Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blog Post 3: Geek is the new cool.

I decided to choose the term “geek”. Although I am one myself, I really did not know much of its definition (I often confuse "geeks" with "nerds") and etymology. Interestingly, the term geek has once embraced negative connotations but turned to a more positive term today.

According to Online Etymology Dictionary, in 1916, the term geek was once used to describe crazy people or “slideshow freaks” in the circus. They would bite off chicken heads and rats. The term also possibly derived from the German word “geck”, describing the person as a fool or simpleton in the 1950s. Then, around the 1980s, the meaning of the term geek changed thanks to the era of technology and computers. The once scary label then became a slang for teenagers who lacked social skills and were obsessed with computers and technology. Additionally, I also found out that the term was also applied to people who were obsessed with a particular hobby or intellectual subjects in academics according to Wikipedia's definition of geek. For example, a person could be an art geek, film geek, and physics geek to contrary belief that there are only computer geeks (which is understandable since the positive connotations did start with the computer era). A “geek” also does not conform to society and prefers to invest their time on their subjects of interest rather than seeking social acceptance. In other words, “geeks” can be seen as weird or odd individuals too.

At this point, some people might start thinking that the term geek is similar, or even a synonym of the terms “nerd”, “dork”, or even “hipsters” (usually more closely associated with "geeks"). Even though all these labels share somewhat of a similarity and might even overlap each other, there is a difference. Specifically, “nerd” is someone who has a high IQ and academically smart. A “dork” is someone who is clueless and silly, and “hipsters” are usually people who are interested in new things and try to be somewhat cool, which may be confused easily with "geeks" since technology geeks are interested and may even own the newest gadgets like the "hipsters", according to a post in the English Language & Usage website.

I also found out that according to an author from the website Kuro5hin, there is a disorder called Asperger’s syndrome which is also known as the “geek syndrome” or "the cousin of autism". The author starts to describe the symptoms of “geek syndrome” (also nicknamed “aspies”, in short for Asperger) and uses himself and as example to support his condition. Users with the syndrome are usually anti-social, monotonous, literal and humorless (but somewhat sarcastic), have trouble interpreting facial expressions, have sensory issues, and also showing signs of all of other disorders such as attention deficit disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder. All this sounds too familiar and it reminds us of Dr. Temple Grandin’s clip about people who are affected by autism. Even though people who are affected by disorders or illnesses can sometimes have trouble fitting into our society’s standards, in no way that means that the people in question are inferior or even “retarded” because they are different than “normal” individuals. There are all kinds of minds out there, as Dr.Grandin has mentioned, and our system needs to be more flexible in order to cultivate these particular minds. So, although “geeks” may have Asperger’s syndrome and feel being shamed of being branded with this medical label, attention needs to be paid more to the fact that people are different and society needs to adapt the to the differences between human beings.

As I have mentioned earlier, “geeks” was once described as “freaks”, but presently the term refers to those who are anti-social or very knowledgeable in a particular field or hobby. The term has changed to a more positive connotation, in other words, the “geeks” have reclaimed their word. “Geeks” now have pride in their knowledge and skills and even use the label freely around their community (however, if used by outsiders, it may be considered an insult according to Urban Dictionary). Their pride even includes feelings such as revenge and content since they were once considered as outsiders, but now somewhat respected. For example, “the people you pick on in high school and wind up working for as an adult” was used as an example to define the term “geek” on Urban Dictionary. The dominance hierarchy has switched during the transition from youth to adulthood, apparently. Also, since “geeks” seem to have “Asperger’s syndrome”, bearing a medical label can devaluate an individual. However, it seems as if “geeks” now have so much pride in themselves that syndromes, disorders, and other negative assumptions will not affect their individuality and will even use the term “geek” within their community. They have learned to not adopt and accept the negative connotations from the term “geek”, just as the Duke family have use words such as “stupid” without internalizing the negative label, from the reading “You’re Not a Retard, You’re Just Wise” by Taylor (as cited in Thio, Calhoun, and Conyers, 2010) . Additionally, just like the queer community, the word “geek” has been reclaimed and most geeks feel very proud of their own community. In contrary to the disabled community, a post from "bitchmedia" advises the public to not use terms such as “lame”. The “geeks” do not seem to mind though even if they are aware of the negative connotations that once existed because the word "geek" now has a new meaning. This can be seen especially in our everyday lives, such as the “Geek Squad” from the electronic store BestBuy. Even fashion has now embraced the “geekness”. For example, an online jewelry & art store Shana Logic (awesome store, by the way) is selling a necklace with a red 8-bit heart and a heart necklace with an integrated Lego piece. For those who hang around the Internet often, I’m sure you would recognize “Nyan Cat”, a recent popular internet meme that became a commodity on your finger.

As a final note, a person may be picturing an overweight white male as a computer geek while reading my post. I’d like to remind all of us that there are geeks of all colors, size, gender, and of various hobbies (not just computers which seems to be the default).

I would have put up a picture of myself when I was 5 years old holding the original Nintendo controller, wearing a pink dress and white tights as a girl playing video games without any signs of sexualization (which is a whole other issue about women & gaming).
But, unfortunately, I left that picture at home.

Word Count: 1,134


Thio, Alex, Thomas C. Calhoun, and Addrain Conyers. 2010. Readings in Deviant Behavior. 6th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Film Review 2: Murderball

What is the main thesis of this film?

The film
Murderball shines a new perspective on people who are disabled. Though their hands and legs may be paralyzed or damaged, disabled individuals can do what “normal” people do, to contrary belief. We tend to have the stereotypical image of the poor person bound in a wheelchair with a gentle smile. In reality, this is not the case. Though disabled people cannot walk or play the piano like “regular” people or on a certain standard, they can still perform many tasks with pride and need not to be pitied on.

What were the main arguments in support of the thesis?

As mentioned above, people usually think of the disabled as gentle individuals on a wheelchair, like one of the archetypes "The Good Cripple". However, some of the characters in the film were “jerks” (not because of their injury, but retaining their true personality before and after the accidents) and not as passive as you think disabled individuals actually are. Some others, despite completely losing their forearm, were able to open doors with keys and pour drinks just like the abled-bodied. The film eventually showed a clip of a doctor talking about sex life after their injury with a very cheesy background music and sympathetic voice which seems to be very degrading to the disabled. There are disabled people who can enjoy their sex life just fine (which seems to be surprising to the able-bodied). There are also those who can play sports very professionally, such as murderball (now called wheelchair rugby and a Paralympic sport) in which they play with pride.

How does the thesis of this film relate to the course?

In class, we have learned the underlying assumptions and connotations that come along with the label “disabled”, “handicap”, or “person in a wheelchair”. Many communities who are considered outsiders to the society (the “normal” people) are trying to reclaim their label and to remove all the negativity within the term. For example, murderball players have pride being disabled and do not wish to walk again (to contrary belief where people assume that the disabled wished they could walk again). Additionally, murderball players use their disability as a scoring point which is very interesting! And not to mention, their “weapon” of choice and sign of masculinity is a customized wheelchair, their master status. In our society, having a flaw or being disabled is usually a sign of shame and should be buried away, however, murderball players are not ashamed of their disability but instead embracing it. Also, there are various ways to play a sport and not just one standard (the same applies to gender, sexuality, or minds). To come up with a sport such as murderball that is similar to rugby for disabled athletes is a proven point.

Which arguments/points did you find the most convincing?

As mentioned above, the scoring system is really convincing to me. They use their disability, amplified with their pride, to score points for their team. Also, showing scenes of disabled players doing “regular” things such as changing their clothes or pouring water into a cup was really eye-opening. Admittedly, I thought that disabled people needed help for particular things in general. However, watching one of the players, Bob, who lost his legs and his forearm due to meningitis, unlocking his front door with a key was interesting and really made my ignorance obvious.

I’m also surprised that murderball is a mixed gender sport which is not considered the norm since most sports are gender segregated (in addition to using a wheelchair in sport or having disabled athletes), which reminds us of the reading for class "Deaf Team's Standout Season Draws Cheers". Nothing about those sports are the norm, or mainstream. Wheelchair rugby has become a sport that learned not to discriminate against others due to their disability or gender.

Which arguments/points did you find the least convincing?

Honestly, I really loved the movie and it was an eye-opener. I could not find anything that was not convincing to me! Rather, I do have a criticism that the majority of the main characters in the film were white men. I would have loved to see more people of color and of different gender speaking about their experiences and journey as a disabled person.

Choose one argument, point or question that most stands out for you. How would you study this point? Briefly design a research study around that point.

I’m actually interested to see whether people of different sizes, age, races, ethnicities, and gender get differential treatment as a disabled person. So far, I’ve seen only white men speaking of their experiences on the movie Murderball and we rarely get to hear true voices from the disabled in the mainstream media.
“Will an obese black woman become an easier target of discrimination versus a skinny white male on a wheelchair?”
“Do trans individuals or gays/lesbians in wheelchairs get even further ridiculed in addition to their queer status”?
“Will people sympathize more towards an old Asian woman than a young middle-eastern child?”

Friday, February 10, 2012

We will never be satisfied; so many labels!

More comics by the same author:

Film Review 1: Middle Sexes

What is the main thesis of this film?

The film suggests that in the Western culture, specifically the USA, enforces the idea that there is a strong gender binary that revolves around our lives and that needs to be changed because people who do not fall within the norm are dehumanized. To live outside of this gender binary is very difficult because we have this idea that humans are supposedly either male or female, and it is fixed. Most of this gender ideology originated from Christianity, in which religion has played a huge role in shaping our concepts of gender and sexuality. However, in other parts of the world such as India or Africa, the people embrace another concept of gender (probably due to differences in religion) and that some others are more comfortable with transsexuals (like the katoeys from Thailand).

What were the main arguments in support of this thesis?

As mentioned above, Christianity only allows the idea of two sexes, male and female, and that the individuals must have the proper gender identity correspondent to their sexual organs. The Western culture has a fear of homosexuality (or any other ideas that do not conform) because in Christianity, any behaviors that are anti-reproductive is considered a crime. To add, for an individual in Western culture to claim that he/she is not comfortable with their assigned gender, immediately, society treats the individual as if they have a mental illness and he/she needs to be re-corrected. If the person firmly believes that they are not ill, they have to be diagnosed as a person with a Gender Identity Disorder in order to get healthcare or to have a sex change (Itlmedia 2009) which causes further confusion, stress, and frustration among transsexuals. Later on, the film presented different countries and their ideas of transgenders, transsexuals, and intersex. In India, transgender individuals are seen as if karma has played a role in their fate. For example, the offering of their male genitalia is a sacrifice to their goddess and those individuals feel more empowered with their femininity. In Thailand, a country that has never submitted to Western society, transsexuals and transgenders (also known as katoeys) are probably most accepted. The katoeys have a wide range of gender and sexuality and want to be regarded simply as human beings, which reflect the ideas from a clip we watched for class, Reteaching Gender and Sexuality (Putthisonthemap 2010). The clip reminds us that people’s gender identity should not be judged and labeled, instead, we need to accept and learn that everybody is not the same. Our society needs to be re-educated and that those who do not conform to the norm needs to be respected as well. In Africa, religion also plays an important role in defining gender and sexuality as something more spiritual than physical. Happiness (being comfortable with your own gender/sexuality/identity) is more important than norms.

How does the thesis of this film relate to the course?

Transgenders, transsexuals, and intersex individuals (and many others) challenges our society’s image of a man and woman. Therefore, society has defined people who do not fall into these categories as deviants because it is not normal. Our fear has forced these individuals to fall back into the gender binaries and reinforcing the idea that they have a mental illness; you have to be either male or female and that your identity has to correspond to your genitals. We have also learned in the course that those who are deviant are not taken seriously by giving labels. Interestingly, I see this concept during the film, especially when the film was talking about Thailand. The katoeys, who are proud of their identity, perform for the general public. They are glorified, but not necessarily in a positive way. People go to their shows because they are considered “freaks” (a label that reinforces the idea that they are deviant) and out of extraordinary. In a sense, the kateoys are actually not recognized by the rest of the world and will remain as deviants and not normal. The population may not be convinced about their ideologies. For example, in India, though they have a community that supports transgender and transsexual individuals, most of them end up doing sex work in the end because their society still cannot accept them. In a sense, isn’t it the same with the katoeys performing shows for entertainment purposes?

Which arguments/points did you find the most convincing?

I find the part about men exploring their sexuality while dancing with other men in India during wedding ceremonies convincing. Since they lack interaction and socialization with women (assuming they're heterosexual) during the beginning of their lives, I would imagine they have a lot of sexual tension (unless they’re asexual). As a viewer from a different culture, finding out that they have sexual relationships with other men during those nights are interesting and sad as well. Deprived of freedom, these individuals are being cornered and forced into arranged marriages. If one is gay/lesbian, it would create a lot of internal conflict and unfairness, like the Indian man’s case in the film.

Which arguments/points did you find the least convincing?

I was very impressed by the study about homophobic men who were aroused while watching a “gay” clip, but I have some doubts. I suppose that since they have a strong rejection about homosexuality, they are actually in conflict with themselves (and against their pro-heterosexual religion). However, everybody falls within a certain range between heterosexuality and homosexuality, and this is an idea not endorsed by our society (instead, we have two extremes: straight or gay). So, wouldn’t it mean that most individuals, straight or gay, would become aroused while watching the clip? A straight man could react strongly to the gay clip compared to a homophobic man as well. I may be confused, but further studies are needed, especially on how women react to gay/lesbian clips as well.

Choose one argument, point or question that most stands out for you from the film. How would you study this point? Briefly design a research study around that point.

We have seen that different countries and regions have different views about gender and sexuality, especially countries that are not influenced by Western culture and/or colonization. I would like to study further on these views by looking at tribes or other regions that have still retained their native culture. Do these cultures embody free will about gender and sexuality, that it is a continuum? Do they strongly reject transgenders, transsexuals, intersex, and others? How do they respond to such individuals then? Do their opinions differ by their race, gender, or religion?


Itlmedia. 2009. “Looking Back, Pushing Forward.” YouTube Web site. Retrieved February 10, 2012 (

Putthisonthemap. 2010. “Reteaching Gender and Sexuality.” YouTube Web site. Retrieved February 10, 2012 (

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Blog Post 2: Why am I Deviant/Not Deviant

I am somewhat deviant, but only to a small degree which I will mention soon. When zoomed out to the larger picture, according to society, I am not considered deviant. I have been obeying rules most of my life with the help of my mother who strictly wanted to mold a perfect daughter to avoid being labeled as a failure and a bad mother. According to the labeling theory, if deviance is created by society (Becker, as cited in Thio, Calhoun, and Conyers, 2010), then the norm is also defined as well. In this case, as an obedient person that follows the rules, I am not considered deviant. By following rules, I have not been labeled as an outsider (Becker, as cited in Thio, Calhoun, and Conyers, 2010), but kept my position as an insider. However, when I was around 18, I introduced to my friends and family the concept of deviance. I did not break any of the laws laid by society, but I broke the tradition of love relationships, especially for someone that age. Instead of having a partner who lives near me, I just happened to fall in love with a guy online. On top of that, I had met him on a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game), which is not the normal place to find love interests. Eventually, he came to visit me in Canada, my homeland, and stayed over at my place every summer (yes, with my parents too!). After three years, we’ve decided to get married and I was going through an immigration process. After these events, I now have labels such as “immigrant”, “online relationships”, and “young married couple”. My experiences can be shared along with others who have the same label as I do (Becker, as cited in Thio, Calhoun, and Conyers, 2010), which I have done when people are having long-distance or online relationship problems or immigration questions (also with the stigma that comes along with the labels). At first, my situation was problematic because my family and peers were trying to warn me of the potential failures that could happen to me, by falling in love with an outsider and by living in a new area alone. In other words, we had a conflict of norms since I wasn’t in a regular relationship and my behavior was recognized as deviant according to my peers (Becker, as cited in Thio, Calhoun, and Conyers, 2010). “He might cheat on you, after all, you met him online!”, “early marriages will most likely fail”, and “don’t go!” are what I hear the most from my peers. Luckily, my friends and family eventually understood my intentions and my new life went well.

My strong sense to avoid rule-breaking (besides the exception mentioned previously) could also be explained by the control theory, which has four components: attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief (Hirschi, as cited in Thio, Calhoun, and Conyers, 2010). First, having a lack of attachment to the society can create deviance in an individual since he/she has been alienated by his peers. In my case, I have support from family and a couple good friends, which is why my most of my actions are not deviant since they are expected to be normal according to them. Second, people have a commitment to not break the rules since they fear punishment. Commitment is one of the huge components that explain my lack of deviance. I do not want to break any rules that may put my future at risk, which explains why most of my behaviors are normal. Third, involvement explains how a person is too busy with his life with conventional activities. My life is not as busy as a person who has a full-time job with children to take care of after work, but I do have a part-time job while going to school full-time. By having to do homework, attending classes and work, I have little time to think about or to do deviant acts. Lastly, deviance can be explained by the deviant’s beliefs and whether they are also shared among the society. I believe in the rules that I have which are also commonly valued in my group. For example, I pay my bills on time and I do not steal. Everyone I know believes in those same values.

As the date approached to do a deviant act for this blog post, I was really nervous. As a person who prefers to conform to the norms, I really had no idea what to do. Even the thought of going in an elevator and standing in the opposite direction compared to everybody already gives me a lot of stress. As I heard what my classmates were going to do, it seems like most of them were able to perform a deviant act as if it were nothing special or out of ordinary. It makes me wonder, could their behaviors be explained from the differential association theory? Since criminal behavior can be learned (Sutherland and Cressey, as cited in Thio, Calhoun, and Conyers, 2010), so are deviant acts then. Perhaps, these classmates of mine have deviant siblings or peers that could have shaped their easy-going attitude when performing deviant acts. In my situation, my family has a strong sense of justice and my brother is probably the most perfect man I’ve ever met. I also don’t recall my friends being deviants either. After thinking about my deviant task for a long time, I have decided to go for something easy but also irritating to the general public: paying my purchase in small change.

I went to Target, Winco, and Wal-Mart. All of these stores are always packed with customers in my neighbourhood, so imagine the pressure I have gotten when I decided to pay with small change! Luckily for them, my purchase was small, between 1 and 3 dollars. When I started to fish for change in my wallet, for all of these instances, I felt like I was more aware of my deviant act than the rest of the people. I knew that, according to the norm, I was to either give the cashier my credit card for a smooth and easy transaction or to pay with a large bill. Instead, I was stalling everyone’s time by paying with small change. As I was looking for my penny or a dime, the clock seems to tick louder. I felt like I was hurried on my behalf and from others. Today, we have created many convenient ways to facilitate our busy daily lives, such as simple payment transactions in our capitalist society. Credit cards are now widely accepted and used and even strongly encouraged to build a large credit. However, to see someone pay with pennies, dimes, and nickels, it seems as if the person has come from another world. One would even assume whether the person is poor or not, since collecting and paying change are associated with the poor (like beggars). In my case, I did not look poor due to my race (the stereotype that Asians are rich, especially the immigrants) and my overall image so I’m assuming that people thought I only wanted to get rid of my change. It would have been interesting to see people’s reaction if I tried to dress like a beggar. I doubt it would have worked though because young Asian female beggars seem to be non-existent, especially in my neighbourhood. There were no rewards in paying with small change, however, it is an annoyance. I wouldn’t call it a harm, but I assume that stalling people’s precious time during transaction could be really frustrating. What if the person was really in a hurry? Luckily, nobody confronted me directly, but I did feel their frustrated auras (could be an illusion) and strong stares at me and my wallet. In the past, there were a couple times when a person in front of me could not get their card to work or were looking for change. Even I felt frustrated and wished he/she would hurry up. That’s just how norms, like paying with a credit card or with a large bill during transactions, have been shaped thanks to our busy lifestyle.

Word Count: 1,368


Thio, Alex, Thomas C. Calhoun, and Addrain Conyers. 2010. Readings in Deviant Behavior. 6th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.