Friday, May 28, 2010

Your Friday Awesome: Sometimes You Just Need a Cute Thing Hugging Another Cute Thing

Yes, yes. This made the internetz rounds last week and is sooooooooooo, well, last week. But it is still fricking adorable and is good press for a neat organization - and makes me smile. So does the video, particularly the bit with this little guy, which if I had more time I would put on loop:

And besides, I used up my really awesome post yesterday.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gender and Sexuality at Prom: The Good, the Bad and the Awesome

This year students across the country made it pretty damn clear that prom is not just about finding a date and the perfect dress - its has become a political statement about who you can date and what you can wear openly.

Constance McMillian wanted to bring her gilfriend to prom. When she couldn't, she got the ACLU on her side, and thousands of others, and even that was not enough to get the school district to treat her with respect (though it did get a bill proposed in the Senate - woo!).

Omar Bonilla ran for prom queen and came very close to winning, but was suddenly suspended two days before prom for a questionable parking violation

Derrek Lutz not only won his right to wear a dress, he was crowned Prom King:

Prom wasn't the first time Derrek expressed his identity in front of classmates and school administrators. Last month he did it with an entire posse:

Extra points for the awesome and crass intro. But, is it just me, or does it look a little bit like the writers of Glee found some inspiration there for this week's episode?

Speaking of Glee, I cannot express how happy I am that this clip was aired in primetime, particularly now when students like Derrek, Constance and Omar are in the press.

Yeah, grab a tissue. And then do what you can to make sure the kids you know are safe and supported.

What students like Derrek are doing is incredibly brave, because even if you have a posse of backup dancers (or in Constance's case, lawyers) doesn't mean everyone in the school supports you, obviously the administration had to be convinced. Furthermore, not going to prom isn't the only threat students face.

I am in awe of these students that are using what has been one of the most heteronormative high school rites of passage and turning it on its head, making it inclusive and representative of who they and their fellow students are.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Music Monday: Le Tigre Chaser

Reader Alison is right. That last post needed a chaser:

Music Monday: Ke$ha is pulling one over on us

Okay, seriously. My first response to Ke$ha was an epic eye-roll. I mean really. You have a dollar sign in your name. Come on now.

Then I listened to Tik Tok and rolled my eyes again - every time I found myself singing the damn catchy, poorly written, auto-tuned to death, song.

Then she decided that co-opting the general, ambiguous, "native" was awesome and I rolled my eyes again.

But, then I saw this:

And I kind of had to give the lady a little credit. I mean, (in a so-cal party girl, I went to college for three semesters squeal) that is like so meta!

Okay, obviously all pop superstars put on an act in someway, but I don't think this is just an act in the Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, way. It's a outright jab at the pop music industry starting with a leggy, thin, white, young blonde with a dollar sign in her stage name. And if you can bring yourself to listen to "Your Love is My Drug" there is a little carrot for all of us who "get it" at the end.

Go, ahead. Skip to the end of the video.

This might just be too many years of training in close-reading, but I'm pretty sure, "I like your beard," is not only making fun of the entire song that preceded it, it is also making fun of the commodified hipster (lets all appropriate other cultures and the worst of the decades before we were born) aesthetic that her performances are helping to commodify.

Or, you know, it could just be shitty music she is making to make a buck...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Your Friday Awesome: I Can Do Anything Good

If you did not start your day like this, I suggest you do it now. Go ahead, do it. 'Cause I bet you can do it (and anything else you put your heart into) good. Especially if you do it in your pajamas.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Music Monday: Beyonce is Kinda Badass

Music Monday is quickly becoming "posts inspired by Stephanie and Nnekay's IM discussions about pop culture." It is also of the Sady Doyle school of blogging: even if its old in internet years does not mean we cannot further discuss it.

This week I confess that I am becoming quite enamored with Beyonce. Exhibit A:

There's been much discussion on the interwebs about what this video means and what it may accomplish. But, frankly I think dusting off an entire shelf of grammies speaks volumes.

Furthermore, my like of Beyonce is in equal and opposite reaction to my like of Lady Gaga. Both are a fan of the no-pants trend, however, while the Lady continues her attempts to be avante garde within the pop culture canon that she has (strategically) made herself a part of, Sasha Fierce B.B. Homemaker Ms. Knowles seems to be leveraging her creation within the pop culture canon during her youth to create a new witty personality based on campy critique. Exhibit B:

Granted, as catchy as the song is and as well choreographed the video, "Single Ladies" is a bit problematic. However, I think it was also laying the groundwork for the new awesome (albeit pants-less) Beyonce. And let's face it, the woman's got an amazing set of pipes.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Your Friday Awesome: Fun with Feminism!

It's funny because it's true.
1. Thou shalt not see a sexist, misogynistic ad, say “that sucks” and leave it at that.
2. Thou shalt view all media through a critical lens.
3. Thou shalt watch every movie while wondering if it will pass the Bechdel Test.
4. Thou shalt critique media when it portrays women as one-dimensional, second-class citizens.
5. Thou shalt vote with thy wallet (also known as the “I will not pay $12 to see ‘I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell’ commandment.”)
6. Thou shalt consume shitty forms of media (i.e. tabloids, reality TV) to be aware of what the “mainstream media” is saying about (and to) women and girls.
7. Thou shalt write letters, make phone calls, and send emails to let Dodge know you won’t buy their cars or to tell that you’ll look elsewhere for a domain (or ? or ?).
8. Thou shalt utilize social media to get the message out.
9. Thou shalt not feel bad for still being influenced by the barrage of unattainable images.
10. Thou shalt criticize the culture, not the women (employ the pro-woman line).
And, also: #6 is my excuse for reading crap like Twilight. No, seriously.*

 *That, and I'm totally Team Jacob.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Music Monday: Janelle Monae

I've been meaning to put this video up for ages. Nnekay showed it to me weeks and weeks ago and it makes me happy every time I watch it. The music, the clothes, the hair, the dancing - it is all amazing. Sociological Images has some background on the potential inspiration for the video and some thoughts on how it is welcome change from gendered (read: sexualized) videos and dancing.

Now I really want a tuxedo and saddle shoes, but instead I'll have to do with a new weekly series, because really you need something fun to start your week, rather than just ending it with awesomeness. I was tempted to call it "Toe-tappin Tuesday" but Twitter has taken over the world.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sometimes a T-Shirt Isn't Just a T-shirt

This is the headline that is all over the local news and airwaves right now:

Students Kicked Off Campus for Wearing American Flag Tees

But that is only part of the story. This week, five students at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, California decided to wear every bit of clothing they had with the American flag on it - shirts, shorts, shoes and bandannas. The day they chose to wear these outfits was also Cinco de Mayo.

The students were told by school officials that they had to turn their shirts inside out. If they refused they would be suspended. They refused.

The incident is being touted as an attempt by the administration (one of whom newscasters have made sure to emphasize has a Latino sounding name) to punish the students for their "patriotism." The suspension is considered unfair because they "had no choice" since they determined that turning a t-shirt inside out that had an artistic interpretation of the American flag on it or one branded with a low-price clothing company was "disrespectful."

Here's the thing, I grew up in the town next to Morgan Hill. I also went to the public high school. This issue is about more than just who wears what shirt with which flag on which day.

One person wearing an American flag t-shirt is patriotic. Five people wearing American flag shirts, shorts, shoes and bandannas on a day set aside to celebrate the cultural heritage of another group is intentionally inflammatory. And the administration knows that. And I'm guessing the newscasters do to.

Clothing is not simply a way to cover yourself, it is a complex system of signs. In this area of California and many others, that system is heightened and members of the community are particularly aware of it because many of those signs are intended to reflect which which gang you belong to - or would like to belong.

That is why the California Education Code provides for schools to establish a dress code in an attempt to limit gang activity in particular:
The governing board of any school district may adopt or rescind a reasonable dress code policy that requires pupils to wear a schoolwide uniform or prohibits pupils from wearing "gang-related apparel" if the governing board of the school district approves a plan that may be initiated by an individual school's principal, staff, and parents and determines that the policy is necessary for the health and safety of the school environment. Individual schools may include the reasonable dress code policy as part of its schoolsafety plan, pursuant to Section 32281.
Here's the relevant part of section 32281:
The provisions of any schoolwide dress code, pursuant to Section 35183, that prohibits pupils from wearing "gang-related apparel," if the school has adopted that type of a dress code. For those purposes, the comprehensive school safety plan shall define "gang-related apparel." The definition shall be limited to apparel that, if worn or displayed on a school campus, reasonably could be determined to threaten the health and safety of the school environment. Any schoolwide dress code established pursuant to this section and Section 35183 shall be enforced on the school campus and at any school-sponsored activity by the principal of the school or the person designated by the principal. For the purposes of this paragraph, "gang-related apparel" shall not be considered a protected form of speech pursuant to Section 48950.

Now, I was never one to blindly support my school district's decisions when it came to dress codes and disciplinary action.* The code of conduct and dress code - Live Oak's is not publicly available on the district's site - often seemed arbitrary and targeted Latino students more than others.

However, I do believe these types of restrictions are necessary for the "health and safety" of students. They certainly won't solve the problem of gang violence on campus (we had a very strict anti-gang dress code and multiple other measures, but we still had violence and a gang-related death at my high school), but they are a step towards lessening it. The problem with the current code is that it is limited to a certain demographic of students - students who in this area are Latino. And here is where the problem with this incident lies. The school has to outline what qualifies as "gang-related apparel" or clothing that will affect the "health and safety" of students before it can enforce the code. I'm going to guess that while Live Oak's dress code includes specific types of red and blue clothing, it does not include clothing that combines the two.

By attaching the administration's ability to intervene based on what students are wearing to gang activity, they are limited in their ability to address the other ways clothing can be used to negatively affect the "health and safety" of students. In this instance, the students were not part of a gang (though they fulfilled two of the three parameters for the California definition of one), but their actions were intentionally meant to (in the best case) intimidate their fellow students and (in the worst case) incite hostility within the student body. And guess what? They succeeded.

We are at a point in our history where "patriotism" is being defined by whoever is doing the speaking, and it is more and more being hijacked to mean xenophobia and nationalism. That was no more evident this last week as Arizona enacted prejudiced and dangerous laws to a background of birthers and teapartiers and their definition of "patriotism." So attempting to enforce your limited definition of patriotism and what it means to be an American on a day set aside to celebrate the cultural background of members of your community, isn't an innocent display of love for one's country.

The argument that the students' decision to wear clothing dripping in American flags could not have been intended to be intimidating or prejudiced because one of the students is part Mexican is also shakey. Yes, it certainly muddies the situation, but in this community, like many others, self-identification isn't based on a simple binary standard. Individual members chose to identify themselves through any number of descriptors: Mexican, Mexican-American, Latino/a, Chicano/a, Hispanic, White, Caucasian, and yes simply American. But these are not necessarily based on their lineage. The decision to identify oneself includes many personal decisions about how you want to identify not only your ethnicity, but your citizenship, class and membership within or outside of a particular community.

In this case, the students insistence to define themselves as members of a specific community based on their clothing was also an attempt to define who is not a part of their chosen community.

*And those of us who called the ACLU when we thought the dress code was discriminatory against tall girls...that would be me...

Your Friday Awesome: Word To Your Mutha

Besides the fact that they ruined this with the descriptor, and this looks more like an under-division history class than an actual gender studies class - which in my experience are filled with eager, well-meaning, if a bit hetero-normative students...its still pretty awesome. And timely.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

New Year, New Look

Quick housekeeping note:

I redid the template. Yeah, I'm not totally stoked on it, but I could poke around with my limited HTML skills and Blogger's style cheats forever, so we'll leave it like this for now. If you can't stand it let me know.


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