Every year students of the University of Denver are asked to write thoughtful and imaginative academic essays ranging in style from literature reviews to hybrid personal narratives. In the process, students conduct original research, ask unique questions, and take pride in their discoveries. WRIT Large continues to showcase student writing projects by reviewing and selecting exceptional student pieces from courses across campus. Our nine selections for this issue are diverse in experience and expression, but they share with readers a common ground: each asks, invites, and challenges us to reconsider what is so near to our view that it often goes unnoticed. An autobiographical memoir by Cicely Galm and a personal exploration by Sonia Crosby–Attipoe call us to reflect on the intersection of text, community, and individual experience. Cicely Galm’s “Memory in Memoriam” re-animates memories of her grandmother and disrupts/connects those (neural) pathways with research in history and medicine. Sonia Crosby–Attipoe’s “The Stress of the Black Tress,” meanwhile, traces out the personal—or political—meaning of her experiences with Good Hair. Susanna Park, Tuong Vi Nguyen, and Jonathan Seals make research personal and encourage us to look closer at how everyday experiences may have more significance than we recognize. Susanna Park’s “Hello, Goodbye” explores the meaning and power of our hands by opening up her own family’s stories with joyful and informative writing—extending the seemingly insignificant idea of the hand to real depth. Jonathan Seals’ “Tiny Little Voices: One Giant Problem” unites the narrative of his own academic career with research on educational trends to give us a micro- and macroscopic view of the American educational system and its achievement gap. Tuong Vi Nguyen’s “Dig Deeper” unearths the social and nutritional benefit of garden projects on students, supported by her own case study at Fairview Elementary in west Denver. Uncovering and questioning popular views and perceptions—Katherine Thomas’ “Homophobia in Male Athletics” and Sara Schwartzkopf’s “‘Inclusive Excellence’ at the University of Denver” bring our ideologies to the surface—while Emily Angel and Nicole Krechevsky go beyond mere appearances. Katherine Thomas tackles gender stereotypes and hetero-normative structures by engaging scholarly literature surrounding historical and present-day athletic organizations. Pertaining directly to our DU community, Sara Schwartzkopf uses statistical analysis to explore student attitudes toward the institution’s goal of inclusive excellence, as well as the factors that influence these attitudes. Emily Angel’s “The Media’s Influence on Perceptions of Michael Jordan” questions whether media representations of Michael Jordan create a glorified figure that exists only in consumers’ minds. Nicole Krechevsky’s “‘There’s Nothing I Wouldn’t Do for You’: Brother Romance in Supernatural” addresses fans’ engagement with a fictitious sibling relationship, raising provocative questions about social norms related to gender, sexuality, and even incest. We introduce the second annual issue of WRIT Large with great pride and appreciation for our student authors and with great excitement for our DU readership, whose ambitious and insightful writing will sustain this journal for years to come. Student Editors: Whitney Harkness, Monica Heilman, Ellie Lindner, Devon Varoz
2 TINY LITTLE VOICES: ONE GIANT PROBLEM Jonathan Seals
8 THE MEDIA’S INFLUENCE ON PERCEPTIONS OF MICHAEL JORDAN Emily Angel 15
The E ffects
Tuong Vi Nguyen 22
U rban Garden Project
HOMOPHOBIA IN MALE ATHLETICS
Katherine Thomas 27
“ THERE’S NOTHING I WOULDN’T DO FOR YOU”:
Nicole Krechevsky 34
“INCLUSIVE EXCELLENCE” AT THE UNIVERSITY OF DENVER
Sara Schwartzkopf 41
CONSIDER THE NEXT THREE ESSAYS
THE “STRESS” OF THE BLACK TRESS
MEMORY IN MEMORIAM
Dr. Carol Samson
W R I T L A R G E 2 0 13
TINY LITTLE VOICES: ONE GIANT PROBLEM Jonathan Seals WRIT 1622: Advanced Writing Seminar 1—Re-Writing the American West Professor Geoffrey Bateman
I will never forget my first childhood friend. His name was Adam Nelson. We could never fully remember how we met; it was as if our friendship materialized out of thin air. Although he was white and I was black, we were identical in many ways. Playing soccer, going to the park, debating over who was a stronger fighter in our favorite cartoon—we loved the same things, and no matter how intense the debates got, we were the best of friends. Imagine the excitement we both felt when I learned I was transferring to his elementary school. For two first graders, it was a dream come true. Little did I know this change would reveal our hidden differences. In the first grade, I began to notice the nuanced differences between us. Teachers and parents tend to shield first graders from anything that might threaten their self-esteem; as the year progressed, I knew something wasn’t right. The lack of stars and smiley faces began to perplex
The academic distance between Adam and me was not uncommon. As I grew up and matured, I realized that my struggle is shared by many minorities.
me when I compared my assignments to Adam’s. On Adam’s paper, there were “good job” stamps and “you rock” stickers and golden stars, while on my homework there was nothing but blank space. The margins were left vacant. As my best friend Adam sat in class, the teacher assistants would pull me outside. They would ask me to 2
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sound out words and read short stories to them. I still received no praise, no stickers, no stamps. For a while my reading levels were below their standards, and I continued to be pulled out of class. I felt frustrated. I always wondered why Adam just got it. How did everything click for him and not me? What made two people so similar, but so different? The academic distance between Adam and me was not uncommon. As I grew up and matured, I realized that my struggle is shared by many minorities. According to the Colorado State Board Committee, “Whenever there is a performance gap between students of identifiable groups (i.e., male vs. female, special needs vs. the standard student population, or between ethnic categories) that distance can be categorized as an achievement gap.” Interestingly enough, this is not a new issue in the state of Colorado. According to the Denver Post, in 1999 a Governor’s task force was created to tackle the issue; however, this move led to few improvements. The growing phenomenon is eliciting new research. Strong evidence suggests new reasons as to why a large achievement gap exists between white and minority children. Although experts have long identified the lack of resources within minority communities as the culprit for the achievement gap, new research has also found that the self-esteem of minorities plays a crucial role in their academic development.
FACE THE FACTS One of my biggest disadvantages as a young student was the fact that I grew up in a state with
© Krivosheev Vitaly / Shutterstock.com
an achievement gap that was growing exponentially. Today, according to the Denver Post, Colorado has the largest achievement gap in the nation. The Center on Education Policy found that based on CSAP (Colorado Student Assessment Program) scores in math, 95% of white fourth graders tested proficient and 29% tested advanced, whereas only 78% of African American and Latino students tested as proficient and 9% tested advanced. In both categories, this is almost a 20% difference between minority and white students. For students’ past elementary education, the study concludes that “twice as many white middle and high school students score proficient or above than African-American and Hispanic students on most reading, writing, and math tests.” Based on these findings from the Colorado Department of Education, the gap only increases as students progress further in the education system.
THE NEW FACE OF AMERICA The increasingly large achievement gap in America’s education system, researchers have claimed, is partially a response to regional demographic shifts. Although many recognize America as “the great melting pot,” to an extent the country has become even more segregated. David Aske, Rhonda Corman, and Christine Marston noted in the Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues that much of the local achievement gap is due to “resegregation” of the Denver community. With the expansion and attractiveness of the suburbs, many white families left their homes in the cities to settle in these new communities. When they
left, they took with them their higher incomes, resources, and support, and left behind vacant homes that lost their value, making them more accessible to low-income families. This alteration of the community shifted the face of the Denver educational system. In 1958, approximately 58% of Latino students claimed they attended predominately white schools—schools where they felt overwhelmingly outnumbered by white students—but by 2001, only 20% of these students described themselves as attending white schools. The minorities in these inner city areas were left with insufficient resources. Researchers found that the majority of students who were eligible for free lunch came from low-income minority backgrounds. As free-lunch applications increased, so did the proportion of students who were considered to be low income. Schools that displayed these characteristics generated a higher number of unsatisfactory test scores amongst minorities. Typically, the environment associated with low-income neighborhoods is not sufficient for adequate development. These neighborhoods are often characterized by a high number of single-parent households, high crime, and low resources. And children’s performance in school is affected. As the principal of Columbus Elementary in Denver stated, They’re sponges. They’re here to learn. They’re inquisitive. They bring a range of academic experience to the school. They don’t have those experiences at home. When children are raised in generational poverty they just don’t bring those experiences to school. They come with VOLUME 2
Although experts have long identified the lack of resources within minority communities as the culprit for the achievement gap, new research has also found that the self-esteem of minorities plays a crucial role in their academic development.
In my WRIT 1622 class, when we were
instructed to write a research paper, I did
not know what topic to research at first. My
instinct was to find a political topic, such as health care; however, as I began to really think, I realized I wanted to select a topic
that I could genuinely relate to. I went with a topic in the educational arena because I
can’t remember a time when I simply did
not want to learn. I remember when I was
little, it was hard for my mother to keep me home. I loved to learn new things, and
I definitely loved to tell my parents everything I learned.
What creates an emotional tie to this piece
of writing is the fact that I understand what it’s like to want to learn but still leave class feeling behind the rest of the group. I know
that feeling of isolation when a teacher tells the class everyone did well on a test, and I
still manage to receive a poor score. I be-
lieve the achievement gap is an issue that
needs to be addressed because whether the culprit for the issue is financial, psy-
chological, or economic, we are stuck in an
age where a large body of young students would like to get ahead but are barred from doing so. I hope my paper stirs readers,
causing them to reevaluate today’s educational system.
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a little less innocence. They’ve had to move into more of the adult lifestyle at a very young age because young children become caretakers very quickly for each other. (Brodsky, 108)
Poverty, crime, and a lack of parental involvement affect many low-income minorities and contribute to lower skills, less knowledge, and poorer comprehension of school readings and teachers’ lessons. These challenges hinder minority children from being fully able to engage and benefit from their education as do their white peers.
LEMON DANCE Besides socioeconomic factors, according to the Colorado Closing the Achievement Gap Commission Interim Report, the gap can also be explained by the lack of qualified teachers in predominately minority communities. In Colorado, only a third of teachers working in high-poverty public schools have a college major or minor in the field of education. As the interim report states, “Naturally, students in high poverty schools are more likely to be taught by less educated and lower scoring teachers, and students in predominately minority schools are about twice as likely nationally to be taught by inexperienced teachers.” The directors of the documentary Waiting for “Superman” depict this phenomenon by euphemistically calling it the “lemon dance.” After a certain number of years, teachers gain tenure and can never be fired, only transferred. The bad teachers, or “lemons,” end up being tossed from school to school, each school ranked lower than the one before it. Eventually, the lemons
With the expansion and attractiveness of the suburbs, many white families left their homes in the cities to settle in these new communities. When they left, they took with them their higher incomes, resources, and support, and left behind vacant homes that lost their value, making them more accessible to low-income families. © Humannet / Shutterstock.com
end up at low-performing schools, where the population is predominantly made up of minority students. The lemon dance can have dire implications for students. After being transferred to numerous schools, these inferior teachers often develop a degree of apathy. A principal at Johnson Elementary in Colorado states: I think it has a great deal to do... with the attitude of the teachers and the administration. If the attitude is we’re going to do it, we’re going to work towards it, we’re going to work as hard as we can—we’re not going to get there the first round, we’re not going to get there the second round, but I think you’ll see an increase. But I think if you have a negative attitude, it’s not going to help you. You have to have a positive attitude about it. It remains evident that there is a correlation between the level of enthusiasm teachers have for educating their students and student performance. This idea was expressed in Waiting for “Superman.” In the documentary, many students told the film crew about teachers sitting back all class period while the students struggled to fill out worksheets. The relationship between teachers and students is one of such great disconnect that many of the teachers filmed in Waiting for “Superman” told students, “I don’t care if you understand or not; I get paid either way.”
BUILDING CONFIDENCE IN TODAY’S YOUTH Adding even more complexity to the situation is the fact that the achievement gap does not simply
exist between low-income minorities and white students but between minorities of all economic strata and whites. Hispanic and African Americans in middle-class families still test lower than their white peers. Although my family’s income decreased during my time in middle school, in first grade my family was distinctly middle-class and financially stable. Could there have been something less tangible than economic status working against me at the early age? In a race and self-esteem meta-analysis, Jean Twenge and Jennifer Crocker found that minorities were rated more negatively than whites. In the minority group itself, participants viewed African-Americans through a negative lens, seeing them as less desirable and expressing the wish to be more socially distant from them in comparison to other races. Twenge and Crocker then argue, “Negative stereotypes about their intellectual ability pose a great threat to the self-concept of Black students. In response to this threat, Black students gradually disengage their self-esteem from academics.” The continual process of internalizing stigma causes minority students to develop low self-esteem. This is important because students with low self-esteem are less likely to take rigorous coursework, which the Colorado Department of Education notes as being a major factor leading to achievement gaps. Simply put, in order for you to push yourself, you must first believe you can succeed. If a young child grows up with a negative self-concept, he or she will flounder in school. Although I struggled in school early on, the mere fact that I am attending the University of VOLUME 2
Denver illustrates that something down the line worked. After one year at my best friend’s elementary school, my family ended up transferring me back to my old elementary school. The owner of my daycare—a short, very thin, older white woman—was the one who advised it. Without going into great detail, she simply told my mother, “My little African-American boys just don’t do well at that school.” I wish I could say that once I transferred back to my old school, life took a turn for the better, but I struggled for two more years. After putting me into multi-age classes, extra reading groups, and tutoring before school to get help with writing, my school had exhausted every resource and held me back in the fourth grade. For the fist time, I didn’t feel just separate from Adam but beneath him. Although it was not the easiest, looking back it was the best decision anyone has ever made for me. I was so behind, from the lack of support I received at my previous school, that getting held back was the only solution. I do not wish to advocate for early retention, for in most cases, according to Gregory Fritz, children who are retained either do not show higher achievement or show lower achievement than similar groups of children who were not retained. It wasn’t getting held back itself that made me a stronger student but the support I received afterwards. My family became more involved. Some of my most cherished memories are of my grandma and me making flash cards of various words in her kitchen. She would show me the card and make me sound it out. Then, to really challenge me, she would put together sentences and make me read them aloud. Inside of school as well, I had a strong support system. Even when I struggled, I had teachers that instilled in me the idea that no matter what, I had the capability of becoming advanced. One of my teachers would open up his classroom early so that he could help me with my writing. He invested time and effort that was beneficial for me in the long run. While acknowledging that my story is rare, I often wonder about those young children who still hang in the balance. The children who don’t necessarily decline but still struggle to advance: what happens to them? How do they feel when they’re sitting next to Adam, knowing that there’s 6
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Simply put, in order for you to push yourself, you must first believe you can succeed. If a young child grows up with a negative self-concept, he or she will flounder in school.
a gap between them? My new elementary school, Vassar, ultimately changed my life. By the end of fifth grade, I was reading at an eighth-grade level. For the first time my short responses, homework assignments, and projects were covered in “good job” stamps, gold stars, and “You Rock” stickers. Together, support from my family and teachers ignited within me a desire to learn. For the first time, learning became something that I wanted do, instead of a reminder of what I couldn’t accomplish. Even today, I see these same efforts implemented but in greater force. Recently, I visited University Park Elementary School. Although there still remains a gap between minorities and whites students, the school is truly committed to eradicating the gap. When I got a chance to sit down and talk to a second grade teacher, Mrs. Archambault, she said that she doesn’t really see a gap between her minority and white students. If there’s a gap, its primarily between her English language learners and native English speakers. Four of her students, three of them English language learners, are below proficiency, while an overwhelming majority of her second grade class is advanced, leaving the rest as proficient. When asked what works for the school, she says, “A lot of professional development so that the teachers all know what we’re doing, the language we’re using, the way we are going about teaching and what our expectations are.” She also identifies strong parental support as a factor that helps close the gap. Although this all amazed me, I think if there was any proof the school was closing the gap, it resided with 11-year-old African-American Zyen Smith. At his young age, unlike many of his peers, he does not wish to be a basketball, football, or even a soccer player, but a librarian.
© Stephen Coburn / Shutterstock.com
WORKS CITED Aske, David, Rhonda R. Corman, and Christine Marston. “Education Policy and School Segregation: A Study of the
Denver Metropolitan Region.” Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues 14.2 (2011): 27–35.
Brodsky, Andrew. Accountability Reform and Student Achievement in Colorado Public Schools. Diss. University of Colorado at
Boulder, 2008. Dissertations & Theses: Full Text, ProQuest. Web. 19 Feb. 2012.
“Colorado Closing The Achievement Gap Commission Interim Report November 1, 2004.” Colorado Department
of Education, 1 Nov. 2004. Web. 12 Feb. 2012.
“Colorado State Board Of Education’s Comments Regarding The 2004 Interim Report Of The Colorado
Commission On Closing The Achievement Gap.” Colorado State Board of Education’s Comments Regarding 2004
Interim Report on Closing the Achievement Gap (2004): 1–6. Web. 13 Feb. 2012.
Fritz, Gregory K. “The Retention Dilemma: What Parents Should Know If Their Child Is Held Back in School.” The
Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter 23.S9 (2007): I–II. Print.
Teske, Paul, Andrew Brodsky, and Alex Medler. “Guest Commentary: Fix Achievement Gap in Colorado.”
Denver Post (6 Aug 2006): E.01. Retrieved 19 Feb 2012 from ProQuest Newsstand. (Document ID: 1090610931).
“Subgroup Achievement and Gap Trends—Colorado.” Center on Education Policy, 2009. Web. 13 Feb. 2012.
Twenge, Jean M., and Jennifer Crocker. “Race And Self-Esteem: Meta-Analyses Comparing Whites, Blacks,
Hispanics, Asians, And American Indians And Comment On Gray-Little And Hafdahl (2000).” Psychological
Bulletin 128.3 (2002): 371–408. PsycARTICLES. Web. 16 Feb. 2012. Waiting for “Superman.” Dir. Davis Guggenheim. Paramount, 2010. Documentary. VOLUME 2
THE MEDIA’S INFLUENCE ON PERCEPTIONS OF MICHAEL JORDAN Emily Angel WRIT 1133: Academic Writing and Research—Heroism and Celebrity Professor David Daniels INTRODUCTION The meaning of “hero” is hard to define, but the concept is ever-present in the American psyche and highly prized in American value systems. Scholars have evaluated the importance of heroes to Americans (Engle, 1987; Ray, 2008). Literature has defined a hero as someone who has consistently shown excellence in some accomplishment and whose excellence is timeless (Vande Berge, 1998). Researchers have been able to refine this definition; for example, one study found that K–12 students associate heroism with uniqueness, courageousness, kindness, trustworthiness, and the ability to be a protector or helper (White & O’Brien, 1999). Engle (1987) expands on this definition of heroism through the example of Superman, claiming that Americans select heroes who have traits they wish they possessed and who embody the values they hold dear, such as pursuit of the American dream or being loyal to cultural heritage while creating a new identity. Scholars have had difficulty agreeing on a single, archetypal hero. Some scholars have claimed that the American hero archetype is divided into two categories—the outlaw hero and the official hero—and that Americans are hesitant to favor one type over another (Ray, 2008). The outlaw hero is an adventurer, explorer, or rebel who operates outside of traditional social structures, while the official hero is one who acts heroically within such structures, such as a teacher, lawyer, or police officer (Ray, 2008). Other scholars have isolated athletic heroes as another genre of hero and have defined them as people who gain honor “by publicly displaying their personal prowess, 8
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moral character, and social worth in competition evaluated by their peers and the broader society” (Vande Berg, 1998, p. 138). In many discussions of heroism, media plays a role (Strate, 1994; Boorstin, 1978). Strate (1994) asserts that heroes do not exist—only communication about them exists; there is a degree of separation, Strate claims, between members of society and their heroes due to time, space, or social status; and therefore, people tend to know their heroes only through pictures, stories, or other media. Scholars have supported this belief with the notion that today’s electronic media has blurred the line between reality and fiction, elevating heroes to super-human levels and creating the notion of celebrity (Boorstin, 1978). The argument is that today’s celebrities are recognized by image or trademark, while yesterday’s heroes were recognized by achievement or action (Boorstin, 1978). In this view, because media plays such a large role in today’s society, all heroes are eventually transformed into celebrities (Boorstin, 1978). In fact, celebrity is the modern form of heroism, and today’s heroic notoriety is created by media and big-name status, rather than heroic action (Boorstin, 1978). Modern heroes/celebrities are frequently used in advertising; about 25% of all US advertisements use celebrity endorsers, who are defined as “any individual who enjoys public recognition and who uses the recognition on behalf of a consumer good by appearing with it in an advertisement” (Shimp; 2000; McCracken, 1989, p. 310). Researchers have found that the most successful advertising campaigns with celebrity endorsers
© Paolo Rosa / Flickr.com
occur when celebrities are paired with brands that consumers perceive as having similar personality traits, such as the coupling of a famously stylish celebrity with a high-end fashion line (Choi & Rifon, 2007). However, celebrities can slightly shape brand image and vice-versa (Choi & Rifon, 2007). Outside of effective brand pairing, Amos, Holmes and Strutton (2008) have also found that negative information about a celebrity endorser and celebrity attractiveness can have a significant impact on the success of an advertising campaign. Amos et al. (2008) found that celebrity performance seems to have very little impact on endorsed advertising campaign success. One such celebrity who is both a hero and an endorsement phenomenon is Michael Jordan, a Chicago Bulls player from 1984–1993 and 1994– 1995 (Vande Berg, 1998; Armstrong, 1996). Jordan has been recognized more specifically as a traditional athletic hero because he is physically strong, has endurance, and possesses superior athletic skill (Vande Berg, 1998). It is also suggested that Jordan is recognized as a hero in the general sense because he has strong family values, a good work ethic, and success that mirrors the American dream (Vande Berg, 1998). He has been classified by some scholars as a postmodern hero because he is admired for his ability to juxtapose play (basketball) with work, a trait admired in American value systems (Vande Berg, 1998). Jordan has also been one of the most successful celebrity endorsers in sports industry history, generating over $10 billion for companies he has endorsed (Johnson, 1998). Some scholars
claim Jordan was such a successful endorsement icon—endorsing apparel, food, beverages, and more—that he became more of a commodity than a man (Armstrong, 1996). This commoditized version of Jordan was represented in part through his jersey number, 23, which has been bought, sold, and idolized since the start of Jordan’s professional career (Armstrong, 1996). Crowley (1999) claims this endorsement success and media appeal is the reason why Michael Jordan became so widely recognized as a great athlete and person, but in actuality Jordan should not be remembered as the legend that he is today. This study aims to test Crowley’s claims by examining whether Jordan is remembered for his actual talents and personality traits, or whether a mythical version of Jordan, one created by media and endorsement, is the Michael Jordan whom people still adore and remember today. It is hoped that insight into this question will allow for a deeper understanding of societal perceptions of celebrity.
METHODS This study consisted of a two-part assessment using both quantitative and qualitative methods. In the quantitative portion, a survey that specifically targeted both male and female college students currently enrolled at the University of Denver (DU) was posted on the popular social media site Facebook. Students were asked to select true statements about Michael Jordan from a variety of statements about Jordan’s basketball career, charitable work, and personal life. Students elected to participate in the survey of their VOLUME 2
Today’s electronic media has blurred the line between reality and fiction, elevating heroes to super-human levels and creating the notion of celebrity (Boorstin, 1978).
I am currently a junior at DU pursuing a ma-
jor in International Studies and minors in Marketing and Chinese. I wrote this piece
for my WRIT 1133 class. The theme of my class was heroism and celebrity worship,
so it seemed like a great idea to write about
Michael Jordan. I am a huge Bulls fan from the suburbs of Chicago. Other than basketball, I love running and baking—it is
rumored that my oatmeal caramel walnut bars are so good they change lives. I used
to think that Rocky Mountain National park was the most amazing place on Earth, but
after spending a semester in Buenos Aires I’d have to say the two share the title.
A few critical facts about myself: I can perfectly recall the calendar year of my child-
hood summers by thinking about which
Harry Potter book I was reading at the time. Boy Meets World, in all of its 1990’s glory, is quite possibly my favorite television show
of all time. There are few things I hate more than stepping in a puddle of water when I’m
wearing a fresh pair of socks. In general I
consider myself a very happy person, but on those very few bad days there is one
thing that will always cheer me up: watch-
ing YouTube videos of laughing babies. If you’ve never done it, try it—I dare you not to crack a smile.
WRIT LARGE: 2013
own volition. Fifty-seven surveys were submitted. In the qualitative portion of the survey, semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight additional DU students. The interviewer posed a standardized set of questions regarding media and corporate impact on celebrity. The questions asked students to discuss their views on the relationships between media, celebrity talent, and fame and the degree to which each did or did not reflect reality. Students were invited to elaborate on responses beyond the initial boundaries of the question. In addition, the interviewer added questions depending on the responses each participant gave, either to help with elaboration of the initial question or to prompt elaboration on a comment of particular interest.
RESULTS In the quantitative survey, 65% of respondents said they were familiar with Michael Jordan as an athlete, and 63% reported admiring Jordan as an athlete. Twenty-two percent reported they were familiar with Jordan’s personal life, and the same number admired him as a person. Sixteen percent admired Jordan’s work accomplishments outside of the NBA, and 25% admired him for his charity work. Five percent of respondents incorrectly reported that Jordan had donated to the American Red Cross, 3% incorrectly reported that he had donated to St. Jude’s, and 17% incorrectly reported that he had donated to the Get Out and Play Foundation. Approximately one-quarter of respondents correctly identified charities to which Jordan had actually donated. Thirty-seven
percent of those surveyed correctly estimated the amount of Jordan’s charitable contribution to the James R. Jordan Center for Family Life, 2 million dollars, with 28% over-estimating the amount and 35% under-estimating it. Forty-four percent correctly chose Jordan’s #7 spot on Parade magazine’s “Most Charitable Celebrities” list, with 19% guessing that Jordan ranked lower, and 37% guessing that Jordan ranked higher. Only one-quarter of survey participants had ever purchased a Jordan-endorsed product, and of those who did, most cited the main reason as having a need for the product regardless of its affiliation with Jordan. Fifty-six percent of respondents reported they would not be very likely or at all likely to purchase a product just because their favorite celebrity endorsed it. During qualitative interviews, responses varied greatly from subject to subject. Respondents seemed divided on whether celebrities are portrayed accurately in the media, though most ultimately expressed that information distributed by media about celebrities is somewhat truthful but mostly embellished. Respondents seemed to believe that famous sports celebrities were more talented than other types of celebrities, whom they said are often famous as a result of an intentionally manipulated identity. Interviewees were split on the question of whether average people believe what they hear about celebrities from the media; however, more than half commented that people choose to believe information despite an intuitive recognition that it is false. Most interviewees commented that media helps to make some celebrities more famous than others, and that media picks who to promote by selecting the most scandalous or dramatic celebrities because they generate the most profit. In terms of celebrity endorsement, many interviewees expressed the belief that endorsing products helps to enhance product visibility, but does not help a celebrity to become more famous. Three interviewees suggested that exposure through brand endorsements might help to increase celebrity fame. All interview participants commented that people buy products endorsed by celebrities because they hope to be more like that endorser through use or ownership of the product. Furthermore, in response to whether or not product endorsement can help celebrities
© Lights Camera Click / Flickr.com
extend their fame, most subjects expressed the belief that product endorsement does not give celebrities any kind of lasting or prolonged fame. Subjects expressed that successful product endorsement is a result and enhancement of currently elevated fame, rather than an opportunity to increase it.
DISCUSSION Most respondents, according to survey data, had a fairly accurate perception of Michael Jordan, despite media emphasis on his athletic talent and character. Thirty-eight percent of respondents correctly estimated that Jordan gave two million dollars to the James R. Jordan Center for family, with a total of 78% estimating his donation to be between one and three million dollars. This may suggest that participants had a fairly accurate idea of Jordan’s charitable inclinations. This is contrary to the researcher’s expectation that Jordan’s charitable contributions would be over-estimated. In further support of this possibility, 44% of respondents correctly identified Jordan as the 7th-most charitable celebrity according to Parade magazine, which was a 15% more common response than any other ranking, further challenging the researcher’s prediction that people would overestimate Jordan’s charitable giving. However, subjects struggled to identify correctly which charities Jordan had donated to, with only one-quarter identifying any Jordan-sponsored cause correctly. This inaccuracy, despite correct identification of specific donation amounts and charitable rankings, may be accounted for by the age of the sample, who were young during JorVOLUME 2
dan’s career and therefore possibly unaware of Jordan’s charitable activity at the time. Subjects were also able to select Jordan’s points-per-game career average more accurately than they answered any other survey question, suggesting that even Jordan’s athletic talent was accurately perceived by subjects despite media’s references to Jordan as a basketball “god” (Armstrong, 1996). However, this could be explained by the fact that nearly 65% of respondents were self-reported sports fans, meaning they had a solid background upon which to judge a realistic points-per-game average for an NBA player. Also of interest were survey responses regarding admiration for Jordan. Sixty-five percent of subjects reported high levels of familiarity with Jordan as an athlete, and 63% admired him for his athletic talent, while 22% of subjects reported high levels of familiarity with Jordan outside of sports, and 22% reported admiration for Jordan outside of sports. These figures of familiarity and admiration are identical. This may suggest that only those with significant knowledge of Jordan admired him, possibly implying that media’s impact on Jordan’s reputation was minimal. Had media strongly enhanced Jordan’s reputation, it would seem that even those with little knowledge of Jordan probably would have reported high levels of admiration in response to media embellishment. This contradicts Crowley’s (1999) claim that people admired Jordan because of blind faith in media coverage. Only those who felt they had legitimate knowledge of Jordan admired him. In fact, many interviewees reflected skepticism about media portrayals of celebrities and expressed awareness that celebrities may be manipulated by media. This awareness suggests that some people are able to maintain realistic perceptions of celebrities despite media amplification. One respondent commented, for example, “I think that [media] is gonna spin and stretch the truth [about celebrities] because that’s what sells.” Another interviewee also referenced media’s embellishment of celebrity for profit in saying, “Media twists the information the way that will make them the most money.” These two responses seem to reflect a larger perception that celebrity media coverage is a business, and that awareness seems to have made subjects hesitant 12
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Only those with significant knowledge of Jordan admired him, possibly implying that media’s impact on Jordan’s reputation was minimal.
to believe all they hear about celebrities. However subjects also suggested that media profits from celebrity embellishment. One participant commented, “I think media tends to represent celebrities in whatever way appeals to their audiences,” while another said, “I think the media makes things up to get more readers and more attention.” A third subject also expressed this belief, remarking that “Americans thrive on drama, so they accept gossip even though they know it’s not true,” which implies that though people are aware of media embellishment, they consciously choose to ignore that awareness and accept celebrity gossip as truth anyway. The reasons for this acceptance—despite awareness of falsification—were less clear from interview responses. However, multiple subjects commented on a desire for an “alternate reality” or “drama world” that provides an escape for average people. One participant remarked, “It’s fun to believe it’s a world that everyone can be a part of... like TV shows in real life,” while a second said, “Believing in celebrity scandal makes regular life more exciting... it makes it seem like you’re part of something better than what you do normally.” These responses seem to suggest that people make the conscious choice to accept media embellishment of celebrity as truth because it gives them an opportunity to be a part of something big and exciting, and provides an escape from their everyday lives. Pairing these responses with the survey data suggests that though media embellishes Jordan’s abilities, people are able to evaluate his character and talent realistically outside of his media-creat-
Respondents seemed to believe that famous sports celebrities were more talented than other types of celebrities, whom they said are often famous as a result of an intentionally manipulated identity.
© arnold | inuyaki / Flickr.com
ed persona because they are generally aware that media exaggerates celebrity lifestyle and talent. However, the interview data seems to suggest that people still choose to believe in media-embellished versions of celebrity because it gives them an escape from daily life. Thus, Crowley’s (2009) claim that Jordan attained elevated levels of fame because of media embellishment cannot be completely discounted. This study cannot conclusively prove that the desire for a “drama world” wasn’t at work, causing acceptance of a media embellished version of Jordan.
LIMITATIONS TO CURRENT STUDY Several factors could have affected the outcomes of this study. The sample was limited to college students, and that factor may have affected the results’ accuracy. Michael Jordan was most famous when this sample was very young, so there is a chance that different results would have been generated had an older group been included. Furthermore, because the survey was posted to Facebook, subjects were not randomly selected; they had to be Facebook friends with the researcher. It is also possible that only people who like taking surveys participated in the survey, since participation was voluntary. This lack of random sampling may have altered data accuracy. Furthermore, the survey was administered online, which meant that subjects could easily look up the correct answers for four of the survey’s questions if they were so inclined, a potential response loophole which could have skewed results. This problem could be addressed in the
future by administering the survey in print rather than online. Interviewee bias may also be a limitation because during the interview process, the majority of participants knew the interviewer, and that may have affected the honesty and/ or content of interview responses. Furthermore, interviewees who did not know the researcher may have been more withdrawn and uncomfortable sharing their opinions, which could have altered responses.
SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH Future studies could examine whether people maintain the same realistic interpretation of celebrity beyond Michael Jordan. Jordan’s career had come to an end by the time of the study, and responses may differ for celebrities who are currently enjoying the peak of their fame and, incidentally, the peak of their media coverage. Researchers may also find it useful to conduct a similar study with a sample group of people who were older at the time of Jordan’s career to see if results differ among subjects who have a better memory of Jordan’s peak of fame. In addition, it would be worth exploring the concept of the celebrity “dream world” or “alternate reality” in more depth than this study was able to accomplish, and in particular, how and why it appeals to people despite their awareness of its fabrication. More insight into this seeming paradox could reveal a clearer explanation for human fascination with celebrity and might also help to reveal the cognitive process behind conscious alterations of perception. VOLUME 2
© @kevinv033 / Flickr.com
Today’s celebrities are recognized by image or trademark, while yesterday’s heroes were recognized by achievement or action (Boorstin, 1978).
REFERENCES Amos, C., Holmes, G., & Strutton, D. (2008). Celebrity endorser effects and advertising effectiveness. International
Journal of Advertising, 27(2), 209–234.
Armstrong, E. (1996). The commodified 23, or, Michael Jordan as text. Sociolog y of Sport Journal, 13, 325–343. Boorstin, D. J. (1978). The republic of technolog y: Reflections on our future community. New York, NY: Harper & Row. Choi, S., & Rifon, N. (2007). Who is the celebrity in advertising? Understanding dimensions of celebrity images. The
Journal of Popular Culture, 40(2), 304–324.
Crowley, M. (1999). Muhammad Ali was a rebel. Michael Jordan is a brand name. Nieman Reports, 53(3), 41–42. Engle, G. (1987). What makes Superman so darned American? In D. Dooley & G. Engle (Eds.), Superman at fifty: The
persistence of a legend (pp. 79–87). Cleveland, OH: Octavia Press.
Johnson, R. (1998, June 22). The Jordan effect: The world’s greatest basketball player is also one of its great brands.
What is his impact on the economy? Fortune Magazine.
McCracken, G. (1989). Who is the celebrity endorser? Cultural foundations of the endorsement process. Journal of
Consumer Research, 16, 310–321.
Ray, R. (2008). The thematic paradigm. In S. Maasik & J. Solomon (Eds.), Signs of life in the USA (pp. 439–446). New
York, NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s.
Shimp, T. (2000). Advertising, promotion: Supplemental aspects of integrated marketing communications. (5 ed.). Fort Worth, TX:
The Dryden Press.
Strate, L. (1994). Heroes: A communication perspective. In S. J. Ducker & R.S. Cathcart (Eds.), American heroes in a
media age (pp. 15–23). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton.
Vande Berg, L. (1998). The sports hero meets mediated celebrityhood. In L. Wenner (Ed.), Mediasport (pp. 134–153).
London, England: Routledge.
White, S., & O’Brien, J. (1999). What is a hero? An exploratory study of students’ conceptions of heroes. Journal of 14
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Moral Education, 28(1), 81–95.
DIG DEEPER: The Effects
Urban Garden Project
Tuong Vi Nguyen WRIT 1133: Academic Research and Writing—Research and the Everyday Professor Juli Parrish
Sun Valley. Contrary to what the name might imply, this is a place that has no valley and is not sunnier or brighter than anywhere else in Colorado. It is actually a “food desert,” a term used to describe neighborhoods and communities that have limited access to the healthy, nutritious, and affordable food needed to maintain a healthy diet (Whitacre, Tsai, & Mulligan, 2009). It should not be surprising that food deserts are usually located in low-income urban areas where supermarkets, which are sources of healthy food options, are few and far between (Whitacre, Tsai, & Mulligan, 2009). In fact, according to a study by Lisa Powell, lower-income neighborhoods have less access to chain supermarkets than middle- and upper-income neighborhoods (as cited in Whitacre et al., 2009, p. 12–13). In addition, there are racial-ethnic dynamics at play. Powell found that when looking at populations of African-Americans, their access to chain supermarkets was half as common as compared to Caucasian populations. She also found that compared to non-Hispanics, Hispanics had one-third the access to chain supermarkets. This is exactly the case for the neighborhood of Sun Valley, located on Denver’s west side, where the closest things to supermarkets are Family Dollar, a gas station, and 7–Eleven. In Sun Valley, the median household income in 2008 was $8,718, a staggering $38,000 less than the median household income of the city of Denver, which was $46,410 (Sun Valley Neighborhood, 2009). Moreover, Sun Valley is roughly 54% Hispanic, 26% Black, 8% White, 8% Asian, 1% Native American, and 3% multiracial (Sun
Valley Neighborhood, 2009). Thus, the socioeconomic and racial-ethnic composition resembles that of many of these so-called food deserts. With scarce access to healthy and nutritious food, how can Sun Valley and other food deserts improve their circumstances? A possible answer to this question is a phenomenon known as the urban or community garden. An urban garden is a piece of land that has been transformed into an area of social engagement with the primary purpose of growing produce for consumption. Urban gardens can improve food deserts by providing the inhabitants with access to affordable yet nutritious food in a sustainable manner. This paper examines the effects of urban gardens, broadly, and provides an up-close look at an urban garden in Sun Valley. In particular, I examine what a school garden, another form of an urban garden, means to the members of the Sun Valley community and how it affects them. To do this, I conducted interviews with current community garden participants, namely the teachers and students involved in this garden program.
An urban garden is a piece of land that has been transformed into an area of social engagement with the primary purpose of growing produce for consumption.
In a very real sense, the garden was not just a place where fruits, vegetables, or flowers grew, but where bonds and trust between community members blossomed.
Tuong Vi Nguyen
As a child, I attended Fairview Elementary and participated actively in the Denver Ur-
ban Gardens initiative; therefore, the topic
of food security and sustainability is one that has always been near and dear to my heart. When dealt the task of finding a sub-
ject matter of interest to write a research paper on in my Writing 1133 class, I de-
cided to revisit my old elementary school. I wanted to talk directly to the current students in this program to see if the partnership with DUG is influencing them as
much as it had influenced me. It was great to hear these students talking so passionately about the novel concepts they were
learning in their nutrition classes and how they’ve changed their diets as a result. The
hands-on learning they experienced out in the garden taught them about where the
food they eat come from and became a place where they could be in a state of zen.
(Not to mention the impressive amount of fruits and vegetables produced from this one garden!) The impact of the garden on the community overall was significant, and
I wanted give it the recognition it deserved.
School gardens were seen as a way to teach agriculture and professional skills to older children and also as a way to teach all children how to take care of nature (Lawson, 2009).
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A BRIEF HISTORY OF URBAN GARDENS In the United States, urban gardening became popular during the depression of 1893–1897, when the government established these gardens as a food relief program (Hanna & Oh, 2000). After the depression waned, so did the popularity of the urban garden. However, in times of turmoil such as during the onset of World War I and World War II, the community garden saw a resurgence, and many communities depended on such gardens to ease food shortages. In 1918, for example, five million people participated in this gardening revolution and produced more than five million dollars worth of food (Hanna & Oh, 2000). In 1944, 40% of the fresh vegetables Americans consumed were actually produced by the twenty million Victory Gardens established around the nation (Hanna & Oh, 2000). As Hanna and Oh (2000) note, “During times of hardship, gardens proved to be a sufficient way to unify people and feed a community” (p. 209). Occurring simultaneously with the Victory Garden boom was the “School Garden Movement,” which commenced in 1890 with the establishment of the George Putnam Grammar School in Boston (Lawson, 2005). This movement stemmed from concerns about child development, community enrichment, and urban and rural conditions (Lawson, 2005). Prominent figures of the time such as President Woodrow Wilson and social reformer Jacob Riis praised and supported the school gardening movement for addressing social, moral, and recreational problems while also contributing to the health,
© Tuong Vi Nguyen
education, and industrial training of young children (Lawson, 2009). In fact, one of the main motivations behind the development of gardens in public schools was to ensure that America maintained its educational and economic competitiveness in the face of the expansion of agricultural education in Europe and in Canada (Lawson, 2009). School gardens were seen as a way to teach agriculture and professional skills to older children and also as a way to teach all children how to take care of nature (Lawson, 2009). M. Louise Greene, one of the preeminent leaders of the movement, said that through these school gardens, children would learn a love of the outdoors, gain knowledge about the natural world, and develop character (as cited in Lawson, 2009). Advocates of the movement also championed the gardens as a way to improve poor urban conditions, believing that “the congested and dangerous streets, rubbish-filled vacant lots, overcrowded homes, and dearth of parks created environmental conditions detrimental to children’s health and development” (Lawson, 2009, p. 54). As a result, gardens soon became sanctuaries where children could participate in activities that encouraged proper behavior and interact with other children in a safe space. The school garden also enhanced school retention rates by reaffirming many parents’ beliefs in the value of education. In this era, many parents expected their children to help support the family, and thus, these parents were supportive of the practical agricultural skills children were learning through school gardens. School gardens,
then, served as a way to provide hands-on learning and compensated for the on-the-job training that had recently been restricted due to child labor law reforms (Lawson, 2009). These gardens taught students the value of work, practicality, economy, and money. The hard-earned values gained through the sales of their produce helped transform students into self-reliant and useful citizens (Lawson, 2009). Although the school garden and community garden movements have waxed and waned over time, in recent years there has been a resurgence in gardens. Studies show that urban gardens have a tremendous social impact beyond the health and nutritional benefits they provide (Teig et al., 2009; Kingsley & Townsend, 2006). To determine whether gardens were effective and sustainable health promotion strategies for communities, Teig et al. (2009) conducted semi-structured interviews with community gardeners in Denver. In addition to observing significant health benefits associated with gardens, they also found that community gardens allowed participants to have increased social connections with fellow community members (Teig et al., 2009). This correlated with Shinew, Glover, and Parry’s (2004) findings that community gardens are places where interracial groups can interact safely. According to Shinew, Glover, and Parry (2004), urban gardens can play a key role in reducing ethnic and racial friction in a community. Teig et al. (2009) also found that these gardens provided community members with a common goal and, as a result, allowed diverse groups of people to feel a greater sense of belonging in their communities. VOLUME 2
© Tuong Vi Nguyen
Gardens often became gathering places, where people could connect with family, friends and fellow community members (Teig et al., 2009). In a very real sense, the garden was not just a place where fruits, vegetables, or flowers grew, but where bonds and trust between community members blossomed. Teig et al. (2009) also found that gardens increased civic engagement; having become more connected to the community, garden participants often joined other social organizations in the community. Kingsley and Townsend (2006) affirm these findings, noting that gardens increase social capital and social networks by encouraging participants to serve and support each other in myriad ways. Although gardens do not wholly alleviate community tensions, they help ease relations between groups and establish local leadership structures that can help resolve conflicts (Teig et al., 2009). Overall, researchers agree that community gardens can have numerous health and social benefits for participants.
URBAN GARDENS IN DENVER Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) was established in 1985 with the goal of supporting Denver residents in creating sustainable, food-generating community gardens (Denver Urban Gardens, 2010). DUG’s mission is to “grow community— one urban garden at a time” (Denver Urban Gardens, 2010). The organization grows community by securing sustainable lands for the establishment of gardens, planning and constructing the gardens, supporting garden organization, encouraging leadership, employing gardens as places for acquiring knowledge and healthful living, and linking gardens with related local food system projects (Denver Urban Gardens, 2010). Today, DUG operates over 120 community gardens throughout the Denver area, including at least 30 school-based urban gardens (Denver Urban Gardens, 2010). 18
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Since 2004, DUG, in partnership with the Colorado School of Public Health, has taken on a research initiative to explore and study the effects of gardens and how they support healthy living (Denver Urban Gardens, 2010; Tieg et al., 2009). The key findings of this study affirm national findings that gardens can have tremendous health and social benefits for participants and community members. Examining the health impacts of gardens, DUG found that more than 50% of those who participated in the community gardens met national guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake. This was compared to the 25% of those who did not garden (Denver Urban Gardens, 2010). Aside from providing the participants with more nutritious and healthy food, the gardens also provided nutritious food to others in the community. Almost all (95%) of the community gardeners gave away some of their food to family and friends, and 60% specifically donated some of their produce to food assistance programs (Denver Urban Gardens, 2010). The gardens also allowed the participants to be more active in an outdoors environment, and those involved in community gardens actually had more positive ratings of mental and physical health (Denver Urban Gardens, 2010). They were also more involved in social and community activities, which helps in promoting stronger neighborhoods (Denver Urban Gardens, 2010). From the same ongoing study, Denver Urban Gardens came to the conclusion that community gardens play multiple roles in a community. They are a social place, an ecological place, a cultural place, an individual place, and a healthy place (Denver Urban Gardens, 2010). A CASE STUDY OF FAIRVIEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GARDEN One of Denver’s urban gardens is located in a lot behind Fairview Elementary in Sun Valley. Story
© Tuong Vi Nguyen
has it that more than a decade ago, a couple of teachers started a school garden behind Fairview Elementary, next to the parking lot. A few elderly members of the community tended it until one day, “some young thug” threw a beer bottle at one of the older gentlemen’s head while he was in the garden. Not surprisingly, after that incident, those who had taken an interest in the garden never came back. It wasn’t until Mr. D arrived at Fairview Elementary in 1998 that the garden was given new life. What Mr. D saw that year was a field of thistles in a lot that was long abandoned. What made it worse was that the teachers who helped start the garden had already moved on, so it was up to Mr. D to build the garden from the ground up. Since partnering with DUG to restore the garden, the project has now been in existence for 13 years and counting. But what are the effects of this school garden on the community of Sun Valley? Has it enhanced the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of this community? I sought to explore these questions through qualitative research, including interviews with Fairview teachers and students. These interviews were conducted on a face-toface basis, with a semi-structured interview script in an attempt to maintain some consistency between participants. Findings show that the school garden has had a tremendous positive impact on the lives of the participants and for the community overall. In a neighborhood such as Sun Valley—where access to healthy food is minimal, and crime and violence are rampant—a community garden has the potential to provide
tremendous benefits for students, as well as community members. Perhaps most importantly, the garden is a source of food for the community members in this food desert. Plots are given out to community members who want to actively grow their own food and to the fifth grade students who grow and sell the food to the community. The importance of the garden as a source of food was mentioned by one fifth grade student when he stated that “there are not very many stores around here... Like the only store I can think of is the Restaurant Depot, and I think that’s only for restaurants and not everyone can go there. There’s also Family Dollar and 7–Eleven.” Students not only benefited from access to healthy food but also from increased awareness of how to eat nutritiously. From the very first interview I conducted to the very last, every student brought up this notion of healthy eating. Izabel, one of the fifth graders I interviewed, mentioned the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables from the school garden: “It can help your body, and also, most of the things that we grow help your eyes, help your muscles, and help your intestines and everything else to help it grow better and not get sicker.” Aden had similar sentiments, saying that without vegetables and fruits grown in the garden, people from the community would not get a lot of vitamin C. Many of the 10-yearold kids in the class also mentioned that they’ve learned about the difference between healthy and unhealthy eating habits. Some have even stated that they’ve changed their diets and habit as a result of becoming inVOLUME 2
In a neighborhood such as Sun Valley—where access to healthy food is minimal, and crime and violence are rampant—a community garden has the potential to provide tremendous benefits for students, as well as community members.
formed. For example, Ashanti said, “The partnership [between Fairview Elementary and DUG] has influenced me because before I used to eat a lot of things that were not healthy for me. I’d go to McDonald’s and stuff, and now, when I go home, I start eating healthier stuff that has more fiber and less oil and sugar.” Two boys, Agostino and Alfonso, even mentioned that now they read the labels on boxes to look at the serving size and the calorie intake. They were really excited and even offered me a health lesson, saying that when eating food, “You can’t have more than 30% sodium in your body, 0% would be good.” Alfonso probably was trying to convey knowledge he recently learned, that it was best to only consume about 30 mg of sodium per serving, but at least he got the basic message across (Anderson et al., 2012). In a country where 1 in 3 children are said to be obese or overweight, having kids out in the garden and teaching them about healthy eating is especially important (Overweight in Children, 2012). Fairview’s garden program is especially noteworthy for the way in which it delivers this information to students through community partnerships. Every Wednesday, the executive chef from Root Down restaurant comes to Fairview to teach a cooking class, which supplements the nutrition lesson of the day. For example, when the students were learning about the nutritional benefits of vitamin A, the executive chef decided to make mango salsa for that day. This not only taught the kids about a possible source for vitamin A, but also provided the opportunity for the kids to eat something they’ve never heard about. 20
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Another chef, who is a food writer, also comes to Fairview once a month to give the fifth graders extended cooking lessons with their own cooking kits. Students also learn “real world” skills through participation with Fairview Elementary youth farmers’ market, which takes place in early June all the way through October. As a way to teach responsibility, the farmers’ market is run primarily by 10 to 12 students, who get paid about three to four dollars a day. To be hired for this program, a requirement is that parents must be involved and participate at least four times with the student during the process, as a way to encourage familial interactions. One student, who seems to be much wiser than his age, said that the garden “[teaches] kids responsibility and [teaches] them what the real world is going to be like when they apply to get a job.” It seems that the garden has truly instilled a sense of pride, responsibility, and nutrition in these children. The impact of the farmers’ market also extends beyond Fairview’s students. In the cases where community members decide not to participate in the garden, they can purchase what they need from this farmers’ market, conveniently located right next to the garden, for around 50 to 75 cents per item. This facet of the program allows people to buy nutritious food using debit cards, credit cards, cash, or most importantly food stamps, which help to alleviate the expense of produce. The ability to buy fresh produce with food stamps is especially important in a food desert community like Sun Valley. Finally, the Fairview garden has affected the social environment of Sun Valley, as well. Mr. D talked about many other things he has witnessed in the garden over his 13 years of supervising it. Mr. D said that: [he] has seen angry students become peaceful. [He has] seen students who cannot read very well at all soar and succeed out in the gardens. [He has] seen kids who have experienced severe trauma, witnessing murders, victims of domestic abuse, heal. [He has] seen families come together that have sort of been separated. The garden becomes therapeutic in a way, taking on the role of a restorative environment for those in need (Sempik & Aldridge, 2005). Even Izabel says, “[I]t has influenced me ‘cuz in a dif-
ferent country I also have a garden and over here I don’t grow anything so I’m gonna start growing stuff over here.” The ability of the garden to provide a gateway for immigrants to re-establish their roots in a foreign country is extraordinary.
CONCLUSION By allowing students to be involved in the process of growing their own food, the students become engaged, and the garden becomes the catalyst for discussion and a source of more
knowledge beyond the traditional school books. Gardens also provide lower-income communities with a source of affordable produce grown in a sustainable manner. In a time when the nation is discussing how to reform our schools and our education system, those in charge should seriously consider making school gardens a part of the school curricula once again. They equip students with the necessary tools to enhance their own well-being and develop their character.
REFERENCES Anderson, J., Young, L., Long, E., & Prior, S. (2012). Sodium in the Diet. Retrieved from
Denver Urban Gardens. (2010). Mission and history. Denver Urban Gardens. Retrieved from http://dug.org/ Hanna, A. K., & Oh, P. (2000). Rethinking urban poverty: A look at community gardens. Bulletin of Science, Technolog y
& Society, 20(3), 207–216.
Kingsley, J., & Townsend, M. (2006). ‘Dig in’ to social capital: Community gardens as mechanisms for growing
urban social connectedness. Urban Policy and Research, 24(4), 525–537.
Lawson, L. (2005). City bountiful: A century of community gardening in America. Berkeley: University of California Press. Overweight in children. (2012). American Heart Association. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/
Sempik, J., & Aldridge, J. (2005). Social and therapeutic horticulture in the UK: The growing together study. Centre
for Child and Family Research, 1–5.
Shinew, K. J., Glover, T. D., & Parry, D. C. (2004). Leisure spaces as potential for interracial interaction: Community
gardens in urban areas. Journal of Leisure Research, 36(3), 336–355.
Skeenbr0. (2012). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sun_Valley.JPG Sun Valley neighborhood in Denver, Colorado (CO), 80204 detailed profile. (2009). Retrieved from
Teig, E., Amulya, J., Bardwell, L., Buchenau, M., Marshall, J., & Litt, K. (2009). Collective efficacy in Denver,
Colorado: Strengthening neighborhoods and health through community gardens. Health & Place, 15(4), 1115–1122.
Whitacre, P., Tsai, P., & Mulligan, J. (2009). The public health effects of food deserts: Workshop summary. Retrieved from
http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12623&page=5 VOLUME 2
HOMOPHOBIA IN MALE ATHLETICS Katherine Thomas WRIT 1133: Research Writing—Race, Class, & Gender in Schools and Sports Professor Liz Drogin
Athletics is considered to be the last closet for gay men. Whether it is the high school, collegiate, or professional level of athletics, gay male athletes still struggle coming out of the closet in their various sports, especially in the “core” sports: football, baseball, basketball, and soccer (Osborne, 2002). Despite the fact that American and many other cultures have become more accepting of homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgender citizens, the sports world has not yet been able to reach an acceptance of gay male athletes. From the 1960’s through the early 2000’s, studies showed that sports enforce the creation of a masculine identity in male athletes through the emphasis of gender roles. In order to help enforce the male gender role, slurs and taunts that are negative towards homosexuals and females are used to create and reinforce masculine athletic identity, thus, homophobia is at the heart of this process (Campbell, 2011). Both gay and straight athletes are bullied and harassed by their teammates, coaches, and fans as a result of homophobia. Homophobia causes difficulties in not only the acceptance of gay male athletes, but the cultural acceptance of gays as well. Despite the fact that the sports world is lagging behind in cultural acceptance of homosexuals, there is evidence that homophobia in sports may be decreasing. Increasingly, sports fans, especially women, show their support and acceptance of gay male athletes, and many professional male athletes have made public statements that they would welcome gay teammates onto their teams (Anderson, 2011a). Studies have shown that female athletes universally have been more 22
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Hegemonic masculinity in Western society supports male dominance and oppresses women, as well as marginalized masculinities, including homosexuals.
accepting of gay athletes in athletic communities (Harry, 1995). While there has been a slight shift in attitudes of acceptance towards homosexual athletes, there is still work that needs to be done for these athletes to obtain full acceptance. Once this occurs, athletics may finally cease being a closet for gay men. This literature review draws on both qualitative and quantitative research to show the importance of the masculine identity imposed on male athletes. Homophobia is at the core of this compulsory masculine identity; thus, male athletics fuels homophobia in the sporting world. The review delves into some of the short- and long-term effects that homophobia has on both straight and gay male athletes. These effects are seen from the beginner to the professional level. This review explains how the recent shift towards greater acceptance of gay male athletes has impacted the world of athletics. Lastly, based on extant scholarly research on homophobia in
© Aspen Photo / Shutterstock.com
male athletics, this literature review touches on the gap that scholars have identified but have yet to see realized in society.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MASCULINE IDENTITY: FUELING HOMOPHOBIA IN MALE ATHLETICS Athletics has long been regarded as a site for the development of traditional masculine behaviors and the socialization of boys into many of the values, attitudes, and skills considered to be so important in the male adult world (Drummond, 2002). Sports ideology and imagery serve to define heterosexual manliness, and the importance of creating a masculine identity in sports begins when young males enter athletics (Harry, 1995). Coaches and adults enforce the importance of masculine identity in the ways they treat and coach boys. Adults and coaches believe that it is natural for boys to be rowdy, aggressive, competitive, insensitive, and less vulnerable than girls (Messner, 2011). Due to this belief about boys’ nature, coaches tend to yell at boys in order to toughen and harden them up. This teaches young male athletes to transform any feelings of hurt, pain, or sorrow into a more “appropriately masculine” expression of contained anger or stoic silence, compared to tears that would be considered effeminate (Messner, 2011). And adults tend to rejoice in the hardening of their boys through athletics because they believe their boys’ newly learned masculine identities will be essential in creating successful careers and relationships in their futures (Messner, 2011). Therefore, adults tend to believe that boys will only be successful
if they have a strong masculine identity and the sporting world is the ideal place to learn exactly that. The importance that is placed on the creation of a masculine identity in male athletics, and especially in team sports, leads to phenomena known as hegemonic masculinity and hyper-masculinity. Hegemonic masculinity in Western society supports male dominance and oppresses women, as well as subordinated and marginalized masculinities, of which homosexuals constitute one group (Drummond, 2002). Hyper-masculinity refers to excessive or problematic masculine practices, such as excessive drinking or excessive sexualization of women (Pringle, 2010). Both phenomena are present in male athletics, especially in team sports; they tend to be heavily peer policed. Team sports encourage men to identify with one another, thus providing a medium for the regular rehearsal of masculine identification (Southall, 2010; Drummond, 2002). Male athletes are only able to prove and gain acceptance from their teammates if they demonstrate an intensified masculine identity. They do this through demonstrations of physical prowess, sexism, and homophobia (Pringle, 2010). Homophobia creates the belief that a masculine identity is essential in male athletics, and to be found lacking in masculinity is unacceptable.
EFFECTS OF HOMOPHOBIA IN MALE ATHLETICS From the 1980’s through the early 2000’s, there were very few openly gay male athletes in the Western world. They remained closeted because VOLUME 2
When I began this literature review for my WRIT 1133 class, the guidelines were to research a topic about what roles gender
and/or race play in sports or schools. As a
figure skater of 15 years, skating is a very
important aspect of my life, and I thought that this literature review could be a perfect opportunity to unite my figure skat-
ing and my writing. From my experience, there tend to be very few male figure skat-
ers, and from that handful of men a small percentage of them are heterosexual. My original research question was how heterosexual male figure skaters cope with the stigma. However, this proved to be a
difficult topic to research because not a lot of studies have been conducted on figure
skating, and for that matter, heterosexual
male skaters. I broadened my topic with the hope of finding any studies about figure
skating, but what I found was much more interesting. There were quite a few studies conducted about the role homophobia
plays in male athletics, and through my
readings and further research of these
studies, I noticed a trend forming. As the years progressed from the 1960’s through 2010, there was a gradual move toward
greater acceptance of homosexual male athletes, and the role homophobia played
in male athletics began to decrease. Even though I wasn’t able to write about my original idea, I am grateful the idea led me to this fascinating subject matter.
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they assumed that the high degree of homophobic discourse, alongside their teammates’ vocalized opposition to homosexuality, would create a difficult and troubling coming out experience (Anderson, 2011a). The problem with most male team sports is that they are built on the premise of homophobia, and this homophobia has caused several issues for athletes, regardless of sexual orientation. During the 1980’s through the early 2000’s, boys learned at a young age that to be gay, to be suspected of being gay, or even to be unable to prove one’s heterosexual status was not acceptable (Anderson, 2011b). This is because homophobia is one of the central agents used to construct male athletes’ masculine identity (Osborne, 2007). When young males enter the sporting world for the first time, they are forced to create and prove their masculine identities. They are not able to prove their heterosexual status if they seem babyish or uncoordinated (Plummer, 2006). This can cause intense bullying, harassment, and/or relentless teasing from their teammates. Once these young athletes are considered to be homosexual, it is often the case that the stigma stays with them throughout the rest of their athletic careers. Both homosexual and heterosexual male athletes suffer from this harassment and bullying, causing them in many cases to hate and fear the sports world (Plummer, 2006). These feelings can cause many potential athletes to drop out of athletics altogether, as the regularly witnessed intense homophobia does not make their participation in sports any easier (Plummer, 2006). Homophobia affects both gay and straight male athletes, and it can create a hostile environment, especially in team sports. Studies show that homophobia is most prevalent in core sports such as football, baseball, basketball, and soccer, because these activities espouse hegemonic masculinity, thereby perpetuating strict conformity to traditional gender roles among their participants (Osborne, 2007; Messner, 2011). In his study of public high school students, Osborne saw that individuals who participate in these core sports are twice as likely to express homophobic beliefs as individuals who do not participate in them (2007). This relates back to the idea that male athletics, especially team sports, enforce the masculine
Adults tend to rejoice in the hardening of their boys through athletics because they believe their boys’ newly learned masculine identities will be essential in creating successful careers and relationships in their futures.
teammates (Anderson, 2011a). Not only does this prevent male athletes from becoming more bonded as a team, but this also inhibits them from developing the full emotional potential (e.g., empathy, caretaking skills) that they need to become healthy adults, good partners, and effective parents (Messner, 2011). This can create problems in their future relationships with men and women during and after their sporting years, as they do not reach full emotional development.
identity through homophobia. And the way in which sports constructs their masculinity has a substantial impact on their attitudes towards homosexuals (Osborne, 2007). This intense homophobia exists throughout high school, college, and professional athletic programs. Professional heterosexual male athletes have even openly expressed their homophobic beliefs to the media. When NFL player Esera Tuaolo revealed that he was gay, a former teammate indicated that if Tuaolo would have revealed his homosexuality while he was playing, he would have been a hated and “targeted” player not only by opposing teams, but by his own teammates and the team’s fans (Campbell, 2011). When NBA player John Amaechi disclosed that he was gay, former NBA player Tim Hardaway responded that he “hates gay people and would not want a gay player on his team” (Campbell, 2011). Despite the fact that Hardaway later apologized for his comment, his statements are thought to reflect the common sentiment endorsed by many players and fans of professional athletics. Gay male athletes still remain silent due to concerns about being cut from their teams, verbal harassment, physical retribution, and in order to protect their livelihood and financial status (Campbell, 2011). Homophobia in male athletics suggests that gay male athletes should stay silent about their sexuality because there is no place for them in the sports world. Not only are many gay male athletes silenced, but homophobia can also cause male athletes to avoid the expression of homosocial intimacy, such as sadness or love for their friends and
THE RECENT CULTURAL SHIFT IN MALE GAY ATHLETE ACCEPTANCE Despite the increased homophobia associated with male athletics, there has been a more recent shift towards acceptance of male gay athletes by teammates and fans in some sports. In 2002, Anderson conducted a study of 26 male high school athletes and discovered that there were more openly gay runners and swimmers than football and baseball players (Anderson, 2011a). It seemed that gay male athletes who participated in individual sports had an easier time coming out of the closet. Homosexuals who are more likely to come out tend to participate in individual sports such as running, tennis, and sports that have been historically considered more feminine, such as dance, figure skating, and volleyball (Anderson, 2011a). It would seem that gay men who are highly closeted may be more likely to play American football (Anderson, 2011a). Gay males who participate in individual sports do not have the pressure of coming out to an entire team, while gay male athletes who participate in team sports have a more difficult time because team sports enforce homophobia. However, homosexuality is becoming more socially acceptable in many spheres. This frees heterosexual men to act in less traditionally masculine ways without threatening their heterosexual identity (Anderson, 2011a). Also, many heterosexual male athletes are more accepting of their homosexual counterparts, because homophobia is ceasing to be a core feature of male athletics. Anderson conducted a study in 2010 based on similar research he did in 2002 with 26 openly gay high school athletes who sought him out to talk about their experiences (Anderson, 2011b). Overtime, there was a considerable shift in the attitudes that heterosexual male athletes had toVOLUME 2
ward their gay teammates. Many gay male athletes said that they and their sexuality had been widely accepted by their teammates, and they reported that their teammates are closer now than before they came out (Anderson, 2011b). This shift in attitudes was not only seen at the high school level, but at the professional level. A Sports Illustrated poll in 2006 of 1,401 professional team sport athletes showed that the majority of these players would welcome a gay teammate (Anderson, 2011a). Not only has there been a greater acceptance of gay male athletes by other athletes, but sports fans have become more accepting of homosexual players. Campbell conducted a study of a group of university students who had a favorite sporting team. In this study, they read one of four hypothetical articles about the sexuality of a player on their favorite team and a description of whether or not the player’s sexuality caused a distraction to the team (Campbell, 2011). The data revealed that participants had a more favorable impression of the gay male player than they did of the heterosexual player (Campbell, 2011). The participants formed generally favorable impressions of the gay male athlete overall, regardless of whether his sexual orientation caused a disruption to the team or not (Campbell, 2011).
This shift towards the acceptance of gay male athletes may in part be due to shifting public and cultural attitudes towards homosexuality.
FUTURE RESEARCH While scholarly research has shown a noticeable evolution in the acceptance of gay male athletes, one issue that needs to be addressed is how to fully eradicate homophobia in male athletics. Messner touches on this idea by suggesting that co-ed teams could give boys experiences that will counter the kinds of sexist and homophobic attitudes and assumptions that they commonly develop in male-only sports (Messner, 2011). Coed sports would hopefully teach boys early-on to respect women and homosexual athletes because they would be exposed to diverse gender roles and behaviors. Observing and participating in this behavior would hopefully make boys more aware of sexual differences and gender roles, which could potentially make boys better off in their future relationships with female and gay male teammates. However, these remain theories that still need to be tested as we search for ways to decrease the homophobia that has been part of the creation of the masculine identity in athletics.
REFERENCES Anderson, E. (2011). Masculinities and sexualities in sport and physical cultures: Three decades of evolving research.
Journal of Homosexuality, 58(5), 565–578.
Anderson, E. (2011). Updating the outcome: Gay athletes, straight teams, and coming out in educationally based
sport teams. Gender and Society, 25(250), 250–268.
Osborne, D., and Wagner, W.E. (2007). Exploring the relationship between homophobia and participation in core
sports among high school students. Sociological Perspectives, 50(4), 597–613.
Drummond, M. (2002). Sport and images of masculinity: The meaning of relationships in the life course of “elite”
male athletes. Journal of Men’s Studies, 10(2).
Harry, J. (1995). Sports ideology, attitudes toward women, and anti-homosexual attitudes. Sex Roles, 32(1/2), 109–116. Hickey, R. G. (2010). Negotiating masculinities via the moral problematization of sport. Sociolog y of Sport Journal,
Campbell, J. (2011). Sport fans’ impressions of gay male athletes. Journal of Homosexuality, 58(5), 597–607. Messner, M. (2011). Gender ideologies, youth sports, and the production of soft essentialism. Sociolog y of Sport Journal,
Plummer, D. (2006). Sportphobia: Why do some men avoid sport? Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 30(122), 122–137. Southall, R.M. (2011). An investigation of enthnicity as a variable related to U.S. male college athletes’ sexual 26
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orientation behaviors and attitudes. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 34(2), 293–313.
“THERE’S NOTHING I WOULDN’T DO FOR YOU”: Brother Romance
Nicole Krechevsky WRIT 1633: Advanced Writing Seminar 2—Fans and Fan Writing Professor Juli Parrish
When fans watch television they absorb the content uniquely, taking from a particular show only what their perceptions allow. Regardless of what actually exists in a show and what its creators intended, fans make it their own, often imposing their own opinions on relationships between characters. Multiple factors influence the dynamic between television content and what fans gather from it, including context inside and outside of a show and personal experience, rendering television-viewing a rather subjective experience. It is interesting, then, when fans agree on an interpretation that goes well beyond what is literally presented and unearth a theme only from a show’s subtext. Such a phenomenon is presently occurring in the virtual fandom of the television show Supernatural. One of the show’s most popular “ships”—a romantic pairing between two fictional characters—involves the two main characters, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester, and accounts for roughly 40 percent of the online creative output (Turner 2008). Supernatural tells the story of two brothers brought up by their father after their mother is killed by a demon, who spend the show hunting various supernatural beings. The tone of the show is dark, but its fluctuations occur less with the plot and more between Sam and Dean as they come together and fall apart, come together and fall apart. As the show progresses, it deals less with supernatural creatures and more with the concept of fate and the brothers’ relationship as they encounter various struggles. It closely documents the brothers’ codependency and the lengths they will go to in order to keep each oth-
er safe and alive. In the end, it is the brothers’ love for each other that averts the apocalypse and ultimately saves the world—despite battling fate, Heaven, and Hell. The “ship” between the brothers is referred to by fans and Supernatural insiders as both Sam/ Dean and, more crassly, “Wincest,” (a play on their last name, Winchester, and incest). The writers of Supernatural have acknowledged the existence of the ship in the show. For example, while Sam and Dean are introduced as brothers, their story seems to be a tragic romance. Despite the societal taboo attached to “slash” ships
This excessive love is the kind our culture tends to identify with romantic love, and contextually their love has the ability to either save or destroy the world.
(same-sex pairings) and incest, fans both support and defend the ship, not with disregard to morality or widely accepted social notions, but with a perception based on the show’s context that implies true romance and the only possible relationship for the brothers. “Slash shipping” has become increasingly popular since the term was coined during Star Trek’s airing in the late 1960s, when Kirk/Spock was a common male/male pairing and is present in nearly every fandom whether the medium is film, television, art, or literature. With the emergence of the Internet in the 1990s, slash shipping and its related fan fiction became more prevaVOLUME 2
When choosing a topic for this essay, I naturally gravitated toward the television show
Supernatural, which has been my favorite
show for several years. I wanted to explore
the show from the fans’ perspective, as I myself am a fan, but to do that I felt I needed to focus on the most popular fan reading
of the show, which involves the relationship between the two brothers who are the main
characters. Their relationship is a controversial topic, especially for those who are
not familiar with the show, and it delves into many societal taboos that may be difficult
to understand without a deeper reading, which I address in my essay. My goal in
writing this essay was to provide—for myself and for others—a better comprehension of why so many fans of Supernatural
perceive the main characters’ relationship to be a romantic one, given the context of the show in contrast to our society.
lent and accessible, and fandom itself became “a mainstream activity online, with hundreds of thousands of participants” (Jones 80). These numbers meant a correlated increase in slash fiction authors and readers; on the Web, slash fiction can be found on numerous fan fiction-dedicated websites and is available to a more extensive audience than it was before the internet. The majority of slash fiction writers are heterosexual females, perhaps because slash “allows women to construct narratives that subvert patriarchy” (Kustritz 371), as the same-sex relationship implies equality not always present in heterosex28
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ual relationships. In an article on fan practices specifically related to sci-fi television, Christine Scodari notes that slash is “a way for female fans to envision an egalitarian romance” (113). While fan fiction in general provides fans the opportunity to explore and explain characters further than they are developed in television shows, slash fiction is often an outlet for fans to express their reading of a relationship outside of the constructs they are given in the shows and in their own lives. If two same-sex characters are written as having a deep friendship, slash fiction lets fans take this relationship to whatever level they choose. It provides a freedom that the show’s writers and creators do not necessarily have, given social context or popular demand. Many slash fiction narratives deal with characters who identify or are presented as straight in the original text or story but who maintain a shared experience and affection for one another that can lead to sexual attraction as well. Context plays an important role in influencing slash fiction. For example, two male characters are more likely to be shipped together when the show portrays their relationship as intimate or close in some way. The subsequent transition from friendship to slash romance eradicates “the traditional formula of romance novels and films that negotiate the submission of a heroine to a hero by instead negotiating the complicated power balance between two equally dominant, independent, and masculine characters” (Kustritz 377), resulting in a dynamic centered on equality and yet still dependent on the show’s context. While Supernatural follows these slashing paradigms in theory, the widely popular Sam/Dean ship also deals with the social taboo of incest, which adds a layer of complexity and necessitates an understanding of context in order to avoid condemning both the ship and its supporters as socially deviant or immoral. Sibling incest has not always been taboo, appearing in literature, folklore, and ballads as something to be treated as tragic and sympathetic rather than transgressive of social standards. Building on Freud and Levi-Strass’ theories about why, biologically, humans may have tendencies towards incest, Francisco Vaz de Silva claims that marriage and any romantic coupling seek to “regain the original androgyny” of “perfect creation” and
© Space Pirate Queen / Flickr.com
that the ideal marriage is one between siblings. This analysis assumes that, as stated in the Bible, woman was created from man, and together they make the ideal “oneness” that everyone strives to achieve through marriage (Vaz de Silva 7–8). Typically romantic love places oneness as an ideal, with terms such as “soulmates” and “two halves of a whole” emphasized as standards to achieve within true romance. Thus incest inherently supports and is supported by the universal requisites of romance; for if incest connotes oneness, then “all legitimate love objects are always already substitutes for the objects of incestuous longing” (Pollak 15). As noted above, folklore often portrays incestuous relationships between siblings as tragic. When the incest involves brother and sister, the story entails discovery and subsequent punishment: its tragedy is that “the sister must die and the brother must mourn, or vice versa” (Twitchell 63–4). Supernatural, however, centers its story on adult brothers who have already isolated themselves from society, thereby rendering pregnancy and the threat of societal segregation irrelevant. In turn, this allows fans of the show to treat Wincest as something acceptable within its given context. Not only the overall context of Sam and Dean’s relationship but also the portrayal of their relationship within the show enable Supernatural fans’ loyalty to the Sam/Dean ship. While many television fans’ ship pairings have little to no basis or support from their respective shows, Supernatural often explicitly alludes to the brothers’ relationship as being irrational or too dependent, and both the material written and the embod-
iment of that material in the show encourages and facilitates, at the very least, recognition of Wincest. In the very first episode of the show, viewers see the boys’ father tell Dean to take his baby brother, Sam, from a fire, thus setting the tone for the rest of the show: Dean takes care of and raises Sam while their father is, largely, absent. Later in this episode, viewers watch as Dean shows up at Sam’s college apartment to tell him their father has gone missing and that he needs Sam’s help. Clearly they have been apart, Dean still hunting while Sam is at school, but their reunion scene emphasizes their close relationship and, given body language and dialogue, hints that there may be more between the brothers than simply brotherhood. One blogger recalls that “Dean’s very first words to his brother after four years apart are, ‘Whoa, easy, tiger!’ which has both affectionate and possibly sexual undertones, spoken as he has Sam pinned under him on the floor” (Pinkwood 2011). The entire scene takes place in a dark room, at one point filmed so the brothers, standing extremely close, are silhouetted—a typical device in romantic sequences when characters are meant to kiss. Sam’s girlfriend then interrupts them, and they step away from each other quickly. While Dean’s motives for collecting Sam do largely revolve around their missing father, he admits to Sam that it isn’t solely because he needs his help, saying “I can’t do this alone.” When Sam responds with “Yes, you can,” Dean replies, “Yeah, well, I don’t want to” (Supernatural 1.01). These few lines accentuate the codependent nature of their relationship, spurring fan fiction about the brothers VOLUME 2
© Nancy Parvana / Flickr.com
despite there only being one episode at the time. Eventually Sam agrees to stick with Dean, and from then on the narrative follows the brothers as they search for their father and then hunt down the demon that killed their mother along with various other creatures. This larger plot drives the story. However, many episodes focus closely on the rebuilding of Sam and Dean’s relationship, and as the show progresses, it becomes less about hunting and more about “the lengths the boys will go to in order to keep each other alive” (Pinkwood 2011). Death is a prevalent theme throughout the series, having a large impact on the brothers’ lives from the start of the show and then serving both as a plot device and a way to measure the brothers’ devotion to each other. In the season-one episode “Faith,” Dean’s life is threatened and his death appears imminent; Sam refuses to accept this and saves Dean, but at the expense of an innocent boy’s life. Tellingly, neither brother suffers lingering regret, suggesting that they value each other over the lives of anyone else. At the end of the season, Dean admits to Sam that “for you or Dad, the things I’m willing to do or kill, it just, uh... it scares me sometimes” (Supernatural, 1.22). In “Mystery Spot,” a Trickster—a demigod-like immortal creature that thrives on mayhem (Tricksters)—forces Sam, in an alternate universe, to relive the day Dean dies over and over until Sam acknowledges his obsession with saving his brother. When Sam begs the Trickster to bring Dean back, he tells Sam, “This obsession to save Dean? The way you two keep sacrificing yourselves for each other? Nothing good 30
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comes out of it. Just blood and pain. Dean’s your weakness” (Supernatural, 3.11). Once again, the show illustrates the brothers’ desperation and need to keep each other alive, again conveying codependency. The most poignant and arguably fan-loved moment comes in the fifth season finale, when Sam, who is possessed by Lucifer, is able to take control of himself again and save the world from apocalypse only because he can still remember the love that defines his relationship with his brother. So, basically, Sam and Dean’s love saves the world. The show’s acknowledgement of Sam and Dean’s intense relationship does not solely reside in the plot itself, as it frequently draws parallels between the brothers and other famous television couples and uses its secondary characters as affirmations of their more-than-brotherly relationship. In season one’s “Bugs,” Sam and Dean are mistaken for a couple twice; the second time it happens, Dean goes with it, even slapping Sam on the ass and calling him “honey” as he walks away. They are mistaken for a couple again in season two’s “Playthings,” and when Dean asks why people always assume they are gay, Sam answers that Dean is “kind of butch” and that others may think he is overcompensating. These instances, while humorous, also force the viewer to question Sam and Dean’s relationship, since other characters in the show see them as more than brothers. Fans have acknowledged “Playthings” in particular as a heavily Wincest-oriented episode, not only in the dialogue but in the physicality of the brothers. Sam gets drunk and forces Dean to promise that if Sam becomes evil, Dean has to be the one to kill him. Dean agrees, thinking Sam will not remember in the morning, at which point Sam places his hands on Dean’s face and thanks him while Dean’s hands are on Sam’s shoulders, and they remain like this for several moments before Dean pushes him down onto the bed. Even after Sam settles in—on his stomach, moving his hips erotically over the bed— Dean continues to watch him, and the viewer, given the earlier build up of how they are seen as a couple, now perceives these scenes as not wholly brotherly. One of the most demonstrative Wincest lines comes in season five from an angel, who tells another character, “Sam and Dean Winchester are psychotically, irrationally, eroti-
cally codependent on each other” (Supernatural 5.18). While there is never any direct visual evidence that Sam and Dean are “erotically” codependent, the word remains in the script, and the word erotic connotes anything marked by strong sexual desire. More than once the show draws parallels between Sam and Dean and Mulder and Scully, Bonnie and Clyde, and Mickey and Mallory. These three famous pairs were all sexually involved and also, notably, different sexes, suggesting that Sam and Dean’s relationship is, in fact, one of traditional romance. In the season five episode commentary of “The End,” the show’s creator Eric Kripke calls the show “the epic love story of Sam and Dean” (Supernatural 5.04), clearly conveying the writers’ strong influence on fan perception of Wincest within the show. Arguably the most romantic aspect of the show comes towards the end of season five, when it is revealed in Heaven that Sam and Dean are soulmates (Supernatural 5.18). Historically, “constructs of romantic love emphasize oneness with the beloved,” embodied through the concept of soulmates, which fundamentally means two halves to one whole (Tosenberger 2008). It is a common theme in romance for lovers to strive for this level of unity, one that Sam and Dean apparently already possess; the show’s canon, then, asserts that Sam and Dean are the best partners for one another and that no one else is necessary. The lack of a lasting female companion for either brother is a testament to this. Tosenberger argues that because incest denotes a bond of not only body and soul but also blood, “incestuous unions become... the ne plus ultra of oneness” (Tosenberger 2008). Sam and Dean grew up on their own, and as such grew up closer than most siblings, forced into a difficult lifestyle at a young age where deep trust and loyalty was necessary. Dean’s unconditional love stems from the responsibility he took on the moment his father placed baby Sam in his arms as their house burned, and Sam’s love for Dean stems from his total dependency on Dean as a role model, friend, and caretaker. This excessive love is the kind our culture tends to identify with romantic love, and contextually their love has the ability to either save or destroy the world, which makes it easy for fans to view Wincest as the only pairing that is logical to the brothers’ relationship.
© Nancy Parvana / Flickr.com
Perhaps because fans of the show are given so much to work with in its original medium, the fan fiction they produce often sticks closely to the storyline, even directly following it and adding only more explicitly romantic scenes. One of the most widely known and loved fan fictions, “Last Outpost of All That Is,” gives a 61,700 word account of how Sam and Dean would go on if they woke up one day to find themselves the last people on earth. At one point, Sam wonders if they are in Hell. Dean’s response is very similar to what it might be in the show: “No,” Dean said quickly. “Mariah Carey would be playing on eternal repeat on some sort of unseen Muzak system if this was Hell. I can’t say anything will ever be all right, but this isn’t the worst, Sammy. We’re still here and...” He didn’t say it. He’d been about to echo Sam’s earlier sentiment, about being together. He didn’t need to. Sam knew. “Hell wouldn’t let me keep you, Sam,” Dean said. “Hell for you might be getting stuck with me. But my Hell doesn’t have you in it.” (Gekizetsu 2008) Given what had happened in the show when this was written, fans already know that Dean has traded his soul for one year with Sam, who was brought back from the dead. This fan fiction acknowledges that and the writer easily turns it into something more intimate; the story builds very slowly and there is little sexual interaction between the brothers until late in the story. Many fans claim, however, that they do not support the ship for its sexual aspects but for the VOLUME 2
In the end, it is the brothers’ love for each other that averts the apocalypse and ultimately saves the world—despite battling fate, Heaven, and Hell.
emotional ones, as Sam and Dean are established as soulmates in the show. Much of Wincest fan fiction follows the romantic trope of them being soulmates, with many using it as the catalyst for their relationship taking that next step. LiveJournal user Britomart-is writes a story in which Dean searches for Sam’s soul in Heaven. Sam asks how Dean found him, and he replies with what is also validated within the show—that they share a Heaven, and thus “the only person who could’ve found Sam is his soulmate” (Britomart-is 2010). Other LiveJournal users take the fact that Sam and Dean are soulmates and use it to facilitate plot: “Hey, Dean? How... How did you know?” “Know what?” Dean finally shifts enough to face him, and now it’s Sam’s turn to look away, frowning down at his book. “You kept telling me... When I didn’t have my soul, you kept saying I wasn’t Sam, I wasn’t your little brother. And I could tell, you know? I could tell your skin was crawling just looking at me. I didn’t know what to feel about it, but I knew. So how could you tell it was me when my soul came back? I still couldn’t feel anything.” “Yeah, well I could.” The answer is instantaneous, immediate. The way Dean only ever is when it’s the truth. Dean looks startled by it for a split second, and then it’s gone, frown of concentration chasing it away as he tries to explain. “It was like... I don’t know, something just... Like when you crack your back and everything feels better, but you didn’t really know you were hurting before? But, ah... Guess that makes sense, right?” Dean glances upward, and it’s the slow crooked smile pulling at his lips as his gaze darts at Sam and then away. “Soul mates, and everything.” (Queenklu 2010) The “and everything” is further used as a reagent for Sam and Dean, and it is after this exchange 32
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that they accept that a relationship with “everything” is what they have, in fact, always wanted. That both brothers want it is vital to the majority of all Wincest fan fiction, telling of the fans’ unwillingness to merely dismiss moral issues in favor of the ship; rather, most fans enjoy the ship and write it because the brothers are soulmates and because, within the show, they have each acknowledged that they are all each other needs. Writers of the pairing take what exists in the canon and extend it past what is shown in the episodes of the show in a not-implausible manner. One fan writes, “I’d do a lot for the people I love, but I think if I were faced with some of the stuff [Sam and Dean] had to do to keep one another alive, I’d run in the other direction,” going on to say that she ships it because “they’ll never love or need anyone as much as they love and need each other, and that’s canon right there. They’re soulmates” (“Wincested” 2012). The most common reasons for shipping Sam and Dean are not that they are both attractive men, nor that they particularly focus on the taboo of incest, instead utilizing the latter for its implications of closeness and safety. Perhaps outside of the show’s context, the fans would not find it so easy to ship an incestuous pairing; however, provided the romanticized codependency between the brothers, fans perceive Wincest as the natural state for Sam and Dean, with or without sex. There are plenty of fans who do not support the pairing, but the difference between them and the ones who do does not lie in some immoral sanctioning of incest. Indeed, a common attack against Wincest fans is the accusation that they condone incest, consensual or not, age-appropriate or not, but this is not the case. The larger Wincest-shipper response to this acknowledges that, yes, incest remains a social taboo and is, overwhelmingly, unwanted. However, Wincest fans also maintain that within the context of the show, Sam and Dean’s relationship,
if taken to that romantic level, would be consensual and a comfort that they otherwise cannot have given their lifestyle. It is because of these factors that they are able to view Wincest not as a social transgression but as a necessary piece to the brothers’ relationship. This open-minded approach to viewing Supernatural is more progressive than many might care to recognize; while controversial, it also conveys an ability to perceive objectively and without judgment, providing a positive atmosphere for this fandom regardless of
other ships and public opinion. Sam and Dean would never be able to exist romantically within society, and while the fans acknowledge this, they do not need to, as the brothers already exist outside of society. From the fan perspective, there is no loss or tragedy with Sam and Dean’s romance, only the gain of something they would not be able to have otherwise. While their relationship depends on the context it is viewed in, it is also freed by that context, giving fans the same freedom.
REFERENCES Britomart-is. (2010, November 7). My soul look back and wonder [Web log post]. Retrieved from
Gekizetsu. (2008, February 27). Last outpost of all that is [Web log post]. Retrieved from
Jones, S. G. (2002). The sex lives of cult television characters. Screen, 43(1). doi:10.1093/screen/43.1.79 Kustritz, A. (2003). Slashing the romance narrative. The Journal of American Culture, 26(3), 371-384.
Pinkwood. (2011, June 18). Psychotically, irrationally, erotically co-dependent: The obsessive bromance of
Supernatural [Web log post]. Retrieved from The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom:
Pollak, Ellen. 2003. Incest and the English novel, 1684–1814. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press. Queenklu. (2010, December 7). since feeling is first [Web log post]. Retrieved from
Scodari, C. (2003). Resistance re-examined: Gender, fan practices, and science fiction television. Popular
Communication: The International Journal of Media and Culture, 1(2). doi:10.1207/S15405710PC0102_3
Sgriccia, P., Singer, R., Manners, K., Kripke, E., Beeson, C., Rohl, M., & Bee, G. N. (Directors). (2005). Pilot
[Television series episode]. In Supernatural. United States: The CW Network.
Tosenberger, C. (2008). “The epic love story of Sam and Dean”: Supernatural, queer readings, and the romance of
incestuous fan fiction. Transformative Works and Cultures, 1. doi:10.3983/twc.2008.0030
Tricksters. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://faculty.gvsu.edu/websterm/Tricksters.htm Turner, Emily. (2008). Scary just got sexy. In In the hunt, ed. Supernatural.tv with Leah Wilson, 155–64. Dallas:
Twitchell, James B. (1987). Forbidden partners: The incest taboo in modern culture. New York: Columbia Univ. Press. Vaz da Silva, F. (2007). Folklore into theory: Freud and Lévi-Strauss on incest and marriage. Journal of Folklore Research, 44(1). doi:10.2979/JFR.2007.44.1.1 Wincested. (2012, June 1). Re: Why do you ship Wincest? [Web log comment]. Retrieved from
http://wincested.tumblr.com VOLUME 2
“INCLUSIVE EXCELLENCE” AT THE UNIVERSITY OF DENVER Sara Schwartzkopf SOCI 2005: Sociological Imagination and Inquiry B Professor Lisa Martinez
Diversity on college campuses has only recently become a focal point for education. It wasn’t until 2006, for instance, that the concept of inclusive excellence was introduced to the University of Denver (DU) community. Inclusive excellence refers to the concept that excellence can only be obtained through an inclusive and diverse environment. The responsibility for this is shouldered by the entire campus community and permeates all aspects of campus life. Since the inception of inclusive excellence, DU’s administration has made efforts to engage and promote diversity among students, staff, and faculty. It is important to note that diversity is not simply defined in terms of race and ethnicity but also by a person’s sexual orientation, gender expression, religion, nationality, age, political ideology, and income. All of these factors contribute to a diverse college campus, which in turn can enrich and enhance the educational experience for all members of the community. However, not all students accept or embrace the idea of inclusive excellence. Prior to analysis, I hypothesized that students of color would be more invested in the idea than their White peers. Through analysis of survey research with 226 DU students, I concluded that there were distinct differences in students’ tendencies to accept inclusive excellence, with students of color and students from low-income households being the most likely groups to embrace diversity. In fact, my survey data showed that students were less likely to value diversity based off of a variety of social factors including race, income, gender, political ideology, and having friends of another 34
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race. In this paper, I examine survey findings in detail and discuss the implications of my results.
LITERATURE REVIEW According to studies commissioned by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, it is common for higher educational institutions to set goals both for excellence and for increasing diversity (Adam 2006). However, the connection between diversity and excellence was not introduced to many colleges until recently. Yet data supports the finding that students benefit from having attended diverse educational institutions. According to a report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), “campuses with high proportions of White students provide limited opportunities of cross-racial interaction and restrict student-learning experiences across social and cultural lines. On college campuses that lack a diverse population of students, underrepresented groups have an increased chance to be viewed as tokens” (Milem, Chang, & Antonio, 2005, p. 13). The report shows that White students benefit more from being around students of a different background than themselves, while students from marginalized backgrounds are more likely to feel accepted at more integrated institutions. It is also important to consider the socio-historical forces that encouraged universities to implement strategies to increase diversity. Oftentimes marginalized students at the college level see gaps both in achievement and in retention (Milem, Chang, & Antonio 2005). Even if students enter with similar test scores and backgrounds,
© University of Denver / Flickr.com
those who fall behind or drop out tend to be students from underrepresented groups on their college campus. For these students especially, campaigns of inclusive excellence seem essential. Considering that education is considered one of the great equalizers for social inequality, retaining and increasing success rates of students who have traditionally been marginalized can have great implications for the fabric of US society. Unfortunately, though, enacting inclusive excellence requires much more than simply putting a program into place. As Williams argues, “if we peel away the shell of any organization, we find a culture that is defined by a set of values, practices, systems, traditions, and behaviors that govern reality within the organization. To achieve deep and lasting change, we must unfreeze, move, and refreeze this culture in a way that is more consistent with our diversity goals” (2007, p.9). Whether an institution is seeking to increase representation, make current students more comfortable in their roles at the university, convince the campus that diversity is beneficial to all, or include multiple viewpoints in lecture, in order for these goals to be successful, administrations, faculty, and students will often have to work at changing the campus culture so that the inclusiveness actively trickles down and becomes a way of life. Simply put, in order for any inclusiveness measure to be effective, it has to be embraced at the student level.
METHODS Data for this analysis was collected through an online survey. The survey was designed by a
class of college students learning about quantitative methods of sociological inquiry and reflected interests that the students had in campus attitudes towards diversity and politics. The survey questions were designed to determine if students’ own demographic profiles were related to their attitudes towards diversity and inclusive excellence. Questions included demographic questions about the race and ethnicity of the respondent; the respondent’s sexual orientation, income, political ideology, gender; and whether or not the respondent belonged to any multicultural organizations on campus. Students were
In order for any inclusiveness measure to be effective, it has to be embraced at the student level.
recruited via an email asking them to respond to the online survey. Only current University of Denver students were asked to take the survey, which means the results are only generalizable to DU students. Overall, 226 respondents completed the survey. The majority of students who took the survey identified as White and female, which is consistent with the DU student body, which is currently 54% female and 85% White. One of my variables of interest was race. While the race and ethnicity category was originally a 6-category variable, we collapsed it into a dual category—Whites (n=152) and Non-Whites (n=74)—given the small number of respondents in the categories other than White. VOLUME 2
White students benefit more from being around students of a different background than themselves, while students from marginalized backgrounds are more likely to feel accepted at more integrated institutions (Milem, Chang, & Antonio, 2005, p. 13).
Prior to writing this paper, I had the opportunity to do an ethnography for another sociological methods class. Being
a member of the Native Student Alliance
at DU, I decided to look at the experience of those students at our university. During the course of the school year, a clash between the Native Student Alliance and Greek life occurred when a Cowboys and
Indian theme party was thrown. The lack of
understanding for why this was offensive appeared to be fostered by the fact that
few of the Greeks I met were familiar not only with the Native students, but indeed with students of color as a whole. When my next methods class offered the op-
portunity to look at diversity and inclusive excellence on campus in a way that went
beyond anecdotal evidence, I was excited
to take another look at the campus climate. The chance to scientifically investigate my
suspicion—that inclusive excellence was valued and enacted more by the students
of color—was an excellent opportunity. Overall, my paper ended up being a lesson not just on statistics, but also on social research as a whole.
Similarly, while the gender category initially gave the options of gender neutral and transgender, the respondents who selected these two categories were very few, requiring them to be dropped from the data set. Similar measures had to be taken with the sexual orientation variable due to the low number of respondents self-re36
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porting themselves as bisexual. International students were also dropped from the sample due to low representation. Respondents were also asked to report their area of study. The options were Arts and Humanities, Daniels College of Business, Engineering and Computer Science, International Studies, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Social Sciences, Other and Undecided. Some of these options were collapsed in order to make fewer categories with more respondents. Engineering and Computer Science was combined with Natural Science and Mathematics, while International Studies was combined with Social Sciences. No respondents indicated that they were Undecided. In addition to the basic demographic questions, respondents were asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed with the following statements. Their responses were scored with a 5-point Likert scale with a response of 1 indicating strong disagreement and a response of 5 indicating strong agreement: “The University of Denver is diverse” (variable=diverse); “The University of Denver encourages diversity on campus” (variable=encour); “I have a clear idea of what Inclusive Excellence is” (variable=inclusv); “I socialize with people who are a different race/ ethnicity than me” (variable=socrace); “I socialize with people who are a different sexual orientation than me” (variable=socsex); and “I socialize with people who have a different political ideology than me” (variable=socpol ). In addition to these, the question “What of the following best describes your political ideology?” (variable=ideolog y) was asked. The answer to this question was
Data supports the finding that students benefit from having attended diverse educational institutions.
© Andresr / Shutterstock.com
also scored using a 5-point Likert scale, but here a response of 1 indicated “very conservative” while a response of 5 indicated “very liberal.” These were the independent variables used in the analysis. In terms of my dependent variable, I chose a continuous variable that asked respondents “On a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being not at all important and 10 being extremely important, how important is diversity on campus to you?” (variable=campusdiv). For one test of regression, socrace was also used as a dependent variable. To test the relationship between demographic characteristics and their relationship to students’ attitudes about the importance of diversity, I used a series of statistical techniques including simple regression, and multivariate and logistic regression. It should be noted that although students responded to the question “I socialize with people who are a different sexual orientation with me,” their responses will not be included in the analysis due to the low number of respondents who indicated that they were not heterosexual. Instead this analysis will focus primarily upon racial diversity on the University of Denver campus. A series of regressions were used to examine the variables that indicate whether or not students cared about diversity and whether or not they felt they branched out of their respective demographic groups. The first regression deals with the variable campusdiv and examines what factors potentially cause a respondent to care about campus diversity. The second regression looks at the variable socrace and what factors potentially cause a respondent to interact
with members of a different racial background than themselves. Finally logistic regression was used to see if there were predicting factors for whether or not a person would join a multicultural organization. It should be noted here that in order to run a logistic regression on the multicultural organization variable (originally multorg), the variable needed to be recoded into a dichotomous variable with 0 indicating respondents did not belong to a multicultural organization and 1 indicating that they did belong to a multicultural organization. I therefore created a dichotomous variable called cultorg. Regressions, and multiple regressions in particular, allow for the examination of strength of relationships between variables. It is possible to see interactions between variables, as well as the predictive power of multiple independent variables upon the dependent variable (Urdan, 2010, p. 145). Simple regressions deal with one independent variable at a time, while multiple regressions allows for the examination of multiple independent variables upon the dependent variable at the same time. This gives insight into the relative strength of each independent variable and whether the independent variables interact (Urdan, 2010, p. 146). Logistic regression is used only when the dependent variable has a dichotomous outcome and answers the question of how likely an event is to occur. Given that students of color are in the minority at the University of Denver, I argue that these students likely feel there is a greater need for diversity on campus and will tend to feel more favorable about inclusive excellence. Since VOLUME 2
inclusive excellence and diversity campaigns are often a means to recruit students of color (among other underrepresented groups) to campus, I hypothesized that these students will have subscribed to the concept of inclusive excellence more fully than White students. As a result, I expect that students of color will care more about campus diversity, will be more likely to participate in multicultural organizations, and will report socializing with others of a different race more so than their White counterparts.
RESULTS Table 1 shows the demographic variables icluded in this analysis. To begin with, it is worth noting some basic descriptive statistics about the sample. TABLE 1. DEMOGRAPHICS OF UNIVERSITY OF DENVER RESPONDENTS Income
Race White Not White Sex
Do Not Belong
Of 226 respondents, 67% (n=152) were White while 33% (n=74) were re-coded into the Not White category. Nearly 64% of respondents (n=141) were female while 36.5% (n=81) were male. In terms of income, 31% (n=71) indicated that their families made under $50,000 a year (21 were under $25,000), and 37.5% (n=84) of respondents came from households that made more than $100,000 a year (53 made more than $150,000). Another 30% (n=69) respondents came from households that made between $51,000 and $100,000 a year. Overall, the income distribution among the sample was fairly even between lower-income households and 38
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higher-income households. In terms of political ideology, the sample did skew more liberal (skewness=-.55), with 55% of the sample indicating that they were either liberal or very liberal. On the variable cultorg, 60% (n=136) indicated that they did not belong to a multicultural organization while 40% (n=90) indicated that they did. Also, it should be noted that income and race are correlated with Whites being the majority of income categories greater than $76,000 and Not White dominating income categories of $75,000 and less. In other words, income and race were correlated with White respondents reportedly coming from households with higher incomes than non-White respondents. The first regression model was used to determine the effect of my demographic variables on the dependent variable campusdiv. I hypothesized that gender, race, involvement in multicultural organizations, ideology, income, having friends from another race, and attitudes towards the University of Denver’s promotion of inclusive excellence would all influence how important the respondent felt that diversity was to campus. Initially only a simple regression of the variables campusdiv and race (1=white) was conducted. The coefficient was -1.56, indicating that Whites were less likely to value campus diversity than their Non-White counterparts. This result was statistically significant at the p<.001 level. However, when my other variables including sex, involvement in multicultural organizations, ideology, income, feelings of university encouragement of diversity, and having friends of a different race were accounted for, race of the respondent lost significance, meaning that after accounting for other variables, respondents’ race does not have an impact on attitudes towards campus diversity. Rather, the new model accounted for 32.7 percent of the variance in responses. Respondents’ gender turned out to be a significant variable (p=.001) with a coefficient of -.99. This indicates that women were more likely to indicate they care about diversity on campus than their male counterparts. This could be a function of the skewed sample, which is disproportionately female, although research shows that females are generally more favorable than males toward campus diversity (Asada, Goldey, & Swank, 2003). Furthermore, involvement in
a multicultural organization had a coefficient of 1.21 and was significant (p<.001), indicating that those in multicultural organizations were more likely to value diversity. The other highly significant result was ideolog y (p<.001). The coefficient for the ideolog y variable was .70, indicating that the more liberal the respondent the more likely they were to indicate that diversity was important to them. The variable socrace was significant (p<.05), as well, with a coefficient of .34, indicating that those who have friends of other races were also more likely to value diversity. The second regression examined the factors influencing whether or not a person socializes across race. Here, my dependent variable is socrace, a Likert scale question ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (agree). The same independent variables were used as in the previous regression (race, cultorg, sex, encour, ideol, income); however, none of the results were significant at the .05 level. The only variable which came close to the acceptable level of significance of .10 was white (p=.151). The variables cultorg (p=.238) and income (p=.203) were near significance given the small sample size. These results suggest that Whites and those with higher income are less likely to socialize with others outside their race. In terms of the variable cultorg, respondents that belong to a multicultural organization were more likely to indicate they socialize with others outside their race. Third, I used logistic regression to examine what factors might make a person more likely to join a multicultural organization. Logistic regression is used in cases where the dependent variable is a dichotomous variable coded 0 or 1. Here, my dependent variable is cultorg, where 0 indicates a respondent did not belong to a multicultural organization, and 1 indicates that they did belong to a multicultural organization. The independent variable socrace was found to be significant (p<.01) with an odds ratio of 1.71, meaning that for every one increase in the response to socrace, there is a corresponding increase of 71% for how likely respondents were to join one of the multicultural organizations. The independent variable encour was also significant (p<.05) and showed that for every one increase in the response to encour, there is a corresponding increase of 74.5% for how likely respondents were to join a multicultural organization.
The variable sex just missed significance (p=.06). Had it been significant then it could have been concluded that men were 170% more likely to join a multicultural organization. Compared to the results from campusdiv, this shows that while women are more likely to voice support of diversity, men are more likely to join diverse organizations. The variable white was a significant predictor of joining a multicultural organization. Delimiting the white variable by White and Not White showed that Non-Whites had a 469% greater chance of being in a multicultural organization, while Whites had a 22.7% chance (p<.001). However, it should be noted that if all
While Non-Whites report belonging to multicultural organizations and socializing outside of their racial groups at much greater numbers, this is not simply an effect of having to socialize outside their racial groups due to being the minority. These students also seem to feel the benefit of inclusive excellence more, indicating that they find it more important.
variables are taken together in a multiple regression, then the only one that retains significance is white (p<.001), indicating a 6% chance of the person being in a multicultural organization. The variable sex just missed significance given the small sample size (p=.141).
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION Based on results from the simple, multiple, and logistic regressions, we can draw several conclusions about this sample population of University of Denver students. The demographics of the sample tell us that the majority of respondents were White females. Looking closer at the variables indicates that the majority of the students from higher income households are White and that Whites overall are less likely to socialize outside of their racial group and less likely to find campus diversity to be important to them. Of Whites who do seem to socialize outside of their race, they would seem to come from lower inVOLUME 2
come backgrounds. Of those who choose to join a multicultural organization, it would also seem that having a friend of a different race is a key factor in that decision. While Non-Whites report belonging to multicultural organizations and socializing outside of their racial groups at much greater numbers, this is not simply an effect of having to socialize outside their racial groups due to being the minority. These students also seem to feel the benefit of inclusive excellence more, indicating that they find it more important. This could be due to the fact that these students have more to gain. As mentioned above, Non-White students are more likely to drop out and underperform than their White counterparts. From this sample, they are also more likely to come from less privileged backgrounds. Overall, the results indicate that the University of Denver’s plan of inclusive excellence and
diversity is only somewhat trickling down to the students. The majority of the student body still does not seem to socialize with those who are clearly different from themselves, partially because they do not see the value in doing so. In fact it may be that because the administration encourages diversity so heavily without actually having a diverse student body (on the survey no one indicated that they strongly agreed that the university was diverse), students can conclude that the actions behind the words do not actually matter. In order to address this, it would of course help for DU’s admissions to actively recruit more students from underrepresented backgrounds. However, inclusive excellence is not only the responsibility of the administration, but the students as well. On the part of the students, it would be effective for all student organizations to actively engage and collaborate with groups outside of their comfort zone.
REFERENCES Adam, M. (2006). AAC&U reports on the diversity/excellence connection. The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education,
March 27, 15.
Asada, H., Goldey, G.T., and Swank, E. (2003). The acceptance of a multicultural education among Appalachian
college students. Research in Higher Education, 1(44), 99–120.
Milem, J.K., Chang, M., and Antonio, A.L. (2005). Making diversity work on campus: A research based perspective.
Making Excellence Inclusive. Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Williams, D. A. (2007). Achieving inclusive excellence: Strategies for creating real and sustainable change in quality
and diversity. About Campus, 12, 8–14.
Urdan, T.C. (2010). Statistics in plain English. New York, Routledge. 40
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CONSIDER THE NEXT THREE ESSAYS
Dr. Carol Samson WRIT 1133: Academic Research and Writing—Thing Theory The next three essays were written by students in my WRIT 1133 sections during Spring Quarter 2012. The writers were asked to “consider” an object, an event, or a memory that had value to them. It is important to know that while the word “consider” comes from both the Old French considerer meaning to reflect on, to study, as well as from the Latin, considerare, to look at closely, to observe, there is also a possibility that “consider” has something to do with observing the stars, that it derives from com “with” plus sidus “constellation.” Each writer, then, had to look hard at an object much like a navigator might look to the stars or a diviner might read an astrological chart. In the choice of the object to examine, the writers understood that, according to Thing Theory, an object becomes a thing in the moments when the object asserts itself, when it denies quick coding, when it refuses the gloss of mere interpretive attention. An object becomes a thing at the moment when it changes the subject-object relationship, that is, at the moment when the human subject begins to see how naming a thing is really naming, not an object, but a singular subject-object relation.
The next three essays are hybrids. The assignment asked that the writers make use of academic research and situate the research within a personal frame. It asked that they allow for a play between the rational and the subjective. Having studied a selection of essays, including David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster,” the writers were required to view their topics through several academic lenses and to establish a particular and phenomenological rapport. They worked to “unconceal” the topic and to allow the reader to follow the process of discovery, making use of accumulated endnotes, side commentaries, digressions, and other supplementary information presented in a myriad of forms. As you will see, each writer invented a complex scaffolding for her ideas, each determined a shape or a blueprint that allowed for a dynamic dialogue between the various parts of the essay, each sounded her own “voice.” In selecting an issue of family health or cultural tradition or personal memory, each writer confronted a difficult “thing” and, in navigational terms, constellated its meaning. —Dr. Carol Samson
THE “STRESS” OF THE BLACK TRESS Sonia Crosby–Attipoe WRIT 1133: Academic Research and Writing—Thing Theory Professor Carol Samson Throughout my life, I’ve probably had a few dozen women disclose to me, “I wish I was black!” In order to avoid an awkward conversation about race, my well-prepared, comfortable response goes something like: “Yeah you do!” Yet, many of these individuals miss my subtle message and continue this dialogue by rationalizing their assertion; they explain that there are so many “cool” ways to style black hair. I often receive their justification with a quick laugh, a witty comment (if I feel so inclined), and then I affirm that they are correct—being black is awesome. A more sincere response, however, is not as easily articulated. The honest answer I typically refrain from delivering seeks neither to demonstrate shame nor to seek pity. An authentic answer, rather, examines a culturally-derived norm among many black women that can be described in a few short words: it’s complicated. I grew up in a Colorado suburb called Highlands Ranch. Its racial makeup is roughly 94% white, 2% Hispanic, 1% black, and 3% other races. Being a racial minority was not a new experience for me; I was born in Valencia, California, a “SoCal” 1 valley region economically similar to Highlands Ranch. Yet as a child, I did not have any sort of social awareness about racial issues because my parents strayed away from conversations that might imply “you are different” from your white classmates. Consequently, the great-
est level of racial identification I would distinguish was solely on the basis of physical appearance—the greatest of these: hair. I always knew that I did not have the same hair as my blonde, brunette, and red-headed friends. My hair grew more slowly than everyone else’s. Some liked to pat it and label it as “poufy.” When straightened, it was a top priority to avoid getting it wet. More so, styling took several unbearable hours of sitting in a chair combing, pressing, relaxing, braiding, burning... all of which are among a group of three different styling options for black women. One might: 1) use chemicals (relaxers, curl-loosening texturizers, and other mild treatments); 2) add extensions (either a wig, braids, a full weave, or a few tracks); or 3) go natural (non-chemically treated hair: natural curls, an afro, or any other organic products that may necessitate a particular amount of heat to control coarseness). In my eighteen years of experience with black hair, I have worn, applied, and experimented with a good majority of the possibilities above. Yet the “Signature Sonia,” as my close friends and family have come to christen it, has been the single–braid style. I have sported braids off and on for an estimated fourteen years and have had the same hair stylist for the last twelve years—a French-speaking African from Côte d’Ivoire named Ms. Betsy.2 In my experience, the lively
“Southern California.” Valencia is a city located north of Los Angeles in the Santa Clarita Valley, a community in close proximity to the San Fernando Valley (where the term “Valley Girl” originates). This may be a subtle hint that better describes the demographic. 2 Honestly, I don’t remember if it’s Sierra Leone or Côte d’Ivoire. Although I’ve remained a loyal client for over a decade and followed her through employment at half a dozen (or so) salons, I still don’t know her last name.
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© Stanislav Komogorov / Shutterstock.com
environment of many black salons confirms the stereotype that the media create. Any given hour you’ll hear laughter rising above the sounds of a blow-dryer; men will hit on the young, twenty-something stylist while she evens out their well-defined hairline; an older woman referred to as “Preacher-Lady” will jokingly chastise Ms. Betsy for each of her crude remarks. And many small shops such as these are full of gossip.3 Nevertheless, I have found that all of these aspects are what truly creates a sense of family in each shop. Additionally, the shop experience typically bolsters the confidence of the female clients; for many, there is a clear rise in self-esteem between the time a woman enters and her departure. She starts by nervously pulling off her hat, scarf, or wig, inevitably revealing the roots she tries ever so carefully to hide. Hours later you’ll find her smiling into a mirror, working her hands through her tresses for that desired “white flow.” 4 Furthermore, I became more aware of the complexity of this issue a couple years ago during a conversation with a white friend about black hair. As we discussed the laborious procedures many black women undergo to become satisfied
with their hair, we agreed that much of this is done because of pressure to conform to societal expectations. For instance, most people associate “good hair” with “white flow,” suggesting that black women must maintain a well-kept, sleek style. Coincidentally enough, my friend recommended a documentary made by actor/comedian Chris Rock entitled Good Hair. I later went on to watch it and found myself at home about the topic and the issues it presents. Through interviews with men and women in salons, and commentary from many black celebrities, the film discusses the discomfort associated with black hair. In particular, the film talks about the greater maintenance black hair can require (for those who prefer styles outside of their natural texture), including time, money, and physical discomfort. Thus, Good Hair was (and is) a mechanism that openly voiced my stresses with the black tress. For example, the documentary does a great job in detailing “the pains of the perm” (Good Hair)—another experience I am all too familiar with.5 Perms (or relaxers 6) are composed of the chemical sodium hydroxide, or NaOH, a strong metallic base used to make paper, to purify gas-
As single-braids are the most time consuming hairstyle, I am accustomed to witnessing many people come and go from their appointments. The second a foot takes a step out the door is when the talk rolls out. It is then that I can put faces to the names of those cheating on their husbands, that one lady dating the 65-year-old for his money, and who got whom pregnant. 4 This is a phrase that my family lightheartedly uses to describe hair that moves in a swift, docile manner. 5 I have come to the conclusion that the most anguishing of apparatuses is the “hot comb.” It is a very thin-toothed metallic comb, much like that of a curling iron. Some stylists use hot combs that cannot manually adjust, but are simply laid in a small portable oven. This means that they cannot regulate the temperate, so that stuff gets hot! Simply holding a hot comb a foot away from your face is scary enough; now imagine a mere centimeter in distance to straighten out the baby hairs. Torture. 6 A “perm” on white hair causes the chemical nature to become curly, having the opposite reaction as it would on a black individual; here it relaxes the naturally coarse texture. Hence, “relaxer” is much more accurate.
As we discussed the laborious procedures many black women undergo to become satisfied with their hair, we agreed that much of this is done because of pressure to conform to societal expectations.
I have always been coy in sharing the subject of this paper. During the initial writing process, I had several students ask me
what topic I would be discussing for the assignment, and I never knew how to proper-
ly articulate its focus without being brash. This piece weighs in on a heavy subject for
many African-American women, and pos-
sibly others as well. So I will warn you now, it is difficult to say this in an eloquent man-
ner: This is a paper about black people and hair. Well, kind of.
The task for this assignment was to em-
ulate a stylized synthesis essay with our own personal approach. It could pertain
to any particular material object or subject matter that holds controversy. In hindsight, I suppose my decision to write on such a
sensitive issue was more an individualized mechanism to better understand my position on the matter, because it comes from such a personal arena. In truth, I wrote on this issue for none other than myself.
Even more, while writing this piece I dis-
tinctly recall ideas that were very raw—and
sometimes brazen—to maintain the utmost level of honesty, rationalizing that only one other individual (my professor) would read
this article. I suppose these are ideas I subconsciously wish were discussed more
openly, yet would not normally have the nerve to overtly attempt myself. This pub-
lication has validated that what should be spoken will be spoken. Enjoy.
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es, and to deep clean. In Good Hair, Chris Rock speaks with a chemist who demonstrates the effects of NaOH on the skin. He pours some of the solution onto a raw piece of chicken, and within minutes, a portion of the meat has disintegrated to the bone. Likewise, the strong presence of this chemical in relaxers is what allows thick, coarse hair to soften and become much more loose and manageable. But, as you might imagine, the effect of this chemical change on the scalp and hair is truly no joke. In an interview with rapper T-Pain, he says, “The burn of a perm... it is excruciating, I think. I think it’s hotter than fire.” Hip hop artist, actor, and reality star Ice-T went on to describe the process as “kind of like a torture session. You want it to get as straight as possible so you like, ‘just a little bit longer, just a little longer... WASH IT OUT!’” (Good Hair). Leave a relaxer in for a few seconds too long and it will either severely damage the quality of your hair or completely break off portions of it.7 For this reason (and simply personal preference), I have kept to the “Signature Sonia” style of single-braided extensions. The actual hair braiding process takes an average of four and a half hours to complete, and it is most often done in one sitting (and that’s simply the braidtime). With all factors included—waiting to be seated (which can sometimes take even longer than an hour), incorporating curls (a supplemental feature where we combine each individual braid into several larger braids, then dip them in hot water so that each single braid appears curly), and finally, putting together the finishing touches (trimming, mousse, hairspray)—my full
salon experience is about six hours. In addition, the commute is roughly a cumulative hour and a half, so planning for this endeavor requires clearing a full day in my schedule.8 And yet, in my short lifetime I have endured this process an estimated sixty times already. Inevitably, new hair growth necessitates a trip to the salon for a touch-up. Extensions may last a good six to eight weeks, but they do get old quickly with the arrival of curly or coarse roots. Relaxers tend to be redone every four to six weeks, depending on how fast the individual’s hair grows. Once new roots start to show, there is a very visible differentiation between the relaxed hair and the natural texture, so once you start relaxing your hair it must be done again and again 9 (extensions are the other viable option, however). The average cost of a professional relaxing treatment is around $50.10 And that adds up fast. Let’s say that a woman chooses to get her hair professionally relaxed every five weeks. This would mean she’d have ten treatments in a year for an annual relaxing cost of $500. Extensions can get even more costly. From my experience, I’ve seen that hair braiding is around $120–150 for labor, plus the price of buying the hair, which often costs an additional $15. A female who re-braids her hair every eight weeks would have it done about six times per year, spending an estimated annual total of $900. Weaves and sewn-in wigs can cost even more because people often purchase human hair for its silky quality (as opposed to synthetic hair that works better for braiding). Human hair can range anywhere
© Lucian Coman / Shutterstock.com
between $20–$200 dollars, but let’s settle on an average of $40/pack for a suitable quality of human-hair extensions. Labor for weaves may be another $100. Assuming that she uses two packs each appointment and schedules a new one every six weeks, she may spend $1440 a year to achieve that silky flow.11 Suitably, a necessary central question that we must ask ourselves is “Why!?” Why do so many black women subject themselves to incessant hours of painful torture? Why do we spend so much money on such a temporary ideal just to rinse and repeat in six to eight weeks? Why do we feel these processes are an absolute necessity!? Why? Some might suggest the key lies in an age-old phrase that says “a woman’s hair is her crown and glory.” 12 It is unclear who first made this statement, and if it was a woman, were her motives affirmative or begrudging? Did this woman
Currently, all of my hair is chemical free. I have a very fine texture that spiral curls when wet. Before my first relaxer around the age of four my hair length was partway down my back, but the relaxer ended up breaking off my hair due to the damage. My hair texture cannot handle the chemical or even mild forms of it, so I have been off it for nearly two and a half years. 8 The four hour braid-time is actually quite admirable. Ms. Christie used to take a good six and a half hours when I was younger. I sometimes enjoy watching her hands move with a mess of motion like that of a skilled pianist. Beautiful, really. 9 A young woman in the film referred to this addictive effect as “the creamy crack!” 10 You can, of course, perform one yourself. The average price of a good take-home cream is roughly $12. 11 Another option more uncommon in middle-class society is fused extensions. These are small strips of hair that are bonded to your natural hair and can cost thousands of dollars at a time. Celebrities (of all races) rarely go without them. They easily add both length and volume. They last a long time with proper care; however, I hear they are extremely damaging to an individual’s own natural hair. 12 I may be incorrect, but the phrase may stem from 1 Corinthians 11:15, which says, “but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair was given to her as a covering.” This verse does not claim that a woman’s head is her “crown and glory” as a reference to beauty; rather, it refers to the ability to remain reverent in worship. In Biblical times, women were told to cover their heads during worship, and long hair was a part of the mechanism that achieved such “covering.” I don’t know who changed up the context of it, but I suppose women have been fretting about their hair since the beginning of time.
I maintain the belief that we, as a human body, may be able to identify why we do the things we do, but many of us lack the ability to identify why these things have such a strong hold over our lives.
mean to suggest that her beauty stemmed from her lovely locks? Or was she expressing remorse, blaming life’s disappointments on a “lacking” hairstyle? Yet, whatever her intent, the statement has been proclaimed as truth by one and unfortunately believed by many. This, in turn, has influenced the actions of countless women all around the world, a clear indication that societal influence may be a valid rationale. To illustrate, CNN special reporter Charisse Jones comes to the conclusion that many black women fuss about their hair because their social status forces them to “constantly hav[e] to put others at ease and endlessly dodg[e] the minefield of stereotypes.” Jones continues by explaining how black women might be perceived at first glance during a job interview: the “professional” look of straight, relaxed hair is likely to win out over the thick, braided, cornrows. Likewise, during the recent 2012 London Olympics, sixteen-year-old gymnast Gabby Douglas took criticism for (an apparent 13) failure to tame her hair while competing. Douglas was the first African-American female to earn the individual all-around award, and in the midst of her successes, she faced scrutiny about her appearance from various social media sites. One black woman commented that she “hate[s] the way [Douglas’] hair looks with all those pins and gel. I wish someone could have helped her make it look bet-
ter [...] She is representing for black women everywhere” (Samuels). Here we see that societal influence is not necessarily an outsider’s preference by any means; such implications can readily emerge from an internal mechanism. In this scenario, the social expectation comes from a fellow black woman placing expectations on Douglas so that she might appeal to the world as a “proper” representation of black hair. This being said, societal expectations regularly come from out-group members as well. Regardless of where the expectation emerges, however, it seems that the desire for societal approbation is rooted deep within this discussion, if not at the center of this issue. Furthermore, Good Hair includes an interview with poet Maya Angelou where she gives a different perspective on the “glory” of it all: “I would say that hair is a woman’s glory and that you share that glory with your family. And they get to see you braiding it and they get to see you washing it... But it is not a bad thing or a good thing, it is hair” (qtd. in The Internet Movie Database). Similar to what Angelou has insinuated, I don’t think this is an issue about hair. Nor is it one about skin. And I’m sure it’s not “just a girl thing” either. Though I have focused this conversation as it pertains to black hair, the real issue here is much more global than we may perceive. Many groups we identify ourselves with (due to innate features or by means of preference) carry a number of societal expectations that are not easily justified. To exemplify, one might ask a socialite if it is necessary to wear name brands, and another might question if a skateboarder’s tight jeans help or hinder her performance.14 For each of these groups, there may not be a definite answer that explains particular patterns of action. Yet group members are connected to a shared culture that they can relate to, understand (though others may not), and, hopefully, enjoy. Similarly, I maintain the belief that we, as a human body, may be able to identify why we do the things we do, but many of us lack the ability to identify why these things have such a strong
Personally, I thought her hair looked great throughout the Games! This is not to indicate that these actions are subject to all members of each group. Likewise, not all black women choose to partake in these different forms of hair-care. To each her own. 14
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hold over our lives. Once we are able to conquer the latter and gain this understanding, it is then that our actions are redeemed in value; we are able to make decisions for our own benefit. Just as Angelou has stated, hair is hair, and it will remain simply as that. It is when we experience the fruits of our labor that we become connected to a family, a friend, and a culture. Furthermore, realizing the worth of our actions then shifts our view from societal expectations as “stresses” that must be endured towards a perspective that both understands and accepts the choices we make; this is where we find a “glory” in it all. Still, until an individual comes to this realization, the question “why?!” will remain a heavy burden that must resolved. Unfortunately, when it comes to a black woman’s hair, the burden is messy, disheartening, and complicated. I experienced this near the beginning of Rock’s documentary when he describes his two young daughters asking him, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” (Good Hair). I cannot discern if my emotions are so inspired by this scene because I can relate to these young girls or if it is because I hold a weighty concern for their self-esteem. Some days I walk down a similar road and want to scream out the same question. At the same
Realizing the worth of our actions then shifts our view from societal expectations as “stresses” that must be endured towards a perspective that both understands and accepts the choices we make; this is where we find a “glory” in it all.
time, I wish I could hold these girls tight and whisper to them that, like mine, their hair is beautiful. I’d tell them that their skin is nothing less than perfect. I’d make it clear that they are lovely and that their mother doesn’t just say so out of obligation. I’d want them to understand that their beauty is real, and true, immeasurable, unrivaled, and desirable. I may not be able to successfully give them the affirmation they need to see their self-worth, but I can wholeheartedly attest to a hope that these young girls will one day fathom the absolute truth of a “glory” rooted much deeper than the roots of their hair.
WORKS CITED Good Hair. Dir. Jeff Stilson. Perf. Chris Rock. HBO Films, 2009. Documentary. “Good Hair.” 2009. The Internet Movie Database. Amazon. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011. Print. Jones, Charisse. “Commentary: Why It Matters How Black Women Wear Their Hair.” CNN. Turner Broadcasting
System, Inc., 23 July 2008. Web. 6 Apr. 2012.
Samuels, Allison. “Gabby Douglas Takes Two Olympic Golds—And Hair Criticism.” The Daily Beast. 2 Aug. 2012. “Sodium Hydroxide.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Apr. 2012. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. VOLUME 2
MEMORY IN MEMORIAM Cicely Galm WRIT 1133: Academic Research and Writing—Thing Theory Professor Carol Samson
I use my memory for everything. In high school debate and forensics, I used it to memorize a seven-minute speech in fifteen minutes, at least three times per competition, for Extemporaneous Speaking. Most people use it to remember not to wash new, red shirts with pale clothes; to keep the peanut butter knife out of the jam jar; to say please and thank you; to return a favor; to clap our hands if we’re happy and we know it. We can even be indolently absentminded in our use of memory, idly sketching traffic patterns or the fifth grade instructions for folding paper cranes onto the absorbent tissue. Cognitive theory says you can hold about seven pieces of information in your short-term memory, though there are times when I feel like my mind could not be swindled, bribed, cajoled, commanded, tricked, or begged into remembering anything other than the most superfluous information. Except I know that it could, of
People forget things all the time—what they need at the grocery store, why they went into a certain room, what made Midway a turning point in World War II, the name of a new friend or famous stranger—but they do not forget how to remember.
course. Because it is healthy, and my synapses seem to fire normally and I do not have amnesia, I do not worry about literally losing my mind. My Grandmother Elizabeth, however, is a different story. Elizabeth Primrose Hartsook forgets to wear clean clothes, forgets who her husband is, forgets who is in the back of the car, forgets that there is only one man in bed with her at night and not twelve, all of whom are named Ed. She forgets where we are and the names of the plants that she taught me to identify as a child.1 When a branch runs under her hand, it does so anonymously, and her face crumples like a leaf if I forget and ask her if she can remember it. There is an important distinction to be made here: my grandmother does not simply forget things. People forget things all the time—what they need at the grocery store, why they went into a certain room, what made Midway a turning point in World War II, the name of a new friend or famous stranger.2 But they do not forget how to remember. My grandmother does. Due to her degenerative 3 senile dementia, her brain tissue atrophies at an accelerated rate, resulting in an inability to retrieve information about old memories and the significantly diminished ability to form new memories, often leading to depression and a lack of autonomy and independence (Baldwin). At least, that’s how doctors explain it.4 The rest of the population refers to this as losing your marbles.5
Which I’ve forgotten, ironically. I’m trying to learn more to compensate—as if that will make it better. As if identifying boxwood, agapanthus, and forsythia would bring her atrophied brain tissue back or protect mine from the same fate. 2 Freud believed that if you can’t remember someone’s name, you either want to kill or have sex with them. It’s some powerful stuff. 3 Meaning, as my mom put it, “It ain’t getting better.”
WRIT LARGE: 2013
© Andrey Burmakin / Shutterstock.com
I consulted the dictionary for the comfort of some kind of insight into my grandmother’s plight. The 11th edition of the Merriam–Webster Dictionary defines “memory” as “the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained especially through associative mechanisms.” Most intriguing to me is that, by this definition, memory is not necessarily an internal, individual process. Maurice Halbwachs, French philosopher and sociologist, was the first to present the idea of a group memory that exists outside of individuals, spanning between two people or an entire society (Assman and Czaplicka). Communities rely on “libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and oth-
er cultural institutions that serve as mediating structures between and among people and information” in order to build cultural memory 6 (Pitchford et al.). These institutions neglect to mention the nursing communities that hold the human objects of those museums, little jars of memory preserves passed their expiration date that have not yet been disposed of. We forget that in little gated communities across the world, “old heroes shuffle safely down the street,” as Roger Waters so aptly put it. Conversing with these individuals is much more “authentic” and “educational” an experience than reading an edited statement in the Imperial War Museum on holiday in London (Pink Floyd).7
The way I think of it is that the mind is like a large room, featuring a big, squishy couch where we keep all our memories like loose change between the cushions. The ones committed to our long-term storage are those coins that are actually eaten by the couch, stuck permanently in with the stuffing while the short-term and sensory memories are the change stuck to half-eaten lollipops, wrappers, and pocket lint (this metaphor is based on information from Schacter, Gilbert, and Wegner). With my grandmother’s brain, it’s like someone decided to clean that couch of the excess debris, all of that organized chaos we prize as kids, which helped the change stick in the shallow areas. Now, memories are more akin to precious dollar bills which fall out of the pocket onto the cushion but not into the couch, leaving a transient impression that ends when the bill is soon retrieved by the owner. 5 This term seems an ill-fitting colloquial metaphor and an insult to the dexterous capabilities of a language that boasts of full entries for 171,476 words in current use, not to mention 47,156 obsolete words, in the 2 nd edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary (“How many words...”). I decided to research this term to effectively convey the inane and misplaced nature of the phrase. It’s funny how sobering an experience getting your facts straight can be. It turns out that the term is derived from a couple of factors, though none more touching than the reference to “the image of a forlorn child having lost his prized playthings. An early citation of this figurative usage is found in an August 1886 copy of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat: ‘He has roamed the block all morning like a boy who had lost his marbles’” (Martin). This I understand: the dejection of a relatively helpless innocent who has lost something infinitely precious, the center structure of a world. There is no better description of my grandmother’s behavior than that of a devastated child who has lost her marbles, continually repeating that she would give “just anything” to retrieve them and feel better than she does now. It makes sense. Marbles roll out of couch cushions easier than change. 6 You know, so we stick to the facts and don’t get too carried away with revisionist history. Though, since winners write history in the first place, your facts really just depend on who gets to the documentation first and whose artifacts are preserved where. Ah, the divine power of historians! 7 Pink Floyd’s song The Gunner’s Dream is merely one of twelve exceptionally poignant songs that make up The Final Cut, a concept album centering on the similar subject of elderly forgotten heroes of World War II.
It is like a strange version of collective memory, where my grandmother has imbued us with her memories and now turns to us to access that outsourced memory storage. It lightens the strain in her face, makes her happy. Well, the happiest she gets anymore.
The assignment that prompted this piece was to construct an intellectually constel-
lated essay modeled after David Foster
Wallace’s exquisite and disturbing piece “Consider the Lobster.” Our professor intended for us to come to a different understanding of a given topic through research
on a broad range of sources, from comic books to encyclopedias. As soon as I began to brainstorm topics, I could not shake
the idea of Grandma Elizabeth’s dementia. At this point, I had watched her demen-
tia progress at an escalated pace for a year; I wanted to reach some sort of ca-
tharsis with my grief through this writing. I expected my insight from the piece to be
a largely clinical one, wrought from a detailed understanding of her condition from
a medical standpoint—but this proved to
be completely wrong. The medical infor-
mation that I researched merely confirmed
what I had listened to repeatedly over the series of her doctor’s appointments. What soon overtook me was the relationship between collective memory institutions like
museums and the individuals from whom
they acquire their memories. Through this piece, I felt like I could finally do something
for my grandma instead of just helplessly sympathizing by her side. I grew up with my grandparents sharing the wonder of worldly beauty with me and found a way to honor
those memories and all that they gave me through this piece. This is my gift to them.
WRIT LARGE: 2013
While my grandfather is still more than willing to talk about his past, the roles have been reversed with my grandmother, my mother, and me now providing the stories. It is like a strange version of collective memory, where my grandmother has imbued us with her memories and now turns to us to access that outsourced memory storage. It lightens the strain in her face, makes her happy. Well, the happiest she gets anymore. She watches the strong figure of my mother, radiant, not like the papery women spun out of fine china but like the gallop of a breathtaking horse, as she recounts some event. She speaks with conviction in everything, describing the afternoon’s doctor’s appointment or carefully wrapping my grandmother’s butterfly-wing brain in the cocoon of a precious memory. She holds her mother’s small hand in her own, and I watch hope flow between them in an impossibly physical manner, keeping the demons of uncertainty at bay. Hunter S. Thompson described it best when he wrote that we love stories “for the extra dimension they provide, the illusion of near-infinite possibility to erase the narrow confines of most men’s reality [...] living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of ‘the rat race’ is not yet final” (125). The stories that we most rely on our memory to tell us until it no longer can, which is when our children take over. Some evenings my grandmother will relax to the point of telling a disjointed story about something that happened recently, such as going to the dentist for her knee, until my grandfather decides to correct her with a skeptical—“That can’t be, Bets!”—upsetting her again. My grand-
© Ryoh / Shutterstock.com
father has devoted his life to the exact nature of science 8 and so feels compelled to correct her on everything in his abrupt manner. The poor man just struggles with compassion at times, which is where my mother fills in. The lines still blur for me. There are times when I want to help Grandma remember, ask her for the stories she does have and help her reconstruct memories and hold them in her hand like my mom does. After all, she has only been seriously disoriented for six months. It does not seem like that much time, but when her mouth dissolves into the panicked misery of “I don’t know” and she just pleads for death, I too find myself wishing she were dead in the most compassionate way possible: not out of malice, but rather a desire to take away the pain, the panic,
the abyss of empty memory that weighs on her daily. I am overcome with the need to take what is left of her memory couch out of sight, stick it on a museum lawn—a sign advertising FREE, TO A GOOD HOME—and let the curators take it from there, decide how to make the shaky memories sound like irrefutable fact, and build the bigger picture now that the voice wishes to be silent. Let the human be the living memorial and let the museums and libraries be their final resting place. And when they have yielded up their burden, told all they wish to say, held all who they wish to hold, I want to let the fifth graders of the world fold their fragile bodies securely into the clean wings of her paper cranes and release them.
He recognizes the fluidity within that “exactness,” seeing as facts change daily. Experts warn against this: they advise limiting corrections to what’s strictly necessary, like reminding her of where she left her purse instead of letting her believe it was stolen, but otherwise listening and responding to the emotions behind the details, like the suspicion and fear of a negative world. The more time I spend with them, the less significant I find details to be anyway. I was born into a solar system of nine planets, and I became an adult in a solar system of eight. Spoiler alert: I didn’t move galaxies. At this stage in the game, at her stage in the game, fact and accuracy feel highly overrated, especially when there are so many more important things to dedicate your thought capacity to. There’s just no point.
© Lightspring / Shutterstock.com
I am overcome with the need to take what is left of her memory couch out of sight, stick it on a museum lawn—a sign advertising FREE, TO A GOOD HOME—and let the curators take it from there.
WORKS CITED Assmann, Jan, and John Czaplicka. “Collective Memory and Cultural Identity.” New German Critique, Cultural History
and Cultural Studies, 65, 1995: 125–133.
Baldwin, Cathy. “Coping with Memory Loss.” Alzheimer’s Society, 2010. Web. “How many words are there in the English language?” Oxford Dictionaries, 2012. Web. Martin, Gary. “Lose your Marbles.” The Phrase Finder, 2012. Web. “Memory.” Merriam–Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 11th ed. 2003. Print. Schacter, Daniel L., Daniel T. Gilbert, and Daniel M. Wegner. Introducing Psycholog y. New York: Worth Publishers,
Pink Floyd. The Gunner’s Dream. Harvest Records, 1983. Vinyl. Thompson, Hunter S. Gonzo Papers, Vol. 1: The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time. New York: Ballantine
Books, 1979. Print.
Pitchford, Veronda, Camila Alire, Malore Brown, Karen E. Downing, Alexandra Rivera, Janice Welburn, Mark
WRIT LARGE: 2013
Winston, and William C. Welburn. “Memory, Authenticity and Cultural Identity: The Role of Library
Programs, Services and Collections in Creating Community.” World Library and Information Congress: 75th IFLA
General Conference and Assembly. International Federation of Library Associations, 2009.
HELLO, GOODBYE Susanna Park WRIT 1133: Academic Research and Writing— Thing Theory Professor Carol Samson Your hands were on their way to looking like your father’s but then meshed with my DNA. That is my mother’s theory on the appearance of my hands. My mother’s hands are beautiful 1 and soft. They are gentle, with the prettiest and cleanest nails. They are delicate, intricate, and so precise and controlled that she could make the most beautiful cross-stitch patterns, fix the most absurd tears or holes in my clothes, and cook the most delicious meals. There were nights when we sat in front of the TV, while I lay on her lap and interlaced my fingers with hers. She would mindlessly play with my fingers, spreading them out and then bending each finger down. One by one, she would gently fold them and then spread them out again. Sometimes we reversed roles, and I would fiddle with her fingers. Playfully, I’d run my fingers over her polished clear nails, then take her limp hand and spread out her fingers, folding each finger down one by one and then spreading them out again. It was a conversation, a distinct connection. Hands live to caress and love. Hands live to fight and die. Forever living hands, forever exploring are hands (Humphrey).
© S.DashKevych / Shutterstock.com
My sister’s hands look like my mother’s: small, delicate, and thin. With her hands, she created the most beautiful posters for my school projects and wove my hair into wonderful styles for homecoming and prom. With her hands, she fed me lunch and dinner when my parents worked, and she caressed my hair as I fell into a deep sleep. She held me close when I had trouble falling asleep due to the demons under my bed. Her hands spoke the words of protection and love as they comforted some of my deepest sorrows and fears.2 My father’s hands are thick and rough, his nails wide and stubby. His hands are strong and quick in movement, waving in the air, dancing to the words he speaks as he explains math problems or the meaning behind certain words. His warm hands would nest my small fists to warm them up in the winter cold. There were days when I lay with him and played with his hands too. I would bend his knuckles, in hopes of hearing the anticipated pop! as I obtained a childish satisfaction from cracking his knuckles.3 As a child, any connection I recognized between my family and me was another affirmation that I was indeed part of them. The gentle “skin-
There are ways to maintain beautiful hands: (1) A few drops of lemon and glycerin; (2) Heavy whipping cream on hands at night; (3) Wash hands with vinegar mixed with lemon juice at least once a week; (4) Massage hands and fingers with almond oil before going to bed; (5) During winter, use heavy cream and wear cotton gloves; and (6) Lotion should be your best friend (Berlin). 2 Holding hands can (1) Give feelings of comfort, protection, and safety; (2) Say “I love you” or “I like you” without words; and (3) Demonstrate ownership and domination (Li-Or). I hold hands with my family, and when I do, it speaks these three meanings. When I held hands with my ex-boyfriend, it spoke the same three meanings, but in a different way. 3 I started cracking my knuckles in elementary school, and upon hearing that it can cause arthritis, I stopped for about two years. In one tempting moment, my two-year streak was broken, and I still crack my knuckles to this day. The cracking isn’t limited to my hands; I pop the majority of the joints in my body. It’s an addiction and probably one worth breaking. A good back-crack is one of the best feelings in the world. I may or may not get arthritis from it. According to some researchers, I won’t, and I choose to look at the glass as half full.
Individually, they act in unison. Intricate in design, and so uniform in function. From it came the hidden pains and sorrows of my heart, And from it came the secret thoughts that are rarely spoken; The road between my mind and my heart. Hands Susanna Park
Hands continually fascinate; they seem so simple and essential, yet we rarely think of
their complex and intricate nature. When
I lose something important, such as my
phone, I recount the steps that transpired prior to losing it. What did I do after coming
back from point A? At what moment Z did I put my phone down and end up losing it?
Did I leave it in class, or did I drop it on
the way back to my room? When was it last
in my hands? Some of my most intimate memories are remembered through my hands. I recall the times when I missed my
grandparents tremendously and upon final-
ly seeing them, how their hands embraced me and wiped my tears. I recall when I wor-
ried about the first day of first grade, and
my mom cupped my small hands in hers and reassured me that I was going to sur-
vive the day without her. Hands hold their own kind of beauty. I was asked to choose any topic and write about it using the “Wal-
lace” format. This included using a series of footnotes and being creative in synthesizing my paper. Essentially, we were devi-
ating from the traditional essay. Due to the variety in format of the paper, I felt that it was fitting to write about hands. Hands are
complex and perform a variety of tasks. My hands serve me by carrying out everyday tasks, such as typing and eating and con-
necting me with other people. Ultimately,
my hands serve as the road that travels between my mind and my heart.
WRIT LARGE: 2013
ship” that I held as a child with my parents proved to me that I was, in fact, their daughter. One by one, as I bent each digit down, I would count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5... and then I would confirm that I had five fingers on each hand as well. There were times when I was jealous of my sister’s hands. Hers were almost identical to my mother’s. Both were small and soft with prettily-shaped nails. Mine are similar, except they inherited some of my father’s rough and wide-finger qualities. Despite some minor differences, my family’s hands indicated that I was a part of them. Like them, I had a back of the hand, palm, and five digits. Hands appear simple with a backside, palm, and five fingers. However, the anatomy of the hand is rather complex and intricately designed. There are a total of 27 bones that constitute the basic skeleton of the wrist and hand alone. There are three nerves: median, ulnar, and radial. Each of these nerves serves as both sensory and motor nerves (Wilhelmi and Bradon). Moreover, the skin differs from the palm of the hand to the back (dorsum) of the hand, and the “skin on the dorsum is thin and pliable” (Wilhelmi and Bradon). The skin on the palm is thick and enhances stability for grasping functions. It also contains a high concentration of sensory nerves, allowing the performance of everyday tasks (Wilhelmi and Bradon). All these components—the bone, nerve, muscle, and skin—communicate with one another to execute movement: to pat, to grip, to hold, to shake, to communicate. One of the most important hand gestures is the handshake. There is much that can be said about a person from her handshake. It gives an
immediate impression of the shaker. The widely accepted theory behind the origin of handshakes is derived from medieval times. Knights would extend a hand to other knights to show that they had no weapons hidden behind their backs (“Perfect”). Much as knights communicated their intentions through their hands, today the handshake functions similarly. A handshake is a universal greeting where two people may come together and part again. The handshake can be used to signal friendship, peace, or agreement. Particularly in the world of business and politics, one handshake can be the determining factor between two parties. In the 2004 election in Australia, Prime Minister John Howard was running against Mark Latham. Latham lost the election “in a landslide” due to one handshake. Latham and Howard met at a radio interview; and when they shook hands, “Latham shook the Prime Minister’s hand in a very aggressive manner— pulling him close and staring him down. [...T] he major reason people voted against Latham was because of his overly aggressive handshake” (“The Perfect Handshake”). Latham’s aggression sent a message to the public that he was disrespectful and rude. The brief few minutes between Howard and Latham resulted in an eternal consequence of Latham’s failure to win the election. I still remember when as a senior in high school I met a new girl at my church. She was pretty and thin, with dark hair and dark eyes. I greeted her by shaking her hand, offering her a token of my friendship. Hi, I’m (I-don’t-rememberher-name). It was one powerful handshake that I will never forget. It was strong, firm, and to the point. Even the boys were surprised. Dude, shake her hand. She shakes like a man. Her handshake changed our perception of her, and I became a little intimidated by this pretty, thin girl with dark hair and eyes.
When you shake hands with a person you are doing much more than saying “hello.” You are saying “this is who I am” (“Perfect”).
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10 TIPS ON HOW TO SHAKE HANDS WITH CONFIDENCE: 1. Begin with an oral introduction of yourself 2. Pump your hands only 2–3 times 3. Shake from your elbow 4. Don’t use a forceful grip 5. Avoid offering a “Fish Hand” (limp hand) 6. Forget “Lady Fingers” (offering only fingers) 7. One hand is better than two 8. Don’t wipe off sweat right after shaking a sweaty hand 9. End shake before oral introduction 10. Cover a mistake with a compliment or ques tion (Wolfe) HOW I SHAKE HANDS 1. Begin with an oral introduction of myself 2. Shake with confidence in interviews (2–3 pumps) 3. Offer “Lady Fingers” to creepy men 4. Never use two hands 5. Try not to make a gross face from sweaty hands 6. End shake before oral introduction 7. Cover a mistake with compliment or question How do you shake people’s hands? Where are your hands placed when you touch those you love?
Hands are a beauty to the touch, sensuous and pleasurable. By now I have touched thousands of hands, shaken maybe hundreds, and held fewer than that. Each time, it was a communication VOLUME 2
of my identity and intentions. Sometimes, my hands spoke the words that my mouth couldn’t and expressed the thoughts that my mind struggled to form. In a given day, a person touches a countless number of objects.4 The same hands that helped me color in kindergarten were also the hands that solved complex math problems. The same hands that pulled my hair back into a ponytail were also the hands that were used to point lost people towards their destinations. My hands developed relationships with other hands as they were also held by my parents. They also held the hands of those I love and wish to protect. My hands are often the medium for my heart, delivering and writing the messages from the depths of my heart to the words on paper. One may think that she fully controls her hands, but she does not realize the power that her hands hold. One simple touch of the hands from one friend to another during harsh times can soften the winds and calm the waters. One light touch of the hands to the face can spark a magical kiss between two lovers. Just as hands can convey a strong sense of love and affection, they can inflict an equal degree of damage. In anger, Americans like to show off “the finger.” Sometimes, the violent thoughts that reside in the darkest parts of our minds are delivered through violent actions that range from physical abuse
to homicide. A couple may be coming across a rough patch in their relationship, and in an attempt for one to distance himself from the other, he may not hold her hand while they are out on their regular Friday night dinner. In effect, she feels unloved and may question whether he really loves her or if he will continue to act so distant in all the future issues that may come their way. With one aggressive handshake, Latham failed his election. With one hand gesture, bones can be broken and hearts can be crushed. Our hands are a reflection of the current state of the heart and mind. We searched for hours. We were so sure you were with us, until we realized you were gone. In the midst of the throngs of tourists at Universal Studios, I sat on the ground, focused on tying my shoe. I was three. We were walking, and without a word I had bent down to tighten the loose laces. They kept walking without looking back. Hours later, my parents came rushing towards me, sweating and frantic, faces red with panic and breaths quick with fear. We laugh now, but back then, we were so terrified we lost you. Do you remember? We never let go of your hand for the rest of the day.
This is a list of the top 10 dirtiest things people touch, on average, every day: (1) Money; (2) Light Switch; (3) Computer Keyboard; (4) Cell Phone; (5) Toilet Seat; (6) Shopping Cart; (7) Remote Control; (8) Bathtub; (9) Kitchen Sink; and (10) Kitchen Sponge (“Dirtiest”). This list alone is a call for everyone to wash their hands. A lot.
WORKS CITED Berlin, Yana. “Beautiful Hands.” Fabulous 40. Fabulous40.com, 2008. Web. 09 Apr. 2012. “The Dirtiest Things You Touch Every Day.” Ranker. Freebase. Web. 09 Apr. 2012. The Handshake. Perf. Prime Minister and Mark Latham. 2010. YouTube. Humphrey, Bruce A. “Hands.” AuthorsDen.com. 27 Nov. 2006. Web. Li-Or. “Hand Holding: Meaning of Holding Hands.” SayWhyDoI.com. WordPress, 22 Feb. 2011. Web. “The Perfect Handshake: How to Shake Hands Like JFK and Make an Impression.” The Daily Mind. 2008. Web. Wilhelmi, MD, and J. Bradon. “Hand Anatomy.” MedScape Reference. WebMD LLC, 2012. Web. Wolfe, Lahle. “Business Etiquette: 10 Tips on How to Shake Hands With Confidence.” Women in Business. New York 56
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Times Company. Web.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS We are very grateful to Doug Hesse, Executive Director of the University Writing Program, for his continued enthusiastic support of WRIT Large and to Amy Kho for her diligence in managing the journal’s budget and printing process. We also deeply appreciate the editorial input offered by Carol Samson, David Daniels, and Blake Sanz. We extend our thanks to Hayes Trotter for his lovely cover design and to Lauren Picard for her fabulous design work throughout the journal. Finally, thank you to the newest members of our Editorial Board, Cydney Alexis, Whitney Harkness, Monica Heilman, Ellie Lindner, and Devon Varoz, who have helped us expand and enhance this year’s publication.
2012–2013 EDITORIAL BOARD Faculty Editors: Cydney Alexis, Liz Drogin, Megan Kelly, Heather Martin, & Juli Parrish Student Editors: Whitney Harkness, Monica Heilman, Ellie Lindner, & Devon Varoz
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