Thursday, April 18, 2013

Blog Post #11: Teens Talk Back

Blog Post #11: A mix of various (Reflection meets Hyperlinks, and they go out for coffee)

It’s rather telling when several of the first responses to a google search of the phrase “teens talk back” are several parenting sites about controlling teen back-talk. This type of opinion permeates the internet; one that others teenagers as an out of control, rebellious, angst-ridden mess. A good portion of this appears to come from adult internet users.

But a lot of it comes from teens, too.

In fact, many teenagers seem to possess a certain amount of ageism against their peers, and they use various forms of social media to assert their opinions. Amongst submissions by (supposedly) teenagers for the “Teenagers” page of Urban Dictionary were varying impressions. One user argues that teenagers are (quoting verbatim) “Something im not proud to be, because a lot of teenagers are quite simply put; idiots.” Another says that a teenager is “Someone who has everything but appreciates nothing.” Conversely, a user claims they are “People who get no respect and are looked down upon because some of us are idiots.” Another discusses the issue in more detail, adding that “The word’s negative connotations stem from the actions of the minority of adolescents who typically display qualities and proclivities that can be construed as unappreciative, lame, and otherwise emo.” Amongst the respondents, the general consensus seems to be that “Like any age group, theres some good and some bad.” There’s this idea that there are some bad teenagers, but that most are okay.

Many of the users on the social media site Tumblr appear to be teenagers, too. Sometimes they perpetuate teen stereotypes: 

This one, similar the opinions on Urban Dictionary, perpetuates the idea that other teenagers are rambunctious, but the teenager creating the post is some exception to the rule.  Others lament the state of teenage-hood with quotes: “Teenagers are the most misunderstood people on Earth. We are treated like children but expected to act like adults.” Youtube also offers an outlet for teens to speak out. As we saw in a media artifact presentation, videos like “Teens React” show depict various teen opinions. Others post their own homemade videos, asserting their own autonomy in doing so.

Ultimately, while the media often promotes the dominate ideology belittling and “othering” teens, it still exists as an outlet for teenagers to talk back, even if it is in ways that both resist and reaffirm these opinions. That teenagers have the agency and opportunity to utilize these tools is at least a step in the right direction.


Whenever I look over posts and opinions about/from teenagers, I feel this weird disconnect. My experience never seemed to pay attention to any of those stereotypes. I don’t remember cheerleader cliques or football players ruling the school; it seemed like kids all just sat with their friends at lunch, regardless. My table alone had people who were athletes, band members, techies, etc., but that wasn’t what labeled them. Athletes (like cheerleaders) only wore their uniforms on game-days. Chorus and band kids weren’t treated as social outcasts; in fact, most athletes and A.P. students overlapped with various extracurriculars.  It wasn’t one or the other; it was band and football. Nobody (from my observations) seemed to care about any of that. Or maybe it was just me who didn’t, and I projected my beliefs on my classmates. But even as a teenager, I didn’t think teenagers were some weird, alien thing, as it seems so many teens think today.

Anyway, what were your memories of high school and teenage-hood? Did you see these stereotypes in the flesh?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Blog Post #10: Glee, hyperlinks

Blog Post #10: Glee, Hyperlinks

I feel like I should begin with a warning. From its inception until mere months ago, I was a faithful Glee viewer. Despite its lackluster (often plot-hole filled) writing, my mother and I stuck through, waiting patiently for the “good” episodes – the episodes that didn’t make us cringe; the ones where the music was inspiring and the writing was (at least) palatable. But months ago, I couldn’t take it anymore. I’d watched the show with a “pleasurable consumption” mindset: I was critical of its many flaws, but enjoyed certain aspects. A few months ago, the show did the thing that I really, really loathe. [Spoilers] They had a situation in which one of the girls (Marley) faints on stage, having made herself so ill because of her bulimia. Her mother is overweight and is mocked for it (though Marley defends her because she isn’t a complete tool – at least since I’ve last watched – unlike certain other characters), and another classmate (a cheerleader, of course) has taken to sewing up all of Marley’s clothes so that they’re getting smaller and smaller, so that Marley will think that she’s gaining weight, which prompts her to basically stop eating, rehearse non-stop, and induce vomiting (also brought on by the cheerleader). Although the Glee kids run off the stage to help her (and are disqualified from the competition), instead of being, you know, nice people, they blame her for their loss, making her feel worse (without anyone taking any action against her bully), and finally, in the last minute, they do the “right” thing and go to sing with her. And I was furious. Because they know better. They could have been, you know, decent people right off (or at least some of them could have­), but they weren’t and it was just awful. They took a girl who was already a wreck and basically made her feel a million times worse. And I was done. After years watching the show, I’d come to hate it (or at least aspects of it).

Rewatching these episodes has not really re-ensnared me. Too many plot holes. Like the slushies. If anybody – anybody – in my school had thrown a slushie in someone’s face, they would have been suspended so fast their head would spin. And no one would let Sue talk to the kids like that. But they were right about the lack of enforcement on bullying, which is still a major problem today. Will was basically useless. From what I remember, he never even tried to talk to Karofsky himself, merely coming up to Kurt after and asking him if he was okay. And I think that is probably true of a lot of high school teachers. They don’t really deal with it in a productive manner. Instead of having some kind of restorative program for the bully, the kid gets a slap on the wrist (or, more likely now that it’s a major media issue, some over-the-top punishment). Rather, maybe some therapy or anger management classes would do better. Or at least, maybe, making the kid come once a week after school to talk about his or her bullying, think about it from their victim’s point of view (write about it, maybe), and try to instill some empathy in the kid. (I have my own reasons for disagreeing with any legalized punitive actions, because giving the police more power is just opening a new can of worms; and God knows the majority of the people they arrest would be teens of color, because that’s how the system works, which could possibly tie to Rose in her discussion of how original hip-hop was a form of resistance – and how it should still be, because that stuff still happens).

This post is already getting a bit long, so I’m going to tie the latter two Glee episodes to the Kimmel reading. Karofsky (a middle class white boy) bullies Kurt because he feels his masculinity is threatened. He acts out violently (and threatens to “kill” Kurt) because he’s afraid of his own sexual orientation. This falls right in line with Kimmel’s discussion that gender and masculinity are major factors in school violence. Karofsky was so deeply socialized to believe in the hegemonic masculine role (straight, white, Christian, male, etc) that he lashed out. If the he hadn’t been brought up to see homosexuality as some kind of “othered” threat to his masculinity, he wouldn’t have acted the way he did. 

Glee does connect to the course theme Media Matters. Glee has many opportunities to promote positive messages. The show is extremely popular and reaches broad audiences of varying ages. In fact, I think its promotion of LGBTQ characters is further than many shows on today (for example, Santana had a wonderful character development, for the most part, if I remember correctly). I think it sometimes drops the ball, but usually it does well in this regard, and was one of the reasons I watched it for as long as I did.

For class:

What do you think of Glee’s overall messages? Positive portrayal of characters? Bad writing aside, do you think it makes a difference?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Talking Points #9: Tricia Rose, Arguement

Talking Points #9: Tricia Rose, Hip-Hop Wars 


In both her video text and TIMES interview, Rose discusses the history and controversies surrounding hip-hop, particularly in regards to race, gender, and class. Both texts center on different aspects of hip-hop’s history. In the video, Rose talks about how the original hip-hop records started – on the basketball courts, with players recording their rhymes over the B-sides of other records, and then others dubbing and recording over theirs. There was, apparently, argument over whether people were stealing others’ ideas because of this, which Rose argues is false, explaining that the new version is fundamentally different than all others, and that in other countries where hip-hop is even more prevalent, there can be thousands upon thousands of different versions of “the same song.” Further, she discusses hip-hop’s community ties in her interview. Because the music was often shared during community block parties, the demographics of listeners were very different than the audiences of today. Back when hip-hop first started, it had to be written for all ages, as listeners could vary from age twelve, to age thirty, to age seventy. This had a drastic effect on the subject matter, and omitted much of what is popular in today’s hip-hop – songs about violence and disrespecting women, which are what sell currently on the market.

Rose also argues that the capitalism is the root of this. Popular music is music that sells, and what sells in North America is violence and sex. The ones in charge of what music plays are the ones with the money, and therefore the ones with the power. And they want to keep that power. They benefit from promoting the hegemony that people of color are violent and that women are sex objects, both in immediate financial gain and in maintenance of power by keeping said groups oppressed. At least, that’s what I took from her words. The point that she emphasizes is the most incorrect about hip-hop is the issue of violence. She says that many people argue that hip-hop causes violence, but that such a connection is simpleminded in thinking about a causal relationship between the two. She agrees that violence is a problem, but posits that the problems stem from the instability created in black communities after the 1960s, and that it is a result of structural racism and rampant economic disadvantage. Rose also explains that in terms of the hip-hop wars, both parties are wrong, though that the critics are more-so. The defenders overlook the problems with gender and sexism while the critics are wrong about violence and culture. She believes the only way out of this war is developing an educated and subtle position about the wrongs and rights of hip-hop.


I honestly don’t know very much about hip-hop (aside from what I’ve learned in these texts), so all of this is pretty new to me. However, I do think Rose makes very intelligent arguments on the subject. I’m particularly interested in the connection to capitalism, because even in the world of hip-hop it seems like the root of all evil. So, Class, what do you think? Are you a Defender? A Critic? Somewhere in the middle? Do you think Rose is correct about hip-hop being in the ICU ward.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Blog Post #8: Masculinity and Teen Violence

Blog Post #8: Masculinity and Teen Violence
Extended Comments: Linette 

This week’s blog will be an extended comment on Linette’s post. Like Linette, I agree that socialization is more to blame than biology. Society’s construction of gender is extremely damaging to boys as well as girls, but in different ways. Boys are taught to be assertive (and often violent), fostered by a “boys will be boys” mentality; when they “play fight” as children, it is viewed as natural in a way that it wouldn’t were two little girls fighting instead. Further, from a young age they learn that stoicism and manliness are one in the same. As Linette notes, they are taught to keep their emotions bottled up, as “boys don’t cry.” In fact, when boys do cry, they are compared to girls (as “crybabies”), which, they learn, is a “bad” thing – and, thus, gender is even more securely rooted in their heads as “male” or “female,” with no in-between, rather than as something fluid and constructed by society. That they feel the need to protect their "manliness" in the event of the "gay-baiting" discussed in the article is the fault of society for purporting such homophobic, gender-rigid ideals.

(An aside: on Easter this year, I watched my cousin M (who’s my age, 21) play with my cousin B (who is five). Cousin M looked over at my uncle (B’s father) and commented on the blue smeared on B’s lips from a lollipop, noting that it looks like lipstick. He turned to B and told him that lipstick wasn’t something that boys wear. When I chimed in that anyone could wear lipstick, I heard him sigh (I could practically feel the eye-roll) and reiterate his point to B. Further arguing over the damaging nature of gender roles ensued, which ended in M’s counter of my “boys can wear makeup, too” (and something about gender being a construct of society): “of course it’s possible, anyone could wear makeup, but I could jump off a cliff, too, and I don’t.” And, of course, more debating occurred (not particularly intellectual on anyone’s end, because everyone except B -- the only under-aged person in the whole building -- was drinking). But I was struck by how sad it was. When we were five, M and I used to play dress up with my dance outfits and princess costumes (there is photographic evidence) and, other times, pretend we were adventurers or superheroes (“Puppy Boy and Kitten Girl”). Whatever I liked, I passed along to M, who also enjoyed it (regardless of whether it was “girly” or not). He didn’t start acting the way he does now until being ridiculed by my brother and his friends (around middle school age, I believe), who thought he was whiny; they wanted to “help” him (to “fix” him). M wasn’t born with the inherent mindset to be “tough” and “manly;” he was taught this. And, not only is it sad, in regards to my worry for B and the gender roles he’s seeing, it’s very telling of society in general).

Not my cousin. But messages on pictures like this (like "future embarrassment guaranteed") make me sad. Because, of course this little kid should feel embarrassed for dressing like a girl. So icky! Why would anyone want to be a girl? Ugh. I should stop before this turns into a full-blown rant....

Anecdote aside, Linette is correct about the gender divide of “boys” to be damaging for males, too. She notes that it implies that they cannot control their actions; in a way, this means that men are being infantilized, in a way, as we brush off their misbehavior as part of natural behavior (again, “boys will be boys”). This reminds me of rape culture, in the arguments that girls have to watch what they wear because boys can’t control themselves; this is damaging for both genders. Boys can control their actions (even if they were taught as children that it’s their natural disposition); when they rape, it’s a choice. They should be insulted by the argument that they are so out of control that they are incapable of decision making. Kimmel notes in his article that the one striking difference between the genders is a propensity for violence. Males (as noted by the school shootings) are far more likely to lash out violently than females. Fostering empathy in both boys and girls as children as well as allowing them to express their emotions and dismantling dominant ideas of "masculinity" would make the world a safer place.

Finally, I like that Linette points out that feminism is actually helps men.  I’ve heard the anti-girl argument before in regard to education (did you know in some Ivy schools boys are receiving “affirmative action” because the schools want to keep the gender balance equal? More girls are applying than boys – and more girls meet their standards than boys – but they want to keep things even… or so they say). Some people assert that girls excelling academics are damaging to boys in the classroom, and that classrooms are more suited to benefit girls than boys. Regardless, feminism does, in fact, promote equality for girls and boys, as well as the healthy expression of emotions.

Questions for class:

Out of curiosity, what do you think of boys receiving “affirmative action” to keep the gender structure in Ivy schools 50/50? Further, how do you think we could go about challenging this ideology of “boys will be boys?” Do you think that preventing this damaging hegemony of boys as naturally violent from reaching children will help to change things?