Sunday, December 13, 2009

MySpace and Facebook: Friendship, New Identities and Love is Just a Click Away

“At this very moment, on Facebook alone ,over 200 million people around the world are logged in, updating their status, interacting with friends, interacting with brands, providing valuable information for you to be able to understand them better, and learning about you in return” (Shih, 4). This site along with MySpace, Twitter, and blogs allow for people to connect with others all throughout the world with the click of a mouse. Today the internet gives us endless possibilities, and practically anyone can create an account on these sites. Whether this is considered to be a good thing or a bad thing is debatable. People in the 20th century are now becoming completely dependent on technology, the internet; emailing, texting and sites like MySpace/Facebook as a means for communication, creating new identities, as well as opening the doors for online dating, relationships and a means for finding love.

The MySpace and Facebook community have become just as diverse as its users. Some people resort to these sites for dating, friend network, reconnecting with old friends, music, or just a means of talking to people you wouldn’t typically talk to. These sites do have their differences; MySpace is aimed toward more high school aged audiences and Facebook is more college and business oriented. In reality people of all ages are using both sites; the founder of MySpace Tom Anderson says “70 percent of MySpace users are over the age of 18” (Gordon, 2009). It might be the basic idea of being able to personalize your profile and being able to see and write to people you know or strangers you just met, which draws users of all ages. Facebook is marketed to look more professional. Everyone has the same profile the only thing that varies is the information found on each profile; it almost resembles a resume. You look at a Myspace profile and the idea is to be able to get a sense of what that person is about; it is like you are the subject of art piece on your profile, on display for others to view.

“The internet is imagined as a space in which we are able to communicate freely with one another across the divisions of class, race, nationality, gender, language and geography. Heaven indeed” (Barker, 348). MySpace and Facebook both allow for users to go beyond these barriers and create their own identity. Profiles allow users to create an image they feel more comfortable with, which may be completely different from the image they choose to portray on a daily basis. “Cyberspace is a domination of playful identity construction where anything is possible” (Barker, 349). Anyone can go online and choose what information they want to reveal about themselves and decide who they want to view that information.

Sites such as MySpace and Facebook give users the freedom to change their age, gender, race basically their entire identity and appearance. “Online interaction spaces are places where individuals can take on multiple identities in ways never before possible and indeed bring about changes in conventional notions of identity itself” (Peterson and Wilson, 457). For example, someone can make an account saying they are a 17 year old boy when in reality it is a 50 year old man trying to pick up on teenage girls online. It’s a scary thought not really knowing if the picture on someone’s profile is truly the face of the person you are talking to or just a random picture of a different person.

Another form of identity reconstruction takes place through video games, Farmville (Facebook game), Mafia Wars (MySpace), etc. “It is argued that by enabling players to mask their worldly identities, virtual space allows a range of identity performances that are not tied to material bodies” (Barker, 360). Many video games allow people to create their characters by choosing their gender, and appearance among other things; breaking the boundaries of gender, race and class. We are constantly reminded by the media what the ideal man or women should look like and that we can have the perfect body with the right diet or proper surgery. “Popular culture does not apply any brakes to these fantasies of rearrangement and transformation. Rather, we are constantly told that we can “choose” our own bodies” (Bordo, 1110). The game world is like a new and cheaper form of plastic surgery; being able to create a new perception of self by choosing what your character will look like; from gender to eye color. Both Facebook and MySpace offer users the opportunity to be a part of a virtual world; one that users can be consumed by or become lost in. The game world tends to blur the boundaries between “reality” and the fantasy of the game world; it offers people their own alternate world.

MySpace, Facebook, chat rooms, and even text messages all allow internet users to rely on technology to communicate with people rather than having face-to-face conversations. It is understandable that some things are more easily expressed over a MySpace/Facebook messages, emails, chatting online, or a text message. In Chris Barker’s Cultural Studies, he suggests “the digital cellphone is ubiquitous in contemporary culture and is fast becoming the communications focal point of our lives” (Barker, 369). Now it seems that instead of receiving a call for our birthdays or other occasions we are receiving emails, texts, or posts on our MySpace/Facebook profiles. These have even become an easier way to end relationships; instead of having the dreadful and awkward breakup conversation you could just send a text message and avoid the confrontation. People often feel more relaxed through online or text conversations; communicating with others online gives people the confidence to say whatever is on their mind and to say things they might not say in person. However, this may harm social skills; online people grow used to having time to think about their response, creating less spontaneity. It seems like the internet is giving people many alternatives, pretty soon we will only be communicating through emails and texts.

“The internet is a revolution; therefore, it is likely to be a linguistic revolution” (Peterson and Wilson, 459). The internet is contributing to the common use of abbreviations instead of the usage of proper sentences and grammar. The format of Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter limits user’s status to a paragraph at the most in length. The internet encourages the use of abbreviations such as “cuz,” “kool,” “wat,” “dunno,” etc. Only selective groups can understand the internet language; the older generation for example would probably have no clue what some of the abbreviations and acronyms used online mean. “Some critics have gone further and imagined the internet as a transcendent democratic medium with a universal language” (Barker, 348). It is as if the internet now has its own dialect. The online community is continually adding to the internet dialect; having the power to create their own abbreviations, their own language. This is definitely a form of radicalism in itself.

With technology increased speed is a trend, but perhaps when it come to status updates on MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter the faster things are the less thought that is put into them; causing depersonalization and less analysis involved in users status updates, posts, messages, etc. Online laughter is signified through the acronym “lol” or “haha.” No real emotion can be expressed online because no one interprets things the same way. “Words carry multiple meanings, including the echoes or traces of other meanings from other related words in other contexts. Language is non-representational and meaning is inherently unstable so that it constantly slides away” (Barker, 85). It is hard to know when someone is being sarcastic or serious online because you cannot see their facial expressions or body language. Without being face-to-face with someone what is said during an online conversation is open to interpretation by the person reading it.

The internet allows people to express their opinions through MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and blogging. For many people sharing their thoughts online is an outlet; others just use it as another way to gossip. Some use these sites to rant away about feelings that they are less likely to act on in person. “Blogs moved from being just easy places to self-publish to an emerging community of discussion…Blogs allow anyone to put their point of view and through them we may learn about events from an angle previously denied us” (Barker, 352-53). Blogs allow people to communicate with those who have common interest and support their ideas; it can also be therapeutic for others, even a new way to morn about a lost. Anyone can create a blog and voice their thoughts about pretty much anything they feel is important. “Through the Internet, local issues can become part of the network of global connections while still remaining specific to local concerns” (Barker, 353). People can post their opinions on for example, Obama’s Health Care plan, and because their opinion is out on the web they feel they made a difference. This creates an illusion of activism and may prevent actual activist movements because people get the sense that there is no need to share your opinion in public if it was already done online.

Not only are there sites that help people keep in touch with friends, such as MySpace and Facebook or sites that let people know what you are doing ever second of our life like Twitter; there are also sites in which people can inform everyone about bad things that happen to them in life. On sites such as FMyLife their slogan is “get the guts and spill the beans.” It is almost like a version of Twitter but people can only post about all their bad experiences; and other users of this site can actually vote on where they think the person deserved what happened to them or if they agree their life sucks. It seems people feel more comfortable putting their personal business on these sites because no one will know who they are and at the same time they are allowed to vent and receive compassion or feedback from other user’s who vote on their post. One user posted, “
Today, I posted a picture of my boyfriend and I kissing on facebook. He untagged himself. FML” (Valette, 2009). Sites such as FMyLife may also cause people to compete with each other to see who is the most intense and extreme. Is this a good site to go on and vent your troubles, or a site to go on to make yourself feel better about your own life? Chances are it is probably a mixture of both for most people who use sites such as FMyLife.

MySpace and Facebook allow people to share photos, videos, instant messages, comments, bulletin posts with their friends, and become fans of their favorite celebrities. Users are constantly uploading the best pictures of themselves to make the best impressions; using photo shop or photo bucket to add effects to their pictures and really make themselves noticed. Just by having attractive friends on your page that also makes you look more attractive to those viewing your page. Users try to fit into certain categories yet still try to make their profiles different so they stand out from the rest. Everyone at one point or another feels the need to be accepted. Since social network sites involve participation and collaboration does that mean that other people are participating in the construction of our identities on social network sites? Wall comments on Facebook or profile comments on MySpace; positive comments increase a user’s social attractiveness. Users always find themselves deleting comments from their page if they do not like what they say because they do not want everyone to be reading about an embarrassing moment of theirs or something that might change people’s perception of them. Both sites also allow people to accept or deny friend requests; giving people power and control over who they want to interact with online. Having your “friend request” denied or not making someone’s “top friends” list can also affect people’s self-esteem but when the person you like puts you on their “top friends” it seems like the most exciting thing in the world; and you are constantly online checking to see if you move up or down in numbers on the “top friends.” Going from being someone’s fourth friend on their “top friends” to being the tenth or twelfth can be crucial and then you have to go to your profile and move them down on your “top friends” as well; or if someone has you on their top you feel the need to place them on yours. Then if you are removed from someone’s top you quickly go to your page and replace them as well; it can turn into a competition of who can be ranked higher on the “top friends.” Now we can rank people from one to four, one to twenty-four or not at all; they can just be one of the hundred friends on your friend list that you never even talk to.

Privacy measures give users more control over who views their profiles because let’s face it there are some people who we do not want to be viewing our profiles and pictures (parents, ex boyfriends/girlfriends, etc.). People also have the power to block other users from finding them on these sites, or from viewing certain information on their profiles. I am sure everyone gets curious and wanders from one persons profile to another’s and so on; it is an endless cycle which can consume you. Whether you know the person whose profile you’re viewing or not; it is just pure curiosity. Why is everyone driven by curiosity? Is it because we want to see how others live their life? Are we looking for someone else’s life to compare to our own? Is it a way to get ideas on how to improve our own profile or our identity? Or is it a mixture of boredom and our curiosity that drives us to look onto pages of strangers? No matter what the reason is behind our curiosity it is still a creepy thought to know that ex boyfriends/girlfriends, people you used to talk to, or people you don’t even know are viewing your information.

MySpace and Facebook have fostered the idea that relationships can be formed and ended quickly and easily. These sites have been known for causing jealousy and possibly ruining relationships. Users in relationships may perceive a hint of infidelity and go on a hunt for evidence on MySpace or Facebook to support their partner’s unfaithful thoughts or behavior. If someone posts a comment on a picture and your partner does not like what they had to say that alone can spark up an argument. It seems a bit ridiculous that a mere comment or message can determine whether a relationship will come to an end.

MySpace and Facebook relationship status not only put one person in the social networking mirror but two, which can make things as the Facebook phrase says “complicated.” Facebook gives users six relationship categories “single”, “in a relationship”, “engaged”, “married”, “it’s complicated”, and “in an open relationship.” “Users can decline to list a status, but Facebook estimates that roughly 60% of its users do, with "single" and "married" the most common statuses” (Suddath, 2009). Some users feel that you only change your status when a relationship is official and you don’t change your status until after you have the “we need to talk” talk. Then the unwritten rule states that you both race to a computer or your phones to be the first who changes their status to “single.”

Why do people feel the only way to validate or make their relationship status exclusive and official is to make it known to the Facebook or MySpace public? Some people think that if it is not on Facebook or MySpace it is not official. When a significant other doesn't want to list his or her involvement in the relationship it causes a disturbance in the real-world relationship; the accidental change that alerts friends to a nonexistent breakup (causing endless annoyance and arguments); but worse than both is when the truth spreads uncontrollably (Suddath, 2009). In many cases it is through MySpace and Facebook that we become aware of new relationships, breakups, and engagements; these sites provide users with their daily dose of news regarding the lives of others.

Relationships in general are hard work and now people are substituting making connections with people face-to-face for finding love online. MySpace and Facebook are being used by millions to meet people to “hook-up” with or to form relationships. Even movies such as “You’ve Got Mail” tell the story of two people who discovered love while using the internet. When it comes to relationships we like those that reward us, or that we associate with rewards. Whether meeting and interacting face-to-face or in cyberspace, it can be assumed that individuals are seeking positive rewards, but this is probably where the commonalities between the two end (Merkle and Richardson, 188).

“Global presence of the Internet diminishes the need for spatial proximity; the textual and graphical based interface of Internet applications reduces the salience of physical attractiveness; Internet communication allows for anonymity; and candid self-disclosure becomes significant as the only means for two users to know one another” (Merkle and Richardson, 188). In face-to-face romantic relationships two individuals have a physical attraction, and spatially interact with one another. With Internet relationships users typically find themselves geographically separated further guaranteeing never really being able to know one another. Complete strangers that give each other the illusion of closeness and being connected yet at the same time detached. For some users having someone to talk to on a daily basis and knowing they will probably never meet their internet partner face-to-face is a comforting thought; less pressure.

“Make love happen,” is the slogan for the popular site, where the love of your life is believed to be just a click away. It is believed that after users answer some questions about themselves and create a profile, within second’s they can be matched up with the love of their life; for only the price of $30 a month you could find love. So now people are relying on the internet to match them up with someone and to find love; no longer do people go out and find love at first sight. But now people are using MySpace, Facebook and chat rooms to find love as well; it is like a free version of sites like Some people take Internet relationships serious and to others it is just a game. It is easier to talk to the opposite sex online, say things, or ask questions that you would not normally say if you had the person in front of you. So it is possible that it is easier for people to get to know each other faster online but that does not meant that the information people give about themselves is completely true. Can the freedom to share limitless information about yourself with your online partner substitute non-face-to-face interaction and physical connection? In some cases Internet relationships may result in marriage and for others in sheer disaster. “Cultural approval of familial love gained ground reasonably steadily in Western civilization from the 17th century onward…By the 18th century, the cultural standards favorable to love were being more widely internalized…Victorian agreement on the importance of love for men, and on its spiritual qualities, did not survive the first half of the 20th century…cultural norms being directed at men, significant in itself, and related to other revisions in male/female relationships such as dating practices” (Knapp and Stearns, 770-775). It seems that love continues to be redefined as time goes on, now in the 20th century we have added love to the list of things we look for on the internet.

“Cyberspace is a spatial metaphor for the ‘nowhere’ place in the electronic activities of computers, cable systems and other digital communications technologies occur…Of course, this may mean new modes of communication, interaction and identity construction in a novel form of social space” (Barker, 348). So here is how both MySpace and Facebook work: you set up a profile page with details about yourself and then decide who gets to see it. Users can use their pages to share personal news, exchange photos, team up on political causes, or just play games online with people from all around the world.

The internet is a world where everything moves fast and changes all the time, where relationships can be quickly be disposed of with the click of the mouse, where you can delete your profile if you don't like it, or have more than one; users can trade an unacceptable identity in the blink of an eye for one that is more acceptable. Online communities provide users with social networks, business transactions, future marital partners, and even sexual desires can be fulfilled. MySpace and Facebook are two of the sites contributing to the development of internet dialect and giving people the power to connect and share with the world. Helping people reconnect with friends, making families feel closer, or even serving as a tool to find relationships, “hook-ups” or “booty-calls.” One can present themselves in any way they would like; construct a first impression in a way that is not possible to do in person. However, are these sites leading to depersonalization and anti-social skills in face-to-face interactions? Instead of picking up the phone to call someone don’t we use texting, e-mail and social-networking sites to rely our message? At the end of the day these sites can be a useful tool or an addictive waste of time.

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies. 3rd ed. Los Angeles: SAGE.

Bordo, Susan. "Material Girl: The Effacements of Postmodern Culture." 1110.
Gordon, Jillian. "MySpace Founder Tom Anderson." Web. 20 Nov. 2009.

Greenfield, Patricia, and Kaveri Subrahmanyam. "Online Communication and Adolescent Relationships." The Future of Children 18.1 (2008): 119-46.

Knapp, Mark, and Peter N. Stearns. "Men and Romantic Love: Pinpointing a 20th-Century Change." Journal of Social History Vol. 26.4 (1993): 769-95.

Merkle, Erich R., and Rhonda A. Richardson. "Digital Dating and Virtual Relating: Conceptualizing Computer Mediated Romantic Relationships." Family Relations 49.2 (2000): 187-92.

Peterson, Leighton C., and Samuel M. Wilson. "The Anthropology of Online Communities." Annual Review of Anthropology 31 (2002): 449-67.

Shih, Clara. The Facebook Era. United States: Pearson Education Inc, 2009.

Suddath, Claire. "Your Facebook Relationship Status: It's Complicated." TIME 8 May 2009.

Valette, Maxime. "The love category’s anecdotes." Web. 30 Nov. 2009. .

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Myspace/Facebook Group

For our Myspace/Facebook presentation we focused on the internet audiences, internet vernacular, activism, opinions, voyeurism, unreality, the difference between myspace/facebook, and the effect both sites have on socializing. We also focused on incorporating chapters from Barker. Each group member was responsible for going through the Barker chapters and finding ideas that related to myspace/facebook.

My part in the presentation required me to discuss the effects myspace/facebook have on socialization. How these sites cause people to rely more on communicating with people through chatting online, emails, and even text messages as opposed to having face-to-face conversations. I also provided an outline with quotes from Butler’s theories on identity, and the internet; Butler refers to the internet as a space in which people can communicate freely across divisions of class and race. I found this to be relevant to the myspace/facebook sites because these sites allow people to keep in contact with people from other parts of the world. Along with my outline I developed discussion questions which related to identity and that would get the class thinking about how people can change their identity on the internet. I was also in charge of making the sugar cookies that were passed out to those who participated in the discussion. The cookies were decorated with two different blue frostings; one represented facebook and the others represented myspace. The facebook cookie had things such as “poke”, “tag”, “Farmville”, etc. written on them to represent things that are found on facebook. The myspace cookies had things such as “photo comment”, “new message”, “tag”, etc. on them to represent different things that are found on myspace.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The City That Never Sleeps

“You can’t leave New York. You’re like the Chrysler building, the Chrysler building would be all wrong in a vineyard.” These are the words of Carrie in the episode when she finds out that Big is moving to Napa. Carrie could not picture Big leaving New York City and going to live on a vineyard because it was completely different from the city. Gidden argues, “understanding the manner in which human’s activity is distributed in the space is fundamental to analysis of social and cultural life” (Barker, 374). In the episodes of Sex and the City, New York is meant to represent a place of fashion, sex, and love. The fact that New York was meant to represent this in the episodes can explain the characters and their behaviors.

When Carrie is talking to Big saying “you owe it to us,” meaning her and New York Carrie refers to New York as a thing as opposed to a place. In Barker, Rob Shields says “while we may happily speak of the ‘reality’ of the city as a thing or form, they are the result of a cultural act of classification. We classify an environment as a city, and then ‘reify’ that city as a thing” (Barker, 403). There are many different versions of places it all depends on who is describing the place; Carrie and her friends all see New York in slightly different light.

Throughout the episodes Carrie compares New York to many things, makes clever remarks, and is even a bit poetic at times. According to Barker, “representing the city involves the techniques of writing – metaphors, metonym, and other rhetorical devices – rather than a simple transparency from the ‘real’ city to the ‘represented’ city” (Barker, 402). New York is portrayed as being fast paced the city that never sleeps. The show mainly showed New York as a place where people go out for drinks, dinner, dancing, parties, and fashion shows on a regular basis. In the video Samantha asks “where people go when they leave New York”, Miranda responds “the real world,” suggesting that the New York they are living in and portraying is not the “real” New York we would see if we went to the actual urban setting.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The City of Love

“New York City is all about sex. People getting it, people trying to get it, people who can't get it. No wonder the city never sleeps. It's too busy trying to get laid.” ("Sex and the City," 2009) These are the words of Carrie from Sex and The City; the TV series that deals with four single women in New York City, and their sex lives. McDonald says the major thematic concern of the radical romantic comedy derive from “issues of self-reflexivity, a heightened consciousness of self (McDonald, 67). This is seen highly in Sex and the City, Carrie analyzes her love life, as well as, her friends and uses it as research for her newspaper column. Carrie uses her personal experiences with men and relationships, as well as her three friends. The four women all show the different perspectives women have on sex; they each represent a different type of women (conservative, free-spirited, promiscuous, independent). The city also plays its role as a character in the show; representing a fast paced life, and anonymity. The city also referred to a thing as opposed to a place in some episodes. As Rob Shields says, “while we may happily speak of the ‘reality’ of the city as a thing or form, they are the result of a cultural act of classification. We classify an environment as a city, and then ‘reify’ that city as a thing” (Barker, 403) Sex and the City in a sense can be connected to Lewis Sinclair’s novel Main Street. Carrie, a fashion conscious women, and writer who presents various questions throughout the shows like “can women date like men (no feelings)?” While writing her column, she leaves her viewers questioning their own love, and sex lives.

The 1920 Lewis Sinclair novel Main Street is based on a fictional town Gopher Prairie, which was meant to represent all small towns. Sinclair portrayed the residents of Gopher Prairie as narrow-minded, conservative, old-fashioned, materialistic people with no culture. Simmel says, “the city was the birthplace of the aesthetic of modernism and the escape from the controls of tradition” (Barker, 380). In Gopher Prairie everyone knew each other, and everyone else’s business. In the city, as portrayed in the show, if one wanted to disappear they could because the city is so fast paced, things always going on that you do not fun into the same people every day. In Main Street, Carol went following her fantasy of love and changing the small town, her husband and the townspeople were opposed to change. Sinclair showed the realities of marriage in his novel; Carol and Kennicott are in love but they have nothing in common. Carol says "There are two races of people, only two, and they live side by side. His calls mine “neurotic”; mine calls his “stupid”. We'll never understand each other, never; and it's madness for us to debate -- to lie together in a hot bed in a creepy room -- enemies, yoked." (Sinclair, 284) Sinclair’s novel seems to shed light on Sex in the City and how it portrays the modernized city and the opinions of both women and men on relationships, sex, marriage and love. In the show we see the reality in how differently women and men see things; many of the men just wanted sex with no commitment, where as the women wanted an actual connection with someone not just sex.

Carrie is in search for Mr. Right and the typical happy ever after ending. As we see throughout the episodes, as we did in Sinclair’s novel, sometimes marriage, and relationships do not have a happily ever after ending. In the show Charlotte gets a divorce, Carrie cheats on her fiancĂ© Adian, Samantha does not want to commit to anyone, and Miranda ends up getting pregnant and not marring Steve (at least not right away). Sex and the City showed that relationships do not always go as we planned. This is one of the things that make Sex in the City radical it does not follow the usual pattern of the couples ending up together (McDonald, 68). These four women are portrayed as independent, although they are all in search of men it is not because they need them, it is because they desire the men.

The setting of New York right away gives away that love will happen; the visual features of New York just set the romantic mood (McDonald, 89). According to Barker, “representing the city involves the techniques of writing – metaphors, metonym, and other rhetorical devices – rather than a simple transparency from the ‘real’ city to the ‘represented’ city” (Barker, 402). In the show Carrie compares the city to various things; and even suggests that women in New York are in search for the two L’s “labels and love.” Sinclair shows the old fashioned views of residents from small towns and how women could not walk down the street with a man, or wear clothing that was to revealing because people were quick to start rumors. He almost suggests that it is hard to find love in small towns because there is nothing romantic about them and people tend to just settle for anything. As Marx said “the city was the birthplace of modernism and the escape from the controls of tradition.” (Barker, 380) In Sex and the City the four women are single, who go out together regularly, drink, and have active sex lives. Charlotte could be considered old fashioned; she was a bit more conservative when it came to discussing certain things about her sex life. She does however bring a new meaning to being old fashioned by having an active sex life. Charlotte even double booked two dates for one night, so not only did she break her normal pattern but she also switched genders; she was dating like a man. She ends up getting caught, and loses two guys in one night; does that mean that women can’t date like men or that men just know the rules to the game better than women?

The relationships that Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte go through show the realities of dating and breakups. “After a break-up, certain street, locations, even times of day are off-limits. The city becomes a deserted battlefield, loaded with emotional landmines. You have to be very careful where you step or you could be blown to pieces.” ("Sex and the City," 2009) Throughout the episodes the women all encounter different men, finding something wrong with each one. Men are portrayed as objects, Samantha says “You're going to take the only person in your life that's there purely for sex; no strings attached, and turn him into a human being? Why?” ("Sex and the City," 2009) Many of these men were just considered “fuck buddies” (someone you call when you just want sex). In one episode Carrie tries to form a relationship with her “fuck bu0ddy” which did not work out because she realized they had nothing to talk about; they could just have good sex. This suggested that even today sex can just be sex and it is hard to develop a relationship out of something that was just physical attraction from the start. Our perspective of sexuality has changed over the years due to the fact that sexuality is multi-faced. Butler says “sexuality is never fully ‘expressed’ in a performance or practice; there will be passive and butchy femmes, femmy and aggressive butches, and both of those, and more, will turn out to describe more or less anatomically stable ‘males’ and ‘females” (Butler, 725). Butler is suggesting there are lines between “gender, sex, gender representation, sexual practice, fantasy, and sexuality which is why it can be said that sexuality can never fully be expressed. In the show Miranda goes speed dating and has to hide the fact she is a lawyer to attract men; does that mean sexuality is also economically based? If you are a women with a good job does that make you less of a woman? Sexuality is made up of linking concepts (Foucault, 689). Many people’s sexuality is constructed according to society, and what is deemed appropriate. Everyone views it differently which might explain why women and men have so many problems when it comes to forming and maintaining relationships or marriages.

In society there are certain rules regarding the type of people who we are attracted to (Parker, 585). We learn through media, magazines, and our culture what to like and what not to like. Charlotte was in search of a man who came from a good family, wealthy, and good looking. In the show we see that each woman has certain things they like and dislike about men; all women have a checklist when it comes to men. If they meet their standards then they have a chance but if not they should not even waste their time. These checklists are influenced by society; Carrie’s newspaper is an example of this. Women mainly read her column and I am sure they learned from her mistakes and took the advice on what relationships, and men to avoid.

Sinclair’s novel showed how in Gopher Prairie the husbands were in charge of the money; Carol had to ask her husband for money. Sex and the City showed that men still do not like it when the women they are with are more successful than them; Miranda being a lawyer seemed to be a turn off for most men. Men are still intimidated at the fact that a women may be above them in the economic ladder. Women are thought to be the nurturing, house wife; the man is supposed to be the provider for the household. Men have been acculturated to seek esteem through public performance and the recognition of achievement (Barker, 302). So you must ask yourself does love at first sight truly exist when people are so cynical. Or is it just a feeling you get in the beginning and once you actually get to know the person you fall out of whatever it was that pulled you in toward each other.

In Sex and the City we see the strong friendship between the four women. To them first came friends and second men. And when the women do have men in their lives they tend to revolve their attention around them. They are even represented as “helpless” women in some episodes (Barker, 283). Aidan would fix anything Carrie needed him to fix. Charlotte also had a man friend who she would call when she needed something fixed in her apartment. The show emphasized the importance of friendship, love and companionship to all women.

Sex and the City reasserts the old “boy meets, loses, regains girl” structure when it comes to Carrie and Big’s on and off relationship. Sex and the City sets rules for dating and raise the question if a modern woman needs Mr. Right, and what is the harm in believing in him? Big filled Carrie’s Mr. Right fantasy, so she kept going back to him. Who can blame her; we all want to find that person we think is right for us. And when we find someone who seems right but like in Carrie’s case with Big does not want to commit or give the relationship a title; it just makes us want them even more. But why should we have to try to change or tame each other? Why don’t we find someone who will run with us side by side to begin with? Everyone likes the chase, and challenge of trying to change someone. To get them to utter the phrases “I love you,” and “will you marry me.” Even though there are a lot of attractive people, especially in big cities, that you could just have sex with, no strings attached their comes a point where at the end of the day you just want to be with the one person who makes you smile. We all want a fairytale ending but like Samantha said, marriage does not always guarantee a happily ever after ending; it just guarantees and ending (“Sex and the City,” 2009).

Work Cited
Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2008.
Butler, Judith. “Imitation and Gender Insubordination.”
Foucault, Michel. The history of sexuality. Pantheon Books, 1985.
Lewis, Sinclair. Main Street. New York: Amereon House, 1920.
McDonald, Tamar J. Romantic Comedy. London: Wallflower, 2007.
Parker, Seymour. Cultural Rules, Rituals, and Behavior Regulation. 3rd ed. Vol. 86. Blackwell, 1984.
"Sex and the City." Tbs. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., 2009. Web. 8 Oct. 2009.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ethnography: Gender, Relationships and Love

Every day we all go to different places, surrounded by a diverse group of people; we see how genders interact, relationships between genders are built/broken, and sometimes even how love is formed. For my observation I went to Friday’s and sat in the bar section of the restaurant.

The first person I observed was a man wearing a hat and a green shirt that had an Abercrombie logo on the front. He told the waitresses to take a man, a couple of tables away, a drink and to put it on his tab.

Two women sat in the table in front of me. They both seemed young in their late 20’s, both dressed in tight, low cut, revealing shirts, tight pants, and heels. One of them had their hair straightened, the other had curls. Then a guy approached them; he was wearing jeans, a white Famous Star T-shirt. He was standing in front of their table; the guy got closer to the girl with the curly hair. He starts whisperings into her ear and she laughs at everything he says; she gives him a little push. The guy and girl with the curly hair go outside.

Next I observed a couple who walked in holding hands. They sat close together, he had his arm around her and they were sharing the menu and deciding what to order. The waitress arrived and he ordered the food. When he would get a text he would remove the hand he had around her to hold his phone and text back. They shared a plate; talked in between bites and kissed.

After observing people at Friday’s it became clear that our surroundings affect our behaviors. William’s suggests culture is given meaning by each individual; culture can be created through communication, gender relationships, and economic status (Barker, 42). Everyone was drinking, socializing, and being louder than if they would have been seated on the other side of the restaurant. In a sense we all interpret the world and our surroundings in a similar way. According to William’s approach on culture, the reason everyone is louder at a bar is because people interpret their surroundings in a similar manner therefore creating the culture (loud, sociable, etc.) in the bar (Barker, 41).

The appearance of the two women I observed can be explained by Leavis and Arnold’s high culture; how media and magazines influence our thoughts and sense of style (Barker, 46). All the women in the bar had a similar style because that is what is considered to be in fashion. It is advertised daily by the media and magazines what a women should look like; that if you buys this, you will get this. The majority of the men were wearing some type of brand logo on their shirt. As Fiske argues, culture is money motivated (Barker, 51); so the logos on the men’s shirts were a way to show their class (afford brands). The same can be applied to the phones that both the men and women had (iphones, sidekicks, etc.). Also when the guy in the green shirt bought a guy a drink it was to show off and appear to be a big shot. We live in a materialistic society, especially in a big city like Los Angeles where we are constantly being reminded we need the nice cars, brand named cloths, and so on in order to belong, and impress others. It is as if love itself is being advertised and sold.

When the guy approached the girls their behavior changed. As Gidden’s stated, identity is cultural and changes according to particular times or places; it is our own creation (Barker, 217). Magazines for women today flaunt new ideas for women to impress men. So the girl with curly hair was doing what she has been told will work to get this guy’s attention. The guy on the other hand most likely had already had his eye set on this girl. Like Beauvoir says, to men women mean sex; unfortunately, not much has changed and many men still think this way. So when this guy saw these two girls sitting along he possibly interpreted it as they went there with the purpose of meeting guys, why else would they be at a bar alone right?

When the guy approached the girl, this in a way can be considered to be radical because in our culture it is expected for the men to always approach the women first. When the guy and the girl were talking and she would laugh, or put her hand on his shoulder; they did not know what the other was thinking. We can communicate through language and speaking but our words are lost in translation; everyone interprets things differently (Barker, 18). The guy might think he knows what the girl is thinking; it was her body language that let the guy know if it was ok to get closer or not. In reality, as Derrida said, there are no real truth only concepts of what we see. Her body language may seem to come off as saying “I am interested in you,” when she may be really thinking “I will talk to him until someone else comes along.” Or maybe this was love which was forming before my eyes. Or was this just another random hook-up at a bar. Who is to say if there is no truth to words, language, or signs for that matter?

Observing the couple was interesting. When they kissed they were short and quick little kisses; they were on their phones most of the time. Does this mean they were not in love? Not necessarily, everyone defines love from a different perspective; there is no concrete definition. This could be love in the making; everyone has their own unique way to express their feelings toward the person they love, or are falling in love with. This couple may just be starting their relationship or just do not feel the need to be all over each other in public to show people they care for one another. Female and male expectations for each other are constantly changing, as Derrida states in his theory, things are always changing and have endless meanings. In the end love means whatever we want it to mean to us.
Work Cited
Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2008.
Beauvoir, de Simone. The Second Sex, Women as Other. 1949
Derrida, Jacques. "Différance." Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell, 2004.