Monday, April 19, 2010

"Teenage Love Affair" by Alicia Keys

"Teenage Love Affair"
Can't wait to get home
Baby dial your number
Can you pick up the phone
'cause I wanna holla?
Daydreaming about you all day
In school can't concentrate
Wanna have your voice in my ear
'Til ma comes and says it's too late
'cause the lights are on outside
Wish there was somewhere to hide
'cause I just don't want to say goodbye
'cause you are my baby baby
Nothing really matters
I don't really care
What nobody tell me
I'm gonna be here
It's a matter of extreme importance
My first teenage love affair
Another secret meeting
On the 5th floor stair case
I'm gonna give you this letter
Of all the things I can't say
Want you to be my first, my last, my ending and beginning
I wrote your name in my book
You last name my first
I'm your Mrs.
Hey boy
You know I really like being with you right?
Just hanging out with you is fun
So maybe we can go to first base
Because I feel you
Second base
Want you to feel me too
Third base
Better pump the breaks
Well baby slow down
I gotta go home now
My baby baby
Nothing really matters
I don't really care
What nobody tell meI'm gonna be here
It's a matter of extreme importance
My first teenage love affair

Female Adolescent Sexual Desire

The article, “Object Lessons: Romance, Violation, and Female Adolescent Sexual Desire” written by Deborah L. Tolman, was troubling to read because I could identify with it and therefore felt uncomfortable. I didn’t identify so much with “Isabel” as with her situation. Tolman asserts that adolescent girls struggle with their sexual desire because the dominant culture secretly educates girls into thinking that they are mere “objects” of male sexual desire and that to think otherwise is indicative of “deviant” behavior. Tolman feels that “to construct sexual desire as a normative feature of female adolescence, then, is to challenge psychology’s covert but persistent collusion with a culture that alternately denies and denigrates girls’ sexual feelings” (70).

As a teenager in the late 70’s, early 80’s, I was brainwashed into thinking that good girls did not call boys… good girls did not come onto boys… good girls did not have sex before they married… A common adage I often heard was, “why buy the cow… if the milk is free…” On the other hand, my brother who was one year older had boundless freedom, at times even sleeping at his girlfriend’s house. I knew it was unfair, but I went along with it anyway. To say that I was confused by what I felt and what I was told not to feel was an understatement. I could definitely relate to the article when the author wrote about “contrapuntal” voices, defined as “voices at odds with the accepted cultural voices that speak to and about female adolescent sexuality” (71). Unlike Isabel, I let “my erotic voice” speak and I am a better person for it. My experience as a teenager has helped me now as a mother of three daughters; I am very careful to talk about sex as natural, not something shamefully associated with being “bad”.

I am completely supportive of Tolman’s logical intervention. She suggests that “when educating girls about sexual health, not only are we obliged to teach them about the physical and emotional risks of sexuality, but also of the ways in which our sexuality can make us more resilient and more alive and about our entitlement to an erotic voice. By cultivating an erotic voice, we are not going to turn girls into sex fiends. However, we will challenge a system that depends on the erotic silence of many girls---the lynchpin of our current construction of adolescent sexuality” (78).

When I read this article, I was reminded of Raby’s article, “Girls Negotiating Adolescence,” especially the sections on “at-risk” behavior and “social problem”. Keeping the adolescent down and controlled is a way that problematic behavior is dealt with; denying the adolescent a voice is just one more way to control. It is even better if the voice is never developed in the first place (I am being facetious, of course).

Monday, April 12, 2010

The article, “New Media, Networking and Phatic Culture” written by Vincent Miller did not grab my attention right away, but by the third page I was intrigued. One concept that is made perfectly clear to me also made me sad. The manner in which people communicate has changed. The art of conversation is dying; it is being replaced by “communication between people that [is] more ephemeral and more akin to an exchange of ‘data’ than deep, substantive or meaningful communication based on mutual understanding” (390). This quote conveys to me that this form of communication, via blogs, social networks and microblogs, is superficial. There has been a shift from substantive communication to brief connections. The purpose of these Wam Bam Thank You Mam communications, such as Facebook and Twitter, is to stay connected and be “continually contactable”. The article states, “the overall result is that in phatic media culture, content is not king but keeping in touch is” (395).

What I don’t understand is the attraction of Twitter; it seems to me to be extremely egocentric for the writer and obsessive for the follower. There are also rumors abound that celebrities are paid to twitter… I am not familiar with the whole concept, but it does not sound that ethical to me... but then advertising is manipulative and unethical at times.

Miller’s article can be compared to the “Coming of Age with the Internet” by McMillan and Morrison in the sense that blogging, Facebook and Twitter all deal with virtual communities. Personally, I agree with this article's take on the whole situation: “Many informants warned about the potential downside of communities that were defined by technology and interests, rather than geography and relationships” (85). It concerns me that we may be producing adults deficient in the ability to socialize in person.

I am looking forward to discussing the second article in class. Due to the end of the quarter and time constraints, I was unable to include that article in my blog.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Fast Forward

The one and only time I visited Los Angeles I was dismayed by the outlandish opulence existing right next door to abject poverty. If my memory serves me right (it has been over 20 years), I was at the Hotel Bel Air which I recollect was separated from a rough neighborhood by a graffiti-covered blockade. Needless to say, I was not surprised by Fast Forward, Lauren Greenfield’s pictorial view of life in L.A.

The most disturbing aspect of Fast Forward was how many young people (12-13) looked older, acted older and just wanted to be older. The picture of Ashleigh (13) with too much make-up weighing herself in front of her friend and parents made me sick. This image reflects Raby’s discourses “Becoming,” “At Risk” and “Pleasurable Consumption.” Her identity seems to be centered on her looks, her obsession with her weight could lead to at-risk behavior and the support she appears to be receiving from those around her encourages her to “buy” into what the media tells her to be true. Lauren Greenfield, in the preface of her book Fast Forward, states, “… L.A.’s teens are greatly influenced by the television and films they watch, the magazines they read, and the music they listen to.”

I was also disturbed by the “keep up with the Jones” mentality, especially when it pertains to the bar mitzvah. Recently, I helped a student with his bar mitzvah speech. The feeling that I received from his ceremonial speech was that this experience is deeply spiritual. I did not get that impression when I viewed Greenfield’s picture of Adam at his bar mitzvah. Actually, I was repulsed by the idea that kids and go-go dancers would be at the same party.

Greenfield writes about kids in L.A. growing up too fast. “A common theme that kept me focused throughout was the sense of an early loss of innocence. I observed this in many forms, and the young people underlined it again and again in their interviews. As one teenager said, ‘You grow up really fast when you grow up in L.A. it seems like everyone is in a rush to be an adult. It’s not cool to be a kid.’”

Lastly, one of the themes apparent in Greenfield’s writing and photographs is the idea that “young people are preoccupied with becoming other than they are.” What is real and what is just image? I do know that the “world” has its eyes on Hollywood and the images being projected from there. It’s scary to think that the world will make generalizations about Americans based on what they see.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What's Wrong With Glee?

“Glee” means hilarity, mirth and gloating. When I watched the pilot I experienced all these emotions and then some. I do confess that I was completely entertained as I watched this episode, sometimes laughing out loud. Although I could enjoy it, I knew that it emphasized some serious stereotypes about minorities, specifically: women, people of other races, the gay community and the physically challenged. I think the reason “Glee” is so popular with the viewing audience is that the plight of the marginalized is tempered by the humor.

The stereotypes seen in this episode are grossly exaggerated: the invisibility of people of color, the gay male as completely feminine, the lesbian as butch, the Jew as being aggressive, the jock as being dumb, and the physically challenged as being useless… the list goes on. Despite all this, I do see some hope. In order to challenge the dominant ideologies, one first has to talk about them. What better way to expose them for what they are, than to blatantly display them for the world to see. This show has created quite the stir, based on what I have read. Controversy creates conversation and conversation creates change (C3= C to the third power).

As a middle school teacher I look for the Finns of the world. They are in positions of power and can create change. It is important to guide them when they are young, before they get completely caught up in the “herd.” One comment from the episode that disturbed me was the football coach’s assessment of his quarterback’s desertion: “the herd will bring him back.” The message I get is life is easier when people are placed in compartments, when they robotically follow along; life is messy when people stray from the “box” that they have been placed in.

Order… Classify… Control… Regulate… Conformity… Tidy: Let’s clean-up the world… make it “dust-free” (I am being facetious). I think shows like “Glee” make it impossible for the world to ignore the inequality in the world. In its twisted way, it makes us see what is really going on and creates conversation which, albeit slowly, creates change (C3).

The concept of change was brought up in our last class: Can one person enact change? Marco, our guest speaker, believes this is possible. We don’t have the “great movements” that occurred in the past, but this does not mean we are stagnant. As long as we have a voice, then change is possible. The show “Glee” gives viewers the opportunity to voice their discontent. In this respect, the show is powerful. It is also powerful in its portrayal that some people will come forward and stand up for what is right. Is there anything wrong with that?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hip-Hop, Mass Media and Colonization

“Hip-Hop, Mass Media and 21st Century Colonization” and “Hip-Hop and the Corporate Function of Colonization” are columns written by Jared A. Ball, Ph. D. The writer, using intensely pedantic rhetoric, seems to be saying that the popular hip-hop that is heard today is but a caricature of its true self because the elite, [a.k.a. dominant ideologies] control how it is perceived by the public. “Rarely is what we know of as “popular” the initial intention of the culture or individual from which the expression comes. Most often what is the final product is what is decidedly different than what its creator initially set out to make and is more than likely no longer in their best interest.”

Pop culture is a form of social control and the elite manipulate it to control and keep down the very people who created it. “Hip-Hop’s popularity has done nothing to improve Black America’s overall wealth, education, health-care, or certainly rates of imprisonment. In fact, the popularity of hip-hop is used to deny these conditions or explain them as natural to the conditions of African Americans.” This is a case of the elite establishing rules, and those who do not “fit” under said rules are marginalized, “othered,” ignored, made invisible…colonized.

This idea of colonization (repression) is a claim the writer repeats often in both articles. He maintains that only certain aspects of the colonized culture (in this case Black America) are allowed into mainstream America; these aspects being the very ones that will perpetuate the negative view of this culture and thus, keep it down. The reason for this suppression is because the elite who have established power fear that they may lose this power.

The only thing that confused me about this article was the author’s convoluted explanation of the assertion, “censorship is political not linguistic." When I tried to understand his defense of Young Buck’s “fuck the police” lyric, I was more confused than ever.

During our next class, it would be interesting to get everyone’s take on censorship. As a teacher, mother and writer, I don’t believe in censoring music, movies and books, however; (and this may sound hypocritical) I believe in labeling the aforementioned items so that the public can make up their own minds. It’s all about free choice. Do I choose to listen to music with lots of profanity? No, but I shouldn’t decide that for others.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Coming of Age with the Internet: This study achieves its purpose...but is limited

“Coming of age with the internet: A qualitative exploration of how the internet has become an integral part of young people’s lives” is a study conducted and written by Sally J. McMillan and Margaret Morrison. These researchers, through the use of autobiographical essays, endeavored to “capture the evolution of cultural patterns” as it pertains to the use of the internet in young adult lives.

The study concludes with the statement that the internet is pervasive … this I knew. While this article was interesting and easy to read (not convoluted like the Raby article), I did not feel like I had many “a-ha” moments. It seemed to me that the purpose of the study was to determine common experiences with the internet, classify them and through these classifications, attempt to explain them. The explanations were simple and straightforward, not mind-blowing or earth-shattering in any way…

The following are areas that I connected with as a reader and fellow internet user:

  • “The breadth of information available via the internet sometimes made self-definition challenging” (79). Personally, I believe that self-definition is a journey that lasts a lifetime. Every time I read a book, participate in a stimulating conversation or “surf the net” I am adding or taking away from an identity that is constantly emerging as I age. The internet is unique because it opens up so many learning possibilities and thus, can be overwhelming and challenging to sift through. Consequently, it could be very easy to lose one’s self in the resulting bombardment.

  • In my opinion, one of the finest features of the internet (specifically Email and Facebook) is the close association between anonymity and the ability to really communicate. It is easier for me to open up and converse when I do not have to cope with the self-consciousness that results when I am face-to- face with someone. In the article, Brian points out that his relationship with his father improved through the Email correspondence that they shared. “… We still rarely talk in person about anything of real personal significance. My relationship with my dad is definitely closer on the electronic level” (81). The ability to build and maintain close relationships with people who are far away (both physically and emotionally) is definitely a plus of internet use.

  • “Many informants saw online work as necessary and appropriate, but had grave concerns about online play” (84). I can definitely subscribe to this feeling. I feel completely confident when using the internet to research for school or my job, but feel trepidation when using it for other purposes. I do not know why there is a difference. Perhaps, I am afraid that I may become dependent on something that could replace human contact. This was a concern voiced several times in the article.

  • This article conveys to me that internet use, for the most part, is a positive experience. The article does conclude with the following cautionary advice: “students need to be counseled that the internet does not replace the need for traditional forms of research” (91). The temptation to use the internet exclusively when conducting research is great (I too, fall victim to this) because it is so convenient. The problem is that it doesn’t give a complete picture.

    My conclusion is that this article "touches the tip of the iceberg" when addressing the use of the internet by the youth of today. It serves as a decent introduction, but does not offer a complete picture of internet use. For example, I was troubled that the article neglected to touch upon cyber-bullying, unless this is a recent development in the use of the internet. I was also hoping that there would be information on the prevalence of internet pornography, and how many impressionable teens have addictions to it. Lastly, there is the issue of online predators and how dangerous they can be. I understand that the scope of the study did not invite a discussion of these topics; I do hope there will be an opportunity to explore these internet dangers in some depth during our class