Monday, February 29, 2016

Women Stepping Out Into the Battlefield

Up until recently, women in the United States military were restricted from certain positions of leadership and in the field. It wasn't until 2008 that Ann Dunwoody was promoted to become the first female four star general. It took her 37 years to reach obtain such a job in the Army. This leads me to question why it has taken so long for a woman to become a high ranked general like Dunwoody. Why are there such few female soldiers that hold leadership positions in the military?

At the end of 2015, the Secretary of Defense, Ashton B. Carter, announced that the Pentagon would open all combat positions to women, no exceptions. This now means that a woman could drive a tank, fight in the front lines, train to become snipers, and even become part of the special forces of the military like the Navy Seals. This is amazing step for gender equality in the military, but this doesn't mean that there will be a dramatic change soon. Despite the opportunities to hold new positions, women still have to pass tasks that could be physically and mentally grueling. They may be so intense that many male soldiers cannot pass.

The Marine Infantry Officer Course is one of the last all-male batalions since all 26 women who have attempted the course have failed. The course is made up of physical and mental challenges spread out 16 miles hwere soldiers set out at dawn carry a 30 lb pack and rifle for tens of hours.  112 women had made it through the less demanding infantry training that has a success rate of 34%. A factor that has to be considered is that a woman's body structure, specifically her hips, makes it more difficult to carry loads twice their body weight. Despite these disadvantages, female soldiers still fight on and are determined to become like their common hero, General Dunwoody.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Ehrenreich Can't Get No Satisfaction

Throughout Barbara Ehrenreich's novel, Nickel and Dimed, she steps away from her life as a successful writer and devotes her life to living off of low paying jobs like waiting on the masses and refolding shirts in the women's section of the nation's largest super store.

When arriving at her afternoon shift at Walmart, Barbara grabs the daily newspaper from the overflowing garbage outside. The headline describes how the "1,450 hotel workers, members of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, strike nine local hotels. A business writer in the Pioneer Press, [comments] on this plus a Teamsters' striking at the Pepsi-Cola bottling plant and a march by workers demanding union recognition at a St. Pail meatpacking plant (187). This seems to light a fire in Ehrenreich's heart and she expresses her feelings toward starting a union with her fellow employees. Similar to before at her maid job, she feels an initiative to stand up for the other voiceless workers, but in this case, she is not the first to do so. After this headline is when she starts expressing her opinion once more to those who would listen, and saw that many felt the same way that she did. Everyone seemed to want higher wages, more reasonable break times, and more voice with their superiors who they lived in fear of, even if they were thirty years younger then them. When Barbara confronted her boss when she worked at The Maids, she was able to get a raise and ensure that her injured friend continued to get paid after hurting her ankle while on the job. When she tells her friend Melissa that she is planning on quitting their Walmart job, Melissa felt the same way and planned on applying for a job at a local factory for higher wages. Even the news report of strikes and unions made another coworker of hers ecstatic in the break room and even swore from excitement, breaking one of the major rules of the job.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sticking It to the Man In the Workplace

Barbara Ehrenreich is a writer to stands up for individuals in poverty and the treatment that they receive because of it. In her novel, Nickel and Dimed, she describes her life when she experimented with disconnecting herself from her past world and completely devoting her time to work low paying jobs and living in cramped spaces. In reality, the test seems to show how difficult it is to get by on such little payments and being looked down on by others.

When she moves to Main
e to see if she could get by on a different set of jobs, she takes on a cleaning job for The Maids. They work long and strenuous hours in relatively expensive houses and are paid very little for vacuuming, dusting, and scrubbing. Their boss, Ted, holds all of the power and none of the other maids have the courage to stick up for themselves. When Barbara expresses her frustrations on their drive back to the office after Holly had hurt her ankle while on the job, the other women do not stir or say a word. She explains how she was "shaking with anger (at Ted), betrayal (in the cases of Marge and Denise), and most of all at my own total helplessness" (112). Barbara is so affected that she takes matters into her own hands. When Holly agrees to call Ted to report her incident, she repetively apologizes and wheeps over the phone. Enraged,  Barbara takes the phone and yells at Ted that he "can't keep putting money above his employees' health and [she doesn't] want to hear about 'working through it,' because [Holly] is in really bad shape" (110). Luckily her rant turns out to only help her as well as Holly when she returns to the office. When she confronts Ted, he rewards her with a raise to $6.75 an hour and excuses Holly to go home, but still get paid for the day.

Sticking up to a boss is intimidating for anyone, especially if you work for very little and could be replaced in a heartbeat. Awful work conditions have lasted throughout centuries all around the world sand very few people take the initiative to use what little voice they have and stick up for themselves and their coworkers. Barbara is still keeping her secret about her project from the new people that she meets, but cannot stand such oppression and little voice that these women have gotten in the work place. How they support multiple family members on a salary meant for one person while their corporate leaders make money without a care.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Another Hunger Games?

What if you didn't have to say goodbye to the immensely popular distopian world of Panem and the story that follows live of the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. According to director Francis Lawrence, he describes that he would be eager to continue to work on the film, and as of now, that is an extreme possibility. Lionsgate productions has also been hinting of possibly creating Hunger Games prequels. When questioned about such statements, Jennifer Lawrence, the movie's star, says that she thinks that it is "too soon" to revisit the world of the Hunger Games. She is currently working on other film projects, but would be willing to star as Katniss in the future.

I completely agree with Jennifer that they are making plans for a new story way too quickly. The author, Suzanne Collins, hasn't even written any sort of plot for a new story line. If the film's company was to rapidly continue the project, they would have to write most of the events themselves, which could either make the story adventurous and exciting, or completely a disappointment and potentially ruin the whole series. Personally I would love to see another move, or maybe read another book, but for the time being, I think that Lionsgate are being too ambitous if they follow through with making a movie and will most likely destroy our visions of the fantasy world that it takes place in. Please give the movies a little time to settle and maybe in ten years time, when everyone will get excited again, you can come out with another hit.

An Anthem for Adolescent Individuality (final)

Let's take a step back into 2008, in the heart of Disney Channel. Here was a rising star named Demi Lovato who had starred in the hit original movie, Camp Rock, and the TV comedy, Sonny with a Chance. Her first album, Don't Forget, was one of her big jumps to stardom. As one of the title tracks, "La La Land", she described the pressures of society, especially in Hollywood, to look and act a certain way. Unlike many of the people around her, she states that she does not want to change who she is, no matter environment she is in.

Let's take a look at the lyrics: she sings, "I'm not a supermodel, I still eat McDonald's. Baby, that's just me." In places that glamorize the "perfect body," it seems like Demi does not want to give into the pressure of looking a certain way. She wants to eat what she wants to eat and it is her decision in the end. To continue this trend, she asks, "Who said I can't wear my converse with my dress? Well, baby, that's just me!" Her own style is another thing that she wants to define her as an individual in a society filled with people who all look the same. She's just being herself and isn't afraid to stand next to someone wearing a thousand dollar heels. Not only is her physical appearance trying to be changed, but so is her own personal life and the emotions that come with it. She sings, "And who said I can't be single and have to go out and mingle? Baby, that's not me." Over and over again she ends her phrases with "that's not me" after she states something she is being pressured to do. She remains relentless whenever she is trying to be changed in attempt to increase her popularity, her fan base, and maybe her revenue. Others even say that "[she needs] to be afraid of losing everything," and yet she ignores their so called "advice" and continues to control her own life the way she wants to. She doesn't care about what other people think of her At the end of the song she sings statements like, "I'm not going to change," "I will stay that same," "I won't change anything in my life," "I'm staying myself tonight." Usually the last words in any kind of writing, like a poem or a story, it leaves the reader, or listener in this case, with some sort of message that is meant to stay with them. A sort of everlasting impression that sums up all of the words before. In this case, Demi Lovato is showing that she is determined to not be changed by the the "la-la land machine" that is

This whole bubble of the West Coast creates a sort of illusion of perfection and lifestyles that are not realistic. Everyone has the same routines and looks the same. People that enter such an environment end up being pumped out to be the same each other, like how a machine never changes its product. Maybe going so far to say that Hollywood is the machine and the celebrities are what it is producing and that it is not the paradise that it is made out to be. Not like the other celebrities in the business, she won't change what she wears, what she eats, who she dates, or how she lives her life to please anyone, but herself. It is easy to not know this song if you were not an avid Disney Channel viewer in the late 2000s, but Lovato's music video for "La La Land" has over 100 million views on YouTube. Hopefully such a message of staying true to yourself despite the pressures around you has spread to more than adolescent young girls, but to different kinds of people all around the world. Use Demi Lovato's incredible vocals and her lyrics to encourage yourself to be happy in your own skin. Join the thousands and check out the music video here

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Heartfelt Goodbye to the Black Mamba

After 20 years of being the pride and joy of the Los Angeles Lakers, the 37 year old Kobe Bryant announced his retirement. He actually wrote a poem about how his life had been great and that he loves the game, but his body couldn't take much more and that "this season is all I have left to give." To see his actual tweet, click here

In 1996 the young high school star, Kobe Bryant, was selected as the 13th overall draft pick by the NBA team the Charlotte Hornets. He was then traded to the Lakers and ended up spending the rest of his career with the team. He went on to win five national championship titles, including a three-peat, is a two-time NBA finals MVP, seventeen-time NBA all-star, and has won two gold olympic medals with the national basketball team in Beijing and London. The list of his accomplishments seems to go on forever as there are many more than listed above. Looking at what Bryant has done makes you wonder what the league will be like without such a veteran who has made his own personal mark on the sport. This could even be connected to the well known NFL Denver Broncos quarterback, Peyton Manning, and how he is nearing the end of his historic career. Overall, I will miss seeing Kobe on the court with the Laker's jersey on. I know that we shouldn't be hopeful of a coaching career as when he was asked, he laughed and said, "that's the funniest thing I've ever heard." I dread the end of this season because I know that the league won't be the same without the Black Mamba at it's heart.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Increasing Diversity On the North Shore

Recently, it has been brought to the attention of residents and politicians alike that the northern suburbs of Chicago's housing prices are deemed unaffordable for a majority of the population. One of them, Wilmette, has the average price for a house range between $670,000 to $700,000 compared to the state average of $170,000 according to Because of this, the majority of the residents are white and prove to have little diversity. To try and fix this “problem” and attract a new crowd to the town, there have been talks between Wilmette plan commissioners of building a 20-unit affordable apartment building. When village leaders met to discuss the idea, many other residents came to express their opposition. Their complaints included their concerns of increase an of crime and or possibly a resulting decrease in their own house values.

Personally I believe that such an idea is unrealistic. In no way am I discriminating against person, no matter their race, but typically the richest families in our nation are white. Wilmette has currently over 27,000 residents and covers 5.41 square miles of land. It is realistic to assume that everyone in every house in those 5.41 square miles of the neighborhood are fabulously wealthy. Yes there are many large, expensive houses throughout the town, particularly near the lake, there are also many affordable houses and small apartment buildings throughout the neighborhood.

One must also keep in mind that the phrase, “location, location, location,” is a very relatable topic to such a case. This is something that realtors and homeowners or buyers frequently consider when looking at places to live along with their price. Last year my grandmothers had told me about how her local top doctor was putting his house on the market. It was the largest property, not including a farm, that was being sold in the town of Grand Island, Nebraska. It had a three car garage, three stories, and was appraised on the market for $300,000. My grandma expressed her disgust with such a price that she said in her slight country accent, “Who has that kind of money? That price is ridiculous!” This price is less than half of the Wilmette average, but it’s that way for a reason. Instead of looking at the house itself, let’s look at what is around it. Grand Island is very different than Wilmette, Illinois. What adds hundreds of thousands of dollars to property costs are factors like being near Lake Michigan and Chicago, some of the best public schools in the country, and even the peaceful atmosphere.

If even more “affordable” apartments were added to the town, there could be large problems. Agreeing with some of the angered residents, it could lower their own appraised value for their homes and is not very logical concerning the factors that make the area so expensive. I don’t think that any of the objections are made to insult people of the lower class or another race, but are made to show concern for personal loss of money in the long run for the families already living in Wilmette. Personally I don’t think creating another group of people living in Wilmette is as big of a problem is it seems. If these buildings are approved to be built, they need to be done so in an area where it does not threaten the value of the nearby houses.