Being Ratchet, Aint Nobody Got Time For That

Miley Cyrus twerked up a storm of controversy with her music video for her song We Can’t Stop. In this recent video, Miley throws a party with French fry-skulls, Pepto-Bismol, lines in the bathroom, and a teddy bear twerk team. But the video pokes at a trending social issue; the video’s subtext commercializes “ratchet” culture.

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Now what is ratchet? I wish I knew, but this is a concept that’s a little confusing to me since its meaning changes when it’s directed at different people. Not too long ago people began using the phrase “ghetto” to imply behavior, speech, dress, thoughts, and expression that is typically evocative of low income communities, ignoring the historical connotation of minority communities being pushed to live in certain areas. It seems like the meaning for ‘ghetto’ has transferred to ‘ratchet.’ In my feeble but most robust attempt to grasp the concept of ratchet, I define it as the popularized characteristics of low social economic status communities, which include but are not limited to factors such as education, behavior, and quality of materials.

Ratchet can be used as an insult by insinuating that someone identifies within a low SES community (“wow, your beat-up car with duct tape is so ratchet!”). However, what confuses me is when ratchet is used as a compliment (“I got in a fight at the club, I’m real ratchet!”) to glamorize the rough exterior of low SES communities. There’s a clear difference in dictation when you hear someone say “oh gurl, you ratchet!” versus “oh, ew, she ratchet.”

And unfortunately, ratchet isn’t stamped upon low-income communities, but has been generalized to black communities. People excite the instances where black people demonstrate anything close to the assumed meaning of ratchet. And this is what annoys the word I’m not allowed to type out of me when people find it funny to say “Aint nobody got time for that!” with a voice that attempts to mimic one underprivileged woman’s vernacular. And I grit my teeth whenever I come across a person that says “oh they’re acting all ratchet.” Never mind the sad excuse for grammar usage, what does it even mean to act ratchet?

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Much of the controversy around Miley Cyrus’ video was that was a negative use of cultural appropriation, in which Miley was trying too hard to be ratchet, implying that Miley was trying to adopt characteristics from black culture. And yes I agree that a privileged girl that has been wealthy her entire life looks ridiculous trying to wear golden teeth and gyrate her butt around. But is twerking and being ratchet really a part of black culture? It’s popularized in music videos to be, but I always found it a bit insulting to say that it’s black culture. So in a way, I don’t think Miley is appropriating black culture, because, arguably, there isn’t much valid black culture portrayed in the video. However I have to admit this is purely opinion, and I acknowledge that another person may have an entirely different view from mine.

There isn’t enough critical analysis from the general population towards the media or social landscape. A angry YouTube commenter wrote in response to Miley’s alleged appropriation: “If black people dress “preppy” or speak “proper” should we say.. stop appropriating white culture?” I have never thought speaking proper was an indicator of white culture. Though education is limited to the privileged, it’s horrible to assume that education belongs to the white population. I feel that privilege is an unexpected byproduct of Miley’s video. When we critically examine what the video really is, we see a bunch of overly privileged teenagers with neglectful parents. This is unbeknownst to Miley, as she tries to explain in her video “we can love who we want.” Right.

-cvidale

UndocuQueer: Lulu Martinez & The Dream 9

Lulu Martinez is currently being held at Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, a holding facility for undocumented immigrants that has a disturbing history of detainee suicides, cover-ups of deaths, and general mistreatment of detainees.

Martinez is a queer college student who left Mexico at the age of three and eventually settled with her family in Chicago. She has come into the limelight recently for voluntarily deporting herself to Mexico to raise awareness of the need for immigration reform, to cast light on the struggles of immigrants, and to represent the UndocuQueer movement, a movement that highlights intersections of ethnicity, queer identity, and immigration status.

Martinez and eight other undocumented youth comprising the Dream 9 group were detained for attempting to reenter the U.S. through the Nogales port by petitioning for humanitarian parole, which allows immigrants to enter the country temporarily if they are facing a compelling emergency. The petition was denied.

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The group, dressed in graduation gowns and wearing mortarboard caps were taken to Eloy, after petitioning for asylum (which admits immigrants who are being persecuted for religious, political, ethnic group membership, and nationality). It is uncertain at this point whether they will be released or if they will be deported back to Mexico.

The Dream 9: Lulu Martinez, Lizbeth Mateo, Marco Saavedra, Ceferino Santiago, Maria Peniche, Luis Leon, Adriana Gil Diaz, Claudia, and Mario Felix have all been living the U.S. since they were young children and all qualify for the Dream Act. Many are established community leaders; they are valedictorians, track stars, Model U.N. Ambassadors, law students, volunteers, and activists. Supporters from both sides of the border are working to get them released.

The Dream 9 also has its fair share of opponents who think the group is protesting the wrong way and that the youths are acting “entitled” since they had all been previously well-situated within the U.S.

The group’s journey has drawn attention to how dangerous it is to cross borders, how challenging life is for undocumented immigrants (especially the children who are brought to the U.S. at a very young age) and how difficult the legalization process is.

The protest has raised questions regarding what it means to belong to a community, a country, or a home. The Dream 9 have been living in the U.S. for most of their lives, so how do we define whether they are more or less American than anyone else?

What do you think about the Dream 9? Is their protest effective?

-Rebecca

Baby Watch!!

Prince William and Kate’s first born child is on the way, and the world is waiting for the answer to the most important question: will it be a boy or a girl? The sex of the baby seems so important that people around the world have already been placing bets. But why is the baby’s sex so significant? Perhaps it is because of the gender roles attached to either sex, hence the desire to know if Kate will bear a prince or princess. It’s possible that knowing the sex is really the only thing we CAN know about the baby. And be cautious about the news headings stating “What will the gender of the baby be?!”

Having a penis or vagina refers to an individual’s sex; a person’s sex is their biological assignment at birth, and is marked by genitals and hormones. When Kate has her baby, we will automatically know the sex of the baby, but the gender is yet to be declared.

Having a room that’s blue or pink refers to gender. According to society, gender is the means by which a person is “supposed” to behave as a boy or girl; it’s the formation of socially acceptable behavior. Boys get toy soldiers in their kids’ meals, play in the dirt, and wear suits. Girls get toy dolls in their kids’ meals, like glitter, and wear dresses.

A person whose biological sex matches with socially preferred gender roles is referred to as Cisgender. People born with a penis do “boy things” and dress up in ties, while people born with vaginas do “girly things” and wear heels. These are the majority population, and they often don’t think much about their gender roles.

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A person whose sex doesn’t match the socially ideal gender can be known as transgender, gender queer, a-gender, or gender non-conforming. A person born with a penis plays rough sports, but also likes glitter and dresses. A person who has short hair, skateboards, and body builds can also have a vagina. A common misconception is that people who are similar to these scenarios are people that live to defy gender roles, and all they want to do is make a statement. Transgender, gender queer, agender, and gender non-confirming folk aren’t trying to make a political statement, they’re just living freely the same way cisgender folk do. Cisgender folk are just not under the same microscope because they’re a majority population.

Sex and gender are much more complex than a doctor yelling “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a Girl!” Even though we only touched on being male or female, it’s important to note that there is more than just the gender binary. Think of it as freezing and boiling temperatures of water. These are the two most extremes for water, but they are temperatures between boiling and freezing temperatures. A person can identify a little as a boy, and a little as a girl. A person can also identify as neither gender, because they don’t feel confined to gender.

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So let’s start asking other questions about the baby, like “Is the baby healthy?” or “Who does the baby take after?” No matter what sex the baby will come out to be, we must realize that what’s between the baby’s legs is not the defining aspect of this tiny individual.

– Cvidale

Post-Racial America?

I’m not going to talk about the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case directly. This is not to say that everything that happened wasn’t significant. On the contrary, the case was monumentally important. This was a criminal trial not a soccer match and if we reduce everything down to simple “us vs. them” it detracts from the conversation that we can and must have as a nation.

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So I just want to take the chance to expand the dialogue and scope of the issue by examining “Stand Your Ground Law”, self-defense, and race relations in the country today. I want us to look at the case in a broader social context.

To start with, I want to talk about Marissa Alexander and Cece McDonald. Two women, who are not connected to the Zimmerman/Trayvon case but are nevertheless important in their own right, I highly encourage everyone to read about their cases, I certainly do not claim to know all the facts. From a personal standpoint, these women remind me exactly why the idea of a post-racial America is a lie.

Marissa Alexander is a black single mother who had filed a restraining order against her abusive husband. Her husband ended up later confronting Alexander in her own home and she fired a warning shot. Alexander legally owned and had a permit for the firearm. No one was hurt. She was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and prosecuted by the same lawyer that prosecuted Zimmerman. Alexander sought protection under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law” which allows a threatened individual to use force in their own self-defense without being obligated to retreat. She went on trial after refusing a plea bargain for three years in prison. After a 12 minute deliberation, Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

CeCe McDonald is a black transgender woman who was subjected to racial and transphobic slurs by a group of intoxicated individuals outside a bar. Following a verbal confrontation, McDonald and her friends attempted to leave, when one of the individuals cut McDonald’s face with a beer bottle. Another of the individuals, Dean Schmitz, continued following McDonald who armed herself with a pair of scissors and after a physical confrontation, Schmitz was stabbed and later passed away from the wound. She was charged with second degree murder but pled to a manslaughter charge and was sentenced to 41 months in a men’s prison (she did not qualify for transfer to a women’s prison).

These two cases are being juxtaposed with the Zimmerman case in the media, which is not entirely fair since the cases themselves are so different. And I cannot attest to either the guilt or innocence of any of the parties involved. But I do believe race played a factor, in everything from how the media treated certain individuals all the way to how the laws were eventually applied.

Bias exists in the legal system and are both consciously and unconsciously perpetuated. More than anything I think it’s extremely detrimental to say that race doesn’t matter. Race shouldn’t matter but it does just as much as it always has and probably always will. The idea of a post-racial America is wishful thinking at best and blind delusion at worst. There can be no progress, no growth, and no change until we realize how foolish it is to believe that a problem doesn’t exist as long as we pretend hard enough that it doesn’t.

You Are What You Watch

      This summer’s 30th annual OutFest is in the middle of its amazing screening! OutFest is an independent organization that celebrates the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender communities by showcasing stories that reflect and represent LGBTQ stories on screen. While watching some of the short films created by LGBTQ youth I couldn’t help but wonder why theatres weren’t full of these funny, quirky, provocative stories. I received my answer during a panel of screenwriters discussing sexuality and queer influence in horror pictures. As director of the upcoming Carrie movie remake (which I am SO excited to see!), Kimberly Pierce, put it: movies are created to make money.

     Now I find some sort of explanation for the stream of movies that are coming out that I absolutely loathe. The majority of people will pay to see movies about pretty people with meager romantic problems, cars going really fast with explosions and gunshots, and waking up in Vegas with a hangover. Gone are the days where movies were rich in story and provided provocative critical examination. I find the fact that movies are now created for profit disheartening, because now it seems like movies are here only to satisfy the stupid-humor craze young adults feel and want to pay for.

      ImageSo why not take a break from that movie with all those actors you’ve seen too many times and watch a movie that tells a story about a culture? Independent movies show the stories of cultures that people feel need to be shown. Franchised and box office movies create barriers that ethnic cultures can rarely breach. OutFest removes the heteronormative barriers that have prohibited LGBTQ movies from being seen. These stories of heartache, love, humor, and family within the LGBTQ community are now able to be seen by whoever has the willing mind to watch them. These films are also beacons of hope for youth who don’t see themselves represented in blockbuster films. Take some time out of your schedule and take a look at what OutFest is screening. If you’re still in the mood for some independent cultural films, be sure to keep in contact with the CCC! Independent Visions screens cultural, edgy, riveting films that challenge the viewer to critically examine their social landscape. 

-Cvidale

Walking the Walk: Voting With Your $$

Does everyone remember when the Abercrombie and Fitch CEO was caught making that statement about catering to “cool kids” as an explanation for why his company didn’t carry plus sizes?

People followed up by boycotting A&F and throwing out their previously purchased clothing. I was very angry with the ignorance of the CEO also…but I didn’t throw out my clothes. Does that make me a bad person?

I have a great deal of respect for people who live completely in tune with their moral and political ideals. Shout out to the people who did not hesitate for one moment when they donated all of their clothes and shout out to the people who have never bought from anything from any business that mistreats employees, utilizes child labor, pollutes the environment, abuses animals , or otherwise does anything that goes against their beliefs. It’s hard, let me just acknowledge that, to always walk your talk.

There are people who love animals who also love eating meat. When Chick-Fil-A’s CEO stated that he supported traditional marriage, people struggled with their beliefs and their desire for a delicious meal. When Disneyland came out in support of the queer community, people boycotted but it was difficult for a lot of people to give up the happiest place on Earth.

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Now controversy is again on the news. Orson Scott Card is the author of young adult cult classic novel, Ender’s Game. I never read the book so I have no nostalgia for it. However, a lot of people love the book and were incredibly excited about the movie about to be released.

The problem is, Card is a prominent activist for traditional marriage organizations and has advocated “revolution” should the country approve same-sex marriage, he supported instituting sodomy laws to punish gay men; he stated that all homosexuals were victims of child abuse, and it goes on and on. So a lot of fans are conflicted about whether or not to support Card by going to watch the movie.

For his part, Card says that the DOMA decision has made the marriage issue irrelevant and though he makes no apologies for his views; he expects tolerance from the LGBTQ+ community (that is he hopes they won’t boycott the film).

But is it really so bad if people go to the movie (or not)? I don’t have an answer to this question, I just know that I don’t always walk my talk and I think I should. It’s important to live your truth, but I also know that these decisions are more complex than we’d like to believe. For example, Lionsgate employs a lot of people for Ender’s Game, the vast majority of whom are not homophobic.

So to watch or not to watch?

-RebeccaWang2012

From the Spray Can

East LA has been painted with people armed with spray cans and an impulse. The authorities see this paint as words they cannot read and images they cannot understand. More so, the authority generalizes every streak on a wall as gang-related and teaches youth that they’re all “bad.”

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Graffiti is most commonly associated with tagging, which is the means to mark a person’s name, initials, or territory to let opposing groups know not to cross certain points. In this sense, graffiti is never anything more than mere vandalism. However, I have found there to be more to graffiti than just spraying one’s initials on a blank wall.

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Artists have used graffiti to create images and text that provoke questions, express emotion, and challenge authority. It is not uncommon to find street art with deep social and political messages, and there exist whole murals and tributes which commemorate and pay respect to communities and social leaders.

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It’s becoming more common for building owners to either sell or allow artists to use their walls for their artistic expression. However, some artists still use public or private property that they do not have permission to paint. Some artists prefer this method, as they say it’s a political message all on its own that defies authority and does not limit behavior based on permissible acts. This brings up the major question: is this vandalism, or is this art?

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More and more street art is being viewed and sold in art galleries, particularly those around urban areas. However, many artists refuse to do this because they want art to be for everyone, and they wouldn’t dream of commercializing their talents, so it would seem that artists won’t be leaving the streets anytime soon. So now it’s time for you to answer the question. Should the people who paint on our walls be caught and put in jail? Or is there meaning to the paint on these walls that transcends vandalism?

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