Posts Tagged ‘gender’

Beyoncé, Rachel Dolezal and authenticity

Written by Heather. Posted in News

BeyonceDolezalWhen I turned on Twitter last Friday, my feed was filled with tweets reacting, usually with anger, often with humour, to the news that Rachel Dolezal had been exposed by her parents as a white woman passing as African American.

As details emerged, that she had attended Howard University, one of the US’s historically-black colleges, that she was president of her local chapter of the NAACP, that she was listed as a professor of Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University, the Twittersphere exploded. As I scrolled through these, I noticed how many tweets mentioned Beyoncé. In this post I reflect on what this tells us about race, gender and celebrity.

Are YouTubers changing how people come out?

Written by Akile Ahmet. Posted in News

The online world has become a huge platform for young people. In particular there is a growing successful community of what have come to be known as ‘YouTubers’, people who make their living through posting material on the video sharing site. Zoe Sugg, Tanya Burr, Pixi Woo, are among many beauty gurus who make YouTube videos about make-up, fashion and lifestyle. Both Tanya Burr and Zoe Sugg also have daily vlogs which show their ordinary lives as do the SacconeJoly’s a family – mum, dad, two young children – of ‘daily vloggers’, who invite you to ‘be part of their journey. What is apparent amongst all of these videos is the embedded taken-for-granted nature of heterosexuality, yet, as Akile Ahmet shows in this post, YouTube also provides spaces for other ways of being.

‘Real love?’: Unpacking John Lewis’s festive gift

Written by Kim. Posted in News

UK retailer John Lewis produces a new Christmas-themed TV advert every year. Retaining a successful formula, they combine a sentimental visual narrative, a (some would say sickly) sweet message about giving, and audio comprising a contemporary British pop star performing a classic love or festive song.  This annual offering is an eagerly awaited event, with the adverts being described as the ‘2 minutes that launch Christmas’. Last year’s production – featuring Lily Allen in the singing role – reached not only millions of homes via a TV set, but also went viral, surpassing 10 million views on YouTube. In this guest blog post, looking beyond John Lewis’s explicit aims, Steve Roberts casts a critical eye on the latest ad, asking what messages this carries about gender, sexuality and relationships.

Feminist celebrities

Written by Heather. Posted in News

Emma Watson and Beyoncé, two of our six female case-study celebrities have recently publicly identified as feminists and issued calls for action to redress gender inequalities. This has provoked a deluge of opinion pieces and blogs, especially this week when it seems like everyone from Owen Jones in the Guardian to Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett in the New Statesman has jumped online to support Watson in the face of threats online to release nude photos of her following her speech at the UN. There’s also been a widespread celebration of her as  making feminist an easier identity for men to admit in public. Given the ongoing discussion about this within mainstream media and the blogosphere, we’ve been left wondering if there’s anything left to say. But having closely followed the media representation of these two celebrities over the last two years, we’ve been struck by some contrasts between the responses to their two very similar articulations of feminism.  While Emma’s speech generated the kinds of misogynistic e-bile increasingly levelled at women in the public sphere, she has been widely celebrated for her feminism. Far more criticism has been levelled at Beyoncé with commentators, many of them feminist, declaring her hypocritical for speaking about empowerment while posing scantily clad in her music videos and photoshoots and proudly naming herself ‘Mrs Carter’. 

Schadenfreude, Sexism and Child Stars

Written by Heather. Posted in News

Mara WilsonWhile our obsession with celebrities often receives criticism for its vapidity or vanity, it seems that very few feel the need to call attention to its more damaging and pervasive issues. This is not to say that there are no criticisms of the larger issues found within and spread by Hollywood. Rather, it seems far easier to criticise pre-teen girls for their obsessive crushes on the boy band of the moment than it is to take a critical look at the predatory nature of the studios behind those boy bands, pop princesses and other young stars.

A current craze in dire need of further critical discussion is the fascination with “child stars gone wild”. In this post, journalist and guest blogger Scott Huntington asks: Why do we desire to track these train wrecks? How does this fascination shed a light on issues in Hollywood culture and/or our culture at large? Are these issues gender neutral, or do they dovetail with the ongoing struggle with sexism within our culture?

Stories from our data – Mariam: ‘I want my children to know a woman can do it’

Written by Heather. Posted in News

hills_208_01We’re currently working on ways to make our findings accessible to a general audience including those who work with young people such as teachers, careers advisors and youth workers, as well as other researchers.  As part of this we’re writing up vignettes based on the individual interviews we did with young people. With advice from our advisory group and other ‘friends’ of CelebYouth we’re working on a dedicated interactive website which will host these and other research findings and resources.

As we develop these we thought we’d share two of these vignettes in two blog posts. In this post, Kim shares the story of Mariam from Manchester. In another post,  Heather shares one of her interviews, with someone from a rural school who chose the pseudonym Will Smith.

We’d love to hear what people think of these – Are they interesting? Do they give a useful insight into the participants and their aspirations? Do you think these will be useful resources and to who? What questions do these raise for you? In what ways do you think these stories might get used?

We need to talk about coding…

Written by Heather. Posted in News

While struggling to write a paper about how technology entrepreneurs came up as celebrities in our data, I’ve become fascinated by coding. Coding, or computer programming, is currently being pushed by a range of national and transnational bodies and corporations. The UK has declared 2014 The Year of Code and introduced coding into the primary and secondary school curriculum. In 2013, The European Commission set up an annual Europe Code Week with events across the continent. US-based code.org presents itself as a global campaign with its website proclaiming that it has led to over 1.5 billion lines of coding by students. Within these campaigns coding is presented as a vital skill both for individual and national competitiveness. However, while many, if not most, of the early programmers were female, computing has since become a male-dominated field. Indeed as research shows, media representations of technological workers, like those who work with science and mathematics, predominantly feature white, middle-class, geeky men. This raises questions about who has access to these powerful coding knowledges and who can identify with the technological futures invoked by these campaigns and initiatives. In this blogpost I begin the task of addressing these questions by identifying a key tension in the calls to coding: coding as a challenging and elite skill vs coding as easy and accessible to all.

The Homeward Bound Campaign: Using celebrity culture to promote social justice issues

Written by Heather. Posted in News

No question, celebrity culture is fascinated with mothers and motherhood, from bad mums, good mums, reformed bad girl mums, out-of-control mothers, to the domineering ‘mumager’ and so on. Oftentimes, these images of celebrity mothers are shaped by gender, race and class ideologies; that makes some kinds of mothers more desirable or respectable than others, typically white, heterosexual, middle-class mothers. Celebrity motherhood has become big business too, as many women have created lifestyle brands using their mothering style as a selling feature (see Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, Jessica Simpson, Tori Spelling, just to name a few). For some of these women, pregnancy became their ticket to public reformation; allowing them to transition from “bad girl” to “happy, fulfilled, doting mother”. However, many are also very critical of this celebration of celebrity motherhood for creating even more unrealistic standards/ideals for the average woman who does not have the privilege of being helped by a staff of nannies, cooks and trainers. In this guest post, Natasha Patterson explores what a new Canadian campaign to support single mothers, has to say about debates on celebrity motherhood and about parodying celebrity culture to promote women’s issues.

What do young people think of Beyoncé?

Written by Heather. Posted in News

beyonce 1This is the third of a series of posts exploring what the young people in our group interviews had to say about key global celebrities. Here Heather looks at the talk about singer and actor Beyoncé. Elsewhere on the website you can read what our participants had to say about Bill Gates and about Will Smith. If you’re interested in how we analysed our data to arrive at this account then follow this link, here I focus on how and why it appeared to be compulsory to like, even love, Beyoncé.

Gender and the Great British Bake Off

Written by Kim. Posted in News

One is not born, but rather one becomes a woman – Simone de Beauvoir, 1953

This well-known assertion of Simone de Beauvoir, pointing toward the social and cultural mores that form and regulate an individual as a ‘woman’, is especially apt in light of the controversy surrounding the finalists of BBC2’s Great British Bake Off. The three female finalists have been variously castigated for being too miserable, too opinionated, too confident and too feminine. The repeated characterisations of the women in terms of inflexible, binary gender roles, alongside the criticisms of them for either failing to live up to these or – bizarrely – for adhering to them too closely, invites further analysis of the presentation of womanliness and femininity in the media. Moreover, the presence in the criticism of underlying suspicions regarding the race and class status of the women finalists demonstrates the increasing need for more fine-grained examinations of how we approach the still-troubling and troublesome category of ‘woman’. In this co-authored blog post, CelebYouth’s Kim and guest blogger Sarah Burton discuss the relationship between the structural context of GBBO and the individual presentations of gender therein, with a particular focus on the interactions between media, Britishness and public space.

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