#Hashtag #Ignorance

#BringBackOurGirls #BlackLivesMatter #ICantBreathe #WheresHony #YourHashtagsAreUseless #OrAreThey?

We’ve seen it play out so many times already. Something goes down and then its popularity on twitter goes up. A grand jury decides the man that shot Michael Brown isn’t guilty and the nation is united through three words attached to a pawn sign. A massive group of school girls were kidnapped in Nigeria last year and even our First Lady hopped on the hashtag activism bandwagon.

I recently read an article on the site Compare Afrique in which an administrator addressed the issues in Nigeria and the insane spread of #BringOurGirlsBack. The first paragraph states, “Simple question. Are you Nigerian? Do you have constitutional rights accorded to Nigerians to participate in their democratic process? If not, I have news you. You can’t do anything about the girls missing in Nigeria. You can’t. Your insistence on urging American power, specifically American military power, to address this issue will ultimately hurt the people of Nigeria.” The article goes on to explain how the hashtag craze is useless and possibly harmful. “When you pressure Western powers, particularly the American government to get involved in African affairs  and when you champion military intervention, you become part of a much larger problem. You become a complicit participant in a military expansionist agenda on the continent of Africa. This is not good.” After this, statistics and facts are whipped out, showing America’s involvement (which many considered failed and useless) with Africa. Remember back in 2012 when everyone was searching for Kony? Since then, over 100 American troops have been sent to search for him and HE HAS YET TO BE FOUND. 

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[The full Compare Afrique article can be found here: http://www.compareafrique.com/dear-americans-hashtags-wont-bringbackourgirls-might-actually-making-things-worse/ ]

Since we are on the topic of Kony, I want to describe my reaction to that event in history. I was a Senior in high school, didn’t pay much attention to the news but I received endless encouragement from my peers to tweet #KONY2012. I did it. Without knowing who the heck Kony was, or why any of us were looking for him, I used the hashtag. I wanted a t-shirt, I considered buying the bumper sticker and yet I still had little to no clue of what exactly the situation was. I was ignorant. This is the main idea of this post. I write this out because I do not want readers to think that I am focusing on these African issues and how we should or should not be involved. I am writing this to express how I’ve discovered that Hashtag Activism makes us feel like we’re doing something when (for the most part) WE ARE DOING NOTHING.

Hashtags work to connect people across the globe but can also serve as the instigators of conflict. When the verdicts of both the Michael Brown and Eric Garner case were revealed, it became absolutely impossible to escape the rants on facebook. We all have that friend who made themselves a judge and attacked someone who didn’t acknowledge the incident on social media, or the other friend who was pissed because some were using #AllLivesMatter rather than #BlackLivesMatter. The media response to the events was incredible and did unite many but it also broke us. Our desire to appear intelligent may have lead to an arrogance that made us feel as if we were entitled to criticize the media involvement of others, leading to unfriending people on facebook and in person. The most crucial necessity to fight the injustice brought by these two verdicts is unity and how is attacking one another on the internet uniting us? Those who felt their voice wasn’t being heard continued to put up statuses over and over again explaining why they will not stand down. I’m sorry, but sitting behind a computer screen (as I am right now) is just as useless as standing down if you’re not taking actions.

Hashtag activism makes us feel like better people while turning us into ignorant and uneducated members of our society.It is an excuse to not thoroughly educate ourselves about the issues and think that we actually made a difference by taking a selfie with a sign. I’m not saying this is the case for all of us. Hashtags do encourage some people to research what’s going, in several cases, it spreads (a very general) awareness. But the majority of us hop onto the bandwagon of “sacrificing” some of our 140 characters on Twitter and calling it a day. Reading Kim Kardashian’s meme on Instagram does not mean I am educated about the girls in Nigeria. Just because I know a few numbers does not qualify me to inform others. There is so much more to the subject that I am still trying to grasp, almost a year later. This is why I refuse to “fight” with my hashtags. Is Kim in Africa right now, working on ways to find those little girls? Is it even possible for her to help those little girls? The answer is no. She simply encouraged her 14 million followers to “double tap” for support. This is the case for several celebrities. With their spotlight, they are expected to assist certain causes and many of them do so with the minimum effort of tweeting a hashtag.

The use of hashtags can spread awareness. It can bring a community together and encourage prayers for the group of children taken to heaven far too early last year. It can help Venezuela inform their neighbor countries of the support they need to fight the injustice they face. But hashtag activism and internet opinions should not be a substitute for actual activism. It should not be enough for us to feel satisfied with ourselves. It should not be done without being informed. It should not be done simply because everyone else, including Michelle Obama, is doing it.

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Go beyond the popularity or timing of the hashtag. Venezuela still has some problems.  Ukraine is still having a hard time. But we’re not worrying much about that because none of our social media is. We need to stop with the ignorance and trends and instead thoroughly educate ourselves on issues and what we should do to fix them. #DoSomeResearch, ya heard?

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MIA: The Ultimate Hip Hop Hybrid

Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, better known as her stage name, M.I.A. is a  rapper and UK native of Sri Lankan Tamil decent. The moniker, which stands for “Missing in Action” is a reference to her nomadic childhood in which she traveled according to her father’s political participation in the fight for Tamil independence.  Her music is considered Hip Hop but technically serves as a genre of its own. The absurd layers of beats she combines in each track come from several different parts of the world such as Africa, Asia, India and the United States. Her lyrics often pertain to political movements and the oppressed. Her first album was released in London yet after dropping the track “Paper Planes,” a song discussing the immigrant struggle to obtain visas, her audience expanded globally.

Although her music alone is a blend of multiple cultures, M.I.A.’s visual art has traveled globally as an example of hybridity too.  M.I.A creates her own album covers and music videos. The designs are chaotic and unorganized, often as an abstract representation of a political topic of focus.

The artwork for the album Kala, which was named after M.I.A.'s mother ,was created with a variation of color to portray the various places M.I.A. recorded its tracklist.

The artwork for the album Kala, which was named after M.I.A.’s mother ,was created with a variation of color to portray the different cultural influences.

The album Kala, which featured the single “Paper Planes,” was named after M.I.A.’s mother. The rapper described the album as feminine, saying it revolved around her mother’s and other immigrant women’s struggles to survive and adapt to new countries. The variety of colors were chosen to represent the numerous places M.I.A. created the tracklist in. Her inspiration was rooted in trips to India, Jamaica and Australia. She even teamed up with producer Timbaland, who added in more hip hop beats. This gained her an audience in the United States. The shapes and patterns are similar to those used on clothing in many of the states mentioned.

The artwork of the album Maya was intended to represent a "digital ruckus" overtaking the world. Much of the beats of the album include technical sounds such as typing and clicks.

The artwork of the album Maya was intended to represent a “digital ruckus” overtaking the world. Much of the beats of the album include technical sounds such as typing and clicks.

The album Maya, focuses on the uprising of technology. The lyrics discuss  the benefits,  limitations and different processes of technology in different cultures. The album’s artwork, which features M.I.A.’s face covered by video scroll bars, represents what the rapper describes as “digital ruckus.” It appears that the scroll bars surround her eyes as a burka would, giving homage to her decent and other Muslim cultures.

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DBT still of duckface selfie.

M.I.A.’s most recent self-directed music video, “Double Bubble Trouble” includes people of different skin tones and cultural backgrounds. One thing that they all have the same is guns in their hands. No explanation has been given for the imagery but it can be assumed that the video implies that ironically, violence is a unifier. War is something almost all cultures and countries share. Along with that, each group of people is shown “acting out” in some way. Three white couples are making out in front of elevators. A little girl, who looks Hispanic, is taking duck face selfies. A black girl is twerking on top of a table. Another masked group blows smoke bubbles into the camera. Mixed within these scenes are people of all races holding guns up or inspecting them in some way.

She includes different sets of matching people. Some appear to be from India, another pair looks biracial. They are all different from one another but similar within their groups and similar to each other in the fact that they have groups they belong to.

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A Muslim woman wears a burka with the image of a white girl smiling on it.

In the middle of the video, females are shown wearing burkas with images of white girls smiling. The image makes viewers take a double take. The merging of American culture and the burka can represent the desire for something other than tradition. Women who wear burkas could wish they were allowed to show their smiles as American women do. The image could also be defensive. Burkas are worn in fashion ads for fun, without value of the beliefs behind the style. The graphic on the burka could be a way for Muslim women to retaliate towards those that imitate them.

The video is confusing and unorganized, switching from scene to scene with no transition or concrete story line. The random ideas and people are all merged into 4 minutes of craziness. This is a representation of what M.I.A. is, a hybrid. Her art is prime hybridity, portraying what she desires in society: a merging of cultures and global understanding amongst the people. Her music and visuals encourage the unity of different cultures and show values all people can relate to like violence, and partying and growing up.

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DBT still. 

At one point in the video, M.I.A. stands with the repeated image of the words “Yes we scan” circling her. This is a pun, since all of the guns in the video are actually 3D printed, but it alludes to the typical phrase, “yes we can.” Just as all the different people of the video can create these weapons, they can relate to one another. The brief moment shows her hope and motivation to use her creativity to encourage unification. She is the ultimate hip hop hybrid working towards global awareness by doing what she loves.

The full “Double Bubble Trouble” video can be watched below.

Works Cited:

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/artists/m-i-a/biography

http://www.miauk.com/matangi

The Development of the Typical Latina on Spanish and English Networks

What comes to mind when one envisions the typical Latina? We’re sassy but we’ll take whatever from the man we love so passionately, right? We have hourglass bodies and long dark hair, yeah? We can dance, cook and clean because we come from generations of domesticated females, don’t we? We can tell you about our “native” land because our caramel colored skin implies we were born in a country on the south side of the globe, doesn’t it?  You dread our family functions because we have thousands of cousins and reproduce like rabbits, don’t we? We’re obnoxious, dramatic and loud with bad grammar but that’s ok because our “accents” are sexy, jes (that’s me saying yes)?

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Sofia Vergara plays Gloria on ABC’s “Modern Family.” Gloria is a Latina with a thick accent and “spicy” attitude from a small, violent city in Colombia. She marries Jay, an older white man who loves her despite her crazy moments and outspoken personality.

I use the word “we” because I am, indeed, a Latina.

A proud Puerto Rican to be exact.

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Me shamelessly boasting the flag of my family’s island before the 2012 Puerto Rican Day Parade in Hartford, CT.

Jennifer Lopez stars as Selena Quintanilla in the Mexican Tejano singer’s 1997 biopic. Selena was proficient, not fluent, in Spanish. The film is one of few examples that show not all Latinas thoroughly know the language.

I admit I am an accurate example of some of the stereotypes mentioned above, many Latinas are, but they’re not all the perfect fit. We’re not all as sexy as Salma Hayek and JLo, some of us can’t make a pot of rice and beans and many of us don’t know fluent Spanish or have ever stepped onto the land of our ancestors. I visited Puerto Rico for the first time when I was 19 and still struggle to hold a conversation with my Grandpa without switching to English mid-sentence.

So who created these images of us? The ones that make men wish we’d call them “Papi?” The answer: we did…and everyone else has gone along with it.

The Latino media industry is drenched with common Latina stereotypes. The telenovela world features nothing but women who fit the description explained in my first paragraph and they are usually submissive to their men. More recently, Spanish networks like Telemundo, have begun to give female characters more substance, such as a career other than being a maid or housewife. Even with this though, men have the control and women want them so bad that they risk their lives for them.

A still television advertisement for “Más Sabe El Diablo” featuring (from left to right) Miguel Veroni as Martín, Jencarlos Cruz as Ángel and Gaby Espino as Manuela.

Más Sabe El Diablo, a 2009 telenovela, revolves around a love triangle with the beautiful fierce lawyer, Manuela Dávila, at the center. She is engaged to an older mobster named Martín and is defending a thief with a good heart, Ángel. Long story short, Ángel and Martín have some street beef so Martín wants Ángel dead but, Manuela falls in love with Ángel and ends up pregnant with his baby while she’s still engaged to Martín. She leaves Martín, he confronts Ángel and then dies in a car accident. A few months later, Manuela has her baby with her good hearted, ex-con boyfriend and they live happily ever after. Also, Ángel turns out to be Martín’s son (that has nothing to do with the stereotypes we are focusing on but I thought I’d share the fun fact).

Does Manuela look like a lawyer to you in this photo?

Manuela is probably a powerful woman with a good education yet the telenovela focuses solely on her beauty and weakness for bad boys.

English networks have adopted this stereotype. One of the most prominent examples being Sofia Vergara’s character, Gloria, on ABC’s Modern Family. Gloria is a sexy Latina native of a small, murder capital city in Colombia. She is a stay-at-home wife married to an older white man, Jay, who loves her despite her crazy schemes and outspoken attitude. Gloria’s trademark is her large chest and thick accent. Aside from jokes strung throughout the series, each of these aspects of Gloria are a primary focus for individual episodes.

Sofia Vergara has discussed her character in many interviews and has said that she developed Gloria off of both her mother and sister. Critics have called it over the top and super sexual but she repeatedly defends it as a “shoutout” to Latinas everywhere. There has also been some speculation surrounding the veracity of her accent but Vergara admits she tried to change it and, instead, decided to embrace it. Her decision to take on this character has pleased some Latinas who find it funny and heart warming, but others find it offensive and believe it encourages the false, stereotypical representation of all Latinas.

As a Latina, I do enjoy Vergara’s character as she resembles some qualities of the women in my family. As a new generation Latina though, I believe this stereotype needs to be cracked, not just for the sake of creating new images of modern Latinas, but also to help break physical expectations. The typical Latina image has pushed some Hispanic women to alter themselves through plastic surgery and extreme dieting just so they can be the sexy female that men lust so badly. The image of a Latina needs to stop being one and instead, be a variety; a variety that covers the many shapes, colors, and experiences of the thousands of women with Hispanic heritage.

We all have different histories. We all have different goals. We all look different.

Our identity cannot be summed by one image anymore.

Citations:

http://msnlatino.telemundo.com/novelas/Mas_Sabe_el_Diablo/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/02/sofia-vergara-gloria_n_4030338.html