I thought Paulina’s presentation on lactivism was really interesting. I liked how evaluated how the two sides, one promoting breastfeeding above all else and the other advocating for choice, could be viewed from a feminist perspective. I thought this was an insightful choice for a few reasons. First, as a college student all of my feminist experiences and knowledge is removed from motherhood and my experience with the intersection of motherhood and feminism is usually about how having a baby doesn’t mean I have to stay at home. Obviously, there is a lot more to it and Paulina’s presentation made me think about how feminism interacts with motherhood. Related to the idea of motherhood, another interesting thing Paulina brought up was the idea of choice. This is a central argument in the abortion debate, but when you talk about women’s choice in motherhood, I think it’s a little different. On one hand, it is the women’s choice to breastfeed, but that choice also has to take into account what is best for the baby. Lastly, her research reminded me how the feminist movement doesn’t have the same amount of unity that I see with ethnic or racial groups, and it made me wonder if part of the reason is because of the way feminism treats motherhood. I’m pretty sure there are some people that write about feminism and motherhood, so am interested in looking into that topic.
How does high school US history education shape people’s expectations on activism in America? History oftentimes appear as a simple retelling of events from the past, but there are certain characteristics of education system that influence how students learn about the past. In the case of the Civil Rights movement, these factors shape perceptions of activism. The first relates to the overtly nationalistic nature of our educational system while the second characteristic deals with the narrative format of history writing favored by historians. These two characteristics of US history education work together to create a watered down, simplistic, and ultimately unrealistic portrayal of the actual movement. By analyzing history textbooks and utilizing popular media sources, I argue you that Civil Rights education’s nationalistic tendencies and narrative approach to storytelling have created expectations for Black Lives Matters.
The first part of my argument focuses on how history education tends to both champion American values and incorporate differences into a larger story of America’s principles. I will conduct a literary analysis focusing on those two issues. Specifically, I will analyze if textbooks frame the Civil Rights as a reaffirmation of American values and how they portray the US government and US citizen. Throughout the analysis, I will support my claim about the expectations these nationalistic influences have created for Black Lives Matters by highlighting popular media sources. The second part of my argument explores the narrative form of history with the goal of highlighting the events and actors textbooks leave out and their treatment in the text. I detail the timelines, events, and actors mentioned in these texts. Then, I explain the implications of these choices by focusing on the idea “politics of respectability” that textbooks develop by their sustained focus on MLK and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and treatment of the Black Panthers. I will use excerpts from videos and articles to support these claims.
My research focuses on the connection between perceptions of the BLM movement and how history classes teach the Civil Rights movement. A consistent feedback that I received during peer review was that I should make sure I explicitly relate the textbook analysis to Black Lives Matters movement. When I was writing the draft, I didn’t want to overwhelm the reader by highlighting too many different aspects of the research, but my peers comments made me realize that explicitly referencing the BLM makes my argument more coherent. Going forward, I now know that I will definitely integrate popular media’s comments surrounding BLM throughout the research instead of putting it in a separate section.
Another comment that came up during peer review was that examples would add support to my claims and make the information less abstract. In the draft, I had a tendency to write about these general concepts, but I did not connect it back to my research topic. I know this is something I will need to pay attention to with the textbook analysis because I cannot just describe my findings. I will need to explain why those finding are relevant or add further support to my thesis. This commentary about examples also made me start thinking about what type of examples I want to use to back up my claims. At this point, I think I will rely primarily on the textbook analysis to showcase history education, and then use academic sources documenting the Civil Rights movements to show what things are being left out in traditional high school textbooks.
In my RBA, I want to use high school textbooks, academic sources, and popular media to demonstrate how Civil Rights education’s nationalistic tendencies and narrative approach to storytelling create unrealistic expectations for activism. My goals is for those 3 types of sources to present a coherent and persuasive argument that makes people consider the critical role education plays in shaping people’s preconceived notions surrounding race, activism, and political change.
Activism encompasses a wide range of topics, and these are some ways I have thought of approaching the subject. First, an analysis of bicycle transportation movements across cities can shed light on how citizens mobilize groups, interact with local governments, and eventually spur movements throughout a nation. Understanding these type of grassroots green movements is especially relevant because the federal government’s inability to articulate a unified response to climate change leaves many decisions in the hands of state and local governments. Another concrete way to explore activism is through social media is, so it might be interesting to examine how the rise of social media has affected different generations. It also might be worthwhile to evaluate the effectiveness of different organization structures such as Black Lives Matter, which has an intentionally decentralized structure, and Planned Parenthood, which has a very centralized structure. While a specific case study highlights the process of activism, it might also be interesting to consider activism in more abstract manner because it allows for an exploration of activism’s values. For example, considering if the adoption of activists’ ideas into the mainstream results in the corruption of those ideals- I am specifically thinking about the increase of “natural” and “organic” food labels.
The way we shop for food has changed in the recent years. Walking through a grocery store one is bombarded with various labels claiming to be organic, all natural, gluten free, farm fresh, whole grain, or any other vaguely healthy sounding words. As Tim Jordan nicely pointed out, these changes did not appear out of nowhere, they came from a campaign advocating for a change in the ways consumers eat food. What started as people shunning multi-million dollar companies in favor of locally grown food has turned into a multi-million dollar industry profiting off people’s interest in healthy living. At this point, it is unclear if the products these companies are selling to consumers are truly different or just the result of very well planned marketing campaigns. This example poses interesting questions about the adoption of activism into the mainstream. Has the movement succeeded because the public has changed habits or have companies taken advantage of a consumer fad without any systematic changes? Are the ideals of this activist campaign corrupted or have they just been modified? What should be the steps going forward? These questions and more are important if one wants to think about the relationship between activism and the general public.
Tim Jordan, in his book titled Activism!: Direct Action, Hacktivism and the Future of Society, discusses the principals of activism and discusses the role of difference. He begins by describing difference as the “right of different politics to develop.” A concrete example of this comes from the 18 June anti-globalization protests that took place throughout the world and included groups protesting capitalism and the idea of nation-states while other groups opposed globalization for nationalist reasons. It might appear strange to have such widely divergent messages within one movement, but “such contradictions could exist side by side because difference was invoked as a general principal (Ford 141).
This idea of difference is important because it allows for the flexibility, innovation, and diversity in activism. For example, in environmental sustainability movements some are motivated by moral reasons such as Green Peace while others might be interested in developing green technology because it disrupts older, inefficient ways of energy production and re imagines our way of living. This combination of different motivations and skill sets might be exactly what is need in order to encourage the necessary changes in the way humans use resources. Other cases of difference can also serve to make a movement more inclusive such as the feminist movement’s inclusion of sub-groups highlighting differences in race, wealth, and religion. While difference can serve a positive purpose, Ford highlights how it can lead to indifference toward difference. He uses the example of Australia’s definition of multiculturalism and shows how it diminishes the unique situation of the aboriginal people. In order to remedy this situation, Ford introduces the second principal of activism, which deals with social relations: oppression. I found this discussion of difference to be very important foundation to understanding why activism has developed a vocabulary that centers on oppression, exploitation, and power.