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#MilitaryPrincess Pt2. If You Want Happiness


“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.

If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.

If you want happiness for a month, get married.

If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.

If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.”

-Chinese Proverb

 

This past Christmas was a very special one.

Firstly, my lovely cousin came back from New York City (oh, I could just smell the air of freedom from her) to celebrate her status as a newly wed with all the family members in Taiwan. It was an amazing week as we ate and travelled all around Taiwan.

Also, it was my first Christmas in a long time spent in Taiwan.

I’m currently serving my substitute military service in a small public primary school called Chang Hsing Elementary School, located in Qidu, Keelung, Taiwan. Qidu is actually where both my parents are from, and where my grandparents still live. Maybe it was destiny or maybe it was luck that I get to see my grandparents almost everyday now, but either way, it’s nice.

I’m working as part English Teaching Assistant and part Administrative Assistant to the school, so my daily tasks range from English speech competition training camps to delivering paperwork to the city council. I also get to play with the kids from time to time. It’s never boring here.

It’s always been kind of a tradition for the substitute military guys to deliver a Christmas presentation to the entire school for cultural awareness purposes, and to be honest, you can only talk so much about Christmas without it being boring, right?

I wanted to bring Secret Santa to the school, but considering the family backgrounds of some of the students here, making them buy presents for other students just wasn’t ideal. Also, the real meaning of Christmas isn’t about receiving but actually giving the presents, right? Happiness is the greatest when you give, not receive, and we wanted to show that to the kids.

So we came up with ‘Secret Angel,’ and it is the following:

A week before Christmas Day, we distributed small Christmas cards to every student and assigned them to write down one thing they remember being helped or being inspired by someone else. The teachers would also give a couple of examples for them to brainstorm and grasp an idea of what’s expected. This is for them to identify a positive influence in their life.

The following Monday, the teachers would ask the students to share their stories with their peers. This is to celebrate other people’s involvement and help in our lives.

Then, the students would draw from a already-prepared box filled with names of the students in the class. They are to be this person’s ‘Secret Angel.’ Their mission during this week before Christmas Day is to help and/or inspire this person with the exact positive act written in their own cards that they’ve just shared with their peers. This is to teach them to pay forward the positive outputs.

On Christmas Day, each class would come around the school Christmas Tree and have the students take turn revealing their ‘Secret Angel’ to celebrate the good deeds they’ve done. After they share their stories with their peers, they’re given praise and confirmation by both the teachers and the students. Then, they hang their cards onto the tree for everyone in the school to read.

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Students sharing their stories with their peers

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His name is Eric, and he’s talking about how he reminded a girl in his class of their math homework all this week

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Look at that smile!

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Then, they get to hang their own hand-written hards onto the Christmas Tree

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The tree looks much better with the cards, don’t you think?

Seeing the kids get very excited to share, listen, and to hang their cards is such a warm feeling. They’re smiling when they’re sharing their stories with everyone, and the smiles get even bigger when their Secret Angel responds “I knew it was you! Thank you!” because their actions are recognized and even celebrated.

I hope they’ve learned a thing or two during this week, but most importantly I hope I can keep paying forward all the good deeds in my life myself.

 

xoxo,

#PrincessDiaries

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#MilitaryPrincess Pt.1 – Military Basic Training

Dear Diary,

I know it’s been ages since I last posted. Note that I used ‘posted’ and not ‘wrote’ – I’ve actually tried to start countless blog posts but haven’t found the courage and enough comprehensive thoughts to finish any of them. The past year and half and I was on hiatus from this blog was very eventful and challenging, and I’m ultimately glad that I’m able to spend some time to type this blog post up.

I’ve moved back to Taiwan after having spent a year in Dubai. I’m now here for Substitute Military, a type of military serve that you can either choose or get picked to do as a Taiwanese young man facing compulsory services. Since I was educated abroad, I applied for Substitute Military, Ministry of Education branch with my foreign diploma and I will be teaching English to disadvantaged children for the next year. The location is yet disclosed since we need to go through two parts of training: first the Basic Military Training for 16 days and then the Professional Training for 14. This blog post is my written diary entry while I was in base for the first part of the training. It’s a bit embarrassing to read through again, especially at the beginning, but I want to keep the material as raw as possible in order to capture the truest emotions and experiences. Well, without further adieu, here it is. Try not to judge too hard though 😛

xoxo,

#PrincessDiaries

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October 9th, Friday, Day 3

[09:00] Today’s the third day in base and last night was the second night in a row that I cried myself to sleep. Wasn’t expecting that really.

I’ve always thought of myself as a strong and independent fella, at least mentally. Oh boy, we’re currently watching a PSA about depression. The mom is relentlessly caring for her daughter who is the main protagonist. She’s been acting weird, and it’s obvious that she has depression.

Anything about ‘mom’ just drives me bonkers right now; it doesn’t matter how difficult she can be sometimes or how much she butts into my life, I know I can always count on her to be there for me. I miss her lots, and it hasn’t even been three full days in base yet.

Ok, I can’t keep watching this video anymore. I thought I had cried everything out last night. I couldn’t even call my parents in the short five minutes I had my phone because I was so afraid I’d have lost it on the spot. I miss home; I miss my family; I miss the people I love.

It’s quite ironic that everyone else around me thought this was such a big deal except me. I had thought: it’s just 16 days! I had lived abroad for nine years by myself before, this is absolutely nothing. But this is everything I’m afraid of – a bunch of dudes. Taking orders. Being yelled at no matter what you do. Unreasonable requests with no questions asked. No freedom. Freedom. Being unable to eat when hungry or go to the restroom when needed is a horrific thing. It makes you feel so small and helpless.

October 10th, Saturday, Day 4

[08:40] Today’s October 10th, aka Taiwan’s 4th of July. Just realized that everyone else I know here (in Taiwan) is enjoying their long weekend since they had yesterday off too.

Did I mention that I tried to faint yesterday morning to get out of this military service? I am anemic, but I exaggerated the symptoms a bit to try to freak the staff out. They’re a bit more experienced than I had expected though. We ran another 3K this morning, but I think my body’s doing better than yesterday.

I called my loved ones last night, but I couldn’t tell my mom that I miss her. I wanted to, but a sudden wave of sadness overwhelmed me right before the words came out of my mouth. Afraid that my tears would break free from my eyes like Arianna Grande, I kept my mouth shut. Maybe in a couple of more days I’ll be able to tell her that I miss her.

After the brief calls last night, I didn’t have enough time to take a shower anymore because I had to re-sew my name tag onto the running shorts. There I was, at 10pm, laying there filthy as ever, thinking how much of a failure I was to be able to do nothing right. I am trying so hard, but I’m failing even harder. Now I’m just wondering will I ever get used to this lifestyle or will I give up before I do?

[16:13] We’re now sitting in the cafeteria for our forth and last class of the day. Today actually went by surprisingly fast, but I fear the nights the most. As soon as it hits 9pm, the chaos starts because everyone is running around to take a shower and to call their loved ones within 40 minutes. They tell us 40 minutes but we actually only have about 25 before we get yelled at to go to sleep.

Part of me is thinking maybe the reason why I’m having such a tough time is that I have absolutely no control in anything. Yes, I miss my family, I miss Instagram, and I miss FaceTiming at 2am but maybe what I cannot stand losing is my freedom. Freedom, didn’t I write about freedom yesterday too?

I’m also making some friends here. Well, I know their assigned numbers only, not their names, does this still make us ‘friends’? Mine is 123 – it’ll be a good story to tell my kids one day.

October 11th, Sunday, Day 5

[08:41] Oops, I forgot to keep writing yesterday. Honestly, one doesn’t really have a lot of leisure time here to write or do anything personal. I’m supposed to be in class right now haha!

I think I sound better than just two days ago. I’m definitely doing better now: called my grandma again last night and told her that I might not be able to call her every night. Over here, we have from 21:00 to 21:40 to organize our beds, make phone calls, log our phone activities, and take a shower. And this is not taking into account of the queues to do everything! I think being able to tell my grandma my intense schedule was a relief of pressure for me. Without exterior expectations, I hope I’ll be able to focus on what I need to do in base better.

Yesterday was definitely a good day – I was able to make a couple of calls, say a couple of ‘I love you’s, take a nice, long shower to make up for the day before (even though some idiot took my shorts like literally WTF?), find a lost bag that would have lost me eight points, and most importantly not one single teardrop! Go me!

Now I have myself more or less sorted, I’ll be focusing my energy on running the 3K exam (I had previously thought it was 18 minutes but someone’s telling me now it’s 20. Although neither should be a problem, I definitely prefer the latter!) and the written exam. I’ll be spending these lecture times to write here and to study; hope my Chinese doesn’t fail me!

[10:20] It’s in-between classes right now, and I’m looking around. Everyone’s making friends quite easily, but sometimes I’m really struggling to find common topics with them: girls, college experiences in Taiwan, and cultural references. Oh well, I’ll try harder.

[16:24] Just checked the score sheet… I’m at negative six points right now!? WTF?! I’ve heard that they take points off like crazy in the first week to scare you and then they add them back during the second week, but I’m still quite pissed that I’m trying so freaking hard to fold my sheets nicely and they’re still not up to par. WHYYYYYY?! Ugh, the pressure is real.

[20:00] I’ve already taken a shower?! I hope all remaining days have such chill evenings please! After dinner, my team was appointed to clean up the cutlery for 163(?) people again tonight even though we’d done them last night. Some idiot complained that the dishes were ‘a bit too dirty,’ so they’re being extra tough on checking these now. We spent about an hour scrubbing these metal plates, I’m writing here with the final strength from my fingers.

October 13th, Tuesday, Day 7

[13:57] Today is the seventh day, which means tomorrow marks the one week anniversary. To be honest, I kind of wish time was going by a little faster. This morning I went to check in at the Ministry of Education, the branch I’ll be serving for the next year. Shit gotta go.

[15:55] Oh God, what a day. Anyways, so I went to check in , and then there I was, sitting under the knife-life sun for two straight hours. My arms are now two boiling lobsters attached to a otherwise rather pale body. I don’t even have the courage to check my ears. While sitting there, being yelled at because I think everyone just loves yelling at substitute services guys, I was listing to a brief explanation of what “Professional Training” life would be like. To explain a bit: I’m currently in “Basic Military Training,” and then I’ll have a weekend to go home, see my grand parents and drink some boba tea. After that, I’ll come back here to base for another night before heading to the professional training location for the Ministry of Education. It’ll be another 14 days before I get distributed based on how well I do in the countless tests that are coming our way. At first I was hoping for an easier time, but judging by how the guys were talking to us earlier this morning, chances of that are pretty thin. I’ve gotta do some research.

To be honest, I’m a bit down actually because I cannot stand being yelled at anymore. They yell at you no matter what, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. It makes absolutely no sense, but whatever I’ll have to power through. My lobster arms hurt.

[16:43] So I’m sitting here wondering how they managed to get 160-something Taipei City boys to listen to only around 6 officers. Now this is very interesting because I kind of have a theory, but let me kind of get all the details out of the way first. They start yelling at you as soon as you get off the bus from the train station at base, which did come off as a surprise to me. Now, you have to understand that Taipei City boys, myself included, are known to be very ignorant and very well protected by our parents who would do anything to go against to government in order to protect their kids. This being said, I’m quite surprised that everyone just submitted to authority, especially since these officers are only about the same age as all of us. They yell at you for no reason and for absolutely everything, so I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one feeling like this, so much agony.

So why did/do we all submit? The entire military system is designed for you, especially the rookies, to follow and follow only. If you dare to question anything, even if with the right reason, the punishment is beyond severe and more often than not unjustifiable, not that they’d need to justify anything to anyone. It’s so sever that it makes being right in one argument or disagreement with your supervisor worth nothing. But is this an admirable ideal we should be preaching to all (compulsory military) young men of Taiwan?

I see the benefits of it – easier control, faster decision making, more effective team management to name a few, but aren’t two brains better than one ultimately? Four hands can definitely do more things than two, but wouldn’t two brains be able to come up with even more effective management methods and more sound solutions than one? This is a question I’m still pondering on, and I hope to find my answer before I leave base.

[20:55] We just had a quite pleasant and small trip wit the officers. We went all the way to the computer lab to take psychiatric exams, testing how healthy we’re all doing mentally. At first, I had to ask an officer to type my name for me cause I have forgotten how to type Chinese completely… how embarrassing. The exam went by quickly, and when they showed us the results individually, I wasn’t all that surprised to see that I have “mild to severe OCD.” I mean, ok fine I can be kind of high maintenance sometimes but I can also agree with others quite easily right? I DON’T WANT TO BE MONICA BING! I’M ALWAYS RACHEL!

October 15th, Thursday, Day 9

[08:28] Maybe the reason why I’m suffering from thinking that time’s going by so slowly is because I had a mental milestone of “gotta at least make it half way though” and now I don’t have any anymore. A day for you, a decade for me (cough cough *RENT*). The exam is on Monday. Gotta study now, xoxo.

October 19th, Monday, T-3 Days

[10:01] I didn’t get to write again till now. I think they’re trying to cram everything before we leave, which is why we’re so damn busy. Later today we have the remains two of three exams with the 3K out of the way yesterday morning. One of them is a paper test, which is what I’m most stressed about. After that, we have a “Basics” exam where we will get tested on how to turn left, right, and backwards correctly – trust me, it’s a lot tougher than it sounds. Let’s just hope I don’t make any mistakes then I should be fine! Alright, I’ve gotta go study now. Write you later!

October 20th, Tuesday, T-2 Days

[09:24] Heyyy. The past couple of days were a bit stressful, and I wasn’t able to make any phone calls either. Anyways, after some intense cramming and a brief nap since I wrote yesterday, it was exam time. One of the staff was nice enough to apply for ‘intense care’ for Chinese reading for me because, well, sometimes I’ll be reading things and I won’t be understanding anything. The exam was easier than I had expected because the exam questions were the same as the past exams, which I had been studying. There were a couple of questions I wasn’t too sure on, but when I checked after the exam, I was still able to get them right 🙂

Because of the location where we (this other Aussie from the team and I) took the exam, we were unable to join the rest of the team for the “Basics” part. We were exam individually as opposed to with your assigned row. That threw me off my game and made me incredibly nervous. Even right before the exam when we were practicing, the officer said that my postures were really good, but during the exam, right when I was about to finish the last leg movement of turning backwards, I stepped forward to close the turn rather than backwards.

“Shit!” I instantly said and at the same time I could hear the exam officer going “Welp.”

I immediately raised my right hand and asked if I could do the turn again, but the office just responded saying that it wouldn’t change the result. By this time, tears were about to burst out of my eyes. The pressure of getting good grades in order to be able to select a good location is immense, and I couldn’t believe that one stupid turn was going to mess everything up. I finished the turn anyways, and thanked the exam office while he was walking out.

Stressed out of my mind, I was unable to focus for the rest of the day until around 20:00 when they gathered all of us to the classroom and started passing down our grades to us. Turns out I didn’t do half bad and that my Basics grade was actually higher than most people in the class! Maybe it’s the almost crying part or that the exam office pitied me, but either way I got a nice score 🙂 I won’t bore you with the grade details, but just take my word for it haha!

October 21st, Wednesday, T-1 Day

[09:28] One more day. By this time tomorrow. I’ll be preparing to leave this hell for 2.5 days. I cannot wait to leave, but I hope I don’t countdown the time that I have during this weekend. It’s nice to have met some friends here, but will we keep in touch? We have 16 days of our lives in common, and our topics are all about how annoying the officers are… haha!

[17:12] About to have my last supper here at base. I absolutely cannot wait. Earlier this afternoon I was sent to downtown Taichung for a hospital trip because my toes were swelling up. It was meaningless because the doc barely saw me for 2 minutes and just gave me more antibiotics, but I was able to waste five hours going there and coming back. We went on a bus and I sat at the window seat, seeing life outside of this base for the first time in 15 days. Fifteen days and I have already forgotten what freedom is and how it feels. I miss it. I want to be able to make decisions for myself again and be able to manage my own schedule. After three days off, I’m then off to two weeks of Professional Training. I hope it’s not as strict as base, but I’ll have to do some research.

October 22nd, Thursday, T-5 Hours

[11:15] Just sitting around the dorm waiting for lunch now. Time is creeping very slowly, but I’m eager to just pack up and leave. Some people are staying a bit later and there’s even some that will need to stay for another night because of their grades. I feel bad for them, but am actually a bit glad that I don’t need to spend another night here until Sunday. I’m really going to enjoy this weekend; haven’t decided if I want to do everything or do absolutely nothing. Maybe the latter since I really need some time off from doing things. I think I’ll need some time to regroup myself and to gather my scattered thoughts together; hope this diary will help when the time comes. I’ll also need to mentally prepare myself for the Professional Training part, but definitely not tonight! Alright, write you late xx

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If you are trying to find me, just find the only one smiling like an idiot

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Unfolding “Female Empowerment” in KPOP

 

Girl’s Day is a four-member South Korean girl group that debuted in 2010 under Dream Tea Entertainment (girlsdaydaily.com, 2013). On June 24th 2013, they released a repacked album “Female President,” and they won their first number one rank in a music broadcast program since their debut with a title song with the same name (allKpop, 2013). The song also did very well domestically in South Korea as it peaked at number 6 on the Gaon Weekly album chart, a system that tabulates song and album popularity on a weekly basis in South Korea (Gaon Chart, 2013).

Like the title of the song, “Female President” speaks very strongly of female empowerment, questioning why a female has to be the passive one in expressing their romantic interest to an opposite sex. With a catchy beat, it tells the audience, presumably girls, to “come up to him and kiss him first” and that “now is the time, [they] can start first” (kromanized.com, 2013). The song alone has a great message, and with a catchy beat, it can very well empower females in the South Korean society. However, the music video tells a whole different story.

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The video starts with shadows of the members’ bodies onto a screen, dancing in a provocative manner, and the scene quickly cuts to the members dancing to the choreography of the song in identical outfits. The outfits have minimum clothing with the members’ midriffs showing, where it is been “portrayed in advertising and elsewhere as the primary source of women’s capital” (Gill, 2009).

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The exposing fashion continues as the scene cuts to the members singing dancing on a different setting of the stage. The lyrics go on and question the listeners: “our country has a female president, why are you so serious? What’s the problem? If a girl kisses first, does she get arrested or what?” while the members dance daringly in short dresses and outfits. While the lyrics empower and embrace female sexuality, the music video puts female in a objectified way where they are viewed as male pleasure, exposing themselves and posing with fancy vehicles, for male pleasure.

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(YouTube, 2013).

A part of their choreography is with the members facing the camera and the audience with their backs and shaking their butts to the beat. The camera work cuts back and forth between the dancing and silhouettes of the members dancing. While the lyrics repeat itself, the message that the video sends changed: it now eliminates the members’ individuality, personality as nothing but their bodies. They are filmed and viewed as females who have their bodies as their best asset, and they are now using them to gain maximum attention. The audience is now viewing the performers’ butts shaking and bodies curving in aggressive ways with a male gaze, where the performers become nothing but visual pleasure to the audience.

By sexualizing the music video, Girl’s Day failed at attempting to empower their female fans but rather, they send another message that the only way to “empower” female is to by conforming into female objectification. They are telling their fans that by showing off their bodies with provocative fashion and movements, they can achieve “female empowerment” where they have the attention of the males. This is a dangerous message to send because freely expressing sexuality is not an empowerment for females anymore, “where once sexualized representations of women in the media presented them as the passive, mute objects of an assumed male gaze, today women are presented as active, desiring sexual objects who choose to present themselves in a seemingly objectified manner because it suits their liberated interest to do so” (Gill, 2009). In other words, despite the lyrics, “Female President” still serves as an evidence for female objectification in KPop.

With over 6 million fan club members world wide, Korean music awareness and influence have been increasing in the past decade (Koreaherald.com, 2012). They have the ability to influence the entertainment sphere not only in South Korea but potentially the world. Sexualizing a female empowerment message for chart performances is a marketing technique, not a socially responsible decision. Therefore, Girl’s Day and their agency have a big social responsibility of what messages they are sending out.

 xoxo,

Princess Bry

Bibliography

 

allKpop (2013). Girl’s Day win their first ever music show on canceled July 7 ‘Inkigayo.’ Retrieved from: http://www.allkpop.com/article/2013/07/girls-day-win-their-first-ever-music-show-on-canceled-july-7-inkigayo

Gaon Chart (2013). Retrieved from: http://gaonchart.co.kr/

Gill, R. (2009). Supersexualized Me! Avertising and the ‘Midriffs.’ In F. Attwood (Ed.), Mainstreaming sex: The sexualization of Western culture (pp. 93-99) . New York: I. B. Taurus

girlsdaydaily.com (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.girlsdaydaily.com/

Kromanized.com (2013). Girl’s Day – Female President. Retrieved from: http://kromanized.com/2013/06/23/girls-day-female-president-%EC%97%AC%EC%9E%90-%EB%8C%80%ED%86%B5%EB%A0%B9/

Koreahearld.com (2013). Riding the ‘Korean Wave.’ Retrieved from:  http://nwww.koreaherald.com/common_prog/newsprint.php?ud=20120924000627&dt=2

YouTube (2013). GIRL’S DAY – FEMALE PRESIDENT(여자대통령) M/V. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF3MC8PWgJE

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The Real #GrindrFail

Grindr started out as a geosocial networking app specific for gay, bisexual, and bi-curious men, but it has become so much more in the LGBTQ community since its release back in 2009. Grindr uses the GPS system embedded in smartphones to connect with other Grindr users based on your location. After 4 years, Grindr has become the most popular all-male location-based social network with 4 million users in 192 different countries around the world. The app is still growing with about 10,000 new users downloading the app every day (Grindr, 2013).

Some Grindr users, however, have taken this social app to a different level. While some users still genuinely look for friendships or even true loves on the app, most users use it as a “hook-up” app, where you can find someone you’re attracted to or is attracted to you without having to even leave your apartment. All you need to do is go on the app and start chatting. If you find someone like-minded, you can go for a drink or go straight to the bedroom. With this kind of fast food-like hookup lifestyle, it comes as no surprise that some users’ biography becomes a little forward in terms of criteria for chatting with them in order to get straight to the point in terms of what they are looking for, and this is where the internalized hatred within the LGBTQ community comes in.

The following are a few examples:

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(Photo credit: http://stopracismandhomophobiaongrindr.wordpress.com/tag/grindr/)

The first picture’s bio reads: “Masculine guys only NO Fairies thanks. Would be nice to meet a decent guy 4 a change.Lol.Where has all the romance gone?” In The Limitations of the Discourse of Norms – Gay Visibility and Degrees of Transgression, Jay Clarkson discusses the internal discrimination within the gay community by introducing ActingStraight.com, a website created by “straight-acting” gay men who “seek to normalize a particular set of gender performances as acceptably gay, and the expense of other performances perceived as more transgressive” (Clarkson, 2008). They believe that gays need to act straight-like in order to be more accepted and more welcomed while flamboyant gays become a stereotype of the gay community that ultimately hurts the progression of homosexuality acceptance in the society.

They are wrong in many ways. One, this messaging implicitly suggests that they also believe the acceptance of their own gender identity is more important than the overall acceptance of the entire LGBTQ community. They are willing to sacrifice other LGBTQ members’ social acceptance for their own, forcing them to act a certain way because ultimately, they benefit from this homosexuality normalization. Secondly, more media representation and visibility of masculine gay and bisexual men will not positively correlate to “straight-acting” LGBTQ members’ social power. Almost-naked young white women would run the Western culture if media visibility translates directly and positively into social empowerment (Phelan, 1993, p.10).

        The second profile’s headline reads, “not too into the gays.” Again, being on a gay and bi social network app, this user still feels the need to separate himself from the rest of the users because he is “not too into the gays,” putting the rest of the gay community below him. This shows how the hegemonic ideology, where the society generally teaches and celebrates heterosexuality, is still taught and celebrated within the LGBTQ community. If you are straight acting, that is good because you follow the heterosexual hegemonic ideology. If you are flamboyant, that is bad because you challenge the society’s teachings and acceptance. What this Grindr user fails to realize is that his actions feed to homophobia both from the society and within the LGBTQ community. By condemning a certain group within the LGBTQ community, this user actually becomes a contribution for the lack of homosexuality acceptance.

The third profile says, “if you need to have weird wrist movements or talk with a chicks voice keep on prancing fairy.” The weird wrist movement refers to a specific feature of some flamboyant boys. Again, this profile is an example of how “selective homophobia is alive and well within gay communities. It suggests that some gay men feat the gender performances they see as flaming, not only because they do not like them, but also because they fear what those performances may mean to straight people” (Clarkson, 2008). This describes how influential the hegemonic ideology is on the society, that even within the LGBTQ community, there is still a hierarchy where if you’re as close to being heterosexual as possible, you still have a higher social status. This also means that flamboyant gays still “remain among the most marginalized members of society,” where even within a lower social-acceptance class, they are still viewed as undesirable or as non-hegemonic ideal.

        What started out as a friendship kindling and love finding social app ends up feeding back into internalized homophobia within the gay and bisexual men community, Grindr serves more than an app but a social norm to the community. Therefore, Grindr has the responsibility to influence the LGBTQ community, acknowledging that some of its users may be contributing to homophobia in ways they do not even know.

Bibliography

Clarkson, J. (2008). The limitations of the discourse of norms: Gay visibility and degrees of transgression. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 32(4), 368-382. Published by Sage Publications, Inc.

Gindr (n.d.). Retrieved from http://grindr.com/

Phelan, P. (1993). Unmarked: The politics of performance. London: R

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Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” vs. Feminism

“Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” is a number one single on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 by Katy Perry on her third studio album Teenage Dream (Calfield, 2011)[1]. Since its release on June 6, 2011, the song has been a domestic and international success as it sold 3 million digital copies in the US and over 5 million worldwide (Grein, 2012)[2]. The music video is also a production success as it has over 230,000,000 views as of October 13th (Perry, Katy Perry – Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)) [dayum girl][3].

The music video tells a story about a “nerdy girl” who gets disturbed when she is trying to read on a presumably Friday night. The story continues as Kathy Beth Terry, the main character played by Perry, goes to complain about the noise from the party. At this point, the character is dressed in a pink long-sleeved turtleneck with a jean jumper. She is also wearing headgear wired braces, big glasses, and sneakers. She gets introduced to the party, and right when enters, the desirable football captain ignores her presence and says hi to a fashionable blonde girl. Seeing Kathy upset, Rebecca Black, played by herself, volunteers to help transform Kathy. Black leads Kathy upstairs in order to change her appearance: she gives her a short neon skirt, she helps Kathy shave her mustache, and she removes Kathy’s headgear. After the transformation, Kathy walks downstairs in heels, a neon green tight skirt and a neon pink crop top with her midriff showing. She also has a noticeable amount of makeup on, stylized hair, and no more headgear. The crowd, especially by the football captain, instantly notices her transformation. All of a sudden, she becomes the center of attention: everyone watches her play video games and watches her dance.

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This is how Kathy Beth Terry (portrayed by Katy Perry) is presented to the audience at the very beginning of the music video. She looks geeky, nerdy, and socially awkward. God, I mean, look at that facial expression.

Sourcehttps://simg.vevo.com/Content/VevoImages/video/648914EA15D34F3967E2DE3C2D8CE4F9.jpg

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This is how Kathy Beth Terry is presented after the “transformation.” I mean, hey, girl looks good.

Source: http://www.thecampuscompanion.com/svelte/files/2013/02/katy_perry_last_friday_night_video_young_party_dance_company_joy_54442_1680x1050.jpg

Some may see this story as female empowerment where women are able to manipulate the male gaze with their outfits. This is not the case. The ultimate goal here is to gain the male attention, and as Rosalind Gill states in her article Supersexualized Me! – Advertising and the “Midriffs,” “young women are presented not as passive sex objects, but as active, desiring sexual subjects.[4]” The media and in this case, Katy Perry’s music video, is sending messages to young girls that they need to dress in tight clothing, wear heels, and show off their “midriff,” the part of the body that is between the top of the pubis bone and the bottom of the rib cage[5], in order to gain attention from the opposite sex. The midriff fashion can be traced back to Madonna in the 1980s, and because it became widely popular, advertisers and marketers soon employed it as apart of their strategies[6].

A woman’s body is perceived as her best asset, and her choice of clothing should compliment her body in order to be noticed and pursued by men. This mentality changes a woman’s social role from a passive sexual object to an active one. By embedding an empowerment message within the midriff advertising, women perceive possessing and showing an attractive body as feminism. However, this attractiveness remains purely physical, as no psychological tributes are valued in these messages. As Gill says in her article, the every definition has shifted and “it is now defined as a bodily property rather than a social or psychological one.[7]” In Perry’s music video, her studious identity is never valued nor appreciated. It is even discouraged because the story shows that she is alone in her room, studying, while all of her other classmates are at the party. Once Kathy Beth Terry, portrayed by Perry, changes into “sexy” clothes, not only does the crowd notice and compliment her, she also becomes more confident in herself. This gives the public two messages: one, society has an expectation of who can enjoy the party and who cannot. Kathy has to go through her transformation in order to fit into the crowd to party, play games, drink, and dance with them. And the crowd accepts her very easily, too, after she puts on a tight neon skirt, of course. Two, the woman is supposed to enjoy this transformation. The video explicitly shows Kathy’s content face expressions as she enjoys her time with her newfound friends.

The lesson of the music video is: if you want to have a good time and enjoy your party, you have to wear tight clothing and show off your body. Through different media channels (i.e. Katy Perry’s music video), this message can be packaged in a pro-feminism way where women are shown in authority, independence, and high social class positions, the core message is still that women, especially young, heterosexual women, need to dress and act a certain way in order to be noticed by men. If we unfold the packaging of these messages, we realize that media are still telling our daughters, younger sisters, and friends how to dress and how to act. This is a step back in feminism, and we should not and cannot pretend the media are sending correct messages.


[1] Calfield, K. (2011). Eminem & royce da 5’9″ debut at no. 1 on billboard 200 with bad meets evil ep. Retrieved from http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/470157/eminem-royce-da-59-debut-at-no-1-on-billboard-200-with-bad-meets-evil-ep

[2] Grein, P. (2012). Week ending feb. 12, 2012. songs: Luv for madonna. Retrieved from http://music.yahoo.com/blogs/chart-watch/week-ending-feb-12-2012-songs-luv-madonna-012009756.html

[3] Perry, K. (Artist). (2011, June 12). Katy Perry – Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlyXNRrsk4A

[4] Gill, R. (2009). Supersexualized Me! Advertising and the “Midfriffs.” In Dines, G., & Humez , J. M. (2011). Gender, race, and class in media. (3rd ed.). New York: SAGE Publication, Inc.

[5] Gill, R. (2009) p.256

[6] Quart, A. (2003). Branded: The buying and selling of teenagers. London, Arrow Books.

[7] Gill, R. (2009) p.257

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Affirmative Action, Ugly Betty, and Bryan

         In Chapter 12 of Gender, Race, and Class in Media by Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez, the authors discuss a particular episode from the sit-com Ugly Betty “When Betty Met YETI,” which spotlights affirmative action decisions based on race (2011). Affirmative action is defined as when factors such a race, color, religion, sex, or national origin are taken into consideration to benefit an underrepresented group, according to National Archives (1965). In this episode, Betty, a Latina, and her co-worker Marc, a gay white male, both apply to an internship called YETI where magazine assistants are trained to become editors. Betty and Marc are competing against each other for one position, and while Marc has worked on his presentation for three months with two celebrity sponsors for his application and interview, Betty only finds out about the opportunity forty-eight hours before the interview. Betty ended up getting the internship, leaving Marc upset and frustrated. When confronted, Marc tells Betty that the real reason she got the position over him was because she helped YETI “meet their quota…because [she is] Latina.” He then calls her a “token ethnic girl (2011),” leaving Betty not only upset but also self-conscious as she starts questioning if her abilities really qualify for the position.

AMERICA FERRERA, MICHAEL URIE

Betty and Marc from the series Ugly Betty

Source: http://blog.zap2it.com/frominsidethebox/ugly-betty-series-finale-marc-main.jpg

       According to the book, affirmative action “became policy in the 1960s under President Johnson” where it was “launched to help improve the employment and educational access of ‘minorities (2011).’”Additionally, affirmative action also caused a lot of debate on a candidate’s qualifications over another’s in education, employment, and business. In education, for example, colleges now consider an applicant’s school grades, SAT scores, extra curricular activities, and on top of that, race and ethnicity. During my senior year in high school, my advisor for college applications told me that I should look for schools a little higher than where my SAT scores stand. I applied to Syracuse University, where the average SAT score is 1,738 (Find The Best, 2012), and other universities alike. With an SAT score of 1,600 at the time, I believed Syracuse was a stretch for me. I was beyond excited when I received my acceptance letter, but the excitement soon became a wonder, as I could not bring myself to believe my admission was because of my luck.

        In the episode, Marc tells Betty that she got the YETI offer because she is a minority; during my senior year, I was told that I got the admission letter because I am a minority. Like Betty, I started questioning my abilities as a prospective student at Syracuse University. I thought I was admitted to meet the university’s diversity quota, which, as explained in Gender, Race, and Class in Media, is “a word indelibly linked in popular discourse with race-based affirmative action policies (2011).” Affirmative action was created to provide additional help to those minorities in need, but it now has been “charged with creating ‘reverse discrimination’” as it “enables people of color access to education and employment” which were “preciously reserved as the ‘property’ of whites, according to Harris in his publication Whiteness as property (1993).” However, the book does not discuss Betty’s perspective extensively. I, like Betty, wanted to believe that my qualifications were deserving enough for my enrollment, but trying to believe that is very difficult. Each college’s admission decision is a product of very complicated formulas, and very few of them are objective. When multiple students’ applications are products of intersectionality, simple affirmative action does not suffice college admission decisions. Based on the definition given by the Center for New Racial Studies in University of California, intersectionality is defined as the interactions of multiple systems of oppression or discrimination for different disenfranchised groups, especially of minorities (2011). Betty is a female of minority, which means her intersectionality is based on two systems of oppression and discrimination. Realizing this, Betty would be lying to herself if she believed that her YETI internship admission was solely based on her hard work and passion. This is especially true after YETI doesn’t “exactly deny it” when Betty calls and asks if Marc’s accusations are true (2011).

        I do not have an answer to the questions raised and the problems caused by affirmative action. While many may see that affirmative action takes away white privilege, not all the minorities who are supposed to benefit from it do. It may cause a qualified candidate such as Betty to question her abilities, and it may also raise some unanswered concerns where an individual will never be able to reconcile. When and where does affirmative action come into the formula leaves minorities wondering how they can present themselves so that their disadvantages become their advantages. While this provides greater opportunities for minorities, it also takes away the pure qualifications of a candidate for education, employment, or business.

I choose to actively accept that my race background influenced my admission to Syracuse University, and I also choose to reinsure myself that my grades, my hard work, and my passion are also strong factors in the admission decision as well. I cannot change my race; neither can I change the fact that I will be judged whether positively or negatively on my race. Therefore, I choose to simply work harder than everyone else so that I can always be sure my accomplishments are because of what I earned and not what I was given.

References
National Archives. 1965. Executive Order 11246 – Equal employment opportunity. http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/codification/executive-order/11246.html

Harris, C. I. 1993. Whiteness as property. Harvard Law Review 106: 1707-91
Dines, G., Humez J. M. 2011. Gender, Race, and Class in Media. What does Race Have to Do With Ugly Betty p.97

Center for New Racial Studies. University of California. 2011. “Race/Gender/Class ‘Intersectionality’” http://www.uccnrs.ucsb.edu/intersectionality

Find The Best. 2012. Department of Education http://colleges.findthebest.com/q/2983/2549/What-is-the-average-SAT-score-for-Syracuse- University-SU

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“If you ever forget the fact that you are Asian, someone else will remind you.”

This post is inspired by a paper for a my Race, Gender, and Media class where I wrote on a self reflection where how I view myself changed because of a certain exposure to the media. The stuff I ended up with was very interesting to me because I never really realized how I felt or thought about myself until I started to look back into myself. I would suggest you all do the same and maybe even write about it. I promise you will not look at you life the same ever again. Anyways, without further adieu (I just Googled how to spell this), here’s the post:

To be honest, I have always tried to shy away from talking about race or ethnicity. I believe there is more to me than the fact that I was born and raised in Taiwan. Please don’t get me wrong, I do understand and accept my roots and upbringings, but there are times where it feels like that is all I am. This kind of self-reflection and examination didn’t start until I came to the United States to pursue an education 7 years ago.

“If you ever forget the fact that you are Asian, someone else will remind you.” I forgot where I read this quote, but it really speaks to me. Going from being the majority of the population to the minority was a slow yet dramatic change in my lifestyle, and I will attempt to explain what I mean with the following paragraphs. In Young Adolescents in Television Culture by Fisherkeller, published in 1997, he explains that young people learn their social goals and what they want in their future lives through personal and physical interactions while they learn how to act on those dreams and hopes through television (Fisherkeller, J. (1997). Everyday learning about identities among young adolescents in television culture. 28, 485). By his definition, my social goals and my strategies to reach these goals all changed when I started my high school education in a small boarding school in the suburbs of Chicago. I knew I wanted to be famous, and I really believed I could, too. In elementary school, I was in the choir, in the orchestra, and on the dance team. I was determined to be famous and to make a lot of money. My goals became really short term oriented, however, when I realized there were more immediate problems. The first one was the language barrier.

I struggled a lot when I got here, and it was the kind of experience you would not really understand until you’ve gone through it yourself. I realized that language was something I needed to improve dramatically and very fast in order to be a part of the crowd, but why did I ever want to be a part of the crowd? Was it because I was not confident enough? Was it because I was not content with myself or with my social status as a F.O.B.? Looking back at myself, I now know that it was because I wanted to be White. Being White means more than just your skin color – it comes with social status, privileges, and most importantly, in my opinion, less negative first impression from others.

America has a wonderful entertainment industry ranging from world-famous Hollywood stars to singers that dominate music charts even on the other side of the planet. Watching shows like Friends, Gossip Girl, and Desperate Housewives where the cast is mainly, if not all, White while trying to learn English, I became obsessed with this “White” image. It seemed as though hanging out at a coffee shop, being catty with your peers, and getting dramatic with your life became a “White thing” whereas if you’re Asian, for example, you’re a supporting character in the back with a line or two every now and then. Remember when I said all I ever wanted was to become famous? This is when I started becoming obsessing over being White because, in my mind, that meant I would finally be able to get the spotlight.

I have grown out of the obsession, fortunately, but my experiences still raise an important question concerning our media exposure. We all know that entertainers of color are very under represented. When there is one famous Latino, Black, or Asian entertainer, he suddenly becomes the token for that race. For example, Ken Jeong and PSY were the most recent and most interesting entertainers I have been compared to. Just in case you’re wondering who Ken Jeong is, he is Mr. Chow in The Hangover trilogy. Honestly, asking me to reenact Ken Jeong’s “so long, gay boys” in the movie The Hangover is very racist and unpleasant. Talking to me about PSY’s Gangnam Style is all cool and fun until questions about the lyrics and asking to dance the famous horse dance. It is very insensitive considering I’m from Taiwan, not South Korea.

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At the same time, however, I do not want to become too politically correct and too ready to jump out and call people racist evey chance I get. I understand that, for someone who is not exposed to other cultures too frequently, talking to me about Gangnam Style is probably the closest to “knowing” my background, and it could be a conversation starter. Usually, I just go with the flow because I was there myself. When I first came to the United States, I had such a difficult time distinguishing White people – especially the blonde girls – apart from each other. Separating Asians apart was, on the other hand, a simple task, and I have almost always been correct on guessing their ethnicity as well. I understand how difficult it must be for those who grew up without having been exposed to Asian ethnicities to “not be racist” and be able to distinguish our cultures, ethnicities, and sometimes even names. I will defeat the purpose of trying to raise awareness of race and ethnicity issues if I make others too uncomfortable to talk about it.

I believe that with the world getting smaller metaphorically, people with different races and ethnicities are becoming physically closer to each other. We often criticize others and ourselves too harshly on the topics that interest and are important to us that we forget to recognize our accomplishments and achievements. I can honestly say that, despite some of the issues addressed previously, America is still doing better in terms of racial and gender movements than most other places. The difference is the dialogue – in America, issues like race and gender are publicly discussed through various media channels unlike some other places where even provoking such a thought could result in severe punishment. Education is key, and we can all contribute to a greater cause of race and gender equality by simply having an open conversation.

xoxo,
Bryan “I don’t understand why there’s so much homework in my senior year” Eric