description:

My work continues scholarship in the area of social change that shape peoples' lives. I research poststructural expressions of identity/ies to engage how people shape meaning through the technologies they choose to advocate within their communities. My interdisciplinary and intersectional media and rhetorical scholarship engages a multiplicity of identities (race, class, gender) the contextual spaces of the internet/WWW, gaming, and mobile devices.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Searching for a More Perfect Union

Dear Mr. President,
It is 3:30am and I find myself staring at the constitution. Why would a breast feeding mother, behind on her grading, short on sleep be looking at the constitution at 3:30 in the morning? Because I cannot stop thinking about the preamble. “We the people…” It begins strong. “We the people” tells us that we as the people decide. We as the people choose. We as the people have agency. We as the people are the embodiment of what this country is.
The next part gives me pause.
We are not United within our States. We never were. Not all the people were or are included in the democratic “experiment” that was so “improbable.” Growing up in Minnesota, Dakota County nonetheless, and studying the many perspectives of the history of this land, time, and location, I realize that there are many people not included in those “United States.” The United States was built on displacement and slavery and it is our “unfinished business.” These things hold us back in uniting our country because we still haven’t addressed them in our binding contract. Our constitution.

We the people.

It is time to find out what that means.

This past semester my students read your “A More Perfect Union” speech. As you spoke eloquently about your background as representative of a blend of people you hoped to represent, I found myself reminded of the various histories and experiences that make up who I am. I am the daughter of a chemical engineer who lost his father early in his life and a mother whose was a social activist for the Jane Project in Chicago. My grandmother was a kindergarten teacher in Chicago; my other grandmother emigrated here just before WWII. I am German, but also French, as well as a whole host to many other cultural influences. I come from a visually and ethnically diverse family and communities. My cousins are Black, Chicano, Mexican, Jewish, Italian, Irish, etc. Some are practicing Jews others Catholics and still others Protestant. I grew up in Minnesota, but lived in England as well as various places around the Midwest. All these influences have helped me not only survive but thrive. I am American, but also what Gloria AnzaldĂșa called metiza.


I am a mother. I am a scholar. I am a feminist. I am a partner, sister, cousin, and friend. I am a daughter and a daughter in law. It is not easy to be all these parts of my identity-sometimes conflicts happen due to the constraints of attempting to unify my identity, but that is what prompts me to learn-to formulate new ideas and become more flexible in my understanding of myself. But what binds me together as well as this country together is not our unified conception, but our desire to continue to unify ourselves through connections with one another. It is the associations we make that inspire us to be more than the narrow conception and value systems that other single countries have and attempt to preserve. It is our very nature as a blended, multifaceted, and that make us a generative country.
I would imagine that if I was in your shoes a lot of things have changed since that speech. You are not on the campaign trail seeking election. Instead, if I was in your shoes I would be thinking about legacy. Such a weighty term for someone so young, but necessary considering what you have already accomplished and the responsibility of your position. I support you because you are the person who I believe can embody change. You’ve accomplished so much already, and so much this last month, that your legacy is secure. But what I call to is your desire for a more perfect union. Can this be a part of your legacy too? What meaning is necessary to unify us all into the people we hope to be? How might we be more mindful of ourselves and our community/ies so that we can embody a united sense of our people?

I do not offer you easy questions, only ones that I hope you will engage deliberatively.

Thank you for your time, attention, and (hopefully) engagement.
Sincerely,

Wendy K. Z. Anderson

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Oh brother please have mercy 'Cause I just can't take it"

In the last 24 hours I have found myself torn and concerned about the upcoming protest in the private, corporate space of the Mall of America. I am so torn that I have taken action in a way that surprised myself-I wrote government officials (see below) in hopes that they will take action to preserve our communities. And now I ask you to consider a similar action and offer my letters as a gift. 

Writing does not come easy for many-heck, it doesn't come easy for me-so I offer what I wrote. Please read it, revise it, send it. I've included links to the emails below.

-----
Minnesota Governor Dayton, 
http://mn.gov/governor/contact-us/form/

-------
Dear Governor Dayton,

I'm writing you out of concern for the upcoming demonstration planning to be held at the Mall of America on Saturday December 20th at 2 PM. The demonstration organized by #blacklivesmatter is one that has prompted concern for me as a social movement scholar. The last few days I have debated about going to this demonstration and watching the communication unfold between the organizers and the owners/managers of the Mall of America has prompted me to worry about the safety of not only myself but my community. 

As a movement scholar that believes in fighting for equality, equity, and justice, I find myself compelled to be a part of this demonstration of people planning to sing as a United community. As a mother of two I realize that I am concerned about the potential risk. Due to my research on the white nationalist movement, I recognize potential dangers that may befall the citizens enacting their right to come together, even if they're organizing it for a privatize commercial space such as the Mall of America. 

In this economic recession, our public spaces have condensed. We are no longer a nation with many physical public commons areas where people discuss and demonstrate as an expression of their perspectives. In a place as cold as Minnesota, our need to engage civic rights require places that do not endanger our health. In a place as contemplative as Minnesota, our embodiment of civil rights cannot be ignored. 

I write because I worry not only about myself and my family but also our Minnesota community and our community of the United States at large. I ask that you find a means to engage this situation, particular this demonstration on Saturday, to help unite the community that we value and share. There is power in presence and I believe that, in a place as receptive as Minnesota, change can take root and grow.

Thank you for your time, attention, and consideration.

Sincerely, 
Wendy K. Z. Anderson

-------
President Barack Obama
http://m.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments

-------
Dear President Obama,

I'm writing you out of concern for the upcoming demonstration planning to be held at the Mall of America on Saturday December 20th at 2 PM. The demonstration organized by #blacklivesmatter is one that has prompted concern for me as a social movement scholar. The last few days I have debated about going to this demonstration and watching the communication unfold between the organizers and the owners/managers of the Mall of America has prompted me to worry about the safety of not only myself but my community. 

As a movement scholar that believes in fighting for equality, equity, and justice, I find myself compelled to be a part of this demonstration of people planning to sing as a United community. As a mother of two I realize that I am concerned about the potential risk. Due to my research on the white nationalist movement, I recognize potential dangers that may befall the citizens enacting their right to come together, even if they're organizing it for a privatize commercial space such as the Mall of America. 

In this economic recession, our public spaces have condensed. We are no longer a nation with many physical public commons areas where people discuss and demonstrate as an expression of their perspectives. In a place as cold as Minnesota, our need to engage civic rights require places that do not endanger our health. In a place as contemplative as Minnesota, our embodiment of civil rights cannot be ignored. 

I write because I worry not only about myself and my family but also our Minnesota community and our community of the United States at large. I ask that you find a means to engage this situation, particular this demonstration on Saturday, to help unite the community that we value and share. There is power in presence and I believe that, in a place as receptive as Minnesota, change can take root and grow.

Thank you for your time, attention, and consideration.

Sincerely, 
Wendy K. Z. Anderson

Friday, November 28, 2014

Writing down language: appropriation of a mediated form as a act of violence

In grad school I remember researching Tuskeegee and other 'normal' schools where tribal people were sent to be Europeanized. I found myself saddened by and anxious about a section of Zinn's text that highlighted how the Cherokee nation was pressured to write down their language. I wondered what did that process of translation do to a primarily, if not solely, oral/nonverbal culture. As a larger question, how does mediation influence culture?

So when I saw this piece (http://howardzinn.org/thanksgiving-resistance/) on how mediation can separate a culture from its people (especially when that culture is mediated through the lens of another-cultural appropriation, etc.-for example, http://www.cbc.ca/m/news/aboriginal/indigenous-video-game-designer-takes-stand-against-custer-s-revenge-1.2851104.), I found myself returning to hooks' article on 'Eating the Other' (http://anaestheticsofhiphop.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/eating-the-other.pdf) and considering my issue with her premise that 'white males' are bored, which is why they attempt to eat another's culture. 

I disagree.

I believe that we mediate our experiences so much in U.S. culture (hello, Baudrillard) that we distance ourselves from the experiences of community. In our efforts to record, explain, and hold culture, we forget how to engage one another and end up in a matrix of our own creation...alone with our pictures rather than with each other sharing our memories through communicating with one another. We forget how to listen to and learn from one another. We ask questions expecting a polite, but innocuous response so we can continue about our lives without having to really engage one another.

And then we wonder why we feel so lonely.

Writing/mediating can be a lonely endeavor unless we find ways to engage our experiences with others...communicate through multiple mediated forms our perspective and be willing to be influenced by others' perspectives on the topic we are engaging. Sharing and learning both require humility, time, engagement, attention, etc., but moving away from trying to control, separate, hold one's self in place is never an easy thing to do. We like to have power over our identity, but we forget it is a shared, negotiated experience in which we carefully 'choose' the contexts that influence us...at least some of us get some 'choice.'

Further when others mediate our identities we may loose control of how we are defined. We can become objectified through someone else's lens. A moment they 'witness' can become our defining moment if it serves someone else to promote us that way.

So where does that leave me as I type out this post at 4:21am?

Wondering how one does scholarship in fields where symbol systems dominate the discipline...or at least they seem to dominate it. Similar to how written accounts of other cultures (bad anthropology) dominate face to face cultural knowledge, written word dominates academia. How does one become fluent in a medium without isolating one's self from one's cultural experience? Is the isolation and distance necessary, but for what consequence?What 'correctives' might we engage in to ensure we do not loose sight of the beings sitting, not across, but with us at the table? 

I end with more questions than answers, but knowledge that the questions themselves are helping to be and develop 'correctives' to the isolation that can fuel more isolation and judgment. 

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Defining bullies: sex and racial identification

I saw this book cover
(http://www.amightygirl.com/little-girls-can-be-mean) and was a little appalled, first because of a definitional concern and then because of the sex specificity.

What is the difference between bullying and being 'bossy' and being a leader? Aren't boys bullies too in similar ways? 

Upon further analysis of the cover, I found myself concerned about the racial and gender implications about who bullies who...

I would imagine that reading this book might help to answer my questions and concerns, but I am not sure that I want to take the time to read it...but clearly I wanted to gripe because I usually like Mighty Girls...

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Street harassment reporting: there's an app for that!

A friend of mine noted on Facebook that, while running with her sister last night, a group of 10 to 12 year old boys paced them and then started yelling comments about them getting in shape and 'burn[ing] those calories." They weren't sure how to respond. Her husband happened to be running up ahead and he turned around and blinded the kids with his headlamp. She posted to get some ideas about what she could have done.


My first response is how frustrating is it that a victim is searching for an appropriate response to street harassment. 


Second, what kind of society are we living in that 10 to 12 year old boys believe that it is okay, feel comfortable 'trying out' harassment toward two adult women?


Third, in addition to talking to their parents, what legal options exist to ensure it ends?


I found a few sites that seem helpful...I'm totally checking out the street harassment apps!


http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/strategies/reporting/


http://feministing.com/2013/12/11/do-you-know-the-laws-that-cover-street-harassment-in-your-state/


http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/02/apps-and-online-programs-offer-new-ways-to-report-street-harassment.html

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

‘Taking Mama Steps’ Toward Authority, Alternatives, and Advocacy: Feminist Consciousness Raising within a Digital Motherhood Community

I am proud to say that on my expected date, a co-author and I "birthed"/submitted our manuscript entitled "‘Taking Mama Steps’ Toward Authority, Alternatives, and Advocacy: Feminist Consciousness Raising within a Digital Motherhood Community" to Feminist Media Studies. We'll see what happens, but here is the current abstract. 

At least one birth happened that day! :) 
Abstract
Ten years ago when faced with the challenge of blending work and motherhood, the task was arduous, lonely, and painstaking (Evans and Grant 2008). Most settled for face-to-face interactions or phone calls to friends and family for support. Sadly, these frustrated conversations are still happening as society does not blend work with family well (Cady 2013).  As a result, women are turning to online spaces for social support. In 1991, Donna Haraway posited that online, affinity-based groups contain the potential for activism. Buoyed by digital social media possibilities for online democracy and social support, we assessed feminist activism within a motherhood support group populated by women from various countries around the world. We found that consciousness raising (Campbell 1973) can further feminist activism within an online motherhood Facebook group, but only to the extent that economic, educational, and cultural privilege are recognized and discussed openly in the group instead of used as a means to generate hierarchy and division. Economic stratification and educational divides constrain social support, suggesting that digital connections influence affinity-based identities and feminist activism. Further, this study engages multiple approaches for ethically studying online groups by using digital surveys, online consent forms, and close textual analysis.

Keywords: Consciousness raising, motherhood, Facebook, social support, feminism 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I'm not included: Dialogic influences of Identity reclamation through naming

I find myself continuing to contemplate yesterday's discussion in my Communication Ethics class concerning naming and identity. One of my students mentioned concerns about the exclusivity of naming as community members who are 'Othered' attempt to influence the image of themselves. The example of the BET network got me thinking about how naming of the Self (when struggling through oppression) influences our interactions with others considered dominant within certain social structures. For example, for a long time I've seen friends (male as well as people of color) feel in excluded from feminist conversations due to perceptions of the term 'feminism'. The 'femin' root may seem exclusive to women and the history of the movement and organizations with that name have been predominantly and sometimes exclusively white (Brown, 1989; Chehade, 2001).

When we name or identify or classify, we not only create 'in' groups, but also 'out' groups (Bowker and Stars, 1999; Burke, 1941). When people specifically communicate instances of oppression through how they name their identity, "a lack of white privilege can be experienced as oppression" (Nakamura, 2002, p. 78).

Here is a question that I have come to (hopefully) further my understanding of dialogue: If though our identity reclamation others recognize their privilege/experience oppression, how might that recognition influence dialogue? 

I am not advocating for the invisibility of oppression or silencing identity reclamation (as Burke noted we cannot legislate language)-racial invisibility allows for a privileged group to “take their identity as the norm or stand by which other groups are measured” (Martin, Krizek, Nakayama, & Bradford, 1996) and facilitate privilege through silence. I am just wondering how the labels we choose influence the potential for dialogue.

refs:
Brown, E. B. (1989). Womanist Consciousness: Maggie Lena Walker and the Independent Order of Saint Luke. Signs, 14(3), 610-633.
Bowker, G.C., & Stars, S.L. (1999) Sorting things out classification and its consequences. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Burke, K. (1941). The philosophy of literary form (3rd ed.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Chehade C (2001) Big little white lies: Our attempt to white-out America. New Brunswick, NJ: Nehmarche Publishing.
Martin, J. N., Krizek, R. L., Nakayama, T. K., & Bradford, L. (1996). Exploring Whiteness: A study of self labels for white Americans. Communication Quarterly, 44(2): pp. 125-144.
Nakamura, L. (2002). Head-hunting on the internet: Identity tourism, avatars, and racial passing in the textual and graphic chat spaces. In L. Nakamura (Ed.), Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet (pp. 31-60). New York: Routledge.