Monday, August 24, 2009
The new academic year is a time of new beginnings, turning over a new leaf, making a fresh start. There’s been a lot of attention lately to the idea of what can be done in a year. Blogs, books, and movies like:
- Julie and Julia, and the blog that inspired the book and the movie,
- the year of living Oprah,
- the year of documenting and living with all the trash one produces,
- the year of living in accordance with all rules in the Bible,
- the year of a heterosexual married couple having sex every day….or for just 101 days.
Quite a wide range of ways to spend and document one year. So much can be accomplished in a year. So here is my challenge to you as the academic year begins: live this year in accordance with what is most important to you. Do you already have that list set in your head? Would it help to take a minute, take a breath, slow down and say “what really is important to me?” As I see it, the answers (yes, there are more than one!) are about intentionality - so that means making sure you ask the questions!
What are the values you hold dear? What is most important to you? By what principles or guidelines do you make important decisions? What are your priorities? Think about it, and then challenge yourself to live by them each day, for the next year. It might sound interesting, or fun, or even dangerous.
So, if sustainability is important to you, and you see room for improvement – speak up. If you seek ways to find opportunities to do good, and are able to do a small kindness asked of you – do it. If someone makes a racial, or religious, or anti-gay slur – say something. If creating community is important to you, make eye contact and share a smile with someone you walk past on the quad. If being helpful is important to you - help someone find the building they’re looking for if they look lost. If taking time for yourself to really focus on what you’re learning is important to you - carve out the time for self reflection.
Simply put, make a difference in the world – make your difference to the world. As Maggie Kuhn said, “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes”. It can feel exhilarating. It can feel new. It can feel dangerous.
The Year of Living Dangerously is also a film. It includes a fabulous Oscar-winning performance by Linda Hunt in a unique, gender-bending role. Probably a scary thing, for an actress to take on such a complicated, interesting character, especially in 1983. Check out the trailer at the end of this post, or borrow it from the college library to see why film critics praised her incredible performance.
This post is totally not about the film…but it’s a great film. And its title inspired me to write this post.
Make this your year of living dangerously. Live each day as if those who are most important to you – family, mentor, hero - are watching, or living life right alongside you. Live in accordance with your compass. Live on the edge. Try it. One day at a time. Each day. They’ll string together.
And soon enough you’ll have 101 or 311 or 406 stories, acts, days, interactions and experiences filled with integrity, truth and the expression of who you are as an intentional and thoughtful person in a world that is too commonly mindless and without a compass. And heck, then you could blog about it!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
As of this week, there are more than 154,000 websites with the phrase “That’s so gay.”
“That’s so gay” – an expression of anti-LGBT sentiment that is so pervasive that it’s found its way into some people’s every day speech, onto the playground, into creative public service announcements designed to encourage people to “think before you speak”…and into virtual communities as well.
Shortly after Facebook was new and novel, a student came to my office concerned about a Facebook group she had accidentally discovered. Its title, description, and other features used copious amounts of anti-LGBT slurs. It was a group of her fellow Ithaca College students, and it concerned her. As she explained, though she herself is straight she felt it demeaned others, demeaned our campus, and demeaned society.
Instances of derogatory anti-LGBT language can now also easily be found in blogs, social networking sites, online gaming, networked PC games, and even in reviews for new apps. Users can, publicly and anonymously, pan an app, put down a site, post an offensive YouTube video, and directly bully or threaten another player using homophobic slurs - in real time.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) just hosted an event focusing on this issue, headed up by Ithaca College alumnus Justin Cole ’04, GLAAD’s Director of Digital & Online Media. He first wrote an opinion piece for a popular gaming website titled The Impact of Homophobia in Virtual Communities, and invited readers to post their questions, comments and reactions, from which to draw for the event.
The event - Homophobia in Virtual Communities: Highlighting the Problem and Working Towards Sustainable Solutions - featured a specially created video with examples from real, publicly available online content, followed by a panel discussion of gamers, industry professionals, and media experts – folks from Electronic Arts, Microsoft's XBox LIVE program, the founder of GayGamer.net, and other leaders in the field. The forum provided opportunities to explore the problem, as well as things companies can do to address or reduce such behavior and to create gay-friendly games, too.
Also noted at the event – a 2006 University of Illinois survey of gay gamers that found:
- 52.7 percent said the gaming community is "somewhat hostile" to gay and lesbian gamers; an additional 14 percent said it is "very hostile"
- 87.7 percent reported hearing the phrase, "That's so gay," used by players
- 83.4% reported hearing players use the words "gay" or "queer" as derogatory names.
- being out in the industry
- how the use of anti-LGBT slurs makes gaming less fun for everyone
- portrayals of LGBT characters in games and issues of marketing an LGBT character/game
- whether virtual worlds differ from other communities regarding dealing with homophobia
- opportunities for engagement around this issue.
One reason people create, contribute and participate in virtual communities - and live, work and play in them - is because it’s fun. Be creative. Be original. Use your vocabulary. Describe what you like or do not like. Say things to psych out live gaming opponents in the spirit of strategy, competition and goodwill. And do it without resorting to name-calling and putdowns as a short hand for things you do not like.
A reviewer that says an app “is for homos” doesn’t really tell me much – should I download it immediately because it has vital gay secrets I ought to know…or is the anonymous poster being a lackluster, uncreative coward? Hard to know – and there’s a big difference.