 

Having to choose between wearing a feminine dress or no dress at all provides an example of how women can be objectified by what they wear. By choosing her attire, Barbossa asserts his dominance over her. By making her wear a feminine dress, he restricts her to the stereotypical female gender role. As he perceives it, if Elizabeth is wearing a frilly dress, then she can be seen as week and submissive, thus making himself feel powerful.

However, throughout her transformation, Elizabeth is given a uniform from the Royal Navy. Wearing this male uniform, Elizabeth is able to participate fully without restrictions in the way of pirate life—fighting pirates and being respected as a leader. This dress not only garners more respect from the male sailors that surround her, but also from herself. Dressing in this way allows her to feel free to fight and exhibit superheroine like qualities while still gaining respect from her peers.

What is the cause for the difference between Buffy and Elizabeth? Why is it that while Buffy can remain dressed in stylish attire, Elizabeth must rid herself of her feminist attire in order to escape her stereotypical gender role?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Buffy's Image: Attractive, Yet Feministic

     Today in class, we talked about how the WB's influence caused Buffy's image to be concurrent with what was "hip" and "cool" at the time of the show's release. The network pushed for the show to be centered around a young, beautiful, popular girl rather than a nerdy girl like Willow. It did this to appeal to the mainstream teenage outlook and attract viewers as a result.

     I agree that over-sexualizing Buffy takes away from her feministic force, but I disagree with the outlook that a woman is strong, intelligent, and independent can't also be beautiful. Sure, Buffy is attractive, but she is also much more than her pretty exterior; she is powerful and fierce, something that is relayed no matter the outfit she's wearing. 

     In society today, attractive women are often dismissed as being ditzy and helpless. This really upsets me. A woman's looks should not deter from her strength. Just because she cares about herself and wears nice clothes does not mean that she is any less independent, intelligent, or powerful than a "nerdier-looking" woman. Society's idea that attractive woman are ditzy directly opposes its idea about attractive men. When a man looks polished, perhaps wearing a business suit, he is automatically assumed to be more powerful than his less classily dressed counterparts. Society tells us that a man in a suit must be a man of power; he must be a CEO at a big company, a VP at J.P. Morgan, or at the very least, a wealthy small business owner. Attractive men are thought to be well-off, making them seem more powerful. This is in direct opposition to society's assumption that attractive women are ditzy and helpless rather than intelligent and powerful. 

    A woman's looks should not even be considered to measure her strength. For true equality in society today, we should look at distinct character traits and one's actions rather than looks and gender when determining an individual's capabilities. I didn't completely agree with our debate in class today. Sure, WB was influenced by mainstream society's views, but I don't think that there is anything wrong with having an attractive female be a feministic character. It defies common gender stereotypes, thus adding to the show's overall feministic appeal. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rise of Conscious Rap

Ever since Grandmaster Flash's release of "The Message," rap has become progressively more conscious. More specifically, more and more rappers focus their lyrics on real-world issues such as politics and human rights issues. For example, Macklemore, Blue Scholars, Nas, Tupac Shakur and many more crafted lyrics that would have a profound impact on listeners.

2pac (Changes) - I see no changes. All I see is racist faces.
Misplaced hate makes disgrace to races we under.
I wonder what it takes to make this one better place...
let's erase the wasted.

Macklemore (Otherside) - Gone, get another bottle just to get a couple swallows
Headed towards the bottom couldn't get off it
Didn't even think he had a problem
Though he couldn't sleep without gettin' nauseous

Nas (Heaven) - Racist planet where they take another brother in a handcuff
Even if he innocent nigga get on the car put your motherfucking hands up
The real question is not why rappers have started to create conscious-rap, but why listeners all of the sudden are so enthralled with these types of lyrics.

In my personal opinion, the young generation of listeners today wants to feel like they're making a difference, whether or not they really are. Almost all of the blame for today's is on prior generations and it may be the inner-hipster in all of us that wants us to be as much the opposite of our parents as we can possibly can be. This could drive young listeners to want to be more worldly and conscious making them listen to this type of music.

Nevertheless, there is still a high demand for the gun-slinging, gang-bangin type of music, but it has seemed to slowly recess overtime. What does this mean for the future of music? It could signify a movement toward more lyrical and politically-aware music. I personally think this is a great thing for music. Young people learn nothing of value from listening to garbage about misogyny or killing people. Whether or not conscious rap leads people to take action, I think it's good for our generation.



Why do you think young listeners today want to listen to more conscious music?
Why has there been a rise in this type of music overtime?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hidden Politics

As discussed today, many songs and poems have political references and implications, even if they are not said outright. The example used in class was "Niggas in Paris"; it was said today that this song has risqué political implications, particularly as it was released in a time of economic recession but brags of disposable wealth and possibly mocks poverty.

One could reply to this in two ways. Either Jay-Z and Kanye West rap the lyrics of a song that does have the intentions of mocking the recession and poverty by demonstrating their wealth in an excessive manner, or it is simply a song that consists of bragging of wealth like many other rap songs that coincidentally was released during a time of poverty and recession.

If one analyses the song with the first reaction, it implies that the song is truly making a mockery of poverty, or it is a parody of the economic situation on how certain individuals managed to maintain great wealth while others had very little. If the song is making a mockery of poverty, is it only those who are not affected by poverty that understand this underlying mockery, implying those that are in poverty do not understand this mockery due to education? If this is true, wouldn't we see more resistance to this song and the artists? If this is a parody mimicking the attention brought to the separation of wealth in America, it could be argued that "Niggas in Paris" exemplifies this as it points out that others are living in minimal underprivileged ways, e.g. ordering a fish fillet, while Jay-Z and Kanye live luxuriously in Paris spending $50,000 without hesitation. If this is the case, this may be read as a criticism of the American economy, but ironically it would be Jay-Z and Kanye that the majority of the population would economically criticize.

If one analyses the song with the later reaction, that it is simply a rap song with the common theme of exposing wealth and braging about a lifestyle, it could be argued that "Niggas in Paris" has no underlying political meanings or implications. This statement could be supported by the arguement that both Jay-Z and Kanye West have rapped and bragged about their wealth and lifestyles in previous songs before the recession occured. Although, there has always been poverty and one could argue that any song bragging about money has the political implication of mocking those who have less.

As viewed in class today, there were many different opinions and views towards what the intended goal of the song is. Therefore, the political implications of "Niggas in Paris", or any song for that matter, can be read based on the listeners views, education, and socio-economic status.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Gender Equality in the Olympic Games

Over the last two centuries, the Olympics have shown the progress of the movement for women's equality. The modern Olympics started in the early 1800s, however women weren't even allowed to compete until the 1900 summer Olympics, and then only 11 women competed in lawn tennis and golf. Since then female competitors have increased from a mere 1.5 percent in 1900 to 42 percent in Beijing 2008. However even in 2008 three countries, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, and Qatar, didn't send a single female athlete to the Olympics. And, as pointed out by the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation, there were only 124 events that women could compete in compared to the 165 for men.

Over the last four years, many efforts have been made to increase gender equality among athletes, and among the members of the International Olympic Committee. According to the Sport Digest, "The addition of women’s boxing to the 2012 Olympic Games in London marks the first time in history that women will compete in every sport that men do."So far, the Olympics has come very close to gender equality among athletes, yet leadership roles still lag behind with only 15 female members of the 135 members of the IOC. Similarly, the United States Olympic Committee only has 21 female members on the 58 member Executive Committee and 3 women on the 11 member Board of Directors. In February a three day conference was held to discuss changes in the leadership of the IOC. The Los Angeles Declaration was unanimously passed that would focus on:
The need to bring more women into management and leadership roles 
- The need to increase collaboration and partnerships, especially with UN organisations, to promote gender equality.
It's a little disconcerting that the leadership roles are the ones that have yet to accomplish, or even come close to gender equality, but it's in a direct correlation with the statistics of female leaders around the world. I'm just glad to see that it's been brought to light and that measures are being taken to improve gender equality in all aspects of the Olympic Games.

I feel that the Olympics have showcased, and even improved the efforts for gender equality. Young women are given role models of all ages, shapes, sizes, and race to look up to and aspire to be like. There are thousands of female athletes that show dedication, passion, and determination, and improve the outlook for the role of women around the world. They are the true heroes out there, inspiring women everywhere. It's been speculated that while the Olympics have helped improve gender equality, it won't be enough. At least for me, it's nice to see progress, and it certainly doesn't hinder the efforts. Hopefully with the work done within the IOC, society can take a look at women in leadership roles within other fields. I'm looking forward to the day when there is total equality within the games, and hey, maybe the male athletes will be that 42 percent!