Bobby Jindal, Miley Cyrus, and getting older

Bobby and Miley


So I’ve been away for a while. Been a little busy, getting married, setting up a new apartment. As a result I really haven’t had the unadulterated stretches of time I really need to put up some posts. I’ve got a lot to write about, there is the NSA thing, the Trayvon Martin thing, Ballmer leaving Microsoft, my new phone… There is a lot to discuss, and I will soon. But enough teaser on with today’s post.

Earlier this week a friend had posted an article about governor Bobby Jindal. Jindal had written an oped on how we can achieve a post racial society. His suggestion, everyone should just behave more “American”:

Yet we still place far too much emphasis on our “separateness,” our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, etc. We live in the age of hyphenated Americans: Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Indian-Americans, and Native Americans, to name just a few.

Here’s an idea: How about just “Americans?” That has a nice ring to it, if you ask me. Placing undue emphasis on our “separateness” is a step backward. Bring back the melting pot.

First off, even if we accept his premise that racial tension will begin to disappear if we simply stop hyphenating our identities, Native American’s don’t belong on that list. Native Americans aren’t the foreigners needing to assimilate, we are! Regardless there is something perfectly absurd about the notion that hyphenating your racial identity makes you less American. Like I said I recently got married and my wife asked me if I wanted her to take my name or to hyphenate it. I told her it was up to her, how she cares to identify herself won’t make her any more or any less my wife. How African-Americans, Italian-Americans or any other hyphenated-Americans choose to identify themselves doesn’t make them any less american, or separate them from other hyphenated-Americans. Institutional Racism separates them. When people get denied loans because their last name is Garcia and their zip code isn’t 90210, that separates us. This is clear as day to me, and I suspect it is equally clear to Governor Jindal as well but he is appealing to a base that wants to deny that racism continues to exist all over this country.

Normally an article about how the republican party continues to enable racism wouldn’t warrant an article, but Disengage Autopilot is all about turning off your standard way of thinking so you can see things with a fresh set of eyes and see if your original thoughts still make sense. Recently though I caught myself just running on auto. I was talking to my wife about the Jindal article and we both agreed that it was absurd. However then we started talking Miley Cyrus at the VMA’s and I said that it was really inappropriate for her to perform that way because she’s just too young to be acting like that and it sends the wrong signal to guys. My wife, rightly, pointed out that as a feminist I should really re-think what I said. I was essentially saying that Miley was asking for it. I’m not and I was not, but the point is well worth emphasizing. It occurs to me that my chastising of Miley’s behavior is similar to Jindal’s of minorities. In a way I’m saying that Miley and other young women are instigating the unwanted, obnoxious, and abusive treatment they often receive from men in this society, kind of like Jindal was saying minorities instigate the racism they receive by identifying as Hyphenated-Americans.

Again I’m not and I wasn’t, but that’s autopilot for you. Our cultural norms give us ways to quickly respond to new situations and allow us to move through the day quickly, but sometimes it fails us, and as we grow older we acquire more of these norms. I’m sure 5 or 10 years ago I wouldn’t have even reacted to a performance like that at the VMA’s, in fact, there is always a performance like that at the VMA’s. MTV appeals to teen culture, and for young people still in search of their identity shock is the surest way to feel like an individual. As a result the VMA’s is always filled with “Shocking” performances. Now I’m old enough to be the father of a daughter, who I will eventually have to worry about becoming a young women, and I worry. I worry about our hyper-sexualized young women in popular culture and the image that sends to our little girls growing up. I don’t think there is anything wrong with sex, and I know my generation had greater access to effective contraceptives and prophylactics then my parents did, and I imagine the same will be true for my eventual teens. At the same time I have a problem with defining adulthood with sexualization. I didn’t become a man when I lost my virginity and while it was an important milestone to me at the time, now years later it’s much less important.  I don’t really have a problem with Miley Cyrus grinding on Robin Thicke, I have a problem with that really being the only kind of images of young women becoming adults in main stream media. If Miley wants to twerk let her twerk I don’t care I never have and never will listen to her music and this isn’t going to make me love or hate it any more. I just want there to be alternative images in the media of what it means to be a young woman. It’s a lot like “black culture” as defined by mainstream media. My problem is that it’s an incomplete picture at best and a distortion with negative consequences at worse.

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