Obesity Moral Panics and the Gendered Presentation of Disordered Eating

The news here recently reported on a new study suggesting that eating disorder rates in Australia have more than doubled in the last decade, and the rates of “regular disordered eating” (that doesn’t necessarily coincide with a diagnosable eating disorder) have nearly tripled.

One of the researchers indicates that the issue spreading to ‘groups not typically affected by weight issues’. Whilst I think it is a problem that the sort of weight-and-food-obsession that drives disordered eating is spreading, what Professor Hay’s comment suggests is that disordered eating and eating disorders aren’t a problem if it only affects those we believe to be ‘typically’ affected – that is, women. Of course, this presentation isn’t only about the researcher’s comments, but how they’re framed in reporting.

Women were five times more likely to have a disorder than men, but the study found a sharp rise in males with the problems, particularly bingeing.

“It’s a clear problem when it’s spreading into groups that weren’t typically affected by weight issues,” Prof Hay said.

Eating disorders double, The Courier-Mail, 29 April 2007

Of course, when you frame ‘groups typically affected’ as women (which, incidentally, obscures the class and race issues that also tend to shape the notion of which women are affected), the idea that “it’s a clear problem when it’s spreading” suggests that it wasn’t a problem before. Which of course is perfect fodder for the idea that eating disorders and disordered eating patterns are just about women being weak and silly.

That said, the study isn’t all bad news. Despite my issues with how it frames the issue in terms of gender, the study does do some good things. I’m not sure precisely how it distinguishes between ‘full blown eating disorders’ and ‘regular disordered eating’, but I suspect that’s largely because I’m not trained in psychology or psychiatric research. And despite my lack of knowledge, my intuition is that the distinction is important (if problematic), because whilst eating disorders are obviously quite serious, I think the prevalence of ‘regular disordered eating’, and the very naming of the phenomenon that way, says a lot about how warped our relationships with food can be, and how normalised that problem can (and has) become.

The researchers also, albeit cautiously, suggest that the rise in eating disorders and disordered eating is at least in part related to the public moral panic about obesity. I’m not going to get into a discussion of whether the obesity epidemic is real or not, because that discussion gets old really quickly, but this research goes some way to pointing out just why panicking about obesity isn’t the way to go about combating the problem if you believe there is one. Making people feel bad about themselves tends to reinforce the bad relationships with food and undermine any solutions to ‘the obesity epidemic’. Those who don’t take heed of these warnings run the risk of looking like they’re more interested in making fat people feel bad about themselves.

Reasearch: Call for Participants

So, I’m taking a class on Iranian Society this semester, and our major assessment item is a small selected-sample study on outsider (ie, people not in Iran) perceptions of Iranian society. Given my postgraduate study plans (whilst being somewhat uncertain at the moment given the state of my university department) involve exploring feminist blogging and community, I thought I’d take the opportunity to actually explore that area to some extent.

To that end, I’d be most appreciative if the feminist bloggers among you would help me out by completing a short survey. The questionnaire has been provided by my lecturers, but if you have any concerns that come up in completing the survey, I’ll be happy to hear about them.

Whilst I don’t really want to get into credential-checking, I’ve agreed with my lecturer that asking those who wish to participate to include a link to their blog is, though imperfect, a good screening mechanism. I know that cuts out regular commenters, but for the sake of simplicity, I want to stick with those who have their own blogs or participate in groupblogs which have a significant focus on feminist issues.

Of course, all identifying information, including links to blogs, will be kept confidential, and whilst the research is for assessment purposes only, I’d be happy to e-mail the final assessment to those participants who are interested, once it’s been submitted.

If you are interested in participating, please e-mail me at ariella.drake@gmail.com with the subject “Iran Study”, including a link to your blog, and I’ll forward a copy of the questionnaire. I’m running on a bit of a timeline, so I’ll need completed questionnaires back by May 14th.

PS. Anyone who feels like passing this along to others who might be interested in participating, I’d be most appreciative.

Ability Perception and Privilege

My partner recently alerted me to a recent study which examines attribution theory; the effect of what we see as the cause of our successes or failures. As Moore indicates in his summary, the short version is that if we see our success or failure as the result of innate attributes, we’re less likely to improve.

My immediate response to this was to apply it to part of how privilege works, and the tendency of people to get defensive when their behaviour is pointed out at sexist/racist/etc. I think many of us have faced the “But I’m not a sexist/racist/etc.” response, and the often difficult task of clarifying to someone that telling them that something they did was sexist/racist/etc. is not calling them a KKK member. I’ve seen some interesting discussions as to whether the separation of calling someone’s behaviour sexist/racist/etc. and calling them sexist/racist/etc. is a useful one. This research suggests to me that it may well be, from a practical perspective.

What I suspect, drawing from Dweck’s findings, is that someone who considers sexism/racism/etc to be an innate attribute is less likely to believe anti-oppression work is either necessary or useful. As made clearer in Guy Kawasaki’s discussion, such a person would be considered by the research as possessing a ‘fixed’ mindset; wherein they believe they are ‘set’ as either good or bad, in this case, not sexist or sexist. Assuming ‘not sexist = good’ for the moment, since this is likely the majority case, what the research suggests is that someone who believes they are ‘set’ as ‘not sexist’ will not believe they have to work at being non-sexist, whilst someone who believes that they are ‘set’ as ‘sexist’ will believe that any work they do towards being non-sexist won’t make much difference.

Perhaps the key indicator of the applicability of Dweck’s model comes from some of her own efforts to apply the model in areas other than her original area of schooling ability:

Many kids believe they’re invariably good or bad; other kids think they can get better at being good. Dweck has already found that preschoolers with this growth mind-set feel okay about themselves after they’ve messed up and are less judgmental of others; they’re also more likely than kids with a fixed view of goodness to try to set things right and to learn from their mistakes. They understand that spilling juice or throwing toys, for example, doesn’t damn a kid as bad, so long as the child cleans up and resolves to do better next time.

Marina Krakovsky, The Effort Effect Standford Magazine

Dweck believes in the importance of encouraging the growth mindset. I tend to agree. I don’t always engage with people at this level. Sometimes I just really don’t need to be dealing with people who are going to be defensive in this way. Plus, that experience can be pretty harrowing if you take it on for too long without giving yourself some room to just not have to do that for a while. However, when I do engage at this level, I can already recall those who would fit quite clearly into these two mindsets. I can also recall that those who fit in the growth mindset were much more able to get past defensive behaviour and take a look at their privilege.

I suspect a copy of Dweck’s book, Mindset will eventually make its way onto my bookshelf.

APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls

Stories like this BBC News article brought to my attention by one of our readers, Sexualisation ‘harms’ young girls, have been making the rounds in the feminist blogsphere. I am probably not going to do a breakdown of it, as it just reinforces what I say every time I address objectification in any of its forms.

I will, however, link everyone to the page on the APA that has the actual report, among other useful links.

I urge all of you to go there and read it first hand. After all, one of the suggestions of the report is to teach our children about media literacy, and what better way to embrace the message than to engage in some critical reading ourselves?

Childcare in Australia

So, the media here has been all over a recent report released by the Federal Treasury Department that supposedly counters years of claims that there is a childcare crisis in Australia, and claims that childcare is ‘accessible and affordable’. One of the key claims is that there’s oodles of childcare available to parents, “just not of their preferred type”.

Now, I’ll admit to not being an expert on childcare, particularly since I was never in childcare (I was lucky enough to have my grandmother move to Australia from my mother’s country of birth, China, when I was a toddler, so she looked after me when my mother went back to work), and I have no children, so I’ve never had the need to access childcare. Maybe I’m just being strange, but childcare always seemed like something one should be able to exercise a reasonable amount of discretion over, given, y’know, you’re trusting these people with the care of your children. Basically, the report claims that the perception of a childcare crisis is masking the fact that parents just aren’t getting the type of childcare they want, and there’s no mismatch between supply and demand. I mean really, it sounds like “People who want Coke are having trouble getting Pepsi, and people who want Pepsi are having trouble getting Coke, but there’s lots of cola, so there’s no supply/demand problem.” except with something that I’d like to think is rather more important than cola preference. Now, even with my rudimentary understanding of supply/demand, which mostly comes from my partner, who’s a marketing academic, I’m not seeing how that’s NOT a supply/demand problem. Really, as far as government reports are concerned, I’d see it as a reason to encourage further research into what kinds of childcare are lacking and wanted with reference to other specific variables, like location that’s more specific than ‘urban/inner-regional/outer-regional’. Unsurprisingly, instead we’ve got a bunch of handwaving and data-massaging in order to pretend there’s not a problem.

As for affordability, the report goes from “affordability has remained fairly constant for middle and high income families, and decreased slightly for low-income families” in the bulk of the report, to a blanket statement about child care being generally affordable. Those more knowledgeable in this area are free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I’d think that affordability of child care was a particularly crucial factor for low-income families, given affordable and accessible childcare is likely to be fairly important if one is attempting to increase one’s income above poverty levels. I imagine it’s rather difficult to get a second (or third, or fourth) job, or get more training if you can’t afford to have your kids looked after whilst you do that. So, y’know, if anything, I think the decreasing affordability for low-income families outweighs the stability for middle and high income families. Now, the report does indicate that the data doesn’t account for a recent expansion of a government-provided childcare assistance payment for low-income parents, but I’m not really a fan of the assumption without exploration that this expansion would sufficiently address the problem. If later research indicates the further government assistance is addressing the problem, that’s great, but the assumption is just lazy undeserved pats-on-the-back.

Now, the television reports have taken great joy in summarising the report as claiming parents are being picky. Whilst I think the report is more subtle than that, the ‘picky’ claim will probably pick up a lot of momentum, particularly from conservatives. But honestly, particularly given the amount of criticism that’s often thrown at women if their children are in childcare at all (unsurprisingly, men get much less of this criticism), I’m not really seeing why being picky about where and how your children are looked after if you need to work/study is such a horribly bad thing.

Report on Violence Involving Sexual Minorities in Japan

I was recently made aware of a report from the Institute for Global Health by Anthony S. DiStefano documenting violence involving sexual minorities in Japan in 2003-2004. The report, entitled Report on Violence Involving Sexual Minorities in Japan, is available in both English and Japanese.

This study aimed to determine whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in Japan experience violence: 1) directed against them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e., bashing); 2) occurring within intimate partner dyads; 3) by or against family members; and 4) toward the self. Additional goals were to identify the perceived health impacts of such violence, describe how these issues are defined and understood within the Japanese context, characterize the socio-cultural environment that influences the occurrence of violence, and identify specific areas of inquiry that future studies can examine in further depth.

Via the feminist LJ.

Embracing Your Inner Skeptic

I am a big fan of science. Studies, statistics, innovations in technology, you name it. Probably because I grew up in a family interested in debate and discussion and opinions only get you so far in those instances. In recent years, my mother in particular has embraced her Inner Skeptic and has encouraged me to do the same.

And, really, I think it’s high time for me to share the love of the Inner Skeptic with the world. Yes, that’s right. I am sharing the love. Sharing it. With you. So you’d better read on to see how this love will be shared.

I. Embracing Your Inner Skeptic

I’ve been embracing my Inner Skeptic for quite some time. I have peppered some of my posts with skepticism, and even have the small category specifically devoted to skepticism. But I’ve never really written one (or more) posts devoted specifically to looking critically at science. Not through lack of want, but rather because I didn’t have anything to push me into writing on the subject.

That is until one man, Scipio, decided to write about how “evil” women in comics are unrealistic because women aren’t as aggressive as men. He then backed his assertion of this innate state of women with a 2002 study on the neurobiology of aggression conducted at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). I read the article (which doesn’t even link to the original study [PDF]!), which in no way was a blanket endorsement of Scipio’s views, and decided it was high time for me to write an article on embracing your Inner Skeptic.

I know that all of us — myself included — can get super excited over the latest study and go overboard in supporting it without looking at important things like sample size and if it has been reproduced yet or not. This is, I think, part of human nature. But it’s important not to get so caught up in thinking of science as “facts” that we forget that most of the time the “facts” are our interpretation of the evidence, especially when the information on the studies comes only from news articles.

I’m saving the lecture on why not to confuse an article with a study for its own post, but here I will be discussing how to ask the “right” questions and why it’s valuable to understand the layers of interpretaiton, and how that differs from the empirical data. The point is not to discuss the relative merit of Scipio’s, or even the UPenn study’s, points, but rather to use this discussion as a springboard in order to excersise those critical thinking muscles that we all have.

II. Asking the Right Questions

One study does not evidence make. One study is merely a beginning. The UPenn study, for instance, is far from a definitive blow for innate differences. The title of the article itself even uses the word “possible” in it. Later on, it emphasizes that this was the “first time” such a thing has been measured. It even goes on to state that “[t]he findings provide a new research path” — meaning that more research needs to be done before anything else.

But the age of the study and if it has been reproduced yet are only two of the questions that should be asked. Sample size is another. The age, races, social background, ethnic background, and gender and sex of the participants is important too.

On the Evil Woman! post, Ragnell asks these questions as well as ones specific to the type of the study and the way that Scipio uses it to “prove” his point:

Are there other parts of the brain that can compensate for this particular part?

Is this a section of the brain determined by biological hardwiring alone, or can it be influenced to develop differently at an early age?
If it is the second answer, can the early social conditioning given to a little girl have nutured this area of the brain? What about the social conditioning given to boys? Is it possible that our cultural mores are causing early harm to young developing male minds?

How many times has this hypothesis been tested? Just once? Twice? Numerous times over several years? Or is this just one study, likely to be overturned by the next study as so many scientific studies are overturned?

How biased were the researchers? Was it a blind comparison or did they know before they accumulated the results which scan belonged to which person? Or which group? Or which gender?

[From Evil Woman!, comment by by Ragnell]

The article answers some of the basic questions. The sample size was 116 people, 57 male and 59 female. The age breakdown wasn’t given, but it was stated that they were “healthy adults younger than 50 years of age”. The measurements were adjusted to “allow for the difference between men and women in physical size” — though I wonder if that means if they allowed for individual size differences, or imposed one size as the “normal” male size and another as the “normal” female size. The only other information mentioned is that all of the subjects were right-handed. Nothing mentioned about social background, race, or any other factor that may have contributed to socalization factors in brain development.

Kalinara raised another important question (one I wouldn’t have thought to ask, personally) [formatted from an IM conversation]:

Did they record anything about diet? Because diet’s been known to effect brain development and chemistry…at least according to a study. 😛

[D]iet’s a big thing. In a lot of “primitive” societies, there are foods that promote aggressive behavior that only the men eat…if they eat it while growing up…would that effect the size. So if we don’t know what all these people eat, it’s hard to say.

I looked up the study and came across this article which links to the full study here (click on the Full Text (PDF) link to see the study). There may or may not be a link between this issue and the UPenn study, but given that they are both interested in aggression I would say that the lifetime diet of the UPenn participants is defiintely something that could have affected the study.

III. The Layers of Interpretation

The finding itself was that MRI scans revealed that “women’s brains had a significantly higher volume of orbital frontal cortex in proportion to amygdala volume than did the brains of the men.” This is what I’d call the “empirical data” of this study, although even that cannot be confirmed until the study is reproduced by other teams and hopefully with some larger sample sizes. Still, this data is the objective findings of this particular study. From here, several layers of interpretation are created, some of which are built upon themselves.

Interpretation 1:

The amygdala is involved in emotional behavior related to arousal and excitement, while the orbital frontal region is involved in the modulation of aggression.

If you’re wondering why this is under the “interpretation” heading, that’s because it’s a correlational behaviour. It’s presented as fact here, and the article itself states that the above data has come from “established scientific findings”. If this interpretation was a mere hypothesis I would be surprised. Because the assumption the amygdala and the orbital frontal regions influence arousal, excitment, and agression is the entire basis for the interpretations that follow. And, really, I have no problem assuming that — at least until proven otherwise — it’s true that those parts of the brain influence what the study says that they do.

I just want to point out that in Greek medical science, it was given that women were prone to having their womb wander around their bodies. Sure, our technology is better than back then, but it’s important to keep in mind that emotional reactions are notoriously hard to measure with accuracy. Which is not to debunk this interpretation, but rather to recommend a cautious, versus wholehearted, acceptance of it.

Interpretation 2:

This study affords us neurobiological evidence that women may have a better brain capacity than men for actually ‘censoring’ their aggressive and anger responses.

While the Interpretation 1 was one of the foundational variables for the study, Interpretation 2 is based on the outcome. Assuming the accuracy of Interpretation 1, Interpretation 2 is a logical conclusion based on the empirical data.

But, as Jenn points out on Ragnell’s thread, bigger doesn’t always mean better [emphasis mine]:

First of all, the conclusion drawn (a sex difference in emotional control) is not directly addressed — what was actually found was, boiled down, that the women surveyed had a significantly larger amygdala then men. That, itself, may not mean anything — any conclusion towards emotional control is based upon the assumption that increased tissue size leads to greater tissue function. In fact, in the brain, function is correlated to complexity of neural tissue (e.g. folding of the cerebral cortex), not just size. Although having more tissue might mean you have greater function, this may not be the case. The authors, themselves, note in the discussion that they haven’t measured the complexity of the tissue, and further research must be done to characterize what exactly makes up for this increase in tissue, affecting whether or not this indicates a functional difference.

[From Hello Again, Hal, comment by Jenn]

I’d also like to draw attention to the qualifiers that are used in Interpretation 2: That the study is evidence (not proof) “that women may” (again, not proven) “have a better brain capacity than men” (capacity is potential, which does not always correlate to the actuality of the issue). It is important to note that these words are emphasizing the tenuous nature of the links; putting the hypothesis out there but not claiming that their study “proves” such a thing.

Interpretation 3:

Because men and women differ in the way they process the emotions associated with perception, experience, expression, and most particularly in aggression, our belief is that the proportional difference in size in the region of the brain that governs behavior, compared to the region related to impulsiveness, may be a major factor in determining what is often considered ‘gendered-related’ behavior

Again, I’d just like to point out that Interpretation 3 depends on the accuracy of Interpretations 1 and 2 (the whole idea of layered interpretations). I don’t believe that it compromises the potential usefulness of the study, or even of these particular interpretations, but rather that we — as the people who use the study — need to be aware of how the interpretations build on each other, and that interpretations like 3 are farther away from the emperical data than, say, Interpretation 1.

I’d also like to address the conclusion drawn by Gur, who I should point out tempers it with the word “belief”, that this is a major factor in determining “gender related” behaviour. This is the opinion of Gur, who is representing his team. It is the team’s interpretation, and the team’s bias, and when he says that it is their “belief” he is acknowleding that. But it’s not enough for him to acknowledge it, we need to as well. Could he be right? Of course. But he could also be wrong.

Turning to Jenn’s comment once again:

Secondly, the brain is a wonderfully fluid organ. Regions of the brain can shift its connections compared to degrees of use. *If* it is found that women have greater emotional control due to increased amygdala tissue, this may not indicate a genetic or biological difference so much as an adaptation to increased use.

[From Hello Again, Hal, comment by Jenn]

The empirical data of this study measures only the ratio of the two parts of the brain that we currently believe are linked to certain emotions and the ability to control aggression. It is possible that female brains are naturally better suited to developing the parts of the brain that regulate this stuff. It’s also possible that levels of testosterone play a role. But it’s also possible that women’s brains tend to develop this control because women in American society are encouraged to repress their aggression more than men are.

Not only is the “nature versus nurture” debate far from settled in the scientific community, but there’s no rule saying that all of the above can’t play a role. It doesn’t have to be nature or nurture. But, even then, it’s important to remember that modern science doesn’t give us the evidence for this — deciding whether something is nature, nurture, or both is completely up to our own interpretation of the data.

IV. Conclusion

Embracing your Inner Skeptic doesn’t mean disbeliving every study you come across. It doesn’t mean that we should never use studies to back up our opinions. What it does mean is turning a critical and — dare I say it? — skeptical eye to everything that we encounter. Studies we like, studies we don’t, news articles… there is always something to be gained from asking questions and separating interpretation from data. Science is possibly one of the most useful tools at our disposal, which makes it that much more important for us to be on our toes when its used by us or others.

(Hat tip to Jenn for doing the footwork in finding the original UPenn study.)

Introduction [Understanding Popular Culture, Part 1]

I originally wrote on this issue for the now defunct Shrub.com articles, but instead of simply reposting it like I did with the other articles I wrote, I thought it deserved a full out rewrite. Predictably, in my revising and expanding efforts, it grew longer than any sane post should be. So, please enjoy the first part of my open series on popular culture.

Popular culture is a pet topic of mine, especially when it comes to how it influences the way that we interact with the world. We are all immersed in it — from advertising that becomes more invasive as the years go by to whatever hobbies we choose to get into. Yet, despite how widespread the phenomenon is, most people are convinced that these things have absolutely no impact on our lives. To the extent that the study of popular culture — whether in a formalized academic setting, or just people examining their own hobbies — is seen as “frivolous”. It is my belief that labels like those stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of popular culture and how it works. In this series, I would like to explore all the facets of pop-culture in an effort to promote better understanding of what it is and why it’s valuable.

I. What is Popular Culture?

Before I can begin a discussion on the effects of pop-culture, I need to make sure that we’re all on the same page regarding what it actually is.

Popular culture, or pop culture, is the vernacular (people’s) culture that prevails in any given society. The content of popular culture is determined by the daily interactions, needs and desires, and cultural ‘moments’ that make up the everyday lives of the mainstream. It can include any number of practices, including those pertaining to cooking, clothing, mass media and the many facets of entertainment such as sports and literature.

[From Wikipedia’s entry on Popular Culture]

So, popular culture is really the culture of our current society. It’s what we do every day from watching TV to playing video games to what we cook and beyond. It’s what we like to do, what others like to do, what others would like us to do. It’s All Your Base and O RLY. Buffy and American Idol. Comics and manga; anime and cartoons. It was even Kabuki, once upon a time. And Wikipedia, the source of all the links? That’s pop-culture, too.

II. Why bother studying this stuff?

The bottom line is that pop-culture is in everywhere. It’s everything new and current. We can no more escape it than Oedipus could escape killing his father and marrying his mother. Because of this, not studying this topic makes it into the elephant in the room.

And, indeed, while we’ve been so busy ignoring the elephant in the room, a dangerous dichotomy has formed regarding the impact of pop-culture on people. They can be summed up as such:

  1. Questionable pop-culture media makes people do bad things.
  2. There is no evidence that proves that pop-culture makes people do things, so obviously it has no affect on us at all!

Over and over again, you see these two factions duking it out, sometimes to the point of muddying the meaning of words in their quest to make it “us” versus “them”. But, you know what? The problem is much more complex than a 100% argument either way can ever hope to encompass. And if people weren’t so busy telling us not to study popular culture for whichever of the two reasons they prefer, then maybe they could see that it does not have direct control over people, but neither does it have absolutely no affect on us at all.

Another problem with the two opposing factions, besides them being overly simplistic, is that they are arguing from the basis of causation rather than correlation. If pop-culture media did, indeed, have the power to make people do things, then a causational argument (either for or against) would be valid. But, it’s not a causational relationship in question here, but a correlational one. And correlation does not equal causation.

What does this mean? In short, popular culture will influence the way we think (correlation) but it cannot compel us to believe something we don’t want to believe or act a certain way (causation). And, indeed, studies that are starting to be done on this subject are finding that very thing.

Still, television and Pop-Culture have made significant strides in portraying the people of the LGBTQ Community in a positive and non-homophobic fashion.

For the viewers, this could have positive affects as well. Simply seeing more and more Gay men and Lesbian women in television, certainly in shows that happen to be the audiences’ favorites, could possibly reduce and perhaps even squash any anti-LGBTQ prejudices they could harbor. According to this newsbyte from G.L.A.A.D., a study done by the University of Minnesota found this to be true…

It could be argued that this is quite similar to when more African-Americans were featured in television and movies in the early seventies and how it affected White people’s view of that particular community. Or even women featured in more positive and progressive roles. The more one views a group of people in entertainment and Popular Culture with positive and progressive depictions, the more likely they are to develop an open-minded opinion of this group. It’s probably one of the best ways a society could rid itself of bigotry against those who have historically been at a disadvantage, especially when it came to culture and the entertainment world. With it becoming more and more common place to see people of the LGBTQ Community in television and movies, the possibility of ending cultural and hopefully legal discrimination against them seem to be greater. It’s about damn time.

So, why is it useful to study popular culture? In a nutshell, it is too large a part of our lives to go unstudied, by not studying it we open ourselves up to misunderstandings about its potential impact on us, and by studying it we can learn strategies to fight bigotry and hatred.

III. Where to go from here?

This introduction is intended to serve as a springboard to more deeply explore the importance of popular culture, the arguments made against studying it, and the attitudes that hinder it from being taken seriously not only in academic critique, but also in our daily lives.

While I have a few posts lined up, I don’t really know where this series will go. Since popular culture is a pet topic of mine, I often come across issues that I feel need to be explored further. I’m also writing this so I can have an easy reference to point people in when they play “pop-culture bingo” (meaning that they use the stereotypical arguments against examining pop-culture). Much more easy than typing it out over and over again, wouldn’t you agree? But, I guess, ultimately I’m writing this because I think popular culture matters. And I think it’s important for people to recognize that, even if they themselves aren’t interested in examining the impact it has on their lives.

Seeing the Classism in Racism

vegankid has an excellent post over at Ally Work debunking the myth of lazy “welfare queens”. The post traces the history of welfare, brings up statistics, cites sources… all you could want from a topic like this and more.

Here’s an excerpt:

Martin Gilens, in Why Americans Hate Welfare, finds that “the belief that blacks are lazy is the strongest predictor of the perception that welfare recipients are undeserving.” In a mid-90s study titled “White’s Stereotypes of Blacks: Sources and Political Consequences,” researchers Hurwitz and Peffley found that White people agree that most Black people are lazy (31 percent), not determined to succeed (22 percent), and lacking in discipline (60 percent). It was these stereotypes that fueled the racist attacks on welfare despite the fact that at the time, the majority of welfare recipients were White wimmin. By catering to racism through imagery and rhetoric, those with the agenda of wiping out welfare could convince the largest recipients of welfare (economically-poor White people) that it was a good idea.

All to often, people (white people especially) seem to conflate issues of race with class. But, really, they aren’t the same. At all. Anyway, vegankid says it better than I ever could, so go read the post.