Category Archives: Sociology

The Unbearable Whiteness Of Being (Part III)

We’ve spent the past few weeks talking about Whiteness, but maybe it’s time just to ask the question directly.

When I say something’s White, what image pops into your head?

Is it something like this?

Or something like this?

Or maybe one of these?

There is a certain image attached to White people, or the very least, generalized to White “culture.” That of the dork. The effete nerd. The bland, out-of-touch suburbanite, fearfully barricading themselves in their comfortable gated community.

And that’s a little ****ed up.

A little.

My day isn’t ruined when I hear a comedian lampoon White folks. I don’t fly into an indignant rage when someone cracks a joke about mayonnaise being too spicy. I certainly don’t think being called “Cracker” carries the same nasty implications as someone getting called “Nigger.”

But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t annoy me just a tiny bit. Continue reading

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The Unbearable Whiteness Of Being (Part II)

Last week, I asked what exactly it meant to be White. Today, I’d like to step back and show you what it was that brought up this question in the first place.

It was this image here:

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Now that got posted by a friend of mine. Good guy, but with a habit (in my opinion) of reposting whatever liberal dreck pops into his FB feed without taking the time to question it. Allow me to break down why that image is such festering garbage.

First and foremost, it’s unbelievably racist. Not white-hoods-and-burning-crosses racist (we’ll get to them in a minute) – we’re talking the condescending, insidious racism of White liberal elites.

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“Because I’ll endorse Obama and speak at the Women’s March, but **** Asians and Palestinians.”

Continue reading

The Unbearable Whiteness Of Being (Part I)

FACT: All Asian Americans are Asian by definition, but not all Asians are Asian Americans. The truth is that most Asians aren’t. While they may share an ethnic heritage, as well as many cultural similarities, Asian people who were born and raised in and reside in an Asian country have vastly different wants and needs and priorities than those who were born and raised in and reside in North America [and other non-Asian countries].

I wanted to start out with that quote for two reasons.

First, because it’s stolen from my co-writer’s post last Friday, which was a really good post you should read.

Second, because I think it does a good job of establishing the complicated and sometimes uncomfortable nuance that goes into addressing identity politics. Which is what we’re going to be talking about today and in the weeks to follow.

More specifically, we’re gonna be talking about White people.

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We’ll probably cover my use of this specific gif sometime later…

Before we dive in, I just wanna make something clear.

Race is a social construct – a series of categories that we’ve made up and ones we’ve made up only very recently in the scope of history. The fact of the matter is that there’s no actual place you can draw a dividing line when it comes to human beings and there’s no good reason you’d want to.

Not that it’s ever stopped us.

For better or worse, we have divided the world up into so many arbitrary categories, and those divisions have played and continue to play a major role in today’s culture. In spite of what some folks might suggest, ignoring racism doesn’t make it go away, and if we want to end the unspeakable hassle that is identity politics, we’re going to need to start by actually addressing them.

And here at Culture War Reporters, I think we’ve done a decent job. Continue reading

Not Everyone Got A Trophy

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that lines used.

“Not everybody wins a trophy.”

That patronizing line gets spat from the lips of sneering pundits on the news. It makes its appearance in venomous opinion columns in the local papers and it graces cover of national magazines.

“Not everybody wins a trophy.”

“Some people are losers.”

“This is what happens when you give kids awards for just participating.”

To hear some folks talk, the sum total of this country’s ills can be traced back to the coddling of America’s youth- Generation Y in particular. And certainly there’s no shortage of criticism launched in the Millennials’ direction.

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This is the generation of entitlement, the generation of immediate gratification, the generation of the two-second attention span, the “me” generation. And all stemming from the baseless sense of accomplishment and self-esteem given out with every participation award.

Or does it?

The idea that kids are being handed award after meaningless award is rampant- so much so it seems to have gone unchallenged. Yours truly took to the internet to find out what the statistics were on the number of participation awards given out, and my efforts were utterly fruitless. Now there were plenty of polls on public opinion of participation awards, but neither my old friend Google Scholar nor the internet at large had anything to offer in the way of hard numbers.

And that should concern us.

Ask yourself- just for a moment- how many participation ribbons or trophies you’ve actually seen anyone receive. Not how many you suspect might be out there. Not how many schools or competitions have that “mentality”.

How many have you actually seen with your own eyes?

I’m guessing the number of actual occurrences might not quite be so high.

Then why the outrage?

Millennials are constantly painted as greedy, lazy, thin-skinned egotists as a result of a kind of upbringing for which little to no hard data exists. One might just as easily blame the decline of glam rock or UFO sightings for the supposed ills of Generation Y.

Yet the accusations persist. Continue reading

Socially Conscious Comedy Part I: 3 Important Feminist Issues That Amy Schumer Humorously Highlights

I realize Amy Schumer isn’t for everyone. She’s pretty crude, and some of her sketches shift suddenly from funny to uncomfortable.

She also hasn’t done the greatest job approaching intersectionalism through her humour. While she humbly apologized for racially inappropriate jokes that she made in the past, she recently missed the mark again with race jokes in her movie, Trainwreck. That said, I think Schumer offers some fantastic socially conscious comedy. She’s created a niche as a funny feminism, and has drawn attention to some really important women’s issues through her jokes. Below, I’ve outlined a few of the difficult issues that Schumer addresses on her show.

1) Rape

Rape is never funny. However, the way Western society often responds to rape is an absolute joke. Schumer has perfected the socially conscious ‘rape joke’, not by downplaying the seriousness of the violent crime, but by mocking the ridiculous social circumstances that allow rape to go unpunished.

In “A Very Realistic Video Game”, Schumer draws attention to the way female military officers rarely see justice after being assaulted by a fellow officer.

Similarly, her sketch titled “Football Town Nights” looks at the way athletes’ celebrity status has led entire towns to defend young rapists as though they were victims rather than perpetrators .

2) Internalized Misogyny

There are a lot of ways women police ourselves. We try not to be too cocky, or too naggy, or too loud and obnoxious, or too vain. We are taught to police these behaviours because they will make us less likeable, less dateable, or an embarrassment for our significant others.

Sketches like, “I’m Sorry” or “Compliments” draw attention to the pressure women feel to act coy, even in situations where their male counterpart would be encouraged to be confident.

Meanwhile, “I Have a Boyfriend” and “Hello Mi’Lady” highlight the way women can be manipulated into accepting unwanted advances, since ignoring or rejecting them is considered “bitchy” or “cruel”.

3) Unrealistic Beauty Standards

Schumer regularly takes on unrealistic beauty standards, especially those that target female celebrities.

Her parodic music video, “You don’t need make-up,” mocks (most) men’s misconception of what ‘natural beauty’ actually looks like.

Meanwhile, “Schumerenka vs. Everett” highlights the way women are expected to sustain a certain type of look, even in the athletic world. This is a problem recently highlighted by a racist/sexist New York Times article that framed Serena Williams as masculine, and even animalistic for her physical strength

With her recent rise to celebrity status, Schumer has also experienced her fair share of body shaming. At her first audition, for example, she was told to “either lose weight or gain a bunch of weight” in order to secure a role as either “the fat friend or the romantic lead.” She has also been targeted by Twitter trolls for being “too fat”. Recently, she dedicated an entire episode to these trolls, by having men on her show debate if she was actually hot enough to be on TV.

Rape, misogyny and beauty standards aren’t just ‘lady problems’, they are societal problems. These issues matter, and I’m glad Amy Schumer is drawing attention to them via her show. I’m also glad Schumer approaches these issues with a sense of humour. Humour has a powerful way of helping us self-examine ourselves, and think more deeply about problems we might have dismissed if they hadn’t made us laugh.

Is It Time To Stop Reading Shakespeare?

I never really liked Shakespeare.

Never hated the guy, mind you- downright enjoyed a few of his plays (The Tempest, Coriolanus, Hamlet). Still, I never really could bring myself to relish the bard’s works with the same zealous enthusiasm of the drama geeks and English majors.

With that in mind, you might spare me perhaps a little of the horrified gasping when I ask:

Is it time to stop reading Shakespeare?

And I ask that with all sincerity. I’ve made no secret about my general dislike of the theater and the culture surrounding it, but I’m not here to talk about those guys.

You know the type. Melodramatic airheads who’ll actually only refer to this as “the Scottish play”…

I’m talking about the actual works of William Shakespeare here.

Why still read ’em?

After all, with every passing year, we drift further and further away from those stories. In spite the film industry churning out one or two adaptations or modernizations of Shakespeare’s plays, there’s only so many ways to re-imagine Romeo and Juliet.

Continue reading

Rachel Brown on Food, Religious Identity, and the Appeal of Muslim Extremists

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to hear PhD candidate Rachel Brown speak about her research on food and religious identity in French and Quebecois Muslim immigrant communities. I found Brown’s talk fascinating and contacted her soon afterwards; I wanted to find out if her work was publicly available so I could write about it here on the blog. While Brown has written a chapter on her work for an academic publication it hasn’t been published quite yet. Lucky for me, Brown was willing to share a draft with me. Throughout this interview I will be referring to, and occasionally quoting, that draft in order to give you context for the questions I ask Brown.

According to Brown, her “primary research interest lies in the study of immigrant religious experience and how members of immigrant communities negotiate their religious identities through food and food practices in their host countries.” In order to write on this topic, Brown conducted fieldwork and semi-structured interviews in both Paris, France and Montreal, Quebec.

This was the most French gif I could find.

Kat: Hi Rachel, thanks again for being willing to share your research with me and our readers. Before I dive into the questions I have from reading your draft, can I ask, what drew you to this area of study?

Brown: I came to the project out of a love of all things food and all things France. On one of my many visits, I noticed that how and what the Muslim community in France ate was a point of interest for media, politics, and everyday conversation on the street between friends and neighbours. There was clearly a subject to be addressed. I figured if I was going to be in the field for a year I might as well be somewhere I love and studying something I am passionate about, and so I set out to study the topic of food and religion. As I got further and further into the topic I realized just how essential food practice is to identity, especially religious identity and my research has grown exponentially ever since. The importance of food in religious identity negotiation for immigrants can be seen across a variety of locations and traditions.

Kat: I’m also curious about the technical side of things. Did you intentionally limit your case studies to individuals from the Maghreb? If yes, then why? Also, how did you go about arranging these interviews, or even making these connections in the first place?

Brown: I definitely limited my study to individuals from the Maghreb. I did this because the largest Muslim community in both France and Quebec comes from the countries of the Maghreb. This is not only because of proximity, of the Maghreb to France, but also because of a colonial history between France and the countries of the Maghreb. When one thinks of Muslims in France, this is most often the community that comes to mind.

In terms of arranging the interviews, this was a tough process. I started by going to the Grand Mosque of Paris and just getting to know people there. I had to build up trust, and spent many hours just helping out at the mosque in order to show that I was not a journalist (a profession folks are very hesitant of in France) and that I meant well with my research. After people got to know me, some started to agree to do personal interviews with me. Once I conducted the first interviews the people I interviewed then put me in contact with friends or family members to interview. So I followed a snowball methodology. It was not easy to get people to talk to me, but because my topic is such an approachable one (who doesn’t want to talk about food?), it made it a little bit easier to get people to agree to interviews. Having the personal connection, and a validation from friends or family members that had already done the interview was also key. Continue reading