Author Archives: Hayley Simms

Thinking Critically Blogpost

“What even is Leadership Studies”

I swear, every time I tell a family member or friend outside the University of Richmond about my major in Leadership studies, the response is painfully predictable. The jokes that go with it are worse: “Oh you’re learning how to be the President!” “I didn’t know there were college majors for CEOs nowadays, ha!” And, to be frank, I don’t always know what to say when people do ask me what it’s all about, because there are so many different answers I could give. That’s why I really appreciate what Dr. Bezio said in her “Thinking Critically” podcast when she said that Leadership studies “teaches us how to think about different types of knowledge and knowledge acquisition, what we think of as the other “disciplines” in academia can serve the greater good… leadership studies isn’t there to give us the facts but it’s there to give us the tool kit to deal with the facts.” I think the differentiation of facts vs. toolkit for facts is really important and it gives me a much better way to explain what I’m studying. I’m not studying history, I’m learning how to think critically about history. I’m not in learning political science, I’m learning how to dissect and inspect the inner workings of politics.

I haven’t always been the biggest leader. I used to be absolutely terrified of making decisions and being the one to charge forward, but I thought that taking classes at Jepson would change that and teach me how to be this image of a “leader.” And, honestly? It hasn’t, or at least not in the way I expected. Instead, Jepson has taught me how to make decisions and charge forwards a different way, not by changing my mind and my way of thinking, but by expanding it. I pause when making decisions not because I’m unsure of myself but because I’m looking at all the different avenues, taking my time to make sure I choose the right one or the most effective one. I am now able to speak up against family members, not because Jepson somehow made me magically braver, but it taught me the tools and information to be able to stand up against people and make my argument.

Formation, 4/20 Blog Post

“parental advisory. explicit lyrics.”

The first shot of Beyonce’s “Formation” music video opens up with a computer screen reading these sentences above. The next shot is Beyonce sitting on top of a sinking police car, nonchalant, staring into the camera. The opening scene, with “parental advisory” on it, is a nod to how Black people and culture have been censored in America, how things like hip-hop and rap have become synonymous with words like “thug” and “gang,” meant to fear-monger the population into thinking that Black culture is something to be afraid of. This is a contributing factor to the presence of police brutality in our country; it seems every week there is a new senseless death of a Black person at the hands of a white cop. Just recently, Daunte Wright lost his life when twenty-six-year veteran police officer Kim Potter shot him with a gun “thinking it was a taser.”

The “parental advisory” warning is also a jab at the ever present “Oh, let’s not talk about race,” “Let’s not bring race into this,” “Can we not talk about politics?” (politics, in this case, being a word substituted for human rights, which is not politics and should never be treated as such). People, especially white people who have never experienced systemic racism, are sensitive to talking about topics like a race because they don’t want to admit wrongdoing, they don’t want to admit something is wrong with the American system. They want to preserve their country as the “best country in the world” without acknowledging how many people are suffering from what this country was built on: slavery, sexism, classism, exclusivity, and hate. Beyonce’s song “Formation” interrupts this rhetoric. She isn’t afraid to show the dark corners of society while simultaneously expressing Black Joy in her music video, because oftentimes too many pop culture films, songs, and other forms of media focus on the suffering of Black people. Beyonce takes care to show how Black Joy is still present even when facing police brutality and systemic racism, how Black culture isn’t something to villainize.

Yellow Wallpaper Blog Post

I think the story The Yellow Wallpaper was a good example of how entertainment always has a lesson or a deeper meaning within it. In The Yellow Wallpaper’s case, the deeper meaning had to do with the oppression of women in seemingly “happy” marriages and, further, the downplaying and repression of mental illnesses in women and especially women who are supposed to be a part of “high society.” Doctors call the narrator “hysterical” and encourage her husband, John, to almost “capture” her within this room with yellow wallpaper. When she takes a disliking to the wallpaper, he refuses to change it or take it down, believing it would be giving in to her wills and worsen her symptoms. Obviously, the narrator needed much more professional care and was suffering from severe depression and possibly OCD and depersonalization.

There’s a significant difference between the narrator and her husband in terms of personality; the narrator (the wife) is much more emotional, feeling, intuitive, and she sees things below the surface. John, the husband, however, is much more practical and closed-minded and can’t interpret the things his wife is interpreting and seeing. There’s such a disconnect here that nothing eventually gets resolved.

I think The Yellow Wallpaper also shows how our narratives and minds can attack themselves, convincing us that we can’t be healed or fixed. And this concept just multiplies as anxiety and depression increase, leading to this constant cycle that, without help, is nearly impossible to escape from. I think this story really showed that descent and what contributes to such a descent, and I think the author did an especially good job of showing it from the perspective of the individual falling into that descent, how helpless they feel when no one around them believes or understands them.

Podcast 10 Blog Post: Storytelling

As I was listening to Dr. Bezio’s tenth podcast, I kept thinking about how she discussed the idea of “storytelling” as determining “high” versus “low” culture. It made me think about all the stories I heard that later turned out to be false or misleading. For example, the Disney movie Pocahontas: marketed as a kids movie, this film was about the unlikely bond between a Native American woman and a colonizer with a heart of gold. It showed that everyone can be good and love always wins, right? Wrong. Absolutely, totally, completely wrong. Although they used the same historical names (big no-no, Disney) there was no such thing as a happy bond of love between the colonizer John Smith and the Indigenous woman Pocahontas. This movie gives such a misleading image about colonizers and the first English people that arrived in America; it tries to “repaint” the image of white people to make it seem like they were much better than they actually were, and it tried to “other” Native Americans.

The point of all this is to say that, depending on who is making the stories and telling the stories, things start to get a bit tangled up, and this leads to a lot of problems later in life that include the “isms” (racism, sexism, classism, etc). In Disney’s Pocahontas’ case, it misleads children at an impressionable age that colonizers weren’t all so bad and the aggression against them on behalf of the Native Americans wasn’t entirely founded. It certainly misled me. I think Disney in particular has a bad track record of creating these romanticized versions of historical events, Pocahontas being one of the worst offenders. Davey Crocket is another one of Disney’s romanticized “wild western” cowboys out on the trail to defeat the native “savages.” In my high school history class, we did a whole unit on how these popular Davey Crocket episodes lead to extreme prejudice and dislike for the Native population because of the portrayal of Native tribes in the episodes as ruthless murderers. Again, this is no case reality or truth, but the fact that it became formatted in this “storytelling” narrative built a stereotype in itself.

Blog Post, Podcast 9

In the U.S., a lot of our history is eurocentric, as mentioned in the podcast.  I think this was an interesting point that Dr. Bezio brought up because she explains how buying materials to record “history” and important events meant having money because the tools and materials were so expensive. The ink was expensive, the paper was expensive, printing was expensive, even access to knowledge could be expensive. Knowledge is and always has been power, and it goes hand in hand with this concept of “access”—once a certain group of people have access to something, in this case, the narration of history, they control it unless they relent that power and access so that other’s can contribute. But because these were white men who saw themselves as superior to any other race or gender and colonized like crazy, they didn’t see a reason to share that access. Thus, with them being the only ones to have access, they were able to narrate history as they saw fit, which means a lot of the stuff we read about today we have to take with the frame that “hey, a racist, sexist, and classist dude probably wrote this with the intention of belittling others and making himself superior.”

I mean, take the classic case of Christopher Columbus. In elementary school, I was taught that this guy was a hero. He came over, found America, gave food to the Native Americans, and we are all here today because of him. Then, later on, and mostly on my own research, I found out that the guy was actually a disaster case, he in no way “found America,” he committed mass genocide on the native peoples and he and his band of merry weirdos gave the natives all kinds of nasty European diseases. It wasn’t grand or wonderful, it was pretty downright horrible, but because the history we learn is so Eurocentric and comes from these European white men, I was originally taught that what Columbus did was a good thing. I think that narrative needs to be removed from schools, especially when it’s being taught to impressionable young children. Students need to be educated on the truth, and not just the white man’s truth, the whole truth. We have to stop sugar-coating things and trying to carve patriotism into the youth by spreading lies, because all it’s done for me, at least, is made me angry and upset that the education system was withholding what I consider real and accurate history.

1992 Campaigns

I was assigned to watch the 1992 Democratic, Republican, and Independent campaigns, and I noticed several key themes that spread across all three candidates. Every single one, for at least half of their advertisements, focused on taxes and prosperity and jobs. That seemed to be the big kicker back in 1992; taxes, jobs, wealth. While Clinton was more inclined to show how he would benefit these things personally, Bush was more likely to attack Clinton and say that he would ruin things more. Bush’s campaign took a very fear-mongering approach as it would use scary background songs, serious narrators, and devastating images to show what would happen if Clinton were to be elected. Whereas Clinton used happier imagery and lighter tones to show that he was for good, and his election into office would be good.

Personally, my favorite advertisement was one of Clinton’s attack ads on Bush, just because I think it was well-devised and planned out. It had a very set-up and punchline structure, and I think that’s why it stuck with me. It was an attack ad that depicts Bush boating in Maine and having fun in Maine, but then transitions to how Bush doesn’t pay taxes in Maine and does that in Texas instead, using buildings and property to get massive tax breaks (again, the focus was on taxes and the American people having to make up the difference and pay more). I thought it was kind of funny because the Clinton administration set up a very “paparazzi” like photoshoot of Bush doing all the fun things in Maine, and then it hit hard with the Texas taxes bit (which, off-topic, but I just realized that Texas and Taxes are anagrams. Haha).

I think that the consistent topics of taxes and jobs really show what was happening in 1992 and what the American focus was. It was also interesting to see what each candidate’s approach to campaigning was; Bush with the offensive, attacking Clinton style, and Clinton with the more cheerful and “hopeful” style that “proved” he was “working for Americans.”

Millenium Village Simulator

I did this “live update” style, where I jot down my thoughts and observations as I go along.

So, right off the bat, this looks confusing to me. I’ve never experienced this lifestyle so I’m not sure how much time to invest in what, and the default setting of 12 hours of labor seems pretty absurd to me, especially since that virtually means there is no time for school for these two teenagers, Kodjo and Fatou.

It took me a minute to figure out how to change seasons, but once I did for the first time, jumping to 2014, I only got bad news. All my crops failed, I allocated time horribly, basically, I failed at everything. Apparently, cotton can rot? And I didn’t have the expenses I needed to transport it? I never even thought about that…

I ended the turn again and now, somehow, I’m in severe debt. As in, had to take out a loan from the bank debt. Apparently, I’m not allowed to be over 100 CFA in debt, which is going to make things very complicated considering I was banking on investing in my small business to see if I could get things going off the ground that didn’t have to focus so much on farming and fishing. Not to mention, the health of Kodjo and Fatou isn’t doing too hot. How is everything going downhill so fast???

Okay, I’m going to have to reset this game. This is literally impossible. They both need doctor’s visits but they’re so far in debt I can’t even switch turns and I already took out too much money from the bank. I don’t know why they even bother to have little trinkets to buy; it’s not like I’ll ever be able to afford them anyways.

After playing thoughts 

After playing a couple more rounds, and failing miserably every time, I think it’s very eye-opening that even in a simulation I can’t seem to control these resources properly. Everything I think is important isn’t or is in some other way, I’m constantly working my family to death, doctor’s visits are crazy expensive, and bad crop luck seems to plague this family no matter what I do. There’s never enough water, never enough wood or fuel, never enough money, never enough anything… I’m not even positive there is a way to make Kodjo and Fatou happy, healthy, wealthy, and overall content and successful, which seems to be anything other than just plain starving or going into severe debt.


Blog 5: Buy Me!

I think one of my all-time favorite advertisements would have to be the “John West Salmon: Bear Fight” ad that shows a fisherman going up to duel with a large grizzly bear. The entire advertisement feels like a crazy moment captured on camera to give it a more realistic and spontaneous feel.

I think this advertisement also shows us how humor and laughing play such a significant role in appealing to our lizard brains; when we laugh and find something funny, we release serotonin and associate it with happiness and relaxation. This ad makes us crack up because it’s a bear fighting a fishing dude as if they were in a cage match, and the perfectly-timed yelps and kicks had me in tears the first time I saw this ad years ago. And you wanna know why it stuck with me? Because it’s hilarious and it brought me joy.

Furthermore, there’s an underlying theme that John West Salmon is willing to go above and beyond to get fresh, great quality salmon, even if it means fighting wild grizzly bears. At the end of the advertisement, it shows the fisherman walking away with a large fish in his hands, we make the audience assume he was successful and that the company really does put this much work into getting good salmon just for us (which makes us feel special).

I think that humorous advertisements that make us laugh are some of the ones that stick with us the most, which is why so many people are obsessed with Super Bowl ads; the majority of them are aimed at making us giggle and has us looking forward to the next year’s advertisements.

Blog Post 4 : The Numbers Game

One of my favorite data visualizations (more so subject of data visualizations) has got to be the self-reported “life satisfaction” graphs and charts we so often see when trying to compare countries and the wellbeing of their citizens. For example, for this post, let’s take this global map from the “World Happiness Report”

This map is so interesting to me because it is color coding each country on a scale from 0 to 10 based on how “happy” the overall population of each country is. However, this is super unreliable, and not just because self-reporting itself is unreliable and tends to skew data in the first place. It’s also unreliable because we may think two different ways, which neither of are true:

  1. The places in the red and orange are unhappy with life because their country and government has made them unhappy
  2. This country is in the red/orange because it is coincidentally full of unhappy people and attracts unhappy people.

And then we can say the same for the “happier countries” using those two conclusions as well. In reality, there is a LOT more that goes into these maps and there is much more thorough reasoning as to why, according to the World Happiness Report, some countries are overall “happier” than others. Again, it’s important to be skeptical of this whole concept of self-reported happiness as well, because people oftentimes lie and skew the data. For example, if someone whose data was collected for this project wanted to make their country look better, they may fib and say that they are more content than they actually are. It’s important to look at maps like this one critically and not just take it at face value because there’s a lot more that goes into it than meets the eye.

Blog Post 3: Making Assumptions

The key takeaway I got after listening to Dr. Bezio’s “making assumptions” podcast was that we actively need to separate what we know from what we assume. More or less, when need to think before we speak: is what I’m about to claim a factual statement or just something I’ve been raised to believe?

When I was in elementary school, my parents and teachers taught me that drugs were for criminals. So throughout my younger years, I went on to preach that if you did drugs, you were a “thug” a “delinquent” and a “criminal.” I didn’t take into consideration other viewpoints because coming from a position of authority, there were no other viewpoints. I was only being told the same perspective. It wasn’t until middle school after I left my elementary school that I became surrounded by peers and teachers who held different perspectives about drugs and explained how taking drugs did not automatically equal being a criminal. It made a lot more sense and prompted me to actually look into the facts about drug use and incarceration. I went from a staunch anti-drugs always nine-year-old to a heavy supporter of the legalization of marijuana and the freeing of those incarcerated under marijuana charges.

A lot of assumptions, particularly like the ones I held, have to do with education and being exposed to different perspectives until you can choose your own based on what you believe, not what others believe. This also means giving a fair opportunity to develop your own beliefs and not be forced into them; I often think of the Westboro Baptist Church when it comes to being able to develop your own beliefs, and I think of the member who finally broke free from the cult-like church and realized how different the world was from how she was taught it was. It was only because she was exposed via the internet to different ideas that she ended up leaving the church, but the majority of the people in the Westboro Baptist Church continue to stay because they never had that exposure.