Author Archives: Kate Lavan

Blog Post 4/22

I kind of appreciate how “unsafe” and “unconventional” our leadership majors are. I also like how Dr. Bezio explains studying leadership as thinking about how different types of knowledge/disciplines can serve the greater good. Leadership is about learning how to make a change in the world, which is of course every child’s dream- I like that this dream has not died inside of us. Especially during this year and last, in which our country, and even our university, has disappointed us. As Dr. Bezio mentioned, people don’t like change and that is why leadership is necessary. People don’t like change because people don’t like the unknown. In order to make meaningful change, there must be support for the cause. In order to gain support from followers, leaders are necessary because they convince those followers that change is not scary- change is possible and change is beautiful. 

The reading talks about how we sometimes feel like we have to do so much in order to make a change. There is a quote on page 51 about how people don’t see the significance in recycling one soda can because that is not enough- we want to stop global warming completely and immediately, not recycle a single can. But we cannot stop global warming completely and immediately, so we must recycle that one can. If everyone can adapt that mentally and recycles one can, then that’s a whole lot of cans and a really big difference. People need to realize that while their actions to make change may seem insignificant, they build up, and when everyone comes together it makes change possible.

Blog Post 4/20

I have seen both of these music videos before and am very familiar with the songs. I remember when these songs came out, as I have been a fan of both Beyonce and Childish Gambino for a while. Beyonce is obviously an icon in modern pop culture, and because she has built up her platform so strongly, she is able to reach an extremely large and diverse audience. I agree with the reading where it states that she has “earned her right to claim her spot among the greats.” Beyonce is an icon of strength and confidence for women and specifically black women across the globe. She uses her music as an expressive outlet to show off her culture and background, which is particularly inspiring. The article also says that the video is a visual rewrite of history where black people win, which I think is an interesting point that I would have missed when viewing on my own. 

Childish Gambino, an artist with a smaller platform than Beyonce (as most artists do), has still arguably had just as significant a cultural impact. When This is America Came Out, I remember walking into school and everyone was talking about it. As the “Slaying New Black Notions” article states, “violence against black bodies is a foundational practice in America and has cultivated the grounds for our current disregard in the face of mass shootings.”  The video really is a powerful narrative about black oppression and gun violence which contributed to a national cultural conversation. Before seeing the music video, I just kinda bopped to the song without even listening to the lyrics or understanding the cultural impact. But now, I can’t hear this song without seeing the video in my head and I almost want to describe it as haunting. 

I found the podcast interesting as well. I love to examine the meaning behind pop culture and music, because as we have been discussing in class, entertainment is really never just for entertainment. There is always a history and analysis to be examined. Specifically, the songs showed in the podcast and the two music videos assigned addressed social/racial injustice and celebration of black heritage. I love how music and the messages songs can hold retain relevance through generations. Music from the prohibition was literally a century ago yet the songs chosen by Dr. Bezio still have meaning to society today. I like thinking about music as a form of storytelling.

Blog Post for 4/15

At first glance, we see the story as a woman married to a doctor and living in a colonial mansion which really doesn’t seem like the worst life to live. But the story also begins by talking about her health and how the male physicians in her life- particularly her husband- laugh at her and pass off her unwellness as “temporary nervous depression.” From the first page, it is already obvious that the woman struggles with her mental health. But then we discover that she is a prisoner of not only her own mental health, but also neglect from her husband/physician, and ultimately a room lined with horrifying yellow wallpaper in which she finds patterns and women trapped. While her husband belittles her mental health, she is clearly aware that he is wrong. (And when your wife is on a mental break, it definitely won’t drive her further into madness if you trap her in a room alone. What a good idea, that should definitely heal her). We find out that she recently gave birth which signals postpartum depression to modern health knowledge and standards.

Her descriptions of the wallpaper in the room she is confined to are bleak and dreadful (“repellent”, “revolting”, “unclean”). I found this pretty spooky but I was super intrigued to keep reading. Her claiming that the wallpaper is the worst color she’s ever seen, I think, signals her extreme discontent with her current situation, and the references to suicide support this idea. When she says “I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one” in the wallpaper, I’m not sure whether or not she is scared of them, envies them, or sympathizes with/for them. 

I had never read this before and I actually really enjoyed it. But this story wasn’t “just entertainment,” as Dr. Bezio points out that nothing is ever “just entertainment” in the podcast. I got into thinking what this story symbolizes or seeks to teach us. Definitely the need to take mental illness seriously, but I also think it had to do a lot with gender roles, female oppression, and feminism. After listening to the podcast, I was glad I interpreted part of it correctly.

Blog Post for 4/13

I like how Dr. Bezio defined leadership as coming up with mutual goals through story-telling using narratives of history, and how this ties to popular culture. Pop culture is more than entertainment, it shows patterns in the values of society, past and present (and future). 

It’s interesting to think that the pop culture we consume today, much of which is considered “low culture,” could be so influential in the future. I always assumed that people like Shakespeare and his works were just as influential during their lives as they are now, but obviously that is not the case. I think about this in comparison to the famous example of how an artist’s paintings are more valuable after their death. I have thought about that in terms of artists throughout history, but never in terms of artists now. For example, when rap/music artists die, such as Mac Miller, XXXTentacion, and JuiceWorld, their listens/streams tend to increase significantly. 

Also, as a major MCU nerd, I was so excited to see Black Panther. When I saw the movie in theaters, it was immediately my favorite Marvel movie, but I had no idea how culturally significant this film would become. As the first film starring a black superhero, it was amazing to see the celebration of black heritage and identity and to see the cultural movement that this film sparked feels like we are making history.  Being in this leadership class and being able to analyze pop culture like this is really fascinating. Instead of thinking about T’Challa’s character of just an awesome Marvel hero, we can see him as a cultural icon that inspired a shift in world culture. It is good to see that Chadwick Boseman left such a beautiful legacy.

Blog Post 4/6

As a history nerd, I really enjoyed this podcast. Not because I was pleased by the content, it was actually extremely off-putting. We think we know so much about history but we really just don’t. We know what the people throughout history decided we should know. They decided what to write down, what to record and what stories to pass on through generations. Just like we are deciding all of those things for people in the future.

I find it interesting looking back at history classes in middle and high school and how comical (?) the content is. I remember last semester sitting in Dr. Hayter’s Justice class, often literally astounded at the things we learned, thinking about how differently I learned it before coming to college. For example, we learned about the horrors of the Holocaust every year, but we conveniently never learned about how Hitler and the Nazis were inspired by activities in America (race laws/Jim Crow, eugenic sterilizations laws/Harry Laughlin). In AP US History in 12th grade, we spent more time learning about Coolidge’s presidency than we spent on the Civil Rights Movement. I don’t know if this was just New York State’s Common Core curriculum or if we ran out of time at the end of the year, but either way it’s pretty upsetting.

The way we see history through the lens of “white christian men with money” is probably pretty significant to how we see the world, even in the present. We grew up not learning about women in history, POC  in history, poor people in history, or really any minority group in history. I like to think that this will change for future generations, but at this rate I am pretty doubtful I will see significant change in my lifetime. 🙁

Blog Post 4/1

I was assigned the 1984 election between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale, in which Regan took a landslide victory. One thing I noticed immediately was that not a single ad focused on equality (racial, gender, etc). Nearly every ad had to do with the economy on both the democratic and republican campaigns. I found this interesting because positions on equality/justice, as I have observed in my life, are two significant factors in an election. Was that just not the case in the 80s? I always think of the 80s as being not that long ago but so much has changed. I also noticed that most of Mondale’s ads were focused on making Reagan look bad, where Reagan’s ads were focused on making himself look good, not mentioning Mondale much at all. I would be interested in looking into if Reagan’s strategy is consistently more effective in presidential elections or even regular advertisements. 

My favorite ad was one of Reagan’s, which surprised me as I am a democrat. The message of the ad was to promote world peace. The ad states, “We’ve met people from every walk of life. And we found this: while governments sometimes disagree, all their people want peace.” There is an emphasis on how Reagan has been successful in bringing people together to build a strong country as well as working with other countries/world leaders. I honestly don’t know how accurate this claim is, but it definitely resonated with me. Many of Mondale’s ads targeted Reagan and brought fear to people by claiming that Reagan will spend trillions of dollars to launch killer weapons into space (referring to the Strategic Defense Initiative AKA Reagan’s “Star Wars program”), so I bet the emphasis on peace and the calming, happy aspects (calm music, families, happy people) in Reagan’s ads were meant to combat Mondale’s attacks. Reagan wanted the people to know/think that peace with the Soviets was possible. 

One ad that I thought was funny (maybe my sense of humor is just wack) was a video of a bear in the woods and a voiceover of a long, ominous, and unclear bear metaphor. The commercial ends by stating, “Isn’t it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear?” I’m guessing it’s trying to say that America should be strong and prepared for war against the Soviet Union (as the country is often represented as a bear), but it was an ~interesting~ commercial to me. This ad emphasized peace as well, but it contrasted the ad I talked about above. While the commercial I chose as my favorite emphasized peace through collaboration with world leaders, but this one emphasized peace through strength with hints at war. 

Blog Post for 3/30

I was pretty frustrated by this game. The tutorial link wasn’t working so I decided to just start the game by experimenting with my options. Considering the economics of surviving in an African village in a computer game is not something I ever thought I would do, but it turned out to be very difficult, at least for me. I did not know how to decide how to allocate time and resources in order to benefit Kadjo and Fatou and the rest of the village. I wasn’t sure how to make decisions because I didn’t know what to prioritize in my actions. However, this game did give me a better understanding of the difficulties of creating a prospering village. Considering health, disease, farming/agriculture, infrastructure, business investments, water and more made me think about realities facing such villages. As the family grows and resources become scarce, decisions get more and more difficult. I think the point of this simulation isn’t to “win” and get points, but to gain a deeper understanding for survival in societies that we are not typically exposed to. This isn’t just a computer game, it is reality for people around the world that we often don’t give a second thought about. 

I also was interested in Dr. Bezio’s comparison of systemic systems and the nervous system. I think this was a good illustration for people who don’t necessarily know what people mean when they talk about systemic issues such as the -isms we are so familiar with. Systemic issues intersect with nearly every single factor in society. This complexity makes understanding these issues very difficult and finding solutions nearly impossible.

Blog Post- Advertisements

I’m attaching my favorite recent advertisement. A few weeks ago, my marketing professor shared this ad from Bud Light which was shown during the Super Bowl. It’s a national running joke that Americans watch the Superbowl only for the commercials, but they are actually pretty effective and entertaining ads (probably due to intense planning and high budgets). This advertisement plays on the line “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” while referring to 2020 as “a lemon of a year.” They are using lemons as a metaphor for the coronavirus, and the ad features lemons falling from the sky, knocking people out, destroying cities, shutting down airports, and ruining evens such as sports and weddings, just as the pandemic did. The purpose of the ad is to introduce Bud Light’s new lemonade flavored line of hard seltzers, “packed with lemon flavor after a lemon of a year.” I like this advertisement so much because a lot of commercials from 2020 made reference to the pandemic, but Bud Light did it in a relatable, funny, and entertaining way. The reading stated “Ads attempt to soothe our spiritual hunger problem and help us find a way to connect with those around us” (page 476), so I find it interesting that this ad could connect so many people. It gave the nation something to laugh about all together while watching the most-viewed TV event in the USA, the Superbowl.

I find advertisements extremely interesting, which is why I love marketing so much.  There are so so many different strategies that companies can use to promote their brand and manipulate consumers, yet at the same time reflect our values and bring us together. I think that being aware of these manipulation tools can make us better-informed consumers.

Blog post 3/16

I found this podcast very interesting because at first when I saw this week’s topic was about statistics, I was confused as to the role stats play in humanities. I had never actually considered how graphs we see regularly can be skewed or strategically misrepresented to falsely depict information. While statistics are supposed to be a tool for proving theories and providing insights, the display of these same statistics can be a tool of manipulation. 

I found this one graph, which was presented at a Congressional committee hearing in 2014. Not surprisingly, this graph was made by anti abortion advocators in attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. They are trying to show that Planned Parenthood has offered less and less cancer/health services and more abortions. This graph was meant to disprove the many supporters of Planned Parenthood who argue that the organization offers essential health services to women other than abortions. I find it interesting that this graph has no y-axis, so if you look at the actual numbers, the placement of the lines makes very little sense. Also, the fact that the lines intersect is bizarre. Political/social bias is often extremely prevalent when information is displayed to the public. Obviously, this graph is misleading. I am also going to include a second graph I found on the same website that more accurately displays the information. It includes a y axis and explanations, which greatly help in displaying the information more accurately. These two graphs give off two completely different messages. Absurd. This may be insignificant, but I also noticed the colors of the graph show bias. The cancer screening and prevention services line is in pink, which is globally recognized as a positive symbol of health awareness. The red line for abortions, to me, signifies that abortion is a bad thing (the color red has many negative connotations, including wrong, stop, and blood).

Blog Post 3/11

I find the prevalence of assumptions in all aspects of society very interesting. The formation and preservation of common assumptions is how we make laws, policies and rules for the world. We form ethical frameworks due to our world-views that often turn our potentially false assumptions into unwavering beliefs. We base these rules off of what we think is normal, but what is normal in one culture may be abnormal in another. 

One harmful assumption Dr. Bezio talks about in Podcast Episode 3 is that many people assume women should police their own bodies because men cannot. This assumption leads to the idea that women are to blame for being sexualized and should dress certain ways and act certain ways. These ideas contribute to the normalization of rape culture, sexual harassment, victim blaming, and sl*t shaming. I’ve gotten in trouble multiple times in elementary, middle and highschool for wearing clothing that was “distracting” to my male classmates. My female guidance counselor would call me down to the office when I was in violation of the dress code and either make me change or send me home. I’d argue that me being taken out of class to change or leave school altogether is way more distracting and interrupting to my education than my revealed shoulders are to the boys in my class. (Maybe if the school had reliable air conditioning and I wasn’t forced to wear tank tops on hot June days, this wouldn’t have been a problem but that’s another issue lol). Also why are we sexualizing literal elementary and middle schoolers? I think that is the universal example that all girls in this country experience in school while growing up, and it just shows how harmful these assumptions about girls and women can be. 

Another harmful assumption that I found interesting was pertaining to marijuana laws. Marijuana was made illegal as a tactic to discriminate against minorities in America. The readings about immigration and access to medications/drug restrictions are also flooded with examples of the harmful effects that assumptions make. Assumptions exist in all parts of life, similar to stereotypes and biases, which I ~assume~ is why we are discussing these topics at the same time. 

I resonated with the statement Dr. Bezio made at the end of the podcast that asks us what do we really know versus what we think we know? We often justify stereotypes, biases, and assumptions by declaring the truth in them. But in reality, we cannot state any of these assumptions as universal facts.