Author Archives: anthroguy

Structure and Agency in Adoption

The structure vs. agency debate is one that many anthropologists have attempted to explain and apply to various concepts, and in this case it is applied to adoption. There are many factors that make adoption, especially transnational and transracial adoption possible. According to Linda Seligmann, author of Broken Links, Enduring Ties: American Adoption Across Race, Class and Nation, adoption can be analyzed by categorizing it into the structure of the organization and the agency of the individuals who decide to adopt across borders and races.

Seligmann is able to demonstrate the structure that exists in the world of adoption by discussing various domestic and international laws that are put in place to protect the children that are put into the adoption system. She mentions the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) / Interethnic Adoption Provisions (IEP), laws meant to keep “racial matching” from occurring in the adoption process. Although these laws were created for more equal adoption across races, it has not been effective. Again, Seligmann is able to explain this failure by the structure which exists in American society. For example, she provides the cultural practice of African Americans (AA), who place more importance on “informal kinship care” rather than actual adoption (36). In other words, AA are more likely to take a family member in as their own rather than going through the legal process to officially make them a child legally under their care.

Another structure which exists within the world of adoption is that of the adoption workers such as social workers and brokers/adoption agencies. Adoption agencies themselves can add even more requirements onto the process, especially if the agency is from abroad. An unavoidable aspect of adopting from abroad is often times the amount of money and time that will be spent travelling, take the example of Russia, prospective parents are expected to visit the country at least twice (39). These rules also shape adoption in that only certain type of families, middle or upper middle class families, will be able to adopt Russian children, or children from countries with regulations similar to theirs. Also, regulations like this make adoption a classist organization, in that for whatever reason, if a family is unable to or simply refuses to adopt local (American) children, they have the financial means to adopt a child from across the world that will meet their needs. Seligman brings attention to the fact that even though various laws and regulations exist within the adoption process, there are ways for prospective parents to take the process into their own hands.

As previously mentioned, international adoption can be a time consuming and expensive process. However, some parents are willing to take on this task in order to have a child that could look like it was really theirs (89). Here, the agency of parents takes laws created for adoption on the back burner. Laws such as the MEPA/IEP were put into place to keep parents from choosing the race of the child they want to adopt, yet other avenues exist in which parents can do this. So as these laws are made to keep certain practices from taking place, they still occur because of the fact that some parents simply want their child to look like it could truly be their biological child.           Another reason parents choose to adopt internationally is the distance that is provided between the biological parents and themselves (93). Parents who are capable of this type of adoption are uncomfortable with the mere possibility that American families might want their children back, whereas if adopting from abroad the return process, if you will, would be much more difficult. Once the process is complete, some parents face a new ordeal, depending on the racial and international components of their adopted child. In the case of Chinese children being adopted by white American families, the stories provided by some families illustrate the emotional ties the parents felt during the process that made them want their child to know their history. However, one family, the Laskas, expresses their discontent with the idea of returning to their children’s homeland. Mother of the family Jeanne Marie Laskas, essentially states that China never really was a home for their girls and that people often romanticize their children’s heritage by dressing them in silks and getting their photos professionally taken to be sent out to friends and family members (102). She ends her story by simply stating that, “My girls are home. My girls are part of a family.” (102). The Laskas provide a great example of the agency that parents assert in their relationship as new adoptive parents.

Adoption can be a stressful and expensive process due to the structure created by national and international laws and agencies. However, once a child has been successfully adopted, parents face new obstacles in which they have to decide what is best for their child. By making these decisions according to their roles as parents, they are exercising their agency in this newly formed relationship. Even though these decisions may not always be based upon the child’s ethnic or geographical background, parents who often base their decisions on these factors are exercising their agency within the structure of their child’s background itself. Of course, parents could completely ignore these factors about their children and act solely upon their own emotions and judgments as parents. But, one can ask, is this possible in a situation of transracial or transnational adoption? Can or should a parent ignore the structure that exists due to the identity of their child? More importantly, would the answers to these questions be based upon your own experienced structure or agency?

by Mercedes Gonzalez

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The Structure of “Quality”

It was eleven o’clock on a Sunday night when I found myself prompted to watch the next episode of Psych on Netflix. I blinked as I looked at the clock, wondering at what point “just one episode” turned into a television marathon. It was a school night and I hadn’t yet finished my reading for the next day’s class. With regret and a guilty conscience, I came to the conclusion that I had wasted my time.

The ironic thing about this situation was that the book I should’ve been reading was Busier Than Ever! Why American Families Can’t Slow Down. Yet there I was, displaying behavior quite opposite of a busy American. Laying around, wasting time, procrastinating on responsibilities…. At least, that’s what it seemed like at the time. But as I think about it now, I realize I’m not an abnormality. Everywhere I look I see varying degrees of “wasted time.” From Angry Birds to window shopping to the snooze button, my peers are just as likely to spend time doing non-productive things as I am. The real question is, why are we made to feel bad about it?

According to Busier Than Ever (which I eventually did read), I technically would be part of a busy family. The set-up for this book is a case study conducted over the span of about two years, following several middle-class American families and their daily lives in an attempt to figure out why our modern society has become “busier than ever.” In the second chapter, they give an overview of the “hows” of busyness, illustrating that despite the variance in the details of these families’ routines, they all fall into the category of being busy. So for my family and me, it doesn’t matter what we do to fill our time, just so long as we fill it.

It’s clear that the assumption the authors are making with this line of thinking is that quantity of time determines whether one is busy. Quantity, in this context, can refer to the amount of different things done in a day, or to the minutes/hours/etc spent on any given thing. Because the book’s families had many activities to do in a day and spent a significant amount of time on them, they were considered perfect subjects for a study on busyness. This reasoning of time is also in line with the dictionary definition of busy, which the authors provided at the beginning of the book: “having a great deal to do.”

I’m seeing something else, however, happening outside of such technical definitions. If busyness is really is all about quantities, then theoretically I should be able to get away with watching five episodes of a TV show in a row. Or I should be able to schedule “lay in bed for an extra half hour in the morning” and count it as part of my busy lifestyle. But in reality, it just doesn’t work like this. Instead, how I should spend my time is dictated by what is considered worthy or valuable to the culture around me. Thus, it’s a social structure of quality that is influencing what makes people busy or not.

No one likes the person who says they are too busy to help out because they need some “down time.” Bad things may be wished upon a person who claims to be too busy to do their share of a project but ends up just playing on Facebook instead. It’s engrained in our society that certain things just aren’t valid for constituting busyness. Rather, we classify them as “trivial” or “time wasters,” and make those who opt out of more important activities in favor of them to be lazy, irresponsible, or even selfish.

Not to say this is necessarily a bad structure to be influenced by, however. Certain activities are deemed more worthy of our time for a reason. Looking at examples of the Busier Than Ever families, we get an idea of what it means to be busy in our modern American society. One family was greatly involved with their church. Another family had a food truck. Several took on activities that would help their children succeed academically and professionally. This is just a snap-shot of the possibilities. The authors of the book do touch briefly on why some of these activities might be so valuable in the first chapter, suggesting that busyness “is also about creating ourselves as moral beings who live in communities with other people…” (pg. 5). So when it comes to things that contribute to the community, speak to our particular religious faith, or provide an opportunity to grow in academics, for example, it’s reasonable to spend time on them.

But what I think we should also realize is that we have reasons for doing those supposed “trivial” things, too; otherwise, why would we ever bother to do them? We know we’re wasting time when we choose to just sit around on the couch, take an extra long shower, or get sidetracked browsing the Internet. But we do them anyway, however guilty we may feel about it afterward. Why? Perhaps there are hidden values in these kinds of activities that we are simply failing to acknowledge. I know for myself when I choose to watch Netflix, I’m really choosing to give my brain a rest from thinking about other things. I’m choosing to be entertained, to get lost in someone else’s story, or to think about an aspect of life I may not have first-hand experience with. Video games allow me a certain element of control I can’t always manage in reality, so they can act as a coping mechanism. And sleeping a full eight hours a night, or taking a power nap during the day, contributes to my physical and emotional well-being. And when such activities are placed on their own like this and given justification, they don’t seem very trivial at all. It’s only in comparison to other activities do we start to de-value them.

I would like to challenge this practice; if not the perceptions we have of time and busyness, then at least of the language we use when referring to them. When we say that we are “busy,” we really mean we have lots of things to do that are also valuable to our culture.   When we say we’re “wasting time,” what we really mean is that we are choosing to do something that is not as culturally valuable as something else. Maybe such a change, or awareness of true meanings, could help shed light on the issues brought up in a book like Busier Than Ever.

by Selena Edin

Coping with Busyness

School is an important and ever present structure in our society that has a great effect on our lives in the future and how we can live them. For many in the U.S. schooling doesn’t end after we get out of high school, but continues when we go to college so that we may experience more of the academic world as a whole and start to take classes in the fields that us as individuals are interested in. While for many coming out of high school college seems like the next inevitable step in their education, but many forget that while they have to go they can still choose which colleges they go to and to some extent how many classes they want to take. These new choices allow more individual freedom with in education, but it also shows the start of an ever increasingly busy part of life that might not slow down for many years. College, classes, homework, work, friends, and several other countless activities make up the average week of a college student and they must learn how to balance out the busyness in their academic lives with the busyness of their private lives.

Speaking from personal experience, I wasn’t prepared for how busy college life was and how it effects what activities you are able to do, due to the demands it has. While not an outgoing student in high school I personally put in a lot of work to achieve good grades in school. So while I might be up late one night a week writing a paper or doing last minute preparing for school I never had to try hard to keep ahead of my work load. This changed rapidly when I started to attend college and I was forced to plan ahead more so I could keep a balanced work load of homework, studying, commuting, and of course extra time for unexpected assignments that where given at school. So staying up one night a week changed to staying up late on average five times a week.

Planning itself took up a lot of time right off the bat due to the fact that college students are responsible for making their own class schedule which can be a highly involved process, but also because in order to qualify for certain fee waivers the school requires that you as a student must take a certain number of units in a given semester. This was the situation that I was in. I had a fee waiver, but needed twelve units in order to be able to keep and use it so I picked four classes that suited my schedule and applied to my major so that it would keep both me and the school happy. While planning how many classes you want to take you also have to try and find classes at the times you want or need them. Some classes are only taught during specific times or semesters so they are usually highly sought after by other students. These sought after classes quickly show up when you are trying to get into a class you desperately need for your major only to find out that it is already full. So in an effort to still get into the class you apply for the waitlist in hopes that someone will drop out after school gets started, but in the meantime you must find another class to fill that time with which can lead to several new schedules being made. Just the simple act of trying to get the classes you want can lead to several minutes if not hours of planning around the schedule set by the school and your own personal schedule.

Planning in all its glory takes up a massive amount of time when it comes to simply scheduling your classes. The school itself already has a kind of structure or plan set on what times certain classes will be so you as a student must adapt so you can keep up. This is less so when you actually get into the classroom. All professors have a syllabus at the beginning of the semester that contains a general outline of due dates and when they expect you to have things done. Some professors are a little more flexible about due dates, but as a rule of thumb the date they have will usually be the one they stay with. Never the less it’s important to plan extra time into your schedule so that you can accommodate the occasional surprise assignment or essay that a professor might give you.

In the life of a college student planning and planning ahead are both very important skills to learn. For some taming the busyness of college life might be harder than expected while others might find it very easy to adapt to. Still a book that might help an individual see some useful examples of how other people deal with busyness is a book by Charles N. Darrah called Busier Than Ever! Why American Families Can’t Slow Down. This book looks at why families in America are so busy and what are some of the things they do to help them deal with being so busy. Several of these strategies would be very beneficial to a soon to be college student or a current college student to learn and some you might already be doing. One such beneficial strategy is anticipating that things might happen so you change your schedule to accommodate it. This example is displayed in the book Suzanne Jones and Humberto Mendoza when they both have commitments at their jobs that they can’t avoid so they schedule their personal lives around them in advance so they won’t conflict. This can be readily achieved with college students because you usually have access to the class syllabus ahead of time and can plan your personal activate in advance around your assignments. Of course there are on some occasions when this particular strategy might not work as well if you have a professor who is prone to giving out random assignments.

College takes a lot of time and practice to get used to. As a student you have the ability to pick which classes you want to take and in most instances what time you want to take them. Yet it is important to remember that you must work within the structure that the school has already set up such as you must take certain classes at a specific time or certain number of classes in order to jeep any fee waivers that you may have. Planning and anticipating this while might make you busier as a college student can help you deal with the work load that you have to endure and might in the end; give you more free time to do what you want.

by John Pansarosa

Breaking with the Biogenetic Model of Family

Walking through the mall during the holiday season you’ll see thousands of people, some with their friends and others with their families. However, it is not always easy to tell who is with who. This is because the structure of nuclear families has ended. From early America on, families were seen as a married couple with their two point five kids and their nice house in the suburbs. However, nowadays it is almost impossible to recognize who is a family and who is not. There no longer has to be a married couple as the head of the household, or maybe it could be a married couple of the same-sex variety. Some couples choose not to have kids and others just can’t. The biggest difference from a nuclear family that makes them unrecognizable is when they are of mixed race.

As you go through this mall you may even see a family like mine. One that is filled with a bunch of blonde haired girls and a small three month-old baby boy. A half black baby boy. When you look deeper at my family you can see that we do not fall into the biogenetic model of families. If you just take the section of my family that includes my sister and her son you can see that they are a prime example of what many families look like now. My sister is practically a single mother raising her mixed race son, while her boyfriend is stationed in North Dakota. Looking at them you may not see the resemblance at first and assume that she is not his birth mother. This is similar even to some of the cases in the book “Broken Links, Enduring Ties” by Linda J. Seligmann, published in 2013, that discusses the looks some of the families who adopted transracially got. They talked about how people would even ask if they were the adopted parents real kids or where they adopted them from. My sister has also experienced having people directly ask her if that is really her son and what is he. People still expect to see the biogenetic model even if it rarely exists nowadays.

It is not just the look of families that is different, but the way they are run as well. Families are busier now more than they have ever been causing many to seek help to take care of their children. For my sister she had limited options when it came to taking care of my nephew. His father was stationed in North Dakota before he was born so he was not going to be able to take some of the day to day responsibility. My sister is stationed in California working a job that requires her there almost thirteen hours a day and sometimes nights. This makes it hard for her to find normal day care options a possibility. Due to this she had to ask our other sister to help her out. Now my two sisters are raising our nephew together. If you take it back to the way they look, they have had many people ask how long the two have been together, mistaking my sisters as a lesbian couple. Yet in reality they are just an offbeat version of the biogenetic model. They are related to each other, but not in the way a traditional household that is typically though to consist of a husband, wife, and kids. Instead, it is the mother, son, and sister/aunt. However, this does not make them a dysfunctional family. They make it work just like any other family tries to. Their house is full of love between them all and trust that everyone is going to be taken care of.

Family is an important part of the American culture. Throughout the last couple centuries when people immigrated here, they came looking for the American Dream, which included the nuclear family. As time passed, though, the way families were formed changed. Families are no longer made up of blood relations alone but also by emotional connections, liked discussed multiple times in Seligmann’s book. Mother and father were no longer a common find in households, as well as children who were related by blood. More than that, though, is families that were made up of same-sex or mixed race parents. It is no longer possible to look at groups of people together and easily assume them as a family. However, the thing is that families are a lot more complicated than the nuclear family and biogenetic model make it seem like. What is most important to remember, though, is that a family is made up of people who love and take care of each other and that is why no matter how much the set up of them changes, they will never cease to be an important part of the American culture.

by Laura McIntyre

Busy Bees and Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees

We have all seen it, the minivan flying down the freeway at Mach Two trying to get the kids from school or ballet to soccer practice or scouts. Heck, if you have been a child in the past 20 years you have probably been the kid on Mr. Toad’s wild minivan ride. If not, then you have probably been the one driving the minivan. It seems like families have been getting busier and busier. I have friends who recall their daily lives and tell me about how busy their lives are. The questions that arise when discussing how a family man (or woman) can have such an abundant amount of busyness are why the typical family is so busy and what structural factors have contributed to their business? It seems that there are two broad factors that make the American family so busy these days: the activities they do and employment.

Why is the typical family busy? It is quite obvious why the typical family is always so busy, they participate in so many activities. Is it such a change from earlier generations? In the past, this hasn’t always been such an issue, because families and children have always done extracurricular things. The reason that it seems that people are busier these days than in those from the past, is that nowadays the societal norm is that both parents are employed, while in previous generations most families were single income. By having both of the adults in this equation being employed, you multiply one thing: Income. But you also divide one thing: Time. By both parents working, it is a constant juggle of schedules to get this person here and then that person over there. That would be all well and good, however, but for each seemingly benign activity, there is travel time to and from which compounds and adds up, and then it is multiplied by each activity and very soon it is nearly eight O’clock before you are getting everyone home. By having to work and also run everyone around, this brings up another need, especially if there is more than child involved in the perfectly timed, daily juggle; who is caring for or managing the other children’s activities? Usually, this task would fall to the other parent, or maybe a grandparent or even a close friend. But how often can you lean on your friends and family before it starts to strain those relationships as well?

Structural factors as to why families are busy are both easy to spot and also cloaked as other issues. One of the best examples of a structural factor that drives how busy families is that by doing different activities, parents are trying to make their children well rounded. By making their children well rounded (even at a young age) parents are trying to groom their children to be well rounded and successful and to get into a good college. Unfortunately, the society that these children will be growing up in focuses on a myriad of things, not only grades, these days. Colleges are looking for hopeful applicants to have a much more going on than just the requisite GPA; community service hours and extracurricular activities are a must, just to be competitive for admission. But why go to College? It was always stressed to me that I need to go to college to get a good job. My father told me that more than once, as we argued over the typical things teenage boys and their fathers’ argue over. The stress over higher education from parents toward their children is to try and push them up the socio-economic ladder. Before the rise of the need for the dual income family, most families were comfortable living off of the income of one, usually the male. The reason for the switch in the paradigm from single earners to dual earners if for the security it provides. Some statistics found suggest in the past 20 years the average single person income has stayed relatively stable, hovering just below $50,000. However, the prices of goods and services has gone up (remember when gas used to be a buck fifty a gallon!) so that means that the additional income has to come from somewhere, so to make ends meet the other parent would have to supplement the household income. I remember when I was a kid, it started with my mom hosting Tupperware parties to help pay for a trip or vacation or for Christmas presents, eventually mom went to work part time while my sister and I were in school. Other structural factors that perpetuate the need for a dual income household is the instability of employment. This has become more apparent in the past few years as we have dug deeper into the current recession, and what jobs that are out there have become a hot commodity. The insecurity of the job market also makes some of those that are employed to try to go above and beyond in their current job’s parameters so they are viewed as of higher value and are a more worthwhile choice of keeping off of the chopping block.

In closing, there is much that makes the lives of the typical American family busy, some of these things are in our span of control, but most are not. Most of the factors that make us busy are just coping mechanisms to get by in everyday life and to make a life better for those we love.

by Jonathan Rumsey

Why the Middle Class is so Busy

The average middle class American family incorporates so many tasks into everyday life that families are busier than they have ever been before. Like most middle class dual income families, the families discussed in Busier Than Ever published in 2007 by Charles N. Darrah, James M. Freeman, J.A. English-Lueck; find themselves juggling work, parental involvement, extracurricular activities kids partake in, volunteerism, religious church activities, and many more. The underlying reason why these and the rest of American families alike take on so much is due to the pressures middle class families face to maintain their economic standing and have their children as adults move up in the social and economic system. Recent study shows there is a greater range of mobility among middle class families than in upper class or lower class families. All though this greater range of mobility is ideally seeing as positive, the high level of employment insecurity, decrease in wages, and the heavily structured class system, say the contrary and in return add to the nervousness and pressures middle class families experience.

The families in Busier Than Ever go to great lengths to accomplish the big picture goal, to maintain their economic standing, which in the end results to an incredible amount of busyness. For example, the case of the Carlsbergs who volunteer at one of their child’s school to attain more influence and become better known. Their motivation was to get their son admitted to a private school. For a lot of these cases and for most part of the middle class, focus is laid on the children so they can grow up to go to good colleges, be successful in college, have the best job opportunities available, and so on. When parents put their focus on the children in attempts to design a successful path for their children, like previously mentioned, they impose an enormous load of busyness that involves not only the parents, but also the children. For example, the case of Binh and Sheila, whose case may be very similar to a lot of parents who know exactly what kind of future they want for their kids. Bin and Sheila’s kids were involved in after-school activities like martial arts and piano practice and guided routines like church youth activities, and working in a family vending business. According to Binh, the father, the skills acquired through extracurricular activities and rigid routines were to prepare them to be successful hard working, well-educated  adults. Another family that heavily centered around the values they transmitted to their children, was the family of Linda and Arthur. Linda and Arthur reminded me a lot of my parents and probably of  many other parents in middle class households, whose focus was education. Parents like mine and Linda and Arthur tried to instill the importance of higher education into their children, they used the famous line of “do you want to work at Mcdonalds all your life” or “do you want to become good at saying, do you want fries with that?.”

Coming from parents with a low socioeconomic background, they came to this country with a purpose. They brought my siblings and I and inculcated us the importance of education. Now that they have worked years of hard physical labor and have reached middle class, they still harder than ever work to maintain their economic standing, because they know how vulnerable to downfalls the middle class is. They also more than ever try to prepare us with what it takes to live comfortably in this country. They have actively sought out that me and my siblings perfect and practice Spanish. For them speaking Spanish at home is not enough, they have home-schooled us so we could perfect our reading and writing skills in Spanish and to also maintain a proper Spanish, so to not let our language skills get contaminated by Spanglish or as how my mother puts it “that linguistic garbage.” My parents are well aware of the high demand of bilingual people in the workforce, especially in California and for that reason they have worked hard for me and my siblings to recognize that our bilingual skills and education come first.

Another distinctive way that families are busy, is their work life. As most people know and as Busier Than Ever describes, work doesn’t just stay within the realms of the workspace, it seeps into home life and every other aspect of life. Every working breadwinner can attest that sometimes work occupies more than one realm of life and that today’s technology facilitates this dynamic. Another reality is that in order to be a valued employee one must stay on top of the game in any field, one must put in extra hours, continuously learn the new advancements in the field of work, find new and efficient ways to be effective and productive in your position. The middle class is constantly pressured to reinvent and redefine themselves. So many middle class workers are forced to go back to school, go through graduate programs,  and become more certified in their field of work because of the employment insecurity. The pressures and nervousness may stem from the recession that began in 2001, where millions of middle class families lost their home and jobs.

In the case of  my boyfriend’s middle class mother and stepfather, whose struggle to climb the ladder in the field of corrections in order to secure a high paying job position so they can fulfill their goal to retire at age 50 with a comfortable lifestyle, has meant a lot of added busyness. The mother, who is a correctional counselor has to constantly be assessed through a test to assure that she’s up to date with procedures and also to assure that her work performance is up to par with the strict intricacies and guidelines of the women’s prison she works at. Her husband who is a correctional officer is under the same scrutiny. He works long hours and with the same risk of any small slip up possibly terminating his career.

The cases of the families in Silicon valley during the booming 1990s, discussed in Busier Than Ever are not so different than families all over America in the 2000s. So when you ask yourself why you’re so busy and why every other family you know is always so busy as well, know that maybe subconsciously or consciously you and every other middle class family is also preparing their children for the realities of life in a new economy and that you yourself are trying to keep the American dream alive in securing a spot in the middle class economic system.

by Jessica Gomez

Priorities

Priorities are an important thing for everyone trying to make time to do everything, and especially trying to make time for families and friends. Some things may be more important than others trying to put everything together, yet we have to equal everything out. Many say that being with family is always the most important thing, but for many of us making time with family is always as important as making time with friends. Time management is something everyone has to go through every now and then trying to make time for everything and when something has to get done.

As I was reading the book “Busier than Ever” by Darrah, Suzanne was one of the persons I was able to relate to the most. Suzanne was a person who had to get what she wanted; wanting to make time with her family because for her that was the most important thing. She would have her priorities like anyone else, yet she would push aside all the things that weren’t as important to her. She would make her husband take care of the house chores because according to her, her husband was the clean freak who he would eventually take care of it. Her husband was more of the organized one and Suzanne would be the one who had a lot of things going on, yet she would always have a tight schedule. Being an organized person would get things done than actually having a lot of things to do yet not finding the time to do it.

Everyone has their own way of how they are going to organize their lives and what they think is more important that they prioritize. “To me this is simplifying because I’m choosing what I’m going to focus on. I’m choosing that family happiness is most important to me” (Suzanne pg.111). Suzanne is a hard working person who would want to make time for her family because for her that was the most important thing in her life, yet her husband Humberto said that for him the most important thing was time. Making time to be with family was the most important thing than buying something that would take your time away.

Having to make time for everything is always a tough situation and I can relate a lot to Suzanne. In ways that we are both always busy and have a lot of things going on, yet she can’t manage her time and get everything that’s on her list done. I may put things on an agenda or on a piece of paper to remind myself of all the things I have to get done, yet I tend to forget about the list because I’m going to remember to get everything done but never goes as planned. Trying to make time for everything is always stressful and more because I want to feel accomplished that I finish everything that I needed to get done. Although it seems like every time you want to get everything done in a certain amount of time is when we tend to run out of time sooner.

Darrah stated, “…that there was a value of commonness, that it’s not what you possess, it’s what you are as a person; it’s not the material things that bring you value, it’s the integrity of who you are” (Darrah, pg.112). Only we know who and what we are and the way we function, trying to make an effort to keep as organized as we can and trying to get everything done by the time we say. As Suzanne’s husband tried to make more time to spend with his family, Suzanne was always the one who didn’t manage to keep her things together; trying to reduce time to make time was always hard for her, she worked a full time job which she tried to cut hours off so she can make time for her family.

Priorities are a big thing trying to make time for everything that is important to you and making sure we get it done. Making plans and a list of all the things that need to get done is always something that everyone does, yet when it’s time to do it there is never time. There’s always going to be time to do something, yet having to actually try to make time is the hard part. Trying to get all the important things done first, but there’s always more extra things that need to get done as well, we can’t depend on someone else to get our things done, and we have to learn to manage our time and figure out how we’re going to organize our schedule. Suzanne always struggled when it came to making time for anything and her husband would always get in her case about being responsible, and he would stress out because he wanted her to learn how to manage her time better. Busyness of an everyday thing would always require to at least communicate with people who are around, to be focusing on time and activities that are going on.

Daily schedules and flexibility is always time consuming because it’s always hard to manage time if we don’t make a daily routine. Just by knowing that there are all these things that have to be done we tend to not find the right way to keep everything on track just because we want to finish. Many say that by writing down an agenda and try to organize their daily routines is a piece of cake because they have everything under control, and in many occasions that’s always a good things because everything goes how it’s planned but little do they know everything could change if something was to happen like a distraction of any kind. Having priorities and knowing how to organize our life will always come in handy; trying to make time for friends and family but also having to make time for work or school. Being able to manage our time wisely will help us along the way by not trying to get everything done in a short amount of time, but it will help us get everything done before hand.

by Jasmin Velasquez

Busier Than Ever!

In modern America, technology is present everywhere. It can be described as unavoidable. Technology was meant to make life simpler, but in actuality, it makes us busier and takes time away from other things we could be doing, like spending time with our families and enjoying ourselves.

As a modern day college student, I couldn’t imagine going a day without my phone or my laptop. There’s so much work to keep up with, and I’m always getting constant notifications. I’m always busy and sometimes I feel like I don’t spend enough time with my family. In the book Busier Than Ever, by Charles Darrah, James Freeman, and J. A. English-Lueck, published in 2007, the authors talk about how busyness takes time away from families. One point that really hit home was that technology enables us to bring work with us everywhere we go. For a person like myself this is great, however it makes vacations suck because I have the constant reminder. Phones and PDA’s also make it easier for people to keep to-do lists, which helps them go about their daily tasks. This creates more work because first you have to figure out how to input tasks, then how to categorize them in way of importance, then figure out how to mark them as completed. Then you have to go into your phone and do this again when you want to add a new item. While this gives us the convenience of being able to put it into our phones and not worry about losing the paper to-do list, it still puts people at a disadvantage because of how long it could take to input it in the first place. One family in the book, the Carlsberg’s, talk about their PDA’s and how they struggle (116). Alex, the husband, had a PDA for his addresses and important reminders. He said he would have organized it all, if he had the time, but he is just too busy. His wife, Pat, uses lists on paper and has an address book she keeps on her. I personally like Pat’s way better because it seems simpler and like a better way to keep lists.

In addition to work, technology also can be fun and addicting. For one family in the book, it made a vacation much more expensive. Rajiv Mohan’s nephew Surya had to buy a gaming system, which are expensive, just for his cousin Frank to be able to come visit (51). Rajiv’s son, Frank, refused to leave the house to go on vacation because he couldn’t take his gaming system. To me that is ridiculous because I know time with family is more important than time playing the latest video game. While this might be an individual case, it is still upsetting to see how addicting video games can be, especially when it comes to someone so young. Another example of how video games seem to control the young is with the Carlsbergs, who were mentioned earlier. Their two sons, Robert and James, go to a daycare, and at this daycare there is a Nintendo and two computers (172-173). The Nintendo has 10 minute time slots and the children crowd around the television, watching others play games. When I was growing up, I wasn’t dependent on video games to entertain me, I had coloring books and other books to help my development. It might just be how I was raised, but I don’t think a daycare should have a video gaming system because the children are young and research into how video games affect development is not conclusive. While I am neither for nor against video games, I think we should know a little bit more about how video games can affect development before we let children play them.

Another way technology makes us busier is that it allows us to keep in constant contact with each other. There are two cases in the book that I want to mention here, one is from Rajiv, who I mentioned earlier, and the other is from the Mendozas and the Joneses. Rajiv’s brother was really sick and lived in India, Rajiv lives in the United States (168-169). Rajiv used technology to talk to his brother and his brother’s cardiologist in India with Rajiv’s own cardiologist and discuss what was wrong. Rajiv then arranged so that if anything went wrong during his brother’s angioplasty that he would head over to India with his cardiologist to help. In this example, we see how being connected makes us busier, but this example is also a good example of how technology can help us while making us busier, Rajiv was there for his brother who is on the other side of the globe. The next family is an example of how sometimes being connected all the time is not a good thing. The Mendoza/Joneses, as they are called in the book, put their daughters in a daycare (166-167). The daycare lady’s husband wanted to install cameras in the daycare so the parents can check on their children. The daycare lady didn’t like the idea of having cameras in her daycare, and Suzanne Jones, the mother, also didn’t like the idea. She felt that the cameras violated a trust she had in the daycare lady, who she had done extensive research into. While this is a good idea, it seems like it would be more work to maintain and to check. It could also make the daycare lady very uncomfortable because she would be continuously watched. Both of these examples show how technology can make us busier, but still be family oriented.

In conclusion, I discussed how technology makes us busier, and used some examples from the book Busier Than Ever. I also used examples from my own life that showed times where I felt that technology did more damage than help. Technology makes people like the Carlsberg’s busier by requiring upkeep and multiple steps to maintain a functional to do list. With the Mohan’s examples, it helped save his brother, but it also cost his family a lot of money because Rajiv’s nephew had to buy an expensive gaming system. While technology may be helpful in certain cases, I feel that it shouldn’t be as prevalent as it currently is.

by Jacquie Boudreaux

 

References

Darrah, C. N., Freeman, J. B., & English-Lueck, J. A. (2007). Busier Than Ever! Stanford: Stanford University Press.

 

 

A Leg Up on the Competition

As parents in American culture we are fixated with planning for our children and their future. Before they’re born, or perhaps even prior to conception we are strategizing how we will make our children good people; better people. During gestation women are bombarded with decisions to make that they are told will forever effect their unborn child’s life. “If I eat red dye studies say my child will be more likely to have behavioral issues. If I don’t get enough folic acid, or DHA, my child will not reach their full intellectual potential.” The list goes on and on. Once the child arrives then you must make critical decisions on what type of parent you will be. “If I co-sleep my child will be a more trusting, and well-adjusted adult. But, if I let them cry it out they will learn to self-soothe and be more independent, risk takers.” Then there are decisions about breastfeeding versus formula, to binky or not to binky, cloth versus disposable. If we make the wrong decision it may be to the detriment of our children. The older the child gets, the more pressure you will feel from society to groom the perfect person.

We as a society are obsessed with planning, predicting and projecting the future for our children. Why do we do this? Why do we as Americans worry so much about what the future holds for our children and why do we feel as though we have such a heavy influence upon that? It comes down to the structure of our society. There is a great division of wealth among Americans. Though much of what Marx predicted about the free market and capitalism can be criticized, one thing that seems apparent is that the rich truly are getting richer and the poor are either getting poorer or at least staying poor. It takes a lot for the middle to lower class American to move up in this climate of economic inequality. How do we as parents propel our children upward, to rise above our economic circumstances? We have been conditioned to believe that in order to keep our children relevant and indispensable we must insure that they have a leg up on the competition. All you need to do is turn on a children’s television network and you will see examples of this. There are commercials for programs like ABCMouse.com, designed to get your child “ahead of the game.” For roughly $8 a month they will provide preschool and kindergarten curriculums for children aged two to 7-years-old. Better yet, the program is set up so that the child can navigate through the games and lessons on their own. Your child can be learning and advancing unsupervised, leaving you with much needed free time that you will most fill doing another task. If you make your way over to the testimonial page, you will see recommendation after recommendation citing how their toddler is now working on a kindergarten or higher curriculum level. Their child will now be entering kindergarten far surpassing the “mediocre” children who can only read at their grade level. Won’t Harvard be thrilled to know your child was reading Goodnight Moon to themselves at 24 months?

And we don’t just do this in terms of academia; it’s prevalent in all aspects of our children’s’ lives. I, too, have found myself guilty of this “grooming” for competition. It was not apparent to me until I was reading through Busier Than Ever! Why American Families Can’t Slow Down. In the book, there are several families who, despite arduous and grueling schedules, have their children partake in extracurricular activities and sports. When asked why, most families cited that it was to keep their children “well-rounded” for college transcripts or in hopes of procuring an athletic scholarship. Though my scope was much narrower, I have been inadvertently grooming my 2-year-old to have a leg up on the competition as well. My now 12-year-old brother has been involved in little league baseball since he was in pre-school. He now plays all year long, and my son has been exposed to baseball from birth. Ever since he has been able to pick up a bat and ball he has been emulating his uncle. Many people have commented on how advanced he is and what great form he has for his age. This feedback had prompted me in to searching for a t-ball league for him to join. Much to my dismay, they do not have t-ball leagues for children that young. Instead of being discouraged, I was determined to convince them to allow him to join because he was so “advanced.” I would like to believe that I am an amazing mother who sees how much her child enjoys playing baseball and didn’t want him to wait a year to play the sport he loves. However, it is more likely that it was structure of our competitive culture influencing me. I have seen how cutthroat the sport can get for children, through my brother’s experience. In placing my child in baseball a year early, he will have a year of skill and technique over the other children of his age group. My child will have a leg up on the tiny competition.

by Heather George

The Structure of Busyness

In Anthropology there are a few theoretical concepts that are discussed in the course. One of the most highly discussed concept, comes from structure. In the book Busier than ever by Charles N. Darrah, it is said that American Families these days are busier than ever before and cannot seem to find leisure time with families or to just relax. There is a problem there and one of the reasons to why that may be is because of structure.

To further my explanation to my statements, I first would like to give some backstory of this book Busier than Ever! By Darrah. This book is a study that the authors did that followed families of different kinds on a daily basis and followed their lives. The thing that these families all had in common was how busy they all were and how they managed to intersect their busy lives and their family time. A couple that consist of David and Janelle Smith is an example in the book that really opens your eyes about how important it is to spend with your family no matter how busy life gets. The couple had two daughters and the couple had good schedules in that they can both equally spend time with their kids until the unexpected happened and the two children became very ill. Now the Mother and Father had intense schedules and it filled with expensive doctor visits, work, and constant supervising of both children. This is described as a health crisis issue, and it is a type of busyness that can occur in any family and it makes it tough for families to really enjoy family life because they have obligations and priorities to take care of.

A structure for this “busyness” of life is that in modern day society, a typical type of an American family is a dual-income family. Back a few decades ago the typical family was the usual stay at home mom while the husband went to work and earned to provide. Now decades later, that is not the norm and I feel it is almost not possible to provide for a family with just one income in my opinion. A structure to busyness is this dual income family because times have changed drastically to me and nowaday’s families really do not have a choice to make the decision of which one of the partner gets to work and who gets to stay home and take care of the family. Most of the time, in this economy, both parents have to be working and they have to find care for their children. People are not choosing to be busy but rather they are forced to be busy because that is one of the only choices to provide for their family and to take care of their children.

Another concept that I have come a crossed in the book is not only do American families have a tendency to be real busy because of work and home chores, but they are kind of immune to being so busy that even on their time off, they still find ways to be busy to consume their time and I do not think they notice it. It is not that often that working Americans have leisure time and when that time does come across, they tend to fill up that space with work or with activities that relate to work. For example, technology is a big part of our lives living in modern times and I feel like every chance we get, we tend to use that time with technology; whether it be on our smartphones, laptops, tablets we are consumed in technology. Children these days are also so involved with technology that instead of playing outside, they are inside playing with their devices. Not only does technology take up most of the time, but technology also intersects with work and leisure time. It is kind of mind blowing to me that technology is so much a part of our lives that we tend to be busy not being busy almost. Like even though we have little time to ourselves, we still use that time to be busy in a way. That to me shows how much American society has become use to being busy and being on the go that we do not really know how to take time for ourselves.

In conclusion, I think from a structure point of view the state of Americans being busy has a lot to do with the way times have changed over the decades. Back then I feel like not that people had more choices to choose from on how to live, but I think they had a little more financial stability in that it was more common to see one person out of the relationship to work rather than two. These days, it is completely different that now both parents have to work and not only that, but if there is one person out of the relationship working, it is not uncommon to see the woman working rather than being the stay at home mom. Being busy also has to do with the fact that these days we are on the go constantly and sometimes we have no choice else but too. There are too many life demands and unexpected events that go on in one’s life that sometimes we cannot take a timeout, but it is important that we do once and a while and enjoy life and most importantly our families.

by Irlinda Garcia

The Real Gambling Addiction

We’ve all heard about gambling addictions and the problems that they cause families. But playing cards and slot machines isn’t the real gamble in life. Sometimes parents gamble on their children’s futures and they start at a young age. But what if some parents gamble against the idea of furthering their children’s future? Taking a risk that could alter a child’s life, whether it be in a negative or even the slim positive way. Well that is my life.

Sounds weird right? Why would parents that expect so much out of their child bet against furthering it? Quite the opposite from the parents in the book Busier than Ever! , written by Charles N. Darrah in the early 2000’s wrote about people who would rather have their children go through the enhancement of extracurricular activities. One example from the book is from the Smith family who decided to send their daughter to a private international school then a public school that was near their home. But even though I didn’t go through the path that would have enhanced my life does not mean that I am any different from those children that were given a different path.

I guess the best place to start is from the beginning. Just like the children in the book at a young age we are thrown into activities and school functions that can alter our lives. However, my parents took a different route by not allowing me to go to an advance school. Having that bet against your child’s education could have gone in various different ways. I could have decided there and then that my parents didn’t care about my schooling and that I could just lay back and ride through the wave of education. Or I could find a way to stay busy and continue on with enhancing my education on my own. This wasn’t the last time my parents would bet against a different future.

Sports being a big topic in a lot of children’s lives continue to be something to keep children and parents busy for many years. My personal favorite being diving, was something that began becoming part of my personality. I thrived on that sport because it was something that I loved to do on my own. I was unique and it made me feel invincible. During my second year of competition, a scout approached my mother and offered me a chance of the lifetime: to begin training for the Olympics. Even being offered that opportunity is an incredible feeling. But sad to say my mother sad no, because she believed that I needed a normal teenage life. Although I resent my mother for never talking to me about it for a long time. I have learned that she made that decision for a reason and believed that at that moment in my life that I need what I had in front of me.

Risking it all on the gambling table or at a slot machine is one thing; it is another that parents gamble on their child’s future. My parents may have bet on the side that most people would have looked at and said wow how could you do that to your child? How could you not give her the maximum opportunities to further her future? But even though my parents gambled against the ideas of enhancement they showed me that when I want something to go my way I have to work twice as hard for it. I have to become the person I want to be. I may not have gotten into that academy or gone to train for the Olympics, but I became successful in my own way. I got into school and continued my higher education at a University. I am following my dreams and slowly pursuing a career path that can only go up from here.

Would you as a parent bet against some things that some would find as life changing experiences? That is the risk factor of life, it may keep us busy and on our toes but taking a risk good or bad is the real gambling addiction.

by Devan Cruz

American Families Will Adapt

No matter where you come from, family is key to shaping our lives. But what is family? Is it solely biological relatedness or is it based on conceptual relationships? Kinship ties and our ideas about what family actually means are changing as time progresses. For the most part, we have learned that family consists of a mother, father and their biological offspring; this is called the nuclear family. It is part of the biogenetic model that has been at the core of American culture’s view of family. In our society today, we see many attitudes change concerning the ideas of family structure. But does that mean that we have moved away from the biogenetic model or is the model still going strong as the central theme in regards to familial ties?

The author Linda J. Seligmann in Broken Links, Enduring Ties: American Adoption Across Race, Class, and Nation touches on the model as a driving force for families. Family defined as strictly a biological link has had some hits with the popularization of cross-racial, cross-national adoptions by celebrities. Structures in our society such as legislation allowing same-sex couples to legally wed challenge the biogenetic model. With the help of mass media, there is an assumption that people are moving away from the biogenetic model, but I believe it is still at the core of Western society. The influence by the media has the capacity to change perceptions of kinship ties that would make people re-think the agency and structure in the meaning of kinship. By agency, I’m referring to the expression or collection of non-structural human behavior.

The new generations of parents inadvertently indoctrinate their children into the biogenetic model. For example, same-sex couple Neil Patrick Harris and his husband David Burtka have started their family using their sperm and a surrogate. Even though they are same-sex parents and fall outside of the biogenetic model, by using a surrogate, they are in fact reinforcing the biogenetic model by having biological children (twins). Another example is Ricky Martin, a single homosexual father who used a surrogate for his twins. He is at one end of the spectrum, showing an opposition to the biogenetic model but he is reinforcing it at the same time by having biological children.

Some adoptive parents as mentioned in Seligmann’s book also follow the biogenetic model by adopting children that can pass as their own biological offspring. On the other hand, there are adoptive parents that adopt cross-racially and seem to break from the model.

Personally, my family does not follow the nuclear family ideal as mentioned above. The author Linda Stone in Kinship and Gender: An Introduction brings up these “new” kinds of families that do not fit into the nuclear family model. For example, the single parent family is one of the variances the author mentions. My family fits into this category because my mother was a single parent.

All of this “family-talk” goes hand in hand with meanings of kinship. Stone showcases various types of family practices and ideas of kinship cross-culturally. The framework of many ideas of kinship among other cultures seem to have a sense of agency within the structure of kinship that at least to me seem fluid and changeable. It is interesting to note how Western familial ties go hand in hand with the biogenetic model. With all the different views of kinship, I believe that American culture will change and adapt what kinship means to us.

With a sense of modernity in Western society, traditional views seem to be ethnocentric since most of our ideals were seen as superior to other societies in comparison. With contemporary ideals of modernity, American society now sees cross-cultural inclusiveness in the media that directly influences Western ideals of global awareness. I think that this gives the us the opportunity for our values to change, make progress and remake ourselves. All in all, I believe that the biogenetic model remains the central force behind ideas of family. I also can see our ideas of kinship change as our society becomes more aware and acknowledge these new types of families that do not fit the nuclear family norm.

by Jose Leanos

How “family” has changed

When we think of the word “family”, we tend to relate it to our grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, and so on. In the future, most of us would like to make our own little families who resemble us. In elementary school, there’s always that assignment where we make our family trees. There’s a drawing from grandma and grandpa connecting to mom and dad and to all of your brothers and sisters. But what really makes a family? Is it the people who you share blood with or is it the close relationship of the people you interact with?

The concept of “family” has changed over the years. Family making used to be thought of as a man and a woman having biological children together. What about the others? Does that mean orphans, adoptees, same-sex couples, etc, can’t have or be a family? Family making has expanded its resources so that everyone has the ability to become a family. However, society has not yet changed their views on family. They still follow the biogenetic model. That is the formation of a family through biology. Even though a lot of families are made that way, there are also other ways that people should take into consideration when it comes to family making.

With the family tree assignment, it would be quite awkward for adopted children to map their families. There will be questions of who to put on there. If the biogenetic model is still being followed, they would put no one but themselves because it’s possible that they may not know any of their biological family. They should be able to take this assignment as acknowledgement of their own unique family, even if it’s not the traditional biological family being created.

Adoption has created a new way for families to be made. However, they still struggle to be judged as a real “family”. When we see a little Asian girl, we automatically think her parents are Asian and she is from an Asian family. Why don’t we ever think she can be adopted and she knows nothing about her ethnicity? It’s because we still follow the biogenetic model. We assume that her biological mother gave birth to her and continued to raise her. What we don’t know that it is totally the opposite of our assumptions. In “Broken Links, Enduring Ties”, Linda J. Seligmann even expresses that many adopting parents adopt children who are closely similar to them just to conform to the biogenetic model. Because their children look more like them, they wouldn’t have to go through those struggles of identity crisis as much.

As adoption makes a new path for family making, the question of what really makes a family emerges. Many people use blood relationship as a standard for family. However, the term family has expanded through relationships between one another. Friendships that have been growing strong through many years are considered family for some people. “Brother from another mother” is the phrase to describe this kind of family relationship. Even though they are not biologically related in any way, because they have a special relationship with each other, they consider themselves brothers or sisters. Even pets are increasingly being considered as family members. We love and care for our pets so much, maybe even more than our siblings. That special relationship between human and animal can even make them apart of the family as well.

Family relationships, outside blood groups, have widened the standard of what makes a family. As mentioned above, friendships have made it possible for someone outside the blood line to be considered family. In “Busier than Ever” Charles N. Darrah writes about these two families who “adopted” each other. The Flahertys take their child for the Brodys to take care of while the Flahertys are working. Because they constantly spend their time together with the Flahertys, the Brodys just melted into the Flaherty’s family line. Those two families are not even related biologically but because of their relationship, they trust each other and consider each other family.

Taking these relationships into consideration, let’s go back and apply them to the adoption. A mom can still be a mom even if she didn’t give birth to her child. Not being able to hold a child in her body for nine months doesn’t make her less of a mom. A dad can still be a dad even if his child didn’t come from his sperm. A child can still be the child of two people, or one, even if they didn’t directly come from them. It is the struggle, love, care, and relationship they have with each other that makes them as close as a real family. So even if they aren’t biologically related to each other, they still consider themselves as their own families through their relationship they have.

Going back to the family tree situation, from a biological view, there’s not going to be a lot of people on an adopted child’s family tree. However, that child can put their adopted parents because of their mother/father relationship they have built up together. There can be their best friend, mom’s coworker, dad’s brother; the list is endless. Of course, this can be applied to everyone else as well. Family is not only defined as the biologically connection between each other. Family has erupted into a growing process of our relationships, who we consider as family and who we don’t.

by Chong Vang

 

References

Seligmann, Linda J. Broken Links, Enduring Ties: American Adoption Across Race, Class, and Nation, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013. Print

Darrah, Charles N., James M. Freeman, and J.A. English-Luech, Busier than Ever!: Why American Families Can’t Slow Down. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2007. Print

Gender, What It Is, and What It Means, and Where It Will Take Us

The difference between men and women is one made distinctly by nature, by genetics. Sex is the term given to the differences that naturally occur between men and women. Gender, on the other hand, is a social name that is given to a person, for the most part, upon birth. The definition of gender has changed through time; definition meaning the social expectations that are expected of men and women have changed through time. Expectations of older cultures give way to insight as to why modern expectations of men and women may not be healthy.

The term gender is not one that originated along with sex; gender is a name given to each individual by society, and up for the individual to decide for themselves once old enough. The term gender describes the roles that a given sex is supposed to take, like the idea that the male must be the supporter, the women are to be the caretakers of the household. Within the research provided by the book Busier Than Ever! By Charles M. Darrah, it is observed, “While Martin Klein was juggling tasks as his workplace changed corporate hands, his wife Debbie Carson was awash in health-related choices managing her family’s daycare (60).” Gender is instituted upon us by birth, differentiating male and female by denoting the difference with a pink or blue blanket. As we grow older, gender roles are rarely taught to the other sex, as when boys grow up, they are influenced by their fathers to play some sort of sport and do the outside chores, and the girls are taught to cook and generally do more work inside of the house, which results in the idea that men must provide for a family, and the woman is therefore required to offer support and strength from the homefront. This system of belief is fairly new to the world, as gender roles in earlier civilizations were very much blended, with men and women sharing many of the child bearing and hunting-gathering duties. The idea of gender is not one originating from sex, it is determined by society, by structure.

Not only does gender come along with social values, but it comes with sexual values as well. Modernly, women tend to be looked down upon by the majority if they are actively and openly sexual, having more than one or two partners; women were, and still are, generally wanted to be pure or a virgin. Men, for the most part, are exempt from this way of thinking, rather, most parents take pride in a son that attracts all sorts of women; fathers teach their sons that it is acceptable to have sex with all of the women that he can, women do not tend to receive such instruction. Parents would much rather their daughter’s abstain from sex, as to preserve the image of the innocent daughter that they have. However, it is realized that despite all of their efforts, the fathers can teach their sons to get all of the women they want, but the sons cannot get all of the women if the women are abstaining! The double standard does not work, all it does is provide grounds for dishonesty, as the girls and boys, when they become teenagers, will do all that they can to go behind their parents back to do whatever so pleases them. If the standard does not work, then why do we follow it? How do families handle these problems, the ones that are so common to the nuclear family? If older cultures had different ideas of how to work sex, marriage, and gender, then why do we live in a society that blocks basic human desires, sensors the human body, and gives us roles to fill from birth? What a way to live.

The idea of gender is one that keeps people working away, within their own social parameters. “Meaning is essentially about assimilating new information and experiencing it vis-à-vis what we already believe we know. The making of meaning is not only solitary but also social, and it takes time to coalesce. The modular vision focuses attention on flexibility, contingency, transience, and the superficial (Darrah, 122).” In terms of gender, the meaning that is derived from our particular behaviors and social expectations create a dissonance between what is expected and what is desired. As parents, it is expected that children be responsible for their sexuality, meaning that they are expected to abstain, so that there is no reason that they do not go to school, that they do not get an education, a job that allows them to perform to their best ability, so that they can be the greatest they are meant to be. The expectation for success exists, if it is not the expectation, then it is at least the hope that their children will have the best future possible.

Thinking about our children (albeit not a bad thing) has influenced the structure of our society; by creating the need for a higher education, influenced by the idea that a degree will earn a better job and higher pay, with benefits that create a life of ease, we have created a society that competes for education, giving business the upper hand. By supporting such a system, men compete and women compete even harder, leaving there little room for a family life, throwing back to the idea that men and women are meant to do their own thing, that the idea of a nuclear family is not supported. Women taking what is theirs and working for a respect that is on the same level as a man’s means that there is a decline in the family life that has for some reason become so valued in American society, which has influenced much of the rest of the world. Older cultures, such as the American Indian tribes of the Navajo and Mosuo, show that feminine power was a force; Navajo women were given sexual freedom by only allowing marriage to be for status terms, and for giving a strong name for the continuation of their lineage, which is the same power that the men had.

By relating the idea from the Navajo that men and women had equal choice in their sexual activities, marriage, and lineage to the fact that American nuclear families are now beginning to fail as women become to work as men once again, the ideals are failing, and it is not a bad thing; it is human nature. This realization just shows that society can be influenced by ideals over instinct, yet instinct will inevitably give way to nature. I firmly believe that men and women, across cultures and ethnicities, will be equal once again.

by Christopher DeRuyter

Structure and the American Dream

In America there is a belief that everyone will have equal access and opportunities to accomplish what they desire. This belief is known as the American dream and is the reason that many individuals have moved to the United States; in the hopes that they will better themselves through hard work. It is thought that through this hard work and determination that an individual will be able to achieve upward class mobility. But the truth is that this dream is a lot harder to achieve than by working hard. Class and race barriers limit the access certain individuals have to specific opportunities. The structures that are in place affect a person’s ability to move upward. When people have a harder time achieving their dreams for their families, they try to work harder than everyone else to stand out so they have a better chance of moving their family upward.

In a risk society, people are preoccupied with their futures and how their actions today will affect them in the long run. According to Charles Darrah, James Freeman, and J.A. English-Lueck in Busier than Ever!, risk is something that is beyond our control. This risk is an important aspect in the structuring of our society. In my opinion, people in these societies start to care les about their fellow human and become selfish in their actions. It is not solely their faults that they’ve become selfish; when there is more risk for the betterment of our families, why would we care as long as our families make it, the other people are just competition anyway, right? People start to connect busyness with morality. The busier a person is the harder they are working to move their families up. It is morally right to want to do better for yourself. Families add more activities in their lives to live up to societal expectations of what they are expected to do for their families.

 

 

I have seen this struggle for mobility through my own family. My mother grew up in poverty and often times did not have enough food to eat. All her life she has worked so hard to better herself; she has taken many odd jobs, some required her to work for days straight. She did all of this to try and provide a better life for her children. Even though she worked so hard, she could never make enough to support my siblings and myself. My father came from an upper middle class family. Once my mother married him it didn’t really matter how much she made because my father could support our family. No matter how hard she worked she could never reach the income that my father makes. She struggled to better herself all her life. Even though she worked as hard as she could, she would have never gotten out of poverty without my father. It is a hard truth to swallow, but the barriers that had limited my mother, because she was born to a family of the lower class, were not things that my father had to overcome.

The other members of my mother’s family are still struggling to get by. They take very laborious jobs because that is what is available to them. Despite working very hard they have never been able to move up from where they are. When my grandfather tried to move to his dream house, where he did all of the work on it himself, he lost all of his money and then later lost the house. He is stuck in the same run-down house that he has rented for the past 30 years.

I have seen both extremes of class. Most people are exposed to either one or the other. I believe this limits their understanding in seeing how societal structures limit a person’s ability to better themselves. They think that their dream will take them where they want to be. This makes them question those that are still in poverty; they cite certain cases of people that came from poverty that are now in the upper classes. Yes, I am not ignoring the fact that these people “made it” but it is very rare. They have certain skills and specific opportunities in their lives that allow for mobility. This is not the case with most individuals.

In Busier than Ever!, there is a family that worked hard to achieve the American dream but failed. The Tran family had the dream of owning their own business. In their house, above their kitchen table, they had a poster of a mansion on a hill with expensive cars in front of it. This was the dream they had for their future; they believed that this was possible through education and hard work. To acquire this dream they decided to put all of their life savings into a food truck. They devoted a lot of time and hard work in this business because it was supposed to better their family. Their food truck did not make enough to support their family and they started to struggle financially. In the end they had to give up on their dreams because it was not providing them with the life that they wanted. This is what most Americans that are in the lower classes have to deal with. This dream seems easily attainable as long as they work hard. They are constantly told that they just need to work harder. But how much harder will they have to work? The Trans thought that their hard work would pay off. But in the end it did not better their family and caused more problems for them. Mobility upward was a plausible dream before but turned into a dream to return to financial stability.

Mobility is an important part of the American dream. People want to believe that there is a better future for themselves than being stuck where they are. They try to work harder to be better than everyone else because there is an unconscious awareness that upward mobility is declining in America. The limitedness of opportunities for lower class and working class Americans is declining their ability to move up. I believe that the more aware people become of their situations, the less willing they will be to play into these structures. The American dream is an unattainable goal that we set for ourselves; structural barriers restrict our ability to achieve this dream by limiting our access to opportunities that may lead to upward mobility. It is nothing but a false hope given to the lower classes to retain their compliance to these structures.

by Catelynn Danell