Cue the Sparkly Distraction

Question: How do you prepare a generation to come to grips with economic realities that are rather different than what their immediate predecessors might have taken for granted?

Like, say…, someone currently in the (dwindling) middle class — you know, someone with enough income to be able to save some of it — and thus someone who assumes that they’ll retire at 65 (or maybe even younger), just like dear old dad did…? Continue reading “Cue the Sparkly Distraction”

Hegemonies Have No Irony

For the full quotation, from a recent interview with Mikael Sala, an advisor to the French far right politician Marine Le Pen,
see the article posted by NPR.

Photo of two Roman Catholic nuns, heads covered,
on a public street in Paris, January 19, 2011

Hope and the Politics of Belief: Some Thoughts on a Trip to Prison

Through a series of interesting circumstances, I recently had the occasion to visit Lansing Correctional Facility, the oldest and largest prison in the state of Kansas. The purpose of my visit was multifaceted, but my part in the process was to bring a group of my own university students to participate in a college-level philosophy class taken by inmate students. The explicit goal was to provide both groups the chance to see how their different experiences might provide more nuanced perspectives on some introductory-level philosophical issues.

Although we did not intend to talk about the criminal justice system as one of our topics, the fact that that was the setting of our engagement was an undeniable part of our time together. Like several others in the group, I was aware of the literature on mass incarceration and the “school to pipeline” process that currently feeds the American prison system. While these models of incarceration are complex, what the evidence demonstrates is that factors largely outside of one’s control play a significant role in whether and how one experiences the corrections system. For instance, things such as race, gender, educational quality, and poverty are all determinants in the likelihood of arrest, the quality of one’s legal representation, whether one will be convicted, the length of one’s sentence, and recidivism rates. Continue reading “Hope and the Politics of Belief: Some Thoughts on a Trip to Prison”

What is a Feminazi?

By Nicole Goulet

The term ‘feminazi’ reared its ugly head on my Facebook feed this week.  It showed up innocently, not as an accusation (although it is always an accusation), but as part of a casual conversation about what feminism was.  In this case, it was someone mentioning their distaste for the archetypical feminazi, the imaginary feminist who is outraged by imaginary men opening imaginary doors for her.

The term ‘feminazi’ emerged in the 1990’s, as popularized (and possibly created) by political commentator Rush Limbaugh, to refer to a particular type of “extreme” feminist (namely, pro-choice activists). “Feminazi” has since been used in a variety of ways to give negative value to certain groups of women. Some examples include:  high profile activists like Gloria Steinem; unknown feminists dissatisfied with and critical of the current status of women; and those women who do not conform to the culturally dominant beauty standards (e.g. shaving). In defining the term ‘feminazi,’ it is safe to say that it is used quite liberally depending on the situation. Continue reading “What is a Feminazi?”

“Oh my god, look at what you did to him”

By now you’ve likely seen the video (maybe it’s already old news, in fact), when a passenger on a United Airlines flight in the US was forcibly removed from the jet in order to make room for United employees. Continue reading ““Oh my god, look at what you did to him””

Is the Media Free?

Much public discussion today includes concerns about the freedom of the press. People fear that some politicians and businesses exert pressure to cover them favorably, especially as some have denounced the mainstream media. We can consider, however, whether the media of any form is really free.

Pierre Bourdieu in a 1996 series of essays entitled On Television (English translation by Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson published in 1998) wrote: Continue reading “Is the Media Free?”

“I Wish I Had Down Syndrome:” On Disability, Agency, and Classification

By Daniel Jones

“I wish I had Down syndrome.” These words were spoken by a student in a functional skills special education (SPED) classroom that I work in during the day. The student was speaking with another student who has Down syndrome (DS). Like many graduate students, I work multiple jobs while being in school. Claims of the disconnected ivory tower sometimes seem lost on me. In multiple instances, my research on the role of classification in society (regarding discourses of nature, religion, human-being, etc.) and my experiences in the workplace shape one another.

My experiences in the SPED classroom often engage my experiences with the critical study of religion and society. I have found that one helps me think through the other. The above quote was affectionately spoken by a student with cognitive and physical disabilities (without DS) to another student who has DS. Continue reading ““I Wish I Had Down Syndrome:” On Disability, Agency, and Classification”

Dinner Dates: Mike Pence, Family Values, and Washington Masculinity

Mike Pence is pictured. | Getty

When word broke this past week that Vice President Mike Pence has a longstanding practice of refusing to dine alone with any woman not his wife in order to ensure that he is not tempted by an illicit relationship, the reactions from all sides of the aisle were intriguing but pretty predictable.  On the left, the claim was that this behavior was not only sexist and completely diminishing of women, but that such a move would prevent many women politicos from (literally) getting a seat at the table in an atmosphere where never-ending work schedules make working meals a prerequisite for employment.  On the right, a general rejection of the sexism thesis was followed by praise for Pence and his commitment to his marriage. Continue reading “Dinner Dates: Mike Pence, Family Values, and Washington Masculinity”

Embarrassment and Naturalizing a Gender Binary

When we go to a new doctor’s office or meet someone new, most people identify my younger son as female. He has let his straight, black hair grow longer, reaching a bit past his shoulders now. He is also small for his age, quiet (in public), and generally shy, and his name (being Chinese) does not suggest a gender for most people in the United States. These markers, it seems, lead people to mislabel him.

While he seems unfazed by this, others are not. When people discover their error, they suddenly become extremely apologetic and embarrassed. But why? It is an understandable mistake, and neither he nor my wife or I take offense at the mistake. Of course, they do not know that it is not a big deal to him, so the common assumption/fear may be that someone will be hurt or angry over the error, but that does not seem to be the whole situation.

We all assume that we can identify a person’s gender. The 1990’s Saturday Night Live skit “It’s Pat” (see one example here) featured a gender ambiguous, nerdy character and highlighted how uncomfortable others are if they cannot identify someone’s gender. Ambiguity about such an “obvious” binary is unsettling for many. While we assume that the difference of gender is naturally significant and readily identifiable, the assumption that everyone easily falls into one of two genders is inaccurate, as the recent posts on social media about the different chromosomal combinations of X and Y highlights. We have similar issues about ethnicity and race, assuming that we should be able to visually identify someone’s heritage, which creates problems for multi-ethnic people and makes the discovery that someone is “passing” as a member of a race/ethnic group when their ancestry does not conform to the social construction of that group into a newsworthy event. Continue reading “Embarrassment and Naturalizing a Gender Binary”

What Is A President?

As those of us who have been witnessing the roller-coaster politics of the United States these past few months can attest, there’s a lot riding on the idea of the president.  This may seem truistic, for we all know that presidents are very powerful in great part because they are the megaphone through which a series of legislative platforms is broadcast.

But even more than this, presidents are, for many, the image of the nation-state distilled into a single person. When certain Americans thus claim that Donald Trump is “not my president,” what they are indicating in a very straightforward sense is their rejection of this representative identity even as they wish to retain national ties, for presumably they find inconsistencies between the ways they align their own identities with the nation-state and the president as the national symbol. Of course, we’ve seen that before, most recently in this image:

Continue reading “What Is A President?”