Saturday, May 24, 2008

Watch Your Step

Hey! I'm back! It's been a long absence and it's not that I haven't thought of things to blog about, it's just that I haven't had to time to form a coherent response (see several previous entries - What was I talking about?). So, here I am now, to chastise enlighten you about stepfamilies and the terms used to describe them.

First, since I was last actively active with my blog (let's say Winter 2007), I have applied, been accepted and completed my first year of school as a Master's student in Critical Studies in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. I have also moved in with my boyfriend and his 3 kids, so the concept of the stepfamily is something very personal for me.

Before I became part of a stepfamily, I never thought twice about using the term, "stepchild" to refer to the overlooked branch of some field of inquiry - such as "for years crochet was the neglected stepchild of the fiber world." OK, so that usage is kinda funny, but only because it's about crochet and "the fiber world." However, I suppose the humor I find in yarnwork raises its own ethical dilemma, but we'll save that for another post - when my grandma is in town (sorry, I couldn't resist). Now that I am part of a stepfamily, I find the derogatory usage of the term, "stepchild," not only offensive, but personally hurtful. My stepchildren are certainly not neglected, not by any of their parents - biological or step. I also never really noticed how often and offhandedly it is used. Like the good academic that I am, in preparing for this post, I visited Google Scholar and typed in "stephchild" and "term." I found an article from the journal, Marriage and Family Review, titled, "How Society Views Stepfamilies." A lot of it is pretty obvious, especially for those of you who may be part of a stepfamily. The authors, Lawrence H. Ganong and Marilyn Coleman, argue that, in relation/contrast to the ideology/ideal of the nuclear family, the stepfamily is seen as an "incomplete institution" haunted by "stigma."

Ganong and Coleman argue that this stigma is furthered by the derogatory use of stepfamily terms, most notably "stepchild." The also state that the use of these terms in a derogatory manner, referring to "someone or something that is abused, neglected, or unwanted" as a "stepchild," is not only metaphorical, but actually supported by standard dictionary definition. The OED online cites, "orphan," as the first listing under the word, "stepchild." Like my jokingly inappropriate remark above about crochet, the use of the term "orphan" in a derogatory manner is another issue which should be further explored. Not a standard dictionary, but indicative of popular usage of terms, the Urban Dictionary, gives usage suggestions for the term red-headed stepchild, all of which are very derogatory.

In one of Ganong and Coleman's final sections of their article, "What Can Be Done?" the authors suggest that, "Avoidance of terms with negative connotations may help to reduce negative attitudes and expectations. The term ‘‘stepchild’’ used as a metaphor for something that is unwanted or abused should be considered as inappropriate to use to illustrate a point as a racial or ethnic slur would be." I feel that all that is needed, in most cases, is for people to be aware of the term as hurtful to those people who are part of a stepfamily. If you are in a situation where you would use the term in a metaphorical and/or derogatory manner, stop and consider whether anyone you are addressing may be part of a stepfamily and realize that your comment may hurt them. And, more importantly, realize that your use of the term in a metaphorical and/or derogatory manner serves only to reinforce the negative connotation and stigma of the stepfamily, which is probably not something that most people care to do. Like Ganong and Coleman suggest, think of the metaphorical and/or derogatory use of stepfamily terms as you would racial or ethnic slurs - in this sense, their use would not be acceptable.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I have more labels than posts. Is that bad? Is it good? How did that happen? Can I hide some of them? I'm a little embarrassed by it actually. It makes me seem very obsessive, which I guess I am as I'm already thinking about labels I should use for this post: labels, self-reflexivity, ...

I'm going to see if I can hide some of these labels now. I don't have a problem with labels, they're good for searching, it just doesn't make any sense to sort my 25 posts by my 30 some labels.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Making a Point

My boyfriend just said something to me, in relation to my arguments, that is particularly interesting, they (my arguments) are "always already almost there," or was it "almost always already there?"

Either way . . . back to work!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A different kind of lament

Diedrich's at UCI is closing soon, but they just started charging for ice water, refills of hot water for tea, and refills of iced tea and drip coffee. I don't get it. How much do they think they are going to make in a just a few months at 25 cents a cup of ice water and 50 cents a refill?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Video Obituaries?

Since Art Buchwald, famously humorous columnist for The Washington Post, pased away last month, there has been much buzz around the subject of "online video obituaries." This is because his was the first in a (proposed?) series of online video obituaries launched on The New York Times. These obituaries are supposedly part of a series called, "The Last Word." "The Last Word" is the work of Tim Weiner. Weiner conducted the Buchwald video obituary as an interview and says he's conducted others and has plans for more but is keeping it all secret until, well, until the death of his interviewees.

I'm blogging about this because it obviously relates to MyDeathSpace. I'm not exactly sure what to say about all this - I don't have any theories to offer you, I'm just pointing out connections and raising questions: Will online video obituaries will become popular with normal/non-famous people? Who would conduct the interviews? The people themselves? If this does become popular, would it only be among older or terminally ill people? Or, would younger, healthy people start doing the same (just in case)? Maybe people already do this . . . I guess I've got some research to do . . .

Friday, February 02, 2007

Mandatory Vaccines?

What is behind this whole mandatory vaccine thing? Before I moved my blog to blogger, I posted a bit about immunizations on October 12, 2006. I basically pointed out that the former CEO of Merck, Raymond Gilmartin, gave money to Texas Congressman Henry Bonilla, an advocate of "Shots Across Texas," a campaign to immunize all Texas' infants, a campaign which was triggered by a measles outbreak, and it just so happens that Merck makes two of the most popular measles vaccines on the market.

Now, an article that ran in yesterday's New York Times reports on a new Texas campaign for the mandatory inoculation of all 11 & 12 year old girls with Gardasil, a Merck vaccine that prevents against 4 (6, 11, 16, 18) of the over one hundred total types of human papillomavirus (HPV). The article hints at the political and financial conflicts of interest, but other articles from various sources have detailed the issue and similar pieces of legislature in other states.

About Gardasil and HPV: Gardasil only works in women, so man cannot directly benefit from the vaccine. HPV is a virus that causes warts. HPV can cause genital warts and lead to cervical and vulvar cancers in women, penile cancer in men, and anal, head and neck cancers in men and women. HPV is considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD) because about 30 types are transmitted through sexually contact. So, even though the majority of HPV types are transmitted through casual contact (70+ casually transmitted:about 30 sexually transmitted), HPV is still considered a STD.

Of the 4 types of HPV that Gardasil protects against, 2 (6 & 11) are known to cause 90% of the cases of genital warts while the other 2 (16 & 18) belong to a group of 8 (16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45 & 51) "high risk" types, where "high risk" indicates association with cervical cancer. So, even if a woman (or girl) is vaccinated, she can still become infected with any of the other approximately 24 types of sexually transmitted HPV or 70+ types of casually transmmitted HPV; she can still get warts or cancer. Merck states this point through their advertising of Gardasil, but is the point really getting across? Will Gardasil really be taken as an extra precaution against sexually transmitted HPV, or will it be taken as a substitute for other precautions such as safe-sex and regular medical screenings? Gardasil's marketing campaign slogan is "One Less," used to mean that through Gardasil you or your daughter could be one less case of cervical cancer. I think this marketing campaign makes people think that Gardasil immunizes you against cervical cancer itself, rather than only 1/4 of the types of HPV associated with cervical cancer. And, for that reason, I think people will use Gardasil as a substitute for other precautionary measures.

Aside from the problematic political and financial ties and the perception of total immunity, there are major issues regarding gender, power, control, etc. going on with this legislation. With all these issues running through my mind, I wonder, has someone written an anthropology of the vaccine? I can't find a definitive body of work on the subject, only case studies. Any suggestions on some good articles or books?

More S.S.P.

S.S.P. = Shameless Self Promotion

I have been ivited to present at the Critical Studies Graduate Student Conference
at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. The conference theme is Deaths of Cinema My title is "MyDeathSpace and Cinema: Reconfiguring Life Through Memorials." Here's my abstract:

    The popular social networking website MySpace contains over 100 million profiles, some of which belong to deceased users. In January of 2006, MyDeathSpace was launched. MyDeathSpace is a website which chronicles deceased MySpace users in conjunction with newspaper obituaries and stories submitted by friends and family; posts include links to users' MySpace profiles. When a MySpace user dies, friends and family members can submit requests to MySpace to have their late acquaintances profiles deleted from the site or to gain access to their profiles to maintain them as memorials.

    The use of MySpace profiles as memorials evokes the concepts of death and cinema on several levels: first, the memorials revolve around the deaths of individuals; second, the profiles represent the online and popular appropriation of sound and visual images by amateur content creators. This appropriation employs cinematic techniques in traditionally non-cinematic structures and spaces. Although it would seem that the death of cinema is revealed through these memorials, this paper argues that these memorials do not signify the deaths of persons or cinema, but rather the reconfiguration of the lives of each.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I just asked for a copy of the paper

I got this:

from Mike Wesch, who I met at AAA. I emailed Mike asking for a copy of the paper he presented at AAA, and I got this video instead. It's pretty much the coolest video ever, so good that I had to blog about it, even though I don't have time to write something more eloquent about it because I've been sick and I need to go to bed.