A Few Words on a Few Theories and the Latinx Community

Race and racial theories are essential in sociology, as we can comprehend culture and politics in a more substantial framework through history. We can understand the significance of race and racism by understanding their connections to other areas, such as gender, class, and religion. The historical and political changes in the United States help us know about the sociological theories on social stratification, especially for the Latinx community and the intersectionality between race, gender, and class.

Scholar Howard Winant explains in Race and Race Theory (2000) that the sociology of race became central by the effects of the civil rights movements, World War II and fascism, and the international mass increase in migration. Winant also notes that the limitation of current theory in race. He focuses on ethnicity-based, class-based, and nation-based theories on race: ethnicity-based theories focus on race as a collective identity. The theories suggest that assimilation or changes in policies or law would suppress prejudices, as Winant also notes how Western European countries form national culture through exclusion (179). Class-based theories focus on race as stratification and economic competition. Winant notes that class-based theories have limitations regarding affirmative actions by conflicts within marginalized racial groups and interracial working-class solidarity (179). Nation-based theories focus on race on geopolitical terms by the decolonization process after World War II. Winant describes nation-based theories evolved into “crude and retro forms of cultural nationalism informed more by mysticism than by social analysis”. (179-180). Winant’s comment on nation-based theories reminds us how theoretical approaches can fail to answer questions by their flaws. However, Winant does not mention gender theories on race, which would further clarify his argument on contemporary theories on race. Winant could have explained how gender scholars who describe race relate to gender-based theories, such as sociologist R.W. Connell’s Masculinities (1995), which clarifies that masculinity is plural and hierarchical. Connell included how race influences people’s role by hegemonic masculinity (Connell& Messerschmidt, 829-859; 2005). Winant notes the three dimensions that racial theoretical response must answer: the theoretical response must address the comparative/historical dimension of race, the macro and micro aspects of racial signification and racialized social structures, and the newly pervasive forms of politics (180-181). Winant also notes that the racial formation approach is how racial identities are unstable and politically focused since race is intersectional. The meaning of race depends on types of factors, from individual to institutional level (182). Winant’s argument helps us understand the limitation of more classic sociological theories are compared to newer theories on race and racism.

Sociologist Bob Blauner discusses the theoretical perspectives on race and ethnicity in America. He criticizes the five frameworks that dominate social science on race in America: the assimilation approach, the immigrant analogy, caste and class, prejudice and discrimination, and economic class reductionism (13). Blauner argues that the social theory should focus on and find relations with the major social forces and trends of historical periods. Blauner also argues that common social theories on race fail to predict or illuminate new racial awareness or conflict developments, such as social movements or cultural shifts (14). Blauner notes that these issues in the five common frameworks include: (1) the view that racial and ethnic groups are not central nor essential elements in society, (2) the simplification of racism, (3) presupposing that racism is merely attitudes or prejudices of white Americans and (4) that there are no long-term differences to the mainstream society between European ethnic groups and racial or third world groups (14). Blauner notes that several scholars assume that various ethnic groups, even Blacks and Indigenous, will undergo Americanization and acculturation. The error is that exclusion and dualism within the social hierarchy are part of Americanization and acculturation (20-21). Whether culturally or legally, what makes someone American requires us to determine what exactly makes someone American or not. Blauner highlights the problems with the five frameworks that enforce colorblindness, by ignoring the complexity of racial groups ad neglecting how significant race and racism are in economy, politics, and culture. However, Blauner does not explain why assimilation is more complex and political than what scholars presupposed on assimilation through historical accounts or conflicting policies. Although he mentions examples briefly to prove his argument, Blauner could have described historical records on racial groups and the complexity of assimilation to prove his case; this will help us further understand the limitation of assimilation bias. 

The pressure to assimilate, even if we are unassimilable, is hegemonic. According to philosopher Antonio Gramsci, cultural hegemony in culture and politics includes both direct force, like threats of violence, and consent, like socialization (Cole, 2020). We tend to think we consent without critical understanding why so; we follow an unquestioned ideology. An example includes the conception of femininity, as people follow the cultural customs of womanhood without realizing its history nor subjectivity. In Unequal Freedom (2002)scholar Evelyn Nakano Glenn explains how exclusions against various groups affect our notion of gender, race, and class. In chapter five Mexicans and Anglos in the Southwest, Glenn notes how Mexican Americans undergo Americanization in three ways; by setting “corrected” behavior and culture, increasing aspirations that follow the Protestant ethics, and molding Anglo ideals or manhood or womanhood (184-186). Glenn notes that the benefits for Mexican families were to learn English and American customs for broader job opportunities, rather than to actual assimilate, as they knew that their culture and beliefs are not inferior to Anglo-Saxons (185). However, Glenn could have directly acknowledged that subtle forms of domination exist even if we actively resist them. An example is Mexican Americans resisting white supremacy by celebrating holidays, without realizing how capitalism overturns their resistance by the way they celebrate holidays. People do not realize how racial capitalism occurs in forms, such as finically supporting corporations over small businesses or unfair treatment against migrant workers through low wages and labor practices. Glenn describes the history of education through segregation and changes in classifications for Mexican Americans. Although Mexicans were classified as white and racial segregation ended, they were still not allowed to attend white schools. People argue that children’s ability to speak English is critical in Americanization. At the same time, they ignore that Bohemian and German children who did not speak English were allowed to attend white schools (180-182). The classification of white requires us to define white. Mexicans classified as white were allowed to marry Blacks when interracial marriages were illegal (160). Glenn points out that social hierarchy in race, gender, and class determines our citizenship. The dominant ideology of domesticity is an example of gendered and racial citizenship, as Anglo women did not often work in physical labor jobs as Mexican women (154-156). The definition of womanhood or manhood is racialized, just as the meaning of whiteness is gendered. We must ask questions about our social reality to find answers we are seeking, such as our collective notions on identity and history, or we risk keeping the social stratification. 

Overall, we must understand how our phenomenology influences us, such as constructing our identity and morality, to improve our lives and terminate societal problems. People believe classism is the most important, or even only issue, in the United States, without considering the history of racism that intersects with classism, along with other forms of discrimination. The readings mentioned above helps us to understand why we must ask questions about our social reality in race and ethnicity. Sociological theories require us to ask why we should use them and their limitations. Otherwise, we risk not finding answers to our questions for solutions to resolve public issues.

Questions

  1. Explain why you agree or disagree with the limitations of sociological theories on race from Blauner and Winant?
  2. How does the historical discrimination, such as education and workplace, of the Latinx community help us to understand Blauner’s and Winant’s arguments?

References

Blauner, Bob. 2001. “Theoretical Perspectives” Pages 13-23 in Still the Big News: Racial

Oppression in America. Temple University Press.

Cole, Nicki Lisa, Ph.D. “Biography of Antonio Gramsci.” ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020,

thoughtco.com/antonio-gramsci-3026471.

Connell, R. W, and James W Messerschmidt. “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the

Concept.” Gender & Society, vol. 19, no. 6, 2005, pp. 829–859.

Glenn, Evelyn Nakano. 2002. “Mexicans and Anglos in the Southwest.” In Unequal

Freedom: How Race and Gender Shaped American Citizenship and Labor. Harvard

University Press.

Lyons, Patrick J. 2019. “Trump Wants to Abolish Birthright Citizenship. Can He Do That?” The

New York Times. Retrieved August 31, 2021 (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/22/us/birthright-citizenship-14th-amendment-trump.html).

Winant, Howard. 2000. “Race and Race Theory.” Annual Review of Sociology 26:169-85.

Transgender’s History, Eyes, and Intersex: Reflections

Transgender and Intersex under Biopolitics1

Over the years, more people identify themselves as nonbinary or trans*. A study at Williams Institute at UCLA discovered that the percentage of trans* adults increased from 0.3 to 0.6 percent (Davis, 2018). The internet and social movements for the trans* community help more people learn and accept trans*gender and/or queer, as getting information and support are crucial aspects of coming out. However, bio-citizenship is an ongoing struggle for marginalized groups, especially for the queer community. 

The intersex community struggles to gain bio-citizenship since pre-birth. In Contesting Intersex (2015), sociologist Georgiann Davis expounds her study on the medicalization of the Intersex community and the issues against the community. The book provides enriching information about social issues relating to people with intersex traits, including (1) conducting surgeries onto infants, (2) the term Disorder of Sex Development versus Intersex, (3) heteronormativity along with cisnormativity, and (4) enforcing simplification onto gender and sex. Gender Structure Theory2 applies to the intersex community by setting stratification and internalizing dualistic traditional gender identities, such as personality traits and practices (Davis, 2015; 8). The classification of disorder onto intersex, just like for the trans*gender, creates a false sense of social reality. The misrepresentation of social reality is getting people to accept a false idea, a lie, preventing them from consent. An example includes medical experts claiming surgical removals on intersex traits minimizes cancer risks without critically explaining why so (91-92). Just like for trans* individuals, the false reality for the intersex community is that they have a disorder without consenting to what is a disorder. When we think of disorder, we think of an undesirable object, like pain. The terminology relates to our cultural acceptance, such as why intersex over Disorder of Sex Development helps people accept how sex is as subjective and complex as gender itself. People who reject the medicalization of intersex embrace another aspect that rejects gender as binary, such as being part of the queer community, as terms like “opposite sex” appeal more to people identifying as DSD (104-105). The meaning of intersex creates acceptance for the community and other communities like trans*gender by understanding the complexity of people’s narratives. A person’s life is a multiplex world, as each person is intersectional by what aspects of our lives are connected, like how gender connects to ethnicity. An example is an acceptance of two spirits in North American Indigenous culture3. Before colonization, American Indians embrace gender nonbinary without setting people into dualistic roles. Another example is how gender was nonexistent for the Yorùbá culture before Western colonization4. Understanding a person’s complex narrative is part of expressing cognitive, emotional, and compassionate empathy. Understanding a person’s narrative is part of subjugated knowledge, to uncover buried knowledge that was covered by ruling forms of knowledge5. The goal of knowledge is to find out more information about our social reality, to enhance aspects of our lives. The irony is that infants cannot consent to optional surgeries that permanently affect their lives, emotionally and physically. At the same time, trans*gender adults financially and emotionally struggle to gain communal, medical, and legal acceptance for their gender.

Trans* people struggle as they must prove their gender identity by subjective notions, like what Christine Jorgensen had said, the “first” American transsexual woman who follow a transnormativity by following the cisgender reality, that it was a biological “failure” (Stryker, 2008; 5). Although Jorgensen help to spread more awareness for the trans* community by her media appearances, transnormativity leads some people to encourage transmedicalism, that an individual must be transgender by experiencing dysphoria and undergoing medical treatments. Transmedicalism’s limitation includes examples like how some people are unable to transition due to financial issues. Social movements that challenge that kind of narrative, like how activist Lou Sullivan, a gay transman, challenge against conditional acceptance and cis-normalcy by advocating that gender identity does not depend on your romantic/sexual attraction, vice versa (115-120). The medicalization and history of terminology relating to gender, sex, and sexuality, like the term homosexual, and how people like endocrinologist Harry Benjamin set cissexist values for transgender people to follow to prove their gender is valid and a “disorder”6. People who are trans*gender struggle for acceptance, internally and outwardly, as an outsider-within (Sumerau & Mathers, 2019; 67). It is by a conditional acceptance that people are accepted by hierarchical social values that leads to homonormativity, the gay and lesbian people that seeks civil rights by appealing the mainstream social norms that include whiteness, upper-middle classes, religious, domesticated and reproductive, endosex, patriotic, normatively bodied, monosexualize and cisgendering reality (54, 64).

Overall, from medical to legal experts, those in power influence the public by setting a narrative that heterosexuality and cisgender are universal, non-deviant while silencing the queer community by casting them into opposite roles as abnormal or deviant through biopower7. The simplification of gender and attractions leads to a misconstruction of gender and relationships, thus further social inequality. People must consider several actions for liberatory transformation, including working with doctors or experts on intersex and trans* community, educating the public, embracing oneself, especially with feminist ideas, social support, recognizing social constructions, and listening to marginalized groups (Davis, 2015; 157-167).

Questions

  1. How does capitalism relate to the trans* and intersex community? 
    • I think about how capitalism affects the trans*community by setting consumerist notions of genders, such as gendered practices, or assimilation to cissexist values, such as beauty standards. I also think about companies that pink-wash or queer-bait their products.
  2. How does whiteness, like Eurocentric values or imperialism, relate to the readings?
    • Scholar C. Riley Snorton’s Black in Both Sides (2018) relates to the readings by the intersection between Blackness and transness.
  3. What practices force upon children parallels with trans*gender and intersex children?
    • I ask this question because I think about how social pressure for children to assimilate. An example includes mental health. Some individuals tend to pressure themselves and their relationships into toxic positivity, to prohibit negative emotions like anger nor sadness. Toxic positivity is a form of psychological abuse since it is to deny reality, to deny the truth. Many children endure toxic positivity at home, socializing them to believe that they must not express or acknowledge their negative emotions.   
  4. What are other examples of objects or people classified as a “disorder”?
    • I think about introverts; I am known for being quiet and reserved, but several people associate with such personality traits as problematic, as the American culture values extravert traits. An example include Schizoid Personality Disorder, that I am “asocial” or people often confuse asocial with antisocial. I desire to socialize and have closer relationships so I believe I cannot have Schizoid Personality Disorder. I think about how the disorder, as a spectrum, makes it difficult for me to confirm that I do not have it. I have needs for solitude but I still crave for positive social interactions.
  1. How do other countries with firmer laws protecting trans*gender and intersex differ from countries like the United States? Examples include countries that legally and culturally recognize trans*gender and intersex before the United States.
  2. What are other examples of exclusion in spaces, within-outsider, that enforce conformity, like “doing cisgender” (Sumerau & Mathers, 2019;136)?
    • I think about how common for trans*exclusive radical feminists to endorse racism through exclusive practices. Scholar Emi Koyama’s Whose Feminism Is It Anyway? The Unspoken Racism of The Trans Inclusion Debate (2020) discusses how the universal concept of womanhood in TERFs spaces is inherently racist and classist by appealing to white middle-class women, ignoring BIPOC and lower classes.

Notes

  1. Biopolitics, coined by philosopher Michel Foucault. See Foucault’s The History of Sexuality: The Will to Knowledge (Vol. 1).
  2. Risman, Barbara J. “Gender As a Social Structure.” Gender & Society 18, no. 4 (2004): 429–50. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243204265349.
  3. Estrada, Gabriel. 2016. Two SpiritsNádleeh, and LGBTQ2 Navajo Gaze. American Indian Culture and Research Journal. 35 (4): 167–190. doi:10.17953/aicr.35.4.x500172017344j30,
  4. Oyewum, Oyeronk. The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016.
  5. Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge. London: Routledge, 2002.
  6. Benjamin, Harry. 1966. The Transsexual Phenomenon. The Julian Press, ISBN 9780446824262
  7. Biopower, another term coined by philosopher Michel Foucault. See Foucault’s The History of Sexuality: The Will to Knowledge (Vol. 1).

References

Davis, Georgiann. 2018. “Sex and Gender Diversity is Growing Across the US.” The

Conversation.

Davis, Georgiann. 2015. Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosis. New York: NYU Press.

Stryker, Susan. 2017. 2nd Edition. Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution. Seal

Press.

Sumerau, J.E. and Lain A.B. Mathers. 2019. America through Transgender Eyes. Rowman &

Littlefield.

Love, Money, and HIV: Reflections

Love, Money, and HIV-Biopolitics

Scholar Sanyu Mojola expounds in her book Love, Money, and HIV: Becoming A Modern African Woman in the Age of AIDS (2014) on how young Kenyan women, despite the AIDS epidemic and how much they are aware of it, approach their relationship, financial issues, and education. Mojola notes how young African women with a higher level of education and socioeconomic status have higher rates of HIV/AIDS (36). She explains that there are three forms of explanation as to why women have higher rates than men: (1) biophysiological, (2) proximate, and (3) social and ecological setting (9-22). These women are more likely to have HIV, even if they only one male partner, as it is culturally acceptable for men to have multiple partners. Some women have different types of partners, which includes transactional sex relationship and romantic partners (35). Married men may pursue sexual relationships for sexual relief. Their wives may also have other sexual relationships while their husbands are absent. These women who engage in sexual relationships is out of loneliness or financial struggle. It is by the logic of partner choice that puts women at risk for HIV+. Expression of love codifies through consumerism and gendered practices. Across the world, women follow gendered practices, such as feminine products and shopping, as a way of feeling attractive or authentic, to themselves and other people. They are also buying Western modernity through products.

In chapter 4, Love, Money, and HIV Prevention, Mojola discusses how people’s concept of masculinity and love influences their choices. Young men struggle with their sense of masculinity as they feel they must prove their manhood to their partners by sexuality; thus, abstinence is difficult (83-97). These men also struggle with condoms, as they think they do not have enough time as they persuade their partners, and its gestures the relationship as short-term rather than long term (92). The cultural components determine the outcomes by what ideology people internalize as authentic. The institutions influence the outcomes for the HIV+ epidemic by

Mojola suggests stopping the epidemic includes providing resources for young women to rely on themselves for financial support without dating men. Some successful programs or workshops like IMAGE helps women by learning life skills and running a business. Granting financial independence for these women also gives bargaining power in relationships, thus lowering the risk for HIV. However, programs like TRY or SHAZ! fail to help women by the lack of trust of their mentorship, financial instability, and challenges of running a business, thus worsening the epidemic (190). Changing culture like normalizing HIV testing and condoms also helps to stop the outbreak. Ending the paradox for the HIV epidemic also includes ending the entanglement between love and money in relationships and culture.

Overall, Mojala’s book explains the dilemma of the HIV epidemic by its biopower and biopolitics. People struggle to find ways to empower themselves by systemic oppression. People also find unexpected ways to empower themselves. An example is the biopolitics for Indian sex workers claiming biological and life citizenship as they confront and resist legal regulation that criminalizes and stigmatizes them (Lakkimsetti, 2014; 201-226). Governmentality reflects the tactics and institutions that allow modernity to exercise power beyond its formal structure (205). Ultimately, ending the capitalism between love and money grants freedom for people.  

Questions

  1. How do laws relating to sex workers relate to Mojola’s book? How do laws or culture that either criminalize or decriminalize sex work relate to the book?
  2. How does religion play a role in gender and HIV?
    • I ask this because I think about how religious belief influences people’s actions relating to sexuality, such as condoms. Guilt or shame can also play a role in sexuality, especially since the concept of purity is often associated with sexuality.
  3. How does biopolitics differ for HIV for other marginalized groups, like the queer community, in South Africa?
  4. How does sexual and domestic violence relate to gender attitudes for women with HIV?
    • I ask this because I think about how culture and laws on sexual violence influence risk factors, such as the normalization of violence or myths associating with violence.
  5. How can technology influence the HIV+ epidemic?
    1. I ask this because I think about how social media correlates to social movements, like how virtual content can spread awareness of systemic oppression for women with HIV? 

Resources

Lakkimsetti, Chaitanya. “‘HIV Is Our Friend’: Prostitution, Biopower, and the State in Postcolonial India.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 40, no. 1, 2014, pp. 201–226.

Mojola, Sanyu A. 2014. Love, Money, and HIV: Becoming a Modern African Woman in the Age of AIDS. University of California Press.

Fearing the Black Body: Reflections

Biopolitics in Blackness and Fatness

The relationship between bodies and politics has an essential history of structural violence through biopower and biopolitics. It is necessary here to clarify what is meant by biopower and biopolitics. The term biopower, introduced by Philosopher Michel Foucault (1998), refers to the power relation that institutions have onto people through regulations and social practices (140). Biopolitics refers to an intersectional field between bodies and politics, consisting of biopower. The cultural notion on bodies appears innocuous through societal concerns on obesity, such as normalization of BMI scale and diet trends, without connecting how the cultural belief about fatness associates with racial prejudices.

In Fearing the Black Body (2019), Scholar Sabrina Strings discusses how white supremacy and misogyny are associated with fatphobia through a comparative historical analysis. In Western or colonized culture, the body is subject to Eurocentric values. Without questioning the limitation of Western beliefs, we end up with pseudoscience, particularly scientific racism and eugenics. Black women like Sara Baartman were subjected to dehumanizing gazes by white men and women as Othered through the hyper-focus on subjective differences: the differences between races and ethnicity through pseudoscience and racism. The past outcomes onto the present are that we have notions of what fat is without understanding the ideas’ origins. Even marginalized groups internalize oppression through a collective memory, which the term refers to culture collectively forget historical subjugations, as they also identify themselves through the oppressors’ notion of history (Hist & Manier, 2008; 183-200). People identify with a collective belief that fatness symbolizes moral impurity. The Ascetic aesthetic movement advocates the belief that thinness is a sign of moral purity, just as thinness began to associate with American patriotism. An example is how Elizabeth Bisland, the editor of Cosmopolitan, defined the American Anglo-Saxon beauty with thinness through her work, influencing mainstream media and academia to endorse xenophobia and the eugenic movement, thus becomes doxa (Strings, 154). Another example is Dr. John Kellogg’s influence on health as he advocated for white women’s reproductive health and the eugenic movement (169-186). The biopower of whiteness is by social control through unquestioned bias, such as having a lower chance of dating for men of color and men with HIV. These men have attached stigma that creates distinction by being othered through stereotypes (Smith & Amaro, 2021). Philosopher Julia Kristeva coined abjection to describe the negative human reaction, like revulsion, to threatening breakdown between the loss of distinction between subject and object (cla.purdue.edu). People abject women like Sara Barrtman as they know that their bodies change through weight; they can be like Baartman through changes in power relation. Black women are subject to colonialization by racial and sexual stereotypes in media; examples include Google searches on Black female models versus white female models. The images depict Black women as more hypersexual than white women (Benard, 2016; 1-11). The biopolitics in daily life ensures social control through our approval of it, thus allowing biopower for hegemonic groups.

The biopolitics of bodies is what ideology we internalize. We internalize ideology by our actions, thoughts, and knowledge. Although we are never actually freed from hegemonic ideology as we acquire new beliefs over another. All ideologies have limitations. However, we must determine the consequences of our choices and still resolve what we desire. The sense of liberalism requires consent to decide with the available information we have so far. Knowledge grants us freedom through further comprehension of our social reality.  

Questions

1.         How does capitalism relate to racism and fatness in String’s book? How does capitalism correlate to colonization like Sara Baartman or cultural components like diet fads?

2.         After reading the book, what are the effects of colonialization and racism on mental health itself?

  • I ask this question because I think about how mainstream culture stigmatizes mental illness, as the dehumanizing terms and practices against people with mental illness are similar to fatphobia. An example is self-help books with misleading ideas that depression associates moral weakness without understanding the context of mental illness, like how poverty associates with depression by social inequality, like struggling to get essential resources or overworking.

3.         Strings notes how feminist scholars struggle to find out how fatphobia is prominent in misogyny without understanding how racism overlaps with fatphobia and sexism. What are other examples of white feminism in research similar to Strings’ research?

References

Benard, Akeia A. F. “Colonizing Black Female Bodies Within Patriarchal Capitalism.” Sexualization, Media and Society, vol. 2, no. 4, 2016, p. 237462381668062.

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1: The Will to Knowledge. Penguin Books Ltd., 1998.

Hirst, William & Manier, David. 2008. “Towards a psychology of collective memory”, Memory, vol. 16, no. 3, 183-200, DOI: 10.1080/09658210701811912

Introduction to Julia Kristeva, Module on the Abject, cla.purdue.edu/academic/english/theory/psychoanalysis/kristevaabject.html.

Smith, Jesús Gregorio, and Gabriel Amaro . “‘No Fats, No Femmes, and No Blacks or Asians’: The Role of Body-Type, Sex Position, and Race on Condom Use Online.” AIDS and Behavior , 3 Jan. 2021, doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-020-03146-z.

Strings, Sabrina. Fearing the Black Body: the Racial Origins of Fat Phobia. New York University Press, 2019.

Garfinkel’s What is Ethnomethodology- (Quick) Summary

Garfinkel’s What is Ethnomethodology? explains the concept of ethnomethodology by which it focuses on how people interpret their social reality through their knowledge. People use conversation and gestures or social interactions to retain their sense of reality in each situation. Ethnomethodology refers to how people reflect their activities through errors and examinations of their personal experiences as they become codified; the fragments of social reality become codified through past experiences. The ad hoc becomes part of ethnomethodology since ad hoc means something created for a particular goal that is subjective to change or rejected. Garfinkel mentions that ethnomethodology refers to a study of practical actions that prone to be problematic due to subjective rules given to people. An example to explain ethnomethodology is the jury. The jury determines what decisions to go with on their actions, to determine what may or may not work for desired results. The jury discourses on the evidence of the case and follow the rules they are given by society as a whole. The jury is looking for a rational approach that will function well enough to reach the case’s ultimate decision.

Ethnomethodology seems to focus on what is accountable as a method. This method helps people determine the goals they want to reach by whatever method seems to be accountable enough. The reasoning of the methodology is individualized, which means that it is subjective to each person using to study the social order. The common sense of ethnomethodology is by a person’s common sense of reality and their social reality compared to other people’s social reality. Each person’s social reality differs from personal upbringing and knowledge, by which Garfinkel seems to advocate scholars to recognize how their interpretation is subjective by nature.

Semiotic Analysis Time: A Slice of Sensual Pizza

A Slice of Sensual Pizza

The printed advertisement is for a pizza brand called Daiya, which the name Daiya sounds closer to the word dairy. According to babynamewizard.com, the name Daiya is also a Polish feminine name for “gift” or “present”. The ad is from a website called Adsoftheworld.com and published in July 2016 in the United States. I do not know if the ad exists elsewhere. The advertisement’s audience seems general, except its for those want dairy-free, like vegans and lactose-intolerant consumers. The message suggests that the taste of the pizza is exceptional good, by expressing humor. The socio-historical context of the text is that it is part of contemporary consumerism. Cultures differ from each other in advertisements by its signifiers. The ads may focus more on text rather than the image. Some ads may inform readers about the product by its advantages. Other ads may use aesthetic approaches to attract consumers. Ads can use humor or reflective storytelling to get consumers’ attention. It involves using a discourse with dominant ideas. Researchers can use a visual method as a communication tool as “border crossers” (Liebenberg 2009). We can deconstruct the semiotics by searching for its meanings, such as ironies or casual relations. The metaphors can serve as an analogy while metonymy as an association. The relevance of analyzing the ad is to understand what social groups are represented and hailed and their mythologies. Mythology involves associating a product with cultural meaning, as part of the strategy (Tolson 1996). The people representing in advertisements disclose cultural implications through gestures, traits, and fashion. The messages in advertisements reveal implicitly or explicitly cultural values or mythologies.


Syntagmatic Analysis
The connotation is a romance novel, and the subject is pizza. The important signifiers are the people, location, and text. The ad seems to be a parody of an actual romance novel called The Princess and her Pirate by Lois Creiman. The couple is holding each other in a romantic pose. The man is feeding his partner a slice of pizza. The woman appears astonished as cheese is stretching from her mouth. The woman is holding a man passively while the man is holding the woman more assertively. They are on the cover of a book, hinting they are fictional people. The book appears to be on a marble table. The title of the book said, “A Yearning Supreme” Below, the book states, “CHEESIER THAN EVER” and features the brand logo, Daiya. The book with the title “Supreme” hints what type of pizza Daiya is advertising to the consumer.
The cultural codes refer to romance novels and the medieval era. Romance novels are known to depict covers featuring a heterosexual couple. Romance novels written for and by heterosexual women tend to depict male heroes as hypermasculine, such as expressing dominance in relationships (Allan 2016). The woman appears feminine. Her dressing codes are long hair, white dress, and make-up. The man appears masculine. He has short hair, five-o-clock shadow, muscular, and wears a vest that exposes his chest. He also carries a sword around his waist, indicating protection for the woman. The ad reminds readers of heteronormativity by featuring a heterosexual couple following traditional gender roles. If the roles were switched, such as a muscular woman holding man assertively, the readers might interpret the couple’s gender roles as part of the message, likely humor. The couple appears white and physically fit; it also erases people of color and various body types. Humor is suggested by an ad based on its image and text. The line “CHEESIER THAN EVER” refers to the term cheesy. The term cheesy refers to inadequate quality. Romance novels are often mocked in culture for their book covers and contents. Many romantic covers tend to depict a couple with exaggerated gender expressions. An example is a man having large muscles and the woman expressing passive gestures. The theme of the book is medieval. The clothes and background suggest the book is about a medieval era. The man’s sword symbolizes the era. The castle is shown in the background. The woman’s dress appears medieval due to its sleeves and corset.


Paradigmatic Analysis
The central oppositions suggested in the text are the brand and advertisement. Readers can see the logo of the product below the novel. The fonts of the novel appear Edwardian Script, and it is glowing white. The fonts represent the binary of the novel and logo. The font of the novel represents fantasy, while the font below the novel is reality. The couple’s outfits suggest history while outside of the novel is present. History involves the concept of what was then versus now. The realism of the image is subjective to readers. The book cover appears to be a digital drawing rather than a photo and appears hyper-realistic. The logo includes an image of pizza; the image appears to be photo rather than a drawing. Many pizza products feature a photo of pizza as part of the box cover.
The oppositions have importance by its symbolic meanings. The pizza in the novel represents the commercial itself. The readers are aware they are looking at an ad. We are reminded that reading fiction is to escape reality. People enjoy reading fiction to relax and experience emotions by its story. The pizza in the book cover signals to readers that eating pizza can be part of our leisure. The cheese dripping out of the woman’s mouth represents how sensual eating pizza can be for people, like kissing. Readers can see the logo, which is also a box cover for the pizza. The image hints readers what the box cover looks like so that they can remember it when they are shopping.
If the ad presents its product differently, like just an image of the product within the book cover while a fictional couple is reading the book together, it may not get the reader’s attention. It could indicate pizza as part of daily life, and it could tell readers what they can do if they want pizza by showing them a couple reading about Daiya pizza. A book about Daiya pizza could suggest how the product is interesting enough for people to read a book about it.


Reading Against the Grain
The ideological messages endorsed by the advertisement is its simplistic meanings. The ad gives readers simple messages. The image has few lines of words, mainly on humor. Although the pizza states it is dairy-free, with “cheesier than eveR”, implying that its has more cheese than cheese itself, by the brand logo below the novel, the ad lacks further information about the product. I do not know what the exact ingredients nor health benefits of the product presents. The image seems to explicitly encourage readers to only focus more on taste through symbolic messages. The ad also wants readers to associate pizza with romance through a parody of romance novels. Some consumers enjoy romance novels as a form of escapism, as novels allow readers to escape bleak reality by focusing their fantasy. The ad reminds readers how pizza can associate with love life, even it is still fictional. The pizza seems to represent exceptional food by presenting it as a love potion. The woman’s facial and body gestures suggest that she is amazed by its taste. The slice of pizza seems to serve as a kiss from the man. People enjoy reading or watching romantic genres for various reasons. People may desire an ideal partner or sensual moments of stories.
The aspect of the reality is that the novel hides are the relationships of the couple. The reader knows the couple as fictional characters in the novel, but we do not know how they met or what happens exactly in the story afterward. The novel subtly reminds readers that it is fictional. The novel itself is not a real novel to buy. It is a fictional-fictional work of art.
As the reader, I am looking at the novel lying on the table. The text below the book suggests for me to interpret the novel as cheesy. The term cheesy also makes me think about the cheese itself besides its metaphorical meaning. The social implication of the ad is that I am a savvy consumer. My role in the advertisement is that I am someone looking for healthy food and better cultural taste than those reading those sorts of novels. Enjoyment. The psychological implication of the ad is that the humor of the ad will make me curious about the product. The image also suggests that the quality of food, particularly its cheese, will be part of my motivation to buy it.
The camera position I see as a reader is that I am looking at a book. The book is centered, as well as the slice of pizza. The pizza seems to be the main aspect of the image. The pizza appears brighter and seems unusual in a setting like the novel. The pizza appears strange because pizza does not represent the medieval period as caste or sword does. The couples are looking at each other, ignoring the reader. They seem more fixated on each other. The message may be that they are just fictional characters. The reader is focusing on the slice of pizza of the book cover, which is between the couple.

References


Allan, Jonathan A. “The Purity of His Maleness.” The Journal of Men’s Studies, vol. 24,
no. 1, 2016, pp. 24–41., doi:10.1177/1060826515624382.
Liebenberg, Linda. “The Visual Image as Discussion Point: Increasing Validity in
Boundary Crossing Research.” Qualitative Research, vol. 9, no. 4, 2009, pp. 441–467., doi:10.1177/1468794109337877.
Tolson, Andrew. Mediations Text and Discourse in Media Studies. TPB, 1996.

The Pronoun Go-Round

Is the Pronoun Go-Round helpful for the trans* community?

I’m glad that I was able to share my thoughts in class on topics like sharing pronouns in public. I was given an assignment to explain my thoughts. Here’s what I wrote for class, except that this is an edited version of my answer:

The pronoun go-round breaks traditional gender order rather than reinforcing it. However, we should consider the ramification of coming out as trans* in public spaces. Professor Reis maintains that pronoun go-round evokes transphobia by risking people’s vulnerabilities, such as how her student, a trans*woman, felt frightened to publicly state her pronouns and see other students staring at her because of her masculine appearance (2016). The pronoun go-round risk discrimination by singling people out as trans*.

On the other hand, Professor Jen Manion expounds how they felt invalidated when people assume they is a cisgender woman despites how they describe themself as a gender outlaw (2019). The pronoun go-round symbolizes a welcoming gesture for the trans* community into group settings, such as conferences or classrooms, through acknowledgment (Spade 2018). The actions of invalidating a person’s identity create a transphobic culture by normalizing traditional gender order, especially by threatening against or denying trans* identity. People assume the objectivity of being a woman requires having a specific body, heterosexuality, and femininity, along with other subliminal cultural components unless we deconstruct them to distinguish its subjectivity, such as realizing how Eurocentrism influences our notion of gender. An example is our beauty standards, we internalize the notion of hyper femininity as someone with long hair, make-up, pink, and dresses or high-heels. The cultural components of hyper femininity is not universal, it is by culture and history that influences our notion of femininity. Pink is a classic example of culture changing an object’s meaning over time, pink used to represent masculinity (as blue used to represent femininity for the Virgin Mary).

Femininity is subjective since there is no absolute truth on what is truly feminine. In fact, femininity and masculinity are both plural: Masculinities and femininities. Sociologist R.W Connell coined masculinities to describe how masculinity is plural and includes four forms: hegemonic (social dominant), complicit (not hegemonic but does not challenge the concept), marginalized masculinity that are unable to follow hegemonic masculinity (like Black men who struggle to follow white masculinity, as they are stereotyped as hyper-masculinity through racism) The concept of femininities depends on objects deemed feminine or not, comparing femininities to masculinities and vice versa. The cultural context of determining someone’s gender identity by their appearance is widely accepted, consciously or subconsciously, into mainstream culture by everyday actions, such as assigning pronouns by a person’s femininities or masculinities. The hegemonic interpretation that gender is binary and unchangeable makes it difficult for individuals to come out to themselves and other people as trans*, thus leaving transphobia unchallenged. The public sphere must acknowledge and accept the existence of the trans* community. The acceptance for the trans* community enables us to accept more marginalized groups, such as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, by comprehending the intersectionality and the ramification of social inequality.

Overall, the pronoun go round is helpful for people to come out as non-binary and it represents a form of acceptance the trans* community. However, we must consider the negative outcomes of pronoun go round, as the group themselves may not entirely accept the trans* community, especially by cis normativity, such as shaming a trans*woman who is unable to pass as cisgender woman. The pronoun go round may function as a gesture for a group to promote liberal beliefs, rather than critically understanding how it is risky for the trans*community, as some trans* people struggle to come out about her gender but feel uncomfortable to continue presenting themselves as cisgender. Every action we take is political, no matter how trivial it appears. It is critical to understand why every action and words can impact culture through a collective form.

Questions

  1. What are other methods of sharing pronouns should people encourage?
    • I am considering privately telling people what are your pronouns, or hinting what your pronouns.
  2. Why do you believe pronouns are significant in culture? What if everyone has the same pronoun in the future?

References

Manion, Jen. “The Performance of Transgender Inclusion.” Public Seminar, 30 Sept. 2019,

publicseminar.org/essays/the-performance-of-transgender-inclusion/.

Reis, Elizabeth. “Pronoun Privilege.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Sept.

2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/26/opinion/pronoun-privilege.html.

Spade, Dean. “We Still Need Pronoun Go-Rounds.” Dean Spade, 1 Dec. 2018,

deanspade.net/2018/12/01/we-still-need-pronoun-go-rounds/

The Invention of Women: Reflections

The Invention of Women

Sociologist Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyèwùmí’s The Invention of Women (1997) discusses the Western notion of gender onto the Yorùbá culture, that presupposes the histories of bodies through the catalog of Other, through body-reasoning (5). The body, a person’s body, is already interpreted by people by our given notions, such as passing. Passing, like passing as cisgender and white, is our collective notion that we accept as natural or universal by suppressing ideas that contradict the hegemonic concept and the concept’s origins. Sex and gender, biology and culture, are one subject rather than opposing forces, as they depend on each other as a comparison, what makes them different from one another. Terms like light and dark, good and evil, men and women are examples of binary hierarchal roles through a Eurocentric perspective. It is what we sense, which differs significantly by methods and knowledge, ranging from biological determinism to postmodernism. Whether they are anti-nativist or nativists, African scholars subconsciously presuppose Western notions onto their African studies (17-27). Their colonized world-sense displays in language, values, identity, and practices.

Oyèwùmí discusses aspects of Yorùbá that are colonized compared to what is not colonized, particularly language since language is a social construction by its functionality, such as reinforcing cultural beliefs. The Yorùbá put strong emphasis on age through their language and kinship, as seniority, is a social ranking, granting the person more authority by their experiences, knowledge, and leadership (40-43). The cognatic marriage in the Yorùbá culture did not affect anyone’s social ranking nor property, as the bride’s partner did not have to be biologically related to their children. Children’s survival was the most important aspect in marriage, as procreation was a crucial part of marriage. Polyamory was accepted for procreation, and postpartum abstinence was encouraged (50-55). The terms obínrin and okùnrin, women and men, do not have the same meaning as the English translation, as there is no social status nor similar cultural components (32-34). Scholars created terms like obínrin and okùnrin to fit the Western notion onto people by assigning gender, a social institution, onto them. A person, a woman of color, becomes colonized twice as the Other by their race and gender. An example is a study on the Yorùbá religion, conducted by researcher Ayodele Ogundipe. Despite being a woman of color, Ogundipe uses inappropriate language, such as portraying the religious followers who are what she describes as females less respectfully than followers who are what she describes as males (168-174). Scholars inventing words that refer to Western terms, like king or daughters, to describe Yorùbá, a genderless culture, for Western translation, creates misinterpretation for the Yorùbá’s culture, along with conscious or subconscious bias. For instance, the gender for Èṣù, a deity, portrays as dualistic and switchable through emotions and personality (173). Worse, the masculine pronouns are ungendered, as default in language, while feminine pronouns are gendered, as part of being the Other (172). The distortion of language recreates the history through collective false memory of the past, enabling colonization by erasing Yorùbá history.

Thus, a marginalized group are more marginalized, subalterns, if they cannot speak, as they are written out in history by those in power, even by intellectuals with good intentions, as they objectify the subalterns through mythicization (de Kock, 1992; 29-47). 

Questions

  1. How does societal acknowledgment and acceptance for non-binary relate to The Invention of Women? Does non-binary decolonize gender in Western countries?
  2. Oyèwùmí discusses how African societies are often subject to generalization and Western interpretation; in what other ways has this affected other studies or even policies, such as an imperialistic or Eurocentric analysis and strategy on immigration or beauty?

Resources

Leon de Kock. “Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: New Nation Writers Conference in

South Africa.” Ariel: A Review of International English Literature 23:3 (July 1992): 29-47

Oyèwùmí, Oyèrónkẹ́. The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender

Discourses. University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

A Quick look at Butler & Foucault

I wanted to share my thoughts after reading Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions and Truth and Power. Posts like this one are basically summaries, however, I hope my thoughts makes sense to anyone struggling to read both works. I will post more like this later.

Philosopher Judith Butler’s Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions explores the idea of creating labels on bodies as sex by the effects of the politics, from compulsory heterosexuality and Phallocentrism, or if noticing the differences of bodies themselves influence people to create labels for them, resulting in compulsory heterosexuality and Phallocentrism. Butler discusses drag performances to explain the complexity of gender itself; drag makes us question what it means for an object, a person, to become a parody versus natural. Gender depends on stylized repetition of acts, gestures, and desires, defined as performativity. The line between authentic and fabricated depends on its risk of deformity, failure to repeat precisely, or even a parody. If a person wears mostly pink, either people interpreted them as feminine or risk interpreted as too feminine. The parody depends on onlookers’ knowledge of history to understand its representation, such as associating pink with femininity and youth. An object like pink is subjective by nature as it is merely a color we use, consciously or unconsciously, to communicate. Dualism between real and parody reflects the history of culture and internal; we internalized ideas generally accepted by the public, such as accepting pink as a symbol for femininity or even childish by distancing oneself from it. Philosopher Julia Kristeva’s Abjection comes into play as it helps explain the aspect of our inner self, as it refers to the rejection of an object from within self by deeming it as other. An example is a person abhorring the queer community as it reminds the person of the loss of distinction between self and other. As the other is deemed deviant in culture, the person disdains to question that they may not be entirely heterosexual nor cisgender. Philosopher Michel Foucault’s notion of sexuality comes into play as he expounds on how the body becomes a canvas of culture and history. Suppose we accepted a notion of gender and sexuality. In that case, it becomes real, such as the power of compulsory heterosexuality in a micro-perspective and macro-perspective, from doubting one’s sexuality and gender identity to people’s lack of acceptance of the one’s coming out as queer.

Foucault’s History of Sexuality explains further about his previous works, especially The History of Sexuality, to analyze power’s negative effects, such as its exclusion, rejection, denial, obstruction, occultation. The idea of madness perceives as a rejection of systemic power, as it requires us to question the dualism between deviant or deviant. The body functions as a tool to communicate political beliefs by what we internalize ideology, such as deeming sexuality relating it to morals, whereas other cultures are apathetic to sexuality. Through works of naturalizing ideology as the truth through repeated actions of people, through a culture that normalizes ideology as part of nature, it reinforces people not to question their social reality.

Foucault’s Truth and Power expound on the notion of power, as he explains that power is found in language, social customs, and institutions. As power and knowledge co-exist with each other as a discourse, he notes how power is not the only repression. It is also generative; it is historical, on its forces us to internalize ideology given to us by culture. An example is how we follow institutions’ rules. Many people do not question its origin and how we can still give in to institutional power by violating the rules, such as stealing products from stores to rebel corporations without realizing it harms employees instead. Foucault disagrees with the Marxist perspective on ideology, as he interprets that the truth has no dualism nor order in history. The truth focuses on a form of scientistic discourse, relying on constant economic and political incitement, requiring people to share and listen to these discourses as it is produced under the control of those in power, ranging from media to university, and confronts with ideology struggles by political arguments and social hostility. Foucault proclaims that truth requires us to question its existence, as it is part of undoing its power by procedures and its relation to other forms of power.