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24 September 2020

Sentimentalizing Downs

For some time now, I've noticed something disturbing on social media. There are countless memes and several accounts/pages that are devoted to what I'll call the sentimentalization of Down Syndrome. (I will not link to them here, but they are easily discoverable.) On the surface, the content seems innocuous and heartwarming: cutesy photographs of young children with the physical characteristics typical of trisomy 21. Presumably, those who administer, contribute, disseminate, and "like" the content do so at least in part to destigmatize the condition. In that much, it seems admirable; however, it may have a darker component. I see parallels in the similar treatment of young, black boys. White women (and, yes, it is racialized and gendered because "social construction") will coo and ahh at pictures of black boys, but it is these same white women who will contribute to the negative, racist outcomes for the black males once they stop being cute and start to be perceived as dangerous.

Treating marginalized peoples in the same way that you would a puppy dog does nothing to normalize and everything to perpetuate otherness. The full personhood of those with Downs can be achieved only through full humanization, not through sentimentalization.

AgSIT and Lifecourse

Here are some somewhat disjointed thoughts on Banding Together by Jen Lena and Is Rock Becoming The New Jazz? from Rick Beato.

For the tl;dr, skip to 10:32.

I think Rick makes an interesting point. Is what Lena's claim about dominant trajectories really just a life-course effect? Is it that the audience (i.e. the genre community) ages and takes their music with them? How much is the genre trajectory really just the lifecourse trajectory?

Rick calls it "demographic level."
  • Avant-garde is the young, whippersnappers breaking rules that they haven't fully learned yet.
  • Scene-based is youth settling into geographic stability and creating their own communities.
  • Industry-based is the capitalistic exploitation of adults as they start careers and become economically stable.
  • Traditionalist is the nostalgic institutionalization of the music of those who are older.

Lifecourse Stages*
  • Stage I: Achieving Independence (16-23)
    • Transition from lives centered psychologically and emotionally on parents to lives in which we stand on our own.
  • Stage II: Balancing Family and Work Commitments (18-40)
    • Stable worker, partner/spouse, and parent roles with the challenge of establishing oneself firmly in these roles and forgoing other options.
    • emerging adulthood
  • Stage III: Performing Adult Roles (35-70)
    • An occupational plateau for many employed adults, who seek other challenges such as trying to be good workers, parents, and spouses.
  • Stage IV: Coping with Loss (60-90)
    • The central challenge during this period is to cope with a series of losses, including the loss of one’s occupational role through retirement, loss of significant relationships through death, and the eventual loss of health, energy, and independence.

* - DeLamater, John and Daniel Myers. 2007. Social Psychology, 6th ed. Thomson Wadsworth: Belmont, CA. P. 440

Precarity and Exploitation in Relation to Prestige and Celebrity

David Arditi has a new book coming out that looks at how unscripted (i.e. "reality") shows, like The Voice, exploit musicians who are particularly vulnerable because of their uniquely precarious situation. You can see his ASA presentation on the topic here.

His work inspired a question for me: Why do we tolerate such extreme precarity in a field (i.e. music) that is so beloved? Shouldn't we want to protect cultural producers more than typical workers?

I raised this question in a senior-level course recently, and a student pointed out the similarity in the precarity and exploitation of minor league baseball players. Musicians and professional athletes do indeed hold a unique role for us with celebrity and prestige. Could this be an explanation and not a paradox?

Hypothesis: We are more tolerant/ignorant of the precarity and exploitation of workers in fields that are more prestigious and celebrated.

Anyway, it seems like an interesting area for research.

Voting for Trump Makes You a Bad Person

Voting for Trump is immoral. It is unamerican. It is unchristian. If you haven't already arrived at this conclusion over the last 1343 days, there is nothing I can say to convince you.

Trump is a bad person and a poor president.

If you vote for him, you are complicit.
It is not enough to just not vote for Trump. Not voting for his opponent (because we have a terrible two-party system) is the same as casting half a vote for him. 

Voting for Biden does not make one a good person, but voting for Trump most definitely makes one a bad person.

By all means, though, give me a signal that you plan to vote for Trump so I can unfriend you, both in real life and on social media. I will not pretend, in the name of some imagined civility, that reasonable people can disagree on this. There is nothing to disagree over. This is not partisan. There is nothing partisan about racism, misogyny, and authoritarianism.

WOOP for Health and Wealth

A recent episode of Hidden Brain, You 2.0: WOOP, WOOP!, focuses on the research* of Gabriele Oettingen, Professor of Psychology at NYU. She says, "Those who have stronger, more positive fantasies about reaching their goals are actually less likely to achieve them. They lose fewer pounds, earn worse grades, receive fewer job offers, stay lonely longer, recover from injury more slowly."

I have researched on the Prosperity Gospel (dissertation, paper [PDF], blog). I see a connection here.

Hypothesis: Prosperity Gospel (PG) adherents will be less likely to achieve health and wealth.

Theoretical Explanation: Postive fantasies seduce people into feeling accomplished. Essentially, positive ideation creates its own rewards. PG is a theology that encourages positive ideation. Once feeling fulfilled, PG adherents do not take active steps to become healthier or wealthier. Moreover, PG adherents do not plan behaviors to overcome potential obstacles to their wishes.

This could be a cool link in the literature between a social-psychological finding and religion.


* - See: