Archive for December 13th, 2014

by lizard

I follow Laura Seay on Twitter, an assistant professor at Morehouse College who makes good use of social media to share her expertise on issues relating to Africa. From the link:

For anyone active on social media and interested in African policy research, chances are they have come across Morehouse College Assistant Professor Laura Seay, otherwise known as @TexasinAfrica. Through Twitter and her blog of the same name, Seay has earned a reputation as one of the web’s most prolific commentators on Africa, recently publishing in Foreign Policy, The Atlantic and Christian Science Monitor just to name a few. As she tells us in this interview, the benefits of online engagement have traveled to her offline scholarly career as well, where she studies state fragility and community responses to conflict in central Africa.

This morning I took issue with a tweet I doubt anyone would find controversial because it ridicules a seemingly ridiculous trend. Here’s the tweet:

I refuse to feel guilty about judging people who wear bedazzled armpit hair extensions. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/12/13/meet-the-woman-who-helped-start-the-dyed-armpit-hair-trend … HT @khanserai

Yeah, so modifying one’s armpit hair is a trend. What I find more curious, though, is the fact it’s being reported by the Washington Post, so this was my reply to the tweet:

@texasinafrica maybe this gets reported to create the kind of generational divide you exhibit with judgement. Judge the media.

All of this may come off as a bit silly, and maybe it is, but there is an aspect of Millennial media construction (like Democrat scapegoating Millennials for their 2014 ass-kicking) that is purposely derogatory. For a generation that will be getting continually shit on, politically and economically, the role created and perpetuated by the media will increasingly function as a form of containment.

While dying one’s armpit hair may seem a safe enough target to ridicule, this part of the Washington Post article should be considered:

Destiny Moreno, a 17-year-old high school student in Seattle, began posting YouTube videos about dyeing her own armpit hair a few months ago. Her family was “disgusted” at first, she told The Post; but her friends have been supportive and some of them have even joined the movement.

“I’m now super comfortable boasting about my armpit hair, but at the beginning it was difficult sharing, especially with people I know in real life,” she said.

Her favorite color? “Voodoo Blue” from Manic Panic.

Moreno noted that the public response to her videos has been overwhelmingly negative, with commenters questioning her sexuality or labeling her a “hippie.” Moreno said she’s unfazed by the negativity, but worries that other teenagers who might want to experiment with their body hair might be deterred by it.

“I had the lowest self esteem as a tween, and the fact that that’s considered normal is pretty … unfortunate,” she said. “I want girls to know that their body is normal and nothing to be ashamed of.”

Before judging this teenager, anyone who didn’t grow up under a digital microscope should stop first and think about the often brutal environment Millennials have grown up in. The cyber-reach of bullying and judging and attacking that leads young people to commit suicide is a very real, very serious problem. This is from the CDC:

Suicide (i.e., taking one’s own life) is a serious public health problem that affects even young people. For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. It results in approximately 4600 lives lost each year.

I wonder, if this was a cultural trend in an African country, would professor Seay be as quick to judge as she was in this situation? Probably not.

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