I ran across some really awesome stuff on the Internet today. For some reason, everyone on Facebook happened to be sharing all of these amazingly thoughtful / infuriating / hilarious / important political and cultural discussions, and it totally made my night. I feel as if I learned, like, a lot in the past hour or so I’ve spent absorbing all this. I thought I’d share them because all of these pieces are really deserving of attention.
Professor N. Bruce Duthu on the cultural appropriation of Native American traditions
A couple weeks ago, No Doubt released a music video for their new song “Looking Hot.” The video, which is pretty darn appalling, features Gwen Stefani wearing a bastardized version of traditional Native American garments basically in bondage, saying “Go ahead and look at me, ’cause that’s what I want.” Within a couple days, it was taken down due to lots and lots of people not being okay with its overt racism.
In this interview, the chair of the Native American Studies program at Dartmouth points out exactly what he thinks made the video so heinous– its perpetuation of the motif of Native American women as sex objects– and how this issue is actually pretty prevalent in pop culture. As Duthu puts it,
“The video continues the tradition of popular media treating Native culture as if it’s part of the public domain, as if one can simply go into this reservoir of stereotypical images and draw from it without any kind of limitation or concern. When lands have been lost and cultures have been decimated, one of the last things left to be appropriated from Native cultures is their very dignity. And this is what videos like this do — they exhume and exploit and pull away whatever shreds of dignity may be left. It reflects our historical amnesia.
I know some people think this is overreacting and Native people are just whining again. But for those who find this a waste of time and don’t understand Native cultures as living, breathing, thinking societies that are worthy of people’s respect, it’s pretty hard to have a serious conversation about concerns such as the return of Native land. So if the attitude still exists that Native cultures don’t mean anything, don’t count, don’t deserve respect, it’ll translate into destructive action.”
…which is one of the best explanations of the dangers of cultural appropriation that I’ve ever come across. I know a lot of people like the ones he’s talking about– those who think that racism and cultural appropriation are not a big deal, since there aren’t Jim Fucking Crow laws anymore. That’s an easy claim to make when, you know, you’re white. The fact is, Native Americans are discriminated against so hard in the United States. Nevertheless the majority, the suppressors, have the audacity to think it’s okay when we pick and choose things we like in their culture (on which the vast majority of us are totally ignorant), pull them out of context, and use them for our own pleasure.
This is still a shaky issue for me, since the lines are oftentimes really fuzzy between exploitation and appreciation of the customs of a people with whom I have next to nothing to do (like, is the fact that I love shitty Chinese food… okay?). It’s definitely super important, though, to at least be aware and sensitive to cultural appropriation. It’s way too easy to forget and end up perpetuating someone’s suffering without even knowing.
College Humor’s Gay Men Will Marry Your Girlfriends
Over the past couple years, there has been so much satire of anti-equality discourse. How could there not be, really? The US is in the midst of yet another civil rights movement and for some reason, there are still people resisting, even though those are the ones who always end up getting antagonized in history (and rightfully so). Why would you want to be remembered as a hater? I dunno. But anyway.
Today, college humor posted a video that, amazingly, finds yet another spin through which to prod at the ridiculousness of marriage inequality. It makes the menacingly hilarious point that, for a number of well-outlined reasons, gay men would be better boyfriends to your girlfriend than you are, and if you don’t let them marry each other, they’re just gonna go ahead and steal all your beaus. Somehow, it manages to one-up how ridiculous anti-equality activists have been acting lately (is it just me, or are they getting crazier?), which is impressive. And effective. That’ll be another 10,000 points to Civil Rights, please.
NPR’s Struggle For Smarts? How Eastern And Western Cultures Tackle Learning:
Education is an issue I care about really, really deeply. My views on how it should be approached have always been out-there for most people’s tastes. I think it has something to do with my dad being a trained psychologist and taking on my brain basically as his Frankenstein project for the first few years of my life. I’ve always thought that a child’s impulses and curiosity should be encouraged and not, as they predominantly are in this country, suppressed. I also think that what Einstein said was a million percent true: “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The most important thing that can be done for young people is for them to be given the freedom to discover what they love to do, and then to be given the tools to pursue that. I’ll save that conversation for another, time though.
This morning, NPR published an amazing article on the research of Dr. Jim Stigler, a psychology professor at UCLA. He talks about his research into the differences in the overall cultural perception of struggle (particularly mental struggle) between the East and West. His findings have revealed that, while in the West, struggle is associated with failure or lack of intelligence, the complete opposite is true in Eastern culture. There (he specifically references China, Taiwan, and Japan), he says, struggle is encouraged, drawn-out, and applauded by educators.
“‘We did a study many years ago with first-grade students,’ he tells me. ‘We decided to go out and give the students an impossible math problem to work on, and then we would measure how long they worked on it before they gave up.’
The American students ‘worked on it less than 30 seconds on average and then they basically looked at us and said, ‘We haven’t had this,’ ‘ he says.
But the Japanese students worked for the entire hour on the impossible problem. ‘And finally we had to stop the session because the hour was up. And then we had to debrief them and say, ‘Oh, that was not a possible problem; that was an impossible problem!’ and they looked at us like, ‘What kind of animals are we?’ ‘ Stigler recalls.
‘Think about that [kind of behavior] spread over a lifetime,’ he says. ‘That’s a big difference.'”
It’s a pretty amazing read which, if you’re anything like me, will have you examining your own habits. Because, honestly, he’s got a point– since when is struggle a negative thing? What mindset other than that could be more inhibitive to intellectual growth? You guys, we should feel good about ourselves when we have a hard time learning something, yet still have the determination to do it.
Here’s a hilarious(ly triumphant) video of a driver in my hometown: