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By now, most Americans are aware that a majority of Americans are afflicted with obesity and other related health problems. Often, people believe that the solution is quite simple: make healthier food choices. Take these anti-obesity ads, for instance. The implication of these ads is that parents “don’t care” enough to feed their children properly. Furthermore, children who opt for junk food are at fault for their health issues. Essentially, obesity is a personal matter which can be solved by making better choices, self-control, etc.

However, I don’t believe that people do not know that a piece of fruit is healthier than a bar of chocolate.  Indeed, it does not take a nutritionist with a P.H.D. to figure out that eat three meals a day at McDonald’s, 7 days a week, is not healthy. In other words, the problem is not lack of education or simply personal preference.  Rather, some Americans choose to eat unhealthy foods because they have no other option. For instance, the healthiest foods – such as organic, gluten-free, grass-fed meat, etc – are too expensive for many Americans to afford. Furthermore, many NYC neighborhoods (typically low-income) do not have grocery stores within walking distance, which make it difficult for elderly and those without cars to gain access to things as simple as fruit. In addition, street after street is often laden with fast-food restaurants, convenient stores, food carts, etc., which sell greasy foods with high sugar and fat contents. Ultimately, while it may be true that individual choice is a factor in today’s obesity epidemic, I contend that structural problems also contribute to growing rate of obese Americans. Therefore, I would like to raise awareness about the problem of unequal access to healthy foods.

Groups Members: Alverneq, Monika, Abe

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During the turbulent era of the ‘60s, “blue jeans were a feminist weapon against” the oppressive gender norms that many felt afflicted by (89). It was an “emblem of liberation” for many women who were limited to wearing “feminine” clothes.  However, as society progressed jeans began to lose its symbolic value and became mere commodity. Similarly, I don’t wear jeans as a symbol of freedom. Rather, jeans are merely clothes that are convenient to wear in any kind of weather. However, as Professor Ewen seemed to imply, while jeans allow women to utilize our physical bodies in ways dresses or skirts do not allow, they also constrict us in other ways. For example, sometimes girls were jeans that are skin-tight which may be not only restrictive, but also uncomfortable. Also, while wearing skirts and dresses can be viewed as succumbing to sexist ideologies of femininity, I often find that they are actually more comfortable than jeans because they are more lose (though they do come skin-tight as well).

Ultimately, I contend that giving symbolic meaning to clothing is dubious. Nonetheless, it cannot be ignored that clothing continues to carry significance. Indeed, jeans are no longer “the vestments of liberated women” in the twenty-first century (89).  Rather, it seems that the way for women to express “freedom” is by wearing the least amount of clothing. Apparently, it is reflective of the notion that women, like men, are sexual beings and should be free to express their sexuality.

– Tae Hee Koo

This picture represents feudalism in which there were a handful of wealthy elites and aristocrats who exploited the large peasant population. Feudalism was a social, economic, and cultural system. It was an agricultural society that relied on the labor of peasants. In feudal societies, peasants, who were illiterate, often blamed their poverty on God because the Church contended that inequality was God-ordained.  They believed that high social status and wealth were signs of God’s favor and did not question the status-quo.

Here is a funny scene from the “Holy Grail” that humorously illustrates peasant life in Feudalism: 

 

-Tae Hee Koo

Tae Hee Koo

via Google images

Frederick Douglass, Jose Yglesius, and Frankie Mae were all in positions of inferiority. Frederick Douglass was a slave who believed that he was “really well off” because he had a mistress who was “more akin to a mother” and a master who “was never cruel” to him (68). Jose Yglesias was one of the exploited cigarmakers in Tampa, Florida (82). Frankie Mae was an African-American girl who was discriminated against because of the color of her skin. It is quite clear that Yglesias was well aware of the oppression that he lived under. Indeed, he did not need the “well-intentioned leaflets of the communists to understand that [he was] hot and poor and tired… and that [his] employers [were] not” because he knew it through experience (82). Both Douglass and Mae, on the other hand, were oblivious to their reality until those in power who maintained the system of oppression helped bring them to consciousness. Douglass claimed that Mr. Hugh’s “antislavery lecture” that he gave to his wife “sunk like heavy weights deep into [his] heart and stirred up within [him] a rebellion.” He claimed that it “was a new and special revelation” (70). Mae realized that even education could not empower African Americans during her conflict with Mr. Junior who asserted that he would always be right and she would always be wrong (20).

via Google images

These victims of oppression reacted differently to enlightenment. Rather than oppose the system, Frankie Mae lost hope and did not bounce “back to her old bright eyed self.” She “lost interest” in school, stopped dressing well, and eventually died during childbirth (21). However, knowledge provoked both Douglass and Yglesius to rebel against the status quo. Douglass was “filled with the determination to learn to read at any cost.” In addition, he “frequently talked about” slavery, the “delicate subject” that was often avoided (72). Yglesius and the other cigarmakers went on a “reader’s strike” against “their employers who had forbidden men to read to them” (84).

via Google images

Similarly, in today’s society, many people have been utilizing the growth of social media to challenge authority and the existing systems of oppression. For instance, Russians used “Russian internet blogs and online media” to protest against the rigged, undemocratic elections. They called for “riots and a revolution” which authorities tried to suppress by attempting to shut-down their accounts (RIAWP). Social media also “played a vital role in shaping the political agenda of the Arab Spring.” It was used by many activists to spread ideas about democracy and freedom. Much like in Russian, the authorities tried to stifle the use of social media. For example, the internet was shut down in Egypt by the officials. However, this only caused greater revolt from the Egyptians who took their activism to the streets (DEM).

The media simply sells you stories, it’s up to you if you want to buy them.
But those narratives,
They’re are not always true
Some are misstated
others are straight-up fabricated
So cease to be gullible
and be a little skeptical
pop a question or two
‘til you find another view
now, do you still want it?
– Tae Hee Koo