Friday, 26 February 2010

Hurricane Katrina: African-American issues

There are several relief websites for Hurricane Katrina but I have selected a website that focuses on the social and economic issues that the hurricane provoked, especially in regards to African-Americans.

Global Issues highlights how the rich were able to flee from the hurricane but the poor (typically African-American) were unable to, and therefore suffered the worst of its destructive power. Racist undertones and exaggeration courtesy of the media is reflected upon in the website, for example:

  • Due to lack of food and water, people began looting shops. The media showed pictures of African-Americans running riot, giving them a negative impression and a sense that they lose control when the system breaks down.
  • Media and political commentators remarked that if white people in such a situation, the situation would not have deteriorated so much.
  • Even though it was never verified, there were claims of babies being raped.

By reinforcing stereotypes of African-American behaviour through exaggerating reports of looting and social anarchy, the Hurricane Katrina disaster has sparked renewal of the "race or class" debate as it ultimately determined the fate of the African-American poor.

K-12: history of American immigration

Aimed at 5th Grade students, this website teaches children about the migration period during the years 1820 - 1924 and the experiences that immigrants had while being inspected at Ellis Island outside of New York City.

The interactive nature of the website combined with the enthusiastic language used conveys that immigration in America is celebrated in schools. For example, students are given the task of interviewing a person who is an immigrant from another country to the US and publishing their story on the internet for others to read. Such quotes as "the greatest migration period of the United States history" and "You will understand why the United States is called the nation of all nations" also establishes a positive and almost patriotic tone on the subject.

Students are asked to define vocubulary focusing on the journey that immigrants faced including "ferry" and "steerage" and the only country that is requested to be defined is Poland. Interestingly, students are asked to summarise Relive a Boy's Journey, a story about Seymour Rechtzeit, a Polish boy who immigrated to America and there is an emphasis on these factors as students are instructed to understand how he travelled to America and what problems he and his father faced in New York. The focus on Poland is perhaps due to the fact that when America was transforming from an agricultural to industrial society, Polish immigrants supplied a wave of manpower whom assisted this and are therefore celebrated. Also, by questioning students about the relationship between him and his struggling father, the portrayal of immigration as an opportunity for youth to rise is clear as he helps him financially by becoming a successful actor and singer in the US.

"Coming To America" is an entry for a 2009 internet competion; ThinkQuest. The aim of the competition was to get children to think more widely when it came to issues outside of what they would normally be taught in class.
These kids from Minnesota chose to do immigration, the history of, and how it affects America.

The site obviously isn't of the highest acedmic standard; to be honest, it's a pretty good site keeping in mind it was made by kids at the equivalent age of Year Five in the UK, but it does show that immigration is in the minds of school kids in America. They also present immigration with a very positive light, and provide a suprisingly in-depth analysis of immigration in the Minnesota area.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Week Three - Multi-Cultural America. Race & Ethnicity

This is an on-line adventure focusing on the basis for the flow of American migrants from the global spectrum and offering an insight into ways for a better quality of life through employment and educational rescources through personal accounts and experiences of its diverse influx and cultural melting pot.

Multicultural America - Immigration

This website contains notes and information from teachers on issues to be explored and projects to be used when teaching about immigration to 8th grade students.

The way in which the subject is approached seems very well rounded and fairly in depth with a number of different areas related to immigration being explored. The overall purpose of the module is described as "providing students with an understanding of the important contributions made by various ethnic groups who immigrated to the United States". It is suggested that this be explored via different avenues such as why people emigrated from their homeland, what difficulties they faced and where they settled etc. The whole concept of immigration to the US seems to be taught fairly in depth, teaching not just the history but how it has affected modern America e.g the problems that are still experienced by immigrants and the cultural make up of the US. The students are also encouraged to look into their own family background and construct 'family trees' in an attempt to explore their own ethnic roots. An acknowledgement to the lack of ethnic diversity and immigrant populations in certain areas within the US is made, by suggesting working with schools that possibly have a different ethnic majority to your own. Overall the issue of immigration to the US is explored from a number of different angles. However the one thing that seems to have been omitted is modernday immigration and how this affects the US, with the focus instead being primarily on the effects of past immigration.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Multi-Cultural America: Race and Ethnicity

"Strangers in the Land of Strangers"

This resource was recommended by the website which provides educational resources for teachers of K-12 American schoolchildren. The link here shows all of the resources available through the website on the subject of immigration in America.

A significant number of the resources tend to focus on immigration today rather than the history however the resource "Strangers in the Land of Strangers" from Pennsyvania Historical Society focuses on the life of immigrants throughout times of conflict ranging from the Revolution up to the Civil Rights movement.

The resources available seem to sometimes show a balanced view of immigration includes both the good and bad of the treatment of immigrants. This is particularly evident in the World War Two section which includes a poster asking citizens to report anyone who is spreading rumours about the war.

This particular poster demonstrates how in times of conflict, German residents in America became stigmatized, perhaps in a similar way as muslims after the 9/11 attacks. This would perhaps be a useful resource to link the past with the present by using this resource as a continuation of the the "times of conflict" theme.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Wk 2 Women and Work

1981 - New York Times

2010 - Washington Post

Both of these articles are about women in the workplace in America.

The first article is from the New York Times and is written in 1981. The article discusses the rights of women in the workplace, particularly about their exclusion on the ground of health and safety. In this case, fertile women were excluded from working in certain areas of a chemical plant due to the risk this could cause to an unborn foetus. Two women chose to be sterilised in order to allow them to work in the area. The employer argues that as the foetus has legal rights as well as the mother, it would be irresponsible to allow a women who has the chance of getting pregnant to put her foetus in harms way. This is particulalrly interesting as eight years earlier, the supreme court in America ruled that a foetus did not have legal rights as a person (Roe vs Wade, 1973). The article continues to debate whether women should be protected against their will when men are not, even if there is a chance that the same chemicals could damage their fertility. This article was written while second wave feminism was still in progress and women were still fighting to equality.

The Washington Post article was written in January of this year. This article is commenting on the increased number of women in the workplace to the point where they are becoming the majority. However the author is not celebrating this fact. Instead the author is commenting on the increased pressure that the Millenial women are under to be both the 1950s stereotypical housewife and the 1980s career women. This article was written when apprently all barriers for women have been broken down and equality regins yet the article suggests that despite this apparent equality, men seem to have the easier life and even suggests that men are in fact choosing to marry one of these "Millenial" women for this reason.

I find it interesting that despite these articles being written nearly twenty years apart, both authors seem to pity women and feel that men are responsble for their plight. The first article comments on men protecting women agaisnt thier will, and the second is not far away from suggesting that men are exploiting women in their fight for equality in the workplace.

Sarah Sizing Up The Front

Week Two - Sarah's View From Above

Former Alaskan Governer & Republican Party's biggest ever rockstar Sarah Palin undertook the honor of Grand Marshall for a day at the NASCAR Seasons opener - The Daytona 500 last sunday and had the view of a lifetime after amplifying in age old tradition the command of "Gentlemen start your engines." Okay so it's not the office or as they like to call it these days the workplace. The point is, Sarah Palin is one of only two female candidates in history to be given the prestige of running for the nations highest office. Being a NASCAR fan myself of course, I, myself, couldn't think of anyone better to head proceedings at the worlds most famous speedway in Florida, than the comeback queen of the media's razors edge and pollitic's alternative view. Hovering above us, is an accompanying frame of Sarah checking out Ryan Newmans No. 39 U.S. Army Car. Some cars get all the luck I guess, or is it just the paint job. Did I mention, I love racing. Further along, on Sarah's racey day out, she also got to meet the King, Richard Petty and got to listen in on some of the pit crew calls on the ariel monitors.

Week Two - From Then To Now

This second image is really one that defines an era when hair rock bands walked the earth to graze off rebelious and impressionable teenagers who were simply too cool to have dinner with their parents at the same table and time they did every evening, displaying mullets to reinforce dizziness and deluisions of teen groupies who stand in line everynight to worship at the alter of cheese and Rio Speedwagon of course, shoulder-padded office coats for him and her, (all matching sizes and colours in stock, more coming in tomorrow sir) When white jeans were wore in public spaces - proudly of course and there were always ninety-nine red beloons in the sky everytime you looked up for romantic inspiration. Oh Im sorry, didn't I mention the Breakfast Club with the cast of those who were once around. On the brighter side, the 80's weren't all bad. It did give us Back To The Future I and II, the first five Wrestlemania's and of course U2's Critically aclaimed Rockumentrey Rattle & Hum, followed by accompaning, groundbreaking, sell out world tour of America and everywhere else on the planet and Joshua Tree album that kicked it all off. Pheeeww, anyway, where were we? That's right - eighties women in the workplace. The overhead frame you see is, of course, from the movie that really defined the female ambition of this decade, it is Mike Nichol's 1988's Working Girl.

Wk 2 Women in the workplace

This image represents what some refer to as post feminism. That is, they feel that they have achieved what is necessary within society and the workplace, and that they can now behave as they wish, which for some involves becoming stay at home mums, leaving the workplace after having kids, or using their femininity to get ahead within the workplace. Whilst some feminists feel that this is backtracking on the progress that has already been made, other women feel that the very fact they have the choice about whether or not to work and in which jobs etc suggests that they have achieved what they set out for.

Wk 2 women in the workplace

This magazine, 'Working Woman', was launched sometime in the early 1980's during what is often referred to as the second wave of feminist thinking, and demonstrates the changing position of women within the workplace. The title alone suggests a shift in attitudes towards women working, but the features e.g "bailing out the men on your team" and "when im on an oilrig im the boss" allude to a significant change in womens role within society in general. The fact they're talking about bailing out male colleagues suggests a sense of superiority that would not have been evident 20 years ago. Equally, the article that focuses on the female oil rig boss how different areas within the working world had opened up for women by the 1980's. That said, the woman on the cover is still overtly feminine, with styled hair, red lipstick, jewellry etc, which gives the impression that appearance and femininity was still an important to factor to women within the workplace.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Week One - The WWE - Masculinity In America Today.

For almost thirty years now, bordering on the eve of next months twenty-sixth Wrestlemania at the University of Pheonix Stadium, Pheonix, Arizona, the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) has been the focal point for physical and competitive excelence in U.S. sports entertainment and even worldwide. Many of history's greatest superstars have passed through it's curtains and cemented their names in eternities marbled hall of fame by paying homege to the hallowed squared circle. This iconic, three-hundred and sixty-five day a year circus has given birth and immortality to stars such as Rowdy Roddy Piper, Hulk Hogan, The Nature Boy -Ric Flair, Brett 'The Hitman' Hart, 'The Macho Man' - Randy Savage, 'The Heartbreak kid' - Shawn Michaels and of course the long since passed Texas Tornado - Kerry Von Erich and Andre The Giant. These are the names this organisation was first built on, they were and still are today quiet simply, it's foundation. They were those who gave life and limb for our entertainment as kids running home from school just to get homework and chores out of the way so we could settle in for the nights competitive proceedings to begin. These hallowed servants of the WWE's christmas past now give way to a new breed of wrestling superstar, perhaps the most famous and iconic still lacing up his boots today, is without any question, the legendary pheonom - The Undertaker. This november coming will mark his twentieth aniversary in the World Wrestling Enternainment organisation. The nearly seven foot tall deadman from Death Death Valley and seven time World Heavy Weight Champion, currently stands on his own brink of immortality, surpassing almost every other wrestling superstar, past and present as longest residing legendary icon in the organisations history. Founded by Vince MacMahon Snr., the WWE, even right now to this day, week after week, still surpasses merchandise, Pay-Per-View and cable revenues including website hits on a monitored weekly statcount basis toppling more than the NFL, NBA, NHL and Nascar combined. This billion doller baby of entertainment also bosts America's longest running episonic T.V. show in history - WWE Monday Night Raw. Simply incredible, however on an irresisstable side note of mention, I confess a modest sense of personal pride as I pen this. Right now, at this juncture in historie's record books, a fellow countryman of my own has scaled this American entertainment institutions everest and made it to it's breath-stealing peak where few outsiders have ever gone before as WWE Champion. He is The Celtic Warrior Sheamus, an Irish lad who grew up on North Great Georges Street in inner city Dublin, just around the corner from the square I lived on myself where I made my own way to college every morning, rucksack on shoulder and exhaling the cold morning air, wondering of the possibilities to come.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Wk2 Representation of women and work: April O'Neil and Carrie Bradshaw

Women have struggled through and overcome endless conflict throughout history. Since the late 19th century, women have protested for equal rights as they have faced barriers such as the right to vote and an unfair perception that they are uneducated people only fit for homemaking. Considered dependent on their husbands, women were excluded from employment until they became part of the workforce during WWII. Even so, women were still not taken seriously and still to this day are paid less than men. With ambition for their own careers and independence in society, women slowly began to gain equality after leading battles against maternity leave and budget cut-backs. By the 1980s, the role of women in the workplace increased greatly.

To represent women and work I have chosen a female fictional character from the 80s and another from the late 90s / early 00s.

In the 1987 animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, April O'Neil was a television reporter who expressed frequent disagreement with her "anti-TMNT" assignments due to her headstrong nature and passion for her work. She drove a blue van and wore a yellow jumpsuit which were clear embodiments of power and masculinity. She also lived in an apartment in New York City and her Aunt Agatha was a detective. Both of these representations of women suggest independence and as these subtle details suggest female power, it is noteworthy that even in a cartoon for children, the greater role of women at work is defined. Despite April being portrayed as a capable woman, she was often represented as the typical damsal in distress as her innate curiosity and determination placed her in danger on several occasions and she often had to be saved by the Turtles. This suggests that she was merely a token female character in the series, appearing only to balance out the masculinity of the series. However, she did contribute to the Turtles by alerting them to trouble and possible leads, showing her resourcefulness - a characterstic typically displayed by men.

Carrie Bradshaw is the lead character of US drama Sex and the City. She is a New York newspaper columnist, socialite, fashionista and freelance writer for Vogue magazine. In 2009, The Guardian named Bradshaw as an icon of the decade, stating that "Carrie Bradshaw did as much to shift the culture around certain women's issues as real-life female groundbreakers." To some, this may be an odd choice as perhaps Hillary Clinton is more deserving of icon status when considering contemporary feminist activism. However, Carrie is relateable to women and serves as an inspiration to them as well. Stuck between finding true love and settling down, women can identify with Carrie by escaping the dilemma of relationships and starting a family through shopping. It can be argued that Carrie did not do as much to shift the culture around women's issues compared to real-life feminist groundbreakers such as Hillary Clinton, but SATC in general shifted the cultural landscape in many ways. The show exemplified that even successful feminist women spend a lot of time talking about love, romance and sex and SATC made it seem smart, relevant and less shameful to do so. The character of Carrie also showed audiences that a lively female personality is just as interesting as female sexuality or motherhood; she is a writer who arrived in the big city and immediately found her voice.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Masculinity - Firearms - NRA

While the NRA are trying to promote themselves as a more diverse and multi-gender action group, I chose them as an example due to the fact that, owning a firearm or other weapon (from their website, they promote carrying a knife, but not directly though...) is a very masculine thing to do.

Maybe its the power that holding and owning a firearm brings; maybe its a fear of not being able to protect your wife and kids; maybe its the ability to kill someone; or maybe it is just that they make a very loud noise. Weapons, and especially firearms, are masculine.

Notice in this video, and many more like it, big American men, walking around in a big wood, with very big guns, and the inherent lack of women; that is pretty masculine...

Contemporary masculinity in America: Bear / Cargo Magazine

To define contemporary masculinity, I have selected the gay magazine Bear. Due to the website's content it has been blocked from the university network but I have linked its Wikipedia page.

Aimed at a gay audience who are sexually attracted to masculine men or are masculine themselves, the magazine features butch men with body and facial hair. This defies the stereotypical view of the effeminate gay community and this idea has been represented in the TV show Playing It Straight where unexpectadly the men who were in masculine jobs turned out to be gay and the more feminine men turned out to be metrosexual straight men. Therefore gender identity is not quite as clear cut in terms of femininity and masculinity and they are often blurred.

The trend of metrosexuality (straight men that have the appearance or lifestyle of stereotypically gay men) has been a popular selling point among many men's magazines. Established in 2004, Cargo Magazine had a brief 2-year stint of publication and featured vanity segments including "The Perfect Fitting Suit" and "How to Tan Without the Sun". Interestingly however, the magazine was published before the transmission of Queer Eye For the Straight Guy, a TV programme that played with the stereotypes that gay men are superior to straight men in matters of fashion, style and personal grooming which helped put metrosexuality into the mainstream. This shows that some straight men are naturally vigilant when it comes to style and are therefore not the product of hype; metrosexuality has simply evolved from the minority and has rapidly become more mainstream.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Contemporary Masculinity in America - Men's Health
Mens Health is a US based magazine that began life in 1987 as a health based magazine before changing fairly quickly into a 'lifestyle' magazine, addressing issues that are supposedly important to modern american men, including; fitness, women, nutrition, grooming and weightloss. With a readership of almost 2 million in America it suggests that these issues do indeed resound with a large number of modern men in America.
The fact the magazine offers advice on such things as how to style your hair, finding a fragrance to suit your personality and how to accessorize your outfits suggests that todays american men have moved away from the stereotype of an 'all american man' being macho and uninterested in appearance etc. Instead, the articles suggest that mens priorities have changed and that what defines masculinity has also changed, making things such as grooming and dieting acceptable and even desirable as a way of displaying your masculinity.

However the magazine also shows that modern men havn't completely moved away from the traditional ideal of the american man. For instance the magazine focuses heavily on fitness and health, promoting the idea that being physically fit and strong is desirable. It also has sections showing attractive women which is common among other magazines that supposedly appeal to the traditional stereotype of american men.

Mens Health shows that men are still interested in what are typically thought of as 'manly' things such as fitness but have become more open to things traditionally associated with women, such as taking time choosing clothes and grooming etc.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Multi-Cultural America: Gender. Esquire Magazine

Esquire Magazine

The link above is the website for the American copy of the men's magazine "Esquire".

After its takeover by Hearst in the late 1980's, the magazine's target audience became primary men betwen the ages of 25-44 who are "well-educated, sophisticated and open-minded".

From even the home page, it is clear that the Esquire reader is considered to be "metro-sexual" or even be closer to the European ideal of the male (intellectual)rather than the American "John Wayne" type. However, there are elements to suggest that the american ideal of masculinity is still included.

The opinion that "blue-collar workers" watch television programmes such as American Chopper and Deadliest Catch in order to feel more like the American ideal of masculinity is demonstrated in the magazine with articles such as "what it feels like to be bitten by a shark" or articles about demolition and sports being dsiplayed alongside recipes for men as well as articles about fashion and current events. It is as if the Esquire man, although having slightly more feminine aspects, is still able to demonstrate the traditionally American male role by his interest in sports, cars, women and danger in a less aggressive way.

Perhaps the most interesting study in how masculinity is portrayed in Esquire is in the magazine's presentation of women. While in tradionally more "masculine" magazines such as Hooters, women are described as "girls" and are dressed in little more than bikinis next to articles containing not a lot of words, the women in Esquire, although scantily clad, are described as "women we love" and are celebrated both for their intellect and their beauty.

Esquire presents the change of perception of the male roles over the past twenty years which perhaps mirrors the change in the feminine role over the same period. While women have slowly entered the tradionally male domains (eg sport, the workforce and politics) the Esquire man has been slowly accessing the more "feminine" areas such as cookery and personal appearence.