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Archive for March, 2012

Viola Davis, an award winning black actress, recently starred in the movie The Help. At the 2012 Oscars, Viola appeared on the Red Carpet glowing and debuting her natural hair. The media, of course, made this a into a huge story. When asked what made her decide to wear her natural hair to the Oscars, she stated that h

er husband encouraged her to do so.

I believe that Viola Davis was radiant and confident that night. She was absolutely beautiful. Many black women and young girls appreciated seeing natural hair on the red carpet. Wendy Williams, radio talk show host turned television host, did not feel the same way. On her self titled talk show, Wendy Williams insinuated that the Davis’ TWA (teeny weeny afro) made her look mannish, like the history teacher in the 70’s sitcom “Room 222”. At another time, Williams stated that Davis’ hair was just not professional. Many black women were appalled at her statements. They felt that Williams was attacking black women. As you can see in the picture on the left, Davis display of natural beauty was inspirational to black women and girls; and, Williams blatantly shot it down on national television to an audience who probably does not understand natural black hair to begin with.

Black hair has so much politics attached to it. In the past, black women have felt restricted by white beauty standards of straight or wavy hair that is often unnatural to them. I, like many others, am appalled that a black woman would scorn another black woman for displaying her natural beauty. “Natural” hair is our hair. Kinky, curly, wavy, coarse, whatever, it is our hair. I am encouraged by the fact that so many black women have decided to transgress white beauty standards and free themselves from chemical relaxers, letting their own unique beauty shine. Viola Davis certainly took a stand at the Oscars and became even more of an inspiration to black women.

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Just recently I viewed the movie “the girl with the dragon tattoo”. Though I had never read the book, rave reviews had me really excited to see the film. Ill do my best not to spoil anything for those who still plan on seeing it or those who have not read the book, however there were a few things that definitely stuck out to me.

For one thing, I took notice of how the main character was viewed and treated as a result of her appearance. I would love to say I was shocked, but it is very representative of what goes on everyday in our society. The main character seemed to be a rebel from her piercings and tattoos down to the way that she chose to dress.  Because of this, certain people with whom she worked closely with doubted her ability to complete intricate tasks successfully, though she would prove throughout the movie that she was clearly the best for the job.

At times, the movie reminded me of a class discussion that we had towards the beginning of the semester when we talked about embodiment and how mental abilities are separate yet go hand in hand with what is embodied in physical form. The main character in the movie, who was a warden of the state, was deemed incompetent and as a result was not in charge of everyday things like her own finances for example. It was interesting to me how certain authorities that she had to report to, acted as this so called “mental incompetence” viewed her body.  I think this often times happens during this day and age which leads to serious things such as violence as well as sexual assault.

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I saw this article relating to a face transplant that occurred in Maryland within the last week or so.  This article is extremely relevant to the book we just discussed (Autobiography of a Face).  The man who received the transplant needed one due to a gunshot wound and damage from about 15 years ago.  The article can be found here:

http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/27/36-hour-face-transplant-most-extensive-ever/?hpt=he_c2

The story is an amazing one.  The medical technology and techniques that we now know are phenomenal.  I wish I could interview this guy and ask him how he feels about having a new face after hiding behind a mask for so long and having to use a breathing tube to breathe.  The transplanted face came from a donor whose other organs were also donated to save 5 lives.  The article states that the recipient’s new face is a combination of his own face and the donor’s face and a little bit of customization.  I wonder how this man feels about having another person’s face fused into his.  I also wonder how that impacts his identity.  How would you feel?  Would you be relieved to have the new face so you can appear what is “normal” to society?  Or would you have some reservations and other ideals about how this re-creates your identity?

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Artist Jamie McCartney is trying to start a sexual revolution… but not the kind we usually think of.

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He is attempting through art to change female body perceptions and show us that every woman’s vulvas are normal.  McCartney is a life cast artist; he spent five years collecting casts of volunteers’ vulva mounds and has turned the result into The Great Wall of Vagina.

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The work includes 400 casts, as accurate as photographs, displayed in ten wall panels. They range in age from 18 to 76 and include mothers and daughters, identical twins, transgendered men and women, women pre and post natal, and another one pre and post labiaplasty. It is impressive and at times overwhelming, but by reducing the body part to a simple white plaster cast, he removes the sexualization we would typically attach to such a display.  His use of spectacle shows us how absolutely diverse each and every woman’s vulva is – on the website it mentions how each one is as unique as a face.  And they are!

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“For many women their genital appearance is a source of anxiety and I was in a unique position to do something about that.” - Jamie McCartney

There are several things I find interesting about this art project.  First, by bombarding us with 400 vulvas in a small space, he reduces the body to a single part, from a view many of us have never seen. And while we ARE viewing the diversity and differences in vulvas, it also manages to emphasize the similarities.  We see the similarities in our differences.

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And second, if women are shocked and surprised at the diversity shown here – why is that?  Is it simply because most heterosexual women haven’t seen other women’s open vulvas?  Or is it the “pornification” of our modern culture?  If labiaplasties are on the rise, do you think an exhibit like this would help stop that trend? Do you think hetereosexual men and lesbians are surprised by this diversity?

So, would you go see the show?  And if you are the owner of a vulva, are you looking for one that looks like yours?

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“It’s time our society grew up around these issues and I’m certain that art has a role to play.” - Jamie McCartney

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After we discussed the horrific and tragic murder of Trayvon Martin in class today, this article in particular caught my attention:

Shaima Alawadi, a resident of San Diego, California, was found beaten unconscious in her home last Wednesday and died of her wounds this past Saturday.  A note was found saying, “Go back to your own country. You’re a terrorist”.

Shaima was a stay at home mother with five children.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/28/us-california-iraqi-memorial-idUSBRE82R01N20120328.

This happened less than a week ago.

There was mention in class of how certain ideas in society become normalized, for better or for worse. In Trayvon and Shaima’s case there is no question these ideas create a poisonous environment.

But in both cases there was a similarity: clothing.

Trayvon was wearing a hoodie; which according to sources across the spectrum, most notably Geraldo Rivera, made him a target for suspicion. Last I checked wearing a hooded sweatshirt left no one with the ability to label someone as “suspicious” and cause cruel loss of life to another.

Shaima also had an article of clothing that marked her; a hijab. For those who are unfamiliar with a hijab, it is a head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women for reasons of modesty. Yet by wearing a hijab Shaima marked herself as “other”.

I find myself wondering if we can draw parallels between Shaima’s and Trayvon’s murders. They were both marginalized members of society, Trayvon was black and Shaima was an Iraqi-American immigrant. Both were wearing articles of clothing that are innocuous (although a hijab may stand out for those unfamiliar with the garb) but these clothes became threatening to those with prejudices and stereotypes.

I think we, as a Western society, are not past our cultural and racial biases when two murders are committed within a month of each other on the basis of race and ethnicity, with the flimsy excuses of clothing as reasoning. (By the way, I’m not ignoring that there are far, far too many of these crimes that go purposely unnoticed or are unreported).

In response to this hate crime there has been an out pour on social media and I found a group on facebook that seemed particularly fitting: http://www.facebook.com/pages/One-Million-Hijabs-for-Shaima-Alawadi/137306256397032.

When women are told, “you were asking for it”, if they are raped and happened to be wearing a miniskirt, when young black men are shot for wearing hoodies, and a woman is beaten to death in California for wearing a hijab because it “makes her a terrorist”, I have to wonder about the emphasis placed on clothing and the body-the cycle of violence around the clothing people wear for religious or personal reasons and why people use these articles of clothing as excuses for committing atrocities.

I find myself sick at heart with the violence, the hate, the prejudice, and the inbred bias. I send loving and peaceful wishes to the members of Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi’s families.

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Obesity is prevalent in our current generation especially among women due to a variety of factors. Ironically, the price of eating out is cheaper than cooking food in your own kitchen. For example, the price of a cheeseburger is cheaper than a salad. Trying to buy organic food which is considered more healthy for our bodies is more expensive than fast food that is easily accessible. If we go to McDonald’s we can get a cheeseburger from the dollar menu but if we walk into Whole Foods market, a salad can range from $5 to $10. Ironically, employees at Whole Foods who weigh less are given a greater discount than their fellow employees whose BMI are above a certain range. Although this is supposed to be seen as motivation and an incentive for their workers to become more “healthy” it seems discriminatory. Their thinner workers receive an additional 10% off their discount for having a lower body mass. Therefore, if your BMI is above 30, you get to keep your original 20% employee discount, but “thinner” co-workers get as much as a 30% discount.

For some people it is harder to lose weight due to restrictions from their body or even genetic disorders. Also, looking at our society in the United States our portions for food are larger than countries everywhere else. Everyone’s lifestyles are different and so the convenience of getting cheaper and fast food is easier than attempting to cook a healthier meal that is more costly. When I went to Korea, their McDonald’s big mac was half the size of our big mac in the states and they didn’t even have the option to get larger sized fries. Only in the United States do we have the option to “super size” and it seems that our lifestyles provoke this problem of obesity.

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So summer is swiftly approaching. The heat will of course cause a large shift in the way bodies are covered. Shorter and shorter skirts, barely there shorts, sleeveless tops and if your really hot, just bikinis all day! This of course horrifies the conservative sector of society that prefers woman cover up for moral reason. I however am concerned with a very specific body part that suddenly gets over exposed. FEET.

They are everywhere. There are flip-flops, peep-toe heals, strappy sandals and more, all overly exposing the foot to the population. I recognize this is not generally considered a big deal. I’m sure members of the foot fetish society community love this time of year. As for me, it is dreadful.

Here is why. All winter I had the luxury of socks and boots, fully protecting my feet from the public view. Now I have the added hassle of constantly preparing my feet for society. Painting my nails, making sure my heels and toes have lotion at all times, and making sure they have a generally attractive appearance. No one told me explicitly that I need to put the extra effort toward my toes. Yet I know, from the sexy models with the perfect feet in the DSW and Payless commercials. Every single one has toes painted with wonderfully bright colors, their toes fit perfectly in the shoe as if the designer tailored the shoe for that specific foot. Meanwhile, I have to pull of the same strappy sandal with my imperfect feet.  This may just be a personal dilemma, but I’m certain I’m not the only one who has noticed how even the barely noticed parts of our bodies have been subjected to socially constructed norms.Image

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