Fast Cars, Fast Women: A Societal Analysis

by Josh Gershenson, April 18, 2021

(BMW Hellas)

The advertisement above showcases a young, attractive woman with the caption, “You know you’re not the first,” comparing a used car to the woman. After receiving criticism and backlash, the ad was pulled and never ran (Green). Immediately, the blatant objectification perpetrated by BMW Hellas (Greece) is identifiable, but there is much more at hand regarding the interpretation of the deeper, more complex meaning and long-term societal effects this form of rhetoric can impose.

To start, beauty is equated to promiscuity. Promoting this, especially in the sphere of consumerism and public availability, leads to an altered perception of women as enjoyment objects. Portraying a beautiful woman as always ready and willing completely neglects her choices in sexuality and tears down the fabric of consent in our society. The person depicted in this advertisement could be a virgin or completely celibate; just because she is considered pretty does not warrant judgment about what choices she makes with her sex life. This ad only reinforces the mentality that sexually violating women, both verbally and physically, is socially acceptable and encourages this same mentality in the younger generations.

The objectification and mentality of using women like a car exposes the consumerism in this country and how its grasps have fallen over even the usage and discarding of women. As a society, our perception of fast purchases has become synonymous with our sexism. This unveils the detrimental effects our economic system has on other issues – a comorbidity which can be seen in multiple other social problems we face in the Western world, such as relentless classism and its strong ties to racism.

The majority of women viewing this ad, however, would most likely be repulsed by its imagery and would not be enticed to buy a BMW. So, how could this ad have gotten past BMW’s review board if it polarized half of the audience from buying their products? This would be a counterintuitive move for a company that appeals both men and women— and that’s the catch: I don’t think it does. It seems that BMW made this decision based on the notion that only men would buy their cars, and the opinions of women was irrelevant in terms of sales. Pushing this concept even deeper, it may be that BMW doesn’t even consider the majority of women as potential buyers. Even now, in 21st century America and Europe, the effects of a male dominant society can be seen in ads like this. The mentality that women would never buy a car without their husbands’ permission still taints even the largest, most successful manufacturers to the core.


Works Cited

BMW Hellas. You know you’re not the first. BMW, 2008, retrieved 7 April 2021 from i.insider.com/51545499ecad04b50f00000f.

Green, Dominic. “The 10 Sleaziest Ads of The Century.” Business Insider, 30 Mar. 2013, www.businessinsider.com/sleaziest-car-ads-of-the-21st-century-2013-3.

The Hate We Give: A Defense of the Misguided

by Hassaan Qaiser, April 17, 2021

Trumps’ presidency has finally come to an end. As we look forward to the new policies Biden will introduce in 2021, it’s important to reflect on the state of the country as it is. Trump was very open during his term and never held back on his beliefs. Ever since the capital attack on January 6th, the hate for Trump supporters has only grown and enraged other liberal-leaning parties. However, it’s important to answer the question as to whether or not the hate some of these Trump supporters receive is justified?

In 2016, Trump had just under 63 million votes (“2016 Election Results”). While in 2020, he had increased his voter base to  over 74 million (Lindsay). Thirteen million more people had decided that Trump was worth their vote and should continue his presidency into a second term, but were these people always conservative? Conservative groups have been on the rise ever since 2016, and more people find themselves lost in conspiracy theories (Page). Groups such as QAnon continue to mislead countless Americans as to what liberals and the Democratic Party actually do.

There have been many stories about family members reading articles online, becoming infatuated with and lost in conspiracy theories. When they try to reach out to their family members, they are ultimately cast out, because what they believe is unrealistic. An uncle, a distant cousin, a grandmother can fall victim to many of these ideas and find themselves voting for Trump based on the “legitimate” articles they read. Ultimately, I believe that many Trump supporters are just unsatisfied with the position that their life is in. These conspiracy theory blogs and articles give hope to people struggling with their lives that they matter and they have a greater purpose. This is especially prevalent among Trump supporters because they are very passionate about their beliefs. Despite this, these people have only been inspired with false passion because they want to believe they can actually control something in their lives. It’s almost a form of acceptable brainwashing.

Asides from the shame and humility, the people exposed to these groups are in greater danger than they think. The first step to getting indoctrinated into these ideas is social media, but eventually they evolve into protests. It won’t be surprising if these misguided Americans get together to host another capital attack for the sake of another conspiracy posted online. The worst case for these supporters is when they encounter something they cannot get back from, as is the case of Rosanne Boyland, a Trump supporter in the capitol riots that was trampled to death. Many liberal-leaning parties are quick to make jokes about the sign “Don’t Tread On Me” she was carrying, while the conservatives hold her up as a martyr, but that’s not who she was (“Woman Trampled in Capitol Riots Had ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ Flag”). Ms. Boyland was a wife, a sister in law, a daughter, and a sibling. Her family “begged her not to go”, but the conspiracy she found online was enough to grip her soul (Thanawala). What she thought was right, was merely misinformation: an idea that she needed to hear to make sense of the world. As the new generation of parents, teachers, and academics, we need to make sure people like Ms.Boyland are not alone, spending time with them, making sure they don’t find themselves looking for meaning on the dark corners of the internet. If we don’t, it’s only a matter of time before they fall even deeper into the sea of lies.


Works Cited

“2016 Election Results: President Live Map by State, Real-Time Voting Updates.” Election Hub, POLITICO, 13 Dec. 2016, 1:57 PM, www.politico.com/2016-election/results/map/president/.

Lindsay, James M. “The 2020 Election by the Numbers.” Council on Foreign Relations, 15 Dec. 2020, 5:00 PM, www.cfr.org/blog/2020-election-numbers.

Page, Clarence. “Column: The Rise of QAnon Isn’t Surprising. Americans Have Long Been Sucked into Conspiracy Theories.” Chicago Tribune, 20 Oct. 2020, www.chicagotribune.com/columns/clarence-page/ct-column-qanon-trump-pizzagate-page-20201020-vsthh5uotfdyno2x44t5otvvgq-story.html.

Thanawala, Sudhin, et al. “Rosanne Boyland, Trump Supporter Who Died, Followed QAnon Conspiracy, Family Says.” USA Today, 13 Jan. 2021, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/01/09/rosanne-boyland-trump-supporter-who-died-followed-qanon-family/6608289002/.

“Woman Trampled in Capitol Riots Had ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ Flag.” Opera News, www.dailyadvent.com/news/08e870a26375c58cdebe405a58e917d5-Woman-trampled-in-Capitol-riots-had-dont-tread-on-me-flag.

An analysis of racial paradigms and ethnic projects in America

by Sanjana Sankaran, April 14, 2021 

Vilna Bashi-Treitler, The Ethnic Project: Transforming Racial Fiction into Ethnic Factions

Bashi-Treitler begins chapter three by answering the question, “How are ethnic groups racialized in the United States?” (Bashi-Treitler 2013: 44). She begins by discussing the three major racial paradigms that came about, starting in Europe and later in North America. The first racial paradigm started in England with the Irish. The first English colonization occurred in Ireland. The English despised their pastoral culture, viewed them as heathens, and instilled several discriminatory laws such as marriage bans, and enslavement. This racialized thinking was built on preexisting ideas of hierarchy and classism based on the feudal system of medieval times (Bashi-Treitler 2013). After the English began settlements in America, the second racial paradigm was developed: Native Americans. The odious views of the Irish were then reflected onto Native Americans. What started as Native Americans helping English settlers survive eventually led to the ill-treatment of indigenous people, stealing of lands, and genocide by the English due to racialized thinking. After the development of colonies, African Americans became the third racial paradigm (Bashi-Treitler 2013). 

Up until this point, race was a mere social experiment, but it was only when American colonists brought African American slaves to the New World did this experiment transform into a reality. African Americans now became the new basis, and still are to this day, of the racial hierarchy. Bashi-Trietler states that slaves were not slaves because they were black, but rather they became black after they became slaves. Elite white colonizers used racialized thinking to rationalize their desire for land, riches, and cheap labor. In the late 1600s to 1700s elite whites colonizers, in an attempt to subdue claims to power and land from Native Americans, ethnic whites such as Italians and Irish were now considered white in the racial hierarchy. With their status changed, the Irish and Italians would no longer try to protest against British colonizers with natives. While these groups may have still been discriminated against, in the context of the racial hierarchy, being closer to the top is always better than being on the bottom.  In the past, religious conversions could move ethnic people up in the hierarchy, but this could no longer be used to stop racial inequality and the mechanisms of racial politiculture (Bashi-Treitler 2013). From now on, one was either born white or was considered not white at all. Bashi-Treitlet then states that “When ‘white’ is fully formed as the category at the hierarchy’s topmost position, race is systematic, paradigmatic, and unmistakably North American” (Bashi-Treitler 2013: 52). 

At this point, Bashi-Treitler has established that Race and the rules that come with this construct are completely fictional, but they are still able to persist. She states the reason for this is due to the “systematic and societal support for the structure (or paradigm) of racial/racist thought” (Bashi-Treitler 2013: 59). One of the roots for the persistence of racism was internalized shame for those who accepted their higher status and shame associated with those who went against this racial thinking. There were not enough white allies who chose to stand up against this racial hegemony. As other ethnic groups began to assimilate into white culture, they still faced racial slurs and racial bias. She ends by saying that systemic racism persists not only because of the white group, but also due to the competition amongst all groups in this racial hierarchy. Any BIPOC group aims to stay away from the bottom of the racial hierarchy and be higher than other groups. In order to do this, groups that are not literally white have to find methods to assimilate such as ignoring key cultural aspects of their lives and adopting aspects of white culture, thus acknowledging white dominance. Bashi-Treitler states that all ethnic groups have feelings of superiority, differences from other groups, privilege, and fear of loss of their position in the hierarchy (Bashi-Treitler 2013). If this is recognized amongst all groups the problems of systemic racism can begin to get addressed.   

Many parts of this reading stood out to me, for instance, when Bashi-Treitler states that blackness was developed as a result of slavery. In my history classes, I have always been taught that that Americans and Western Europeans brought African Americans as slaves due to their black skin. However, we had never discussed the true motivations for slavery and how that brand of slavery evolved into anti-black rhetoric. At first, I found it a bit confusing due to my preexisting knowledge of slavery, but now I agree with Bashi-Treitler and understand that blackness was an idea that was created for labor and land. The racialized thinking of how we view blacks now came from the idea that we view them as the bottom of the hierarchy, expendable, and unworthy. 

Another aspect that I found interesting is when Bashi-Treitler states that all groups take part in the racialized hierarchy and each group vyes to be at the top. Before taking Racism and Ethnic Relations, I had naively believed that only white people can be racist and that the problems of systemic racism are rooted in the racialized mindset of white lawmakers. I now see that it is much larger than that. Not only can anyone have racist thinking, but anyone can feel this way to avoid the severe discrimination and societal disapproval that people at the bottom of the hierarchy face. When thinking about my own life, I know several Indians who are pro-Trump and anti-BLM because they feel that the social standing of black people is black people’s fault, In the process, Indians fall prey to the ideas of racial hegemony to avoid discrimination. However, what they do not realize is that Bashi-Treitler was right when she said that “Whiteness is a club you cannot marry into or join through naturalization; whiteness can only be bestowed. In the racialized United States of America, whiteness is the only attribute that really counts” (Bashi-Treitler 2013: 54). 

When trying to understand the racist ideologies of white supremacists and those of other cultures, I can now understand what Bashi-Treitler meant when she stated that whiteness is kept up because of shame. Whenever we hear the arguments of Trump supporters, for instance, they always say that society has become too politically correct. These people grew up believing that associating with BIPOC people and believing in ideas of equality brought about shame to them and their community. They may have also felt internalized shame because a majority of the population are not white supremacists. When Trump rose to power, this man, normalized open acts of racism, exposing the racialized mindset that was already present. 

Cover Page (Bashi-Treitler 2013)

References

Bashi, Treitler, Vilna. The Ethnic Project: Transforming Racial Fiction into Ethnic Factions, Stanford University Press, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/sunysb-ebooks/detail.action?docID=1324242.

Gentrification: A Call For Reform or a Negative Acceptance?

by Iqra Ishrat, April 9, 2021

According to experts from Brookings Institute, gentrification is “the process of neighborhood change that results in the replacement of lower income residents with higher income ones” (Kennedy & Leonard, 2001), and has existed in United States urban centers since the 1970s (Fox, 2013). Since then, it has been changing communities, populations, developments, and professional opportunities in cities. According to statistics presented by population researcher Mark R. Montgomery, “During the period 2000-2024, the world’s total population is projected to grow by 1.76 billion persons, with some 86% of this growth expected to take place in the cities and towns…” (Montgomery, 2008). With populations increasing and more people moving into cities, some claim that gentrification can lead to health improvements, better education, lower crime rates, and more refined neighborhoods. However, it also leads to displacement of people, higher rent-prices, and animosity between inhabitants. These consequences and setbacks raise a question: do the benefits of gentrification outweigh the toll put onto original residents in the United States? Considering economic and political lenses along with perspectives of old residents, new wealthier inhabitants, researchers, and other community members in cities, gentrification is necessary for cities to develop and improve.

A major economic problem of gentrification is the cost of rent, which is increasing for former residents. Data from the US Census shows that in 1990, the median value of owner-occupied housing in central cities was 127,589 dollars and later in 2010 jumped to 184,839 dollars (Ellen, Horn, & Reed, 2017). That is a major price change of 57,250 dollars; many old residents are unable to pay for new, expensive housing, forcing them to leave. Along with increasing prices for housing in gentrifying cities, rent has also increased throughout the United States from 2000 to 2016. US Census data gathered by the Institute for Policy & Social Research shows that in states with many gentrifying cities like New York or Connecticut, the rent prices nearly doubled to over a thousand dollars per month (Institute for Policy & Social Research, 2018). Clearly, with such high changes in rent price, old residents do not have the wealth to afford increasing rent or house costs, forcing tenants to leave their cities.

Many old residents are angered with the inflating prices of housing. Since the prices keep increasing, people are being displaced from their communities. In other words, people are forced to move out to different neighborhoods since they cannot afford the current costs of living. Viewing the perspective of these old residents, they complain of the rent price rise due to gentrification. In an online newspaper entitled The Guardian, author Franseca Perry mentioned the opinion of a homeowner in Silicon Valley, “My entire family has left over the years to more affordable places for the working class… People are casually displaced every day and $1,000 a month rent hikes are not uncommon” (Perry, 2016). This view indicates that not all individuals can cope with economic changes occurring in gentrifying cities.

As the cost of living in cities is increasing, so are the cities’ tax revenues since homes have more value and wealthier inhabitants are moving in. Although this may promote displacement of the poor, it has many benefits that are necessary for cities. According to experts Maureen Kennedy and Paul Leonard (2001) from Brookings Institute, with the tax revenue increasing and more affluent individuals present, a city can spend more money to make itself vibrant, poverty rates can be decentralized, and commercial activity can be promoted. Thus, with more money, services can be added to revitalize the dull cities, and the old streets and broken-down residence cities can be cleaned and replaced with much needed improved housing. At the same time, new residents moving in can bring new customers to old businesses using their purchasing power and can also promote the development of new businesses, benefiting the economy. Overall, the better economy and increased number of wealthy occupants leads to decentralized poverty rates. According to the perspective of a community director in Cleveland, “I know it’s not politically correct, but with an average poverty rate of 42 percent, what my target neighborhoods need is a little gentrification” (Kennedy & Leonard, 2001). Although many old inhabitants in cities are displaced through gentrification, it will lead to much needed prosperity in neighborhoods and contribute to a more stabilized economy.

Additionally, while many residents have been displaced through the process of gentrification, studies found that the displacement may have been beneficial, to promote economics as mentioned previously, but also helpful to those that were forced to leave. In a large survey of five cities addressed by Professor of Economics Stephen Sheppard at Williams College, “displaced residents did not live in worse conditions following their moves. The majority of the displaced reported increased levels of satisfaction with their home and neighborhood and commute times were more likely to decrease after the move” (Sheppard, 2012). In other words, even though people couldn’t afford to live in their old neighborhoods, they are being moved to cities with better conditions where they can live their lives. Because of wealthier inhabitants, cities will have the benefit of a stronger economy; at the same time, old residents who cannot continue to afford the lifestyle get to live more comfortably when they move out to a new neighborhood.

Nevertheless, with changes occurring in cities through gentrification, animosity between residents is bound to occur. Specifically, the old residents are unhappy with the new wealthier individuals moving in. According to Elizabeth M. Kirkland who has a Juris Doctor degree and has focused on systemic racism at the Race Relations Institute of Fisk University, “the pre-gentrified neighborhood is inhabited mostly by African Americans or other people of color, and the in-movers are typically white” (Kirkland, 2008). Often, old residents of a certain ethnicity are unhappy with new groups moving in since they feel that their hometowns are being breached by people that will steal their city. Social Researchers Victoria F. Burns, Jean-Pierre Lavoie, and Damaris Rose interviewed elderly people in gentrifying cities on their thoughts of new individuals moving in. One interviewee, an 85-year-old woman, stated, “We ask ourselves where we are. I don’t like it. They are invading us…they are going to take everything from us… all the businesses; it’s them who are running them” (Burns, Lavoie, & Rose, 2012). Hence, it is important to note that community changes are not compensated within enlivening cities.

View of American poet Richard Blanco is similar to those unhappy with changes in the community due to gentrification. In his poem, “Looking for The Gulf Motel”, Blanco describes the changes that took place to his old neighborhood in Marco Island, Florida, and he wishes it was still the same as then:

“I am thirty-eight, driving up Collier Boulevard, looking for The Gulf Motel, for everything that should still be, but isn’t. I want to blame the condos, their shadows for ruining the beach and my past, I want to chase the snowbirds away with their tacky mansions and yachts, I want to turn the golf courses back into mangroves, I want to find The Gulf Motel exactly as it was and pretend for a moment, nothing lost is lost.” (Blanco, 2012)

In his poem, Blanco does not appreciate how everything that once was is gone. All the old buildings, scenes, and history important to him in Marco Island are gone; resembling the theme of change that is present in gentrification. This shows that not all will appreciate the changes done through revitalization of a city, comparable to the woman quoted earlier believing her community was invaded.

However, gentrification can decrease integration, or, race-based segregation in schools. Overall, with different-raced inhabitants moving in, gentrification leads to more diverse populations in schools. Professor of Law and co-founder of Perception Institute which focuses on researching social problems and creating solutions based on the research, Rachel D. Godsil wrote a paper on segregation in schools and how gentrification can help. In her paper, she states, “Diversity has been shown to play a critical role in spurring innovation and rigorous thinking” (Godsil, 2019). Simply, gentrification leads to interaction between diverse peoples, which ultimately encourages stronger thoughts and better relationships in schools. Also, schools can provide better education since they will have better funding due to increased tax revenue from wealthier inhabitants. With this money, supplies such as student recourses and/or technology can be added to a school district. So, with gentrification of cities comes the benefit of a better education due to greater diversity and increased funding. While this may not solve the problem of preserving communities and their history, it can ease tensions and lead to a brighter and more cooperative neighborhood.

When cities are re-developed through gentrification, health norms can be increased. Health conditions are typically bad in pre-gentrified cities due to low city budgets not being able to afford adequate standards. As stated by researchers Joseph Gibbons, Michael Barton, and Elizabeth Brault from the Department of Sociology in San Diego State University (2018), low income communities lack healthy food options, quality healthcare, and park space. Additionally, due to poverty in the cities, there are environmental factors that weaken residents’ health; physical examples such as living in broken and cramped homes, and social examples being the witnessing of depressed, drunk individuals on the streets (Gibbons, Barton, & Brault, 2018). Therefore, when communities described as such go through gentrification, improved healthcare is available, along with the availability of leisurely activities like community parks, overall helping to improve the health standards.

Along with better health for a community, crime rate can also decrease. Specifically, personal and violent crime rates tend to decrease in gentrifying cities. The United States Bureau of Justice Statistics defines personal crimes as “Rape, sexual assault, personal robbery, assault, purse snatching, and pocket picking” (Bureau of Justice Statistics, n.d.). Basically, it is any crime that may harm an individual. In a large study done that analyzed fourteen gentrifying neighborhoods by researcher Scott C. McDonald, it was found that as new wealthier inhabitants were moving in while cities were being changed, personal crimes overall decreased (McDonald, 1986). Recent statistics provided by the US Census also highlight the same results as McDonalds’ research. According to the data, in 1988 there were 13.5 violent crimes occurring per 1,000 population; but later in 2008, dropped down to a mean of only 8.9 violent crimes in the same population (Ellen, Horn, & Reed, 2017). This indicates that crime is reduced overall through gentrification and cities in the United States become safer.

Unfortunately, the uncontrolled gentrification process may not be able to maintain cities the way older residents prefer, but many positive and necessary changes in health, economics, safety, education, and revitalization occur to improve cities. However, improvements can be made to the gentrification process so that it doesn’t harm old residents of the cities as much. Currently, methods are used to ease gentrification and to keep the number of people being displaced low. Some methods mentioned by Kennedy and Leonard are, “tax abatements, housing trust funds, job linkage efforts, linkage fee programs, rent control, and so on” (Kennedy & Leonard, 2001). These methods allow more individuals to cope with economic changes occurring and they increase the number of old residents able to remain in cities. The goal is to achieve “equitable development”, described by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as “an approach for meeting the needs of underserved communities… It is increasingly considered an effective place-based action for creating strong and livable communities” (United States Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.). In other words, it was an attempt to make things fairer to old residents in gentrifying cities and to mitigate the detriments in the gentrification process overall.

First, it would be necessary to strengthen the relationships of community members so that they can devise a plan together. Cooperation would be important between different groups and communities within a city. “Strategies can and should be supported, implemented and funded by regional, city, private sector, non-profit sector and philanthropic interests” (Kennedy & Leonard, 2001). All these different groups coming together would be important to a city because they can help directly influence the outcome of the gentrification process. Through the various studies Godsil analyzed in her paper, she claims, “Studies have found a link between the quality of the informal interactions with diverse peers and analytical problem-solving and complex thinking skills (Godsil, 2019). If there is unity, diversity, and problem solving, different groups sharing their ideas would be highly effective.

Second, it would be required that all groups taking part have a common goal and view in mind. All people would need to know exactly what the purpose is for the city and how it is planned to achieve that goal. According to Kennedy and Leonard, working towards a common goal is not only beneficial since it creates a sense of trust, but it also allows for securing of land and homes for people through the communication of public and private sector leaders (Kennedy & Leonard, 2001).

Finally, once there is a common goal, work needs to be done to implement the desirable changes. This means policies may need to adjust, home development plans must go into effect, negotiations between leaders should occur, and overall taxes must be used effectively. If the entire process of gentrification occurs in this way, there will be far less drawbacks to it. Through this entire process, the necessity of gentrification will be revealed since it may bring positive changes to neighborhoods, bringing far more benefits than drawbacks through a much-needed stronger economy, better health conditions, lower crime rates, improved education, and most importantly, a united community.


References

Blanco, R. (2012). Looking for the gulf motel. In R. Blanco (Author), Pitt Poetry Series: Looking for the Gulf Motel (pp. 1-3). Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. (Original work published 2012)

Burns, V. F., Lavoie, J. P., & Rose, D. (2011). Revisiting the role of neighbourhood change in social exclusion and inclusion of older people. Journal of aging research, 2012, https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/148287

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (n.d.). Terms & definitions: Crime type. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from Bureau of Justice Statistics website: https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tdtp&tid=3

Ellen, I. G., Horn, K. M., & Reed, D. (2017, March 1). Has falling crime invited gentrification? Retrieved from Social Science Research Network database. (Accession No. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2930242)

Fox, J. C. (2013). Urban Renewal. In K. L. Lerner, B. W. Lerner, & S. Benson (Eds.), Human Geography: People and the Environment (Vol. 2, pp. 653-656). Detroit, MI: Gale. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX2062300256/SUIC?u=nysl_li_valleysc&sid=SUIC&xid=a418b775

Gibbons, J., Barton, M., & Brault, E. (2018). Evaluating gentrification’s relation to neighborhood and city health. PLoS ONE, 13(11), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0207432

Godsil, R. D. (2019). Rigor and Relationships: The Positive Case for Integration in Schools and Neighborhoods. Cardozo Law Review, 40(3), 1287–1326. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=135181365&site=ehost-live

Institute for Policy & Social Research. (2018). Kansas statistical abstract 2017 (52nd ed.). Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1808/27662

Kennedy, M., & Leonard, P. (2001). Dealing with neighborhood change: A primer on gentrification and policy choices. Brookings Institution, 5. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/dealing-with-neighborhood-change-a-primer-on-gentrification-and-policy-choices/

Kirkland, E. (2008). What’s race got to do with it? Looking for the racial dimensions of gentrification. The Western Journal of Black Studies, 32(2), 18+. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A196534328/SUIC?u=nysl_li_valleysc&sid=SUIC&xid=0fa6f5b6

McDonald, S. (1986). Does Gentrification Affect Crime Rates? Crime and Justice, 8, 163-201. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1147427

Montgomery, M. R. (2008). The urban transformation of the developing world. Science, 319(5864), 761-764. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1153012

Perry, F. (2016, October 5). ‘We are building our way to hell’: Tales of gentrification around the world. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/oct/05/building-way-to-hell-readers-tales-gentrification-around-world

Sheppard, S. (2012). Why is gentrification a problem? [PDF]. Center for Creative Community Development. Retrieved from http://web.williams.edu/Economics/ArtsEcon/library/pdfs/WhyIsGentrificationAProbREFORM.pdf

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Equitable development and environmental justice. Retrieved March 26, 2019, from United States Environmental Protection Agency website: https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/equitable-development-and-environmental-justice

The Impact of Gender Discrimination in the Workplace on Women’s Mental Health

by Farah Hasan, April 3, 2021

Perhaps the most defining moment of the Women’s Rights Movement to date was the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 following the valiant efforts of those who spearheaded the project, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and those who fearlessly backed the movement as a novel mark of progressivism. This momentous occasion is regarded as the single largest extension of democratic enfranchisement in the history of the United States (“The woman suffrage movement”). Despite such enormous strides having been accomplished for the advancement of women in a society where men had always dominated the government, the economy, the workforce, etc., women are far from seeing gender equality in the United States. Although the right to enfranchisement has contributed to the virtual elimination of overt prejudice, implicit bias against women still pervades. Evidence of such implicit bias is seen in numerous places including pop culture, educational institutions, and the workplace. Particularly in the workplace, despite making gains in the labor force participation rate over the last several decades, women working in male-dominated fields have significantly different experiences at work than their counterparts in fields with more female representation (Parker, 2018). Gender discrimination stands as an impediment to many women’s success in their professional and occupational lives, and often deters them from seeking promotions/leadership. Thus, perceived gender discrimination in the workplace has profound negative effects on women’s mental health regarding clinical depression and anxiety, especially in comparison to men’s mental health when faced with the adverse stimuli of gender-based prejudice. 

Gender discrimination in the workforce manifests itself in various forms and is thus perceived in varying extents of severity. One of the most pronounced forms of gender discrimination is the wage gap between men and women, with women earning about 80% of every dollar that a man makes for the same or similar job. Particularly in male-dominated fields, a toxic workplace culture is developed in which job performance and commitment are measured solely by the number of hours dedicated to work, the number of weekend shifts taken, etc. This takes away any hope for having flexible hours, which many women need in order to balance family commitments (as women are often primarily charged with keeping up with familial responsibilities). Consequently, many women are unjustly perceived to be lazy, not dedicated, and not committed to their job role. The lack of female role models in senior roles and leadership positions is also quite disheartening when it comes to female empowerment and promotion. Without figureheads for reference, women are more likely to undervalue themselves, be modest in talking about their accomplishments, and forgo opportunities to seek promotions (Agarwal, 2018). Women with a bachelor’s degree or higher report experiencing higher levels of workplace discrimination than women with lower levels of education. 57% of employed women with postgraduate degrees report experiencing some form of gender discrimination, compared to 40% of working women with a bachelor’s degree and 39% of women who did not complete college (Parker & Funk, 2017). Similar trends are seen when it comes to receiving support from senior leaders, being passed over for promotions, feeling isolated at work, and being paid less than their male counterparts. 30% of women with family incomes of over $100,000 say they’ve been paid less than a man doing comparable work, compared to 21% of women with lower incomes (Parker & Funk, 2017). Regarding the workplace environment, women employed in majority-male workplaces are more likely to see their gender as a limiting factor to their professional advancement, are less likely to report fair treatment in personnel matters, and experience more gender discrimination. 49% of women working in male-majority workplaces report sexual harassment as a problem in their workspace, compared to 32% of women who say the same about female-majority workplaces. Lastly, only 49% of women in male-dominated workplaces report that their workplace is putting enough effort into increasing workplace diversity, compared to 78% of women working in places with an even gender mix and 71% of women working in female-dominated places (Parker, 2018). 

The manifestation of gender discrimination and implicit bias against women in different forms and at so many different levels often translates into adverse consequences on women’s mental health. In a study titled “Perceived discrimination and health: A meta-analytic review,” Pascoe and Richman defined gender discrimination as a “behavioral manifestation of a negative attitude, judgment, or unfair treatment toward members of a group” and included studies that discussed poor service and treatment of women in public situations, derogatory comments, and harassment (Pascoe & Richman, 2009). It was found that perceived discrimination plays a role in increasing the incidence of depression, psychological distress, and anxiety. Experiencing discrimination on a regular basis causes more frequent activation of the body’s natural stress response, resulting in a perpetual negative mood state. Chronic stress and discrimination may also diminish one’s level of self-control, leading to increased use of and reliance on smoking, alcohol, and other substances to relieve the negative mood state. This may also decrease engagement in healthy habits, such as cancer screening and diabetes management (Pascoe & Richman, 2009). Risk of depression, in particular, is increased by stressful life events such as the loss of a loved one, a chronic disability/illness, or a business failure. Rejection, social exclusion, and embarrassment/humiliation also contribute to increased risk of depression. Gender discrimination in the workplace increases the odds that women will develop depression, regardless of the type of discrimination faced, whether it be regarding hiring, promotion, assignment of job-related tasks, wages, and firing. Women under 40 years old are particularly susceptible to developing depressive symptoms due to workplace gender discrimination compared to women over 40, adjusting for socio-demographic factors (Kim et al., 2020). 

While gender discrimination often puts women at a disadvantage, it is important to recognize that men could also be subject to such discrimination in the workplace. Due to the salience of historical instances of gender-based discrimination impeding women’s social advancement, most empirical research has focused exclusively on the impact of gender discrimination on women. This may be due to the fact that women have been entering male-majority fields at accelerating rates over the past several decades, but men’s entry into female-dominated fields has been largely stagnant. Regardless, research into gender discrimination may also apply to men entering female-dominated fields. Francesca Manzi of the Department of Psychology at New York University reviewed congruity models of gender discrimination (CMDs) to determine if men in female-majority fields face the same challenges as women in male-majority domains. It is important to note that while it is possible for men to be subject to gender discrimination, they may not be perceived as victims because they do not belong to a group that is commonly discriminated against, and discrimination of an “upper-class group” by a “lower-class group” (in this case, women discriminating against men) is usually not perceived as such. Female-majority occupations are often devalued and perceived to require less skill and intelligence, and thus do not come with significant status or monetary rewards, so exclusion from these occupations on the basis of gender is not seen as socially or economically hindering, and thus is not seen as discrimination. A potential source of stress, however, could be the incongruity of gender identity and occupation. Men may feel increased rates of depression and anxiety after perceiving a conflict between their gender and their job, which may lead to lower job satisfaction, dedication, and commitment. This is largely tied to the stereotype threat that comes from gender norms, where men’s quality of performance in female-dominated jobs is impaired when their gender is made salient (the stereotype threat also affects women in  male-dominated jobs). Conversely, it has previously been reported that men do not face gender discrimination in female-oriented jobs and actually experience facilitated upward mobility on the organizational ladder due to their gender (gender-based male advantage in female-dominated jobs is known as the “glass escalator” phenomenon). Unlike in the case of women being seen as incompetent in a “man’s” field, a man’s gender is seen to be a positive attribute that he brings to an otherwise female-dominated field, and thus the male stereotype works in his favor. Ultimately, this suggests that men have the advantage over women, even in female-dominated professions. Accordingly, men report receiving workplace support and report low levels of workplace inequality and/or mistreatment. Compared to the anti-female sentiment in male-dominated jobs, the anti-male sentiment in female-dominated jobs is insignificant (Manzi, 2019). 

The existing literature shows that both men and women can experience gender discrimination in the workplace. Due to the relative recency of the Women’s Rights Movement, the #Metoo movement, etc. women still have a long way to go in terms of equality and unfortunately bear the brunt of workplace gender discrimination. Women are subject to lower wages, fewer promotional opportunities, workplace isolation, sexual harassment, etc. On the other hand, it is important to recognize the barriers that men may face upon entry to female-majority professions, although further research must be done on this topic. Men face challenges associated with workplace gender discrimination, but on a much smaller scale than women, as they are less likely to report lower wages, be regarded as incompetent due to gender, receive less support from senior leaders, and be passed over for important assignments (Parker & Funk, 2017). Regardless, both men and women may experience some extent of psychological distress, depression, and negative mood state as a result of gender discrimination and/or incongruity between gender and occupation. Most men (67%) and women (68%) report that their gender has not played any role in hindering their professional success, but some workers are still experiencing the challenges of gender-based prejudice (Parker & Funk, 2017). Actions can be taken to counteract implicit bias and gender discrimination by encouraging diversity in workplaces (especially in occupations that are either male- or female-dominated) and normalizing the presence of other gender(s), allowing flexibility in work schedules, promoting female leaders, having strict disciplinary policies against sexual harassment, enforcing equal pay laws, and researching occupational barriers impeding men. Eliminating workplace gender discrimination may be a slow process, but with time, dedication, and sincere activism, it is an immense stride toward achieving true gender equality in America. 


References

Agarwal, P. (2018, August 31). How you can encourage more women into your workforce. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/pragyaagarwaleurope/2018/08/31/how-you-can-encourage-more-women-into-your-workforce/

Kim, G., Kim, J., Lee, S.-K., Sim, J., Kim, Y., Yun, B.-Y., & Yoon, J.-H. (2020). Multidimensional gender discrimination in workplace and depressive symptoms. PloS One, 15(7), e0234415.

Manzi, F. (2019). Are the processes underlying discrimination the same for women and men? A critical review of congruity models of gender discrimination. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00469

Parker, K. (2018, March 7). Women in majority-male workplaces report higher rates of gender discrimination. Retrieved August 2, 2020, from Pewresearch.org website: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/07/women-in-majority-male-workplaces-report-higher-rates-of-gender-discrimination/

Parker, K., & Funk, C. (2017, December 14). Gender discrimination comes in many forms for today’s working women. Retrieved August 2, 2020, from Pewresearch.org website: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/12/14/gender-discrimination-comes-in-many-forms-for-todays-working-women/

Pascoe, E. A., & Smart Richman, L. (2009). Perceived discrimination and health: a meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 135(4), 531–554.

The woman suffrage movement. (n.d.). Retrieved July 31, 2020, from Womenshistory.org website: https://www.womenshistory.org/resources/general/woman-suffrage-movement

Zoom Is Not A Dating App

by Zarya Shaikh, March 31, 2021

I turn on my camera and answer questions in the chat during office hours and lectures. I welcome private messages (PMs) when someone misses a key point our professor made. After all, as a pre-med student, it is my job to have color-coded notes on everything. I sometimes joke and socialize in breakout rooms to get to know who I am working with. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for someone to perceive my well-intentioned, friendly but professional, actions as flirty or feisty. In Spring 2020, one professor compared me to his ex-girlfriend when I asked about the status of a pending grade. I laughed it off as a joke and rephrased my original question. 

On the last day of classes in the Fall 2020 semester, I was attending classes via Zoom while grocery shopping. A classmate I had not spoken with before PM’d me during our final lecture, wishing me luck on my finals. I wished him well, too. He sent another PM, but I lost wi-fi. I finished grocery shopping and re-joined the lecture once my internet connection returned. I continued the conversation: 

I had received a wink from three other individuals without any prompting by that point in the semester, and I was not sure what to make of it. It reminded me of my classmate *Peter who would PM me at the start of the semester. He would comment on the content we were currently reviewing in the ongoing lecture and then ask for my social media in the same conversation. After answering his lecture-based questions, I would politely try ending the conversation by noting I do not use social media, and it was time for me to focus on the lecture (see screenshot below). He persisted in the following three Zoom lectures, and I was exhausted. I caved and gave him my Snapchat username. I never added Peter back, and he stopped asking. 

I was stunned by how committed Peter was considering I had expressed I was not interested in different ways on several occasions. He could see from my video feed how uncomfortable I was whenever he messaged me. It felt like Peter was in my room with me. He would know I chose not to respond to his message the next time I sent a general chat during lecture. So, I responded out of obligation and did not know if I was overreacting. I was used to second-guessing myself and questioned why I did not simply turn off my camera. 

In person during Fall 2019, I had developed a habit equivalent to turning off my camera. My two male classmates, *Imran and *Rahul, heckled me from the back of our Frey lecture hall. “Zarya beti!” (daughter in Urdu). I could hear it from the front of the large classroom. My professor heard it. My classmates heard it. I would turn around and tell them to stop distracting me and others around me. They persisted, and I could not focus. We had several conversations in which they agreed to stop. They did not.

Imran had the audacity to not only mock me during class but also ask, “Can you ask your friend to go out with me?” at the end of every lecture. In one case early on, I asked my friend (who I sat with every lecture) if she wanted to go out with him. She declined. Imran looked at me as though I had told him he missed an exam. He had been referring not to my friend but to another female classmate *Asma I randomly sat next to once. Following our conversation, Imran figured out where *Asma sat in our lecture hall and insisted that I ask her to go out with him – even though I had never spoken with her. Imran made it his life’s mission to make Asma and her friends uncomfortable by frequently turning around in class to look at them. In the meantime, Imran and Rahul built the courage to start sitting next to me in class. I used to arrive 10 minutes early to Frey, so I could get the seat I wanted. I eventually developed a habit of coming in after the class started, so they couldn’t easily change seats to where I was sitting.

To make the situation more complex, Imran and Rahul were both in my workshop section. I asked my graduate teaching assistant to change my group since Imran was in mine, too. Little did I know that Imran and Rahul would both appear at my desk at random times of the workshop and ask to go out with my group member. I became uncomfortable to the point where midway through the semester, I started watching lectures from my dorm room and finishing workshop exercises in 15 minutes just so I could leave before they arrived. 

Zoom classes are simply another space where I have felt the need to hide. 

A 2015 study found that among 385 female college students, 90.4% experienced verbal harassment and 80.0% experienced nonverbal sexual harassment.1 Individuals who were nonverbally harassed were “12 times more likely to experience psychological distress.”1 It is alarming that my experience of nonverbal sexual harassment is not a unique one; we are looking at a common issue that does not stop at the collegiate level. These statistics are only one preview of the sexual harassment that “38% of women and 13% of men across the US” endure in the workplace.2 “About 72% of sexual harassment charges” are met with retaliation from employers.3 It is disheartening that I was hesitant to reach out to my professor or the Title IX office. My fear stemmed from the notion that there would be retaliation if I reported Imran, Rahul, or Peter as there was in the cases of those surveyed. I look forward to replacing that fear with a network of support on campus for those who experience sexual misconduct.

*Names have been changed to protect students’ identities. 


References

[1] Mamaru, A., Getachew, K., & Mohammed, Y. (2015, January). Prevalence of physical, verbal and nonverbal sexual harassments and their association with psychological distress among Jimma University female students: a cross-sectional study. Ethiopian journal of health sciences, 25(1), 29–38. https://doi.org/10.4314/ejhs.v25i1.5

[2] Chatterjee, R. (2018, February 22). A new survey finds 81 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/21/587671849/a-new-survey-finds-eighty-percent-of-women-have-experienced-sexual-harassment

[3] Frye, J. (2017, November 20). Not just the rich and famous. Retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/news/2017/11/20/443139/not-just-rich-famous/

Is Surrealism Misogynistic?

by Srihita Mediboina, March 27, 2021

Two years ago, I took a trip to the Modern Museum of Art for an assignment for an introductory art history class. We had learned about a few art movements including surrealism. So, I decided to write my paper on a self-portrait by Frida Kahlo, perhaps the most famous female surrealist artist. While studying the painting, I was trying to block out a sculpture in my peripheral vision. It was a piece by Hans Bellmer. Perhaps it sounds ridiculous to have an internal feud with a German surrealist artist, but I did. Bellmer primarily created sculptures that, in my opinion, were blatantly misogynistic. For instance, Bellmer created a doll where the torso is actually a second pelvis. Accompanied photographs were “taken below in a way that emphasizes the doll’s breast and genitals, while her face is partially obscured”(Bottinelli, 2004). Yeah, it was pretty gross.

While Bellmer was one of the worst offenders, he was not alone in his depiction of women in surrealist art. Many famous artists, including “Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Yves Tanguy, and Rene Magritte, created imagery that, in its sexual abandon, often objectified women; they chopped off female arms and legs, replaced their faces with genitalia, or, as in the case of Ernst, rendered them headless”(Thackara, 2018). This comes as no surprise since Andre Breton, the author of the Surrealist manifesto, based much of the underlying themes of surrealism on the research of Sigmund Freud. Freudian techniques, meant to reveal the unconscious, were common inspirations of Surrealists. These “theories on hysteria and animalistic impulses, rooted in cultural misogyny, had negative repercussions on the movement” as we already have seen (Botinelli, 2018). As much as I wish it stopped there, it doesn’t. “Freud’s psychoanalysis theorizes that unconscious thoughts and motivations, rooted in primitive drives toward sex and aggression, are the underlying cause of human behavior”(Bottinelli, 2018). 

The misogyny inherent in surrealism is not a new idea. Simone de Beauvoir wrote, in  The Second Sex, that Breton “never talks about Woman as Subject”(Beauvoir, 1949). But this view was not unanimous amongst feminist scholars as I had presumptuously expected. In Automatic Woman, a text further exploring the relationship between feminism and surrealism, Katherine Conley introduces a perspective I had not considered. “Maryse Lafitte argued against reading surrealist depictions of women as unremitting antifeminist, as has Rosalind Krauss”(Conley, 1996). Further, Conley argues for a new perspective on surrealism. Conley brings up two female artists : Leonora Carrington and Unica Zurn. Zurn and Carrington served as muses for Hans Bellmer and Max Ernst, respectively, before becoming Surrealists artists in their own right. Conley argues that this placing of a woman at the center, albeit as a muse, creates “the potential to step down from her pedestal and to create on her own”(Conley, 1996). They argue that even if women were only in the unconscious, placing them there necessitated a feminine, if not feminist, perspective.

This argument made me uncomfortable initially. It felt like Conley was trying to justify the actions and beliefs of male surrealists. However, to say surrealism was misogynistic would be to ignore the decidedly feminine parts of it. Kate Brown, writing about a Frankfurt exhibit, highlights how “the quantity and diversity of their work shows how a female perspective was central to surrealism from its birth in the aftermath of World War I”(Brown, 2020). In recent years, there has been an uptick in the demand and auction prices for art by female surrealist artists. Like most research, delving more into the issue of misogyny and Surrealism left me with more questions. What struck me while walking through the Surrealism exhibit that day was the stark disparity between the number of female and male artists. I don’t think that the depiction of women by male surrealists can necessarily be justified. Some might argue that it was the thinking of their time or that the unconscious that produced these images cannot be held responsible. One thing is undeniable; surrealism needs to be depicted holistically. Regardless of the forces that shaped it at the time, museums should be held responsible to depict the art movement as it was, which had decidedly feminine components.


References

Beauvoir, S. D., Borde, C., Malovany-Chevallier, S., & Rowbotham, S. (2011). The Second Sex. London: Vintage Books.

Bottinelli, G. (2004, September). ‘The Doll’, Hans Bellmer, c.1936. Retrieved March 13, 2021, from https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/bellmer-the-doll-t11781

Bottinelli, K., & Laxton, S. (2018, May 24). Psychoanalytic feminism and the depiction of women in surrealist photography. Retrieved March 13, 2021, from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/9vr8m90t#author

Brown, K. (2020, February 18). Surrealism was a decidedly feminine movement. so why have so many of its great women artists been forgotten? Retrieved March 13, 2021, from https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/kunsthalle-schirn-surrealist-women-1779669

Conley, K. (2008). Automatic woman: The representation of woman in surrealism. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Editorial, A., & Thackara, T. (2018, September 26). Collectors are clamoring for surrealist women’s erotic dream worlds. Retrieved March 13, 2021, from https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-market-female-surrealists-finally-reached-tipping-point

Petersen, A. J., & Conley, K. (1998). Automatic woman: The representation of woman in Surrealism. SubStance, 27(1), 138. doi:10.2307/3685723

The Medicalization of Birth in the United States of America

by Pavithra Venkataraman, March 20, 2021

“The United States provides the world’s most expensive maternity care but has worse pregnancy outcomes than almost every other industrialized country”

(Feldhusen, 2000).

When analyzing the differences between how America approaches birth, and how other developed countries approach birth, there is one that stands out: medicalization. Medicalization is a process by which human problems come to be defined and treated as medical problems. It consists of acts such as using medical language to describe a problem, adopting a medical framework to understand a problem or using a medical intervention to treat it (“The Medicalization of Childbirth,” 2016). The transition from home to hospital has brought with it opportunities that have created an increasing number of negative outcomes. These can easily be attributed to the industrialization of childbirth into hospitals. Demystifying and advertising the much more beneficial and safe option of midwifery would greatly increase and make more comfortable pregnancy outcomes across our country.

A Brief History of Birth in the United States

The birthing process has changed dramatically through the centuries. To properly identify the time periods where change occurred, scholars often split this transition from home to hospital into three stages. The first stage, social childbirth, was extremely community oriented, “laboring and delivering with the assistance of female family, neighbors, and midwives” (Martucci, 2017). This stage lasted from the early 17th century to the mid 18th century. Birth was a female occurrence; men were not involved unless there was an emergency situation. During this stage, the only birthing style that was practiced was a ‘normal’ birth, defined as “a vaginal birth in which labor starts spontaneously [and] labor progresses without assistance or specific drugs and forceps [are] not used” (“The Medicalization of Childbirth,” 2016). In effect, there are no drugs that are used to induce, ease, or speed up the process; the woman’s body does the work and that is all. Midwives were the only resource that women had if they wanted assistance. 

This natural birthing process was interrupted by the invention and introduction of several medical apparatuses, especially the obstetrical forceps. Tong-like instruments, these were used to assist in delivery as opposed to either cesarean sections or other less-safe and more damaging devices. With this invention, university-educated doctors flooded the birthing process. During this transitional period, from the middle of the 18th century into the 19th century, there was an equal mix of hospital and home births, and therefore an equal mix of doctors and midwives being used. The rise of the forceps created a necessity for obstetrical education, to teach physicians the proper way to use them. 

In addition to the forceps, reports published in 1910 and 1912 stated that the practicing American obstetricians at the time did not have the proper training: “To improve obstetrics training, one report recommended hospitalization for all deliveries and the gradual abolition of midwifery. Rather than consult with midwives, the report argued, poor women should attend charity hospitals, which would serve as sites for training doctors” (Rooks, 2012). An important addition to the hospitalization process, the ‘twilight sleep,’ was created in 1914. Considered a sign of progress at the time, this process used a mix of several drugs and an amnesiac, scopolamine, to induce a long sleep that also took away any memories of giving birth. During this period of time, the natural child birthing process was criticized by scholars and doctors who wanted childbirth to be seen as a ‘destructive pathology’ in order to encourage medical intervention. Consequently, the medical focus of birth shifted from “responding to problems as they arose to preventing problems through routine use of interventions to control the course of labor” (Rooks, 2012). With this shift, instead of only using medical interventions in cases that had immediate and pressing problems, these interventions were used in every single case of pregnancy, whether or not there was an issue naturally.

This leads to the third stage of birth: medical authority. In the present day, around 99% of births happen in hospitals, with the process of pregnancy now beginning with doctors of gynecology. In this stage, the cesarean section rate is close to 30%, both elective and emergent, even though the ideal rate according to the World Health Organization is 15% or less (“The Medicalization of Birth”). Specifically, celebrities are electing to participate in a procedure called designer birth, according to the film The Business of Being Born (2008). This procedure involved a scheduled c-section delivery followed immediately by a procedure that involves the removal of excess fat and skin, better known as a tummy tuck. Other assisted delivery procedures include an episiotomy, “a surgical incision made in the perineum… to allow the baby’s head to pass through more easily; an amniotomy, “an artificial rupture of the amniotic membranes, which contains the fluid surrounding the baby… to induce or augment labor;” induction of labor through “Pitocin, a synthetic form of the drug oxytocin given intravenously;” and vacuum extraction, which uses a pump that pulls the baby ‘down the birth canal with the help of the instrument and with the help of the mother’s contraction” (“Pregnancy: Types of Delivery,” 2018). Each one of these procedures were created with the aim of helping the pregnant person and the baby and yet has large risk factors associated with the outcomes.

From Home to Hospital

In theory, it seems that it must be a good thing to have medical research and professionals improve and create new processes to help ease the birthing process. I argue that because of the following societal systems we have in place, medicalization no longer prioritizes the pregnant individual and child, instead favoring the hospitals and medical organizations that profit from them. It would be wrong to assume that all these procedures have improved birthing outcomes. In actuality, “a scholar who conducted an intensive study concluded that the 41 percent increase in infant mortality due to birth injuries between 1915 and 1929 was due to obstetrical interference in birth” (Rooks, 2012).  I believe there are two levels to the systems in place in the United States that have obstructed the improvement of birthing results. On the individual level, I believe that pregnant people and their bodies are no longer seen as such, even during individual interactions with doctors; rather, they are seen as commodities of flesh to be used and are treated that way. On a collective level, I believe the birthing process as a whole was seen as a business opportunity and therefore has been industrialized for the purpose of making the most profits. 

On its own, the birthing process began as an experience tailored to the needs of the pregnant person, based on the preferences of the family, and structured around the environment where the birth was happening. In the present day, the process in a hospital is unified, completely up to the discretion of doctors, and wholly dependent on what resources exist in that hospital. I compare this to the theory proposed by Hortense Spillers in Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book (1987), and expanded upon by Nirmala Erevelles in Disability as “Becoming”: Notes on the Political Economy of the Flesh (2011). Beginning from Spillers’ recognition of black bodies during the Middle Passage being treated as commodities of flesh, as opposed to bodies with purpose, Erevelles takes it one step further by conceptualizing ‘disabled’ bodies as similarly being viewed as ‘wounded’ flesh without considering the bodily aspects of mind and soul that also contribute to a body’s worth. It is easy to picture this occurring within the process of birthing: pregnant individuals are seen as vulnerable and weak, and at the very minimum, during the period when the birth is happening, they are only flesh that needs to be dealt with instead of bodies filled with emotions, preferences, and needs to be fulfilled outside of physical procedures. 

For example, a procedure known as ‘the husband stitch’ was brought to light first by Sheila Kitzinger in her 1994 book, The Year After Childbirth, and then through Carmen Maria Machado’s short story called “The Husband Stitch” (2014). This “refers to the procedure of suturing the vaginal entrance narrower than necessary to repair trauma post-birth, with the presumption that this will enhance the sexual pleasure of a penetrating penis” (Halton, 2018). The stitching happens after the occurrence of an episiotomy, which on its own has been increasingly advised as unnecessary and non-essential by many medical guidelines both in the US and the UK. Women who share their birth stories often report not being aware that an episiotomy had occurred until months after the birth when they were experiencing extreme pain and searched for the cause. They relay not being properly informed about the procedure or told how to help and deal with the healing process that is to come. As a newly public procedure, there are no studies that exist to explore how often, how many times, or how recently this stitch is and has been added. The process itself turns a woman into Spillers’ definition of flesh: women exist sexually for their husbands even though the pain of recovery is increased exponentially by both magnitude and length of time. These women exist as vehicles for reproduction and are placed at the complete mercy of their doctor with much less freedom to make their own choices especially while their legs are forcibly spread. 

When analyzing birth as a collective social institution, it is easy to see how industrialized the process has become. What was once a private experience is now a conveyor belt-style, in-and-out procedure where doctors and hospitals are praised and rewarded for their efficiency in terms of the number of births they can successfully complete in the least amount of time. I compare this to Lisa Lowe’s claim in her book titled The Intimacies of Four Continents. Lowe’s study of the effects of colonialism on the colonized lead her to claim that modern liberalism affirms the people in power “while subordinating [and erasing the history of] the variously colonized and dispossessed peoples whose material labor and resources were the conditions of possibility for that liberty” (Lowe, 2015, p. 6). Not only did settler colonialism remove and disadvantage Natives from their land, but the history books and archives ‘discourage’ these connections. Similarly, medical professionals capitalized on the birthing field, simultaneously discrediting midwives as untrained and incompetent and denying that this history of midwifery ever existed.

Not only does this industrialization disadvantage midwifery, but it equally, if not more so, disadvantages pregnant individuals. For example, the labor process has been streamlined to the point where the baby and pregnant person’s lives are put at danger over and over. Labor for a pregnant individual can naturally last anywhere from a single hour to 18-20 hours (“Pitocin,” n.d.). However, to hospital institutions, the more women they can care for in the least time possible, the more money they can make. Therefore, methods that speed up labor, no matter the cost or non-necessity, are introduced into the process: “Other wealthy, industrialized countries have national health services, in which elements of care that aren’t needed and don’t bring improved health tend to be dropped because of the cost. In the U.S. health-care industry, the more care that is provided, frequently more money is made by the doctors and the hospitals, so there is less incentive to not use these methods” (Rooks, 2012). One such method is the administration of the drug Pitocin, which mimics the natural hormone oxytocin by reducing the time between contractions, which in turn speeds up labor. This sounds like it would be favorable, but in reality, “Pitocin is the drug most commonly associated with preventable adverse events during childbirth” (“Pitocin,” n.d.). The most common negative outcome seen with Pitocin is hyperstimulation. In labor, contractions slow blood and oxygen flow in and out of the placenta to the baby, and the stages in between contractions allows the placenta to rest. When Pitocin is administered, the time between contractions is shortened which does not allow enough blood and oxygen to reach the placenta which creates a large risk, known as hyperstimulation, for the baby (“Pitocin,” n.d.). A common medicalized cycle of birth is as follows: (1) Pitocin is administered to speed up the labor, which creates pain and tension in the pregnant individual, which then leads to (2) heavy pain medication administered such as an epidural, which numbs the nervous system and therefore slows contractions and the time in between. 1 and 2 are repeated a couple of times, until the baby is in such distress that there is no option but to move to a c-section, which can be stressful and traumatic for both the baby and the pregnant person (“Pitocin,” n.d.). 

Not only are pregnant people forgotten during a process in which they should be the focus, there is a disproportionate negative effect towards pregnant individuals of minority, whether that be by race, sexuality, trans-status, disability, and/or socioeconomic status, to name a few:

“Black women are 4 times more likely than white women to die from complications of pregnancy. In fact, black women have a higher risk than white women for dying from every pregnancy-related cause, including hemorrhag, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and pulmonary embolism… [B]lack infants… die at twice the rate of white infants… Other ethnic minorities also have higher infant mortality rates.”

(Anachebe & Sutton, 2003)

Women with pre-existing health conditions unrelated to pregnancy such as asthma, diabetes, depression, or substance use issues are already at a higher risk of negative outcomes. While there are few studies that focus on outcomes of trans individuals who have given birth, a simple search yields testimony after testimony of these individuals who have faced discrimination and intrusive questioning that fall outside of the realm of birthing, as well as the sense that the care being provided is not as thorough. Socioeconomic status and the outcomes that occur can be explained by locational, geographical, and monetary access to hospitals and quality of care. When the only known option is a hospital birth, the nearest hospital is miles and miles away, and insurance does not cover the cost of giving birth in a well-ranked hospital, the outcome will generally not be as positive. 

Conclusion

I believe that these numerous negative outcomes and societal manifestations are a result of the medicalization process. To counteract these issues, we should return to the midwife-assisted, non-hospital-dependent birthing process that the majority of developed countries around the world still use. This transition would be a return to an age where birthing worked while still keeping the option of modern medicine in the extreme cases where the body is not functioning in the normal way. Midwife-assisted births would reduce the number of drugs administered, the number of c-sections performed, and cases of the ‘husband stitch.’ The focus would return to the individual giving birth, restoring continuity of care, tailor-made birthing timelines, and the ability and authority of the family to make their own health care decisions. Midwifery allows the pregnant people to choose which individual they would most like to work with during the pregnancy process based on comfort, particular skill set, and even cost associated. Although this system is not perfect, it greatly reduces risks attached and increases the likelihood that outcomes will be negative, allowing the birthing process to function on its own the way it is supposed to.  

It is clear that there is an issue with our birthing system when we compare our outcomes to those of other developed countries. My argument lies in the way in which we, as a country, are choosing to fix it. Instead of compounding the issue by introducing medical solutions to fix medically-induced problems, I propose that we relinquish our need to keep the birthing process entrenched in the institution of hospitals. I believe a return to the way that the birthing process used to work will return us to outcomes that are much less negative and much less divisive along minority lines. Although medicine is important, its purpose, in simple terms, is to treat diseases that are not, for lack of a better word, ‘normal’ to a human body. The inclusion of pregnancy and birth, extremely ‘normal’ and necessary human bodily functions, into this category of medicine is not only unnecessary, but in practice detrimental to both pregnant individuals and the babies. I believe that midwifery is the right way to progress, and the best way to go about improving the birthing process in America.


References

Anachebe, N.F., & Sutton, M.Y. (2003). Racial disparities in reproductive health outcomes. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 188(4), S37–S42. https://doi.org/10.1067/mob.2003.245

Erevelles, N. (2011). Disability and difference in global contexts: Enabling a transformative body politic. Palgrave Macmillan US.

Feldhusen, A.E. (2000). The history of midwifery and childbirth in America: A time line. Midwifery Today. https://midwiferytoday.com/web-article/history-midwifery-childbirth-america-time-line/

Halton, M. (2018, April 26). The ‘husband stitch’ leaves women in pain and without answers. Vice. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/pax95m/the-husband-stitch-real-stories-episiotomy

Lowe, L. (2015). The intimacies of four continents. Duke University Press.

Martucci, J. (2017). Childbirth and breastfeeding in 20th-century America. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.013.428 

The medicalization of childbirth. (2016, December 10). In UBC Wikipedia. https://wiki.ubc.ca/The_Medicalization_of_Childbirth

Pitocin (Oxytocin) induction risks and side effects. (n.d.). American Baby & Child Law Centers. Retrieved March 7, 2021, from https://www.abclawcenters.com/practice-areas/prenatal-birth-injuries/labor-and-delivery-medication-errors/pitocin-and-oxytocin/

Pregnancy: Types of delivery. (2018, January 1). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved March 7, 2021, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9675-pregnancy-types-of-delivery

Rooks, J.P. (2012, May 30). The history of midwifery. Our Bodies Ourselves. https://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book-excerpts/health-article/history-of-midwifery/

Spillers, H.J. (1987). Mama’s baby, Papa’s maybe: An American grammar book. Diacritics, 17(2), 65–81. https://doi.org/10.2307/464747

Reshelved: Can Children’s Classics Be Modernized?

by Joan Antony, March 15 2021

(Erin McCracken/Evansville Courier & Press via AP, File)

Moby Dick, The Cat in The Hat, Huckleberry Finn... and a number of other titles are the face of American children’s books, even in the 21st century. The public opinion on these books, and others, have not changed in the past few years. Despite modernizing trends that have swept through America, such as the “Cancel Culture” movement and the creation of “Banned Books Week,” many beloved classics remain on shelves across the country; a testament to their timeless messages and cherished meanings.

However, this may not be the case for all classics.

Sometimes, even industry giants in Children’s Books, such as Dr. Seuss Enterprises feel the need to evaluate the messages they sent to children. In the first quarter of 2021, the company collectively decided to take down a number of lesser known books from their collection; And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street as well as a few other titles (Gross, The New York Times). After his death in 1991, Dr. Seuss’ reputation as a beloved storyteller has been measured against modernist standards for children’s literature. The man, who is hailed as one of the greatest children’s books writers in American history, has come under fire posthumously for anti-Semitic and racist stereotypes depicted in his books. With the recent decisions made by Dr. Seuss Enterprises to discontinue If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool and others, discourse has begun on the morality of allowing these particular children’s books to be shelved. The future of a child’s education in relation to the views and opinions they form from the media they consume, is an important conversation that has only just begun to be discussed. The author’s position should be discussed in academic settings, not hidden away in a new animated Grinch movie or saturated in merchandise. America should have an honest discourse on the impact Seuss’ works have had on children of different demographics throughout the decades. A children’s literature expert, Michelle H. Martins states:

“Seuss was not thinking about Black kids and Asian kids when he was writing these books. He was writing for white kids.”

(All Things Considered, NPR)

And it’s not only in America that this revival is in the works. In France, a beloved comic book series Lucky Luke, is adding to its own cast of characters. A Black man is featured in A Cowboy in High Cotton, standing alongside the main character Luke, with an equal and important role in progressing the story (Onishi, The New York Times). The hero, Luke, is usually defeating the bad guys and bringing peace to the countryside all on his own. This time, he is joined by a fellow sheriff, an employee of the plantation he owns. The moral of the story is not only to satisfy his own goals, but to win the trust of his employees, a task he commits to with gusto. This is definitely progressive, in terms of European standards for children’s books, where change has been deemed necessary. Even now, Tintin in The Congo continues to be published internationally without much change to the stereotypes within the covers (The New York Times).

(Mantovani for The New York Times)

While it may seem very sudden, the dismantling of children’s literature is not a new phenomenon. Recently, authors are more likely to receive feedback and criticism on their books’ in terms of appealing to political correctness and the general mood of society (Limbong, NPR). Plenty of authors have faced immense backlash from their audience, on social media platforms such as Twitter, a platform in which retweets and direct tweets can go viral in minutes. With the ease of finding authors, their viewpoints on topics are much more accessible. Long gone are the days when the only way to reach an author was to mail them a long list of complaints. In that case, readers could never be sure their frustrations were being heard or even acted upon. With social media, it’s become easier than ever to wage a personal attack, and cite specific instances of wrong-doing. While in some cases the attacks have gone too far, most times the ‘face-to-face’ interaction between readers and writers is more effective for improving the selection of children’s books available in the genre. Or, at least some are taken off the shelf.

Imagine writing a generation defining series about a youth uprisal that defeats a tyrannical monster motivated by the preservation of “pure blood” and looking at THIS time in the world and going “hmm…yep. I’m gonna invalidate trans people.” (@halsey, Twitter)

Of course, criticism from the opposite side is to be expected, opinions will clash on whether making these significant changes in the realm of children’s classics is necessary or progressive (Alter and Harris, The New York Times). Will the washing out of these depictions actually harm children’s learning? Without markers of how it ‘used to be,’ will children be able to correctly point out how it ‘should be’? Is there an alternative to erasing these harmful descriptions, without losing the meaningful story in the process?

A good example of the latter would be the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, a beloved classic worldwide. Lewis has been heavily criticized for his imagery of the Calormenes, a city of people and culture that seems to ‘blend’ and typecast different cultures from the Middle-East, in addition to the sexist wording and imagery present throughout the series; as well as one incorrigible scene of cultural appropriation (Glumpuddle, NarniaWeb). The scene is one where three of the main characters in the last addition of the series, Last Battle, must get past the enemy Calormene’s soldiers. In order to so, they resort to rubbing oil over their faces, to ‘blend’ in with the soldiers, as well as donning ‘turbans’ as a disguise (Lewis, Last Battle). The scene is not further explained, and it is moved past quickly as a necessity in war time. For all these right reasons, the series falls on the spectrum of books that can be banned for one terrible scene alone. However in 2005, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe directed by Andrew Adamson, was a roaring success, topping the box office and inspiring little kids around the world to pick up the books for the first time. How so? For one, the director made sure to piece together all the scenes from the book with a warm remembrance of how it was when he was a child. His memory veiled the terrible descriptions into altered scenes, or left them out entirely (Glumpuddle, NarniaWeb).

“When I set out to do this, I said very early on that I don’t want to make the book so much, as I want to make my memory of the book. […][C.S. Lewis] planted seeds and let them grow in your imagination.”

NarniaWeb, Director Andrew Adamson circa 2005

From this telling line, it may be easier to decide the final say on books by one important factor: the children themselves. The kids who read these books are the kids who will grow up with these books. Children’s literature is a revered genre because of its versatility, for its importance of ‘growing’ with the child, as they mature and learn important values and connotations for real life.

Keeping this in mind, it is apt to conclude that there is no set right or wrong way to decide on ‘reshelving’ every book; it is a choice based on every individual classic, on the background of the author, and most importantly, how the primary audience will react to the appearance or disappearance of this particular book. Is it worth banning? Or does it just need a different adaption to help derive the meaning better?


Works Cited

Alter, Alexandra, and Elizabeth A. Harris. “Dr. Seuss Books Are Pulled, and a ‘Cancel Culture’ Controversy Erupts.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 Mar. 2021, http://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/04/books/dr-seuss-books.html.

“Are The Chronicles of Narnia Sexist and Racist?” NarniaWeb, 20 July 2009, http://www.narniaweb.com/resources-links/are-the-chronicles-of-narnia-sexist-and-racist/.

“Dr Seuss going? No, just old stereotypes.” Age [Melbourne, Australia], 5 Mar. 2021, p. 31. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A653763351/OVIC?u=sunysb&sid=OVIC&xid=6cf46853. Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

Glumpuddle. “Andrew Adamson Went From Shrek to Narnia.” NarniaWeb, 9 Feb. 2020, http://www.narniaweb.com/2020/02/andrew-adamson-went-from-shrek-to-narnia/.

Gross, Jenny. “6 Dr. Seuss Books Will No Longer Be Published Over Offensive Images.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Mar. 2021, http://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/02/books/dr-seuss-mulberry-street.html.

“Imagine Writing a Generation Defining Series about a Youth Uprisal That Defeats a Tyrannical Monster Motivated by the Preservation of ‘Pure Blood’ and Looking at THIS Time in the World and Going ‘Hmm…yep. I’m Gonna Invalidate Trans People.”.” Twitter, Twitter, 7 June 2020, twitter.com/halsey/status/1269436246759112704.

Lewis, C. S. The Last Battle. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2014.

Limbong, Andrew. “Why Author J.K. Rowling Is Facing Backlash From LGBTQ Activists.” NPR, NPR, 20 Dec. 2019, http://www.npr.org/2019/12/20/790319846/why-author-j-k-rowling-is-facing-backlash-from-lgbtq-activists.

“Looking Again At A Doctor’s Old Rhymes, Seuss Works Haven’t Kept Up With The Times.” All Things Considered, 2 Mar. 2021. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A653816567/OVIC?u=sunysb&sid=OVIC&xid=fa6d8174. Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

Onishi, Norimitsu. “Lucky Luke, the Comic Book Cowboy, Discovers Race, Belatedly.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 Feb. 2021, http://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/22/world/europe/lucky-luke-comic-france.html.

Pratt, Mark. “6 Dr. Seuss Books Will Stop Being Published Because of Racist Imagery.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 2 Mar. 2021, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/6-dr-seuss-books-will-stop-being-published-because-of-racist-imagery.

Telford, Taylor. “Some Dr. Seuss books with racist imagery will go out of print.” Washington Post, 2 Mar. 2021. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A653519393/OVIC?u=sunysb&sid=OVIC&xid=5710bddc. Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

The New York Times. “A Tintin Controversy.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 July 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/18/arts/18arts-ATINTINCONTR_BRF.html.

Mental Health is Also Physical

by Sara Giarnieri, March 12, 2021

When you think about mental health, what comes to mind? 

Are you thinking of emotions, or maybe just general well-being?

Did you know that mental health plays a significant role in your physical health as well? 

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions are often associated with our emotional responses. Yet there are physical characteristics of mental health conditions that aren’t as readily acknowledged such as muscle tension, upset stomach, and chest pain (“Stress symptoms,” 2019).

Why do mental and physical health go hand in hand?

This is because a disruption in mental health can prevent us from maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion states (2020), “Mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, affect people’s ability to participate in health-promoting behaviors.” For someone debilitated by mental health, riding a bike may not be as easy for them compared to someone who may be in a stronger state of mental health. The neglect of our health due to psychological conditions can lead to physical symptoms. 

For instance, some common physical signs of depression are fatigue, changes in appetite, and headaches (“Depression,” 2018). Anxiety can also cause fatigue, rapid heart rate, and a decline in focus (“Anxiety disorders,” 2018). Anyone experiencing physical symptoms like these should recognize that it could be due to mental health, which is an aspect of our lives that is often ignored. Mental health should receive the critical attention needed in order to lessen these physical symptoms and achieve a happier, healthier life. 

Those who are battling psychological conditions may also be at risk for long term physical health conditions.

Studies have shown that people who are struggling with mental health are more likely to have certain health conditions. The New Zealand Journal of Psychology studied the correlation between mental health and physical health and found that those with psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, stroke, arthritis, asthma, and chronic pain (Lockett et al., 2018). The careful treatment of our mental health can help to prevent the development of serious physical conditions. 

How can we take care of our health?

Make sure you are listening to yourself both mentally and physically, as the two coincide with one another. Pay attention to how much sleep you get, provide your body with enough nutrients, and exercise daily. Set aside time to find and indulge in activities that make you feel good. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to reach out! If you feel that you are struggling, don’t hesitate to speak to a friend, family member, counselor, or someone you trust. They are there to help you. 

Think back again: What is mental health to you? Did your answer change, or did it remain the same? Either way, everyone can take more time to learn about mental health and how much it truly influences our lives. 


National Mental Health Resources

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: +1 (800) 273 – 8255

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: +1 (800) 662 – HELP (4357)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Top HelpLine Resources

MentalHealth.gov

Stony Brook University Mental Health Resources

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Mental Health Outreach and Suicide Prevention


References 

Anxiety disorders. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961

Depression (major depressive disorder). (2018). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007

Lockett, H., Jury, A., Tuason, C., Lai, J., & Fergusson, D. (2018). Comorbidities between mental and physical health problems: An analysis of the New Zealand Health Survey data. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 47(3), 5–11.

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2020). Mental Health and Mental Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/mental-health-and-mental-disorders

Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987