When the Bubble Popped and History Repeated Itself

When looking back at the 2000s, there are moments that stand out. One of them is the Housing Market Crash of 2007, where the housing bubble popped; a consequence of poor financial choices on a national level that led to serious repercussions from the individual to the institution, resulting in the 2008 recession. These events are an example of the economy’s effect as a macro level institution on the individuals micro interactions and actions.

Economy is a social institution. It is a system of production and exchange that provides for the material needs of individuals living in a given society. Because it provides for the material needs of individuals, changes on an economic scale trickle down to the individual level. As the housing market became what appeared to be an increasingly profitable enterprise, businesses began making riskier and riskier decision. Right at the climax of this part of the capitalistic economy, the risky and sometimes criminal actions taken by banks came back full force and brought the economy to its knees. However, while major economic institutions were devastated by the crash, the real consequences were reflected with the individual. Thousands of people lost their money, their jobs, and/or their homes. This macro level social institution led to a breakdown on the micro level that some people are still struggling to overcome today. 

The power of the economy shouldn’t be underestimated, but it is important to note that without the individual, there would be no economy. The reason for a crash of this magnitude can be summed up to something as simple as human error. All around them, people saw others making money and wanted to be part of it. However, as time progressed, in an effort to continue to produce profit on the same scale, individuals made decisions that in hindsight were a complete mistake and had these people thought rationally, they could have potentially avoided financial ruin, and an economic crash that could have reached the same level of crisis as the Great Depression.

Boy’s Don’t Cry, But Their Stories Cause Tears

Award winning movie Boy’s Don’t Cry is the kind of film that stays with you after the credits roll; I cried for what felt like forever after I finished watching it. A haunting story that illustrates the destructive power of hate, the movie is so much more disturbing when it’s revealed to be based on a true story of a transgender man who was a victim of unwarranted aggression.

Brandon Teena lived to the age of 21. He was born Teena Renae Brandon, and was a transgender male. Gender is a controversial subject and there are people who refuse to acknowledge that rather than a gender binary, there is a gender spectrum. This can lead to transphobia, a range of antagonistic attitudes and feelings against transgender people, based on the expression of their internal gender identity. Why is this so important to know? Brandon Teena’s death was not accidental. It was hate crime, resulting in a combination of sexual assault and murder.

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Brandon Teena and Lana Tisdel

Brandon had been dating Lana Tisdel when he met John L. Lotter and Marvin Thomas “Tom” Nissen. Both men were ex-convicts. Eventually, Brandon was arrested for forging checks, where it was revealed to Lana and his friends that Brandon’s sex was not male. Shortly after learning this, Lotter and Nissen sexually assaulted Brandon, threatening him in an attempt to keep him quiet, however Brandon went to the police with encouragement from Lana. His attempts to get help after becoming the victim of a crime were disappointing. The sheriff was more interested in Brandon’s gender identity than the sexual assault  and Lotter and Nissen were not arrested. When the men learned of the police report, they hunted Brandon down. Brandon, and the two people attempting to hide him, were shot and killed. Lotter and Nissen were sentenced and currently reside in prison

Sadly, a final insult to Brandon can be seen on his gravestone, the epitaph reading, “daughter, sister, & friend”, disregarding Brandon’s transgender identity. Gender identity is not a danger to others, it isnt a threat. However, the prejudice and discrimination against those who do not follow the “traditional” gender binary is a danger to others, to a community. A change needs to be made, and with the publicity that came from Brandon’s murder and other hate crimes like Matthew Shepard’s death, more is being done to address and prevent hate crime in America.

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What Was the Purpose of Native Son?

Native Son, a book by Richard Wright, tells a harrowing tale of a black man in 1930s Chicago. Though the story may focus on one specific individual, the existentialist concepts in the novel reflect the idea that some of the crimes committed by Bigger Thomas, the main character, were a result not of purely intrinsic motives, but also were caused by the constant societal forces he had faced from the moment he entered the world of Chicago.

Richard Wright’s novel follows the story of Bigger as he accidentally murders a white woman while trying to avoid getting caught in her room alone with her, even though the white woman had dragged him into the room, because he knew he’d immediately be punished for being in that kind of proximity with a woman who wasn’t his skin tone. He flees when threatened with capture because evidence of his crime is discovered, and rapes and kills his girlfriend after reasoning that he couldn’t take her with him. While Bigger is on trial for these horrific murders, his lawyer makes the argument that some of the forces that pushed Bigger to the point of murder were from the white society around him that constantly oppressed him, that by placing a man and woman of segregated races together suddenly would create a volatile situation because these people have been kept apart by society their whole lives   The lawyer’s case revolved around the discrimination that Bigger faced and how factors like segregation of whites and blacks into neighborhoods of good and bad quality contributed to a temperament that was driven by fear and anger.

Ironically, the father of the murdered white woman owned the real estate that Bigger and his family lived in. Considering that Bigger was paying $8 rent, he should have found a decent living space, however he was forced lived in a rat infested, one room apartment with three other people because  that was the only living space made available to black communities. Black people were unable to receive the same kind of education, or get higher paying jobs. For example, Bigger wanted to be a pilot, but since he was black he could not get the education required for that job  This led to the defense in court that Bigger was driven to his aggressive state by a life where he was constantly held down by a racially driven society. In Bigger’s own words:

“Naw. But I just can’t get used to it. I swear to God I can’t. I know I oughtn’t think about it, but I can’t help it. Every time I think about it I feel like somebody’s poking a red-hot iron down my throat. Goddammit, look! We live here and they live there. We black and they white. They got things and we ain’t. They do things and we can’t. It’s just like living in jail. Half the time I feel like I’m on the outside of the world peeping in through a knothole in the fence. . . .”

Wright wanted people to see the status and life of blacks in that time period and place from the black point of view. The purpose of Native Son is to illustrate the social stratification based on race that occurs from the moment people become part of society.

Male Gender and Mass Shootings: Is There a Connection?

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Elliot Rodgers, UCSB shooter, killed 6 people and injured 14 before shooting himself.

Dylan Roof. Elliot Rodgers. Omar Mateen. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. These men may come from different backgrounds and races, possess different religious beliefs and ages, but they have something in common: they all are mass shooters, and they are all men. In an article by the Washington Post, only 3 of the 103 shooters listed were female.

Mass shooting is a problem in the U.S. that only seems to be getting worse. There are many many names that can join the Washington Post’s list of shooters. And with few exceptions, the pattern of male gender continues. Clearly there is a connection, numbers do not lie. But what causes this disturbing connection?

These men all share traits that can be explained by toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity creates an environment that fosters aggressiveness and dominance, traits that can contribute to a mass shooter’s violent decision. Also, toxic masculinity encourages males to repress their emotions since “real men don’t cry”. Repressing one’s emotions is unhealthy and can lead to negative outcomes because the act of catharsis is necessary to a healthy emotional state.

Also, the environment that this type of masculinity creates fosters a sense of male entitlement, especially in white men, another trend seen in mass shooters. This leads to resentment and anger that can lead to violence. Also, men who follow these concepts on masculinity tend to have a sense of entitlement specifically towards sexual relations with women. A perfect example of this is Elliot Rodgers, who posted videos before going on a shooting spree stating that part of the motivation for his actions was that women rejected him sexually. This kind of lashing out due to a sense of entitlement demonstrates the toxicity of raising males in an environment that teaches toxic masculinity.

Furthermore, the threat of masculinity is another concept contributing to this explanation. The threat of masculinity is a concept that men react badly to the feeling that they have an inability to live up to societal expectations associated with masculinity.

Clearly America has a problem. The number of shooters and the number of victims is far too high and something needs to change. Before blaming gun laws or mental illness next time a man takes a gun and attacks innocent people, the situation should be studied from sociological viewpoint and blame the masculinity that fosters these renewing violent actions.

Nuclear Families and TV Shows

The term “nuclear family” doesn’t exactly bring to mind an image of typical family. In fact, the word nuclear usually brings to mind images of violent weapons. However, according to Bronisław Malinowski, the traditional family, also known as the “nuclear” family, consists of a married heterosexual couple with children that are biologically their own. This sociological definition may apply to my family,, heterosexual married parents and two children biologically related to them but as times have changed, so has the concept of a normal family. What I am a part of is not the norm anymore. Malinowski’s definition fails to address the many variations of families and within families that exist now, from single parent families to adopted children to homosexual families.

The diversity in American creates a society where a traditional cannot be seen as the norm. However, when thinking about the concept of the traditional family I was reminded of the Brady Bunch, an iconic T.V. show that exemplified the nuclear family. Recently a woman who helped created this family, heterosexual married parents with children who were biologically theirs, passed away. Her name was Florence Henderson and she helped contribute to this media driven concept of what a traditional family is. But with more new television shows, such as Modern Family, some of the family types that are displayed are not as average. For example, in the show Modern Family, a homosexual couple that adopt a child and a marriage between two people that includes a step child challenge Malinowski’s close minded idea of what a traditional family is.

Clearly as time has passed, what the definition of traditional family is no longer traditional and the diverse relationships and families that form challenging this definition should be given equal recognition.

 

 

Barbies Are Not Just For Girls and Other Thoughts on the Plastic Doll That Shaped Generations

Gender is an issue that is difficult to fully encompass. For a long time, American citizens have been strictly defined by a gender binary, the social concept of more than two genders was not accepted. The sex you were born with was the gender you were assigned. Slowly but surely, Americans are breaking out of these clearly defined roles and blurring the lines of gender and gender roles. This can be seen with the Barbie doll.

Recently, the Barbie doll, a controversial child’s toy, made strides in breaking gender norms. A Forbes article touched on the actions of Mattel, the struggling company that made a change, including a young male in a commercial with one of their new dolls. The reason this can be seen as progress is in the past Barbies were associated with “females only”. This is a gender stereotypical idea that limits progress for gender. By creating a coed commercial, the company is promoting the idea that toys are not gendered objects. For example, the same type of toy may be called a doll if provided to a female or an “action figure” if provided to a male. Pushing sexes into specific genders is a practice needs to be broken down. Identity should be decided by the individual, not society.

Furthermore, when focusing on specific gender: the female, Barbie dolls have had other issues with body image. A common theme among protests against the doll is that its shape is unfair to young girls finding their confidence and identity, since the norm created by Barbie for a long period of time, was a white woman with extremely skinny and somewhat disproportionate body features. By pushing this doll company to create a more diverse reflection of what female means, there is a more positive effect on young females.

The Toxicity of the Phrase “Man Up”

How common is it to hear a coach or a parent, or even a friend, tell a boy to “man up”? It’s harmless, right? Simply a way to encourage strength, teach dominance.

Wrong.

The phrase “man up” is a representation of the flaws in society’s view of gender, a culmination of all the unhealthy gender norms expected of a male. A slam poetry piece by Guante, 10 Responses to the Phrase “Man Up”, is a haunting reminder of hegemonic masculinity and the damaging effects it has on not just women, but men too.

Hegemonic masculinity is a concept created by R. W. Connell that identifies and guarantees the social position of men and women as dominant and subordinate. In order to be what society defines as a “man”, negative expectations are placed. Stereotypes such as lack of expression of weakness and/or emotion, being aggressive and dominant, and strict heterosexuality and hypersexuality are all part of forces that push the phrase “man up” on boys who are still learning what it means to be an individual in a society that places men in a box.

This needs to change. All of these concepts contribute to a society that oppresses and represses. Rape culture becomes a more destructive force towards both men and women under the idea of masculinity. Encouragement of hypersexuality with males allows for empty excuses for sexual harassment and abusive behavior, double standards placed on women, and if a man is raped, his pleas will be ignored, because “man up” means physical strength, means aggressive heterosexual and homophobic behavior.

Furthermore, masculinity is more strictly part of the gender binary. In order for society to become more accepting of the concept of a gender spectrum, where there are more than just two genders, society needs to let go of this overwhelming idea of what a male is supposed to be. Men should not be placed in a box, with a strict set of rules to live by. While feminism has helped break women out of the strict set of rules given in a variety of ways, many of the issues with masculinity are less well addressed and change cannot be expected unless people begin to speak out against hegemonic masculinity the same way feminists have spoken out against lack of women’s rights over the years.

The male gender should not have to face this kind of toxic ideology. Not only is it destructive towards all genders, but it is repression of expression that lasts a lifetime. So like Guante said, in response to the phrase “man up”, the answer should be , “10. No.”