After reading Nancy Sommers’ “Between the Drafts” I began to question my own methods of revision. Whenever I was handed back an essay in the earlier years of my education, the revision that was expected of me was to go through the copious amounts of angry red pen that clawed at my sloppy paragraphs and fix them. The result, if done correctly, was a happy green check. It was usually a simple, mechanical process that just consisted of changing the tense of this verb, adding in a few commas, and checking the spelling on that word. As I grew older and began to write more, I realized that so much more needed to be done, and that sometimes, multiple drafts were necessary. Thinking back on it, I’m surprised that some of my paper assignments never required a rough draft, or rather, our rough draft was our final draft and that was the end of it.
I was partial to Sommers’ reason for studying revision. She explained that revision was a way to escape our early drafts, a means by which we are allowed to go back over the past and mend our mistakes. After all, who can expect someone to get something absolutely right the first time? Revision provides us with the freedom to change. I had never really looked that deeply into it before.
I think what makes Sommers a true writer was her recognition that her writing was just regurgitations of sources that influenced her. It’s good to be influenced by people, but not to the extent where you trust their words over your own, such as Sommers once did.
When she reflected back on her childhood, it really provided insight into how she was raised and how that ultimately impacted her life of having no self-confidence. She never believed that she could be an authoritative figure instead of just listening to others. To put it in simpler terms, she explained the situation with her daughters and how they were questioning her authority in order to determine their own. Even when we are not aware of our actions, we are questioning the rules and making our own. It’s the circumstances of uncertainty and discontinuity where we gain and learn the most.
I also found the structure of her essay helpful in order to understand how she finally reached her resolution. She included flashbacks from the way past to the recent past, and intertwined her inklings about revision and her experience as a teacher dealing with students, who were struggling over the same obstacles as she was, and fellow colleagues who influenced the cause of the students’ struggling. As in the beginning, she concluded with a family occurrence and examined the discovery of finding one’s voice.
Brent Staples’ two essays evoked two polar opposite emotions from me. At first, I didn’t understand why he even bothered to revise a perfectly good and effective essay. The second essay takes his situation and completely flips it upside down. His tone in the first one evokes pity from the reader: how could such a nice and sensible guy such as Staples who is “ scarcely able to take a knife to a raw chicken” be mistaken for someone about to knife a person? But after awhile, I realized that the complete alteration from the first to the second essay is necessary to fully understand Staples’ situation and the lack of a solution.
I have never really taken the time to ponder the thoughts of someone who unfortunately fits into a negative stereotype. I don’t even understand how Staples grew accustomed to it-how could you possibly get used to people crossing the street so they won’t have to pass you, averting their eyes, halting their conversations to clutch their purses and each other? While reading this, however, I could relate to his “victims.” I don’t know what it is, but if a tall black guy was walking in my direction down an isolated street at night, I would get a little nervous too. I’ve always wondered about that-how did that become an instinct of many white people? And why do some black men live up to that stereotype of being a criminal, as Staples points out? When and how did it all begin?
Staples stated that it is the “male romance” to embrace the power to intimidate and frighten others with their manliness strength. It’s a misconception that males in society should be dominant and aggressive. Likewise, society sees females as being submissive. Although this stereotype is enforced on males, people still expect them to live up to it even if they choose not to follow it, such as Staples.
This idea comes into play in the revised essay. If others won’t see past the stereotype, what more can one do but to live up to it? Staples’ first essay concluded on a positive note with him trying to help others feel comfortable around him so that they would discard the stereotype that all big black men are out to get them. His theory is correct- would someone about to steal your money be whistling a Beethoven melody? Apparently, no one thinks so. However, should Staples and others in his situation be forced to change their daily routines just to accommodate those who stick strictly to stereotypes? No.
I found it interesting that Staples said that he learned to “smother the rage” at being always taken for a criminal. His second essay contradicts his anger management skills and actually displays his true emotions surfacing. Staples chose to give into his rage and live up to the stereotype that is forced upon him. If power is already attributed to him, why not take advantage of it? His tone changes to fit the change in his mentality as he portrays himself as a hunter preying on victims. It’s not his choice to finally terrorize people- according to Staples, they are the ones to blame for his turnaround. And he is completely right- if people are unable to accept that some black men will not harm them, what more can be done? Although I sympathize with Staples, how can we ever rid ourselves of stereotypes if the cycle continues of the belief in them and then having them fulfilled?
I wonder what would happen if all the Abercrombie & Fitch clad youths read this article. How would they react if they knew that the mastermind behind their favorite brand is a raging lunatic? Would they even care?
With help from Benoit Denizet-Lewis, I saw Mike Jeffries for the mad scientist that he is, striving to create his monster, the ideal male “all-American” youth. He embodies the persona of a Greek architect sculpting the musculature of some athlete or warrior from marble. And his motto “casually flawless” isn’t really casual at all. He wants his models to look as if they just rolled out of bed, threw on some Abercrombie & Fitch clothing with their eyes closed, and went to class looking fantastic but with that effortless and apathetic attitude. Ironically, there’s a lot of effort behind the “effortless” look. All the shirts are wrinkled and faded, appearing to be “vintage” while the customer bought it fresh off the shelf. I also never understood the ripped jeans-why would you pay someone to rip your jeans for you? Are you incapable of doing it yourself?
What surprised me was this ideal that Jeffries produced that he doesn’t even fit into (similar to Hitler and his obsession with blonde hair and blue eyes while he was a brunette!). He’s obsessed with the young generation, yet he’s 61 years old! He’s one of those sad older people who can’t accept their aging and instead, try to work against the clock and remain young. His “dyed hair, perfectly white teeth, golden tan, bulging biceps, wrinkle-free face, and big, Angelina Jolie lips” makes me shudder. I envision him as this obsessive artificial person, and the more I read, the more repulsed I became. How did this man get so far? He’s very driven and dedicated to his work, but it’s his mind that’s corrupted. I was in disbelief when he said that he was only promoting to the “cool kids”. Who says that? It’s true that clothing labels usually always advertise with attractive people, but who actually comes and says that they only want to market to “good-looking” people? What a selfish and horrifying statement! To me, Jeffries sounds like one of those kids who just had to be in with the “cool crowd” to feel accepted, but was never allowed entry. His conformity is displayed through his wearing Levi’s all throughout high school, and his statement that if you weren’t wearing them, you were “weird” supports his complete insecurity. He never had the typical “all-American” high school experience and is now trying to do so, at 61 years old. Abercrombie & Fitch is geared towards an exclusive customer, yet as Denizet-Lewis says, it has a “mass appeal.” For those customers who don’t fit that body type and character, how would they feel knowing that they’re not meant to be wearing those clothes? Apparently all that matters to Jeffries is the target consumer and if that rare group of people is satisfied, then that’s all that matters. So then why does everyone else keep buying those clothes, even after prices have increased to ridiculous amounts? Everyone wants to personify that flawless youthful being, which only a few possess. While Jeffries wants to only appeal to the “all-American youth” he can relate more to everyone else adding to his profits who are just like him and want to fit in.
Denizet-Lewis knew what he was doing when he ended his article with Jeffries consumed with the appearance of his mannequins. His meticulous concern over the size of the male mannequin’s crotch and how low his pants should sag until they were almost falling off was quite comical, even though I’m sure Jeffries’ brows were furrowed when contemplating such an imperative issue. His statement, “Let’s get them as low as we can without them falling off. We don’t want him looking like an old guy,” supports his complete fear of aging. Overall, Jeffries really irked me. I found it especially disturbing that someone that old should be so fixated on the sex appeal of such a younger generation.
The world of advertising always seems to amaze me. At first it seems so simple-big name labels look at the statistics and figure out who their target audience is and then they begin their campaign. In this case for soda companies, African Americans annually bring in $1.26 billion to $8 billion alone. What really captivates me is the creativity of marketing. Besides just inserting a few Coke and Sprite ads here and there in a magazine or up on a billboard in hopes that people, specifically blacks, will see them, Coca-Cola Bottling Co. actually takes its products to its consumers. What the company considers is that some of its target audience may not access magazines frequently or have billboards in the area. In “Urban Warfare” Team Classic, representing Coca-Cola Bottling Co., went to Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods where the majority of the residents were African Americans. I completely agree with MacArthur and Chura when they stated that a product takes on a different feel when it comes with a street theme. The monster corporation out to strip your wallet is nowhere in site, and instead, you can enjoy a refreshing and thirst-quenching Coke or Sprite coming out of a van blasting music.
However, there’s more to the method than distributing free soda. In order to gain respect and to appeal to the target audience, African Americans between the ages of 12 and 24 years old, Coca-Cola Bottling Co.’s advertisers take on the hip-hop lifestyle that is easily relatable and enjoyed by most blacks. So instead of just a van pulling up dishing out free soda, the car is decorated with recognizable name brands, murals of landmarks of the city, and “mirror-shaking hip-hop music” thumping out of the full sound-system hooked up in the back. Besides the van, the promoters too have to embody this image by wearing familiar name brands.
Advertising is right behind our constantly changing society, always updating its techniques to fit our lifestyles and giving its products, which usually have been around years, a new modern twist. I was really impressed with Mr. Jackson and his philosophy on marketing. He said that for someone to sell a product, one needs to understand where the consumer is coming from- Mr. Jackson spoke in street dialects to possible customers, gaining their trust immediately. A company is also truly successful when it has onboard such loyal advocates, such as Mr. Jackson, who only drinks Coke and Sprite and has even fired employees for drinking Pepsi!
What I found an interesting concept to grasp, in relation to Kalle Lasn’s article “The Cult You’re In, was that consumers need someone to tell them that something is “cool”. I believe it’s a conscious effort when people actually purchase the product on their own, in contrast to Lasn’s thinking that it’s an unconscious effort, but it’s companies’ ways in advertising and marketing that give birth to that idea of “cool”. Why else would we buy certain products and clothing if we didn’t hear or see about it first? When Coca-Cola Bottling Co. rolls down the street in a red and green van blasting hip-hop music handing out ice-cold Cokes and Sprites (for free!), who wouldn’t associate that with “cool”? It has been tested and proven true that what appeals to African Americans is hop-hop culture, so why not enforce that in poor neighborhoods where you know the residents won’t be attending fundraising banquets and the works? Even when you don’t think you’re being influenced by a product, all you have to do is look to the results when after walking out of a store, you have a little more baggage in your hands and a little less money in your wallet.
I admit to being a member of this “cult” that Kalle Lasn speaks of, however, I have a question for him. How can one escape the obsession of name brands and shopping? I understand that some take it to the obsessive level and barely think for themselves, but some things people need. What about when someone just wants to buy a reliable dishwasher? Does this mean one is in the cult, because instead of washing and drying dishes on his or her own, this person would rather employ a machine to do it? And then what about dishes? People don’t need to eat off of ceramic or china plates, or even plastic plates for that matter. Who needs electricity or plumbing? People have survived without it in the past. I realize that this is different from the constant urge to keep up appearances and wear the latest articles of clothing by the latest designers, but this is our culture.
As much as I don’t want to admit to it, however, Lasn is completely right in his description of this cult. Despite this though, I disagree with his idea that people didn’t consciously choose the roles and behavior patterns they were recruited into. I think people know exactly what they’re doing. It’s not as if everyone sits in front of the T.V. or opens up a trashy tabloid and becomes suddenly brainwashed with images. There’s an effort in our society to be members of this cult because people want to feel that they belong to something and share a common interest with others. There’s awareness about being sucked into this cult that no one admits to but everyone is still apart of it.
I’m not sure about Lasn’s answer “Not really” to his question of “Are we happy?” For those who pride their entire lives on keeping up with this cult, I can understand how despite their constant shopping sprees and obsessions with the newest items, they are never really satisfied. Their goal in life is to keep acquiring whatever is being projected out of sweatshops and factories across the world, however, this cycle never really has an end. For the rest of the human race, Lasn depicts us as if we were all robots obeying orders. His use of the second person gives the piece a more personal tone that can be easily related to. Most works that use “you” go down an amusing and entertaining direction, but with “The Cult You’re In” Lasn excludes himself from the cult and takes on a judgmental tone. He makes a good argument but by excluding himself and offending his audience, how can he hope to gain the respect from his readers?
Furthermore, to say that our consumerism overrides our family ties is pushing it. Yes, it’s a race trying to keep up with what’s fashionable, but in the end, we can go back to our friends and family. Despite our sudden craving for what’s up on the billboards or in a magazine, there’s more to life than that. I’m not denying that everyone is a consumer-I think that’s a vital part of every human life and our economy, but I do think there’s more to people than just the urge to spend money.
What seems like a lot of bashing of Lasn by me is also balanced with the truth in his argument. What our society has in common is the dream of “wealth, power, fame, plenty of sex, and exciting recreational opportunities.” But honestly, who doesn’t want a few of these things? It’s absolutely normal to value them, because even though they’re out of reach, who doesn’t have fun imagining what life would be like with them? Lasn speaks as if being part of a cult is such a negative thing…who is he to say that? If most people are happy, what’s the harm?
After reading Edward Said’s “States”, I realized that I have nothing to say in comparison to his experiences. I am one of those “normal” people that Palestinians live among: my country, my family continuity, and my society are all in tact. My lifestyle is considered out of reach of Palestinians, as if it were atop an extremely high pedestal. My lifestyle. What I had always deemed as just a seemingly mediocre average lifestyles is actually someone else’s dream, something that somewhere out there, people are striving to achieve. And not just one person, but many. There is proof of my existence and it is untouchable. For Palestinians, there is nothing for them to call their own-no homeland, no links between the past and the present. I take my identity for granted while Palestinians are constantly in exile, trying to grab onto anything that they can claim as their own, any part of their culture that is slowly vanishing. Said describes himself and other Palestinians as always being aliens no matter where they are. In one line he says, “There are no Palestinians. Who are the Palestinians? ‘The inhabitants of Judea and Samaria.’ Non-Jews. Terrorists. Troublemakers. DPs. Refugees. Names on a card. Numbers on a list.” To the Arab states, Palestinians are Arabs but each country is selfish in its nationalization: Egypt is for Egyptians only, Iraq is for Iraqis only. Israel is out of the question because they aren’t “Jews.” So where does that leave Palestinians? Here I am, comfortable in my country and of that feeling of acceptance, while Palestinians are in exile.
The fact that Said questions the evidence Palestinians have proving their existence is as if they are a group of people that is becoming extinct. They are not acknowledged for any contributions made to the world, they are not welcome anywhere and therefore have no place to go that will accept them. Their attempt to unify their life and culture are failed attempts at trying to bring back something that rightfully belongs to them yet for some strange and unknown reason, they are not entitled to. That shocked me. The fact that their history in these encampments was underground knowledge, that any hint of improvement was tolerated but once signs of development began, it was forbidden. These people were and still are human beings, but for some reason I can’t comprehend, they were blamed and punished for having human being tendencies. Without their history, Palestinians have nothing to call their own. Without history, it’s as if they were never really there to begin with. It’s an odd and terrifying concept to think that there are some people who are trying to deny your existence, would rather have you gone, would even pretend that you were never there anyway, just to avoid sharing the earth with you. When Said stated that to everyone else, the Palestinians are a lingering people that just won’t leave, that really hit me that they are seen as outsiders, wondering in a world that doesn’t want them, that wouldn’t miss them if they suddenly vanished. If the world doesn’t want you, where else is there to go?
And what I found really sad was the acceptance of all this from the children of Palestinian refugees. Said describes it as if they skipped an essential step in childhood, that they missed out in enjoying their youth and matured too quickly. The fact that they have accepted their unstable, undocumented, and unaccounted for life is not something that they should have to do. This mentality has become the norm for them, which shouldn’t be a requirement of children, let alone anyone at all.
It truly amazes me that some things in history can just go unnoticed for centuries or even thousands of years. How can people get away with this? I kept asking myself this question as I read Pratt’s essay, and yet I know the answer, I’ve known the answer. This erasure of history has been occurring for ages. When Pratt said that Guaman Poma’s New Chronicle and Good Government circulated in Paris 25 years after its discovery and Western scholars finally had access to it 350 years after, I was shocked. Here was this valuable piece of information that wasn’t acknowledged until so many years later. The fact that it took that long for such an important document to reach the public…it just amazes me that there are some people that are so close-minded to other perspectives that they cling to the only thing they know, which could be very incorrect. I realize that people don’t want to accept the truth and discard everything they were taught, or, perhaps the misinterpretations that were created to cover up the truth.
I think also that the really remarkable thing about Poma’s letter was his interpretation of Christianity. He traced the religion back to Adam and Eve and claimed that one of the offspring of Noah was Amerindian. He replaced the city of Jerusalem with Cuzco, making the Andeans the privileged culture over the Europeans. Poma used the Spanish genre for his own purposes. At first, I wondered who was Poma to change history. But then I asked, who began history anyway? What is history except for the borrowing, stealing, and influence of other cultures and peoples? Also, who said that Europe has to be the center of everything? Why is this Eurocentric idea of everything sprouting right from European soil the dominant theory? History is just a few facts with a lot of room for interpretation, which is exactly what people have done, interpreted.
People, countries, and cultures enter Pratt’s “contact zone” everyday. Historians are scared of this “zone” and try to pretend that there is none, that clashing and grappling amongst different people never happens. Or rather, they know it exists and they just do their best to avoid entering it, which they’re been pretty successful at except when documents suddenly surface, such as Guaman Poma’s letter. This idea that some people don’t even believe in “contact zones” is the influence of a society dominated by a hierarchy of power that then smothers everyone with its beliefs, leaving no room for other perspectives. I think it’s a far reach to believe in “imagined communities” where it’s the assumption that everyone is united under the same mentality. As Pratt said, “it is assumed that all participants are engaged in the same game and that the game is the same for all players.”
This part of history, the truth of the Spanish conquest of the Andeans, didn’t even exist until the discovery of Poma’s letter. Pratt’s essay made me grasp the idea that all the history ever documented makes up only a small portion of everything that has happened in the past. The bits and pieces, and in some cases, large chunks of history that have been left out either accidentally or purposely are still a mystery, or worse, have been distorted to glorify one party.
Her analogy about her son and his schooling made me realize how my education in the past years has always been about conforming my ideas to fit that of my teacher. Recently, my Introduction to Africana Studies professor brought up the notion of the set-up of the classroom and how he didn’t agree with it. All the seats face the front where the teacher lectures. They are attached to the ground and students can’t move their chairs to join groups or even turn around in order to listen to another student’s comment without twisting and contorting their bodies into uncomfortable positions. The classroom was supposedly designed for the purpose of education. But what is education without understanding all the different and possible perspectives of things, which is acquired from interacting and conversing with others? I agree with Pratt in that the classroom should be viewed and used as a contact zone. With contact zones, the natural outcome is one of rage and pain, but people are also able to grasp and understand a new concept, something that many in this world, unfortunately aren’t open to.
Although titled “student” conferences, I truly wasn’t expecting the speakers to be students, undergraduate students nonetheless. I attended Session D of the General Education Student Conferences called Selling You “You”: The Impact of Advertisements on American Culture. The two presenters in my panel were both sophomores who were presenting their essays that they had written in their GWRIT classes last year, and it was strange thinking about how next year I could possibly see one of my classmates from this year or up there, or even myself.
The first speaker, Shannon Collins, presented on advertising’s effect on one’s body image. I was hoping for a new approach to this topic, but yet again it was the same spiel about the negative aspects of advertising, the unrealistic body images that it spits out at people, how it’s a possible cause of eating disorders, etc. Some of her statistics were interesting in the downfall of our society over the years: 25 years ago, models weighed 8% less than the average American, but now that has increased to 23%. Collins also briefly touched on the outrageous proportions of Barbie and G.I. Joe. If Barbie were life-size, she would be 5”9, weigh 110 pounds, and would have a 39” bust, an 18” waist, and 33” hips. G.I. Joe would have a 55” chest and a 27” bicep, making his bicep the same size as his waist! Collins said that advertisements should feature normal Americans, and during the discussion period, someone raised the point that 2/3 of Americans are obese. That raised the question of whether featuring people who are drastically overweight than those who are drastically underweight would be a better solution. This member of the audience noted that obese people in advertisements wouldn’t help the problem of self-image. However, I think that if people walking around viewed ads depicting obese people, those images would be with those viewers all day. Wouldn’t people try to avoid things that could result in those images, such as fast food? However, this could backfire and totally terrify people of looking like that, which could result in eating disorders.
On to the second speaker, Samuel Uanserume, who presented on junk food advertisements aimed at children. He spoke of a term called “purchase power” where most junk food ads are targeted at kids because they can persuade their parents to buy them those things. I never realized this concept had a name, even though I’ve seen it numerous times. I remember when I used to go grocery shopping with my mom and my sister. Every single bag of candy or cookies or chips my sister would beg for. I clearly remember silently slipping out of the aisle while she screamed for that one box of gushers or fruit roll-ups or Count Chocula cereal or whatever crap she then desired. Ah, the power of “purchase power.”
The statistics Uanserume presented were frightening. 1 out of 5 kids in America are obese or overweight. The only people I can truly get mad at are the parents. Uanserume advised that the government should take a bigger step in monitoring ads, but I think parents are the true ones to blame. Most of these kids are too young to leave the house themselves and make their own purchases. It’s the parents who by wanting to make their kids happy, put up with their complaining, purchase unhealthy food, and therefore put their kids in danger of becoming obese or acquiring unhealthy eating habits.
What I really found ironic was that the girl presenting about advertisements being linked with eating disorders was unnaturally thin for her height. Of course this doesn’t mean she allows advertisements to influence her in such a way that she’ll resort to starving herself, it only sparked a memory of this girl back in high school. She was one of the editors of this trashy overpriced magazine, and in one of the issues, she wrote an article about anorexia nervosa. It shocked me because she herself was anorexic. Maybe it was her method for warning people about the disorder in hopes of preventing people from experiencing what she was going through, I don’t really know. Simultaneously, the guy presenting on junk food advertising was slightly overweight. Again, I’m not pinpointing the fact that the guy just sits in front of his T.V. all day watching food ads and then goes out and buys that food, but it’s just something that caught my attention.
After reading Rebekah Nathan’s The Art of College Management: Cheating, I realized that I’ve done all those things. I’ve signed a friend’s name on an attendance sheet and have had someone do it for me. I’ve collaborated on homework assignments. I’ve written papers without citations, and if it was at the last minute (which too frequently it was), I even took the liberty to invent sources on my bibliography just so the amount of research I had done looked extensive.
In my 7th grade biology class, my friend (who was conveniently seated next to me) and I devised this strategy during tests on how to cheat off of the two guys across from us. My friend and I would both lean over slightly to get a peek of the papers across, wait a few seconds, and then my friend would dramatically sigh as if the answer had just flown in through the window and smacked into her head. She would then proceed to fill in the bubble. I was always too embarrassed to make such phony sound effects so we would just compare notes. In the same class, our teacher would give us these pop quizzes of only two questions, meaning that if you answered one wrong, you had already failed it. How could you not whisper to the person next to you to be reassured your answer was right or to quickly scratch out the lousy guess you had made and quickly right the correct answer down? Even though it was only middle school, I can sincerely say that cheating in that class saved my grade.
I have to agree with some of the situations brought up in Nathan’s observations on when students believed it was appropriate to cheat. Occasionally, there are those loony professors who test you on totally irrelevant information to the material covered in class. And what if you truly just didn’t have time to study or complete that homework assignment? Nathan made the assumption, “Students nationwide cheat less as they move up in year, suggesting to me that as they become more skilled in manipulating the other elements of the system, their need to cheat dissipates.” I don’t think it has to do with manipulation but rather as students get older, especially in college, the more in tune their classes are with their major. In response to Nathan’s question of when it’s ok to cheat, a couple of students commented, “If you don’t give a shit about the class but are required to take it,” and “When it’s a liberal studies class that has no relevance to your major.” When students are learning something that they’re passionate about, cheating on tests or papers is only cheating themselves out of thoroughly understanding the material, which they won’t want to do.
I do understand, however, the unfairness of someone putting a lot of effort into an assignment and receiving the grade that they rightfully deserved and someone who received the same grade from cheating off of someone else. In my cheating experience, I’ve been both the recipient and the provider. I remember near sleepless nights of trying to finish an assignment and then the next day someone asking me if he or she could copy it. I didn’t know the person’s situation or what could have prevented him or her from doing it, but then again that person didn’t know mine. There I was, drained, after staying up those extra hours that I could have had had I decided to copy off of someone.
Overall, I think it honestly depends on the situation to say whether cheating is harmful or not. As Nathan proves in her argument, cheating is a vital part of university life and I don’t think it will diminish anytime soon.
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