Author Archives: angeladavi

(Blog Post #4) Fashion in Brooklyn

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My boyfriend’s father, who has lived in Williamsburg his entire life, told me that his childhood neighborhood was not always like this. Oh yeah. Once upon a time, Williamsburg was not the hip, trendy area that we know today. In recent years, the neighborhood has become gentrified. It is now largely inhabited by young, working professionals and people that are categorized as “hipsters.” The overwhelming presence of this subculture has strongly influenced the local merchants. Many restaurants in the area offer vegan options, gluten-free products, organic produce, and all that type of junk that you’d normally find at Whole Foods. Eating healthy is what’s in, even though I’ll never quite understand the hype behind those juice cleanses. (I have all my teeth. I don’t need to drink my vegetables.) These people have not only changed the demographic of the area, but they’ve also changed the entire lifestyle. With easy access to restaurants, bars, and public transportation, almost nobody drives, but be warned: If you choose to drive into Williamsburg, watch out for bicyclists! I swear, it seems like everybody and their mother rides their bike! Cold weather, warm weather –  it doesn’t matter, man. On the plus side, there are less gas emissions, and I’m all about saving good ‘ol Mother Earth.

As Simmel describes in “Fashion” (1904), living in a city such as Williamsburg promotes a certain lifestyle. Simmel states, “Since modern individuals tend to be detached from traditional anchors of social support, fashion allows the individual to signal or express their own personality or personal values.”Besides the food, another significant aspect is… well, fashion itself. I’ll be honest, a hot pink Juicy Couture tracksuit wouldn’t necessarily be considered as popular fashion in the ‘Burg. (No offense to the women who wear them. I bet those are really comfortable. You keep wearing what you love, honey.) I’ve come to understand that a Williamsburg woman’s idea of a stylish outfit isn’t necessarily something new, but something borrowed. No, I’m not describing one of those corny wedding traditions. I’m talking about Macklemore status: thrift shopping. It’s all about finding that diamond in the rough at a flea market, making it your own, and therefore making it new again (although there’s still a good chance it could have emerged from the mothball-ridden closet of its previous owner). When I go to visit Williamsburg, I think to myself, “Is this cool enough to wear?” It’s as if there’s this unspoken contest; everyone’s trying to “out-cool” each other, without being too obvious about it. So if I care too much about how I look, would that be too mainstream?

The more time I spend in Williamsburg, the more I realize that the city itself is kinda like a repurposed granny sweater.

(Hear me out. I’m getting to the point.)

Much like the inhabitants seek to find that diamond in the rough; that one of a kind piece at the thrift store, it appears that their neighborhood has also become a product of their fashion and refurbishing. These hipsters have brought new life into this neighborhood and made it their own. So, perhaps I’ll be able to tolerate their curiously perfect knobbed mustaches, and their rampant bicycles. They have cultivated a beautiful neighborhood that, in my opinion will stand the test of time and fashion.

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(Blog Post #3) Individual vs. Society: An Ode to the Walmart Shopper

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Have you ever people watched? I mean, not everyone does it for fun (*raises hand* guilty), but you know how it goes. You’ve been walking around all day, and you finally spot the first bench you’ve seen in 20 minutes. Relief is in sight! You make your way over to the seat, and you make yourself comfortable. You let out a sigh that’s half exhaustion and half relief. Once you’re all comfortable, you start to notice everyone walking around you. You see a lady pushing her fussy toddler in a stroller, a man who could easily be Hulk Hogan’s body double, and an elderly man who gingerly makes his way forward using his cane. (It’s amazing what you start to notice when your eyes aren’t glued to the screen of your phone every time you’re bored in public. Don’t lie, we all do it.)

I thought about this whole people-watching concept, and then I realized how relevant it is to Simmel’s 3 assumptions about the individual and society. Just to recap, they are:

  1. Individuals are both within and outside society.
  2. Individuals are both objects and subjects within networks of communicative interaction
  3. Individuals have the impulse to be self-fulfilling and self-completing, that is, they seek an integrated self-concept.

When we look at people around us, we have the power to decide what is deemed acceptable and what is considered deviant. Now, deviance is relative. What may be seen as deviant in one setting may be the norm in another. As for me, I love wearing Jordans. They’re comfortable shoes, and they look cool. More importantly, I feel cool when I wear them. If I wear them at QC, I sometimes get compliments on them. If I wear them in my 98% Caucasian neighborhood, I’m bound to get some strange, sideways looks. Apparently, I missed the memo that white girls aren’t allowed to wear certain sneakers.

If you’ve never been to http://www.peopleofwalmart.com before, you’re welcome. You’ve never really people-watched unless you’ve been to Walmart, let’s be honest. When we people-watch, these Walmart shoppers are the objects and subjects. Unfortunately, some of them are the object of cringe-worthy reactions, but they are also the subject of our attention. Adversely, we also become the subject of someone’s attention when we least expect it. And whether we like it or not, you’re bound to spot that Abercrombie model look-a-like as you’re stuffing an Auntie Anne’s pretzel into your mouth. We all have our moments. Shrug it off.

With all of these ads that are posted in the mall, it’s hard not to feel pressured. Vendors at those little kiosks try to come up to you and say, “Wear this! You’ll look sexy!” “Spray this perfume! We promise you won’t smell like your Great Aunt Nancy!” (<–Okay, so that one was a stretch, but you get the point.) We are constantly looking to improve upon ourselves by buying the latest technologies, following the latest fashion trends, and learning how to make those puke-colored green smoothies that everyone raves about. I mean, do you know how many self-help books are out there? A LOT. We are a society that constantly strives for perfection, and just when we think we’re satisfied, BOOM! Apple comes out with a brand new iPhone. Suddenly, your “smart” phone starts looking like it came off the set of “Saved By the Bell.” The truth is, we’ll never truly be happy unless we stop trying to use the money we don’t have to buy the things we don’t need in order to impress people we don’t even like.

So. The next time you go to the mall, I encourage you to sit down, put your phone in your pocket, and look at people. I mean, really look at people. We are all misfits in one way or another, so we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Perhaps that mother with the baby was once an Olympic swimmer. Maybe that body builder has a soft spot for his miniature poodle, Fifi. And maybe that elderly gentleman injured his leg when he fought for our country. Who knows? Maybe it’s not individual vs. society, but rather the individual vs self. So let’s be nice to ourselves, and let’s be understanding of others. Everyone’s just trying to get by. So let’s grab a hot Auntie Anne’s pretzel and call it a day. We all deserve it.

Treat yo’ self.

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(Blog Post #2) “We Should All Be Feminists” and Gilman

I don’t know about any of you, but Beyonce is my girl. I love listening to her music. Her newest album, titled “Yonce”, features a couple of songs that are all about women kicking some major tail and being independent. I fell in love with one of the songs called, “Flawless.” At face value, it’s one of those songs that makes you feel like you could take on the world if you wanted to — like you’re the most bad ass person in the room. (If you ever need an ego boost, trust me. Just listen to it.) Half way through the song, I noticed that Beyonce had sampled a speech on feminism:

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much.’ ‘You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man.’ Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love, and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage, and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or for accomplishments (which I think can be a good thing), but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they can not be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

At first, I was startled, because I wasn’t expecting to hear a speech like this in the middle of a hip-hop song. Who WAS this brilliant woman? I had to find out for myself. So, I did what any other curious college student did: I went on Google. I searched for “Beyonce Flawless speech”. Sure enough, I found what I was looking for. Beyonce had used a short sequence of a speech given by Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, called “We Should All Be Feminists.” The speech is 30 minutes long, but in all honesty, it’s worth the listen if you have the time. Adichie is a brilliant woman and an excellent orator. She really touches on all the points that Gilman makes, in regards to her standpoints on the unequal division of labor and gender socialization. What’s so remarkable about Gilman is that her ideology was WAY ahead of its time. Over a 100 years have passed, and her work is still relevant today. Perhaps that just goes to show you that although women have come a long way, we still have a long way to go. And the only way to go, is up, because those glass ceilings won’t be an obstacle anymore.

Stay flawless, ladies.

(Blog Post #1) Wealth Inequality

Since the whole “hub-bub” of Occupy Wall Street has been relevant in our media, there has been much talk about wealth in our American society. Phrases, such as “We are the 99%” have been coined and used in news headlines and throughout the blogospheres. But why that phrase in particular? After watching these two videos, I completely understand. The nation, as a whole, has no idea how skewed our wealth distribution is. In a Socialist society, all wealth would be distributed equally, although that’s far from what our society is. We would like to believe that the wealth of our nation is distributed relatively equally, in a sense that the top 20% still maintain about 30% of the nation’s wealth, and the bottom 20% are still above the poverty line. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In reality, it’s so much more unequal than that. Many people are below the poverty line, and the middle class is not far behind from facing financial struggles, if they aren’t already. The wealthiest of our country are making exponentially more money than anybody else, to the point where they make up more than half of our nation’s wealth. Before watching these videos, I had a general sense of how unequal our society was. Now, my eyes are completely open, and it’s almost hard to believe. It’s alarming. My only question is this: How can we, as a society, move forward, when there are so many people who are stuck in their financial situation?