Description

My project is about our constant cycle of teaching our learning and teaching world conformity.  No matter your social group your conformity is usually blind and only because some authoritative figure tells you to do so.  It brings about the problems with this cycle rather sarcastically and ends posing the question of whether or not we are right.

Ideas

  1. Power Makes Culture: “Culture is made by those in power—men. Males make the rules and laws; women transmit them.” Because men (or any majority group) occupy positions of power, the power that they exercise is informed by their perspectives, interests, and desires, which, in their turn, create the specific content of culture. E.g., women had to fight for their right to vote, because the laws, which were written by men, enfranchised men but not women; laws throughout the history of the United States have favored white people over people of color and straight people over queer people. (Borderlands/La Frontera, 2nd Ed. Anzaldua 38)
  2. Imposed Humility: “In my culture, selfishness is condemned, especially in women; humility and selflessness, the absence of selfishness, is considered a virtue.” When such seemingly moral principles are over-emphasized in a particular group, such as women, they more and more translate into submission and subservience. In other words, a system of informal servitude is set up between men and women, and this excess taxation or burden on women can even be praised as ‘good.’ Consider the Protestant Ethic that encourages a similar sort of humility combined with hard work on the part of the worker and getting little in return, e.g. In the former case, you have men-over-women servitude, and in the latter, you have owner/boss-over-worker servitude. In short, when one group is expected to be more humble and another is expected to be less humble, the former gets away with less while the latter gets away with more. (Borderlands/La Frontera, 2nd Ed. Anzaldua 40)
  3. Gender-Hostage Acceptance: A person’s acceptance into a group depends on their conformity with a number of rules and standards. It is typical of modern cultures to reject someone who is to some degree ‘gender queer’ or gender nonconforming. This explains (at least partly) the practices of homophobia and transphobia in our culture such as the ‘fag discourse,’ whereby boys (and men) engage in a name-calling process designed to police behavior deemed unacceptable for a boy/man (i.e., feminine behavior). Parents, teachers, relatives, peers—indeed the majority of society—engages in (not-so) subtle forms of gender-coercion such as praising a male-bodied child for being ‘brave’ and ‘strong’ or praising a female-bodied child for being ‘pretty’ and ‘sweet.’ The message is clear at a very early age: “If you want us to like you, act like a boy if you’re male-bodied or a girl if you’re female-bodied—and not like both.” Another example: the boy that rides the pink bike and gets fussed at by his father for doing so is learning that they have a choice to make. Either the child does what he wants or he gets father’s acceptance, but he can’t have both—and it’s probably apparent to the child what the ‘right’ choice is. Producing “gender is undertaken by women and men whose competence as members of society is hostage to its production.” (West and Zimmerman 2004:150)
  4. Despot Duality: Many, perhaps all, social groups are subject to a despot duality that tells them and forces upon them the idea that “you must be either this or that.” E.g., a black person might be expected to “act black,” and when they don’t, when they “act white,” members of their community (black or otherwise) may try to call this out as abnormal and ridicule it. Effectively, they are saying “You can’t be both black (a social status) and white-acting (a way of behaving). You are either black or white.” Similarly, a person who is considered an ‘adult’ but also is free-spirited (like a child) and doesn’t abide by a number of social norms regarding how ‘adults should act’ is subject to negative criticism that attacks this confusion of the categories ‘child’ and ‘adult’: “You can’t be both. Well, you obviously can be, but we don’t like it.” As Anzaldua puts it, “half and halfs are not suffering from a confusion of sexual identity, or even a confusion of gender [or any other social statuses]. What we are suffering from is an absolute despot duality that says we are able to be only one or the other. It claims that human nature is limited and cannot evolved into something better. But I, like other queer people, am two in one body, both male and female. I am the embodiment of the hieros gamos: the coming together of opposite qualities within.” (Borderlands/La Frontera, 2nd Ed. Anzaldua 41)
  5. Degradation Ceremonial:  When a person experiences a loss of face or a decrease in their social status/prestige as part of a ritual and routine practice for being an ‘outsider.’  In other words, there is a ceremony in which a person is degraded in the eyes of the community, which results in various forms of neglect and coercion.  In the case of a person who uses drugs, their degradation ceremonial spans the informal responses of their peers and the formal responses of the criminal justice system that robs them of their freedom in order to shame them for how they relate their own bodies to synthetic and non-synthetic chemicals.  In the case of a person labeled “schizophrenic,” the psychiatric examination is the degradation ceremonial.  Laing says of this labeling process: “This political event, occurring in the civic order of society, imposes definitions and consequences on the labeled person.  It is a social prescription that rationalizes a set of social actions whereby the labeled person is annexed by others, who are legally obliged, to become responsible for the person labeled.  The person labeled is inaugurated not only into a role, but into a career of patient, by the concerted action of a coalition (a “conspiracy”) of family, G.P., mental health officer, psychiatrists, nurses, psychiatric social workers, and often fellow patients.  The “committed” person labeled as patient, and specifically as “schizophrenic,” is degraded from full existential and legal status as human agent and responsible person to someone no longer in possession of his own definition of himself, unable to retain his own possessions, precluded from the exercise of his discretion as to whom he meets, what he does.  His time is no longer his own and the space he occupies is no longer of his choosing.” (Laing 1967:122)
  6. Dependency Theory: This theory tries to explain global inequality in terms of a process of “the exploitation of weaker, poor nations by wealthy, more powerful ones” (Hoynes and Croteau 2013:244). Modernization theory paints a picture of global inequality being the result of traditions and their relation to production, whereas dependency their illustrates a procedure of international capture. “Rather than voluntarily opting out of development, poor countries were prevented from developing by powerful colonizers who became wealthy by exploiting their natural resources and cheap labor” (Hoynes and Croteau 2013:244).
  7. Spiral of Silence: a theory that explains how people keep quiet about controversial issues when they think their opinions are not widely shared, in order to avoid isolation (Noelle-Neuman, 1974, 1993) (Hoynes and Croteau 2013:441) .
  8. Us-vs.-Them Group Formation: When an authority and someone they command (e.g., Milgram’s experiment participant) are in each other’s presence, while the victim of the command to punish is not present, the authority and their subject develop a more intimate relationship relative to the subject and the victim. “When the victim is placed close to thesubject, it becomes easier to form an alliance with him against the experimenter. Subjects no longer have to face the experimenter alone. They have an ally who is close at hand and eager to collaborate in a revolt against the experimenter.”
    (Milgram 1993:101)
  9. Vicious Circle: The sociologist Erving Goffman noted that as psychiatric patients are put on a bad ward, their behaviors (that are a protest to this seclusion and confinement) tend to get interpreted as further justification of seclusion, confinement, and more limitation (e.g., taking away chairs, desks, etc.). And as the staff and doctors intensify limitation, so to do the patients escalate their protests, which further justify… In short, with these vicious circle processes, you have an abused person or community that revolts against the abuse, and with each revolt, the abuse increases: abuse → rebel → abuse + 1 → rebel + 1 → abuse + 2 → rebel + 2 → abuse + 3…etc. (Laing 1967:111-112)
  10. Disphoric Engagement, Difficult Disengagement: When people enter into situations of authoritative control whereby they are given destructive commands, they are ‘caught up’ or ‘trapped’ in some way: “Somehow the subject becomes implicated in a situation from which he cannot disengage himself….” And the more disphoric the situation, the more cognitive dissonance it creates, the more they may try to figure a way out of its powerful gravity.
    (Milgram 1993:105)

How I made it

I thought of all the movies I have ever seen where people refuse to conform to their society, but get sucked in anyway.  I also thought of how all of our social standings are taught as children.  I love making up stories, especially very interpretive ones where morals are found all over the place.  Paintings and pictures are inferred differently by everyone who looks at them.  It is my belief that children see the realities we blind ourselves too.  So, I decided to use iconic movies and scenes to make a picture that shows just how screwed up we are and how no matter how hard we try not to someone always makes us conform again.

Advice to Others

Do not panic when thinking of a project idea.  It will come to you, and if you do get an idea try it and see where it goes, if it doesn’t work out then try again.  Just keep swimming through until you find the perfect medium and the right thing to say.

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