Monday, March 8, 2010
So I was thinking about the guy who flew an airplane into the IRS offices in Austin, Texas last month. The media basically stopped covering him the day after. They didn’t even call the act terrorism, even though so many other similar acts are construed as such. I have a sneaking suspicion that it was because he was white. He was a white American with a very “American” name: Joe Stack. I think that the media did not want to cover this story because it conflicts with their agenda. There can’t be members of the dominant culture that are terrorists, the media wants us to fear those who are not in power. Because he was in the dominant group, we weren’t supposed to see him as a terrorist. The media wants us to fear people who do not fit the rigid WASP standards, and see people who are not white as possible terrorists. I think this also has to do with them construing the Fort Hood tragedy as terrorism. Even though the guy was American, he was also a Muslim with a non-dominant culture sounding name, and it fit the media’s construction of terrorism to paint the Fort Hood disaster as a terrorist act. Tim Stack resembled the dominant culture too closely to be called a terrorist but the guy at Fort Hood was ideal because he matched the media’s construction.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Of course, women are just the tip of the iceberg for using positive, inclusive language. Another thing that really bothers me is when people use “gay” as a replacement for stupid. When people use that, I try to get them to think about what they’re really trying to describe. I try to challenge them to find a more appropriate adjective. Using gay instead of a more accurate thing relegates gay people to just one stereotype and portrays them as lesser people than heterosexuals. Another important thing to focus on is describing a person rather than their race, sexual orientation, or ability first. Instead of referring to someone as their race, we can refer to them as a person. This shows that a single characteristic does not define someone. Just simply picking more appropriate language is important to improving relationships with people, and here is a good guide. Here is another great guide.
So one thing I think is really important is to focus on using inclusive language. I want to spread the word as part of my project. I also need to focus on using it myself. As a woman, I still even use “man kind” instead of “human kind”. It is unintentional but I do think using male dominant language is a reflection of patriarchal values socialized into me, and helps to continue them. Instead of focusing on humanity as a whole, it focuses on man’s achievements and ignores women. It is important to reflect the value of women through our language. I found a good guide on gender-neutral language. It helps to explain why certain words carry certain connotations and need to be avoided. While it is silly to change things like “man-handle”, it is important to recognize women’s contributions by using “congress member” instead of “congressman”.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
So one thing I found really interesting today was how homophobic remarks are easily dismissed as harmless. I haven’t used gay as a synonym for pointless or stupid since I was 9 years old and my mother explained to me that it was wrong. In that way I was prejudiced because I wasn’t educated and didn’t know what I was actually saying, and my mother enlightened me to see why it was wrong. I think that is a good example of how simple education can help with some types of prejudice, but I am positive that most people who say ‘gay’ now know what gay really means, but still say it anyways. I am surprised at how many educated people I know who say it but don’t think it’s offensive. Anyways, I thought of this because I was reading about my favorite figure skater, Johnny Weir. A Canadian commentator basically said he was too gay for figure skating and should take a gender test, and Johnny went on Joy Behar’s show and said “it’s figure skating”. While his response was hilarious, I don’t think he should have to be the one to address it. I think the network it was broadcasted on should. The comment is basically saying that gay people are lesser and bad representations, and the person who said it needs to be held accountable. I think the comment is an example of homosexuals being such an underrepresented group that public figures feel it is okay to express prejudiced opinions about them. Johnny is an elite athlete but that comment used one aspect of him to completely undermine him and his performance.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
One thing I found particularly interesting today is the fact that Catholic Charities, recognizing the fact that homosexuals can now marry in Washington D.C., chose to exclude spouses of new employees from benefits packages. While not overtly targeted at homosexuals, it is alleged that the move was crafted to effectively deny homosexual partners from benefits, according to the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/02/catholic-charities-drops_n_482388.html. This is obviously rooted in their church’s stance on homosexual, but fails to realize that their employees are not all Catholic and may have families despite being homosexual. Well on to another topic, since that one seems pretty cut and dry. Like I wrote before, I think Craigslist is a great place to find out about how prejudice reaches the mainstream. One important thing to note about Craigslist is the fact that it allows users to flag offensive comments for removal. I’ve noticed that there are few new postings on the Fort Collins section, probably because people realize they’re offensive. However, some really obvious prejudice and offensive things got through. This excerpt from a recent posting equates women with only their looks, and judges personality off of looks, and is just plain awful: “I was at Target today and there was a fairly decent-looking guy with a hideous bitch-o-matic of a wife. I don't know how she conned him, but she must've been working some awesome magic, because I could barely look in her direction without feeling nauseous. Maybe these hideous creatures are proof that the world of magical spells and incantations really does exist. Because otherwise, I really don't how you'd explain it.” Another incoherent post makes some really racist assumptions: “yea .I see the racism is long gone .The shackles have just changed with the dependency on you liberals to get them hand outs and things like affordable housing , welfare , health care.” This gem is too long to post: http://fortcollins.craigslist.org/rnr/1597196342.html. Finally, a shining example of prejudice entitled “if I where (sic) president”, http://fortcollins.craigslist.org/rnr/1594421752.html. Though these are obviously offensive, I need to do research on how someone can actually believe them. Maybe over time they hear all the prejudice on Craigslist and other areas of socialization and believe it. Or maybe their main source of “knowledge” sadly is Craiglist.
I found some evidence that the internet can indeed spread and ignite prejudice and even hate. The Christmas day underpants bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was recruited by Al Qaeda exclusively by the internet, according to ABC News. Prior to “training”, he had no actual person to person contact with Al Qaeda and learned the motives and techniques for terrorism only from internet communication. Through the internet, he learned the prejudices and hatred that motivated him to attempt to “train” in Yemen to blow up an airplane. This shows that the internet can be an extremely powerful tool in intensifying one’s beliefs. While he may have shared sentiments with Al Qaeda prior to connecting to them through the internet, he surely would have not had the funds or techniques without it. Al Qaeda used the internet to add to feelings he may have already had by indoctrinating him into their beliefs, teaching him why to hate others and how to act upon that hate. Another thing I found extremely interesting about this incident is it not only shows that prejudice is in fact spread through the internet, but also shows that government officials are actually concerned about the internet’s role in the spread of prejudice and hate. Up until recently, the internet has been a no-holds barred arena, where people spread offensive and prejudice ideals with impunity. Now that there has been a direct connection of the internet to terrorism and hate, government and intelligence officials are thinking seriously about the role of the internet in spreading hate and prejudice as an issue of national security. According to Dennis Blair in the aforementioned article; "Malicious cyber activity is occurring on an unprecedented scale with extraordinary sophistication." A revolutionary tool in communication, the internet also poses unique risks by facilitating a mass diffusion of hate and prejudice, and the Christmas day incident is a clear indication of the dangers that lie in new technology.