Tag Archives: Wall Street Journal

On the table, 7/28

Today I got to volunteer for a couple of hours at the Boys and Girls Club.  It was really awesome!  Those girls totally schooled me on playing pool!  They also, sadly, were out of ping-pong balls, so I’m going to donate some this week.  If you find yourself taking old board games to Goodwill, take them to your local youth club instead.

I have lots of stuff for you this week!  Here it goes:

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  • Christie Thompson at Ms. Blog argues that the new ads not only condescendingly argue that “strong women douche” (while adding to the tradition that vaginas are dirty), but also essentialize women by using racial stereotypes.
  • At AdWeek, Stan Richards explains Summer’s Eve’s defense: “After listening to thousands of women say they want straight-talk and lighthearted communication on a historically-uncomfortable topic, Summer’s Eve gave us license to be bold, irreverent and celebratory across a multitude of mediums and to different audiences….” [Read the rest of Tim Nudd’s article here.] 
  • Nudd later reported that in light of bad press, the company decided to pull the online videos: “Richards PR executive Stacie Barnett told Adweek that the criticism had begun to overshadow the message and goal of the larger campaign—to educate women about their anatomy and break down taboos in talking about it—and that the online videos had to go….” [Read on]

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  • Slut Walks
Slut Walk London

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  • Raymond Kwan at York Univesity’s student paper Excalibur describes how a Toronto cop told a group of college students women could deter rape by not dressing like a slut.
  • Needless to say, women have responded in droves in the form of Slut Walks – a march to decalre women’s “constitutional right to a freedom of expression and a freedom of assembly,” according to Slut Walk Toronto.com.
  • The movement has even expanded transnationally – making a profound impact in India says Nikita Garia at The Wall Street Journal.
  • Some feminists, however, have responded questionably.  Rebecca Traister at the NY Times makes a great argument: “To object to these ugly characterizations is right and righteous. But to do so while dressed in what look like sexy stewardess Halloween costumes seems less like victory than capitulation (linguistic and sartorial) to what society already expects of its young women. Scantily clad marching seems weirdly blind to the race, class and body-image issues that usually (rightly) obsess young feminists and seems inhospitable to scads of women who, for various reasons, might not feel it logical or comfortable to express their revulsion at victim-blaming by donning bustiers. So while the mission of SlutWalks is crucial, the package is confusing and leaves young feminists open to the very kinds of attacks they are battling….” [Read on]

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a battery of tests and evaluations to go through before it will again allow gay men to donate blood. As midsummer shortages hit the nation’s blood supply, BBJ health care reporter Julie Donnelly writes that the process should proceed expeditiously.  [Read more here.]

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See the video here, or read the transcript below.

“Every empire in history has either failed or faltered, but for some reason – be it our arrogance, our hubris, or our nationalism disguised as patriotism – we turn a blind eye to the growing chasm between the have gots and the have nots. One percent of the population owning and controlling more wealth than ninety percent of Americans, is both dangerous and unsustainable.  At the heart of the problem is political cowardice….” [Read on]

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Lost in Translation – The Power of Language in Pop Culture

I read this ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE article on the power of language.  As a historian in training you learn that history is, in fact, subjective – not objective – simply due to the power of words.  Events can be described any number of ways and the words chosen to describe these events have connotations.  Which is why many of us abhor textbooks.

Lera Boroditsky, professor of psychology at Stanford and editor in chief of Frontiers in Cultural Psychology, argues that language is crucial in determining causality:

“In addition to space and time, languages also shape how we understand causality. For example, English likes to describe events in terms of agents doing things. English speakers tend to say things like “John broke the vase” even for accidents. Speakers of Spanish or Japanese would be more likely to say “the vase broke itself.” Such differences between languages have profound consequences for how their speakers understand events, construct notions of causality and agency, what they remember as eyewitnesses and how much they blame and punish others.”

Here’s a segment from Boroditsky’s essay in the Wall Street Journal on the cultural influence of language.  Although most of the essay is on the use of language by different cultures, here Boroditsky explains the pop cultural significance of language using the example of Janet Jackson’s and Justin Timberlake’s controversial Superbowl performance in 2004.

In another study, English speakers watched the video of Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” (a wonderful nonagentive coinage introduced into the English language by Justin Timberlake), accompanied by one of two written reports. The reports were identical except in the last sentence where one used the agentive phrase “ripped the costume” while the other said “the costume ripped.” Even though everyone watched the same video and witnessed the ripping with their own eyes, language mattered. Not only did people who read “ripped the costume” blame Justin Timberlake more, they also levied a whopping 53% more in fines.

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Foxconn Worker Suicides

I’m finally back from China and now able to write on my blog!  I have some exciting and interesting blog posts to share in the near future.  Hold your horses.

In China I learned about the idea of “saving face.”  This idea of preventing embarrassment and shame governs most actions.  Our guidebooks even instructed us to not publicly embarrass a Chinese person, as it was a grave offense to do so.

Worker conditions in China aren’t so great either and the concept of fair trade is just emerging.  Combined with the Chinese work ethic and their need to save face, many workers, like those at Taiwanese company Foxconn, commit suicide in response to the intense pressure to succeed, poor working conditions, and just plain life struggles.

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This Wall Street Journal article elaborates on the current situation at Foxconn, “the world’s largest contract maker of electronic gadgets for brands such as Apple and Hewlett-Packard,” where eleven workers (900,000 total) have committed suicide by jumping to their deaths at work.  2 other workers attempted suicide but were unsuccessful.  In response to this suicide cluster, the company has put up nets around the building to prevent jumpers.

Shen/Bloomberg Workers walk outside Hon Hai Group's Foxconn plant in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China, on Wednesday, May 26, 2010. Gou said nine of the 11 company workers who either committed suicide or attempted to had worked at the company less than a year, and six had been employed for less than a half-year.

The opinion piece from Wall Street Journal encourages readers to view the story holistically by examining the cultural factors that influenced the deaths.  I agree with many of the points they listed:

“Foxconn’s factory employees tend to join the company at the age of 18 or 19, and stay for several years. So the atmosphere in its dormitories is akin to that of a large university, with the workers living away from home for the first time and encountering the usual new experiences…

China is in the midst of the largest and most rapid process of urbanization the world has ever seen. The creation of a “mass society” is often accompanied by adjustment difficulties, and the national suicide rate—14 per 100,000—is high by international standards. China’s rural youth often can’t rely on the support of parents, since that generation has little conception of the world their child is entering.

It’s true that Foxconn has done itself no favors with its past conduct. A young manager killed himself last July after an Apple iPhone prototype went missing, and his final messages to friends suggest he had been interrogated and beaten. In a separate incident the following month, the company confirmed its guards beat employees after the incident was caught on video. In 2006, after a Chinese newspaper reported that employees were being abused, a charge that was later shown to be false, Foxconn sued the two reporters personally and sought to have their assets frozen, provoking a public backlash against the company.”

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As joked about on Colbert Report (6:42), Foxconn has allegedly required workers to sign a “no-suicide pledge,” according to this NY Daily News article.  “The signed pledge also allows the company to send those displaying “abnormal emotional outbreaks” to psychiatric institutions, according to Taiwan’s CTI cable TV channel,” a 21-year-old employee told the South China Morning Post.

According to China Daily, Foxconn also raised its minimum wage this week from 900 yuan to 1,200 yuan per month (6.7 yuan to 1 US dollar) in all its mainland plants starting in June.

Bloomberg had a really fascinating article which included workers’ comments and a summary of the positive and negative conditions at Foxconn.  Read more here.

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