Monday, March 30, 2015

Maria's 2nd Blog Post: Disaster Tourism

Last week in NYC, an apartment building collapsed in East Village from a gas explosion, injuring 22 people and killing 2 more. The cameras that were on site were not only those of news stations.
Soon after the explosion, seven women gathered around a selfie stick to take a group photo, the explosion being the backdrop of the selfie. Not only was the time and place terribly planned, the women were smiling. If you had any faith left in humanity, this selfie dissipated any hopes. The tasteless photo was plastered across the New York Post with the title “Village Idiots” (seen above.) People were outraged. One commenter on Twitter tweeted “Absolutely disgusting” while another said “Everything that’s wrong with NYC summed up in one in one photo.”

The selfies don’t stop there.
The picture above shows Christina Freundlich throwing up a peace sign in front of the explosion site, again smiling. Comments included “WTF is wrong with you?” and “I can only imagine how the families of those two missing people must feel right now” (the two people mentioned were announced dead.) After she took down her Instagram photo, she released a statement apologizing for her careless actions.

The fact that both photos are of women gives insight to which gender typically is more active on social media. Selfies are usually taken where one is smiling which can explain why both selfies show the women dong so. Nevertheless, both photos were taken carelessly and are offensive, especially to the families of those that were a part of the incident. Has selfie culture gone too far?

The Women of ISIS-- And Their Twitter Accounts?

Over the last few months, two articles on Buzzfeed stuck out to me. They were about ISIS women using Twitter to recruit women by creating a sense of normalcy and sisterhood. The women use Twitter in order to give women thinking about joining ISIS encouragement and tips about leaving their families. They post pictures of themselves shopping at high end stores, and discuss the female side of the Islamic State—their “sisterhood.” They tweet primarily in English, making a point to appeal to young Western women. 

These articles are fascinating—I think it’s so interesting how these women have taken to Twitter, as opposed to Facebook, or other forms of social media. These articles imply, and I agree, that Twitter is a way for women to convey their messages in a short, succinct manner, and reach mass amounts of people. This ties in to our class, because we favor Twitter as well, shown by the fact that we all made Twitter accounts the first day of class. I also was drawn to this article because I have never actually thought about the fact that these women use ISIS as a platform to draw other women in I appreciate articles like this because they give you a different perspective, by allowing us to hear directly from these women.

Though Twitter is an amazing way to get news and ideas quickly, we need to be a bit skeptical in this situation. As with any news, we need to take into account the circumstances surrounding these ISIS women posting, and that is, at its core, to promote ISIS. Regardless of this, I still think this article does a really good job of highlighting a buried topic—I know that when I think of ISIS, I don’t immediately tend to think of the women and their social media tactics, and that’s pretty interesting to consider. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Allison's 2nd Blog Post: Embracing the Body

Just recently, this photo became viral, receiving over 10 million views and 320,000 likes on Facebook. 


The photo depicts 32 year old, Rachel Holis, in a bikini with her body showing visible stretch marks caused by her 3 pregnancies. Holis included in the photo caption, "I wear a bikini because I'm proud of this body and every mark on it. Those marks prove that I was blessed enough to carry my babies and that flabby tummy means I worked hard to lose what weight I could.They aren't scars ladies, they're stripes and you've earned them. Flaunt that body with pride!"

In today's society, it seems to be implied that bikinis are only acceptable to wear by women who have a certain body type. That body type includes either having a toned or flat stomach, toned arms, and toned legs. When women do not fit this description, they sometimes feel hesitant to wear bikinis, feeling self-conscious or uncomfortable. Therefore, it is quite different to see Holis, a woman who does not completely fit the "bikini body type," openly and confidently embracing her body in a bikini. Holis' action brings about a sense of women empowerment and reminds women everywhere that beauty comes in all different shapes and sizes. Sure, there is always an "ideal body type" that members of society create for themselves and try to attain, but that does not mean that those with a "non-ideal" body type are not beautiful. As cheesy as it sounds, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and will forever be extremely subjective. 

Women responded very well to this photo, with one user, Samantha Bain, saying, "Wow, well done mamma! You look amazing. Perfect child bearing tummy. We shouldn't shy away for the sake of an imperfect tum." Holis' self-empowerment allowed other women to feel more accepting of their own selves, which is probably part of the reason why this photo became so popular. 

However, this photo was received well not only by women, but men as well. One man stated, "Whenever I see such marks, I’m reminded of what she did for us" and another said, "Just so you women know, we don’t even notice [the stretch marks] in the photo. We just see a girl on a beach, so stop second-guessing yourself." This goes to show that the idea of an "ideal body type" is majorly fabricated and implemented by women themselves, not really men. 

Overall, this photo captures the complexity of beauty and emphasizes how embracing one's unique self is ultimately one of the most important things an individual can do. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tvisha's 3rd Blog Post: SAE: RACE MONEY AND POWER.

When I got a call a few days ago from my mother telling me about what she read in the news paper I was in for a shock. When it comes to the U.S. Greek system, it's a disturbing truth: society is largely segregated by race, money and power.

This all started out with  a nine-second YouTube video that reportedly shows members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma chanting these chilling lines: "There will never be a ni**** SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me.”
"The students on the bus clap and pump their fists as they boisterously chant," CNN's Eliott C. McLaughlin writes, describing a clip that rocketed around social media, leading OU's president, David Boren, to rightfully shutter and ban that fraternity from the school.(CNN)
The fact that a fraternity could even come up with a chant like that is  truly disgusting. Everyone knows that the greek system is mainly a part of upper class American culture which by default includes mostly white people. The underlying racial discrimination however was never put out in the open the way it has now. For Sororities we can see how this points to the ancient  white beauty ideal put forward by Blumenbauch. Every sorority wants the nicest looking pledges and since the white ideal exemplifies white beauty why take any non-white students? Even today if you take one of USC’s  top sororities and analysed its pledges. You would undoubtedly notice that everyone seems to look very similar. 
The reason I wanted to blog about this is because I too was a part of the greek system for sometime. Growing up I had seen tons of American films and read tons of books that depicted the Greek system. So when I came to USC I was extremely excited to finally be a part of it. I knew that it was a HUGE part of American culture and so when my friends warned me that they did not like taking International students much I thought it was fairly warranted. When I got my bid I was so excited. I felt like I was finally truly getting to be a part of American culture. But when the pledge process began I felt left out most of the time as I did not know what everyone was talking about. I later realised it was not for me at all. It wasn’t entirely a bad experience I did make a few really good friends.My point here is that, even if they did try to include us (non-white people) we still can’t fit in entirely. It’s just the way society works. It’s not their fault to some extent. But that does not mean they have to be rude and boisterous and openly discriminate.

On a side note, the post also goes to show the power of social media in today’s world. If it wasn’t for the YouTube video this discrimination would not have been brought to light. This has now become a national crisis with the whole world looking down upon America’s Greek system. My parents back home in India read about it too and called me immediately to find out more. They too were appalled by what the read and even said that they were now questioning their decision to send me to the United States.  

Monday, March 23, 2015

Maria's 1st Blog Post: Kim Kardashian's Grammy Selfie

This post is going to throw it back to Grammy Awards night that occurred on February 8th. Kim Kardashian took a selfie with John Legend and Chrissy Teigen after the Album of the Year award was announced to musician Beck. She posted the picture on Twitter and Instagram with the caption “This is the Beck won that award face?!?!?!”

They all expressed shocked faces and maybe even disgust (the hand in mouth?!) Many people viewed this selfie as a diss to Beck, especially since their close friend BeyoncĂ© was also up for the award and did not win it.

The comments section on Instagram of this selfie went into an uproar. Thousands of people voiced their opinion, not only about the apparent diss, but also attacked Kim personally. Many comments had derogatory terms pertaining to females. This may be because the selfie itself has many feminine aspects such as the large amount of makeup on both of the females and also the amount of sparkle coming from Kim’s jacket and Chrissy’s bracelets. People may have picked up on these feminine qualities and chose that route of attack with their comments.
Because these celebrities are from a high socio-economic class, as seen from the glamourous clothing and done-up makeup/hair, it places them in a spotlight and thus caused a lot of talk amongst a lot of people with just a simple selfie. The impact of this selfie affected over 23,000 people as seen from the comments on Instagram, but who knows how many more people have viewed it on Twitter as well as other entertainment news websites.
John Legend tried to clear the air a bit by later tweeting out “Congrats to all winners, including @beck. Much respect.  That selfie was taken before Album of the Year was announced.”

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Allison's 1st blog Post: Breastfeeding in Uniform

I came across an article on Yahoo that shows a woman of the military, Jonea Cunico, breastfeeding her child while in her Air Force uniform. Cunico posted this photo to her Facebook page, and it sparked much controversy online.

Air Force Mom Breastfeeding in Uniform Is Stunning Look at Military Parenthood

Many individuals were supportive of the bold photo, with the photographer, Jade Beall, stating that she "[admires Cunico's] work and effort to bring women and humanity together." Others shared Beall's viewpoint, as another individual said, "[the photo is] so powerful and beautiful that it makes me want to cry. Also, I don't think I've seen an image that has had me feel so patriotic. The natural, tender human element, mixed with the U.S. military brought back some kind of 'oneness' for me."

This photo definitely showcases a performance of identity, specifically gender. The act of breastfeeding and caring for a child is very maternal and nurturing, which are some trademarks of femininity. Yet, the juxtaposition of this femininity with the strength and power associated with the military, a traditionally masculine symbol, creates complexity in the identity of this woman that many find inspirational. To those quoted above, Cunico is an individual who blatantly challenges traditional gender roles and creates a unique identity for herself.

However, Cunico notes, "I know there will be people who don't agree with me nursing in uniform." Surely enough, backlash included a man sarcastically stating that the photo was "very professional" and a woman saying that it was "disrespectful to the uniform and the military."

The comments of these individuals reflect a belief that the military has an image of power, strength, and professionalism that should not be blurred by any other notions. In some sense, this idea can be interpreted along gender lines as well. In our society, masculine and feminine images are generally kept separate from each other and are accepted when they are separate. Through the lens of popular culture, masculinity and femininity are deemed radically opposite representations so mixing them can seem strange and even unnatural. Therefore, Cunico's photo, which mixes some of the strongest images of masculinity and femininity, provides a breeding ground for questions about representation. Is there ever a time and place that masculinity and femininity can not only co-exist but fully and acceptably come together?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Monica Lewinsky's TED Talk: "A Culture of Humiliation"

Monica Lewinsky has finally come out into the public again, this time with a very different message to give. In this TED Talk (linked above), Lewinsky discusses an issue that she is all too familiar with - cyber bulling and online harassment. What is interesting, as she points out, is that she is "patient zero" for online humiliation. When the scandal with her and Clinton broke news, Lewinsky experienced an unprecedented amount of shaming because of the growth of the internet. Now, she is speaking out because she has noticed trends similar to what happened to her. She is coming back into the public eye to bring more attention to this issue, hoping to aid others in her situation.

Much of what she talked about was the emotional repercussions of online harassment and the lack of compassion there is on the internet. She argues that people are banking off of harassment, and rather than being upstanders online, people usually click away, looking at leaked photos or emails, without much thought about the consequences. Instead of fostering shame, Lewinsky wants us to help start fostering a culture of compassion, both online and off.

I think that this talk is very much connected to our conversations about how reputation and identity is formed online through social media. Monica Lewinsky's identity was destroyed through online entities, and now she is trying to pick up her reputation and change it into something much more positive - rather than being seen as a constant joke online, she wants to promote more positive change online.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Tvisha's 2nd Blog Post: In the BORED room: Outrage as millionaire RBS boss sends selfies moaning about job

Royal Bank of Scotland boss Rory Cullinan, 55, showed no signs of being under the burden of considering the future of thousands of employees as he joked with his 18-year-old daughter over Snapchat.
Politicians and watchdogs are in outrage after seeing the photographs branded with captions including “Boring meeting xx”, “Not a fan of board meetings xx”, and “Another friggin’ meeting.”
His daughter Bridget, who is studying at Durham University, shared the shameful snaps on Instagram.
The photographs are a slap in the face for taxpayers who own 80 per cent of the failing bank, as well as employees facing the axe.
John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw in Nottingham, told the Sun: “He should be stripped of all bonuses from his time as head of investment banking. Every single penny.
“It shows the cavalier attitude of RBS investment bankers and highlights the myth that these people are worth so much money.”
It is not known when the images were taken but some were posted to Instagram on Father’s Day last year saying: “Happy Father’s Day to the indisputable king of snapchat”, using the hashtag #daddylikestoselfie.
Mr Cullinan, who is in charge of restructuring the bank and has recently taken control of investments, took home a £4 million bonus this year, despite the publicly-owned bank announcing a £3.5 billion loss last month. He has been given shared worth £2.1 million.
TaxPayers’ Alliance chief Jonathan Isaby added: “After all the cash pumped in to RBS, the least you’d expect is that they’d pay attention.”
RBS refused to comment but a source close to Mr Cullinan said: “Rory was keeping in touch with his daughter during a break in meetings.
“This was a light-hearted exchange and does not reflect the seriousness in which he takes the job at hand.”
The Royal Bank of Scotland was bailed out by the taxpayer to the tune of £46billion in 2008 under the Labour government.

A persons Identity in today’s online world is becoming more transparent by the second. In the article above all Mr Cullinan did was send light hearted snapchats to a close family member and now this is being used against him publicly. Althoughsocial networking sights like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram are supposed to be used only for social networking purposes and in no way professional purposes they are often used as methods to find out more personal detail about a person. For all we knew those selfies were probably sent by him to his daughter to make her laugh and not actually reflect the way he felt. But I guess as someone with such a high standing it should have been his duty to be careful on any kind of a public standing. This reminded me of how Erving Goffman had (1959) theorized self-presentation as a performance; the need for a multiple, composite self has only increased since public communication moved to an online space. The Royal Bank of Scotland boss needs a multiple composite version of himself to represent or else only one transparent online identity that can be seen by everyone.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Almost prosecuted for offensive "Selfie"

The main offender, the daughter of a New Jersey state sergeant, posted a photo of a crowded eatery frequented by Orthodox Jews with the caption, “Perfect bombing time” on her Twitter account, which has since been removed. Assuming she was a terrorist the teen almost got prosecuted. “There was never any danger being posed to the community,” Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, told local paper Asbury Park Press. “It didn’t rise to anything criminal. “Everything was evaluated at face value. We have been assured by the families and the school that this is something that will be handled,” said Della Fave, who denied the girl’s connection to the police force was a determining factor. The prosecutor’s office decided the teen’s posts would not be viewed as credible threats should the case be brought to court, and would have faced a credible First Amendment, freedom-of-speech defence, according to Rutgers Professor Bernard Bell. “Would real terrorists speak out this way online? It’s almost a caricature of anti-Semitism,” Bell, who specialises in First Amendment issues, told
Governments all around the world are using safety as a pretext to censor social media. Whether it is danger in the form of terrorists or taking a selfie while running from a bull in Spain, they are scanning our posts looking for someway to prosecute us, to take away our power of speech. They have access to anything and everything we post online. There is no privacy left in the online world. We’ve all heard what Snowden had to say. It’s not just the United States it’s all over the world- India, Iran, Israel. There is no freedom of speech online. Facebook now has to act as a government censor on the country’s behalf. In countries like India, Turkey and Pakistan thousands of photos and pages get pulled down every for “blasphemy”, criticising the government or posting something that is religiously offensive. Facebook keeps a running record on its public “Government Requests Repost Website”. For example: Facebook blocked pages depicting the Muslim religious figure Muhammad in Turkey last week after court orders. This year these countries have threatened to ban Facebook if these posts are not censored.  Turkey has already banned YouTube and Twitter and so Facebook must abide. Or as JosĂ© van Dijck says - Platform owners have a vested interest in pushing the need for a uniform online identity to attain maximum transparency, not only because they want to know who their users are, but also because advertisers want users’ ‘truthful’ data. Only in this case it’s not advertisers, it's the Government.

Katie's Blog Post #1

I grew up in one of the whitest cities in southern California: Manhattan Beach. The demographic consists of new families with young children, recently retired couples, and recently married couples ready to start families. Everyone in this bubble is cut off from the outside world, not having to worry about high rates of crime or any other dangerous circumstances. So whenever an unusual disturbance occurs, it’s a big deal. You can imagine this demographics’ shock when they heard about the crime described in the article below:

In summary, the house of a black family living in Manhattan Beach, which is rare, was firebombed with a burning tire thrown at the door by unknown suspects. Since the family had lived in MB for eleven years, and hadn’t ever been attacked in this way until now, they could find no other reason, except for their race, to be the cause of the crime. On the Friday night following the incident, hundreds of MB residents held a vigil with candles in the downtown Metlox plaza and surrounded the family with support. Just by scanning over the photo provided by article, most of the people in this crowd were white. The vigil organizer and friend of the black family said: “What was done to your home was unacceptable. You are a beloved, impressive and strong family. You’re admired. You belong.” A councilwoman said: “When something like this happens, it jars us. ... It’s shocking,” she said. “Does this stuff still happen? Yes. In Manhattan Beach? Yes. But the best part is: here’s how we handle it. We’re all standing together today saying, ‘This is not OK.’ ”

 A neighbor started a fundraiser, and raised $22,000 in one day. This money is going to be used as a reward for any information leading to the criminals and for a private investigator. But why would they use the money in this way when it could be used to fix the $200,000 house damage from the firebomb? The family has to live in a hotel until the house is repaired, so why not fix the house, the most crucial issue, first before seeking out the criminals? If the white community is so supportive of this black family, why aren’t they using their logic and helping them recover first?

I am proud to call Manhattan Beach my hometown because of the community’s touching reaction, but my one question is this: When you, the residents of Manhattan Beach, hear about or witness a crime against the black race anywhere else in the world, how do you react then? I haven’t read any articles in the news about vigils in MB held for the black teenager involved in the Ferguson case, or for any other injustice for that matter. It’s wonderful that the white community of Manhattan Beach is showing its stance against hate crimes in the bubble. But imagine how much the world would change if all white people reacted this way towards racial injustice.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Tara's Fourth Blog Post: Gender Identity on Facebook

I read an article on Thursday on Cosmopolitan regarding Facebook's new announcements for gender identity options on one's profile. 

Last year, the site provided a list of 50 new gender options including terms like "transgender," "genderqueer," and "gender questioning" in order to expand choices for those who felt like their options for disclosing their gender identity were limited.

Despite this effort, many still believed that they could not adequately confirm their gender identity. So on Thursday, Facebook made a "Custom/Fill in the Blank" option for the Gender section in addition to the settings of declaring which pronoun and level of privacy users prefer. In their post, they said:
 "We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others, and this setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way."
This is most definitely an example of presenting one's identity online. The fact that a major social networking conglomerate like Facebook is allowing individuals to classify their own gender identity is a promising step for gender acceptance on-and offline.

While this may only be a small advancement on one site, this opportunity to freely express oneself by choosing which pronoun or term one prefers may also help facilitate a dialogue off the page, like Mary L. Gray's discussion of the power of media and online camaraderie influencing individuals in her essay "Negotiating Identities/Queering Desires: Coming Out Online and the Remediation of the Coming-Out Story."

However, there limitations to the new addition to the site, as the custom gender option is only available to Facebook members who use the site in US English. Also, users who commented on the post asked:
"When are you going to fix it so that everything else on the site (relationship/interested in/family connections) doesn't only have male and female options?"
Thus, full inclusion on the site is still to be determined.