Wednesday, October 31, 2012 4:03 PM
A school lunch in Argyll, Scotland. Martha Payne, a nine-year old student there, started taking pictures of and blogging about her food in April of 2012.
This post first appeared at Solutions Online and is licensed under Creative Commons.
When nine-year old Martha Payne began a food blog last year,
chronicling the paucity of her school lunches, she was not prepared to
become a social media star. Payne’s blog, entitled “NeverSeconds,”
began as an innocuous school project that showed pictures of her
cafeteria meals in Argyll, Scotland, along with a “Food-o-meter” rating their healthiness on a
scale of 10. Suffice it to say, not many got close to 10. The school
was initially supportive of Payne, an aspiring journalist whose dad
helped her construct the website. Within a week, however, NeverSeconds,
was being posted on social networking sites and receiving 100,000
visitors a day, earning her a congratulatory tweet from celebrity chef
Jamie Oliver. National media was soon running headlines like “Time to
fire the dinner ladies,” with Payne and her school identified.
A few weeks after the blog started, Payne was ushered into the head
teacher’s office and told she could not take any more photos of school
dinners. It transpired that Payne’s local council, Argyll and Bute, had
reacted to the adverse publicity by imposing a ban. As ever, the
cover-up proved to be worse than the crime. The council’s censorship
provoked an even greater backlash. Two hours later, a shamed council
leader, Roddy McCuish, appeared on national radio to announce the
immediate reversal of the ban.
"There's no place for censorship in Argyll and Bute council and
there never has been and there never will be,” told McCuish on BBC Radio
"I've just instructed senior officials to immediately withdraw the
ban on pictures from the school dining hall. It's a good thing to do, to
change your mind, and I've certainly done that."
Let’s hope that contrition extends to improving the school meals in
his schools. In the meantime, Payne has raised enough money, through her
charity, Mary’s Meals, to build a new kitchen at a school in Malawi. Her blog continues at NeverSeconds.
Friday, March 30, 2012 4:49 PM
Lady bloggers just can’t catch a break. Whether they’re writing about politics, pop culture, or what they’re wearing, women must endure disparagement from a broad range of critics. It seems they have become a screen on which to project ideas of femininity, feminism, and a woman’s place in society today.
A recent essay in the literary magazine n+1 criticized “ladyblogs” for fussing over conventional concerns like hair and makeup. Not enough focus on “the harder to articulate, more insidious expectations about women’s behavior,” proclaimed author Molly Fischer. In short, female-interest sites like Jezebel, The Hairpin, xoJane and Rookie are not explicitly, politically feminist enough. Even using the term "lady," argued Fischer, is evidence of being uncomfortable with womanhood. If Fischer’s aim was to start a discussion, it worked.
Loyal readers of The Hairpin and Jezebel jumped to those sites’ defense in their own online essays. “Fischer isn’t wrong when she says the Hairpin publishes things about makeup and cats,” writes Emma Healey for Maisonneuve, “but to suggest that a site that featured “Ask an Abortion Provider” [...] or an essay on dealing with a stillbirth (just to name a few) doesn’t concern itself with the harder-to-articulateaspects of being a woman is disingenuous at best.” The value of these blogs, argues Healy, is that they do not separate being a feminist from being a woman or ‒ more simply ‒ a person.
Meanwhile, over at Thought Catalog, Joanna Rothkopf recaps the rise and near-fall of Jezebel, a bad girl site forced to clean up its impertinent tone after a semi-scandalous public interview with two of the writers. In Rothkop’s view, the repercussions (effectively silencing those writers) are evidence of a double-standard. “I am appalled by many of the things the writers said in this interview, but the fact that they were brave enough to speak as women without speaking for the whole gender is admirable and nearly impossible in a society that demands ideological consistency from women who self-identify as feminist or otherwise. […] Ultimately, women cannot break free from these imposed ideological constraints until we stop conforming to them.”
Put it all together and things don't add up. Female bloggers are reprimanded for being audacious and criticized for being virtuous ‒ both mostly by women. It seems that feminism itself may be having an identity crisis. Women raised with the notion that they can do anything, and given the added advantage of directly representing themselves online, cannot agree on what constitutes the contemporary woman, what we should say, and how to behave. The line between established notions of femininity and rebellion is no longer clear. We are left with more questions. What does it mean to be a feminist, a woman ‒ a person ‒ in an age of such mixed messages? How do we find the “ideological constraints” from which we are to break free? If nothing else, may the debate continue.
Image courtesy of Fotopedia, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 3:55 PM
In full view of the Cuban government’s ever-watchful gaze, internet activist Yoani Sanchez has started a school for bloggers. Classes on Twitter, Wordpress, and journalistic ethics are held in Sanchez’s living room, where some 30 students gather around a projector with no internet connection. Only about 1 percent of Cubans have internet connections, and Sanchez, whose blog is called Generation Y, lives under the constant threat of arrest by the state. Until the police shut it down, however, Nick Miroff reports for Global Post: “this classroom is a place where the digital revolution really feels like one.”
Source: Global Post
Monday, December 14, 2009 2:36 PM
Even when masked by the anonymity of the internet, a male-sounding name can help turn people into successful bloggers. “Taking a man’s name opened up a new world,” according to a blogger who writes under the name James Chartrand. “It helped me earn double and triple the income of my true name, with the same work and service.” Far from an activist parable, Chartrand writes that she would have been perfectly happy keeping her real identity and gender a secret. Eventually, however, someone talked. And though she feared for her business and her livelihood, Chartrand writes:
Truth be told, if just a name and perception of gender creates such different levels of respect and income for a person, it says a lot more about the world than it does about me.
George Eliot would be proud.
, licensed under
Monday, July 06, 2009 12:00 PM
The Pope wants his flock to get online and start blogging. In a recent announcement, Pope Benedict XVI extolled the virtues of the world wide web saying, “Young people in particular, I appeal to you: bear witness to your faith through the digital world!” A recent article in the Smart Set points out that religion’s embrace of emerging technologies extends back further than the current, blog-loving pontiff. The Gutenberg bible was cutting-edge media for its time, and the clothespin, the wheel-driven washing machine, and the circular saw were all invented by the industrious Shaker Christians. (Though their sex-adverse beliefs, rather than their ingenious inventions, were likely what doomed the sect.) Golberg also shows how the story of Noah’s ark could be considered a parable for the benefits of embracing technology, before it’s too late.
Source: The Smart Set
Wednesday, April 22, 2009 10:22 AM
“In America today, there are almost as many people making their living as bloggers as there are lawyers,” begins Mark Penn’s dubious article for the Wall Street Journal, which suggests that nearly 2 million bloggers make money from their work, and for nearly half a million, it is their primary source of income.
Over at Virginia Quarterly Review, Waldo Jaquith takes issue with Penn’s sources as well as his math: “The mind reels at how an apparently-bright guy could write such a fundamentally inaccurate article and get it published in a major U.S. daily.”
Jaquith reports that Penn gleaned his “almost 2 million” paid bloggers from the website blogwordexpo.com, which promotes a blogger conference and thus has a vested interest in building the blogging hype. Yet, even their claim is muted compared to Penn’s.
“1.7 million American adults list making money as one of the reasons they blog,” the website states.
“That’s not to say that they make money,” Jaquith points out, “just that they want to make money. Many people write novels because they want to be rich, but that doesn’t mean that all aspiring novelists are wealthy. So we can see that claim—one of the pillars of Penn’s article—is totally invented.”
Source: Virginia Quarterly Review, Wall Street Journal
Image by Brett L, licensed under Creative Commons
Friday, January 09, 2009 12:48 PM
Coverage of the conflict in Israel and Gaza rarely has a nuanced human face. But citizens from both sides of the border are working to change that.
Peace Man and Hope Man, for instance, are friends who maintain a blog about the violence and their daily lives. Peace Man is a Palestinian, living in a refugee camp in Gaza, and Hope Man is an Israeli living in Sderot. Though the two live only about 10 miles from each other, Hope Man, whose real name is Eric Yellin, told NPR’s Melissa Block that they both knew virtually no one across the border before the blog.
“But as soon as I started meeting people,” Yellin said, “it created a real connection and understanding that on the other side of the border, there are people exactly like us who are suffering. We are suffering, too, through this conflict. But the only way to end this was through some kind of connection and dialogue.”
“Gaza Sderot: Life in Spite of Everything” is an online video project similarly aimed at fostering dialogue and understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. For two months, two two-minute videos—one following a resident of Gaza, the other an Israeli from Sderot—were posted to the site every day. The videos depict scenes of everyday life as its lived by normal people.
“When you realize that people have the same issues about work or about love, about raising your kids, in places where you don’t first think in these terms, well then I get the feeling that we’re doing good work. And that happened quite a few times,” the project’s executive producer, Serge Gordey, told The World’s Carol Zall.
These alternative lenses not only initiate dialogue, they effectively communicate the weight of the situation for both sides, a particularly important function given the lack of on-the-ground reporting from Gaza. In a recent post, Hope Man writes, "Many people of our region have left it for good over the years. Bringing up children in such a reality seems almost abusive and certainly irresponsible." Just above that, Peace Man's latest post from Gaza ends with this reflection: "I hope I will have the chance to write you again."
Image by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008 10:44 AM
Everyone seems to be watching the economy a little more closely, whether they're most concerned about the foreclosure crisis, credit card debt, or paying for college. Media coverage often misses the boat on these complex issues, but lively economics blogs have stepped in to fill the void, delving into politics and media criticism while deciphering the latest research. Here are a few to get you started:
Dean Baker, codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, criticizes and clarifies the media’s economic coverage at the American Prospect's Beat the Press blog.
Brad DeLong, a professor at the University of California–Berkeley, writes Grasping Reality with Both Hands, where he frequently corrects errors in economic and political reporting under the not-so-subtle heading “[Publication Name] Death Spiral Watch."
, an oft-updated site maintained by George Mason University economics professors Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, appears on DeLong's helpful list of recommended econ blogs. Last week, Tabarrok posted an in-depth critique of the latest "math wars" study that questioned the existence of a math ability gap between boys and girls, attracting dozens of responses about sexism and former Harvard President Larry Summers' 2005 imbroglio over sex and scientific ability.
Another pair of George Mason economists, Donald Boudreaux and Russell Roberts, author the more conservative Cafe Hayek, which can be refreshing in challenging such conventional wisdom as the evils of Wal-Mart or off-shore drilling.
At The Fly Bottle, Cato Institute research fellow Will Wilkinson offers a center-right view of economics, from critiquing global-warming alarmism to questioning the benefit of the minimum-wage hike.
is a Harvard professor who blogs (infrequently, but quite readably) about globalization and economic development. For a more regular feed, Rodrik recommends Yale political scientist Chris Blattman's economic development blog.
Image by genericface, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, July 03, 2008 1:49 PM
The political scientists at the Monkey Cage just published a working paper about political blog readers that will surely stroke some egos. “Political blog readers are, unsurprisingly, more educated, more partisan, and more interested in politics,” write the researchers.
Just because readers are smart and curious, though, doesn’t mean they’re trolling for meaningful debate. Instead of engaging ideas across partisan lines, researchers found that readers stick to blogs on their side of the political spectrum, preferring “comforting cocoons of cognitive consonance” over the dissent and debate that characterize meaningful political deliberation. Researchers did find that left-wing blog readers participate in politics more than their right-wing counterparts, leading them to conjecture that “left-wing blogs have more fully embraced the tasks of social movements, thereby seeking to mobilize their readers.”
Read the full paper here.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008 10:29 AM
Those with their fingers (cursors? browsers? aggregators?) on the pulse of the blogosphere, along with regular readers of the New York Times Magazine, are by now probably familiar with—if not already tired of—the online fracas surrounding Emily Gould’s 8,000-word cover story about her meteoric rise to celebrity as a blogger and the complete erasure of whatever boundaries might have once existed between her public and private lives. Whatever your opinion of Gould, her piece, or the entities (ex-boyfriends, former employers, herself) she alternately skewers and exonerates, the piece and resulting online meta-noise illuminate some interesting points about online culture, the current media landscape, and the millennial generation’s tendency to overshare. But if you’re one of those rare souls who have more important things to do than read blogs all day and just need a (relatively) quick gloss, the Huffington Post provides a comprehensive link dump regarding the whole sordid, incestuous affair, while the Columbia Journalism Review offers a concise and cogent analysis that might, if we're lucky, serve as the last word on the brouhaha.
Thursday, January 24, 2008 1:16 PM
The writers’ strike may be keeping those new episodes of 30 Rock off our screens, but it does have an upside: Television writers have been making pilgrimages to the mecca of unemployed writers everywhere. No, not the public library—the blogosphere. One of the best-known writers’ strike blogs is United Hollywood, which reports on strike news. But if that gets a bit boring, take a look at Why We Write, a collaborative blog with short essays by television and film writers. Jane Espenson, a writer for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a co-executive producer for Battlestar Galactica, recently wrote on the site that she perfects characters voices’ by lying in a quiet room and hearing them speak in her head. Mark Gaberman, a writer for Jeopardy!, has chimed in on the joys of filling in clues and making Alex Trebek rap Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice.”
If you haven’t heard enough, turn to The Idea of the Writer, a series of video and mp3 lectures by one of the greatest writers in TV, David Milch, creator of Deadwood. Milch, speaking with an enthusiasm that verges on the unhinged, discusses subjects like how the writer rebels against the established order and Kurt Vonnegut’s extensive cannabis use (and that’s only in the first five minutes!). It may not be television, but Milch has the sort of captivating, insightful energy that will make you forget you’re not watching 30 Rock.
Image by Kris Krüg
, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, January 17, 2008 4:05 PM
President Bush just returned from a weeklong tour of the Middle East, which included his first trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories since becoming president. For such an important visit—one that Bush hopes might establish his legacy as a diplomatic peacemaker—a mere press release just wouldn’t do. So the White House tried something new, in the form of what looks to be a blog, aptly titled “Trip Notes from the Middle East.” But don’t get too excited: The Trip Notes, written by various White House staffers over the course of the visit, are anything but substantial. Posts from Bush’s January 8-16 visit include descriptions of the weather, lodging conditions, how the staff kept busy on the airplane, and the array of animals on King Abdullah’s ranch. But cheers to the White House for attempting to embrace modern technology.
(Thanks, Columbia Journalism Review.)
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