Friday 28 March 2014

The -ism Series (11): Binarism

There is the tendency that gender is rather rigidly presented as a construct that "works along a male-female binarism in mass mediated accounts" (Sloop, 2004). This categorisation is criticised as those who do not clearly and permanently fall into one category are more likely to be stigmatised and marginalised (Preves, 2000). The limitations were firstly seen by feminists when queer theory came up in the 1990s (Kwok, 2005) since genderqueer individuals break gender binary.

- Kwok, P. (2005) Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press
- Preves, S. E. (2000) Negotiating the Constraints of Gender Binarism: Intersexuals' Challenge to Gender Categorization. Current Sociology, 48(3), 27-50
- Sloop, J. M. (2004) Disciplining Gender: Rhetorics of Sex Identity in Contemporary U.S. Culture. University of Massachusetts Press
- photograph by John Lewis Stage (1960) via

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Title IX

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was to ensure that no individual was discriminated against due to ethnicity, religion ... gender. Prohibition on gender discrimination, however, was limited to the area of employment and did not refer to public education and federally assisted programmes (via). Title IX was proposed. And it changed the landscape of sports. The first person to introduce it was Senator Birch Bayh: "We are all familiar with the stereotype of women as pretty things who go to college to find a husband, go on to graduate school because they want a more interesting husband, and finally marry, have children, and never work again. The desire of many schools not to waste a 'man's place' on a woman stems from such stereotyped notions. But the facts absolutely contradict these myths about the 'weaker sex' and it is time to change our operating assumptions." (via).
The law was not welcomed by everybody. Opponents argued that men's sports would suffer when women's sports got more attention. Some school administrators said that in sports there were three genders: male, female and football. Schools came to different decisions ranging from dropping certain types of sports to adding new ones and creating new opportunities. After the introduction of Title IX, the number of women's college teams and women college athletes rose (via).

Just do it. On the 40th aniversary of Title IX (from 23 June, 1972), Nike celebrated the US legislation that opened the door for female athletes with the commercial "Voices" showing gold medalists and national champions Joan Benoit Samuelson, Lisa Leslie, Marlen Esparza, and Diana Taurasi (via):

photographs via and via

Monday 24 March 2014

Quoting Kate Winslet

“I like being in the city. I like the diversity that my children are exposed to every day. I love the way their brains work. [My son] Joe turns to me the other day and says ‘One day I will have a girlfriend or a boyfriend, darling. Which would you prefer?’ And I said ‘My love, that would be entirely up to you, and it doesn’t make any difference to me.’ But that he knows! It’s a real privilege. Talk about the best education.” Kate Winslet

Photo via

Friday 21 March 2014

World Down Syndrome Day

"Having Down syndrome is like being born normal. I am just like you and you are just like me. We are all born in different ways, that is the way I can describe it. I have a normal life." Chris Burke (actor)

Picture you, picture me ...

"Picture you, Picture me is a collaborative and explorative portrait project with my daughter Laoisha. Naturally evolving from my daughter’s curiosity and urge to stand on the other side of the camera, she has taken more and more control of the camera and of me. Directing each other through role-play and instructions, we decide how the other stands, which direction to face and even facial expressions. These are playful interactions where the camera becomes an instrument of amusement and our photo shoots become play sessions." Emer Gillespie (photographer)

In 2011, 21st of March was declared as World Down Syndrome Day, an awareness day that this year focuses on "Health and Wellbeing - Access and Equality for All". People are encouraged to wear brightly coloured and printed socks ... many of them ... some suggest three symbolising Trisomy 21 (via).

Thursday 20 March 2014

International Day of Happiness

"On this first International Day of Happiness, let us reinforce our commitment to inclusive and sustainable human development and renew our pledge to help others. When we contribute to the common good, we ourselves are enriched. Compassion promotes happiness and will help build the future we want."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, International Day of Happiness 2013

Background music for this posting by Pharrell Williams, 2014 partner of the United 
Nations Foundation to celebrate Internatioal Day of Happiness; click "Happy"

Happy worldwide: JamaicaHong KongVienna, Tel AvivGrazBeijingBucharestTorino, Naples, Sydney, Rome, MarseilleDublinBudapestLebanon, MaltaBremen, Buenos Aires, SibiuVilnius, Lugano, Sofia, ...

Photo viaUN resolution, Day of Happiness

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Guinness & St. Patrick's Day 2014

"Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all. We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year’s parade. As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation. We will continue to work with community leaders to ensure that future parades have an inclusionary policy."

Heineken and Boston Beers withdrew their participation in the St. Patrick's parades in New York City and Boston. So did the key sponsor Guinness, Boston's mayor Marty Walsh and New York City's mayor Bill de Blasio. They reacted to the organisers of the parades who prohibited LGBT participants to carry signs or banners that identified them as who they are (via).

The Guinness commercial Men and women shouldn't live together from 1995 showing a gay couple was banned before it became a YouTube sensation 17 years later (via).

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photograph (Ashland University, 1973) via

Monday 17 March 2014

The -ism Series (10): Orientalism

The cultural critic Edward Wadie Said's (1935-2003) concept of Orientalism revolutionised the studies of "the East". Orientalism is referred to as "a body of ideas, beliefs, cliches, or learning about the East". Said describes the Orient as a European invention, as a European representation of the East. For him, Orientalism connotes 19th and 20th century European colonialism since the image of the East created by the West justified its supremacy.

Most interestingly, the concept of Orient differs from culture to culture. While US-Americans associate the Far East, i.e. mainly Japan and China, with the Orient, the French and the British have a notion of the Orient that is based on the European Western experience.

The "other", the East, helped Europe to define itself as its contrast. Said comes to the conclusion that "the Orient is not an inert fact of nature. It is not merely there, just as the Occident is not just there either." He continues that Orient and Occident are "man-made".

Said, E. (1977) Orientalism. London: Penguin
photos via and via and via

Friday 14 March 2014

Public Library

Ronald Ervin McNair (1950-1986), physicist and NASA astronaut, lost his life during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger on 28 January 1986. In this three-minutes animation, his brother tells the story of nine-year-old Ron not accepting the rules of 1959.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Urban Planning, Religious Pluralism & The Postcolonial City

The integration of religion(s) in public space is rather complex and leads to discussions abouth both secularism and interculturalism. There is the basic question, for instance asked by the Mouvement laique québécois, if attributing a religious character to public places is contrary to the fundamental principles of a society which stipulates that public spaces should be available to every individual regardless of religious belief (Germain, n.y.).

Ethno-religious groups' desire to contribute to the urban landscape and to be visually represented is interpreted as a demand for recognition. Denying their visibility means denying their contribution and promoting homogeneity. Places of worship can "provide a glimpse into the ever-changing reality of our larger cities and an opportunity to uncover the rich tapestry of social interaction inherent in co-existence" (Germain, n.y.). In this ever-changing reality, the postcolonial city is "the city of diasporas and migrations in which differences and plurality have upset and rewritten hegemonic, colonialist, mono-cultural dialogues" (via).

Bouchard, G. & Taylor, C. (2008) Building the Future. A Time for Reconciliation. (via)
Gale, R. (n.y.) The Multicultural City and the Politics of Religious Architecture: Urban Planning, Mosques and Meaning-making in Birmingham, UK. Built Environment, 30(1), 18-32
Germain, A. (n.y.) Religion in Public Space in a Multi-Ethnic Environment: reasonable accommodation in zoning. Plan, Special Edition, 89-91
Photo of Wilhelmina Cooper by Rico Puhlmann (1962) via and photograph by Norman Parkinson (1963) via

Monday 10 March 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel & VisitBritain's Guide to the Foreign Guest

The United Kingdom is worldwide tourist destination number eight (via). VisitBritain, a merger between the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourism Council, was established in 2003 in order to market Britain internationally and to develop the visitor economy (via). When VisitBritain published a guidance for the tourism industry (how to treat foreign guests in hotels) reactions soon followed. At the beginning of this year, various internet sources quoted the dos and don'ts that were listed in VisitBritain's report ... with some sarcastic remarks.

The dos comprise:
- Understand that Indians are amiable but have a tendency to change their minds quite frequently.
- Deal promptly with any complaint from German or Austrian tourists, who can be straightforward and demanding to the point of seeming rude and aggressive.
- Ensure tourists from Russia - a tall nation - are housed in rooms with hight ceilings and doorways. (via)

The don'ts comprise:
- Exchange a smile or make eye contact with anyone from France who you do not know.
- Ask superstitious people from Hong Kong to sleep in a historic property or a four-poster bed because they associate them with ghostly encounters.
- Describe a visitor from Canada as American. (via)

Photos from Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel (via and via and via)

Friday 7 March 2014

Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac

"Why do we work so hard? For what? For this (showing a large swimming pool in the back yard)? For stuff? Other countries, they work, they stroll home, the stop by the cafe, they take August off. Off! Why aren’t you like that? Why aren’t we like that? 
Because we’re crazy, driven, hard-working believers, that’s why. Those other countries think we’re nuts. Whatever. Were the Wright Brothers insane? Bill Gates, Les Paul, Ali? Were we nuts when we pointed to the moon? That’s right, we went up there and you know what we got? Bored. So we left. Got a car up there and we left the keys in it, do you know why? Because we’re the only ones going back up there, that’s why.
But I digress. You work hard, you create your own luck, and you gotta believe anything is possible. As for all the stuff. That’s the upside of only taking two weeks off in August. N’est-ce pas?" (via)

The most recent Cadillac commercial soon caused some controversy. Huffington Post described it as an ad about the American dream that became a nightmare, a parody of itself (via).
Cadillac, a division of General Motors Company, was founded in 1902 by Henry Leland who named the company after Antoine Laumet de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac (via). And Antoine Laumet de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac (1658-1730), happened to be French and by the way the founder of Detroit (via). Who knows, afer founding Detroit he probably took four weeks off. Not a bad idea. N'est-ce pas?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Update from 14 April 2014

By the way, Ford responded with a parody starring Pasho Murray, founder of "Detroit Dirt", a company that is specialised on turning waste into compost and selling the latter to people who wish to create urban gardens. She ends with a different conclusion. "It's pretty simple. You work hard, you believe that anything is possible, and you try to make the world better. You try. As for helping the city grow good, green, healthy vegetables? That's the upside of giving a damn. N'est-ce pas?" (via)

Here is the clip:

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Cher & How the Sochi Olympics Became "Gay Olympics"

Before and during the Winter Olympics, there were concerns regarding the human rights of LGBT athletes and the compatibility of Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter with Russia's "gay propaganda" laws which e.g. restrict freedom of expression (via).

In December 2013, Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Citizenship and Fundamental Rights joined German president Gauck who boycotted the games and tweeted: "I will certainly not go to Sochi as long as minorities are treated the way they are under the current Russian legislation." (via)

US-president Obama's message was rather clear. He appointed openly gay athletes to the Olympic delegation such as tennis player Billie Jean King, ice hockey Olympian Caitlin Cahow and figure skating Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano who came out a few days after his appointment (via).
Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff came out in response to the Russian laws: "I was hoping by coming out in response to these laws it would inspire a lot of other people who are in the closet to come out regardless of what society thinks and what laws are in place" (via). Shortly before the Olympics started, Finnish swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen came out: "I wanted to start a broader discussion in connection with Sochi, because it's sad that the legislation in Russia restricts the human rights of young people and others." (via). Canadian speed skater Anastasia Bucsis had her coming out when she was qualifying for the Sochi Olympics (via), Dutch snowboarder Cheryl Maas raised her "rainbow gloves" to a camera after having competed in Sochi (via), a few participating athletes had come out years before, tennis legend Martina Navratilova asked the International Olympic Committee to stand up for their athletes (via).

Cher turned down the offer to perform at the Winter Olympics: "I immediately said no. I want to know why all of this gay hate just exploded over there." (via)

In January 2014, the Principle Six Campaign (P6) was launched. P6 refers to the sixth principle of the Olympic Charter which says that any kind of discrimination is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement. The two organisations All Out and Athlete Ally created the P6 campaign, the gear was produced and distributed by American Apparel. Proceeds from the P6 merchandise directly went to LGBT advocacy groups in Russia. The campaign was signed by a great many Olympians and professional athletes (via).

The Canadian Institue of Diversity and Inclusion (CIDI) launched an ad for the Winter Olympics to show their support especially for the athletes in Sochi. CIDI also invited the public to show support during the games by changing the facebook profile picture to an equals symbol with two lugers (via).

The day the Olympics started, Google published part of the Olympic Charter under its search bar: "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."

Channel 4 changed its logo into a rainbow logo for a day to back LGBT rights (via) and created the 90-second clip "Gay Mountain" wishing "good luck to everyone out in Sochi". It was officially aired on the day of the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics and received enormous positive response. "This is a typcially Channel 4 way of celebrating the start of the Winter Games and showing our support to all of the athletes out in Sochi, gay or straight." (via). And it is one of the many steps Channel 4 takes to promote responsible behaviour and diversity (via). The British television broadcaster is a founder of the Creative Diversity Network and plays "a pioneering role in bringing transgender stories to prime time and humanising the challenged and discrimination faced" (via).

AT&T, US Olympic Committee sponsor, was the first major US corporation to support LGBT equality and to condemn Russia's laws (via). The cosmetics chain Lush stood up for LGBT rights in the Winter Olympics stating that they are human rights. When the Olympics approached, shops around the world ran the Valentine's campaign "We believe in Love" (via). The Scottish brewery BrewDog created a type of beer called "Hello, My Name is Vladimir" with Warhol-style Putin wearing make-up and the sarcastic label "Not for gays". 50% of the profits went to LGBT charities (via). Companies sponsoring the Winter Olympics such as Coca Cola, McDonald's, Visa, and Procter & Gamble were warned by human rights activists and found themselves in a controversial situation that was difficult to handle (via).

Perhaps it is too early for a thorough analysis but in the past weeks it could certainly be observed that a great many people, organisations and companies showed solidarity and took a clear stance. And somehow it seems that the "propaganda laws" partly backfired and Sochi ironically became the "Gay Olympics"(via)...

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photographs of Cher via and via, video "Gay Mountain", Channel4

Monday 3 March 2014

Post No. 100. Or: Your Comments are Sooo Beautiful

Many thanks for reading my blog and special thanks to you Kenneth, Derek, Karen, Sam, Abbie, Tim, Macy, Erin, Noah, Terryl, Frans, Wim, Poppy, John, Anonymous I to VIII, and Florian for your comments. It is such a pleasure to read your most beautiful comments. Thank you for your company :-)

Photo (2014) Moazedi/Paperwalker

Sunday 2 March 2014

Educated Light Skin & Ignorant Dark Skin? Stereotypes And Skin Tone Bias

Skin tone bias, a phenomenon that is prevalent among different ethnicities, is the tendency to judge people based on their skin tone lightness or darkness. And usually the tendency is, the darker, the more negative the stereotypes and the discrimination that are associated (e.g. longer prison sentences). Not every individual easily fits into the artificial and simplified black-white categories. The black-white dichotomy, the construction of two poles, shows its flexible and arbitrary approach when, for instance, black-white ambiguous faces are to be categorised: Ambiguous faces that are categorised as white are perceived as being lighter.

The first day of desegregation at Fort Myer Elementary School in Fort Myer, VA on 8 September 1954

In their study, Ben-Zeev et al. (2014) investigated the link between stereotypic (i.e. expectancy-congruent) priming vs. counter-stereotypic (i.e. expectency-violating) priming and (mis)remembering a person's skin tone. The researchers used an unambiguous black male target face. Participants were either primed with a stereotypic word ("ignorant", "athletic") or a counter-stereotypic word ("educated"). The subliminal prime was immediately followed by the unambiguous black man's face. Afterwards, participants completed a recognition task. The authors proceeded on the assumption that the counter-stereotypic word "educated" would lead to whitening of the face in memory and assimilate the information to the stereotype while the word "ignorant" would not lead to any distortions since it is congruent with societal expectations.

In 1959, Prince Edward County Schools decided to close all schools, so they did not have to desegregate. No public school was open for five years. Meanwhile the "white" community opened a private school where all the "white" students went to (via).

So what happens when the words "ignorant", "educated" or "athletic" are presented in 40-point Helvetica for 30 ms followed by seven different skin tone variations of a black man's face? One result of the study suggests that a counter-stereotypic (i.e. educated) black male is likely to be remembered as "whiter" which supports the skin tone memory bias. This tendency is explained with "the mind's striving for cognitive consistency" and "the attempt to resolve an incompatible cognition". In other words, an educated black male challenges the sterotypic-driven mind.

School segregation protest

Ben-Zeev, A., Dennehy, T. C., Goodrich, R. I., Kolarik, B. S. & Geisler, M. W. (2014). When an "Educated" Black Man Becomes Lighter in the Mind's Eye: Evidence for a Skin Tone Memory Bias. SAGE Open, January-March, 1-9.
Photos via and via and via