Hunger Games looks into the future

With Catching Fire coming on DVD soon (yay!) and the film world abuzz about the next Hunger Games movie coming out in December, Mockingjay: Part 1, the Hunger Games has been on my mind a lot. Spoiler alert: this post will reveal parts of the story.

Katniss Everdeen is one of my favorite heroines in any novel I’ve ever read. It’s particularly enlightening to see such a strong female role model for the trilogy’s teenage audience. But what I like most about the Hunger Games how the books implicates modern politics and gives way for strong female characters.

In the story, Panem is a post-apocalyptic version of our society, divided into twelve (initially thirteen) districts run by the Capitol. In Catching Fire, we discover that the thirteenth district, initially thought to be defunct, has gone underground and is planning an attack on the Capitol to overthrow the totalitarian government.

Katniss Everdeen is used as a sort of figurehead for the revolution, motivating the other districts to stand against the Capitol and to boost morale. But Katniss’ strength, intelligence and diligence makes her a real-life figurehead for the modern feminist movement. She’s a lead female hero, a soldier and a de facto leader. Despite her initial reluctance, she becomes a key player in the overthrow of the Capitol.

The politics of Panem has clear parallels to that of our society. The  revolutionary group does not have a purely democratic objective. The president of District 13, Alma Coin, wants to take over the Capitol and form a republic, but Katniss (and the reader) detects other motives as well. Once it is revealed that Alma Coin ordered the hit on the Capitol that killed Katniss’s sister and plans to keep the Hunger Games going, Katniss realizes that Alma’s motives are no better than President Snow’s. She kills Alma Coin, and another character, the district 8 leader Commander Paylor, becomes the leader of the new government of Panem.

There are subtleties within the novels that should be praised, mainly in the portrayal of the female characters. The leadership throughout the novel is predominantly female. Because their is minimal discussion about the somewhat unconventional situation, a sense of normalcy is placed on the issue.

This communicates the notion that women as head of state is normal, not unconventional (Katniss the figurehead, Alma Coin the revolutionary leader and Paylor the eventual president of Panem). This is important because it explores possibilities of female leadership beyond what we currently believe is possible. Without even trying, Suzanne Collins gave us a glimpse into a future of a new social structure.

Sheryl Sandberg On Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders (from the Huffington Post)

Sheryl Sandberg On Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders (from the Huffington Post)

Did you know that in 2008, women lost seats in Congress for the first time in thirty years? I didn’t. Watch Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg’s TED Talk on female leaders by clicking on the link above.

Make or break: how abortion shapes the careers of female politicians

Abortion is a controversial topic that everyone has an opinion about. The option to terminate a pregnancy (or a life, whichever you believe) raises numerous ethical and legal questions that no one seems to be able to agree on. 

The perception of the word has a lot to do with what side of the argument people align themselves with. A part of agenda setting is presenting the opposing position in a negative light in hopes of persuading people to the more “positive” side (which is relative to what side you’re on). Using phrases that express a negative view of a positive word, like anti-life or anti-choice, places a negative connotation on the opposing point of view. If you succeed in placing your opposition in a negative light, then you can effectively add a sense of credibility to your own stance.

Most pro-lifers perceive abortion as a selfish, inhumane act. Generally, pro-lifers believe that life begins at conception, and to terminate a pregnancy is to terminate a life. For people who take the pro-life stance, having a choice is not an argument because they believe the choice lies with the baby. Rather than pro-choice, pro-life activists typically call the opposition pro-abortion or anti-life. This is intended to support the assumption that people who are pro-choice are heartless or self-centered in their decisions. Memes that go along with this notion tend to look like the ones below.

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Pro-Life1

 

On the other hand, there are people who take a pro-choice stance on abortion. In general, people who are pro-choice tend to believe either that life does not begin at conception and is therefore morally sound, or that regardless of a individual’s beliefs the overall right to perform an abortion is protected by the right to privacy and freedom of religion and therefore should be made legal. Pro-choicers do not believe that they are arguing for abortion itself, but rather the choice to legally perform one. Rather than pro-life, pro-choice people tend to refer to their opposition as anti-choice or anti-feminism/women. This is intended to support the assumption that pro-lifers’ beliefs are based on religion and misogynistic influence. Memes associated with this idea tend to take this form:

But what do these messages do?

Regardless of what side you’re on, these messages have a similar effect on its audience. For people firm in their beliefs, the negative images of their opposition only serve to reaffirm their beliefs. Additionally,  the negative images of their own beliefs are simply written off as foolishness or ignorance.

But these messages are not intended for the firm of belief. They are made for the uniformed or the undecided person, because those are the people that can most easily be persuaded. For those on the fence of this issue, these images are intended to give the audience an undesirable feeling about the opposing position. By making someone feel guilty or dirty about what they’re seeing (or reading or hearing), a person’s on-the-fence beliefs can be redirected to a respective side. 

This isn’t new science. This method is used for almost every issue you can think of. However, the problem that occurs with the issue of abortion is that the judgment gets placed on the woman rather than the issue at hand. Pro-choice women are usually judged as selfish, cold-hearted women with a weak sense of humanity. Pro-life women are usually judged as close-minded, overly religious women with a lack of insight.

This is alarming for both sides because it places unfair stereotypes on women; how a woman stands on abortion can determine how that woman is viewed. This in turn places an unfair disadvantage on women in politics. From pro-lifer Sarah Palin to pro-choicer Wendy Davis, their views of abortion have shaped the way they are portrayed on a political platform.

This is concerning because it suggests that women only go as far as their uteri. If, despite everything else a woman politician can accomplish, all that concerns their character is what side they take on abortion, then there is a problem. There is a problem with the public opinion of female leaders and there is definitely a problem with how the media shapes a female politician’s character. Women are limited to that single belief and it is unfair communication.

 

 

World War Wendy

Texas senator Wendy Davis made headlines last summer when she conducted an 11 hour long filibuster in an effort to block a bill enforcing more strict abortion regulations. It didn’t take too long for her to gain notoriety, and subsequently come under fire for everything conservatives could think of.

Let’s begin with Abortion Barbie. This clever nickname was bestowed upon her by journalist Erik Erickson in a tweet in response to the filibuster. Though he came under fire for it (from the “leftist media” by his accounts), he was unapologetic, instead suggesting MSNBC give her a pair of tampon earrings.

More recently, Dallas Morning News political writer Wayne Slater sought to correct some of the fallacies in Wendy Davis’ autobiography. In the article, he proposes that Wendy Davis’ trailer park livin’, young single mother backstory is just a façade that Wendy uses. Quoting an anonymous source, Slater suggests that “She’s not going to let family or raising children or anything else to get in her way,” effectively saying that Wendy Davis put her political aspirations over her children.

The onslaught of responses after the article was published included calling Wendy a liar and a bad mother, suggesting (or outright saying) that she was an inadequate mother. What bothered me most about the bad mother comments was the general insinuation that being an ambitious woman and being a good mother are mutually exclusive pursuits.

These systematic attacks against women alarm me because they tend to shift the focus from her actual platform. After all, studies have shown that sexist insults can have a negative impact on the campaigns of female candidates.

Unless that’s the point. If keeping strong women out of major offices is the goal, then shifting the focus towards their personal lives would be the way to do it. If the phrase “ambitious woman” can be placed synonymously with “bad mother,” then you’re job is halfway done with conservatives. If you can do a job of making single mothers feel bad, then you can effectively tarnish Davis’ credibility with a lot of other groups as well.

In my opinion, I believe intimidation plays a major role in the motives of the anti-Wendy campaign. Wendy has become a strong contender in the race for Texas governor and therefore poses a real threat to the current administration. She is targeting an often ignored, but strong in numbers, demographic and she really resonates with their everyday lives. This is so contrary to ultra-red, gun-toting politics familiar to the Lone Star State. So the natural approach would be to target the main selling point of Davis’ campaign: her integrity. The only problem with that is that it’s so obvious and, I believe, won’t work in the long run.

Apple: can they go on?

Steve Jobs’ death created a gray cloud of skepticism that still looms over the heads of many Apple fans today. He was the heart of Apple, and is the reason why it has become the technology giant that it is.

He was known not only as the face of Apple, but going deep into the details of each product that Apple creates. This was reflected in how they marketed Apple.

Apple’s glory days included characteristically simple ads, from the famous “1984” commercial to the cool guy “Get a Mac” campaign of the 2000s. Apple ads may be simple, but they’ve always been able to make a big point with a small statement: we can relate.

Today, Apple seems to be struggling with this. Their new “Designed by apple” online campaign is self-serving and a little condescending. Using pretty colors to “wow” consumers into submission changed Jobs’ idea of simple into “even a monkey can do it.”

Their campaigning has also fallen to the waist side. Boring us with cliché’s (for the colorful, from a whole new perspective, etc.) is more characteristic of a bad public service announcement than one of the most powerful companies in the world. Their television ads are so bad, Microsoft decided to make a campaign out of making fun of them.

This may seem like an old topic, as Jobs’ pass was a couple of years ago, but the advent of iOS 7 and its mixed reviews created a renewed concern over Apple’s direction. If they want to stave off rising competitors like Samsung, Apple is going to have to channel their inner Steve Jobs and go back to basics in their campaigning.

Tim Cook definitely has some work to do.

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(What perspective? We still look at the phone the same old way.)

Another opinion on this: http://www.theguardian.com/global/media-network-blog/2013/jul/17/apple-indulgent-life-steve-jobs

My thoughts on the government shutdown/first post

happy first post to me!

Before I start off on my rant-like opinions, I should probably give an idea of I how feel about Congress as whole regarding how it is supposed to work.

A two-party system was created with the thought that both sides could come to a compromise. Republicans and Democrats each bring both sides of an argument to the table and Congress’ job is to create legislation that recognizes both points of view to provide a universal solution. Going back to the Articles of Confederation, the idea has always been that legislature provides at least some form of a middle ground to provide at least quasi-satisfaction on both sides.

Today, as we are represented by a Congress that no one likes, (polls are showing an all time low 10 percent approval rating) most of us are asking what the problem is. My answer is a general lack of compromise. Though this unwillingness to lean over can be seen on both sides of the line, republicans are more to blame in regards to the government shutdown. As the majority vote in the House of Representatives, it was their job to vote on a resolution that would satisfy the needs of our oversized federal budget (another post for another day). Instead of doing this, however, a few key players in the Republican Party-namely, Ted Cruz and his band of loyal followers-put pressure on republicans in the House to use our federal budget as a means to defund the Affordable Care Act. Under pressure, republicans followed suit and are not only responsible for a shutdown of the federal government, but also what could be The Great Depression Part 2 if the debt ceiling isn’t raised by October 17.

So, who’s to blame for all this? I think that question has an obvious but also complicated answer. Obviously, republicans in the House failed to put up the votes for a CR, resulting in roughly 800,000 federal workers getting sent home, and thousands still forced to work but essentially getting an IOU from the fed govt for their pay checks. But what about the Tea Party? This almost unbelievably radical conservative group has had an immense influence on republican policy; they are definitely the reason why John Boehner is so hesitant to give in to Obama’s pleas. And history proves that radical tactics never work out in the long run (MODERATION IS KEY). Because they let the Tea Party whisper dirty little things in their ear, republicans are in a bind that looks pretty hard for them to get out of. One the one hand, if they give in they might lose Tea Party votes. On the other, if they don’t give in their chances of keeping their seats next year are slim to none. The entire House goes up for election next year and as polls begin to show a wavering support for republican representatives among conservative voters, their band to stick together seems like a moot point.

Along with that, pride seems to be a big deal among some key players in the House (*cough*Boehner*cough*). With Boehner saying stuff like “extortion” and “unconditional surrender” and calling Obama but not giving any real idea of what his plans are, I can only conclude that Boehner is being a giant baby. I mean, come on man. I know the Tea Party is on your pant leg but you need to be a man and actually do what the Constitution is paying for you to do. Instead of name calling, bring a bill up for vote in the House. Because more than enough House republicans have gone on record saying they will vote to pass a clean bill, there should be no problem getting it through. Then it’ll sail through the Senate and Obama can sign it and America can continue to reap the benefits of our federal taxes. Not that hard. And as far as the Tea Party, they are losing their steam fast. It’s better to hop off that train before it comes to a brutal stop and your career follows. We are now at the point where republicans finally are starting to lose faith in false prophets (oops I meant the Tea Party) and are starting to realize these tactics don’t work and the only way to legislate is through compromise.

In the words of a republican representative whose name escapes me at 2:00 a.m., Congress needs to start doing the job it is paid to do. Republican congressmen need to work on bringing back the once dignified party out of the laughing stock at which it presently resides.