Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The War Against Black Intellectualism and Hip Hop

I recently read a paper titled "The cultural war against Black Intellectualism: Fighting for and dying over knowledge, dope, and hip hop in pursuit of Black liberation". It is a dissertation by Todd Boyd, University of Southern California, which discusses many aspects of the black liberation struggle for human rights, including black intellectual thought and activism. Boyd argues that "American institutionalized racism and the system's aggressive resistance to Black liberation have historically targeted Black intellectual thought on several fronts including: legislation forbidding the literacy of Blacks, faulty scientific research regarding Black intelligence, federal programs to squelch Black resistance, and grossly stereotypical media depictions of Black people."He goes on to address how the Black Power Movement during the 1960's promoted the growth of black intellectualism and subsequently Hip Hop.

This is a fascinating situation for many reasons but I am particularly interested in the role Hip Hop plays as a form of black intellectualism in impoverished neighborhoods. It is interesting to imagine that Hip Hop has become a type of alternative education for adolescents and teenagers that cannot go to school. Undoubtedly, being a successful rapper requires a high degree of entrepreneurship, intelligence, and creativity, therefore, it is presumable that the driven inner city residents without access to education might turn to Hip Hop.

This also seems to correlate with the skewed proportion of black rappers to other ethnic groups. This is due to the origins of Hip Hop in primarily black neighborhoods, associated with DJ Red Alert, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, etc., but there is also the economic opportunity aspect that needs to be taken into account. For example, if the theory that post-Black Power Movement intellectualism has endorsed Hip Hop in poor urban environments, then it is also just as likely that impoverished, uneducated blacks would rely on Hip Hop not only as a form of entertainment, but as a livelihood as well.

What are your thoughts on the role of Hip Hop and education in the urban poor?

The Concept of "The Journey" and "Making It" in Hip Hop

Recently, I have been listening to Logic's new mixtape, "Young Sinatra: Undeniable", more than I would like to admit. Besides his smooth tone and excellent wordplay, his goal of becoming famous is the most prevalent theme and intrigues me as a listener. I have listened to a good amount of Hip Hop artists in my life but I have never heard one rapper discuss a single topic or goal so frequently. His passion for making a name for himself in the Hip Hop realm is contagious and other people have expressed the same sentiments after listening to the mixtape. What about the journey from the street to stardom do we, as the listeners, find so interesting?

One might argue that the journey towards success is a relatable goal that people aspire towards (in whichever way they define success) and, therefore, like to see success in other people. This essentially means that people want to see Logic achieve his goals simply for the reason that he made the sacrifices and did it. But there are other aspects to the concept of the journey that influences listenership.

I would argue that people equally enjoy failure and success (maybe failure more in some cases). Logic does not only get listeners because they enjoy hearing about how famous he wants to be, they also listen because they know that there is that significant chance of failure. Logic, the character, strives towards a goal that only a handful of rappers actually achieve and fans like the risk and confidence that the songs in "Young Sinatra: Undeniable" exhibit. It is too simple to believe that listeners are solely rooting for Logic's success in the mainstream music industry, and my thoughts are that fans like to see the risks he takes and the potential for failure. In essence, it's like watching a stunt man trying to set a world record by jumping over forty buses on a motorcycle. If he makes it, everyone cheers and goes crazy because they just experienced history; if he does not make it, people see a gory crash that, at some level, they are just as excited to witness.

What are your thoughts on the concept of 'the  journey" and "making it" in Hip Hop.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Feminine Mystique and Reality

Throughout the class, we have has learned about female superheroes and how they deal with violence to get a better picture how gender fits into how world. From learning about how Wonder Women's bracelets are actually symbols of male oppression to how Buffy the Vampire Slayer subverts gender expectations again and again and again, there is always more to know about gender that one doesn't instantly pick up. On this blog, a multitude of women's issues have been brought up and addressed really well by everyone who has blogged here. I can say that, as a guy, I have left this class and blog more enlightened about how gender plays a role in society.

This last blog is about the usefulness of what we have learned in this class. If we can't use it to make a difference in society, we have at least used it be more intelligent about the world around us. The world isn't "perfect"and may never be perfect. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't always tried to perfect it. The female superheroes that we have learned about always tried to make the Earth a better place, even at great cost to themselves. In doing so, they proved to be equals of their male counterparts and became symbols of bridging the gender gap. Usually. As this article shows, superheroines can also be used to show how men see women as objects of pleasure. It at first shocks me how men subject women to overtly sexual positions, especially superheroines. However, I feel that it should be notes that these are works of fiction, which should say something very strongly. If women could get oppressed in a work of fiction, they can definitely get oppressed in reality. The superheroines stories should should serve as mirrors of real women's struggles.

One of the most important works of the feminist movement, while also being one of the most important works of the 20th century, The Feminine Mystique called the unhappiness of housewives in the 1950's and 1960's  "the problem that has no name." She then writes about how women want more than just to fill gender roles men have set up for them. One of those roles being objectified sexually. Betty Friedan, the author of the book, argues that women need more that just sex to find fulfillment in life, which was a very radical stance coming out of the very conservative 1950's. She is what I would call a real life super heroine because she was a mouthpiece to women's frustrations  when it could have come at a great professional cost to herself. It was the book that sparked the second wave of feminism into the very tumultuous 1960's.

We still have a long way to go in gender equality, but we shouldn't forget how far we have come. Before, women weren't allow to have jobs without their husbands permission. Now, they can run for the most position on Earth and almost get it, too. Is that impressive? I would think so. I would like to close with a video:

Women in the Sciences

I went to a high school where the main focus of the education in the sciences was the main focus of the teaching there. Sure, they taught more than just math and science, but the main aspect was on sciences. When my class graduated last year, about half want to major in some sort of science in college, me being one of them. Of course, my class doesn't really reflect the general population of the country at all. In 2006, the OECD (Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development) found that 15% of students in the US major in some type of science in college. While I don't believe that everyone has to major in any sort of science in science, I believe that more people do need to major in it if we want to move forward as a society. Especially women.

An article published by the Times in 2010 looks at why women are still underrepresented in the field of science. The part that really surprised me was when the article mentioned that girls would under perform on a math test when it mentioned to them that they would do poorly. "Contrast sensitivity ability" as it was called, doesn't truly exist in the real world but does have real world consequences. Namely, it would get girls to do worse in the math and sciences compared to men when there was no real reason to other than a clear bias against them. As Alex mentioned in a earlier blog, Larry Summers was under fire for suggested that men do better  with jobs that require higher intelligence compared to women. It wasn't so much that he didn't have data to support him. It was more that his comment (and comments like his), could have a really negative effect in society.

 Have females only been kept down when it comes in math and science because men don't think that females are as smart as them? Not really. There are certainly other factors in play, like gender roles. Some women don't want to be scientists because they want to spend more time with their families, and that is totally fine. Others don't feel like being a scientist is totally right for them. And that is perfectly fine, too. However, what isn't fine is Harvard having its first tenured female in 375 years, even with the strides that women have in made in math and science. What isn't fine is girls feeling that having a career in the sciences is not for them when the only thing that is keeping them out is unintentional, yet harmful, discrimination against them.

Maybe I'm not seeing the whole picture here, but there is a problem that is very apparent. When women feel undervalued unnecessarily, it becomes society's problem. My sister said she wants to be a dentist when she grows up (12 right now). It wouldn't be fair for her to prove herself more in the scientific community just because she's a girl. No girl should, for that matter.


Alright guys, so I know we talked about Kreayshawn awhile ago, but since I need another blog post I thought it would be cool if I wrote about her (since she’s something from gender performance that I took away from this class). Here’s some close reading info that I’ve done:

In order to make a statement about denouncing gender performance and gender roles, Kreayshawn creates an assertive, non-conforming, (way she dresses in her music video), and raunchy (at times) female persona (as we referred to it in class a “sister with attitude” persona). However, because she is constantly making references to separate herself as a woman (rather than just a person in general), she may actually be conforming to another role in retaliation to the stereotypical female gender role. There are some distinct elements of gender performance going on in this song, all of which Kreayshawn deliberately creates to 1. separate herself from her assumed highly feminine audience and 2. to hopefully poke enough fun at highly feminine women to increase her number of followers.

Separating herself from “materialistic women”; goes with her trying to be gangster- cutting down the stereotypes of her own gender in her chorus (mentioning designer labels that generally appeal to women, “so posh, nails fierce with the gold gloss”); she’s proud to be a woman, but not in the way that conventional women act. In the line: “Bitch you ain’t no Barbie, I see you work at Arby’s”, she could be telling women that they don’t have to appeal to gender expectations; they don’t have to pretend to be something they’re not; but she ends up just creating more of a divide between herself and women that play into their gender role.
Kreayshwan also compares herself to royalty; she sets boundaries for women similarly to queen latifah’s song; “majesty”, in which she separates herself from her audience through braggadocio techniques, but ironically may end up putting herself on that materialistic level.

Atypical feminine acts from the persona of Kreayshawn include: drug dealing, having a “raspy throat”, “shitting in your litter”, “smoking swisher blunts”, and driving around with stolen plates. Kreayshawn is testing the boundaries of gender performance in this way but she also puts herself in this own category, still allowing the normative female performance boundaries to remain. In the line: “I got the swag and it’s pumpin’ out my ovaries”, the narrator says that swag is not strictly male-gender related, though it is often used by male artists in their created personas she put’s this line in at the end to reinforce that swag can be just as easily a female characteristic.
With lines like: “The type of bitch that make you wish that you ain’t never met her”, “Plus I’m my own boss”, there’s a sense of contempt between the narrator and her inferior third person “character” (women who are subordinate to her).

Another facet of Kreayshawn that is important to denote, is that she creates not a sex based or even romantic based female character which is unique considering those are the two main types of motives or methods that are popular in women’s music; Kreayshawn is definitely a zany character, and she pushes the boundaries of gender performance that she creates. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Hammer Is My Penis

I thought I'd go out with a bang in my last blog post and discuss the portrayal of penises in pop culture. The penis: the symbol of male power, virility, and just the overall representation of manliness. In the following clip from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, two rivals discuss Penny, a girl that they both have their eyes on. Captain Hammer, on the left, relentlessly teases his nemesis Dr. Horrible about his plans with Penny.

If you haven't seen Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, you're missing out. Especially if you liked Buffy, you should definitely experience another creation by Joss Whedon. This scene displays stereotypical gender roles in such a great way. Captain Hammer is the stereotypical male: over-confident and cocky, taking home the girls and bragging about it. His muscle-shirt shows off his body, and he's attractive and he knows it. Dr. Horrible is the less manly one, taking crap from Captain Hammer and standing by while the girl of his dreams gets taken home by his arch nemesis. Penny is treated as simply an object to win, or a toy to play with. Captain Hammer tells Dr. Horrible, "I'm gonna give Penny the night of her life, just because you want her. And I get what you want." It's as if Penny is just an object, something for Captain Hammer to win over Dr. Horrible. And of course, my favorite part, where Captain Hammer articulates just what the hammer actually is... proving his manliness and power over both genders.

Now, as much as I love Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, I'm not sure it does much for gender equality. It definitely makes fun of Captain Hammer, and in a sense the stereotypical male, but the only other alternative is the sad specimen of a man at this moment that is Dr. Horrible. He can't even muster up the courage to tell Penny how he feels, and just lets her be taken away. In addition, Penny doesn't do anything to strengthen the female gender here. She seems perfectly content to be used by Captain Hammer, and oblivious of everything else going on. Overall, Captain Hammer seems like he has the upper hand in this situation, proving that the Hammer prevails once more. In addition, the ending of the tragicomedy doesn't exactly give a great view of either gender. If you haven't watched it, you should! Does the whole thing support one gender over the other, or does it actually support neither? If it's neutral, does that mean it shows equality for the genders? What do you think the creator accomplishes by making fun of male virility? I would argue that it actually still shows some sort of obsession with the power of the penis, and, while making fun of it, still supports its dominance in society.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Double Entendre or is it Triple Entendre, or is it...? ("Dumb it Down" By Lupe Fiasco)

How great of a lyricist is Lupe? I know that these blog posts have to be essay-like but I wanted to take some time to address this. He is brilliant; if you dissect the lyrics you are left absolutely dumb-founded. He manages to use the wildest word-play yet keeps it comprehensible and most importantly, meaningful. He has the reputation for being an outstanding lyricist, both socially-conscious enough to appeal to the "underground" crowd, and mainstream enough to appeal to those wishing for a track to bump to. However, as of late many consider him to be too sophisticated. Many cant understand his lyrics and it is different from what they are used to. This song is a response to these critics: those that believe he must simplify his lyrics to appeal to the mainstream. Will he? You better believe he won't dumb it down.

To analyze the lyrics and show how Lupe is combating these critics I will close read a section of verse 1:

"I'm fearless, now hear this, I'm earless
And I'm peerless, which means I'm eyeless
Which means I'm tearless which means my iris
Resides where my ears is, which means I'm blinded"

-Lupe Fiasco, "Dumb it Down"

He first says that he is fearless. Fearless of the media and of possible outrage against some of his lyrics. Whether or not what he says is controversial does not matter to him. Then he demands attention and for people to listen to his lyrics, but says that he is "earless"-- again, it doesn't matter what people say about his lyrics as long as it means what he wants it to mean. He is deaf to the negative criticisms of him by the media. He then uses a double entendre: "I'm peerless". It could be saying that he does not "peer", which is similar to the verb "to see" OR that he has no peers (no one else is on his level lyrically). Him saying that he cannot "peer" is elucidated later when he says "I'm eyeless" which plays into an interesting word-play which all accumulates into him being "blinded" by the music he listens to. Also, he says that he is "tearless" which also can have dual meaning: he doesn't have eyes so he cannot cry and he is so superior to other rappers no one can "tear" him or achieve anything close to him in terms of lyricism. "[His] iris resides where [his ears is]", which I interpreted like this: basically, the mainstream music he sees everyday isn't worth his listening. The lyrics these rappers spit don't matter to him or to anything. All he needs to do is see these rappers and the way they boast about their wealth and the materialistic culture that has become hip-hop today and from that he can come to the conclusion that they don't even come close to him lyrically. To summarize, he says he doesn't have the "ears" for both these critics and the mainstream rappers. He doesn't have eyes because instead of listening to the music, he hears by seeing (he doesn't need to listen to the lyrics because he already understands how irrelevant they are).

Using these senses and creating a witty wordplay also is itself a brilliant attack on the critics who want him to dumb down his music to sell more money. By elevating and complicating his lyrics further to respond to them, he has created the perfect response. To him, the people that appreciate his lyrics and take the time to understand them will buy his album. That is all that matters to him.

A Look under the Skin of an "Independent Woman"

Before I analyze Roxanne Shante's song "Independent Woman", I would like to address a few things mentioned in class. We listened to both "Hold Ya Head Up" and "For Women" and a few of us (including myself) came to the realization that these songs are not very empowering because of their content: they describe pain and suffering more than they give empowering messages. Christopher said something to address this as well: is it enough to alert to the fact that social ills exist? That's what Tupac and Kweli seemed to be doing in their songs.

After this discussion, I decided to go back and analyze the rest of the songs we had been given for homework that evening (maybe these provide some greater sense of empowerment for some reason). "Independent Woman" is a song from 1990 that was written by a woman, for women. I think this is the first overwhelmingly significant difference between this song and the two we listened to in class. Tupac and Talib create songs meant to empower women; however, how can one truly know how to empower a group if they themselves are not part of the repressed? To me, this is problem for both songs that we listened to. Shante associates herself with the repressed saying "We've come a long way" and offers help to her fellow women assertively. Because of raps image as being a fairly misogynistic genre of music, it is hard to trust the "empowering" lyrics of a male rapper. Perhaps what I think is too bold of an opinion: Chris Pearson of "Hip-Hop Players" writes:

"To claim that rap music and Hip Hop culture are purely and simply misogynistic is to view rap and the Hip Hop realm uncritically from the perspective of an outsider. In sum, Hip Hop, including rap music, is a complex and contradictory arena in which regressive and oppressive elements sometimes complicate and at times even undermine what fundamentally remains an oppositional and potentially liberatory project. …"

Reading his take on to what extent we can generalize misogyny in rap was insightful and is definitely important to what I am arguing. But without referencing hip-hop's past or hip-hop's image as "somewhat" misogynistic, do any of you also find what I have said true? Is an empowering message more empowering if it is said from the words of the repressed, not of a witness (Tupac, Kweli, etc)? 

Another element that I feel makes her lyrics empowering lies in verse 2. She is blaming these women for their suffering, saying that they are naive and should have expected it. She writes, "You put your faith in the guys with the hazel eyes/ you thought you would get a prize, all you got was lies". This is a crucial component of the song: I feel that empowering lyrics provide a lot more than sympathy. She is telling these repressed women that they put themselves in this hole and it is there job to find that inner strength.

Do you agree with my stance on what is "empowering" hip-hop? It is definitely up for debate. 

Here is Roxanne Shante's "Independent Woman"

Where Do We Go From Here?

Throughout the semester we as a class have talked about countless issues related to gender oppression, inequality, and societal constraints on women. Reading blogposts written by my thoughtful peers and participating in engaging conversations about gender and sexuality has exposed me to some uncomfortable and saddening truths about gender inequality in America, and its prevalence throughout society. It seems the issue of gender runs deeper than most would assume, as men and women alike pass through the motions without second guessing life and the potential that exists beyond the status quo.

Although I appreciate the conversations, debates and sentiments expressed by my peers and my professor, there still remains an unsettling thought: What is to be done? Regardless of how often we talk about the issue, rhetoric can only bring us so far. The pedagogy that we implore must be translated into action, else the gains that we strive for will remain unreachable. We cannot sit idly by while issues of gender and sexually continue to haunt and marginalize women and the rest of the LGBT community, and status quo cannot remain unchallenged. We can only make our experience this semester count if we act upon the struggles that we have encountered, and fashion solutions that can alleviate the pains of inequality.

So to end the semester, I ask, What can be done? How can we translate our experience this semester into something meaningful? How can we effectively combat issues of gender inequality, and what are some appropriate steps to take?

How can men effectively participate in this struggle against inequality? Or is there no place for men at all?

What does gender equality look like?

Each of these questions need be answered if we expect to see substantial change. As a man, I cannot speculate what needs to be done, nor can I decide what is the right thing to do. This movement belongs to women and it is theirs to control, regardless of the role that men are given in the struggle to combat gender inequality. I can only offer my solidarity to those who are willing to accept it, and my enthusiasm for a world where women do not have to feel uncomfortable or threatened by masculinity.

I'd like this last blogpost to begin a longer conversation over what needs to be done, and how to go about exacting change. I am curious as to what you all think about this issue, and how it should be addressed. I encourage everyone to use the knowledge from this semester and apply it to their everyday life. How can you exact change in your own life? Sometimes the little things matter the most, and the more that we can do, the more will be accomplished.

Please feel free to comment with your thoughts! And thanks for the hard work thats been done on this blog all semester.

The Intricacies of "I Used to Love H.E.R"...past the words

Common's song, "I Used to Love H.E.R.", is a creative approach to discuss rap's evolution on the universal scale. He uses the analogy of the deterioration of hip-hop music (he feels that conscious hip-hop was in its demise at that time) with the gradual degradation of a once beautiful woman, to create a more personally relevant argument.  He begins the song with a flashback of him at ten years old, when he began to listen to hip-hop music. However, he does not refer to music once; he creates this vivid, but nameless character who he falls in love with at the start. He writes:"Eventually if it was meant to be, then it would be/because we related, physically, and mentally". He knew hip-hop back then, and formed an intimate bond with it because he respected it; hip-hop was not about the money, it was just about the music. He uses a form of double entendre, when he writes that she was "not about the money, no studs was mic checkin' her. Even though the whole song is of this form, this line was interesting: the woman persona he creates does not sell her self out and demands respect. Men checking her out is disrespect. Also, "mic checkin'" is something done when you perform at a certain venue, which shows that she did not care to make money from the music but just to make music.

He continues on with this analogy but now contends that there has developed a certain disconnect with the woman he once knew. Hip-Hop, which emerged partly due to Afrocentrism, was now lost and a new muddled form of braggadocio rap has emerged. He writes, "she said, afrocentricity, was of the past" and then that "she" "[stresses] how hardcore and real she is". This departure from true, conscious hip-hop seems to have aggravated Common. He laments over the change of the woman he once loved. Using the analogy between hip-hop and a woman works to create a more relatable microcosm of hip-hop so that its changes (deemed for the worst, by Common) are more personal and intimate.

The rhyme scheme enhances the story-like nature of the song and its meaning in two ways.

1)Common rhymes in couplets (sometimes, not so much) which makes the song sound more like a story (which it is) and makes the song sound slow, so that the listener soaks up every word.
2) As an ode to conscious hip-hop, which was often written in couplets(from the Book of Rhymes).

What is also interesting is the song sampling. Common samples "The Changing World" by George Benson which I deem is a perfect fit for the song. It has a smooth, slow tone and sounds fairly "old school". Also, the title of the sampled song fits with the major theme of "I Used to Love Her".

Are Men and Women of Equal Intelligence?

In 2005 Lawrence Summers resigned from his position as the president of Harvard due to sexist remarks that he had made during a speech the previous year about the intelligence of women in comparison to men. According to Summers, the reason that there is an unequal percentage of men and women as phD candidates and as professors was the fact that men have a higher IQ than women on average, and that men are more adept at working jobs with a higher level of intelligence. Although Summers articulated this point more subtly, it was clear that he believed women to be less intelligent then men on average, and attributed the difference in the pay gap, and in skilled professions, to this difference in intelligence.

As shocking as this may seem, there are others who strongly agree with this notion. Professor Richard Lynn, a British psychologist, wrote an extremely controversial article in 2010 supporting Summers claim whole heartedly that women are less intelligent than men, and that the unequal distribution of women in the field of science and math is justified by this difference.

In the article, Lynn attributes the difference between men and women to the age old Hunter-Gatherer dynamic. When men hunted to gather food they had the difficult task of strategizing before the kill, giving them a series of complex thoughts and ideas to wrestle with daily. Because of the dynamic between Hunters and Gatherers, who were predominantly female, Lynn argues that men, "must have possessed far sharper minds than those of women engaged in the relatively simple tasks of gathering berries and raising children." This early difference in intelligence, according to Lynn, has carried on into the present day, as men on average have bigger brains than women (even after adjusting for difference in size). 

When I first read the article I was disgusted at  Lynns theory of intelligence and his "100 percent" approval of the idea, but I was unable to figure out a way to dispute his claims. In terms of the data that he has collected on the subject, almost all of it is true - the statistics that he provides are not made up by him but collected throughout the years in studies and experiments (I promise I don't agree with Lynn's claims, merely that the numbers he worked with are hard to refute). I felt as though I couldn't defend the intelligence of women in the face of blatant sexism- had science really justified gender oppression?
On the verge of accepting defeat, I realized that Lynn's assertions themselves were based on an inherent sexism that skewed his ability to understand the data, and the rationalizations that he had recorded.

For starters, "women engaged in the relatively simple task of gathering and raising children", suggests that raising children is a task that requires almost no cognitive ability, and does not require the use of complex ideas. This notion is grounded in Lynn's sexist understanding of child rearing, and his belief that it is an unintelligent practice. Child rearing, while different than hunting, is more complicated than Lynn suggests- understanding children and their growth is a complex and difficult job- gathering as well requires more effort than mindlessly picking berries and herbs. Knowledge about what is acceptable to eat and where to find it was necessary for survival, and required a higher level of cognitive ability than Lynn ascribes to women of the time. Lynn's perception on women stems from his belief that care taking requires minimal effort, and that it does not constitute a legitimate job or positions. His theory of intelligence cannot be ascribed to the prehistoric dynamic of men and women because it inaccurately describes the difficulty required to perform both tasks.

Additionally, I don't believe that the IQ test is a fair assessment of intelligence between men and women. Firstly, a numerical definition of intelligence cannot possibly account for the subjective nature of intelligence, and how we perceive intelligence in society. What is the difference between 1 IQ point? and how can that be measured in the real world? The numbers that Lynn uses represents a rather esoteric understanding of intelligence. A man may on average outscore women by 5 points? but what exactly does that look like? Should that really result in women representing only 9.7% of professors? Although I do not fully understand the nature of intelligence tests, I highly doubt that this stark contrast in employment can be ascribed purely to the difference in IQ.
Secondly, the IQ test was developed by, and mostly for, men. Each IQ test in existence to date was created by men, and during the early stages of use, was used exclusively on male populations. In 1905, when the IQ test was first developed, the student population at the time was primarily comprised of boys. While this may seem farfetched, the IQ test, because of its relationship to men, may give certain advantages to men over women because it was created with an inherent bias towards men. If men were targeted for the test, than the questions involved relate to and test the male experience, and exclude the aspects of intelligence that we may ascribe to women. This would create a bias that would disadvantage women when taking IQ tests, and could explain the lower scores that women receive. 

Although I strongly disagree with Lynn, there is room for discussion: Is it sexist to suggest women are less intelligent than men if there is "evidence"? Should we consider Lynn sexist? 
To what extent does this matter- should we give up on women's rights because they "may" be "less intelligent"?

This is certainly controversial, and I hope that people understand that I do not agree with Lynn at all. I am merely exposing an uncomfortable topic so as to create healthy dialogue around issues of gender and sex.

Women, the Selfless Sex? Why Do Women Volunteer More than Men?

At my private high school from home, volunteer hours are as mandatory of a graduation requirement as language and math credits.  Everyone in the school must participate in at least 5 hours of volunteer work every quarter or else they fail their “outreach” requirement. Although this might sound a bit overboard, I always appreciated this about my school as they taught me how important it is to care for others who are less fortunate than me. The organizations I was most involved with in high school were Beacon Hospice, Big Brother Big Sister, the Nashua Children’s Home, Care Net Pregnancy Center, and the Southern New Hampshire Rescue Mission.

                I wanted to blog on this subject of volunteering because I remember in high school the gender difference in the people I volunteered with and think it is something really interesting to consider. After doing more research, I discovered that women greatly outnumber men in volunteer work (over 32% of women volunteer whereas less than 25% of men do). It is also interesting to note that the largest “demographic” of people who volunteer actually have full time jobs. Which means it is not an excuse to say that men work more and therefore do not have time to give up their time to volunteer work because those who are currently volunteering typically have full time jobs.

Currently in New Hampshire, we are having such a shortage of male volunteers for Big Brother Big Sister (1 in every 10) that the organization is asking the female mentors if they would mind taking on a “little brother.” The whole purpose of this program is to provide good role models for children from homes without positive examples of the same sex. I think it is such a shame that men in my hometown haven’t stepped up to take on these roles, but I am glad that my school promotes this organization as there are now 12 new Big Brother/Little Brother relationships because of it.

                I remember in high school, the attitude of the girls towards volunteering was also much different than the guys’.  Some say women are the “selfless sex,” but I honestly think it is just more culturally acceptable for women to volunteer than men. It is sad to say, but male nurses and men with nurturing jobs are given a double take simply because of society’s stereotyping of “women being the comforters.” What a lot of people don’t realize, however, is that there are SO MANY different kinds of ways to volunteer that don’t necessarily have to do with being in a hospital caring for a sick person or baking for a family who just underwent a traumatic experience.

                A bunch of the boys in my graduating class worked in the Southern New Hampshire Rescue Mission, not dishing out dinners like I did, but building bathrooms and bedrooms for the residents to stay in. They were still devoting their time and making a difference in people’s lives, but they were able to use their talents, physical strength in this case, in order to volunteer. I would like to strongly recommend to everyone, especially the four men, to somehow get plugged into volunteer work around campus. There is so much to do, and so many people (especially children in Ithaca) who can use our help!

(Also, the picture above is from a trip to Ukraine that my school's dance team and I went on. We danced in gypsy villages and orphanages all around the country. It was pretty incredible, and to this day, still the favorite two weeks of my life)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Catholic School Forfeits Game Rather Than Play a Girl

Paige Sultzbach is a 15-year-old girl who plays on the boys' baseball team at Mesa Preparatory Academy, a charter high school in Phoenix, Arizona. She is also quite good. She played softball in middle school, but her school doesn't have a softball or girls' baseball team, so she joined the boys' team with the full support of her coach. Her team played very well and qualified for the league's championship. However, this article has nothing to do with her prowess at the sport.

Another school in the Arizona Charter Athletic Association baseball league, catholic  school Our Lady of Sorrows, decided to forfeit the game between their respective teams rather than play a team with a female player on it. Their reasoning was that they try to teach their male students to respect women and that it would be harmful to this effort to place boys in athletic competition against their female classmates. It is following this rationale that Our Lady of Sorrows has banned all co-ed sports. In previous games between the two schools, Paige's coach had decided to bench her for the game, but finally stood his ground, stating that disbarring her from playing second base at the championship game would be unfair. In response, Our Lady of Sorrows forfeited the game to Mesa, which left the team severely disappointed that they didn't get to earn the win fair and square.

When asked for comment about the event, Pamela Sultzbach, Paige's mother said, This is not a contact sport, it shouldn’t be an issue. It wasn’t that they were afraid they were going to hurt or injure her, it’s that [they believe] a girl’s place is not on a field.” It has to be clear to anyone reading this (not to mention those that have seen A League of Their Own) that Our Lady of Sorrows' decision is in nobody's best interest and is motivated by the underlying sexist attitudes that pervade religious education. Refusing to compete against a girl and relegating girls to only their own sports teams falls into the faulty "separate but equal" logic and only reinforces the idea that women are somehow less than men. I think that healthy competition against the opposing gender promotes respect and equality between the sexes.

In many sports, such as Ultimate, there are are Women's teams, Mixed teams and Open teams, the latter of which is a traditionally Men's, but women can play. The general rationale of separating men's and women's teams is that men compete at a higher athletic level than women, so it would unfair to force them to compete against each other. Following that logic, it would be fair to let any woman that feels she can compete at the level of physicality of the men's team to participate.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's not SOOO bad...

Women in America are raised well, loved by their parents, allowed to have hopes and dreams, attend free school, hold jobs, get promoted, choose a husband, have children, watch them grow, grow old, receive retirement money from the government, save money with senior discounts, and watch their grandchildren grow. Still, men and women are not treated equally nor considered 100% equal, and American women want more rights and equality. But let’s not forget to count our blessings, everyone. It could be a heckuva lot worse.

When you hear the words, “arranged marriage,” you may think of such fiction as Luis Sachar’s Holes or the classic Princess Bride. However, to many women alive today, these words are commonplace in their culture. In India, marriage is often if not always arranged by the couple’s parents and based on such compatibility details as the couple’s horoscopes, castes, religions, and family backgrounds. Though true romantic love is still celebrated in the media (Bollywood films), they are expected to follow their parents’ decision without hesitation. Arranged marriage is a tradition that has persevered despite the modernization of India, and we are blessed in our country to have such freedom of choice.

Women in China face similar challenges every day. Since the creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Chinese women have inconsistently been granted more and more freedoms, rising from 7% of the workforce to 38% by 1992. Despite this improvement, females are still considered second-class citizens. This is evident by the high female infanticide rates since the creation of their one-child-per-couple policy. Chinese couples tend to want sons so that their legacy can live on, and either abandon or kill their baby daughters in order to legally have another opportunity to have a son. This is very illegal in the U.S., both killing your infants as well as limiting a family’s freedom to procreate.

Female genital mutilation is practiced in many parts of the world, but the video I once watched about infibulation pertained specifically to regions of Africa, such as Sudan, Somalia and Djabouti. Infibulation is when, at a young age, the female’s clitoris and vaginal lips are cut off, and, still without anesthesia, the wound is brutally sewn shut, leaving only a small hole for urine and menstrual blood to pass through. After healing closed, the vagina is ripped back open on their wedding night, traditionally by an animal’s horn. This incredibly painful procedure is customary in their culture. God bless America.

So all things considered, America isn’t as terrible a place for women as we’ve been making it out to be all semester. Instead of this half empty glass we’ve been focusing on, after writing this blog, that same glass is looking pretty damn full. Still, why would the U.S. only be ranked #19 on the list of Top Countries for Gender Equality? Clearly, we have issues to address and room to grow. But if you get impatient, ladies, or just don’t have the time to wait, well… you can always move to Iceland!

Sampling, yay or nay?

The art of sampling music began around the 1960's, but with the growth of hip-hop, it has become more and more prevalent in music. Although hip-hop is not the only genre to sample music, the art form has become increasing popular and seems to have caused a dispute between listeners. Some argue that the use of samples makes the song unoriginal and that the artists are stealing other artists' talent. However, others argue that samples enhance the music by allowing the artist to make it their own. I somewhat with both.
The videos above are all of songs that include sampling, but do so in different ways. "Hard Knock Life" by Jay-Z samples Annie's "It's The Hard Knock Life" in the way he keeps the chorus intact while rapping over the beat. Yet, in Kanye West's "Stronger," he basically takes Daft Punk's whole song and raps over it. Mac Miller takes the song "Fireflies" by Owl City and uses the melody as a background along with the chorus. I find that while the sampling is affective in making the song enjoyable, it does have its implications. I feel that in songs like these, the original artist isn't always recognized. If someone were to listen to one of these songs, they might not recognize the sample and just assume the production came solely the sampling artist. However, this really isn't the case in Jay-Z's song because the sampling comes from an extremely popular children's movie. He was able to evolve the childish tune into a song that's completely his own. Also, in Kanye's "Stronger," he explicitly gives homage to the original artist in the video. The members of Daft Punk are featured in the video and makes it seem like the song is more collaborative than sampling. The fact that an hip-hop artist samples a song gives the original artist recognition. Yet, in Mac Miller's "Don't Mind If I Do," he uses a song that is very different from the genre of hip-hop which may make it difficult for a listener to identify the sample. I'm really on the fence on my view of sampling, what do you think about it? 

Do We Really Need to Know How Big It Is?

Now, I like braggadocio in rap songs as much as the next guy. I mean, it's a strong topic, and if you're cocky enough, it breeds endless amounts of material. However, is it really necessary? There are so many potential topics that someone can write about, but the amount of songs that end up being about braggadocio or even have some segment of a verse dedicated to braggadocio is extremely vast. I like hearing some dope lyrics about a rapper, but I would much rather it be more balanced, with meaningful lyrics taking over the majority of song subjects. Who needs it? I honestly don't think the public wants to know how awesome the rapper is. The listeners can judge how awesome a rapper is by his abilities, not by the rapper constantly jamming clever rhymes about themselves down our eardrums. And furthermore, once a listener starts to listen to constant braggadocio, one has to wonder if it's actually all true or just a gross exaggeration. And in that sense, braggadocio is even hurting the rapper's credibility. In the ears of the modern college student braggadocio is just glazed over, easily forgotten in the midst of thumping bass and electronica.

"What's Jay-Z talking about in this song?"
"Oh, just himself and how rich he is."

Braggadocio doesn't even have the benefit of being called music with substance. This makes me start to wonder that braggadocio is less intense lyricism and more filler lyrics in an artistic lull in an artist's life. As a rapper matures, he/she becomes more aware and masterful of his lyrics, therefore can rap about bigger and better things than himself.

The intense occupation of braggadocio in rap is because of its influence in the early roots of rap. Back in rap beginnings, rap was used for battling, and in battling, braggadocio is everything. However, in contemporary times, I feel that we have evolved enough to stray away from that. There are so many young rappers that come out guns blazing on the braggadocio, and I hope rappers realize soon that sometimes the best way to be amazing is to be different.

What do you guys think? Would you prefer braggadocio over more meaningful lyrics (this is a judgment-free zone)?

Is This English?

Slang culture, while prevelant in so many aspects of our culture, is most associated with hip hop music, likely because these terms they often come out of popular music. The ebonics of today's culture can be best examined through their use in popular rap songs. The best example of this is probably through a song discussed in class, Big L's "Ebonics". In this rap, he creates an entire lyric through defining slang terms. And while most of the terms he mentions aren''t ones that are broadly used, the song as a whole expresses how important slang has become in the language of music. But, I believe the best way to see the role of rap's ebonics in society is to look at the slang language in today's most popular songs, as ranked by the iTunes charts. 

For instance, one of the best examples is of the ever spreading popularity of the catch phrase "YOLO," which stands for you only live once. It came out of Drake's recent rap song, "The Motto." While not technically a slang term, it is a term developed as a part of the ebonics of todays culture. As well, popular rap/hip-hop artist Flo Rida, popularizes a slang term for male genitalia through his song "Whistle," ranked 19th. The hook on the song goes, "you just put your lips together and you come real close can you blow my whistle baby" (Whistle). 

Kanye West and Jay-Z's "Niggas in Paris," is one of today's best examples of ebonics because it both utilizes slang terms already implemented in our culture as well as introduces new words and phrases that have caught on since the releasing of the song. For instance, some slang terms that reflect our culture's already implemented ebonics include: "ball so hard," which has a range of meanings from having sex, spending money, or partying, "faded" meaning under the influence of drugs, "J's" which can stand for an edition of Air Jordan shoes, "whip," meaning car, and "French," meaning cursing.  Besides for implementing so many slang terms of today's culture, this song also created a new phrase that gained instantaneous popularity -"what's Gucci?" While this is probably a result of Kanye and Jay-Z's national (and international) fame, it is an excellent example of how rap music affects the ebonics of our society.

Tearing the Tape, Crossing the Finish Line, it's... Women!

I’m very excited to write this post because – thanks to the Title IX post – I’ve figured out how to incorporate an idea from a book that changed my life into this class. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall is a documentary centered around, well, the reclusive Tarahumara natives, ultra-marathoners, and a particular footrace that brought them both together. It blends history, science and entertainment into a fantastic narrative that, frankly, I believe everyone should experience, as a member of the human race.

Here is a video – a TED Talk, if you’re familiar – of McDougall explaining many of the concepts from his book (it’s a 16 minute video but the first 2:30 should suffice for my following argument). It outlines various points pertaining to running, one of which is the relation between the skills and abilities of women and men.

Men are faster than women, in general. Men are stronger than women, in general. This is not debatable; it’s a scientific and genetic truth. Sure, professional female athletes can destroy high school junior varsity athletes at the same sport, but this is an unfair comparison to make and thus irrelevant. According to McDougall, the women’s world record for fastest marathon time is a full ten minutes slower than that of men. (Heck, women weren’t even allowed to compete in marathons until the 1970’s because respected medical professionals truly believed that running 26.2 miles without stopping would cause the uterus to become detached and literally fall out of the vagina.)

But something interesting happens as the races get longer and longer in length: women catch up. In the (small) world of ultra-marathon runners (50, 100, 150 mile races), women are just as competitive as men. This amazing fact, coupled with the idea of childbirth, makes up for all the physical advantages that men have over women. It provides support for a theory as to how humans evolved to be the way we are today: upright, relatively hairless, social, etc.

More importantly for this blog, it proves that women ARE physically equal to men, at least in some ways. Many guys would scoff at the idea of a woman beating them in any honest competition, but when it comes to long-distance running, it’s more than a possibility. It’s a scientific and genetic reality.

Crossing The Line

According to an Article in the New York Times, a hearing occurred to evaluate what is appropriate content for rap music. The hearing focused on artists 50 Cent and Kanye West, and brought up the common question of what is expression and what is inappropriate. The author of the article, Jeff Leeds, writes, "Mr. Rush, echoing comments of others on the panel, praised freedom of expression but asked the chief executives of two music companies whether they would consider a ban on certain words considered derogatory" (Hearing Focuses on Language and Violence in Rap Music).  Both of the artists featured in the article are known to dance back and forth on the line between what is considered expression and what is inapropriately derogatory. 

In class we discussed we discussed the nature of Braggadocio music, and how this can sometimes be taken too far. This hearing displays how that this type of content can be translated into derogatory language. A narrator just trying to brag about being tough and getting women, can lead to lyrics that cross the line into inappropriateness. 

For instance, Kanye West is a major culprit of mixing sexist remarks with Braggadocio. West incorporates sexist remarks in his music, such as in New Workout Plan, where he instructs women on how to loose weight in order to get ahead in life. Lines include, "do your crunches like this give head stop breathe get up check your weave," and  "Maybe one day girl we can bone /So you can brag to all your homies now." (New Workout Plan). By suggesting that a woman have sexual relations with the narrator in order to "brag to her friends," this shows the ways in which Braggadocio can be taken too far.  

50 Cent's music encounters the problem of when acting macho is taken too far and becomes overly violent to the point of inappropriateness. The tough persona his narrator puts on is shown through lines such as the song Many Men's lyric, "Better watch how you talk, when you talk about me /'Cause I'll come and take your life away" (Many Men). The threat within these lyrics, while definitely showing power, can have further implications on the way listeners respond to violence. 

The hearing featured a representative from Universal Records who stated, “I can admit that there are some problems in hip-hop, but it is only a reflection of what is taking place in our society. Hip-hop is sick because America is sick” (Hearing Focuses on Language and Violence in Rap Music). Which leads me to the take-away message I got from this article- what came first, the chicken or the egg? Is music a reflection of our society, or does society change as a result of music?