What Are You Reading? Why Does it Matter?

November 30, 2009

What are you reading (for fun)?

Earlier this month, Publishers Weekly published it’s “Best Books of 2009” list. All 10 of the authors are men. All but 2 of the authors are white and are from Western nations. The magazine noticed the gendered-nature of the list but stuck by their decisions. Feminist organizations responded negatively to the list, and Women in Letters and Literary Arts (WILLA), published their own list of great literary works by women in 2009.

Reading about the inequality of the Publishers Weekly list made me want to look at the books I’m currently reading, and look to see if I have a gendered or racialized tendancies in what I chose to read for fun (academic books are excluded from this list). I have the tendency to read a ton of books at one time, so, this should work fairly well. I’m including reviews and descriptions of the books I’m reading as well, just for fun.

1. Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
Harris is a white woman from Arkansas. (1951-present)
Booklist Review:

Sookie Stackhouse is having man trouble. Her vampire boyfriend, Bill, has been distant and inattentive lately. Then he announces that he is going on a business trip, which clearly is more than it seems. After a werewolf tries to abduct Sookie at work, Bill’s boss, Eric, tells her that Bill fell under the sway of his–Bill’s, that is–ex, a sexy vamp named Lorena, and has been kidnapped. Eric wants Sookie’s help in getting Bill back, and despite her hurt over Bill’s betrayal, Sookie agrees to go to Jackson, Mississippi, to find her wayward lover. Eric has persuaded Alcide, a dashing werewolf, to get Sookie access to Josephine’s, aka Club Dead, the local hangout of Jackson’s supernatural element. In between dodging kidnappers, the advances of amorous Eric, and her growing feelings for Alcide, Sookie has to find out who kidnapped Bill and figure out a way to rescue him. With some droll touches–Elvis, now a vampire, is Sookie’s faithful guard —Club Dead is ideal for readers who like their vampire fiction light, humorous, and fast-paced.

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Larsson was a white Swedish journalist. (1954-2004)
Amason.com Review:

Once you start The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there’s no turning back. This debut thriller–the first in a trilogy from the late Stieg Larsson–is a serious page-turner rivaling the best of Charlie Huston and Michael Connelly. Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch–and there’s always a catch–is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson’s novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don’t want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.

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Dinner, Movie and Intolerance

November 23, 2009

This Saturday afternoon, I thought I would have relaxing night, as I had just come home for the beginning of Thanksgiving break. I met up with a friend and we decided to take a small road trip to celebrate with dinner and a movie, but what we intended to be a lighthearted evening was soon ruined by a $2.00 children’s film. It’s hard to find a theatre that doesn’t charge $8.00 for a movie in this day and age, so when we heard of this nearby theatre we knew that we would be entering a different world when we got into town. “The Twilight Zone” is the only way we could describe our experiences in this small town, as we sat down and awaited our movie to start. “Planet 51”, a movie targeted towards children seemed harmless enough, but as we watched this movie, who’s moral is about accepting others, no matter how different (seeing as it is about aliens), we found it making surprising amounts of homophobic jokes and the gender stereotypes going through the roof. To get an idea of the movie, here’s the trailer…

Chuck, the “alien” from earth, is the butt of many homophobic jokes as soon as he lands on this planet, and even before. In preparation for an alien invasion, one of the teenage aged children develops a preventative measure for himself and Lem, the other main character, which is a cork- so when the alien arrives it is unable to use its “probe” on them. As soon as Chuck has met Lem, they introduce one another, and as soon as Lem tells his name Chuck says, “Either your name is Lem…or that means that you want to mate with me.” Whether or not you find these jokes offensive, the pure unnecessary nature of them, along with more penis references then I care to mention, honestly made us uncomfortable to be in this theatre. I won’t even get into the gender stereotypes and chauvinistic nature of this film, but I want to know what everyone else thinks. Do you think we made a bigger deal than needed about this? As most kids probably don’t realize what kind of messages they’re also getting when they see these films, how do you think it affects the way they grow up and are acquainted with certain ideas before they have their own opinion? Or do you think it shapes them at all?

If you’re home over the Holidays and have younger family or siblings, do NOT miss out on an opportunity to see this– I want to hear all about your thoughts.


Cultural Object of the Week: The Tampon Stun Gun

November 19, 2009

Yep, you read that correctly, there is a stun gun that exists that is shaped like a couple of tampons.

The Pink Stinger

The stun gun, named “The Pink Stinger,” was created for women who wish to carry a stun gun, but do so discreetly. It as 50,000 volts of power.

My initial response to this object was “awesome.” However, having thought about it a little bit more, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it, other than that it certainly is interesting.

What do you think of the tampon stun gun?

Is it taking a women’s product and making is powerful, thus empowering women? Or, is it reinforcing negative stereotypes of women being “crazy” while menstruating? It openly acknowledges the fact that women are more likely than men to be the consumers who purchase stun guns, which opens up discussion about rape, sexual assault, and gender.

Discuss.

Source:Inventor Spot


What Pandora Taught Me This Week: Caffeine, Work, and the American Way

November 19, 2009

Move over Oprah, I now have an electronic computer program to teach me life-lessons. Well, at least I did this morning.

Earlier today, I was listing to Pandora Radio and working on homework when this song, “Stress” by Jim’s Big Ego, came up on my playlist (not with the Disney men, of course, but this was a best version I could find on youtube–plus, it’s mashed up pretty well):

I enjoyed the song a lot (thanks Pandora), because I thought (along with a super-catchy melody) that it was a really well put together parody of how capitalism encourages people to live their lives.

The first half of the song talks about our cultural dependency on caffeine.

I’m tryin’ to cut down on my caffeine,
So when I get up
I just have one cup of coffee
And I’d like to have another cup of coffee with my breakfast.
And on the way to work, I like to get a cup of coffee.
And I like the kind of coffee you get with a doughnut
So when I get a doughnut, I get a cup of coffee.
And when I get to work I like to have a cup of coffee
Cuz I like to have coffee when I’m talkin’ on the phone.
And when it get’s a little cold I like to have another cup of coffee.
And when it’s lunch, I have an expresso.

As a student approaching looming final deadlines and completing graduate school applications, I identified with this part of the song heavily. The amount of caffeine consumed in America is a huge amount, I think we can look to the success of Starbucks as proof of that. We have a cultural dependency on caffeine, one we are socialized into. Coffee shops are appropriate hot spots for dates, wifi, and meetings–and most college campuses are equipped with more than one in the surrounding area.

How have YOU been socialized into caffeine? How many of your parents drink coffee? Do you watch Friends (coffee shop = vital part of the show)? Do you go to coffee shops? How about soda? Do you agree with me that we have a cultural dependency on caffeine? Why or why not?

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Soc Club Event!

November 9, 2009

Meet us at 8:30 on Tuesday at the Honors Cottage!

The UNI Sociology Club will be meeting Tuesday, November 10 at 8:30 at the Honors Cottage. While there, we will discuss Adam Yuet Chau’s article “Drinking Games, Karaoke Songs, and Yangee Dances: Youth Cultural Production in Rural China.” If you would like to read this article before hand, it is available through UNI’s library website . After a discussion, we will head to The Hub (18 year-olds, bring your college ID, cover is free) to perform participant observation at a live Karaoke event.

Questions? Contact Natalie Turner at turnern@uni.edu


Edward Who?

November 9, 2009

Eleven.

That is the number of days until New Moon comes out.

What does this mean sociologically?

In the months leading up to the release of this movie, we have seen the media attempt to sway the hearts of millions of fan girls and boys away from Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), and towards Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). The young Taylor Lautner, age 17, has had his shirtless body plastered everywhere. If you haven’t seen it yet, go to any local convenience store and glance at the magazine racks, I’m sure you’ll find it.

Taylor, a seventeen year-old and thus a minor, has been allowed to be sexy with little to no scrutiny from the media. A few years ago, however, Miley Cyrus’s cover of Vanity Fair (pictured above) caused a media frenzy, which claimed the photo shoot was too sexy for still-underage Miley, more recently, Miley has bee scrutinized for brief “poll dancing” choreography at the Teen Choice Awards. Awhile back, many blogs noticed this, and discussed the gendered nature of the situation. What do you think? Why is it okay in our society for Taylor to be sexy but not okay for Miley? Is it still a repercussion of the “angel in the house” mentality from the Victorian period?

The weeks leading up to Twilight: New Moon have also brought us something I LOVE–seriously, I enjoy them so much it’s kind of embarrassing. They’re Twilight spoofs. Whether homemade or corporately produced, I really enjoy these cultural artifacts. Such as this one, staring Taylor Swift, from Saturday Night Live:

One thing I enjoy about this sketch is that it shows how, in our society, it is okay to be attracted to some types of monsters, but not to others. This is of course, not something Stephanie Meyer invented, indeed, Dracula himself seduced women. What do you think? Do you think popular culture will ever see a (non-campy) sexy version of Frankenstein monster? What about a sexy mummy? Other than women’s Halloween costumes, I cannot think of any examples, and a quick google images search confirmed this for me. Why are humans allowed to be attracted to vampires and werewolves, and yet not to mummies or monsters? Does it have to do with how we value wealth, as vampires are often very rich? What do you think? What is the social hierarchy for monsters?

 

 


Why You Should THINK Before Making a Sign

November 3, 2009

I stumbled upon this image on the web today. The sign on the left was a real sign used at an Obama protest. This sign is a perfect example of why understanding society matters. Not getting into politics at all, the comparison between American taxpayers under the Obama administration to the massive amount of Jews murdered during the Holocaust makes this man appear to be extremely ignorant, and makes the sign seem very offensive. I like the edit that has been done to this picture, because it shows that by being ignorant of social history can greatly distort your message. This man’s anti-Obama message is not what sticks in the viewers head, it is instead the message that sticks is the man’s ignorance of world history. It just goes to show that just because something is attention-grabbing, doesn’t mean it is effective.

Discuss. What do you think?