AA on AA

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Affirmative action is often misunderstood, especially on college campuses.

Stepping back to look at the history behind affirmative action…. the policy, crafted in the 1960’s, was meant to decrease discrimination and inequality in educational institutions and job applications. Initially, it was created under President Kennedy in an attempt to address the discrimination that Blacks still faced in society.

The process is still evident in college admissions processes and in the job market today.

So why, when the policy became more and more prevalent, did the universities’ populations become 10-15% Asian Americans while the same ethnic group constituted only 3% of the general American population? With such a huge amount of their offspring being educated at higher learning institutions, Asian Americans should be thrilled? Right??????? Wrong. The ethnic group often referred to as the “model minority” due to their academic success and social behavior quickly became split on the effects of the policy. In fact, there is a huge disconnect between Asian Americans’ stance on affirmative action.

It was all fun and games until the institutions realized the growing amount of Asian students began to heavily outweigh other minorities. Overly qualified Asian applicants began to be denied from institutions solely because they were Asian and the institutions wanted to leave room for underrepresented minorities. **Cue the problems**

The denied Asian American students jumped on the anti-affirmative action movement with the white students that saw their rejection as a result of their race as well. This division of the ethnic group, along with the whites, began to see themselves as victims of affirmative action. The whites’ use of Asian Americans in their anti-affirmative actions advertisement and marches pitted the Asian American ethnic group against other minority groups such as the blacks and Hispanics. If the deeper-rooted issues in the Asian American ethnic group are addressed, “it represents greater political opportunity to affiliate with the other groups whose cohesions may be based on other valences of oppression” (Lowe). Rather than choosing sides, the inequalities in each group should be acknowledged and addressed in order to relate to the struggles of other minority ethnic groups, such as blacks and Hispanics. Through their eyes, affirmative action only benefitted blacks and Hispanics and hurt qualified Asian Americans.

In reality, the Asian American ethnic group was being homogenized. Lowe exerts that, “we (Asian Americans) are perhaps even more different, more diverse, among ourselves” (Lowe). “Asian Americans” encompass individuals from different generations, cultures, nationalities, tongues, and histories. Giving all of these individuals one box that puts them in one category homogenizes the group and oversimplifies their widespread backgrounds. While Chinese Americans suffered from affirmative actions, Pacific Islanders and Southeast Asian segments of the “Asian box” on applications was severely underrepresented. These students came from rougher, underprivileged backgrounds and didn’t have the same opportunities as other Asian American groups.

So what is the answer? Should there be more than one “Asian” box on applications to ensure the acknowledgment of every subaltern group in the Asian American ethnic group? Is affirmative action an effective way to bring a diverse student body? How much is too much of one ethnic group?

In all honesty, the overarching question is this: why is it expected for all Asian Americans to have the same opinion on affirmative action? More often than not, Asian Americans come from many different backgrounds, countries, and families. Their heritage, tradition, language, and age can alter their view, so to think that they would all have the same perspective is preposterous and only proves Lowe’s point homogenizing the American Asian ethnic group is a misrepresentation of the group as a whole, which is comprised of many unique and different individuals

 

 

Work Cited

Lowe, Lisa. “Heterogeneity, Hybridity, Multiplicity: Marking Asian American Differences.” N.p., n.d. Web.

“What Exactly Is Affirmative Action?” Affirmative Action : Asian-Nation. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. <http://www.asian-nation.org/affirmative-action.shtml&gt;.

Pretty Hurts (Just Ask Beyoncé)

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As one of the most recognizable and influential women in the music industry, Beyoncé startled and touched millions of fans with her “Pretty Hurts” music video in 2014.

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This dark video is set in a beauty pageant, the ultimate modern measurement of a woman’s exterior beauty. The chilling, soulful ballad follows the pageant participants from far before the show to highlight the extensive preparation that goes into the pageant process. Each woman is manipulating her body in attempt to be thinner, have better makeup, wear flattering clothing, and achieve the perfect hair. From spray tans, teeth whitening, bulimia, cotton ball diets, and extreme exercise, the women are doing everything they possibly can to be the most appealing to the judges, all of which are males. At one point, a male judge is shown taking notes on the women, critiquing their flaws as they stand smiling and waving, selling themselves for acceptance.

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Every person orchestrating the pageant is a male. Irigaray says, “just as a commodity has no mirror it can use to reflect itself, so woman serves as reflection, as image of and for man but lacks specific qualities of her own. Her value-invested form amounts to what man inscribes in and on its matter: that is, her body” (Irigaray). It is the men that decide which traits are appealing and write the questions for the women to answer at the pageant. The men’s expectations and pageant standards seem like the only way for the women to find meaning and success, so they resort to unhealthy and life threatening habits in order to feel a sense of acceptance and self-worth. After all the pain, adjustments, and emotions, Beyoncé still doesn’t win or meet the standards.

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In another scene, Beyoncé is shown in front of her numerous pageant trophies that overlook her room. These trophies are objects that quantify her worth, which are given to her as a prize for her beauty by the male judges. This scene raises the questions of “is all the pain worth the prize?” and “does she feel complete?” Similar to the trophies, the women stand on the stage during the competition in the same positions, smiling, done-up, lined up like trophies. Irigaray states that women are, “objects that emblematize the materialization of relations among men.” (Irigaray). These women have turned into the men’s objects and commodities. They might as well be trophies. By shaping their appearance and gearing their existence toward pleasing males, their body is not even their own anymore.tumblr_nasitfTSOS1tk76tdo1_r2_500

Although this beauty competition seems patriarchal and makes it easy to point fingers at the males involved, the women are not lifting each other up and banding together. The very first scene, the participants are sizing each other up in the dressing room, snarling at each other, and promoting unrealistic standards. Not once does a woman smile when she’s not on stage. Although these women are in the same position, experiencing the same pain and pressure, they act as individuals and don’t acknowledge the existence or pain that they all share. Lorde notes that, “unacknowledged class differences rob women of each other’s energy and creative insight” (Lorde) and “refusing to recognize difference makes it impossible to see the different problems and pitfalls facing us as women” (Lorde). The women are not only battling against men, but against each other, and ultimately, themselves. If they isolate themselves, they fall even further into the downward spiral in the video.

The video ends with a clip of young Beyoncé Knowles winning a pageant and flashes back to the Pretty Hurt’s pageant, showing that the same standards and pressure exists throughout a woman’s life from the time she is a child virgin to the time she is a grown woman, dressed in scandalous clothes and sexually exposed.

Works Cited

Irigaray, Luce. “Women on the Market.” N.p., n.d. Web.

Lorde, Audre. “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining the Difference.” N.p., n.d. Web.

Pretty Hurts. Perf. Beyoncé. Columbia Records, 2014. Music Video.

Tinder

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For those of us who aren’t avid Tinder swipers, Tinder is a location-based dating app that allows users to swipe right if they are interested in the user or swipe left to see the next option If both users swipe right, it’s a match, and the two strangers can message each other. As you can guess, the decision to swipe left or right is based solely on the other person’s profile photo. Now that’s a lot of pressure on an 8×5 headshot.

Brilliantly, Tinder markets itself as “how people meet. It’s like real life, but better.”  

“BUT BETTER”

Is it “better” because you don’t have to deal with the awkward first date introductions or vulnerably ask someone out in person??? Maybe it’s “better” because the users can present themselves as they wish to be seen rather than they actually are. I’m all for putting your best foot forward, but posting a photo of yourself from 5 years ago 15 pounds thinner and with hair might be pushing the whole “best foot forward” strategy. Whether the photo is from 2010 or 2015, there is no way to truthfully represent the “real I” on Tinder. The person you’re swiping right on isn’t a person; it’s an idealized image of a person, or as Lacan calls it, “exemplary situation the symbolic matrix in which the I is precipitated in a primordial form, before it is objectified in the dialectic identification with the other, and before the language restores to it, in the universal, its function as subject.”

In order to get a match on Tinder, your romantic fate lies in the hands of another user. On this app, each user is gauging their self-worth by identifying with others and counting on the fact that other people will take interest in them. They are identifying with others’ standards and judgments of beauty, determining what is attractive and appealing in a mate. Tinder has even identified a number of users who continuously swipe right just to see who likes them back. In Tinder language, this user has been coined the “Indiscriminate Narcissist”. At this point, the user isn’t looking for love, they’re looking for flattery and acceptance on their sex appeal from others.

To combat budding narcissists drawn to the app, Tinder limits the number of right swipes that users could make. People become so obsessed with being liked and wanted, swiping became what Freud calls “repetitive compulsion”. There is an element of risk and rejection with each swipe. For each left swipe the user gets, the more they want a right swipe and will keep repeating until they get a match. It’s the same situation as the child repeatedly tossing the toy. If a user swipes excessively, they are cut off for the next 12 hours, a limitation that angered many Tinder addicts.

So, if users are swiping right to meet people by looking at their faces, how can we have a shot at true love (because Tinder users are totally looking for unconditional love, right?)? Forget about love. How can we expect any type of connection between selves when an online profile holds nothing but identification with the other, a blank snapshot of what existed during one time? Applying Lacan and Freud to Tinder opens up the depressing, broader question: how many relationships are based on the connection of selfness between two people? Can someone else ever grasp his or her partner’s true self? Is there such a thing as soulmates if we can never truly fully know someone’s true self?

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

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The odds are that if you’re a Facebook user (or have been since Summer 2014), you’ve seen an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video on your newsfeed. If you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all. The nominated person records a video saying “Thanks for the Ice Bucket Challenge nomination *****. I nominate ******, *****, and *******. You have 24 hours!” before the nominee gets a bucket of freezing ice poured over their head. Sometimes, they donate money to help fight Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). If not, they are at least raising awareness for the disease. The trend resulted in 17 million video uploads and 10 billion views, raising $220 million globally.

ALS is a terrible disease, but then again so is Cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Ebola, so what is it about this specific phenomena that grabbed the Facebook world’s attention and caught on like a wildfire?

In my opinion, it is the combination of spoken word and action that makes the sensation so powerful and widespread; the combination created a sense of global community and really grabbed users’ attention. To further understand, we can view the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge as a performative illocutionary speech act. Austin says that “the uttering of words is, indeed, usually a, or even the, leading incident in the object of the utterance.” If one of your Facebook friends posted a video pouring a bucket of ice over their head with no words, you’d probably think they were crazy. You can’t imagine why anyone would ever willingly, let alone publicly, pour freezing water over his or her head. Alternatively, if a person posted a webcam video sitting in their room thanking someone for nominating them, you probably would get bored and move on. However, pairing the speech, which is a short phrase that gets to the point, with an irrational act makes the video recognizable (even noble) and makes your Facebook friend seem both dedicated to the cause and fun. It’s clear that both aspects of the video make a difference.

Watching the videos is all fun and games until you get nominated. If the challenge’s goal is to motivate three Facebook friends to pour ice over his or her head, doesn’t that make the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a perlocutionary speech act as well as an illocutionary speech act? After all, the purpose is to persuade people to spread the word or donate to the battle. Is it just social pressure rather than perlocutionary? If the entire Facebook world can see the video that nominates you and you don’t follow through, you look like an insensitive jerk. People are suffering from ALS and you can’t pour a bucket of ice over your head just one time? The user isn’t directly saying, “pour ice over your head or you’re an ass”, but by speaking your name right before they take the plunge, this speech act might as well be. Also, they’re tagging you in their video so it appears on your public timeline. **Inescapable public shame**

 

There is no contesting that as a whole, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has done wonders for the cause, but what if the intention isn’t always true? What if the ceremony is done wrong? What if the nominee forgets to nominate three friends in the video and donate after the video? The chain ends. This “misexecution”, as Austin would call it, would get in the way of a successful speech act. Is the user still trendy and cool if they fail to pass the challenge on? They probably think so. In my opinion, the Ice Bucket Challenge sacrificed its deeper meaning as its popularity grew. Even if the Facebook user utters the words, their intention behind their speech act is not always coming from the same place. Maybe they made the video because of social pressure, to fit in, or add another video to their timeline. After all, everyone likes to feel like they’re socially responsible and doing good. How many of the users actually care and donated to the cause? Could they explain the disease? How about the number of people affected? One thing stands true: the intention behind the spoken words can definitely change the action.

An Emoji is Worth a Thousand… Interpretations

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When you look at the emoji above, what do you see? My guess is that you’ve never used it. Not intentionally at least. I see six golf balls on top of a tee, some cattails, and the moon. I know what we’re all thinking… “they made THIS but no selfie emoji?”

Matter of fact, we’re the ones in the dark. This image is a signifier for Tsukimi, an annual Japanese moon viewing ceremony. The “cattails” are actually Japanese pampas grass and the “golf balls” are the Japanese dessert dango. I know, I’m disappointed too.

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Little did you know, Shigetaka Kurita created our beloved emojis in Japan, and they were originally catered to the Japanese culture. How many bowing businessmen, dango, and onigiri do we see in every day America? Do any of us even know what dango and onigiri are?? As far as we are concerned, they solely live and exist on our iPhone keyboards, eating up data and gigabytes.

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Well, Tsukimi has been routine in Japan since the Heian period (794-1185), so it’s startling that the first hit when googling “moon viewing ceremony” is the emoji dictionary definition, intended for clueless users who, like me, are trying to decipher the cattails and golf balls.

So how do iPhone users around the world look at an image and see something different? More namely, should we be alarmed that we disregarded a chunk of 300 years that are so crucial and forming to a culture? MOST IMPORTANTLY what does it say about our culture that America is the leading user of the phallic eggplant?
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Culler simply views it as linguistics and structuralism.

The emoji is a sign and signifier for a broader custom or meaning, and “if human actions or productions have a meaning there must be an underlying system of distinctions and conventions which makes this meaning possible,” he says.

No two cultures have the same set of values, practices, and customs.

So, obviously we wouldn’t know about Tsukimi if we’ve never been to Japan. And obviously we’d think the eggplant is provocative because of over-sexualization in our society and culture.

This raises the question: Is it even possible to look at something for face value anymore with all the complexities in society and culture or does everything have an unseen yet signified concept?

Culler notes that, “the cultural meaning of any particular act or object is determined by a whole system of constitutive rules: rules which do not regulate behavior so much as create the possibility of particular forms of behavior.”

Could it be intentional that the penis-shaped eggplant, winky face, and kissy face are all placed before the church and school supplies, making the former more available? Are we being encouraged to send flirty winks before getting to the church? I think so. It’s creating the possibility to form our behavior.

Who has the authority to add emojis and place the emojis? Why hasn’t each country made their own respective list of emojis if a whole page of them is inapplicable the all iPhone users? Has anyone realized that our one shot at a universal language has perceptual holes?