Friday, November 13, 2015

On Deck and in Check: Conceding Sexuality to Men through Pop Music

So I’ve noticed a trend in popular music over the past few years or so. A trend that may seem like it should be forward movement to a hippy feminist like myself, but definitely isn’t.

You see, women have been able to express themselves through music in a sexual way-finally getting acknowledgement as sexual beings. Well...sort of.

Unfortunately, many times the ways in which the media portrays female sexuality are not true to female sexuality, but how male sexuality wants female sexuality to be. Sound confusing? Let me demonstrate what I mean by cutting straight to some lyrics from songs that are currently playing on top 40 hit stations...  

“Gonna wear that dress you like, skin-tight
Do my hair up real, real nice
And syncopate my skin to your heart beating

'Cause I just wanna look good for you, good for you, uh-huh
I just wanna look good for you, good for you, uh-huh
Let me show you how proud I am to be yours
Leave this dress a mess on the floor
And still look good for you, good for you, uh-huh”

“Tell me what you want
What you like
It's okay
I'm a little curious, too
Tell me if it's wrong
If it's right
I don't care
I can keep a secret, can you?”

In lyrics like these women seem to have sex drives as do men, sure. Yet it still isn’t about what the woman wants. Songs like this portray female sexuality...but as male-centric. Let me further demonstrate my point with snippets from a couple of other popular songs:

“Bang bang into the room (I know ya want it)
Bang bang all over you (I'll let ya have it)
Wait a minute lemme take you there (ah)
Wait a minute till ya (ah)
Bang bang there goes your heart (I know ya want it)
Back, back seat of my car (I'll let ya have it)
Wait a minute lemme take you there (ah)
Wait a minute till ya (ah)”

Boy, just tell me where you wanna go
I'll sit back, enjoy the ride (oh yeah)
Watch me wrap my body coast to coast
Trace a map of me tonight (oh yeah)

You know the, you know the
Language my body talks
You know what, you know what
I need to give it all
Nailed down to the bed
Now that you got a taste
Baby, don't you know where you should be?

If I was your girl, if I was your girl
I'd give it to you all around the world
If I was your girl, if I was your girl
I'd give it to you all around the world

“Best believe that, when you need that
I'll provide that, you will always have it
I'll be on deck, keep it in check
When you need that, I'ma let you have it."

"So baby when you need that
Gimme the word, I'm no good
I'll be bad for my baby

Make sure that he's getting his share
Make sure that his baby take care
Make sure I'm on my toes, on my knees
Keep him pleased, rub him down
Be a lady and a freak”

I could probably use the entirety of “Hey Mama” towards my argument but I think I’ve shown you enough to make a point. Yes, they are talking about wanting to have sex...but only as a means for pleasing the man.

So let’s just stop for minute. Hold up, pause the madness, halt.

Right now I’m not interested in ranting against these artists or dissecting the societal context of the issue. I just want to possibly mitigate some of the mental and emotional damage this has on young women by making a couple of points. Ladies, please listen:

1) It is okay to acknowledge your sexuality.

Whether or not you believe that sex should be saved for marriage/someone special, you can still acknowledge that women think about it. Talking about sex like it’s this thing that men love and women just concede to is highly contestable to many of us ladies and extremely unhealthy for relationships in general.

You are not a whore when something turns you on, and you are not a sinner for your perfectly natural desire to have satisfying sexual experiences. Sexuality isn’t normal for men and wrong or weird for women. We are all biological creatures with bodies that know they need to reproduce to continue the species.

2) No one is entitled to your sexuality.

Furthermore, a man being a man does not make him the owner of your sexuality.

Actually, let’s just go ahead and end this discussion without focusing on gender roles or stereotypes at all. Let’s talk about people having relationships with other people.

No matter how large your partner’s sexual appetite is, they are not entitled to your body. They do not own your body. No one is entitled to constant sexual satisfaction. Particularly in an actual relationship, sex is both physical and emotional. If one partner is not physically or emotionally at a place to have sex, it isn’t for them to just “get over it” so that the other partner doesn’t have to suffer a night without.

I’m not saying that you should disregard your partner’s physical needs. But you have physical needs as well, which are often tied to emotional needs. Maybe your physical needs include a certain amount of space or nights in which you just go to bed holding each other. They’re still valid.

In summary, what I hope you take away from this post is this: the sexual aspect of any relationship should be a consensual compromise that acknowledges the wants and needs of both individuals. Never one person staying “on deck” or "in check" for the other. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Homophobia and the War of the Words

Words have a lot of power.

Of course, the words we say to others directly can nurture or hurt their feelings, thoughts, and self-image. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Our choice of words can turn what could have been a constructive conversation into a destructive argument. They can represent or misrepresent ideas. They can open or close both minds and hearts.

And that’s why this post is about a word: homophobia.

It may seem pretty straightforward. Homophobic people are those with an unwarranted fear of homosexuals. But as the debate over LGBT+ rights rages on, this word has picked up a lot of weight. It’s a sharp word, the user often indicating a certain closed-mindedness or hatefulness that the one being labeled may find insulting.

Thus, I dare ask the question:

Should we call everyone who doesn’t “agree” with homosexuality homophobic?

I mean don’t get me wrong, I get why this word would be directed at anyone who believes that homosexuality is a sin. Regarding anything as a sin or defect does seem to entail a certain kind of “phobia.”

But here’s the thing-believing that homosexuality is not a part of God’s original intent for humanity or isn’t what is best for a particular person doesn’t require fear or hatred. Yes, it can. Oh it definitely can. But it doesn’t have to.

There are many people who concede to the taboos incorporated into the religious doctrine they find most appealing or convincing without then adopting aggression toward or disgust with whatever the taboo is on. I know many evangelical Christians who know many people who don’t identify as heterosexual and who treat those people like normal people.

There are parents who are heart broken by their child’s sexual identity but love them no less and treat them no differently. There are friends who “don’t agree” with other friends’ sexuality but talk, laugh, and fight with them just like the rest of the people they hang out with. And there are perfect strangers who might not have voted in support of homosexual marriage but would never treat other strangers disrespectfully or even feel it appropriate to discuss their objections when seeing said strangers with their partners at work, the mall, or wherever.

I’m not saying that it doesn’t suck that many people see LGBT+ folks as different, influenced by the sinful nature, or anything else or than ordinary people just being people. And I’m not saying that homophobia doesn’t exist.

On the contrary....what I’m saying is that because homophobia DOES exist and has very real consequences on multiple levels and all over the world, we should diagnose it correctly that we may treat it effectively. Trying to force people into changing their beliefs by insulting them doesn’t work and directing aggression at people who haven’t directed it at us won’t help them see through our eyes.

As someone who identifies as bisexual, I don’t want to force anyone to believe what I believe. Of course I would like it if they did. And of course I will attempt to communicate the reasons behind my worldview in the hopes that others will consider it. I would love to live in a world where no one thinks anything is “wrong” with me because I’m not straight. But I also want to live in a world where everyone is free to think what they think as long as they treat other human beings like human beings.

I guess in the end my request is not that we stop using the word. But like I said, it is a weighty one with a sharp edge. Thus, my request is simply this: watch where you point that thing. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

3 Unnatural Things Women Do Because of Feminism

I’ve not been very active lately since I’ve been preoccupied with moving to Scotland for grad school, starting grad school, and finishing up a very time and energy consuming scholarship application. But I’m officially settled in and back at the blog! And today, I’d like to discuss three things that the outlandish realm of feminism has inspired some of my fellow womenfolk to do against their feminine nature.
1) Not shaving

As absurd as it sounds, there are women walking among us more civilized creatures who do not shave. Not the armpit hair, not the leg hair....not even those moderately noticeable hairs that can sometimes crop up around the naval. Feminism has these women believing that appreciation for a hairless female body reflects an arbitrary and even unfair standard which our modern society holds for us. And to that I ask: why would we have finally decided to start doing it if it weren’t in our nature this whole time?

2) Casual Sex

Everyone knows that men are the more sexually veracious of the two genders. It’s only natural that men would be too physical to control their own thoughts and desires while women long only to attach themselves to one man. A man making a lewd joke at, following, or otherwise harassing a women who is scantily clad? What else could you expect from him? Men are so sexual they cannot control themselves, while women desire monogamy so direly they are willing to bear with men and their weaknesses. How could such an arrangement possibly result from the cultural conditioning of a male-dominated society as the feminazis claim?

And now the aftershock of the “sexual revolution” has women of all kinds engaging in hook-ups and swiping right on Tinder. The only explanation: feminism makes women think they want things they don’t really want.

Feminism even has women believing they want to engage in dangerous contact sports. Instead of preserving the beautiful delicate features that all of us of the fairer sex are of course born with, they rebel against their nature in favor of sweat, concussions, and grass stains. I don’t really need to explain why this is’s all too obvious. Seriously, when have you ever heard of women tackling each other outside of sexy, panty-clad pillow fights? Nothing else is natural.

Okay, okay, let’s get serious for a minute. Obviously I’m being a bit snarky here. But unfortunately, each of the sarcastic points above was inspired by something I’ve read, heard, or seen in the real world.  

And let’s face it...whichever side of the fence you’re on, you have to concede a substantial amount of power to culture and ideas. If the feminist movement could make women chase after casual sex when that isn’t what we are wired to want-that is powerful. But if the long ideological history of a misogynistic society can influence women to suppress and be blind to their own sexual desires-that is powerful as well!

The stone I’m hoping to put in your shoe is this: what is more likely? That a movement which basically says “Hey, you should just go ahead and do what you want no matter what others think” would make human beings go haywire doing things they don’t actually have any natural desire to do? Or that the pressures of fitting into society and adhering to its interwoven worldview could indeed give human beings a distorted view of their own nature?

For me, the second is much more plausible. And honestly, if we could learn to recognize and break free from the expectations we were never meant to have for ourselves or others, the world would probably be a much better place.

Feel free to comment-but keep it civil, please!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Confederate Flag: Every American's Heritage

Picture from

I’ve been quiet for over month now as I’ve been working fulltime then coming home to stressful to-do lists related to grad school, and because I’ve been trying to transition the blog to a website before posting again. But the transition is proving to be more arduous than I had hoped and things keep coming up that I’d like to comment on, so here I am.

Specifically, I’d really like to put my two cents in concerning the current Confederate flag controversy. There’s been a lot said on this already, and the issue is certainly more complicated than simply “if you support the flag, you’re racist.”

I understand that there is a debate concerning the south’s motivation for attempting to secede. Some would argue that slavery was only one in a host of state’s rights issues, and was not the sole reason that young men, many of whom came from poor families that couldn’t even afford slaves, chose to take up arms and risk their lives. Many would also argue that the Confederate flag can be waved as a sign of southern pride and heritage rather than prejudice or hatred.

The purpose of this blog is not to investigate history and modern interpretations of it. Nor is it an attempt to label those who would argue for the flag as a symbol of heritage to be a pack of liars. As a matter of fact, for the purpose of the point I’d like to make here we can give those folks the benefit of a doubt.

Let’s discuss the flag in that a symbol of heritage. I can see that. As a matter of fact, I emphatically agree.

But that’s the very issue. The Confederate flag is a huge piece of America’s heritage. It’s a symbol from a very important part of our history...our Civil War. A war that tore a fledgling nation in two and threatened to destroy the new country that so many had died to create just the century before.

The Confederate battle flag a part of everyone’s heritage, not just white people and not just white southerners. Many people died fighting for it, and many people died fighting against it. For many people it promised freedom from the Union, but for many others it threatened to bar the freedom to live and dream and act as human beings rather than a pieces of property. 

Yes, it makes many feel regional pride and reminds them of the land their ancestors died to protect. But for the majority of our country’s African American population, it stands for a war that was fought at least in part to keep them in slavery. And even to other whites, it represents the rebellion their ancestors died to quell.

It represents a piece of everyone’s history, it makes everyone feel something, it harkens back to many view points of the American past.

Now am I saying that people don’t have the right to express themselves? No. Am I saying that anyone has the right to not be offended? No.

Firstly, this isn’t just “removing everything that offends someone,” as one of my Facebook friends so painfully put it. The flag is not simply "something that offends someone." That is both an inaccurate and insensitive way to refer to a symbol that reminds millions of people of the inequality that still effects their socioeconomic status today and reminds even more of us of the racial tensions we are so pained to see dividing our beloved nation.

Secondly, this isn’t just an issue of American citizens expressing themselves. The debate has largely focused on Confederate flags in public areas, such as the flag now being removed from the grounds of the South Carolina State House.

Basically, it comes down to this: to campaign for the Confederate flag to remain in public areas is not simply to champion a symbol which has positive associations for you. It’s to stick a middle finger right up at the rest of us, black and white, who have negative associations with the flag.

You’re not just saying “my heritage is important.” What you’re saying is “my heritage is more important and has more of a right to be seen than yours.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Changes are coming and I need your help!

So, there are some changes coming soon to An Unsettled Voyage, and I need the help of my readership to make the right ones!

First of all, I’ll be switching form Blogger to self-hosting my own domain. So basically I’ll have my own website. This is something that most bloggers who are serious about their writing consider to be an essential and professional move.

But that change will entail other changes. And these are the ones I need you to help me with.

1) Topic: Travel and/or social issues?

I originally started this blog as a travel blog, but it has evolved into more than that. As you know, I often discuss modern social or political topics such as racism and feminism.

I personally want to keep the option open to post about my travels, since I’m certainly not done with them. 

When you read Unsettled Voyage, do you stick to either travel posts or social commentary posts, or both? Does the presence of either topic make you less likely to read posts on the other?

2) Name

I definitely want to change the name while I’m at it. “An Unsettled Voyage” is a bit cumbersome and I’d like something a bit shorter and more succinct. However, I’m hesitant to undertake a complete rebranding. I’m thinking of changing it to simply “Unsettled,” as I talk about both my travels as an unsettled twenty-something as well as complex issues that still need to be discussed and debated and are thus, in a different way, unsettled.

Does that make sense and sound good? If not, please feel free to offer a suggestion (no, I can’t compensate you financially ;P)!

3) Layout

Some of you who have been reading for a while may have noticed recent changes in the background/general layout. I’m making it a bit more sterile for the sake of being clean and more professional. Good choice or no? Also, guy folks and tom boys...does the coral and blue-green color scheme make you feel like it’s a “girly” blog?

Alright...these are all my thoughts for now. Feel free to post your opinion here, on the Facebook page, or in a private message! Thanks so much!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Not just my personal diary: How blogging is helping to shape the human experience

Image from

I remember watching the internet grow and mature. I did a lot of growing up myself during the same time. I remember carefully considering how I should represent my personality with a new Myspace layout or “about me” section, and taking a million selfies so I could rack up more photo comments. I remember the debates about social media and how dangerous it could be. I remember finally giving in and getting a Facebook even though it wasn’t as cool as Myspace simply to keep up with some of my home school friends who weren’t allowed on other sites.

And I remember thinking that a blog was a pretty pointless and even conceited thing to spend time on. I mean, one wants to know about your day or what lyrics you really relate to right now other than your mom. Even your top friends are only reading out of obligation.

But all things change, and at an ever increasing rate in our modern world.

These days, the internet is constantly at our fingertips and we are constantly making use of it. Information is only a Google search away and updates on distant loved ones show up in our Facebook news feeds!

Thus it was a no brainer for me to start a blog while traveling last year. I knew I would have plenty of stories to tell while teaching English in the post-Soviet developing country of Georgia. Stories that wouldn’t fit into a status update. And did I ever! There was the time I gotpunched in the face by a three year old, the time I assumed we were going to a school meeting and didn’t realize it was actually a visitation until I walked in and saw the body, the time I went camping in an old hippy bus with a handful of other twenty-somethings from a handful of different countries...the list goes on. It was the most amazing adventure I’ve yet experienced.

And I had the ability to share any of it through my blog-any of my encounters with language and cultural barrier, any of my struggles to shake off their limited views of what a woman could be, any of the moments and any of the people who made the hard times completely worth it. I was excited and proud to paint these pictures of a piece of the world-of the human story, even-that many of my readers would never experience firsthand.

Then, after coming back and starting my career as an archaeologist, I had more stories to tell. And then I started using my blog as a platform for discussing the social issues that had been brought to my attention more than ever in Georgia, but that I was still encountering in my beloved home country. Feminism and racism weren’t just topics for me to rant about to whatever poor soul was nearest to me. I realized that I could contribute to the conversation on a broader level.

And this is the power of blogging: the power to share stories and information with other people who will never meet you, read your local newspaper, or listen to your local news station. If you have the motivation to compile information and the skill to craft it into a readable format, you have the power to share it. No need to hope the editor of the local newspaper will like it and no pressure to put enough stuff together to have even a chance at a book deal.

And then you can share it, and it has the potential to be seen by people all across the world who would never know that your local newspaper even existed and who would never happen upon your book, let alone spend money on it. When you think about it, blogging is actually becoming a very useful exercise of the human faculties.

However, I often still detect the old attitude hanging in the air. We bloggers can often tell by the expressions we are met with when we mention that we blog and offhand comments here and there that our hobby (or, sometimes, profession) is still seen as completely irrelevant to the modern world. But I insist that it is one of the most relevant hobbies or professions provided by the world wide web.

As a matter of fact, I’ve noticed that people share blog posts quite frequently without seeming to realize that that’s what they are. Next time you’re reading an “article” or “opinion piece,” look and see if it’s actually a blog post. Even big think tanks often have paid bloggers on staff and/or are happy to accept relevant and well-written guest posts. The Huffington Post, for example, relies heavily on contributions from the blogging community. Especially if you’ve ever shared a “X reasons why...” or “X ways to...” article, you’ve probably shared the home-spun work of a blogger.

Never in the history of humanity have we been so connected. Never in the history of humanity has information been so readily available. And never in the history of humanity has the common person had so much power to contribute to global conversation. Blogging is art, philosophy, politics, adventure, and more...but by the people, for the people. And that means that us common folk can have an effect on the way that humanity sees itself and the world around it! And if you ask me, it doesn’t get much more relevant than that.

What do you think? Are blogs making an important contribution to the development of human society? Or are they still pretty pointless? 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Feminism is not a dress code or a personality type.

Picture taken from
Feminism has no dress code. No, I don’t want women to feel like they should dress sexily simply to cater to men. Nor do I want women to feel that they must adhere to certain standards of modesty simply to cater to men. 

The fact that our lives are still so often judged and regulated according to wants or even “needs” of men is infuriating. But if we as feminists try to make claims about what a “strong, independent woman” or “true feminist” would wear, aren’t we also forcing arbitrary and restraining rules upon women? Granted, I’m sure there are some extremes that I’d be willing to concede as exceptions. However, in the end, it’s up to every woman to make her own choices about her own wardrobe and to wear what she wants and believes to be appropriate for the situation, whether or not men like it (which, by the way, includes the option of men liking it). If she feels naked without a face covering, that is her business. If she feels restricted wearing a bra, that is her business.

This issue has been brought to my attention multiple times over the years, often because of my own treatment from both men and women when I wear shorts or a skirt they deem to be too short. Especially if I’m audacious enough to combine it with a tank top (oh, how will society stand?). Constant wardrobe monitoring of women isn’t shocking in a misogynistic society like ours. It is extremely disappointing, however, when men and women who identify as feminists engage in such behavior.

Of course there are situations where certain clothing isn’t appropriate for men or women...and as long it’s not a double standard, I’m fine with that. But if I’m dressing for another casual day of trying to live my life, why do I need a dress code?

As blogger and artist Megan Gedris puts it, “What makes any article of clothing oppressive is someone forcing you to wear it. And it’s just as oppressive to force someone not to wear something that they want to wear.”

But hey, let’s take it a step further. I’ve also noticed, often from personal experience, that we tend to make assumptions about people’s character based on their personality. Maybe we don’t even realize there is a difference between personality and character. But there definitely is.

People at my university often assumed that my bubbliness and cutesiness went hand in hand with ditsiness and childishness. And, to be fair, since my freshman year started shortly after I turned 17, undergrad was largely an experience of my teenhood. Yet I graduated at 20 with a GPA just .09 away from perfect and with multiple student life leadership positions, several volunteer positions and projects, and a semester abroad at Oxford under my belt.

But this is only one example of how we all tend to judge ourselves and others according to personality traits instead of character traits. Here’s another: Acting like a tough guy doesn’t make you strong. Some of the strongest people I know are my grandmothers-both of my natural grandmothers as well as my dad’s stepmom-who have all experienced a lot through the years. I admire those who suffer with quiet strength and persistence, holding their own while continuing to be a reliable source of strength for others when needed.

Do you see where I’m going with this? And again, not only is this way of thinking common in our society in general (and probably in at least most human societies), but it also seeps into modern feminist thinking and can only be detrimental to our progress. Especially when you consider that many of the stereotypes we use to interpret personality traits glorify those seen as masculine and belittle, mock, or trivialize those seen as feminine.

She wears high heels, you wear sneakers? She’s cheer captain and you’re on the bleachers? Great. You can BOTH be strong, intelligent, independent individuals with meaningful lives.

We’ll never be perfect. But we’ve got to weed the yard sometimes to keep up the momentum and relevance of the movement. And I’d like to suggest that any attempted mold of an “ideal feminist” is a weed that simply has to go.

Monday, May 11, 2015

3 Ways to Enjoy Little Rock

Arkansas in general has long been plagued by the stereotype of being a breeding pool of red necks. And its capitol city, Little Rock, probably doesn’t have a very substantial reputation at all. But as an Arkansas native and a University of Arkansas at Little Rock graduate, I will gladly attest that there is a lot more going on in this mid-size city than most people realize. Here are just three ways that you can rock at life in The Rock!

Stay Fit

A view from the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge.
No expensive gym membership is necessary to get a regular work out in Little Rock thanks to the Arkansas River Trail System. This 88.5 mile loop is a “tribute to outdoor recreation, conservation, wellness, and the diverse geographies of Central Arkansas." It covers two metropolitan areas, 38 parks, 12 museums, 4 bridges and 5,000+ acres of federal, state, and local parkland in Little Rock and her neighboring cities. 

Walking on the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge.
It’s a great option for getting outside and getting active. My favorite section follows along the Arkansas River on one side with downtown Little Rock on the other, providing both beautiful scenery and easy access to shops and restaurants. ‘Cause, you know...we can’t all be too hardcore to resist stopping by the River Market for ice cream. And there’s no better motivation for exercise than a few hundred fresh calories to work off, right?

And if you go at night, you definitely have to check out the Big Dam Bridge (yes, that is the official name). Spanning 4,200 feet, it’s the longest bridge in the world to be built solely for the use of pedestrians and cyclists and is completely lit up in moving colors after dark.

Stay Sharp

There are a number of museums and galleries throughout the city with free or cheap admission, so a fun and educational family outing is easy to plan.

Personally, my top recommendation is the Historic ArkansasMuseum. Here you’ll find 5 pre-civil war houses right in the middle of downtown Little Rock-including the city’s oldest-that have been preserved as the city grows up around them. The museum galleries are completely free and feature pieces from local artists as well as historic exhibits. The knife gallery, for example, houses knives from all over the world, including several Bowie knives (a.k.a. “Arkansas toothpicks”). Out on the grounds, you can interact with living history characters representing people who actually lived in the houses and can even bring along a picnic if you want to have lunch on the lawn. The museum area is free, and the historic grounds? Kids and seniors can enter for only a dollar a piece, while adult tickets come in at a whopping two dollars and fifty cents.

Science Experiments at the Museum of Discovery.
Taken from their Facebook page.
Of course, if you’re herding around little science enthusiasts, you’ve got to check out the Museum of Discovery. Located right on the river front, its mission is to “ignite a passion for science, technology and math in a dynamic, interactive environment.” 

They host several fun programs, including one for adults only called “Science After Dark.” It takes place during the evening on the last Thursday of every month and, from what I understand, sometimes features adult beverages.

Some "foreign" guests hanging out at the Museum of Discovery.
Taken from their Facebook page.
This museum isn't free, but certainly worth the price if you take your time and enjoy it. Adult admission is $10 while kids, seniors, teachers, active and retired military, and Little Rock city employees all get in for $8. Science After Dark is $5.

And while you’re there, why not walk right down the street and check out The Witt Stephens Jr.Central Arkansas Nature Center? The center aims to educate folks on the Natural State’s many outdoor recreational opportunities provided by its fish and wildlife resources.  The main building includes an exhibit hall and aquariums that are totally free to the public. It's right by the river and is even connected to the Arkansas River Trail. And, on the last Monday evening of every month, some of us local archaeologists and history lovers grace it with our quirky presences for free lectures hosted by the Arkansas Archaeological Society’s Toltec Research Station.

And these are just a few options! There are plenty more to check out, including the Clinton Presidential Center and Park, the Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Arts Center, Heifer International’s Heifer Village, and more!

Stay in Tune

Now, any local musician will warn you that it is really hard to get famous out of Little Rock. There just isn’t a large enough music scene.

However, if you’re not a musician trying to make it big, you can really benefit from Little Rock’s small-but-persistent music underground.

For one, it's big enough to have multiple venues to choose from but small enough to host a fairly tight-nit community. Many Little Rockians from teens to thirties know where to go for live music and can bond with total strangers over memories at a particular venue. Many of us have enjoyed beer and pizza while listening to some screamo nonsense at Vinos, pushed through the crowd to get closer to the stage at the Rev Room, and at least stood at the edge of a mosh pit at Jaunita’s.

An ode to music outside of the Revolution Music Room.
And, because there aren’t enough people interested in most bands to fill up an auditorium at a hundred bucks a pop, those of us who are interested get to see them at smaller and more intimate venues for way cheaper. For example, Blue October is coming to Juanitas this week and all tickets are $27. They’re going to Austin a few days later and the only tickets still available are $155. I’ve seen some great acts including Matisyahu, Relient K, and the All-American Rejects for less than 30 bucks a ticket (fun fact: I got cussed out by the All-American Rejects' lead vocalist Tyson Ritter after the show for calling him out on his bs).

You can keep up to date on a lot of local venues here.

Of course, not everyone wants to rock out. Those with a more classical taste in music are sure to find entertainment as well! The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra puts on a variety of concerts, sometimes inviting guest singers or performers to join them on stage. As a matter of fact, in October they’ll be teaming up with the circus to provide an entertainment experience that is both audibly and visually exciting! And how outrageous are the prices for such an evening? They start at just $19. AND, thanks to Entergy, you can also get a free ticket for one child from kindergarten to high school as long as you purchase an adult ticket as well.

A performance made possible by the UALR Dept of Music.
Taken from their Facebook page.
If you’re interested in something a little lower profile and less crowded, just check the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s concert schedule. They have things happening pretty regularly throughout the academic year. Of course, students have to perform as part of attaining a degree in the performing arts, but professors sometimes show off their talents as well. You can find anything from solo piano recitals to jazz ensembles...often without an admission fee.   

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Why Don't Black People Have Their Crap Together?

It's the question on every white person's mind. I mean, predominately black neighborhoods still have lower employment rates and higher crime rates than predominately white ones, even though slavery has been long abolished.

So what is the problem here?

Some people insist that racism is subtly but effectively infecting the institutions and workings of our society, and thus playing a significant part in the destinies of our country’s black citizens. Others would argue that in a free and modern democracy like ours, everyone is control of their own destiny, and that many blacks lack the motivation or work ethic to pull themselves out of poverty.

Which is less realistic? Rampant racism or rampant laziness? Honestly, we could theorize all day about either one. But let’s look at the numbers, shall we?

Is there actually an economic gap between blacks and whites in America?

The unemployment rate for African Americans in a given area is often about twice that of whites. And although more blacks and other minorities are attending college these days, white students are increasingly enrolling in selective institutions while blacks are mostly sticking to open access and community colleges. Students who attend quality universities are more likely to graduate, go to grad school, and earn a higher salary. Which leads us full circle back to different unemployment rates. So why don’t black people either just get a job or work hard to get into a good school? Let’s dissect those two options one at a time.

Why not just get a job?                                                                    

They’ve got affirmative action on their side, so why aren’t they out there in the work force?

Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan, two Faculty Research Fellows at the National Bureau of Economic Research, probed at least one facet of the issue by conducting an experiment from July 2001-January 2010. They gathered over 5,000 resumes and sent them as responses to over 1,300 employment ads in the sales, administrative support, clerical, and customer services job categories. But here’s where it gets interesting-they put false names on the resumes...some distinctively black sounding (like Lakisha and Jamal), others more white sounding (like Greg and Emily).

And what did they find? Employers are 50% less likely to call back people with black sounding names. And the trend held true across all of the occupation and industry categories covered, even those sometimes considered to be severely constrained by affirmative action laws.

Does this mean that there are a bunch of bigoted KKK leaders out there in corporate America, dreaming of bringing slavery back to the states? No. But it does mean that in general, black names still carry an unfair negative taste in the mouths of many whites. This is where racism is the most persistent...when it is the most subtle. I doubt many of the employers who unknowingly took part in this experiment would identify themselves as racists.

But of course, in this day and age, you often need an education to get an occupation. More black graduates with quality degrees from prestigious universities would certainly help deteriorate employer bias over time. So let’s move on to the next question.

Why not work hard and go to a good school?

Even if you come from a poor family, you can work hard and get a scholarship. And if you’re black, you already meet one necessary qualification for a number of them. So what’s the problem here?

Well, for one, there actually is a disconnect between the qualifications of young students of color and the caliber of university they end up going to. 30 percent of African American students who earned an A average while in high school somehow still end up attending community colleges, compared with only 22 percent of whites. That means that almost a third of black students with high GPAs are going to lower-quality colleges where less funding is spent per student and students are more likely to drop out.

But let’s back it up even further. Let’s talk about Jim Crow for a second. According to, Jim Crow Laws were “statutes and ordinances established between 1874 and 1975 to separate the white and black races in the American South. In theory, it was to create ‘separate but equal’ treatment, but in practice Jim Crow Laws condemned black citizens to inferior treatment and facilities.” That’s right...the “separate but equal” charade lasted right into the 1970’s. Within the lifetimes of many people living in the U.S. today. As a matter of fact, the Federal Housing Association blatantly participated in institutionalized racism all the way up to 1968 by denying housing loans to people based on their ethnicity.

To think that the effect those laws had on the American people all vanished when they did is pretty illogical. And not only does it defy logic, but it defies the evidence. For example, residential communities are definitely still highly divided along racial lines.

And as UpWorthy’s Franchesca Ramsey explains, “If your grandmother was denied a home loan or employment in the '50s because she was black, that influenced where your parents grew up, which then affected where you grew up. Where you live determines where you go to school, and since the community's tax dollars support local schools, it's easy to see why poor neighborhoods end up with poorly funded schools.”

And, of course, poorly funded means poorly equipped to prepare students for the next step of their education. 

Now let's wrap it up

So, Why don’t black people have their crap together? Is it because America the Free has set before them a plate of fresh-cooked equality and they’re just too darn lazy take a bite? Or could there be more complex factors at work?

Honestly, in the interest of keeping this a blog post and not a text book, I’ve really only scratched the surface of the issue. But I hope I've given you enough to draw at least a preliminary conclusion.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Reacting to Baltimore: Sweeping Generalizations VS.. Sweeping Degeneralizations

Once again, I’ve noticed a trend in white commentary on Baltimore. And I know people are growing weary of discussing the issue. But it’s still an issue worth discussing, so discussion isn’t about to stop.  And thus, I’d like to respectfully address the following argument:

“Not all black people are thugs. Not all police officers are bad. Not all white people are racist.”

Although totally true, statements like these are not useful at best and harmful at worst.

In my experience, this sentiment can be translated in a couple of ways: “let’s just stop talking about it” or “I’m frightened by the demonization of the police, but I swear I’m not racist!” Either way, and no matter how well intentioned, it is used to shut down a very important conversation that is worth having.

You see, I completely agree that sweeping generalizations are harmful. Stereotyping all blacks as thugs is obviously harmful to black people and black communities. Stereotyping all whites as racist is unfair and distances those who are sympathetic toward the plight of their darker-skinned neighbors. And stereotyping all police officers as violent bullies paints good, integrity-filled men and women in a negative light which they never earned and diminishes the respect which they did.

But here’s the thing...sweeping degeneralizations (yes, I know that’s not technically a word) are also harmful. As I said before, they can only hinder a discourse that needs to take place no matter how messy it may get.

No, not all black people are thugs. But if someone is being treated unfairly-even killed-because of that stereotype, we need to seek justice for them and their families. And, accordingly, we need to investigate the police involved in said situation. Not only should they face a just punishment, but they should be removed from the police force so as to no longer taint the relationship of the police force with the people who rely upon them. And even though we all would like to see ourselves as free from the Scarlet Letter of racism...I’m pretty sure every last person on the planet is at least a little bit racist. It’s hard to escape unintentional stereotyping of others based on how they look or where they’re from. That’s why we all need to be willing to question our own perceptions and motives. Because racism doesn’t consist simply of the “big things” like slavery or segregation. Indeed, racism is so dangerous because it can be so subtle. 

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate Baltimore concerning chief prosecutor Mosby’s decision to charge the officers involved in the murder of Freddie Gray. Hopefully this is just one of many steps towards a freer, more equal America in which those who would abuse their power are no longer allowed to harm those over whom they wield it and no longer allowed to slander the names of others who hold that same power with more noble hands.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Reacting to Baltimore: Do You Really Need a Pretty Please?

In the discussion of Baltimore, and in the general issue of police violence towards blacks, I’m hearing a lot of similar comments from white friends and acquaintances. 

Of course, there are always those who are simply determined to not question the integrity of the police, especially against the word of urban blacks.

However, there are others who are willing to concede to the at least possible extremity of police responses in at least certain situations. And yet of all the players in this issue, the angry rioters always seem to steal the attention. I hear comments such as, “but still, there is no excuse for lawlessness” and “if you want the cops to be more nice to you, why would you burn down your own town?”

And to these questions, and with present restraint from addressing other facets of the situation, I would like to make this simple point:

As a member of the human race, my responsibility to consider the concerns of others is not contingent upon how they appeal for that consideration. My charge to acknowledge the suffering of others is not dependent upon the way in which they make me aware of that suffering. My inherent duty to face the problems interwoven into the very fabric of my homeland does not change according to how others have chosen to face those problems.

Closing my eyes to what’s in front of me because I don’t understand it does not excuse me from being a witness and closing my ears to a shouting voice because I wish it were whispering does not change the content of its words.

Whether by action or inaction, we are all writing the pages of our children and grandchildren’s history books. Consider carefully what part you’re playing.

Friday, April 24, 2015


So for the past month or so, I did some cultural resource management work (CRM). When I land one of these temporary gigs it means I get paid to do "archaeology."

It's not what you think.

We were doing Phase I work in the Kisatchie National Forest of Louisiana. Phase I means we aren't going in because we know there is an archaeological site there. It means we're going in just to see if there is. And usually....there isn't.

But hey, there is still a bit of adventure in it. I've braved everything from thorn bushes to creepy hotel life! To give you an idea of what it's like, Here is a random assortment of moments from my work in Kisatchie, complete with pictures!

Wednesday, March 25th, 6:45am: I make my sleepy way to the breakfast area of the Econolodge in El Dorado, Arkansas. There's really nothing "continental" about this breakfast. Not finding any fruit, I grab a couple of those little muffins with the carcinogenic fake blueberry bits. We're supposed to meet at 7:00, but no one else from my crew is down here yet...just some construction worker dudes who are used to being in hotels filled completely with other construction worker dudes.

I think I'll just enjoy my fake blueberry bits alone in my room.

Saturday, March 28th, 7:30am: On the drive through the forest to the parcel that we're working on, we see a lot of trucks parked along the roadsides. On a hunch, our crew chief googles something...

Turns out turkey hunting season starts today. Each of those trucks corresponds to a turkey hunter out in the woods that we are supposed to be surveying. How did the company not find this out BEFORE starting the project??

Wednesday, March 29th, 1:00pm: In an effort to get us away from the hunters, the company has moved us to another parcel. And it's a swamp.

Like, seriously, this area has to be underwater for a good part of the year.

We spread out fifty meters apart and walk along parallel lines through the forest. We each use pink sighting flags and sighting compasses to make sure that we are staying true to our line. We are also each carrying a backpack with lunch, and paperwork, and some random small useful things, as well as a shovel in one hand and a screen in another. We lug all this equipment along all day, putting in a small shovel test every 30 or 50 meters to check for cultural material.

They're all mud. If anything or anyone has lived here EVER, the evidence is all washed away. Except for the evidence of this little guy...

Saturday, April 11th, 7:30am: On this project, we have to work ten days in a row and then get four days off. Now it's our second ten day and we're working on a different section of Kisatchie deeper into Louisiana.

We pull up to a little white church tucked into the forest. We'll be working through the woods to the back and side of the church's cemetery for the next few days. As we walk along the cemetery fence line, casually observing names and dates on nearby headstones, our crew chief comments that it may be old enough to have unmarked African American graves that got left outside of the fence. In the area we'll be working in.

But I think he's joking. I mean he is joking, right?

Sunday, April 12th, 2:00pm: One  of my fellow field techs and I are working together on a transect. The undergrowth here is intense. Too intense to back-spot to the last sighting flag after going more than a few meters. We end up crawling through tunnels of thorns on all fours at points, trying to ignore the fact that we've been warned about multiple species of venomous snakes that live here.

At one point I look back and see her struggling to get all of her equipment through a sea of undergrowth. I could help her...or I could take a picture and document her struggle for the glory of the internet.

I feel like I made the right decision.

Monday, April 13th, 12:00pm: It looks like it might rain today, so we stay at the hotel and clean and sharpen shovels. This company hasn't exactly been putting us in fancy hotels, but I'm still a bit disturbed when I notice some handcuffs connected to a fence around what used to be the pool.

Like....those are not cheezy magician handcuffs. Nor are they pink and fuzzy. Those are legit handcuffs. WHY IS THIS A THING?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

3 Dangers in Over-Glorifying Youth

“I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling twenty-twoo-ooo!”

Actually....I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to feel as a 22-year-old. Seriously, am I an adult or what?

Western society’s increasing phase of adolescence coupled with its constant glorification of youth can make for an interesting and confusing experience for the modern twenty-something. To be honest, sometimes I just want to get on with my life and be respected as an adult. To be equally honest, sometimes I just want to keep getting away with everything that young people can get away with. Isn’t there a happy medium?

I mean I’m certainly thankful that my society is no longer one that would expect me to be married and bearing children by now. However, we may have gone a little too far in the opposite direction. Here are three dangers I see in over-glorifying the frivolities of youth.

1) It can make it harder to enjoy youth.
Ironically, too much pressure to have fun while you’re young can kinda take the fun out of being young. It’s like there’s this quota that we’re supposed to fill before graduating college, starting a family or career, or otherwise joining the “adult world.” I mean, my youth hasn’t been particularly mainstream since I was homeschooled and went to a university with a relatively high percentage of non-traditional students. But still, I highly doubt I’m the only young person who has ever looked around and thought, “ I having enough fun yet?”

And sadly, the types of fun that are commonly depicted in the music and movies that influence our conception of youth are not the healthiest. Which leads me to my second point.

2) It can make youth more dangerous.
This is very culturally specific, I suppose, as it’s closely related to the way in which we glorify youth. Think of a few songs or movies about teens and/or twenty-somethings “living it up.” What are the common themes? How about taking advantage of one’s independence from career and family obligations to invest time and effort into a cause they care about? Nope. What about using youthful health to get outside and swim and climb and explore and just DO AWESOME STUFF??? Despite the amount of North Face you’ll see on a college campus or the number of Tinder profiles featuring the word “outdoorsy,” this doesn’t seem to come out on top, either.

Rather, it seems that most songs and movies about youth regularly hit on two themes: sex and alcohol.

Now don’t take me for more of a saint than I am. I’m not against either of these things when enjoyed in moderation. But when partying becomes the focal point of being young, young people miss out on SO much. The quality of one’s youth shouldn’t be measured according to how many times they woke up and didn’t know where they were or how attractive their hottest hook-up was. Emphasis on these things fosters a youth culture tainted with alcohol poisoning, drug overdose, sexual harassment, and a lot of self-image issues.

3) It can take away from the rest of the human experience!
I don’t really like it when people talk about high school or college or their teens or their twenties or whatever as the best time in their life. Again...I’m supposed to be having all the fun now? TOO. MUCH. PRESSURE.

But also, there are multiple things to enjoy about every phase of life. I understand that there are hard times and goods times, ups and downs...but overall, I want to live so fully in every phase of life that when I’m on my deathbed looking back over the years, I can’t even decide which part was the best.

Furthermore, I think the pressure to “live it up” and be irresponsible while you can get away with it really hinders people from contributing toward their long term goals. 

I was thinking about mine earlier today...become an archaeologist, work as a professor, contribute to education reform and found at least one university in a developing country...and it occurred to me that 22-year-old me is not the main character of my life story. We’re still in the first half hour of the movie, glancing through at the young adulthood that makes me who I need to be for the climax of the story. Of course you can always be making some kind of difference in the world around you. But for many of us, the significance of our lives will not be realized in full until our middle or later adulthood. And that means that right now, we have all this time and energy that we could either waste or use to prepare ourselves. It’s up to each of us to become the person that we want to be. It’s important to balance that fact with enjoying and appreciating the time we have while not tied down to a lot of serious commitments. Experiencing the now should not come at the cost of experiencing the later...or vice versa, mind you.

I guess the main point here is that three quarters of the “living” you do should not be done in the first quarter of your life.

Yeah, we should enjoy the good things about youth while we have them. But not just the ones that are glorified by our media, and not with a blind eye to everything else that life can be.

Friday, January 2, 2015

How to Tell if a Movie is a Dude Flick

Photo by jwblinn/iStockphoto
We all know a chick flick when we see one. The main character or characters are chicks, the main dude is some version of prince charming…etc etc.

But how do you tell if a movie is a dude flick? It’s a bit less commonly defined.

Thus, I put to you the dude flick test. If a movie meets three basic criteria, it passes as a dude flick: (1) There are no more than two women in it and  (2) they don’t talk to each other unless (3) it’s about a man.

Let’s try it out with a few of 2014’s biggest films.

~The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Little dude, big dragon, lots of fighting. Bard has two daughters but all they do is scream and cry while the son helps save the day, leaving only the two elvish women as plot-important chicks and they don’t share scenes so PASS!

A few WWII soldiers survive a plane crash and over a month drifting at sea only to be captured by the Japanese navy. I haven’t actually seen this one, but I scrolled down the complete cast list on IMBD until I got to roles as generic as “young bully” and only saw one female actress, so I think you’re safe. PASS!

~Guardians of the Galaxy
A human dude, an alien chick, an alien dude, a talking raccoon, and an animate tree save everybody from evil alien dudes. The important alien chick, Gamora, does talk to her evil sister, Nebula a few times. So it comes close, but it doesn’t quite past the dude flick test. But they’re both pretty hot in this badass alien chick way so I’m sure you’ll still enjoy it. FAIL! But barely.

~The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Female main character who talks to her mother and sister, the female future president of Panem, and a propo director chick with really cool tattoos. Sorry boys, this one fails. But, don’t worry, it’s not like it’s female dominated. Actually if you look at the cast list you’ll notice that there’s still slightly more men in plot pertinent roles than women.

Okay. This is just a sample. But I could go on all day, and the pattern would be the same. If we use a standard for dude flicks that says there can only be one or two important female characters and they can only converse to each other about male characters, you would think that only a small fraction of mainstream movies would qualify. But that’s not the case.

As a matter of fact, I have to confess that I didn’t make up this test completely on my own. I actually adapted it from something called the Bechdel Test.

It’s just as you feared! It’s a trap! A feminist trap! Come on, you stuck with me this far. Hear me out.

The Bechdel Test is a low bar test for gauging sexism in movies. Its three criteria are the inverse of those for the dude flick test. So a film passes the Bechdel Test if it has 1) at least two women in it (2) who talk to each other (3) about something other than a man.

This is the 21st century. Age of equality. Only a few particularly dudely movies will fail. Right?

Wrong. If you go to you can see and add to a database of movie reviews saying whether or not a given movie passes. This is open for the public so both men and women can rate the films they watch (not just us pesky feminists).

You’ll notice that not only do a good portion of current movies fail, but a lot of the movies that pass only do so by the skin of their teeth. If you click on the movie title you can read people’s reviews and comments. They’re often debating about whether the few slivers of conversation between the female characters in the movie really count.

Take Guardians of the Galaxy for example. Don’t get me wrong, this is a really fun, enjoyable movie. But it fails the dude flick test and passes the Bechdel Test with just a few minutes of conversation. And it follows the same trend as lot of other super hero movies, such as the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, where there is a team of heroes and not only is there one female but her gender is one of her defining characteristics.

You’re unique because you’re a talking raccoon. You’re unique because you’re walking tree. You’re unique because you’re a hot alien chick.

This is just one example of men being implicitly presented as “standard” and women being presented as “other.”

Alright, I’ve lectured you on the Bechdel Test long enough. Before I let you go, I want go ahead and address a few responses I’ve gotten from men when bringing this is up in the past.

        Movies cater to men because men go to the movies more.
How do you know that men don’t go to the movies more because movies cater to men?

        You just started voting, what, 100 years ago? Baby steps.
Oh you’re right. The USA waited a century and a half for women’s suffrage. If we can wait that long to vote we can certainly wait for equal representation on screen. Silly me. 

SERIOUSLY?! The fact that we had to fight for a basic civil liberty does not mean that we’re obligated to wait around for equality in other areas. I mean really, why would you even say that? I just can't. Can't even.

 Come on, it’s just a movie. Stop being petty.
 It’s not just about one movie. It’s about a huge and culturally significant industry that both reflects and influences our societal values. Men, specifically white men, still dominate almost every industry. The realm of entertainment is no exception. I know you’re annoyed that you "can’t just enjoy the damn movie," but women and minorities are annoyed at constantly being belittled and relegated to roles that revolve around you. So who’s really being petty here? 

Look, I don’t expect anyone who reads this to go protest or abstain from anything related to JJ Abrams. All I ask is that you look with open eyes at gender inequality and stop belittling women who are tired of it.  If nothing else, next time you’re at the movies and your lady friend is begging you to watch some stupid chick flick instead of a “normal, everybody movie,” think twice about how you respond.