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Posts from the ‘In the News’ Category

Barbie or American Girl, and Does it Matter?

In Andrew J Rotherman’s article “What Barbie Could Learn From American Girl,” for Time he claims that American Girl is a wholesome alternative to Barbie’s “vapid sexuality.” He supports the historical back-stories that are paired with each doll, claiming that Barbie will be better if she could teach young girls something.

Rotherman and Elizabeth Chin, author of Purchasing Power: Black Kids and American Consumer Culture, agree on one thing: toymakers like Mattel, maker of Barbie and American Girl, have the goal of empowering young girls, though Chin specifically concentrates on girls’ self esteem in “Ethnically Correct Dolls.” I think Rotherman and Chin’s agreement stops here, however.

Rotherman argues that when Barbie is shown as an astronaut, veterinarian or Marine Corps drill instructor, this image of women in powerful and successful positions is negated by the unrealistic way “Barbie is still off to her hot tub or other age-inappropriate activities.”

I think Chin would argue that it doesn’t matter what Barbie does; it’s all foreign to the kids she studied in New Haven who wanted dolls that were like them, familiar to them.

“They wondered why there was no fat Barbie, no abused Barbie, no pregnant Barbie” (369).

Addy Walker, the Civil War era American Girl doll (click for source)

American Girl has Addy, an African American ex-slave in the Civil War era. While the history education that comes along with the dolls is important, Chin would probably point to the ways through which the girls she studied can create the familiarity they crave “through their own imaginative and material work.” They braided the dolls’ hair to “bring their dolls into their own worlds” (369). Dolls become part of the kids’ lives. The stories created around the dolls revolve around what the child knows, not the story that Mattel created around the doll.

Chin argues that having ethnically correct dolls isn’t really that important, or doesn’t make much of an impact because the low income communities that could benefit from these dolls don’t have access to the dolls physically and financially. It seems ironic then that Rotherman, co-founder of a non-profit that deals with low-income communities, believes that American Girl is a better alternative to Barbie when it is so much less accessible to the communities he is trying to better.

It’s all fun and games….

Video taken from a Chuck E. Cheese in Beaumont, TX

As a child I loved to go to birthday parties at the famous Chuck E. Cheese restaurant and arcade. It reminds most people of a place of fun, pizza, and games, but in a recent article ABC news explores the abnormal amounts of fighting that goes on in Chuck E. Cheese restaurants throughout the nation. Chuck E. Cheese over the years has become a place of feuding between upset parents. Whether its parents getting mad at kids or parents fighting with each other, many videos have shown up on YouTube that show the fights that go on in Chuck E. Cheese. The article claims that the fights occur due to alcohol and the fact that it is a stressful environment sometimes for parents. As a parent you want your child’s birthday party to be perfect and problems such as another kid taking to long can cause stress and in extreme cases can invoke anger. I honestly think it is the mix of alcohol and stress that is causing these outrageous encounters. For a grown up to yell at a child because they are taking to long playing pac man is completely insane. I can’t even fathom the idea of my mom pulling out someone’s hair because I had to wait 5 extra seconds before I got to take my picture in a photo booth. In class we have talked about the idea of parents wanting to protect their children and the incidents at Chuck E. Cheese take this to an extreme. It is amazing to me that there are so many fights that this has brought attention to the media but I guess you can never underestimate the importance of your child’s birthday.

Graffiti: Opportunities For Young Artists To Become Successful

In the last few years, there has been lots of news about graffiti artists showing in galleries and museums because currently there is a new visibility, respect, and cool factor to the art form. For example, a recent article from the Huffington Post tells all about a project in the Bronx of New York City in which “a block-long limestone mansion originally built as a welfare hotel for the retiring rich invites streetwise graffiti artists and others to gild its decayed rooms”. In 1915 a NY millionaire named Andrew Freedman died and left his money to build a mansion for the former wealthy to live in when they become poor so they could still have a wealthy lifestyle. The space is about twice the size of the white house, and since becoming a landmark in ’84 has been decaying and falling apart, which is ironic because the once lavish home of the disadvantaged wealthy has become the crumbling venue of street artists to display their work.

sneak peek at a room from the "This Side of Paradise" show

“At the same time in the late 70s and early 80s when this home’s original purpose was failing you had the rise of Bronx graffiti,” says Keith Schweitzer, the curator of the show.

"Wildstyle" Graffiti, 1983

Part of the idea behind this show is to “revitalize the community” and the show is called This Side of Paradise. “With a few heavyweight street art and graffiti names bringing these rooms to life, it’s interesting to see their role as one of contributing in a positive way here where the emergence of a global ‘Wildstyle’ graffiti first blossomed while entire neighborhoods burned.”

The project makes a funny kind of reversal of classes and time: “the role of the artist rising from the ashes of the burned-out neighborhoods then and an art show in the decay of this home now”.

Although this article makes no mention of minorities or youth, it does talk about class lines and how graffiti art, an art of the lower classes, can transcend that line. I would like to reference another article from PBS News which reviews a new book about the history of American graffiti. This article says that contemporary American graffiti really had its start in the early 70’s when kids started tagging city walls. It has always been a movement grounded in youth culture, especially teenage. “Young people were the key players in shaping the contemporary graffiti movement” says Neelon, one of the authors of the book. He goes on to say that graffiti is “by definition a defiant and public exhibition” and “there’s an earned respect and craft to graffiti work done outside in the streets”. This can be a problem for moving this kind of work from the outside to a gallery because often it will not translate well into a different setting. However, Neelon says that “artists who master the craft of painting on the street can create perhaps even greater work in studio settings, where they have more time, resources and don’t have to worry about the weather or the police. What they might lose is the volume of people who see their work on a regular basis”. Because of the current popularity of street art, many museums and organizations are trying to develop niches for bringing the art into a new space. I think the abandoned house graffiti project is a really great idea of a way to bring graffiti art into the high art world because it remains authentic, does not get lost in translation, allows the artists to have time and resources, allows them to spread to other mediums, and is run by a museum so it attracts a high art crowd but is in an abandoned building so also attracts the public.

A piece by Basquiat, titled "Baptism", 1982

Robin Kelley mentions that young graffiti artists in the 70s were also sometimes able to sell their work to local merchants and community organizations, “and a handful enjoyed fleeting success in the Soho art scene” (418). He goes on to talk about graffiti organizations serving to expose young artists to galleries and dealers, but “those who tried to branch out beyond graffiti were often discouraged, and gallery and museum directors who invited them to show their work tended to treat them in an incredibly disrespectful manner” (418). I would argue with this in the present because galleries today are really trying to be respectful of street art, one example being the project in the first article which shows graffiti artists branching out to other mediums and exhibiting their work through an organization while keeping it in a public space. Kelley also says that “ ‘high art’ critics viewed graffiti as the embodiment of an aggressive masculine street culture” and I think that was perhaps half true in the 70’s with artists such as Basquiat (who was really only marginally graffiti artist) but is not true today… in my opinion current graffiti art (at least what has become popular to the public) has a softer quality than what Kelley refers to, it is more design-based than aggressive (419). Kelley goes on to say “the overnight success of these major artists, especially Basquiat, gave hope to some writers that the visual arts might ofer a lucrative alternative to low-wage labor and an opportunity to live off their own creativity” (419). He later says however that graffiti loses its appeal and value when removed from its site of origin and rarely generates much money for the creator, and loses its authenticity when it is not created illegally, and he says that basketball is different because it doesn’t lose authenticity when players go pro (420). I think graffiti artists today are trying to keep that authenticity by remaining anonymous, or doing paid work out in public areas rather than in galleries. When they do show in galleries, I think they can bring the voice of their experiences to a different group of people. Also I would say that currently there is more of a chance to get money and fame from street art than there is to become a pro basketball player.

Graffiti as an art form has an amazing ability to give a voice to the anonymous/unheard, and at the same time transcend the lines of race and class and has the power to send its creators from the poor neighborhoods of the inner city to the success of the museum/gallery/downtown scene. The Robin Kelley article was written in 1997, talks about the brief popularity of graffiti art in the 70’s, but with the new popularity and visibility of street art today, I believe it has more of a power to catapult artists to the world of success and fame.

 

 

A Doll for a Twin

This is the image used on the Facebook page "Beautiful and Bald Barbie! Let's see if we can get it made", which campaigned for the creation of a bald Barbie.

Mattel very recently announced on Facebook their newest project, bald Barbie. Referred to as a “fashion doll”, Mattel’s decision to create this new doll was prompted by a Facebook campaign. With over 150,000 “likes”, the Facebook campaign was started by two mothers who called for the creation of a hairless Barbie (http://blogs.babble.com/family-style/2012/03/28/finally-barbie-is-going-bald/). The mothers’ intentions were for this doll to serve as a coping device for young girls with and/or exposed to hair loss that was brought on by some illness. Mattel stated that accessories for the doll, such as: “wigs, hats, scarves and other fashion accessories” (https://www.facebook.com/Mattel?sk=wall), will be offered in order to ensure equality in play with both bald Barbies and traditional Barbies.  Additionally, Mattel will not be putting this new doll on the shelf; rather, they will donate the dolls to children’s hospitals in order to ensure that those children who need these dolls most will get them.

Mattel stated in their post: “Play is vital for children, especially during difficult times” (https://www.facebook.com/Mattel?sk=wall). The plea made by the mothers on Facebook along with Mattel’s decision to submit to these mothers’ requests shows the importance these groups place on play, doll play in particular, and their belief in play’s therapeutic capabilities. The significance of dolls is also noted in Chin’s chapter: “Ethnically Correct Dolls: Toying with the Race Industry”. In this chapter, Chin discusses the makers’ of ethnically correct dolls strong feelings about girls, specifically African American girls, having dolls to play with that resemble them. Chin states the makers’ intention for creating these dolls, she writes: “Ethnically correct dolls(‘)…purpose is to make kids feel better about themselves as they play with toys that look like them” (359). The ethnically correct doll manufacturers’ objective is to build self-esteem amongst African American girls; they believe that black children playing with white dolls endangers these black children’s self-concept. The driving force behind the creation of ethnically correct dolls and the soon to come bald Barbies is this idea that children need to relate to their doll, mostly in regards to appearance, in order to experience the full benefits of play. The Facebook petition page states: “This would be a great coping mechanism for young girls dealing with hair loss themselves or a loved one” (https://www.facebook.com/BeautifulandBaldBarbie). The hope is that Mattel’s new doll will help boost the self-esteem of children undergoing hair loss, and “bring joy to children who need it most” (https://www.facebook.com/Mattel?sk=wall).

A disparity that exists between ethnically correct dolls and Mattel’s bald Barbies is the rate at which these dolls are obtained by the children who need them most. As noted above, Mattel plans to distribute their new dolls to children’s hospitals, easing the burden of these children in need from having to seek out and purchase these dolls. In contrast to Mattel, manufacturers of ethnically correct dolls, such as OLMEC, are looking to make money. If you cannot afford or lack access to a store that sells these dolls, you are unfortunately out of luck. This was the case for most of the African American Newhallville children Chin worked with. The Newhallville children appeared to manage just fine with their white-skinned dolls, but this is beside the point. In the minds of the makers of ethnically correct dolls, Newhallville children and other children in similar positions are the kids most in need of these dolls, yet they happen to be the children most deprived of them.

Whether or not one believes that children need to physically look like their doll in order to experience play’s full effect, the bottom line is that dolls are an extremely important and beneficial component of play. All children deserve to possess a doll that brings them the utmost comfort and joy.

 

 

The Family Hustle

The Family Hustle

This past December “music” channel VH1 premiered a new reality documentary series of rapper T.I. and his wife “Tiny” Tameka Cottle. The show followed T.I. from his release from prison to his return home to his wife and six children. Plots for most of the shows focused on parenting issues like school, dating, and the children’s dreams as well as T.I.’s new upcoming en devours. Personally I am a huge fan of T.I. and watched the show all the time, and I am not the only one. Millions of viewers tuned in every Monday to see the family and VH1 recently announced that “The Family Hustle” will return for a second season this fall. In my opinion the main reason for the return of the second season was due to the children’s en devours in the entertainment business. One of T.I.’s kids, Domani, revealed in the first season that he wanted to become a rapper. In one episode T.I. devotes time and money to make his son’s dream come true by providing support and money to shoot Domani’s first music video “Green Faces.” After reading Kelley’s article “Looking to Get Paid: How Some Black Youth Put Culture to Work” which was written in the late 90′s, is now in my opinion outdated. More than ten years later Hip-Hop/Rap has become so influential in mainstream culture that now the dream of becoming a Hip-Hop/Rap sensation is not solely limited to poorer African-American children who look towards Hip-Hop/Rap as a job and a way out. Many young privileged African-American children, like Domani, are born into wealthy households where the main issues of Hip-Hop/Rap such as poverty, crime, and drugs are not prevalent. Domani and other privileged children who decide to enter the Hip-Hop/Rap scene view it as a hobby however, they are still concerned about making money. For example Domani’s music video is almost all about making money, which is ironic because his dad already makes a pretty decent salary. I found this interesting because Kelley argues that these creative outlets are ways for “urban youth” to turn their hobbies into labor to recieve “cold hard cash” (410). While Kelley’s argument still holds true in some respect, I believe that now the opportunities for African-American youth to turn their leisure into labor for monetary benefits is not solely limited to “urban youth”.

No more victim-blaming!

According to a news report from The Guardian, more than a month has passed since the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin occurred in a gated, middle-class community near Miami, Florida.

Trayvon Martin was walking back to his father’s girlfriend’s house, when he was shot and killed by volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. Under the claim of self-defense, Zimmerman was released from questioning and has yet to be arrested. This is where the issue becomes problematic. Sanford Police argue to have released Zimmerman based on the Florida ”stand your ground” law, which allows Florida residents to employ deadly force against another person if they fear for their safety, and because of his supposedly “squeaky clean” record. However, Zimmerman had both a restraining order alleging domestic violence and a charge of assaulting a police officer, both in 2005. Furthermore, the 911 tapes show that Zimmerman followed Treyvon, despite being told not to by the Operator. This instance contradicts his claim of self-defense, for it puts Zimmerman in the position of the aggressor, not that of the victim. His claim is even further discredited when you consider that Trayvon was unarmed, was half the weight of Zimmerman, and was carrying nothing but a bag of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea. How Zimmerman could have felt his life threatened by this young boy is beyond me.

Even more problematic, is how the media has handled this case. Fox News reporter, Geraldo Rivera said on “Fox and Friends”  that the hoodie is as much to blame for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was. He went on to urge black and Latino parents to not let their children go out wearing hoodies if they want to avoid racial profiling. Rivera argued that by wearing the hoodie, Trayvon was making himself look as a gangster, who are frequently perceived as criminals.

Much like the congressmen and individuals who spoke  at the 1994 Hip Hop Hearings, Rivera’s remarks seem to stem from a intergenerational divide. Both the speakers at the Hip Hop Hearings and Geraldo Rivera lived during the civil rights movement, a time when a lot of minorities practiced the “regulation of intra-community behaviors via the promotion of temperance, cleanliness of person and property, polite manners, and sexual purity” (AMS 310 Lecture, 2011). Minority communities used the politics of respectability in order to deter the stereotype that minorities are unruly and uncivilized people, and thus have their social reform movement taken more seriously. This might explain why Rivera, as well as the speakers at the Hip Hop Hearings, blamed the visible aspects of youth culture (style of clothing, music, etc.) for the problems that are currently affecting African and Latino Americans.

However, George Lipsitz argues that by blaming the hoodie or “gansta rap”, they are detaching the issues afflicting minority communities from their true socio-economic and political causes such as lack of jobs, lack of proper health-care, not enough funding for public education and social programs, etc (Course Packet, 395).  In a true democracy, people of every sex, ethnicity, and sexuality should have the freedom to wear whatever clothes they want and listen to whatever music they prefer, without having to fear for their lives or overall safety.

Children’s Misuse of Technology

In the past couple weeks we have talked about technology and its effect on children. In this article,School Bullying- it’s not what it used to be, talks about how children have started misusing the computers and technology that are given to them from educational purposes. We talked about, especially with The Veldt, how technology is affecting children and the way they view society. It is clear through this article that this effect is still an issue decades later.

The article talks about how through the use of Facebook, Twitter, email, IM, etc… children have begun cyber-bullying. It used to be that children would be bullied at school, but once they left school for the day they could escape it. However, now children have found ways to continue bullying through all hours of the day. The article says that children will hear alerts from their computer at around 3 o’clock in the morning from people bullying them. John Martin, the writer of this article, says that when schools provide computers for their children to use it allows for the possibility of misuse by the children. Also, through the creation of smart phones, children can send messages to multiple kids at a time. This allows for kids to send rumors and information to many kids at one time.

Technology and new innovations are good things. However, these new generations of children that are used to all of the technology are not treating them as they are supposed to be used. Creators of the iPhone and Facebook were not trying to find ways for children to use these harmfully. However, the children are so used to these things that it seems ok for them to use them harmfully. This draws a whole other issue of the attitudes of the new generation, which I am not going to get in to.

Cortland Computer, School computer lab