Tag Archives: culture

The Prescribed Vacation: Why Travel is Good for your Health

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Most people look forward to their yearly vacation. Whether it’s just a short weekend here or a week there, getting away can have a great effect on your overall outlook. However, did you realize that a vacation can also help you to improve your overall wellbeing? It may sound bizarre, but a week by the sea or exploring an ancient city can help you be healthier.

Many people are skipping their vacation because of work demands, money, stress, or the ill effects caused from the time away. On average, the U.S. employee takes about 16 days off per year as of 2013. In 2000, the average was 20 days per year. When you deprive yourself of a much-needed break, you can cause damaging effects to your health. The stress overload is enough to kill you. Being able to immerse yourself in new surroundings can boost your brain power and allow your body to recharge. Here are five reasons why you should take a break. Continue reading

Music….A Fuel That Feeds Our Spiritual Engines

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Most cultures in our world embrace some form of what we have come to call “music”. Some much more than others. Some cultures use music only in religious moments. Some extremely primitive cultures (by Western standards) haven’t even defined music yet. That is, they don’t call it music, but they still create and use some sounds as music nonetheless.

It could be easily argued that music in all its forms is the true universal language that ties the spirit of all living creatures together. Man, of course is God’s primary creature that consciously uses music to communicate his feelings, emotions and needs often without a single word being uttered or sung. But we’re not the only ones… (think about birds singing).

How can it be then, that music, used by billions of people every moment of every day, is not recognized as essential in its purpose?  Ahhhh… the failings of mankind are pervasive. Still, it’s notable that our scientific community has recently discovered what most of us in the music community already knew:

Music affects ALL living creatures (a multitude of studies, anecdotal and scientific, suggest plant-life may also be positively and negatively impacted) such that it influences moods, sensations, emotions, physical growth, physical healings and emotional healings that can be quantified in bonafide studies. I like to say that music does all this and more by ‘speaking’ to us in a way that ALL people of ALL tribes innately grasp…. in a way that our ‘inner spirits’ always understand:  the “language of music”.

The “language of music” is so powerful that it can move our spirits in ways we never really thought about: Continue reading

4 Television Shows That Are Trying to Make You a Better Person

Okay, there’s a lot of crap on television these days. From “reality” shows that follow around people that are famous for simply being rich to competition elimination shows for every possible profession (there was one for America’s Next Top garbage man at one point). So much so that there are probably a lot of people rolling their eyes at this article, but the original purpose of television was to bring families together for entertainment (and to sell washing detergent, but not the point). Shows like Star Trek and The Cosby Show provided family safe entertainment while educating us about the world happening outside of our respective bubbles. Today it seems that if it has any worthy entertainment value that it is worshipping at the altar of the anti-hero (The Sopranos, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Mad Men…) and none of these are really family appropriate viewing, and for the most part they are still telling the stories of well-to-do caucasian males who have diverted from the normal path for varying reasons.

Still, in the middle of all this there are a few shows that are striving to tell new stories in interesting ways. They are getting back to the roots of old school television that strived to teach us valuable lessons about people that are different from ourselves (and that valuable lesson 99% of the time is that they aren’t different from us at all, really). With spring premieres just around the corner, I’ve compiled a list of shows that might strike your fancy or intrigue your curiosity. So get your remotes ready.

1. Orange is the New Black – (Netflix) 

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Okay, this show also falls into the category of not-family friendly, but the inspiration for this list came from a Facebook debate I had about the merit of this show. OITNB centers on Piper, an affluent white girl who hooked up with a lesbian drug lord when she was in college. Ten years later, as she’s planning her wedding to an aspiring newspaper writer in New York City, Piper finds out that her ex girlfriend gave her up and she’ll have to spend a year in prison for aiding and abetting years prior. The show starts with Piper’s first day in prison and we follow as she tries to acclimate to her new surroundings. Then the show takes a sudden turn – instead of allowing us to see the prisoners through Piper’s eyes, which would inevitably leave them painted as caricatures and stereotypes, we visit flashbacks into the past lives of each of them in each new episode. This shows gives in-depth back stories and character arcs to not only women, but women of color and various races. The most intriguing of which is played by Laverne Cox, a transgender woman who plays Sophia, transgender prisoner on the show. Some of the most gripping episodes of the show are the ones that chronicle Sophia’s transition from male firefighter and family man to fierce hairdresser. It doesn’t shortcut around the difficulties Sophia’s family faces in light of the transition, the alienation she feels as her young son struggles to accept that his father is now a woman.

This show is definitely one you want to save for after the kids have gone to bed (or when your parents are out of the room), but the rave reviews you’ve heard aren’t lying when they say you’ll get started and binge watch all 13 episodes in season 1. It’s a harsh look at the lives and stories of a population we so often ignore as part of our society. It humanizes characters that have previously been boxed in by stereotypes and tropes, and they are stories you should hear.

New episodes of OITNB return in 2014. Season 1 can be found on Netflix. 

2. Switched at Birth – ABC Family

Screen shot 2013-12-26 at 10.33.16 AMTo be perfectly honest, I started watching this show expecting it to be another ABC Family guilty pleasure (like it’s predecessors Greek or Make It or Break It), but what I got thoroughly surprised me. While ABC Family has been known to get a little overly preachy and unrealistic with its family dramas (Secret Life of the American Teenager, anyone?) Switched at Birth is the story of two 15 year old girls who discover they were, well, switched at birth. One grew up in the affluent surroundings provided by her retired baseball player father (Bay) and the other grew up with a single mom on the “wrong side of the tracks” (Daphne). When the switch is revealed thanks to Bay’s high school biology assignment, the two families decide to try and raise the girls together to try and make up for lost time with each of them, and naturally conflict arrises.

What makes Switched at Birth really special though is that when Daphne was three years old she contracted meningitis that left her completely deaf. So half the show is told via sign language (with subtitles!). It gives you an inside look at the deaf community like you have never seen unless you’ve been part of that culture. Each actor had to become fluent in sign language for their parts. And last season the show made history by having an entire episode done in sign language. The show requires a whole new dimension of acting by incorporating this new language and showing the nuances of this incredible culture. And since it’s on ABC Family it definitely works for prime time family viewing.

The Switched at Birth spring premiere is January 12 at 8pm on ABC Family. 

3. The Fosters – ABC Family

Screen shot 2013-12-26 at 10.34.41 AMI promise this post is not sponsored by ABC Family, and everyone I know rolls their eyes when I try to convince them of the good work this network is producing in terms of television. The Fosters premiered last summer as the #1 new cable show amongst viewers 12-34, which says a lot when you consider it’s a show about a bi-racial lesbian couple and their mix of adopted children. The groundbreaking thing about The Fosters is that it shows this family as a normal family (because it is!). But this is the first time that a gay couple has served as the primary focus of a primetime show without being the gimmick of a comedy series. Of course there have been shows like Queer as Folk and The L-Word on premium cable, but those served to show the “sexier side” of LGBTQ lifestyle, and definitely not suitable for family watching. This is a serious show about a normal family of mixed races, and the parents just happen to be two women. What.

The most striking thing about the show is how realistic the conversations they have about sexuality, prejudice and race. I got extremely emotional during the episode when Leena’s mother told Leena that she’d never be a real black woman and understand their struggles because she’s only half black. Not only did the issue hit so close to home but I had never seen a television show address it so bluntly or even attempt to address the type of politics that happen between black women over skin color. Then it was such a relief to see these two moms have real conversations with their teenagers about safe sex rather than preaching abstinence and pretending to be shocked when they find out their teenage son didn’t listen. In the wake of so many LGBTQ reforms and the crusade for marriage equality beginning to reach critical mass, The Fosters is doing a remarkable job of giving a realistic look at an LGBTQ family without any jokes, gimmicks or preachiness.

The Fosters returns January 12 at 9pm on ABC Family. 

4. Parks and Recreation – NBC

Screen shot 2013-12-26 at 10.36.08 AMDisclaimer: I absolutely belong to the church of Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, but it’s because they are awesome and stand for really amazing things. Parks and Rec got a bad wrap during it’s first season as being a rip off of the office. When the writing staff of the show heard that audiences thought of Leslie Knope (played by Amy) as ditzy they knew they had to make a change. Rather than changing Leslie’s core personality though, they simply changed the way that people around her reacted to her go-get-em attitude and borderline manic enthusiasm. You have probably seen more than one Ron Swanson meme or a Tom Haverford “TREAT YO SELF” gif around the internet, but make no mistake that this is a show centered on Leslie Knope and the pursuit of her dream to become the first female president.

Parks and Rec makes this list because it’s a show about team work. When discussing this show with my friends (it’s a universal favorite) the point often comes up that it is one of the few shows on television where you root for everyone. The members of the Pawnee parks department walk over coals for each other on a daily basis and in each episode all you want is for them to succeed. You have a genuine emotional love for each of them, and it mirrors the affection they have for each other. It’s a show about building people up rather than tearing them down. It’s also about empowering women and showing them in positions of authority, breaking glass ceilings and refusing to take no as an answer when it comes to achieving their dreams. Just as Leslie covers her city hall office with pictures of her female political inspirations, every ambitious, driven girl out there should carry around a picture of Leslie. Not to mention it is one of the funniest shows on the air right now, and then remember that Amy also writes and directs several of the episodes.  This show stars a woman who is doing it all about a woman who is doing it. Win.

Parks and Recreation returns for it’s 100th episode on January 7 at 8:30 PM on NBC.

What shows do you watch with your family that you think should make the list? Share with us in the comments below! 

The Benefits of a Bilingual Personality

Diversity quiltSince living in Brazil and regularly writing and speaking in Portuguese, I’ve noticed my English speaking and writing personality (the one I’ve had my whole life) isn’t the same as my Portuguese personality (currently in the terrible two stage). I started looking into this more and actually discovered that this is super common for multilingual people.

I’ll share with you my experience having dual personalities and tell you why I think speaking 2 + languages is good for the soul!  Plus, it’s just plain cool to have more than one personality and not be hangin’ out in a psychiatric hospital!

  • You connect with others from the heart

I love using words to connect with others, but it’s nice and refreshing when the connection is based from a place of oneness. When you’re speaking your non-native language people focus more on the energy you give rather than the actual words you use. I think this is cool and it shows that while our minds are amazing tools that allow us to do so many great things (like your ability to read this right now), it’s great to just connect on a heart to heart level. The words, phrase structure, and exact understanding is secondary.

  • You face constant vulnerability, but discover refreshing freedom

Letting go of the need to control that you’re saying what you mean to say (in the way you hope to say it) makes you vulnerable. There is a huge opening for miscommunications (both small and large – and sometimes funny). But at the same time, you gain an exhilarating sense of freedom. My analytical English personality goes out the window. The most important thing to me, in that moment, is having a conversation and connecting with another person. What the person I’m talking to or someone around us thinks about me (based off my word choice, comprehension, or strong American accent) is none of my business.

When you 100% believe that , you easily see that the same principle translates into any language and any person you talk to in your life. That’s freedom baby! This reminds me of a popular affirmation, “The good or bad opinion of others doesn’t affect me”. Speaking another language can help you grasp this idea so much better – and as a result, you’ll be so much happier, at peace, and love yourself unconditionally!

  • You become more direct

I didn’t realize how non-direct I can be in English until Portuguese came into my life. I don’t play word games (not really sure how) or beat around the bush in Portuguese.  I say what I’m thinking and don’t hide behind being appropriate or polite (of course I’m never rude and my body language supports that), and I don’t phrase my words in a sly attempt at achieving the result I secretly hope for (come on, we all can be a little manipulative sometimes). I’ve discovered that I love being direct and it’s translating to my English personality too!

The real you has nothing to do with your job, language skills, where you live, how much money you have in the bank, what type of car you drive (or if you drive), or any other material and ego centered status. Your second language personality helps you see this more clearly. You realize that who you are truly is something beyond what you typically spend you days worrying or thinking about. The real you simply hangs out inside you, waiting for you to connect with its awesomeness.  It doesn’t have any problems, complaints, concerns, or worries. Connecting to the “real” you allows you to experience a more peaceful and rewarding time in the material world – regardless of your circumstances.

  • You have another avenue of self expression

After you realize that your personalities are not the real you (the real you is spirit and is innately connected to everyone and everything in the whole universe), you can choose to use your ability to communicate in more than one language as another avenue of self expression. This allows you to connect with more people, express yourself in different ways according to languages and cultures, and simply learn more about the depth of life.

Do you have multiple language personalities?  Can you relate to my experience? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.  

photo by: OregonDOT

Top 10 Relationship Words That Aren’t Translatable Into English

Elephant-Heart-726472These are words that in other languages describe the subtle realities of love, desire and relationship… but seem to have no direct English translation. Compiled by Pamela Haag at BigThink:

1. Mamihlapinatapei (Yagan, an indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego): The wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who desire to initiate something, but are both reluctant to start.

Oh yes, this is an exquisite word, compressing a thrilling and scary relationship moment. It’s that delicious, cusp-y moment of imminent seduction. Neither of you has mustered the courage to make a move, yet. Hands haven’t been placed on knees; you’ve not kissed. But you’ve both conveyed enough to know that it will happen soon… very soon.

2. Yuanfen (Chinese): A relationship by fate or destiny. This is a complex concept. It draws on principles of predetermination in Chinese culture, which dictate relationships, encounters and affinities, mostly among lovers and friends.From what I glean, in common usage yuanfen means the “binding force” that links two people together in any relationship.But interestingly, “fate” isn’t the same thing as “destiny.” Even if lovers are fated to find each other they may not end up together. The proverb, “have fate without destiny,” describes couples who meet, but who don’t stay together, for whatever reason. It’s interesting, to distinguish in love between the fated and the destined. Romantic comedies, of course, confound the two.

3. Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese): The act of tenderly running your fingers through someone’s hair.

4. Retrouvailles (French):  The happiness of meeting again after a long time. This is such a basic concept, and so familiar to the growing ranks of commuter relationships, or to a relationship of lovers, who see each other only periodically for intense bursts of pleasure. I’m surprised we don’t have any equivalent word for this subset of relationship bliss. It’s a handy one for modern life.

5. Ilunga (Bantu): A person who is willing to forgive abuse the first time; tolerate it the second time, but never a third time.

Apparently, in 2004, this word won the award as the world’s most difficult to translate. Although at first, I thought it did have a clear phrase equivalent in English: It’s the “three strikes and you’re out” policy. But ilunga conveys a subtler concept, because the feelings are different with each “strike.” The word elegantly conveys the progression toward intolerance, and the different shades of emotion that we feel at each stop along the way. Ilunga captures what I’ve described as the shade of gray complexity in marriages—Not abusive marriages, but marriages that involve infidelity, for example.  We’ve got tolerance, within reason, and we’ve got gradations of tolerance, and for different reasons. And then, we have our limit. The English language to describe this state of limits and tolerance flattens out the complexity into black and white, or binary code. You put up with it, or you don’t.  You “stick it out,” or not.

Ilunga restores the gray scale, where many of us at least occasionally find ourselves in relationships, trying to love imperfect people who’ve failed us and whom we ourselves have failed.

6. La Douleur Exquise (French): The heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have.

When I came across this word I thought of “unrequited” love. It’s not quite the same, though. “Unrequited love” describes a relationship state, but not a state of mind. Unrequited love encompasses the lover who isn’t reciprocating, as well as the lover who desires. La douleur exquise gets at the emotional heartache, specifically, of being the one whose love is unreciprocated.

7. Koi No Yokan (Japanese): The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall into love.

This is different than “love at first sight,” since it implies that you might have a sense of imminent love, somewhere down the road, without yet feeling it. The term captures the intimation of inevitable love in the future, rather than the instant attraction implied by love at first sight.

Read the rest over at Big Think

Creative Commons License photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography

Originally posted in February 2012

photo by: ildalina

Can the Simple Act of Making a List Boost Your Happiness?

seishonagonWhen I was in college, I took a class on the culture of Heian Japan,  and the one and only thing I remember about that subject is The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. This strange, brilliant book has haunted me for years.

Sei Shonagon was a court lady in tenth-century Japan, and in her “pillow book,” she wrote down her impressions about things she liked, disliked, observed, and did.

I love lists of all kinds, and certainly Sei Shonagon did, as well. Her lists are beautifully evocative. One of my favorites is called Things That Make One’s Heart Beat Faster:

  •  Sparrows feeding their young
  •  To pass a place where babies are playing.
  •  To sleep in a room where some fine incense has been burnt.
  •  To notice that one’s elegant Chinese mirror has become a little cloudy.
  •  To see a gentleman stop his carriage before one’s gate and instruct his attendants to announce his arrival.
  •  To wash one’s hair, make one’s toilet, and put on scented robes; even if not a soul sees one, these preparations still produce an inner pleasure.
  •  It is night and one is expecting a visitor. Suddenly one is startled by the sound of rain-drops, which the wind blows against the shutters.

Other marvelous lists include Things That Arouse a Fond Memory of the Past, Things That Cannot Be Compared, Rare Things, Pleasing Things, Things That Give a Clean Feeling, Things That One Is in a Hurry to See or to Hear, People Who Look Pleased with Themselves, and, another of my very favorites, from the title alone, People Who Have Changed As Much As If They Had Been Reborn.

Making lists of this sort is a terrific exercise to stimulate the imagination, heighten powers of observation, and stoke appreciation of the everyday details of life. Just reading these lists makes me happier.

How about you? Have you ever made a list of observations, in this way?

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Now for a moment of sheer self-promotion: For reasons of my own, which are too tiresome to relate, I’m making a big push for Happier at Home. If you’ve been thinking about buying it, please buy now! If you’d like a little more info before you decide, you can…

Read a sample chapter on “time”

Listen to a sample chapter

Watch the one-minute trailer–see if you can guess what item has proved controversial

Request the book club discussion guide

Get the behind-the-scenes extra

Final note: I love all my books equally, but my sister the sage says that Happier at Home is my best book.

Stock up now! Okay, end of commercial. Thanks for indulging me.

photo by: koalazymonkey

Throwback Thursday: 8 Major US Cities As Seen by Your Great-Grandparents

Here are some of the most iconic American cities, now bustling centers of commerce, entertainment, fashion, and media. They were important in these regards back in the day, too, but by the looks of these photos you’d never know it!

All of these images come from about the late 19th century, which you can tell by the horse-drawn carriages and old-fashioned clothing styles. We live in the 21st century, surrounded by all kinds of cultures and styles and immersed in contemporary issues and concerns. It’s important, though, to remember where we came from, and that we are part of a long line of individuals who have lived in, experienced, and help built this country we call home.

And what’s more, these photographs are just so darn precious. Take a look!

Boston – Newspaper Row, Washington StreetOld-Photos-of-Big-Cities-30

Philadelphia – Broad Street

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San Francisco – Bay Bridge

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New York – Grand Central Station and Hotel Manhattan

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Chicago – Wabash Avenue

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Detroit – Woodward Avenue

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Los Angeles – South Broadway

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Washington D.C. – Ninth Street

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And one bonus from New York… (Wall Street!)

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Images sourced: Fludit and Los Angeles Past

An Open Letter to Racist Tweeters on Miss America

By: Sayantani DasGupta

Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 11.57.35 AMDear Racist Tweeters of America,

First and foremost, let me thank you on behalf of feminists of color everywhere, not to mention the producers of the Miss America competition, for making people sit up and take notice of a beauty contest that otherwise would have been off most of our radars.

When I woke up Monday morning to find one of my Indian American friends had posted something on my Facebook wall to the effect of “Sisters! We are Miss America!,” I appreciated the sentiment, but couldn’t bring myself to care that much. After all, I spend most of my life as a feminist scholar, parent, and pediatrician writing and lecturing against the toxic body culture and impossible beauty standards that reduce our daughters’ worth to their physical appearance over their intelligence and actions.

Ok, so some overachieving daughter-of-Indian-immigrants-who-is-also-an-aspiring- cardiologist had done a Bollywood dance, worn a swimsuit, and won a tiara. Beyond a passing eye-roll, I wasn’t that interested.

But then came you, dear tweeters, and the reports of your racist hatredswathed, sari-like, in your unabashed ignorance: your conflation of Indian fusion dance with “Indonesian” dance; your interchange of “Arab” for “Indian”; your assertion that this brown-skinned Miss America was not somehow “American” despite being born in Syracuse, New York. And I realized then that your firestorm of xenophobic fury was nothing more than fodder for an excellent real-life lesson in feminist intersectionality.

Because of you, dear tweeters, I – like many other feminists of color – have been forced to defend a brown woman’s right to win a competition whose premise turns my stomach. (Talent contests! Hair spray! Your answer to world peace in two minutes or less!) Because the truth is, your insight-less cyber-comments reveal much about the reality of living, as brown women, in post-9/11 America.

The ‘contingent citizenship’ faced by most Asian- and Middle Eastern-Americans was a reality of our lives long before the twin towers fell. The perpetual question “where are you from?”–when answered ‘incorrrectly’–is still usually followed up by “no, where are you REALLY from?” (Refer to this genius “What Kind of Asian Are You” video by Ken Tanaka as a cultural refresher.) Somehow, in mainstream American consciousness, it has always been impossible to be both of Asian or Middle Eastern origin and from Texas, or Syracuse, or Ohio. No matter how many generations we have been in the United States, no matter our contributions to this nation, our communities are damned to marginalization as ‘perpetual foreigners.’

But after 9/11, those of us with brown faces (whether Muslim or Sikh, Hindu or Christian, atheist or agnostic) have found ourselves also conflated with the face of terrorism. We have been yelled at on the streets, unduly searched at airports, the victims of hate-crimes, and had our families and communities targeted for police harassment,immigration detention, and deportation.

missamericaSo your tweets that 24-year-old New Yorker Nina Davuluri should be called “Miss 7-11” or “Miss Al-Qaeda,” your outrage that an Indian American could be crowned Miss America only a few days after 9/11, were kind of a call to arms. (And no, I don’t mean the kind of arms toted by blonde, tattooed, huntress Miss Kentucky, Theresa Vail.) Your cyber-hate shed light on something much bigger than mere ‘bigotry’; it unearthed the ugly sentiments that lurk right beneath the surface of life in America, the venomous underbelly of a false patriotism that impacts our communities every day. And so, we brown skinned feminists have had, as always, to perform a complicated dance of alliances: responding to xenophobia and racism without forgoing our gendered analyses.

Without a doubt, beauty is a political issue. Growing up in the heart of the American Midwest in the 1970s, I was assaulted with media images that looked nothing like me, and for a long time was convinced that no one who wasn’t a blonde-haired and blue-eyed Christie Brinkley look-alike could be deemed ‘beautiful.’ This inability to see myself in the world around me eroded my self-esteem and self-confidence for many years, convincing me that perhaps I should be invisible – in body, word, action, and deed.

My thirteen-year-old self would have been thrilled to know that someone like Nina Davuluri – someone like me — could be crowned Miss America. My adult self thinks that maybe such contests are valuing women for the wrong things, and that it’s not the crowning of a Miss America of Indian origin that resolves a little brown girl’s self-hatred, but the ability and courage of we as a society to recognize how sexism, racism, and xenophobia all work together in our lives.

So thank you, Racist Tweeters of America, for opening up this dialogue about the intersectionality of race, nationhood, and gender.  Your comments only remind me how the bodies of women of color continue to be a battleground for so many oppressive forces. And it is only by naming these forces, and recognizing their ugly reflections in our lives, that we can begin to see all of our own true beauty.

But before you take down your hate-filled twitter feed, just provide me one favor. Hashtag #intersectionalityisforracistidiots. Let it hold up a mirror to all the ways you represent what is wrong with America today. And, ironically, the many ways that a brown Miss America reflects what is right.

Kthxbye,

Sayantani

Originally posted on The Feminist Wire

Originally trained in pediatrics and public health, Sayantani DasGupta, M.D. M.P.H., teaches in the Master’s Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University and the Graduate Program in Health Advocacy at Sarah Lawrence College. She is Co-Chair of the Columbia University Seminar on Narrative, Health and Social Justice and a faculty fellow at Columbia’s Center for the Study of Social Difference. Sayantani is the co-author of a book of Bengali folktales, the author of a memoir about her time at Johns Hopkins Medical School and co-editor of an award winning collection of women’s illness narratives, Stories of Illness and Healing: Women Write their Bodies. 

Why Everyone is Talking About Miley Cyrus Today

Miley-Cyrus-2224429Did you watch the Video Music Awards last night? If so, did anything stand out to you?

In the company of acts like Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, and Kanye West, none caused as much of a stir as Miley Cyrus, the Disney-star-turned-sexpot-turned…cultural commentator?

That last descriptor might be overly generous, but it refers to the somewhat misplaced commentary on race, sexuality, and liberal politics Miley apparently seems to be dishing out with her latest performance and musical offerings.

Before we address her VMA performance, it’s first necessary to go back several months to the release of her music video for “We Can’t Stop.” A dance/party anthem reminiscent of her earlier “Party in the USA,” this video strips Miley of any semblance of sweetness or innocence and dresses her instead in a costume of unrestrained, “deviant” sexuality and, what many are calling, caricatured “cultural appropriation.”

As Dodai Stewart writes for Jezebel:

It’s important to understand that Miley is very privileged to be able to play dress up and adorn herself with the trappings of an oppressed/minority culture. She can play at blackness without being burdened by the reality of it.

Click here if you’d like to watch the music video and judge for yourself.

If the grills, the fake nails, and the gold chains aren’t enough to make you cringe at their blatant cultural essentializing of what Miley seems to view as “hip hop culture” and urban couture, then her VMA performance will probably do the trick. Miley struts across the stage in a leotard, with dancers all around her carrying gigantic stuff bears, and she proceeds to hump the air, stick a foam finger between her legs, and “twerk” up close and personal for Robin Thicke.

It’s hard to know exactly what the 20-year-old’s politics and values really are. If her “We Can’t Stop” video and VMA performance are trying to inspire some discourse on race and sexuality, then she seems to be going about it in a roundabout fashion. Does caricaturing minority culture actually encourage enfranchisement, or does it just perpetuate racism? Does trying on and playing with sexuality actually show respect to the LGBT community, or does it just over-sexualize homosexuality – lesbian relationships, in particular?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

 

Photo credit: Reuters

Norwegian Musicians Rap to Save Their Native Language

Nils Rune Utsi is a rapper with an unusual story. He hails from Máze, a Norwegian town of roughly 250 people, and he is the founding member of Slincraze, a music group that raps entirely in a near-extinct language. In an interview with the BBC, Utsi recounts his “average” childhood, his love of music, and his reasons for rapping in “Sami,” a language spoken by less than 20,000 people worldwide.

Although Utsi might seem like an unusual case, he certainly isn’t the first to use the medium of rap as a way of proclaiming and maintaining indigenous identity. Australia has seen the rise in recent years of Aboriginal rappers and musicians, using music as a way of counteracting the disenfranchisement of their communities. Native American rappers like Supaman, Melle Mel, and King Just have also turned to rap as a way of both continuing an indigenous legacy of oral story telling and also connecting to larger musical counter culture.

The lesson here might be that, in addition to books, museums, and archives, a powerful way of preserving languages may be inspiring young people to celebrate their linguistic traditions through rap and other musical forms. This allows for the language to come alive and maintain relevance for future generations.

What do you think about the potential for rap to save dying languages? Tell us your thoughts!

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