Think About It, Take Two: July 25th, 2014

Deresiewicz says that a campus environment is a rare venue where people from different social strata can interact “on an equal footing.” But having them eat the same processed cafeteria foods and doze off in the same introductory lectures will not put the privileged and the underprivileged on an equal footing. Whether they’re under a publicly financed roof or not, these sorts of interactions are shaped by our past experiences. There will always be a divide between the upper-middle-class student who chooses to attend a public college and the poor student who must. There will always  be a chasm between the students who have been raised to believe they are destined for careers up and away from those of average Americans—at Goldman Sachs or on the English faculty at Yale—and those who haven’t been brought up with such expectations. And the implicit notion that underprivileged individuals exist as resources that well-off kids can mine for social awareness and self-satisfaction is also—to use a popular euphemism at elite colleges—problematic.

The Ivy League Is Not the Problem

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Think About It: June 24th, 2014

These enviable youngsters appear to be the winners in the race we have made of childhood. But the reality is very different, as I have witnessed in many of my own students and heard from the hundreds of young people whom I have spoken with on campuses or who have written to me over the last few years. Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.

- William Deresiewicz, Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League

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Funny _____ of the Week: June 23rd, 2014

This Week: Music(al) Videos!

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That’s Cool: July 22nd, 2014

PokeFashion

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Top Songs of the Week: July 21st, 2014

 

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Think About It, Take Two: July 18th, 2014

Sometimes, What It Means to Be Female For Me

Take Two

Over the years, I’ve tried to understand what it means to be a woman. I’ve tried to understand the complexity of such an identity, and how to earn respect, from myself and others, for my gender.

Unsurprisingly, it hasn’t been easy. Despite trying to find underlying unity among people, being female and being a girl has shaped how I perceive the world, as it does for many individuals. I recognize how difficult it is to earn respect. I realize others already have assumptions because I identify as a girl. I realize I am punished because I sometimes don’t fulfill others’ narrow standard of “womanness”.

I know accepting to be a girl is only one facet of my personhood, yet for some individuals, that very facet might negate such a status altogether. It is difficult to entertain the idea that this mentality is prevalent. It is hurtful and harmful, in many ways, and affects how women and girls view themselves and other members of their gender.

The Representation Project released an enlightening video on how the media have a dichotomous effect on how females, girls, and women are represented. The video gives examples of the strides being made toward acknowledging the contributions they have given, but also shows many more examples of how we are still being fed ideas and images that portray them as objects, as things to do something to or take something from, not engage with or acknowledge respectfully.

Many thoughts and emotions flowed through me as I watched, but one part of the video stood out in particular. At the 1:00 minute mark, the video shows a clip of Rihanna’s “Pour It Up” music video. I’d seen it many times before, as it caused some minor controversy because of its “Not Suitable for Work (or Many Other Environments)” content.

Although the video by The Representation Project was eyeopening and informative, I had serious issues with the fact that Rihanna’s video is an example of negative media.

Yes, the video is clearly demonstrates mature content. Yes, Rihanna is open about her sexuality and somewhat debauched behavior. Yes, Rihanna’s not-so-pleasant business is known by almost everyone. But I believe she and her music video were an example of how women are failed particularly because of its “sexual” content. I believe framing her and and her video in such a way, it conveys that Rihanna is not a good model of how a woman should be, which is just as harmful of a message.

Although the video by The Representation Project was eyeopening and informative, I had serious issues with the fact that Rihanna’s video is an example of negative media.

Yes, the video is clearly demonstrates mature content. Yes, Rihanna is open about her sexuality and somewhat debauched behavior. Yes, Rihanna’s not-so-pleasant business is known by almost everyone. But I believe she and her music video were an example of how women are failed particularly because of its “sexual” content. I believe framing her and and her video in such a way, it conveys that Rihanna is not a good model of how a woman should be, which is just as harmful of a message.

In a conversation on The Hairpin, Ayesha Siddiqi states the following,

I’ve been thinking about how she went from dance music popstar to this irrevocably bad bitch (not always mutually exclusive). And on the way there was this turn towards hyper-sexual aggression that I always interpreted as a way to buck the victim narrative she found herself in after Chris Brown. Now she’s settled in this really affirmative (for her fans and certainly for herself) self love femme power icon status that’s wholly independent of men in the equation.

It is reasonable to have criticisms of Rihanna, but I find that many people judge her because she has no qualms about expressing her thoughts, about exploring her sexuality publicly, and about subverting norms. They punish her (but not only her) because she widens the definition of “woman”. She demonstrates that is it okay to want things, to love yourself, to indulge.

The conversation highlights that Rihanna isn’t simply replacing a male with herself in her video. She is shifting the focus onto herself as well as the other featured women Where most people might describe the segment as vulgar and tasteless, I would argue that Rihanna is trying to invoke reverence from viewers. She is showing how her gender is multifaceted, and that there is no need to debase another woman to make yourself the subject. There is room for many women to express themselves in the way they choose.

In the video, Rihanna sits on a throne, wears expensive clothing, and dances on a pole with no one around. She doesn’t create a hierarchy between herself and the dancers, and they are not necessarily portrayed as sexual background objects. “Pour It Up” is not simply about propagating sex and hedonism. It’s about reveling in luxury and acknowledge your own worth in order to do so. None of the women exist to serve anyone but themselves.

There are segments where the viewer only sees the dancers displaying their talents, and Rihanna is nowhere in the frame. The video and the song say, “Look at them. Admire who they are. Respect who they are. Respect who I am.”

It is understandable if Rihanna’s music or persona or brand just doesn’t do anything for you. But to judge her because she embraces sex and power is sexism itself. To judge her for not fulfilling certain personal or cultural expectations is discriminatory.

There isn’t one correct way to be a woman, but one wrong way is to regulate how other women should exist. The Representation Project’s video showed only a snippet of the detrimental ideas societies have against women and females. Yet they failed to realize that perhaps they are perpetuating those very ideas they try to combat.

We should question our own relationship to sex and to women if seeing someone wear lingerie and twerking elicits an uncomfortable response. We should be more precise in developing our critical thinking skills. We should be more accepting of how we define, view, and engage with females and women. We should learn to see women as whole, complex people.

Personally, Rihanna’s lifestyle and aesthetic and clothing selection is not for me. But the beauty of life is that there is choice. I choose to wear black pants and simple tops. She chooses to wear denim thongs and fur coats. She parties on boats, smoking and drinking, and I practice music and study HTML. Some might call me boring and call her obscene. Either way, we’re both people. We deserve courtesy.

 

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Think About It: July 17, 2014

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