To Zoo or Not to Zoo

All around the globe animals in captivity have become a popular spectacle for people of all ages. While this concept has existed for several centuries, zoological parks have more recently become a popular controversial topic.

The history of zoos began with more well off individuals buying and putting exotic or unique animals on display as a symbol of wealthy and powerful status. According to National Geographic Education, these collections of unique animals dated back to about 2500 BC in areas such as Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Since then, zoological parks have been utilized not only as a display for amusement, but also as a means for education, preservation, and scientific research. The more common zoo culture that is seen today seemingly began closer to the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, with the idea that research could easily be conducted on animals in a more controlled environment.

Animal_artists_at_the_Jardin_des_Plantes

Animal artists at the Jardin des Plantes, Paris. From the magazine “L’Illustration”

One of the first zoos that were built to display this type of environment was in Paris in the early 1790s. This establishment would progress into what is now the Ménagerie, le zoo du Jardin des Plantes. While older zoos such as the Ménagerie contained smaller and more museum-like exhibits, newer and better-funded zoos have aimed to create larger and more realistic habitats for the animals to live in.

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Randy Adolph feeds the sea lions in the Sea Lion Basin at the St. Louis Zoo

While zoos are a popular activity for families and friends to enjoy, many cultures may frown upon the general concept of keeping wild animals in captivity. According to the Animal Liberation Victoria organization in Melbourne, zoological parks are a destructive concept that promotes inbreeding, justification for humans to believe they are superior, and poor living situations for wild animals.

Even though many zoos, such as in Europe and the U.S., are regulated and inspected by the government, many still believe that keeping animals in captivity is cruel and unhealthy punishment towards the animals.

Tainted Love: Germany, Greece, and the Economic Blame Game

By Hayden Huff, David Campbell, Jacob Diamond, and C.T. Souder 

Hayden Huff:

In 1999 seventeen countries transitioned from individual economies to one financial system known as the European Union. The newly found Euro provided a currency that unified many countries, tearing down tariffs, trade boundaries, and promoting free trade throughout Europe.

greece

http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/guardian/About/General/2011/6/25/1309008074533/Greek-debt-default-threat-007.jpg

 

However, excessive spending and poor fiscal habits followed quickly. Many countries were guilty of this spending, especially Greece and Portugal. When times were good in the early years of the union this was not a huge problem. Banks offered cheap loans which caused the public sectors of many countries to become bloated. When the financial crisis hit in the year of 2008, the euro was crippled and the debt that countries such as Portugal, Italy, and Greece became insurmountable.

Today, Greece and Portugal continue to struggle with massive debt, even after billions of dollars in payouts had been granted to both countries by the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European commission. Help was also provided through a temporary system called the European Financial Stability committee. Aid was needed by these countries because it became too expensive to borrow in open markets in the Union. High rates for lending nearly toppled the Euro as a whole.

Italy and Spain also experienced trouble in large public debt and a crushing housing bubble respectively. Tentative investors and weary bankers drove interest rates through the roof which crippled lending. The problem with a connected system like the European Union is that trouble in the countries listed above does not only affect those countries, it also compromises economic growth in countries such as Germany and France who have kept their spending in check. The Euro experienced large amounts of deflation here by deflating assets and values of everything across the Union.

Although the Union is a good idea for trade and business, it also forces countries like Germany and France to step in and grant aid where they otherwise may not have deemed necessary because collapse of one country in the Union could mean collapse of the Union as a whole. In recent months EU leaders have met in an attempt to set up a sustainable system for countries that struggle with spending to maintain healthy levels of debt and some progress has been made, although much more work is needed primarily in Greece.

Works Cited:

Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. LouisI. “The Financial Crisis and the Future of the Eurozone.” The Financial Crisis and the Future of the Eurozone. IDEAS, Dec. 2010. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.

De Grauwe, Paul, Crisis in the Eurozone and how to Deal with It (February 15, 2010). CEPS Policy Brief No. 204. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1604453

Bloomberg Business. “The European Debt Crisis Visualized.” YouTube. YouTube, 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.

David Campbell:

martensen

http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/images/chrism.jpg

 

Ever heard that too much love can kill you? Well, Greece and a number of other countries within the EU have got gout. They’ve been whittling away at their own finances, slowly consuming themselves until nothing is left.

Chris Martenson wrote that the Greek crisis is of grave importance, not because of the relatively small impact it will have financially, but the precedent of Greece welching on their promise to pay back their debt – and getting away with it. Let me explain. Greece is not the only country in this situation. Several other European nations have large amounts of debt, which they can now pick up and throw into the ocean, not unlike a cinder-block tied to the leg of the guy who ticked off the mob.

Greece, for the purposes of this metaphor, is being boiled in a pot of hot water. The hard-left Greek leadership appear to wish to escape by digging down and out through the fire. By implementing anti-austerity measures, they are essentially driving up the debt further and hoping that Germany, in their infinite compassion, will send them a BFC (Big Fat Check). Or else, they risk an entire government receiving their termination notices.

Syriza has, according to Martenson, dared to say that their debt was unpayable. Much of the world has traded bonds and securities that are based on the currencies of that nation. Essentially, these non-existent widgets have value because we give them value. By saying that the debt is unpayable, this gives incentive for these other countries to employ these measures in order to prevent the weight of this debt to be passed on to the people of their own countries.

Bankrupting your country and then making the citizenry foot the bill? Not exactly a great idea, historically speaking.

Jacob Diamond:

Many people are of the opinion that Greece will be able to rebound from the European financial issues, and in the end be better off for them. And recently Greece’s economic status has been proving this somewhat correct.

For the first time in nearly 6 years, in 2014 the Greek economy began to grow again. This is largely due to all the Austerity measures demanded to be put in place by the more economically sound European countries, such as Germany. This has had a big-brother effect on Greece, similar to making a kid eat their vegetables. Greece has been forced to make adjustments to their economy, making them more financially sound and stable. The largest change in the economy is thanks to the recovery of private consumption.

Greece has traditionally been known as a largely leftist country. However this economic crisis has forced the country to learn and implement policy that makes them much more fiscally responsible and independent in the future. The citizens are learning that they cannot continue borrowing money without paying it back.

Greece is taking the correct steps to become more fiscally responsible. If they continue down their current road and use this crisis as a learning situation they will continue to improve and be much better off as a country.

C.T. Souder:

krugman

http://blogs-images.forbes.com/ralphbenko/files/2014/07/1102_paul-krugman-economists_650x455.jpg

Of all the commentary covering the Sovereign Debt Crisis, Paul Krugman’s is my favorite. I don’t read Krugman’s blogs because I agree with him; I disagree with many of his views. Instead, I read his blogs because the tone with which he writes is entertaining. It may make my blood boil, but that’s part of creating my own informed view.

In the blogosphere, the hardest pushback against Krugman comes from Forbes. Here’s a broad analysis of the issue: Krugman writes and blogs for the left-leaning New York Times. His credentials make him an appealing authority on all things economic. When it comes to the Sovereign Debt Crisis, Krugman blames Germany for exacerbating the plight of the Greeks. Krugman attempts to articulate the German outlook thus: “We pulled ourselves out of our late 90s doldrums…so why can’t Southern Europe do the same?” Various writers for the conservative-leaning Forbes have criticized Krugman on several fronts. Forbes holds the view that Germany is being unfairly criticized and pressured to fund the Greek economy, which for all intents and purposes is on financial life-support. Krugman’s tone, his statistics, and overall opinions come under harsh criticism.

Forbes’s style of writing is personal. Regarding Krugman, the writers at Forbes go for the throat. They question his credentials, accuse him of believing in bad economics, and even go so far as to say Krugman has an “inherent dislike of economic success.”

In response, Krugman takes the high road. He doesn’t attack the writers at Forbes; he doesn’t accuse them of inadequate or farcical statistics. Rather, Krugman further elaborates on his original points. His style of rebuttal is to repeat his original talking point, then explain in-depth, why he is right. This is an interesting strategy, because it can give the impression that this debate is taking place between an adolescent and an adult. Krugman is the adult who provides an argument, while Forbes resorts to name-calling. Krugman doesn’t respond to the name-calling; he knows that his point will have more impact if he simply repeats himself over and over again. The online economic debate relating to the Greek crisis is a microcosm of what is occurring on the international stage: no one is willing to admit the other might be right. Compromise seems ever less likely. The question for Germany and Greece has boiled down to this: who is going walk away first? At one time Germany and Greece benefitted from one another. Now, however, their economic relationship is tainted.

 

 

French Immersion: My Happy Place

Sometimes when my anxiety is a little too much to handle, I take a moment to close my eyes and go back to my happy place. A place of sweet grass, mosquito spray, and deep blue waters. A place of growth, frustration, and empathy. A place of culture, education, and silliness. A place of tears from laughter, singing, and always dancing. A place of being free. A place of being 100% myself. A place of finding the sun in the hearts of children. A place I never ever want to leave. Lac du Bois.

The main building of Lac du Bois, "Paris", photo by Jean François

The main building of Lac du Bois, “Paris”, photo by Jean François

Lac du Bois is a summer camp in Bemidji, Minnesota. It’s part of Concordia Language Villages, which is a larger program that has 15 villages (campsites) set up around the lakes of Minnesota. Each village has its own language and the buildings within each site are designed with authentic architecture from countries that predominantly speak that language.

Concordia Language Villages sign, photo from google.com

Concordia Language Villages sign, photo from google.com

The goal of these camps is to teach language through immersion as well as prepare young people for responsible citizenship in global communities.

Each summer, all of the camps come together to interact at an event called “International Day.” At International Day, each camp sets up a booth serving foods from countries of their language or has games set up for others to play that are native to countries that speak their language. They even have a “World Cup,” where each camp forms a soccer team and they all compete.

International Day 2014, photo by Julia Schaller

International Day 2014, photo by Julia Schaller

Lac du Bois is the French language village, and is one of the greatest places on Earth.

I first went to Lac du Bois when I was 11 years old. My family heard about the camp through friends of my parents, and my parents both decided it would be a good opportunity for my sister and I. My parents enrolled my sister and I up for a two week, overnight session. We all drove up to Minnesota together and when we pulled our car up to the camp, a counselor greeted us at the window of the car and spoke exclusively in French.

It was terrifying! My dad had taught me some french when I was really young, and my parents put my sister and I in French classes when we were growing up, but I was not ready for complete sentences or even answering questions.

After my parents left, I was hopeless. I had nothing to hide behind and there was no longer someone to speak to the counselors for me. I felt naked and embarrassed. The first night was rough.

Throughout the second day, I bonded with girls in my cabin and from around camp and from then on, I was in my happy place. I learned more about french language and culture in those two weeks than I had ever before in my life. I made lasting friendships. I laughed until I cried, and I cried on the last night with my cabin-mates wrapped in my arms.

Extremely embarrassing photo of my cabin, Lac du Bois 2008

Extremely embarrassing photo of my cabin, Lac du Bois 2008

I then went back to camp for the next four summers. My fifth summer, I went to Lac du Bois for a month as part of their “Credit” program, which earned me high school French credit. They say that one will learn more French in one month at Lac du Bois than potentially a whole year in school (hence why they offer the credit program). They were right.

Language immersion is said to be the best way to learn a language and culture, and it is 100% true. I spoke more French at Lac du Bois than a full year of French class in public school. I was forced to use the language to communicate, since the camp was total immersion.

The counselors are only allowed to speak in the target language, and even the food is francophone authentic. Counselors and villagers come from all over the world. There are always counselors and villagers from the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, Canada, and India, as well as other countries.

Villagers are put into classic summer camp activities like canoeing or soccer, but they are also put into language learning groups. These language learning groups focus on a francophone region or time period and are more education based (but always include crafting, dancing, and interactive games).

Activité Canoé, Lac du Bois 2012

Activité Canoé, Lac du Bois 2012

The entire camp is sort of one big simulation. The counselors put on a show for the villagers, and it’s the most fun show I’ve ever been a part of. There is continuous dancing, multiple skits every day, and songs about everything (even about baguettes at dinner!).

Last year I applied to be a counselor, and I got the job. I went back to my favorite place in the world for my 6th summer, and had the time of my life. This time, I was the one required to speak exclusively in French and I was the one teaching others about francophone cultures and about the language. I was the one helping villagers cope with their frustration and homesickness. I was the one teaching the songs and dances. And, the amount I learned about other countries and French language, was way more than I ever thought.

Journée Sénégal, Lac du Bois 2014

Journée Sénégal, Lac du Bois 2014

In an article posted in the New York Times, author Sindya N. Bhanoo discussed how language immersion is more beneficial than learning through a formal classroom setting. In a study in the journal PloS One, scientists tested the brain patterns of subjects who learned a language through immersion vs. in a classroom. The tests showed that the subjects who learned the language through immersion had the full brain patterns of a native speaker, while the subjects who learned the language in a formal classroom setting did not.

The camps of Concordia Language Villages are hands-down the best way to learn a language. Being fully immersed in anything is the best way to learn, empathize, and adapt to it. Even a two week program makes a difference.

The lake of Lac du Bois, photo by Alyson Kriz

The lake of Lac du Bois, photo by Alyson Kriz

In the middle of the woods by the lakes of Minnesota lies little villages that change the way people see the world. These programs really do cultivate global leaders, global thinkers, and peaceful communities.

Is a Two-State Solution possible?

This post was written by Tim Kelly, Hyun Seung Noh, Allissa Fisher and Ashton Knippenberg

In his 2010 article, “One State/Two States: Rethinking Israel and Palestine”, Danny Rubinstein presents the argument that though some might support a two-state solution, in reality it might not be feasible. For his article featured in Dissent Magazine, Rubinstein uses the example of 50-year-old Palestinian spokesperson Sufian Abu-Zaida, who has recently changed his mind about a two-state possibility after years of work moderating talks between Israelis and Palestinians. By now, most of the world forces are backing the idea of Israel helping the Palestinians create a state of their own. “The Obama administration, the European Union, Russia, those Arab states that still maintain their initiative of almost a decade ago (to establish peace with Israel in exchange for its withdrawal to the 1967 border),” writes Rubenstein. But for some reason, the Palestinians seem to not want to cooperate.

Sufian Abu-Zaida via ALRAY Palestinian Media Agency

Sufian Abu-Zaida via ALRAY Palestinian Media Agency

Rubenstein goes on to describe the current (2010) situation in the West Bank, where Israelis hinder Palestinian progress by controlling major waterways, roads and infrastructure. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is one of the few who continue to work to change this situation, but the decline in the Palestinian nationalist movement in the past few years has pushed the reality of two-states (which both sides seem to want) out of the realm of possibility.

Using several examples, Rubenstein constructs reasoning for this decline in the Palestinian nationalist movement and shows that in 2010, hundreds of thousands of were Palestinians applying for Israeli citizenship without embarrassment because of the fear of losing residency. He concludes, after deeply analyzing the differences between older and younger generations of Palestinian politicians and explaining the thought processes of several refugees, that though perhaps both sides might want a two state solution, trends in 2010 severely hindered this hope.

It seems as though Rubenstein’s opinion on the inevitability of a one-state solution aren’t universally held. Jane Adas also an article in the New York City and Tri-State News as a response to Danny Rubenstein’s “Keeping the Two-State Solution Alive.” In her response she not only sites and explains the main points of his argument but also supplies plausible reasons why the idea of a single state are not so popular. She references a Green Party representative Norman Finkelstein as well as U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer arguing that, although a single state between Isreal and Palestine seems promising, it may not be a resounding success long term. Finkelstein feels that there is a lack of support for both sides. Adas explains that “he suspects that declining support for Israel has less to do with intermarriage than with the fact that both Israel’s history as we now know it and Israel’s present behavior have become indefensible from a liberal, moral standpoint.” This historical controversy between these two groups has allowed for a lot of mistrust that may not be so easily forgotten in the long run of a developing single state. He further explains that this mistrust has lead to some economic disagreements and sanctions that hinder the Palestinians.

Kurtzer disagrees with the possibility of a unified single state on more of a cultural level. Not only are there economic disputes but there are many social discrepancies. He feels that “both parties not only had histories of bad behavior—Israel’s settlement expansion and Palestinians’ ‘predisposition to resort to violence when things got tough’—and were divided on substantive issues, but each side also was divided internally.” His argument is that their individual differences historically do not allow for the proper cultural diffusion that Rubenstein encourages.

In “Is it too late for a two-state solution?,” written for +972, an online magazine, Lisa Goldman supports the points in Rubinstein’s article, saying that Rubinstein’s claim that the waning of the Palestinian national movement will ultimately be the catalyst for a single state is very much true. She also mentions that the purpose of Rubinstein’s article is not just to show what is happening, but also to warn people that it might not be possible to reverse the process. At large, her article outwardly seems to agree with Rubinstein’s theory by pretending as neutrality. In her writing, Goldman is trying to prove to Rubinstein’s readers that a one-state solution is becoming the more realistic possibility, even though Rubinstein never outwardly spoke of a one-state is solution, implying that she sneakily supports the idea of Israel’s most prominent journalist, Danny Rubinstein, especially in her use of the contradictory title, “is it too late for a two-state solution?.” The purpose of her article is to make people see the Palestinian situation and to justify the argument that a one-state solution might be an inescapable result.

+972 magazine logo via tabletmag.com

+972 magazine logo via tabletmag.com

According +972 magazine’s webpage, the magazine was found in 2010 to provide fresh, original, on-the-ground reporting and analysis of events in Israel and Palestine. Moreover, the publication is committed to human rights and freedom of information, so it does not represent any one organization, political party or specific agenda, according to the site’s “about” section. +972 allows guest contributors to publish as a fair and credible medium, based on English-language. Differing from the information found on the +972 web page, the print version of +972 magazine is known for left-wing news, sponsored by Israel-friendly-companies and organizations. Lisa Goldman is a cofounder of +972 magazine and is a former journalist of Israel. Her response article toward Danny Rubinstein is a supporting article in accordance with her political viewpoint.

 

 

Gamergate: Not Just an American Phenomenon

In August 2014, Zoe Quinn, a female game developer, was the topic of a series of blog posts by her ex-boyfriend claiming she cheated on him with journalists in the gaming industry. This curious public shaming spiraled out of control into a frenzy of rumors concerning Zoe’s personal life. All of a sudden, Zoe Quinn was a familiar name in the gaming world for outlandish reasons, and the issue escalated to the point where Zoe was receiving death threats from random internet users. Quickly afterwards, the hashtag “gamergate” was picked up and the controversy delved into two separate issues: ethics in games journalism, and sexism in the video game industry. This blog post will be focusing on the latter of those issues.
One of the most popular blog posts about Gamergate came from actress Felicia Day. Day, who’s quite popular in nerd and geek culture, wrote a blog post about how she now thinks male gamers she sees on the street might greet her with contempt rather than smiles, due to the Gamergate controversy. She struggles with the fact that people who share her same interests find fault with her just because of her public opinions on Gamergate. In her post, she urges anyone who is passionate about gaming to maintain their enthusiasm, despite the hardships that have surfaced in the gaming universe.

This led to a large variety of responses from bloggers in every corner of the internet. Kotaku, a large gaming news site, immediately points out that Day was doxxed, meaning her personal information was publicly posted, after she posted her blog. The writer of the Kotaku post even goes on to say that he fears for his safety just for supporting Day publicly.
Daily Dot, another internet culture news site, posted a story similar to the Kotaku story, pointing out the irony of Gamergate supporters, who are striving to achieve ethics in the games industry by doing unethical things. The Daily Dot post also points out that there are Gamergate supporters who do not support the doxxing of Day.

Arthur Chu wrote a post on Salon.com pointing out similarities between his life, nerd culture, and Felicia Day. He points out that, growing up as a nerd, he often felt he and his passion were attacked for just being who or what they are. He then drew a parallel to Day, saying this is how she must feel right now. It’s ironic, too, because it’s the nerds who are now making fun of people for being who they are. Even if who they are is a fellow gamer.

The gamergate controversy has blown up so much that the issue has gained international attention, and it has started a global conversation on sexism in the gaming industry. BBC News published an article on Gamergate, spreading Zoe Quinn’s message that Gamergate “must be condemned”. This news article acts as a survey of the blogging activity that erupted in response to Gamergate, giving readers a chance to objectively look at what has happened. The article provides examples from Twitter of the online abuse that female gamers have experienced from the events. A similar article from a German publication, Der Bund, also aims to address the ongoing problems in the gaming community.

German reactions to Gamergate ran further than what was originally explored in the Der Bund article, however. Much like in America, social media played a pivotal role in spreading gamer’s responses. Using the hashtag #sosehengameraus (roughly translated to: “this is what gamers look like) German gamers shared photos of themselves, some also including tags like #happygamer or #gamerpositive in order to put a face to their avatars and humanize themselves. The hashtag allowed both professional and amateur gamers to come together in a positive manner. Additionally, as Roman Rackwitz points out in his blog post, #soshengameraus highlighted a constructive side of the gaming industry: collaboration. In addition to bringing gamers together, the hashtag served to bring industry professionals “face-to-face” with those who actually play the games.

The hashtag itself was started by Dr. Linda Breitlauch, Germany’s first professor of game design. After she changed her Facebook photo in February 2015 to include the phrase “so sehen Gamer aus,” she encouraged others to share their photos and #soshengameraus was born. Taking a quick scroll through the tag on Twitter, it is hard to deny the positivity. It is also readily apparent that Breitlauch’s main goal of breaking the stereotype of what a gamer looks like has been achieved. Instead of an overflow of photos of bespectacled, pimply, 15-year-olds, #soshengameraus highlights the diversity of German gamers, particularly women. As compared to American reactions to Gamergate, which lobs a considerable amount of hate at women, #sosshengmeraus instead accepts and includes women.

The French perspective comes from Le Monde’s digital and tech blog, Pixels, who wrote a #gamergate post in September 2014. Much of the blog is largely curated responses from other blogs and gaming writers. Through its collected tweets and comics from corners of the Internet, however, the writer’s opinion is clear: most of the people tweeting #NotYourShield and getting up in arms about Gamergate are in the wrong. There are reactionary social media knights who come in complaining about female chauvinists and social justice warriors (SJWs), but few actually present logical arguments as to why. The blog takes the stance that if these men were to acknowledge the intense sexism in the gaming world while also calling out unproductive or harmful “feminists,” Gamergate would actually be worth people’s time. Instead, it simply sounds like men who have gotten their feelings hurt or don’t want to take responsibility for a culture they’ve helped create. The very last line is snarky and gets to the heart of the author’s emotions on the topic immeadiately: If people on the Internet used a quart of the energy they used on #GameGate to save net neutrality, I would be much more reassured with the world.”
As seen through various social media mediums, the international response to Gamergate has been incredibly varied. Each perspective has its own nuances, but each has brought up an important dialogue about who can be considered a gamer, the stereotypes within the gaming world, and the implications that come along with being an active member within the gaming community.

Post by: Sarah, Hanna, Sam, and George

Deaf Culture Across the Globe: The life of the deaf in France, India and the U.S.

world

deaf pride

The universal symbol for deaf pride

Deaf Culture describes the social beliefs, behaviors, literature, art, values, traditions and shared customs that unite those within the deaf and hard of hearing community. This community finds solidarity in the issues faced in being deaf, and the use of sign language as a main mode of communication. A huge difference in perception of deafness between the “hearing” community and members of the Deaf culture, is that deaf people view their lifestyles as a different human experience instead of a disability.

Because of the deaf community’s minority population in comparison to that of the hearing community, they are often faced with the prejudices similar to those of other oppressed groups. Accommodation for people who are deaf has grown, and more awareness is being spread for those who are unfamiliar with deaf culture. Here, we will be taking a glimpse into what deaf life has been and currently is, in three countries. These countries being India, France, and the United States.

french flag

The French flag

The first school for the deaf, whose current name is Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris (INJS) was opened in 1760 in Paris,France by Charles-Michel de l’Épée. The school was started when l’Épée, a philanthropic educator who is now popularly dubbed “The Father of the Deaf”, met 2 young girls who were hearing impaired and in need of an instructor. l’Épée is also credited with being the creator of the world’s first sign alphabet for the deaf. Currently, France is a part of the European Union of the deaf, which is a non-profit that is the only organization that represents the interests of deaf Europeans at a union level. The National Federation of France for the Deaf is another major program in France, geared toward deaf support and awareness on a governmental level.

india

The flag of India

In modern day India, deaf entrepreneurship is a reoccurring issue that exists as a result of the heavy social and societal stigmas placed on those identified as being deaf or Hard of Hearing. Hinduism, which is the predominant religion in India, is historically known as including text (specifically in the Law code of Manu) that can be interpreted as oppressing those who are deaf. In the Law Code of Manu, it states that a person who is deaf should not be allowed to own property, but is to rely on the charity of others in their daily lives. This text and examples like these, along with preexisting negative views of deaf people as the “other” has made India one of the most difficult and least accommodating places in the world for those who are deaf/Hard of Hearing.

manu

A translated copy of Manu’s code of Law

Because of India’s overwhelming size and population, there is a large and colorful variation of dialects of sign language within the country—making communication between deaf people in India difficult as well. According to an article on joshuaproject.net, there are 10-15 million deaf people in India, and that this large deaf population is poorly connected and uniformed of the resources within their community geared towards helping them. The main approach in classrooms toward the deaf community in India is the oral way of teaching. Leaving the education of members of the deaf community neglected due to a need in labor workers.

us

The United States Flag

The United States is seen as one of the more progressive countries in terms of accommodation for the deaf and HoH. While legislation and social awareness campaigns have been responsible in large part for the U.S.’s growing success in this area, the installation of deaf culture in media and television has proven to be pretty impressive and helpful. For example, Switched at Birth is an ABC network show that surrounds the life of two teenage girls who find out that they were, well, switched at birth. One of the girls, Daphne Vasquez, has been deaf since a young age due to an infection that she caught when she was still in infancy. Watching the show, you learn many things about the deaf and deaf culture. The television series features multiple deaf actors and shines light on common misconceptions that the hearing population has about the deaf community by showing rather than telling.

switched

The television poster for Switched at Birth

However, the U.S. is not without its setbacks concerning awareness and accommodation for those of the deaf community. While many large public and private institutions (like the University of Missouri) have interpreters, a discouraging amount of Americans are still pretty ignorant when it comes to what deaf people can and can’t do as a result of their inability to hear. The United states has two similar but different forms of sign language. There’s the more commonly used American sign language (ASL) and the lesser known signed English language. The key difference between these two is that ASL deals more with gestures that include entire phrases, while English sign language works more with word by word translations.  Common complaints of those who are deaf in the U.S. is the need for those who are talking to face them when doing so. If communication is done by lip-reading, this social interaction requires 100% visibility on part of the deaf person involved. Discrimination against those who are deaf in America is still a very current problem even on the judicial level. On March 31,2015, a federal court ruled that three Indiana judges discriminated against a deaf citizen. In this case, the citizen, Steve Prakel wanted to attend his mother’s court proceedings and requested an interpreter in order to be able to do so. Despite multiple requests, the judges refused him accommodation and did not install an interpreter.

A more popular incident that occurred in South Africa, but was broadcast internationally that shed a light on the issue of oppression within the deaf community is the Nelson Mandela memorial debacle of 2013 .

rah

A meme of Thami Jantjie

During President Obama’s speech in address to the memorial, government recruited interpreter Thami Jantjie made a bunch of fake signs that upset the deaf community at large. Random gesticulations and childish motions comprised Jantjie’s “interpretation” of President Obama’s speech, and the problem wasn’t addressed until after the speech was finished. This was a problem that would have presumably been addressed much more quickly had Jantjie been posing as a translator for an oral language.

To sum up this post, the world still has a lot more growing to do in terms of learning about and accepting deaf culture, (some more than others).

Gender Wage Gap: Fact or Fiction?

Equal Pay Day signifies how far into the year a woman must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.  This year, Equal Pay Day was on April 14 – which means there is an additional four months of work for women just to break even with men.  The gender wage gap has been a huge issue globally for over the past century.   From America to Australia to the European Union, everyone struggles to understand why the gender wage gap still exists today.  President Obama and Vice gender-pay-gapPresident Joe Biden are both in agreement that the gender wage gap needs to change.  On Equal Pay Day this year, Joe Biden posted on Twitter saying, “Equal pay for equal work. It’s common sense.  It’s also overdue. Let’s close the gap & let’s do it now.”  However easy it may seem, women working full time in America earn 77 cents for every dollar men make.  Worldwide, people use the Internet to spark up debates, and many bloggers and users compare and contrast the myths and the truths of the gender wage gap.

The National Women’s Law Center posted in April of 2006 about how the wage gap is still an issue today despite the acts meant to protect workers.  They illustrate their authority on the topic by stating facts to bolster their message, and crafting a professional posting on the National Committee on Pay Equity’s website.  The statistics presented such as, that merging the wage gap would cut poverty by about half were astounding.  Other statistics showed the unexplained reasoning behind differences in pay while both the male and female employees had the same education background and workload.  Statistics like this showed the severity of the sex discrimination in the workplace.  The motive of the post was to inform the reader about the Paycheck Fairness Act, and how it will remove loopholes in the current legislation.  The Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced by Hillary Rodham Clinton in the U.S. Senate, would create a stronger barrier to wage discrimination by improving the Equal Pay Act remedies, making it easier to bring class action Equal Pay Act claims, improving the collection of pay information, prohibiting employer retaliation, closing the loophole in an employer defense, eliminating the same “establishment” requirement for equal pay, allowing voluntary employees to compare wages, increasing training etc., and halting rollbacks and retreats by the department.  While some disagree, this post takes the stance that the wage gap is a clear example of discrimination.

In an article from the Huffington Post entitled Wage Gap Myth Exposed—By Feminists, written by Christina Hoff Sommers, the 77 cent statistic is called into question as Sommers examines more into the American Association of University Women (AAUW) as well as National Women’s Law Center and calls out research that she feels may be misleading about the gender wage gap. There is one article from the National Women’s Law Center that Sommers uses a quote to counter their argument that says, “In fact, authoritative studies show that even when all relevant career and family attributes are taken into account, there is still a significant unexplained gap in men and women’s earnings”. Sommers instantly shuts this statement down and begins explaining why this gap is not as unexplained as National Women’s Law Center described. This sets for a perfect example of how blog feuds begin. Sommers uses cursory hyperlinking to link the reader to the article that she calls into question. This is an effective method when engaging in a blog fight because it gives you access to see exactly what the other writer wrote and make your own judgement on the topic.

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Graph comparing men and women wage gap

 

There are many critics who don’t believe the wage gap exists. Two of them include Mark Perry and Andrew Biggs who wrote The ’77 cents on the Dollar’ Myth About Women’s Pay which has been argued against by other bloggers. They believe the claims are fundamentally misleading and economically illogical using marriage and children, women’s chosen field of study, and high-risk jobs to support their argument.

Perry and Biggs use the issue of marriage and children as a big reason why women are paid less. They believe that there’s only a 4% difference in pay between single women and men and the bigger wage gap doesn’t appear until children enter the picture. Because child care takes women out of the labor market, they are less experienced when they return which widens the wage gap between men and women. They also say that working mothers also look for jobs that provide greater flexibility and believe that those jobs pay less.

Another point they make is the types of jobs chosen by men and women. They say that women often choose fields of study that pay less like sociology, liberal arts, or psychology while men choose higher paying fields like finance, accounting, or engineering. Also, men make up most of the workforce for high risk and high compensation jobs like loggers, iron workers, and lawyers. Because those jobs are high risk and high compensation, they offer a higher salary.

In conclusion, they don’t believe the wage gap exists because of marriage and children, women’s chosen fields of study, high-risk jobs, on top of other points. The main point they make about the wage gap is how illogical it is because if the wage gap really existed, profit-oriented companies could dramatically cut costs by replacing their male employees with females which they haven’t done so it couldn’t possibly be true.

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President Obama took to Twitter the truth on the wage gap

In response to Mark J. Perry and Andrew G. Biggs’s article The ’77 Cents on the Dollar’ Myth of Women’s Pay, Jillian Berman disagrees that the gender wage gap is a myth and provides facts that verifies its existence.  Berman’s first disagreement with the article is that the wage gap exists during all levels of women’s working careers and not just when they decide to get married or have children. Shedoes acknowledge the fact that the pay gap increases if women do choose to make those life choices but says that doesn’t matter; women still make less on average than men with the same types of degrees and jobs. Another valid point she makes is that there are policies put in place such as paid family leave and subsidized child care that are supposed to help out women by minimizing the “mommy penalty”. Because most all major businesses participate in these types of programs, and women still make less on average than men do, it goes to show that other factors besides becoming a wife and or a mom play a role in creating the difference in pay.

Another claim Berman disagrees with is that the types of jobs women typically choose are ones that pay less. Jobs that are coined as women’s work are undervalued according to Berman. One historical example that highlights women’s work as undervalued is that secretaries used to be a profession dominated by males until businesses realized they could get women to do the same job for less. After that transition took place women were viewed as less valuable not only in that profession but throughout the workplace.

Lastly, Berman says even when women in the workplace do get jobs mostly dominated by men, studies show that they are given raises and promotions less often. This is because women are seen as more pushy and demanding when inquiring about advancements as opposed to men being determined and motivated. A statistic that exemplifies this fact is that Women make up just 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, but 48.6 percent of the labor force overall. These unfair stereotypes of women are making it harder for them to advance in the workplace and are holding them back from potential earnings confirming that the gender wage gap does indeed exist.

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Comparing 77 cents to every man’s dollar

In another response to The ’77 Cents on the Dollar’ Myth About Women’s Pay article by Mark J. Perry and Andrew G. Biggs, Joshua Holland wrote the article Debunking the Myth of a Mythical Gender Pay Gap. Holland starts off his article calling Perry and Briggs out in the second paragraph immediately stating their flawed logic.

After Perry and Briggs rattle off a few statistics regarding why women are paid less, Holland responds saying, “The gender pay gap is very real, and there are complex reasons for its stubborn persistence.” Holland gives many interesting points that refute much of what Perry and Briggs have to say such as, “In 2001, Karen Kornbluh estimated that women’s earnings drop by 7.5 percent with a first child and 8 percent with a second.” What Holland wants to say is that many countries require a company to offer maternal leave if an employee has a child. However, in the US it is not required. It does not stop there; Holland takes many quotes directly from Perry and Briggs and exposes the errors they had made.

Just from the few excerpts from Debunking the Myth of a Mythical Gender Pay Gap, it is easy to see that Holland strongly disagrees with Perry and Briggs. Even some transitions seem to hold a little hostility. For example, “Perry and Biggs go on to argue… There are two problems with that.” It is not to the point of name calling but it seems Holland is trying to discredit Perry and Briggs.

 Holland keeps most of the argument tame and makes some very solid points. He includes many quotes and statistics from The ’77 Cents on the Dollar’ Myth About Women’s Pay and he is able to point out what was done wrong or overlooked in the opposing argument.wage-gap-infographic-220x130

The controversy for gender wage gap does not stop in the United States.  In fact, there is an online index called, The Global Gender Gap Index that was developed in 2006 to address the need for a consistent measure for gender equality.  Interestingly enough, no country in the world has achieved gender equality yet.  According to CNN Money, it will take another 81 years for the gender gap to close.  In the index, the United States ranked 65th in wage equality among the other 142 countries listed.  That being said, the highest ranked country for gender gap is Iceland, with Finland and Norway following.  Every country in the world is struggling to close in the wage gap, however the economic factors and political power play a big role in when that will change.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that gender wage gap stirs up a lot of controversy worldwide, especially on the Internet. Bloggers argue back and forth to try and make their point to their readers. Instead, it can create more blog fights. Blog fighting isn’t a bad thing – as long as the blogger can back up both sides of the arguments. The gender wage gap is clearly a topic that many people find interesting. This blog was able to point out both sides of the topic and compare with one another. Like Hillary Clinton has said,  “Women’s rights are human rights;” the fight towards equality will continue to be an issue in the world, just as blog fights will continue as well.

Written by: Katherine Kilian, Logan Drake, Angie Pi,

Colleen Mahoney, Mark McCord, Jake Jost

Carnival Around The World

Carnival is an official Catholic holiday celebrated in numerous countries including Brazil, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Jamaica, Malta, Croatia and Mexico that kicks off a five-day celebration before the Catholic lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Beginning the weekend before Lent, Carnival is traditionally masks-351906_640celebrated with extreme enthusiasm with parades, floats, costumes, music and dancing in the streets. In this post, we’re going to specifically look at the historical and modern examples of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Venice, Italy.

Carnival celebrations in Brazil have a history as deep as Italian festivities. Traced back to the year 1723, Rio de Janeiro’s carnival has deeply religious roots that were heavily entangled in class relations. According to Rio’s tourism website, the party was originally started as a celebration to honor the Greek god of wine, Dionysus. Known as the feast of Saturnalia, it was a time for both slave and master to give thanks to the gods through drinking and partying.

history in rio

One of the first depictions about the Rio Carnival

When it first reached Rio, brought by immigrants from islands of the coast of Portugal, carnival was first a soaking wet affair. Called entrudo by the Portuguese, this celebration was a time when people ran through the streets soaking each other with buckets of water. Oftentimes, when the water ran out, partygoers would dump whatever liquid they had whether it be urine or mud, which (unsurprisingly) usually ended in large-scale street fights. Though a considerable departure from the feast of Saturnalia, entrudo was also marked by a time where normal social conventions between slaves and masters were not enforced.

Throughout the 1800s, the concept of carnival was constantly evolving but incorporated more events like parades or great societies- a celebration where even the Emperor and his aristocracy joined in music and drinking all night. Carnival took on the structure that we are most familiar with organized masquerade balls beginning the 1840s. In 1907, cars were first introduced into the parades and covered in streamers and confetti. This event, known as corso, is considered to be the precursor to the elaborate floats we see during carnival today.

Complete with ornate costumes, dancing, excessive alcohol consumption and more than 2 million guests, Carnival (Or Carnaval in Portuguese) in modern-day Rio De Janeiro could be described as the equivalent of a week long, multi-billion dollar block party. Rio de Janeiro is well known for being one of the carnival capitals of the world and is largely hosted and operated by the Brazilian poor community who live in over-crowded and desolate areas called favelas.

Carnival in Rio: Elaborate costume

Modern day Brazil Carnaval

These favelas consist of housing made from scrap materials like cardboard, and members of these communities spend months in preparation for Carnival-the biggest outlet of the year to forget their troubles and celebrate life in a week long cultural festival. This preparation includes costume designing and the practicing of choreography at neighboring samba schools where they prepare for the samba competition that is a huge part of the festivities. Costumes for these performances can weigh as much as two hundred pounds!

Since its inception, Rio’s carnaval has gained international attention garnering tourism visits around numbers of 500 thousand. This surge in the popularity of Rio’s carnevale is also evident in the astounding number of social media participation by Instagram and Facebook users around the world. This year’s carnival alone has amassed an astounding 534 million interactions from around 49 million Facebook users.

More evidence on social media’s new role as part of the modern Rio Carnaval experience, can be found in a project launched as part of Rio 2015; a Tinder party called Match Comigo was launched to facilitate dates and hook ups for those in Rio looking for a “good time”. This too was a largely successful venture resulting in the popular coverage of news aggregation sites like msnbc and Yahoo!News.

A reveller of Grande Rio samba school pe

Carnaval Queen in Brazil

A large part of Rio’s carnival is the presence of blocos or street performance bands that are used to mobilize the crowds. Since 2011, social media has been playing a large role in the gathering of large crowds that come to listen and watch specific bands that get publicity boosts via their respective Facebook pages. This practice of self-promotion via Twitter and Facebook have been especially helpful for the popularity of new blocos and popular artists during carnival.

Carnevale in Venice, Italy is one of the oldest types of Carnevale in the world.  Beginning as early as the the 5th century, Carnevale began making a name for itself in northern Italy.  In 1094, the festival was mentioned in a Venetian charter, and by 1269, Carnevale was officially approved by the Senate to become a holiday.  Venetian Carnevale officially falls on the day before Lent/Fat Tuesday, though unofficially the celebration has usually lasted much longer.

history venice

Beginning of Carnevale in Venice

The Carnevale of old was very different from the Carnevale you see in Venice today.  Back then, the most important part of the event was wearing a mask.  This was because the masks created anonymity.  During Carnevale, everyone was equal.  There were no peasants and nobles.  Everything from politics, to feuds between major families, to work stopped during Carnevale.  Carnevale got rid of class limitations—wearing masks allowed the people to do and say whatever they wanted without getting in trouble.

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People celebrating at the Carnevale in Venice

Over time, Venetian Carnevale became known as an event not to miss.  While it was attractive enough to be able to let loose and have fun no matter status, Carnevale also had cultural significance.  During the celebrations, many extravagant balls were held, and many operas and comedies were created by artists.  In fact, it is thought that improvisation comedy originated from Carnevale entertainment.  These festivities brought in people from all over, and allowed them all to let loose and have fun no matter who they were.

Beautiful costumes, peculiar masks, delicious pastries, and entertaining performances are some of the many reasons why tourists are attracted to the city of Venice during Carnevale each year.  The celebration lasts nearly three weeks starting in late January and ending in mid-February.  The celebration begins with an event called il volo dell’angelo, more commonly known as the “flight of the angel.”  Every year, they choose someone prominent to be the angel and they swing on a harness for the crowd to admire.  Afterwards, children and families in Venice dress up in costumes, run down the streets, and hand out confetti and candy to one another.

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Modern day costume in Venice

In recent years, the Carnevale in Venice attracts many tourists to visit from all around the world just to see the ornate costumes and masks that natives wear during the celebration.  Even though the Venetian tradition is rooted from the Catholic holiday considered Fat Tuesday, nearly everyone from Venice takes time to plan their costumes accordingly for this grand celebration.   Masked faces dance up and down the streets of St. Mark’s Square while onlookers observe and cheer.  Many different events take place for anyone to attend; however many of the tickets for these events are expensive.  Hotels and other locals always encourage tourists to dress up as well, so there are many shops along the stretch where anyone can buy outfits and masks.  They host a costume contest every year to see who has the most elegant outfit. Along with the contest, at any time you will find friendly faces and fireworks all across Venice.

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Man and woman posing at Venice Carnevale

This is a modern-day celebration where anyone can join in for the fun.  Noted as one of the most anticipated events of the year in Venice, tourists are never disappointed in how successful this celebration truly is.

From Mardi Gras in New Orleans to Carnevale in Venice, this festivity is one in which is celebrated all over the world.  Hundreds of thousands of people come together to celebrate this affair with masks, costumes, food, and drink.  Carnevale, or Mardi Gras, will only continue to grow as time goes on, so be sure to visit at least one Carnevale in your lifetime!

Written By: Katherine Kilian, Olivia Peterkin, Ashton, Sarah Mosier

Societal responses to “Women Against Feminism”

Feminism is an idea and movement that has been critiqued by all groups of humans, and has been changing and evolving throughout history. Though there have been various waves and movements of feminism, there is one common goal; the established political, economic, cultural, personal, and social equality of women.

The first wave of feminism occurred in 1848, and is known as the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Humans in this movement actively fought for women’s right to vote among other women’s rights. In 1920, women finally won the fight for the right to vote through marches, rallies, and political work and engagement in other issues such as health reform, prison reform, and child labor law reform etc.

Women's Suffrage Movement protests, photo from citelighter.com

Women’s Suffrage Movement protests, photo from citelighter.com

The second wave of feminism occurred throughout the 1960’s. The National Organization for Women played a key role in this wave. Feminist activists in the second wave protested sex-segregated help wanted ads, fought for the repeal of abortion laws, lobbied for Equal Rights Amendment, among other protests.

Feminists in the third wave (1990’s-present) are critical of the previous two waves, but understand and appreciate the work that has already been done in the way of equality for women. Present feminists fight for equality of ALL women.

This concept was not heavily considered in the first and second waves of feminism. Equality for ALL women includes women of color, women of low-income status, trans* women, etc. This feminism recognizes that feminism is worthless without intersectionality and inclusion.

Inclusive feminism includes all races, photo from hellogiggles.com

Inclusive feminism includes all races, photo from hellogiggles.com

Feminism is a spectrum, and current feminists fight for rights for all women regardless of any identity. Third wave feminism is about recognizing and being aware of the oppressive, patriarchal power systems in society for every identity, and being active about changing those systems.

After all of the fight put forth by women in the 19th and 20th centuries, there is now a real controversy in 2015: Women against feminism. Many individuals are disturbed by the misinformed and anti-feminist groups like Women Against Feminism who disregard the hard work that people went through to gain women’s rights and equality for our culture today. Not only that, but the group seems to lack understanding of the basic definition and ideals of feminism.

Women Against Feminism is a Tumblr account that displays pictures of women who give reasons for why they aren’t feminists, and why they do not approve or need feminism. There have been numerous responses to this claim, most individuals deeming the account as ridiculous and appalling, while others actually take light in some of the things that the account holders “got right.”

photo from womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com

Photo from womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com

Satirical responses were one type of response to Women Against Feminism that brought out the sarcasm and “are you serious” ideas, but another very real and well put argument was by an account user named I Wanted Wings. This user responded to the Women Against Feminism as a whole, to those women who posted their pictures with notes claiming that it’s the 21st century and that “we don’t need feminism.”

Satirical response to "Women Against Feminism", photo from buzzfeed.com

Satirical response to “Women Against Feminism”, photo from buzzfeed.com

This user brings to light that the feminism fight is not just for one woman, or for one culture; the user reminds readers of the women in the less developed and less equal countries who need feminism just to wear what they want, to be educated, to love who they want.

In an article on the Huffington Post (United Kingdom) blog, Louise Pennington responds to the Women Against Feminism Tumblr page, illustrating the sources of the movement’s failure as well as critiquing the way individuals may respond to the movement as a whole. Pennington is a feminist writer from the United Kingdom, who has academically written and spoken openly about topics ranging from women’s history to domestic and violence against women.

A woman shows why she does not need feminism, photo from womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com

A woman shows why she does not need feminism, photo from womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com

Pennington opens the article by listing several statements from the Women Against Feminism Tumblr and twitter account such as “I don’t need feminism because I’m a humanist.” It is clear from the images and statements posted by the Women Against Feminism group that the movement believes that a feminist wishes for women to be superior to men. Pennington points out that this misinterpreted belief stems from a lack of understanding of the term “feminist” and the overall goals of feminism.

Pennington then uses her knowledge of women’s history to list the demands of the 1970’s women’s liberation movement such as equal pay now and equal education and job opportunities. This information directly correlates to what women are fighting for today. She clearly lays out that feminists want to be seen as human equals to men rather than some power hungry group they are stereotyped to be.

Pennington identifies that many of these women posting on Women Against Feminism are young, white middle class women arguing for respect for a traditional family. Again, there is a lack of knowledge and inclusivity. The Women Against Feminism group is targeting the wrong enemy. Pennington points out the true source:

“The lack of understanding of the history of women’s work and the refusal to acknowledge that the ‘traditional family’ is a Victorian invention created for only white women is depressing. It is our capitalist economy which devalues the work of women within the home and engaged in childcare – not feminists.”

Another woman displaying why she "does not need feminism," photo from womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com

Another woman displaying why she “does not need feminism,” photo from womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com

There are valid criticisms of feminism today such as racism or classism. However, the Women Against Feminism movement does not illustrate any of these issues, which shows the movement’s lack of understanding of feminism. Pennington uses this information to further explain why the Women Against Feminism movement is problematic:

“Feminism has not done enough to ensure that they have included women who are not white or middle class, but denigrating the work that women have done to help other women demonstrates the true power of the Patriarchy in dividing women. Feminism has made great improvements in the lives of some women and needs to work much harder to help others. Ironically, it is the women in the Women Against Feminism movement who have made the most gains from feminism.”

This leads Pennington to critique individuals who respond to the Women Against Feminism movement with insults. She states that by doing so, those individuals are becoming part of the problem replicate the patriarchal patterns used to silence women. Instead, Pennington calls for a real discussion to discover and question why women truly see feminism as a threat:

“Critiquing the ‪Women Against Feminism tag…doesn’t require replicating misogynistic language or insults. It requires an evidence-based answer – such as those pointing out the battle for women’s suffrage, rape laws, equal pay acts, maternity rights, and reproductive freedom…Instead of insulting the women who started the hashtag, let’s start a real discussion as to why women see feminism as threatening. Let’s start questioning their belief systems and pointing out the reality of the lives of women who do not have similar privileges.”

Feminists spreading awareness of white privilege and the misconception of reverse racism, photo from thefeministwire.com

Feminists spreading awareness of white privilege and the misconception of reverse racism, photo from thefeministwire.com

Throughout the article, Pennington, like many other blogs all over the world, addressed misconceptions not only made by the Women Against Feminism but also many critiquing the movement in an unproductive way. Pennington’s closing statement give readers an indication that Pennington sees the Women Against Feminism movement as an issue that crosses all borders and an issue for all humans.

Feminism is not confined to any border. It is a major topic of discussion and life influence for people from all walks of life, backgrounds, and nationalities. In fact, a vast majority of countries received an address in 2014 by Emma Watson regarding her work with feminist ideals, and the founding of her foundation He for She, one that encourages the male population to stand up for inequalities of women.

Watson’s speech has experienced scrutiny in the months following, regarding its reinforcement of the gender binary, when so many of the people affected by the feminist movement don’t fit into “such tidy boxes,” as said by Amy McArthy, a blogger for the Huffington Post Women’s blog.

Emma Watson with UN Secretary General Bank Ki-moon at the launch of the HeForShe campaign in New York City. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Stringer- Sociology.about.com

Emma Watson with UN Secretary General Bank Ki-moon at the launch of the HeForShe campaign in New York City. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Stringer- Sociology.about.com

In Watson’s discourse, she discusses the gender stereotype pressures that men feel in today’s society as well, but just as the problem that McArthy had with the name of the foundation; the content of the address maintains the gender binary issues felt by the blogger, and other critics of Watson.

This is not the Huffington post writer’s only problematic highlight though. The post goes on to point out the focus of the “privileged white woman,” without observation of the much wider gap in equality felt by minority women, pointed out by McArthy: “When Watson speaks of equal pay, she’s talking about the white women who make 78% of their white male counterparts, not the 46% gap that Latina women face in the workplace.”

Numbers that were actually found incorrect with research where aauw.org reported that the gap for Latina women was actually found to be, most recently, 54%; though still solidifying the staggering difference in the minority woman’s pay.  The author has a legitimate point, summing her position up with the fact that “He For She and Emma Watson are having fails to invite the people whose voices need to be heard most to the table,” in reference to transgender, minority, and women in less developed countries. Watson’s feminism seems to align more with first and second wave feminism, which were exclusive.

Author Team: Julia Schaller, Skyler Alderton, Connie Liou, Conner Slater 

The Fat Acceptance Movement: Empowering or Harmful?

Source: Lars Aronsson

Source: Lars Aronsson

Group post by: Carolin Lehmann, Lauren Imbierowicz, Olivia Peterkin and Sarah Bechtold

The Fat Acceptance movement, is a social movement that addresses anti-fat bias and promotes body positivity at all sizes. The pillars of this movement are acceptance, self-love, and the embracing of all body types. In the past few years there have been conflicting views on this movement, largely because, while some see it as a progressive, emotionally and mentally healthy movement, others see it as a sort of support system for the unhealthy that promotes positive feedback for poor eating habits and a lack of exercise.

On April 22,2014, Carolyn Hall, a writer for the online blog forum Thought Catalog, posted an article titled “6 Things That I Don’t Understand About the Fat Acceptance Movement.” In the article, she brings up six key faults she finds in the trend and goes into detail as to why they are bad. For example, she addresses her views on body positivity for obese toddlers and children: “There is reason that people get so upset at seeing obese children, and it’s because it’s condemning them to a life of health problems that they are not choosing themselves.” Hall’s piece set the blogosphere aflame with articles in response to hers. Having taken the stance of opposition toward the increasingly popular movement, Hall emphasizes the need for a reevaluation of the movement by saying, “being positive about the way you look is not enough, you also have to be positive (and proactive) about your health and well-being… there is nothing more negative than treating your body with disregard.”

Staff Writer Abigail Fisher, of The Maneater, wrote a response to Carolyn Hall’s 6 Things I don’t Understand About the Fat Acceptance Movement.  In her column, The importance of accepting fat acceptance, she revisits Hall’s six points and explains why she thinks Hall has a complete misunderstanding of the Fat Acceptance Movement.  Hall’s article brings up keys points of the movement to start conversations to gain a better understanding of the movement.  Fisher does not state in her response what exactly the importance of the Fat Acceptance Movement is. She also does not present any data or credible evidence in her responses to Hall’s list.  She twists around Hall’s lack of understanding and makes the claim that Hall is shaming people just to fit her personal idea of the Fat Acceptance Movement.

The Fat Acceptance Movement is a topic of much debate on the international stage as well. In A big fat fight: the case for fat activism by Jennifer Lee, of Victoria University, she discusses stereotypes and misconceptions in a constructive manner that’s aimed to educate the public about fat acceptance and fat activism. Lee supports the Fat Acceptance Movement by shedding light on several of the common issues that are a part of the movement. The common issues that are emphasized by the movement are the influence of the media, medical conditions, fitness, and differing standards of beauty. Lee references the book Health at Every Size throughout the article, which “proposes size acceptance as opposed to weight loss.”  She uses the book’s research, which shows that people who learn to value their bodies first will make better choices in living a healthier lifestyle and increase their ability to take of themselves. Lee’s article encourages people to think about how weight and fitness play a part in what it really means to be “healthy.”

Jane Pratt gives an opposing response to Carolyn Hall’s original blog post over disagreeing with factors involved in the fat acceptance movement in her piece, I’ve Only Got 1 Thing to Say to Folks Who Don’t Understand Fat Acceptance. Because Pratt believes that Hall’s post comes off as uneducated and uninvolved in the understanding of the fat acceptance movement, Pratt seeks to point out each of the ways she disagrees with some of the information listed in Hall’s post. While Hall’s post simply addresses key issues involved with the fat acceptance movement, Pratt twists this scenario into Hall attacking “fat” people. While information on the movement exists that Hall seems to not be familiar with, there may also be health related issues that Pratt could become a bit more aware of, or at least address in her post.

In addition to Hall’s controversial post that has provoked others to respond, Jes Baker joins the conversation with her post on 6 Things I Understand About the Fat Acceptance Movement. Unlike Pratt’s post, Baker sets out to answer and in some cases disprove Hall’s 6 misunderstandings with factual information concerning factors such as discrimination, fat shaming and stigmatization, health related issues, food addiction, and diet culture. Baker goes on to explain how bodies can be healthy or unhealthy at different sizes, and can also do so at the same body sizes, and that the movement is to help bring recognition to that fact. Baker just about hammers her point home when she says, “what humans do with their life and body rests solely on their decisions and our culture needs to stop assuming that we are entitled to commentary.”

After sparking debate with several other writers, Hall defends her original post in the response post 8 Things I Learned From Writing An Article Critical of Fat Acceptance. In response to opposing articles and posts, Hall not only reiterates some of her original arguments, but also continues on to argue some of the points brought up by those opposing posts. Some of her arguments included the lack of anorexic acceptance, as well as personal, social, and emotional issues seemingly circling around obesity. Even with Hall’s lack of cited facts and inclusion of some possible misinformation, Hall admits that she is proud of the heated discussion that sparked amongst her readers.

While it is clear that not everyone will agree on the topic of the Fat Acceptance Movement, a valuable conversation has begun – even on an international level. The discussion came full circle when Hall addressed the lessons she learned in 8 Things I Learned From Writing An Article Critical of Fat Acceptance. Bloggers continue to hold the important role of conversation starters, and Hall’s original post is a prime example of this.

 

The Coolest Bars In The World

Built in 1994 the worlds first and largest Icehotel was created. The original and once one-of-a-kind hotel is located in Jukkasjärvi, a small village in Northern Sweden 200 km north of the Artic Circle. Every year between 50,000 and 60,000 tourists from all over the world travel to the remote location to experience “Europe’s last Wilderness”. Because the hotel melts in the summer, the Icehotel is rebuilt annually by world-renowned ice sculptures that come up with new designs and architecture every year, making each Icehotel unique. Each one is built from 1,000 tons of crystal clear ice extracted from the Torne River and 30,000 tons of “snice”, a mixture of snow and ice.

A few years ago I was extremely privileged to experience the Icehotel on the vacation of a lifetime. My grandparents, cousins, family and I went to Sweden over Christmas break in 2006. After a nine-hour flight to Stockholm, another two-hour plane ride, and a short bus drive, we had finally made it to the tiny remote village of Jukkasjärvi. During our four-night stay, we spent three of them in small heated cabins that surrounded the Icehotel and only one actually inside of it. It may be surprising but I never got cold when I slept there, that is because I slept in sweats inside of a sub-zero sleeping bag on top of a bed covered in reindeer fur, which actually made for a toasty night’s sleep. During our stay we did some fun activities such as a snowmobile ride to see the Aurora Borealis (also know as the northern lights), went dog sledding into the arctic countryside, and tried making our own ice sculptures, which ended up being complete disasters. When we weren’t partaking in the organized activities we were indulging in Swedish cuisine—the meatballs really are delicious—and the adults were drinking heavily at the Absolut Icebar, one of the biggest attractions at the hotel. At the time I didn’t feel like I was missing out but now looking back on it through a “legal lens”, I am truly bummed I was not of drinking age.

The Absolut Vodka brand and production facilities are owned by the country of Sweden so it makes perfect sense that the Icehotel’s Icebar is sponsored by Absolut vodka. The popular alcohol brand is produced locally and recognized globally. Along with the worlds first Icehotel, the worlds first Icebar was also built in 1994. The Absolut Icebar offers an experience like none other. The room is kept at a chilling -5ºC (23ºF) and provides a unique drinking environment that can’t be found at the everyday pub. Just like the Icehotel, the Icebar takes on a unique design and theme every year. In celebration of the 25th anniversary the current year’s bar is called “BOOOM!” which features an ice explosion from an imaginary champagne bottle, “in wave-like cascades of bubbly”. Because the Icebar was such a big hit, the Absolut Icebar family has grown throughout the years. New locations have risen throughout Europe where you can now find them in Stockholm Sweden, London England, Milan Italy, and Copenhagen Denmark. To keep brand consistency, the same crystal clear ice from the Torne River that is used to build the Absolut Icebar in Jukkasjärvi is also used to build every other Absolut Icebar in the newer locations. Absolutely everything in the Icebar’s are made from ice: the artwork, the walls, the barstools, and even the shot glasses, literally giving a whole new meaning to “on the rocks”. The new and innovative bar concept has even spread beyond Europe and now ice bars are found around the world. Countries that have ice bars include Japan, China, South Africa, Australia, Canada, and if you don’t want to travel outside of the country, you can check out Minus5 Ice Bar in Las Vegas, IceBar Orlando, or the Frost Ice Bar in Boston.

Visiting an ice bar is something every drinker should do at least once in their lifetime. They offer an exciting atmosphere that literally brings you closer to the people around you, for warmth that is. Unfortunately when I was at the original Absolut Icebar I was only able to drink Swedish Lingonberry juice, which is why I plan on visiting another ice bar, probably much closer than the one I was previously at, as soon as possible so I can gain the full experience. I would highly recommend checking out an ice bar so you can experience what I believe to be the coolest and most unique drinking environment for yourself.

Thanks Nature Café: The World’s First Sheep Café

photo: http://seoulstateofmind.com/tag/thanks-nature-cafe-in-hongdae/

photo: http://seoulstateofmind.com/tag/thanks-nature-cafe-in-hongdae/

As a person who has been in desperate need for animal affection ever since leaving her dog behind at home to move to university, I am green with envy over Asia’s variety of animal cafés. These animal cafés are not simply pet friendly, where you can bring in your pet for socialization and a nice treat. These animal cafés come equipped with the animals, ready for some seriously cute petting time with a fee or purchase of any of the café’s goodies.

Woolies Elsa and Anna  from the shop's Fall/Winter 2014-2015 cycle. photo: https://www.facebook.com/TNcafe/

Woolies Elsa and Anna from Thanks Nature Cafe’s Fall/Winter 2014-2015 cycle.
photo: https://www.facebook.com/TNcafe/

The animal café phenomenon seemed to have stemmed from the growing popularity of cat cafés in Japan, which filled the void of many Japanese people who were not allowed pets in their small apartments. The trend then expanded (unsurprisingly) to dog cafés, which often put dogs up for adoption. Shop owners saw the gimmick as a good way to reel in customers who find peace and happiness in the company of the animals (like myself). Now, many other, rather unusual animals are being featured in cafés such as sheep.

Thanks Nature Cafe is one of the many cafés in Asia that uses an animal to stand out from other cafés in the area. It is one of the many animal cafés located in the Hongdae district in Seoul, South Korea, but the world’s first and only café where the customer can order their coffee and also receive the delightful company of two fluffy sheep opened in 2011 by Lee Kwang-Ho. CCTW News reported that Lee opened the café with the intention to “bring nature into South Korea’s busy and crowded capital city.”

Photo: https://www.facebook.com/TNcafe/

Photo: https://www.facebook.com/TNcafe/

When entering the café, a customer will see a cozy setup with sheep paintings hung up on the walls and all sorts of foliage to give off some sort of “nature” vibe. Further away into the shop is outdoor seating where the sheep reside in a wooden pen, where customers can come say hello or feed the sheep some hay. According to Ken Lum Lee, blogger of Seoul State of Mind, the owner often lets the sheep our of their pen twice every hour to roam around and interact with the customers.

Lee Kwang-Ho with a herd of sheep at the sheep ranch.  photo: https://www.facebook.com/TNcafe/

Lee Kwang-Ho with a herd of sheep at the sheep ranch.
photo: https://www.facebook.com/TNcafe/

The sheep are all taken care of by owner Lee, who personally cleans the sheep’s space and takes them out on walks to remain healthy. To ensure their health, the sheep do not stay in the shop forever. They only remain under the café’s roof during the cooler, winter and fall months due to their thick coats. According to Rocket News 24, Lee brings them back to the sheep ranch and brings a new pair of sheep to the café once fall comes along. Despite the lack of sheep during the warmer months, Thanks Nature Café continues to reel in customers. The Visit Korea website, hosted by the Korea Tourism Organization, explained that it was the café’s quality coffee beans from Terarosa (a famous café in Korea) and delicious food that help ensure the customer’s return.

Waffles and coffee at Thanks Nature Cafe photo: http://seoulstateofmind.com/tag/thanks-nature-cafe-in-hongdae/

Waffles and coffee at Thanks Nature Cafe
photo: http://seoulstateofmind.com/tag/thanks-nature-cafe-in-hongdae/

Jjimjilbangs: Exposing it All

I studied abroad in South Korea two summers ago and the experience was an unforgettable one. I ate amazing food that I still dream about to this day, I made friends from all around the world, but when my friends and family ask me what the most memorable part of that trip was, they’re always surprised to hear that it was my exhilarating experience at a public bathhouse, or jjimjilbang (찜질방).

Jjimjilbangs are very common all over Korea and have spas, showers, saunas, and one can even spend the night there for very cheap. They have gender separated bathing areas and a unisex communal heated resting area. And just so we’re clear, the bathhouse does not consist of individual showers with doors. No, it is an area with showerheads along the walls with people showering for all to see and different baths in the center of the room. I’ll walk you through my first time so that you can understand the process, and also be informed if you ever find yourself in this situation.

To be honest, I almost skipped out on this cultural experience once I found out that I’d be in the buff for all to see. The bathing areas are gender separated so I’d only be naked in front of other women, but still. I have insecurities about my body and to walk around completely exposed was a very uncomfortable thought. But because of my FOMO, I agreed to go even though I usually end up doing things I could’ve gone without. Luckily, this was an experience that I would have definitely regretted not doing, so FOMO wins this time.

When deciding who to go to the jjimjilbang with, I would recommend going with only one friend of the same gender. This way you aren’t overwhelmed with the fact that all of your friends now know how you look in your birthday suit. You will want one friend there though because you and your friend will be able to help wash each other’s backs, but we’ll get to that later.

When you first check into a jjimjilbang, they’ll give you a locker key and a set of clothes. Before you enter the locker room, you must take off your shoes. When you walk into the locker room, you’ll find your assigned locker, put the clothes they gave you in there, take off all your clothes, and store those as well. Things are about to get real uncomfortable from here on out. To look or not to look was the question on my mind. I didn’t know if I should avert my eyes or just pretend like everything was normal. I tried to do both and it was awkward at first but it got better as I noticed all the other women walking around naked with ease. To them this was normal but as a foreigner, I felt very uneasy but I tried to “fake it ‘til you make it.

My friend and I then walked into the bathing area. Like I said earlier, the bathing area has showers and baths. You should first take a shower before entering the baths to reduce contamination. The place I went to had different baths with different types of water and we tried all of them out. Some of these included a regular hot bath with nothing added to the water, a bath with a bag of herbal medicine, a natural hot spring outside, and a cold bath, which was nice in between the hot baths.

When I was able to sit in a bath submerged in water, I started to feel more comfortable about looking around. This was the part of the experience that stuck with me the most because upon looking around, I realized that everyone there had different bodies and no two bodies looked the same. That was the moment when I realized that I should accept my body for what it was because looking around the room of naked women, I didn’t see a standard of beauty. Everyone’s body parts were all different and they were all okay with it so why shouldn’t I be? Sitting there made me appreciate my body in a way that I had never appreciated it before.

Sorry, I got a bit sidetracked. Where were we? Oh! Once you’ve soaked your body in hot water long enough, you’re ready to shower again. This time, you’ll need a scrubbing cloth and a friend. You’ll scrub your body with the scrubbing cloth and be amazed and disgusted at the dead skin rolling off your body. If I told you how much dead skin was coming off, you wouldn’t believe me. And I shower everyday and use a loofah so I’m not a dirty person, I swear! My Korean friend told me that Japanese people visiting Korean jjimjilbangs would keep the big chunks of dead skin as a souvenir which is almost too bizarre so I’m not sure how true that is. My friend and I took turns scrubbing each other’s backs, which was awkward but better than paying a stranger to do it, which is an option. I felt so clean afterwards that I always tell people that I don’t think I’ve been cleaner since the day I was born.

Once you finish your shower, you’ll go put on the clothes they gave you and head out to the unisex communal heated resting area where people will just sit on the floor and hangout. This area has food for sale and some traditional foods to buy at a jjimjilbang are boiled eggs and an ice cold sweet rice drink called sikhye (식혜). They also have many rooms set at different temperatures to relax in. They range from ice cold to burning hot. We just went from room to room and sweated it out while relaxing. I remember thinking while we lied around in those rooms that I’ve never felt so mentally and physically relaxed in my life.

jjimjilbangclothes

Standard clothing all guest receive at a jjimjilbang

jjimjilbangsheephead

Jjimjilbang-goers love to turn their towels in “sheep heads”

jjimjilbangfood

Boiled eggs and sikhye purchased at a jjimjilbang

coldroom

The ice-cold room I liked to call “Antarctica”

hotroom

One of the hot rooms

rockroom

A therapeutic rock room

After about an hour of this we left for Korean BBQ and beer. That day is a day I’ll never forget. I took a huge step towards self-acceptance, went way outside my comfort zone, and experienced something completely foreign and unfamiliar to me. If you ever find yourself in Korea and feel hesitant about going to a jjimjilbang, do yourself a favor and do it. You’ll come out feeling like you’ve just cleansed your body and soul.

Oscar’s Pen Pal: The Foreign Language Category

The Oscar Statuette. Photo from thehollywoodreporter.com

The Oscar Statuette. Photo from thehollywoodreporter.com

The Academy Awards telecast is the biggest celebration of film in the United States, watched by millions of viewers every year. They celebrate the highest achievements in film of the year, but also shed light on little-seen productions that deserve wider recognition.

This year’s Best Picture race saw an interesting correlation between critical acclaim and box office returns. American Sniper grossed the total of every other nominee combined, raking in more than $300 million in domestic receipts. The Best Picture winner, Birdman, made about $26 million in thirteen weeks of release before being nominated for Best Picture. The film was screened in over 1,000 theaters for just one week: the week after the Oscars (American Sniper opened on over 3,500 screens).

Poster for Birdman. Photo from rogerebert.com

Poster for Birdman. Photo from rogerebert.com

Some of the movies with the smallest initial reach are the nominees for Best Foreign Language Film. The inclusion of this category gives exposure to foreign films that an American audience would have trouble accessing otherwise. In this year’s race, there were nominees from Poland, Russia, Estonia, Argentina, and Mauritania.

Poland’s submission, Ida, was the winner of this year’s race, and Ida also happens to be the single film in the category that I saw. It follows the story of Anna, a Jewish girl brought up in a Polish convent in the 1960s who explores life outside of the convent with her only living relative, her aunt. It’s a story of innocence and discovery that is balanced with the historical and political pressure of growing up in a post-Nazi era.

Poster for Ida. Photo from  screeningnotes.com

Poster for Ida. Photo from screeningnotes.com

Ida’s themes are also reflected in some of its production aspects. The film makes use of unconventional framing techniques to displace the focus of the scene and distance the viewer from the characters. This decision to move the camera and display more negative space reflects the thought that there is always background information that may go unseen, but definitely plays a role in the situation.

Another unique aspect of the production is that the director, Pawel Pawlikowski, had a very hard time finding an actress for the lead role. He decided to have his assistants observe people and look for someone that fit the part, and Agata Trzebuchowska, a student with no acting experience, was spotted in a café and won the part. The inexperience of the young actress, paired with very effective directing, lends to the early naivety of the lead character that is essential for her character development.

Despite some arguably restrictive regulations (countries are allowed to submit one entry to the academy. This means that one movie becomes the representative of each country), the foreign language category provides an outlet in which films like Ida can find their way to an international audience. It remains a small, but accessible portion of the academy exposure; Ida has grossed almost four million in domestic box office, but it is now available through streaming services.