Dear Second Wave Feminists

[lydia]I am a feminist. I am engaged in the battle for equality of the sexes. I am in the fight for equal pay for equal work, the fight for women to have power over their bodies, the fight to eradicate the prevalence of patriarchal roles in this society and the fight for equality in all facets of life. Why is it then that we have separated ourselves into two different forces?
I must add here that I respect and honor the work that has been done during the Second Wave of feminism. If it weren’t for all of my fore-feminists, I wouldn’t be able to vote in national elections, attend a public university, have access to birth control and a choice to be a mother, and I most certainly would not be traveling to London this summer with the Women’s Studies program. Without your progressive voices I would not have many of the freedoms that I now enjoy in my everyday life.
But my dear feminists, where have your voices gone? Seventy-two cents to every dollar a man makes is not equality, being faced with threats of banning our right to choice is not equality; being told that if we get raped it is entirely our fault and we must have provoked it is not equality; being called a bitch for simply sticking up for ourselves is not equality. Our battle is not over, but it appears that the fight has been detained.
In today’s world, women and men who lead feminist lives and believe in the cause typically avoid identifying as a feminist. The term has decades of stereotypes and negative connotations piled upon it that the Third Wave must confront in our efforts to create a society in which sex does not dictate our roles in life. Also, as the new generation of feminist activists we have a unique battlefield that is wrought with ignorance and a general belief that women have achieved equality to men and our continued demands are viewed as selfish and man-hating. I know the Second Wave also confronted many of these same problems. So, I ask you again, why are our \”waves\” separated? As the Third Wave, we are viewed as lazy and inactive in the movement. But I am a Third Waver and I feel that I am a very active activist. I am the director of a feminist group called Women’s Council on MSU’s campus, I voice my feminist opinions in the face of oppression and I attempt to raise awareness about the present inequality between men and women as frequently as I can.
However, the movement today is extremely disjointed. Many feminists are in disguise, secretly fighting patriarchy in their personal lives but afraid to own up to a title. Most of my generation has become empathetic to the cause and as a self-proclaimed leader in my community, I need your help dear fore-feminists. I need a guide, I need a muse. I need someone who understands these struggles and can encourage me to keep up the fight. I need to know that the Second Wave hasn’t given up, that you haven’t jumped ship quite yet. I know our tactics might be a little different from yours, but they are to meet the same ends.
Let us come together and ring the bells, and yell the chants in one collective voice. Join forces and create a tidal wave that splashes over society and creates equality. No longer can we lead separate movements. Too much has been accomplished to let us fall back now. Let us reclaim feminism and redefine it for this new age in time. Let us make it known that we strive for equality between sex, gender, race, ethnicity, height, physical capability, weight, marital status, sexual preference, religious views and any other difference that can be embraced and loved about human beings.
Truly,
A Concerned Third Wave Feminist

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A Generation Programmed

This Christmas you probably got a new iPod Nano, a laptop with high-speed wireless Internet access or maybe some other piece of technology to add to your shiny collection. But the only thing those high-priced trinkets will increase is your im-personality.
Today we live in a society that is disgustingly dependent on technology, which causes us to lose the value of human interactions. I have suddenly found myself a technological minority. I own nothing produced by Apple. I am one of the select few who does not walk around campus with white chunks of plastic shoved into my ears, successfully avoiding the exchange of a friendly hello with a pleasant stranger. In fact, most of the time, these walking rockers are so into their tunes they can\’t even return a polite smile. Granted, most people avoid eye contact with fellow students braving the harsh weather, whether they have an iPod or not.
So to compensate for this lack of communication with strangers, electronics companies have increased the ease with which Americans can talk to their friends and loved ones. It’s just too bad this talk has taken the shape of a keyboard and number pad. AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) has become an obsession of many. Here at MSU, many of us use it as a procrastination tool, but have we become dependent upon it?
As soon as AIM was released, I created a clever screen name and began chatting away. “It’s the coolest thing ever,” I explained to my parents. “Yes, but Lydia, why don’t you just call your friends instead?” they asked, confused. Our preceding generation just didn’t get it. This was a way for me to talk to five of my friends simultaneously instead of just one at a time. Slowly, as I got older I began my unhealthy obsession. Every hour I would sign on, just to see who was online. Keep in mind this is when I had the prehistoric version of Internet that many of us refer to as “dial-up connection.” Then I began noticing AIM wasn’t bringing me closer to any of my friends. I believe everyone began realizing at the same time AIM was a great way to have those conversations we all know should be held in person, but instead hide behind the computer screen to avoid confrontation. This way, there was no scary potential of yelling, no observations of hurt feelings and any tears that were shed didn’t really exist because all you had to face was a computer screen and the incongruously upbeat chime of an incoming message.
I recall one of my relationships, back in my freshman year of high school, began online. He asked me out over the Internet and a couple months later, broke up with me the same way. I blamed the entire situation on his immaturity, not on being reliant on the Internet and other impersonal forms of communication. Now, I have settled on the latter theory – dependence on avoiding confrontation by using AIM. It hit me the day my best friend told me her boyfriend of three years had just broken up with her. I was devastated for her. But then she told me he did it over AIM and I almost threw up! After three years of a loving, open relationship he resorted to the Internet in order to avoid a real life confrontation.
The level of impersonality doesn’t end there. Oh, no. The dorms are a very special place to live. Brochures insist there is a great feeling of community in them. It’s too bad that sense of community has made a drastic jump into the technological realm. Floormates have resorted to messaging one another rather than walking two feet across the hall to hold their conversations. And worse yet, people who are sitting in the same room and live in very close quarters find it necessary to message each other. Is it just me, or is this absolutely ridiculous? As my friend Kathleen pointed out: if you can hear each other’s typing, you can probably hear each other’s voices.
I fear the day when people decide to give up talking and seeing each other altogether and we live in a world in which the only sounds we hear are the humming of machines and the clicking of keyboards. I mean, even our telephones give us an option to talk on them or not. There’s no need to call someone and hear a voice, you can just send a text message.
And here’s the kicker, folks! Our dependence on technology is beginning to spread into all areas of our lives. My friend Valerie and I were discussing our deep obsessions with procrastination tools, such as Facebook and Livejournal, when she mentioned her obsession with Weather.com. “I check the weather about every 10 minutes,” she said in all seriousness. I looked at her blankly and asked, “But, Valerie, why don’t you just look out the window?” She stood there silently for a moment and then laughed upon realizing how absurd she sounded.
We have grown up in a world that is technologically advancing more and more every second. These advances are quickly consuming us. We depend on it in so many ways, and while we are under the impression that we are becoming closer to our friends and family, we are really only cutting ourselves off from the personal interactions that keep us human.

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Waste, Pollution and the Pursuit of Happiness

[home]The United States of America – land of the free and the home of the brave. Let’s rephrase that. The United States of America – land of solid waste and the home of outsourcing.
The U.S. is looked to as a leader in its economy, effective entrepreneurship and military. But the United States isn’t as clean as it appears on the outside. We’ve got big feet, and we’re leaving footprints all over the world in other ways than waging war. While it’s no secret that President Bush has not been a champion of environmental clean up and maintenance, what actions, or inactions have affected our environment in the last five years? [pullquotenegin]
Former president of Students Embracing Environmental Disciplines (SEED), Christine Lanser, Environmental Economy and Policy senior said, “Bush and a lot of other people are undervaluing the natural environment’s services. If we are not spending the money now there will be additional costs. Later the costs can more than triple than what it would cost in the first place. Maybe it will cost 10 billion now to prevent it, but it could cost two trillion later if we were to try to rebuild everything. It will cost more to replant something that has been wiped out.”
“(The Bush Administration) is the worst administration in history in protecting the environment. (It) uses language that hides what they are really doing. It’s like putting a smiley face on a bad thing,” said Elliott Negin, Washington’s Communications Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
While Negin said Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency commits violations of the law but are going unpunished, David Bidwell, a sociology graduate student who works in correlation with Environmental Science and Public Policy, feels the environment is not moving forward under Bush.
“To be honest, it’s pretty good in comparison to other countries. The Clean Water and Clean Air Acts have improved the environment a lot. There are standards and regulations that were originally not there. That’s what makes it so hard to judge problems now. The positives and negatives are incremental rather than sweeping changes that people can see. Most people are satisfied with their lifestyles (in the US).” The Clean Air Act was passed in 1970 and implemented restrictions on how much pollution was allowed into the air. The Bush Administration has proposed the Clear Skies Initiative that will roll back the restrictions of the Clean Air Act. The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 and implemented regulatory and non-regulatory devices to control the amounts of pollutants that entered waterways.
Maybe we aren’t surrounded by refuse in every step we take along a city road, and maybe we aren’t lacking a source of clean water, but does that mean we should go on living as though those problems don’t exist? Although many of the issues concerning the earth’s ecological systems seem thousands of miles away (like global warming\’s impact on water temperature and how it affects the sensitive, Australian coral reef ecosystems. You know. For example), let’s break down what’s really going on here on the home front –meaning the U.S. and even at MSU.
Water
At MSU, concerns about water stem primarily from runoff caused by agriculture, homes, salt on the roadways, parking lots, etc. Point sources are sources of pollution that can be seen and measured easily. An example would be a drain pipe from a factory that is pouring pollutants directly into a river. Students continuously find a union in trash talking the Red Cedar, but some say there is no call for such negativity.
“The Red Cedar is getting much better. Pollution sources are actually from off-campus. The sources for the large part have been curtailed. Ecoli counts have been down consistently,” said Terry Link, director of the Office of Campus Sustainability, who also assured that the river is better than it looks and the fish from the river are safe to eat.
“The condition of the water in the US is much better than it was on a lot of respects,” Bidwell said. “But now there are more nuances from non-point sources.”
Environmental activists have also begun taking concern about urban sprawl, a problem that can lead to flooding. “A lot of green space is being destroyed by homes and malls,” Bidwell said. “The more of the environment that is paved decreases the water quality as a whole. This means areas flood more quickly.\”
With Bush’s help in December of 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was close to passing a policy that would allow inadequately treated sewage into water sources that contained bacteria, viruses, and fecal matter. However, NRDC put a stop to the policy.
The Bush Administration is also effecting the environment through inaction. “The administration has refused to regulate the rocket fuel component called per chlorate,” Negin said. Per chlorate is a harmful chemical that contaminates drinking water in areas nearby military bases; places such as in the western part of the US that have high uses of rockets.
According to Negin, the Clean Water Act protects waterways by forcing pollution producing factories to limit the amount of pollutants they emit into water sources, and the Bush Administration has drastically weakened the policy. The White House has been lobbying to pass legislation that will loosen the regulations on and consequences of factories that emit pollutants into waterways.
“The Bush Administration changes one word in the regulation and turns it around.”
Global Warming
Hurricanes and tsunamis have become a front page trend this year, but their causes run deep. “Hurricanes are more intensive because of global warming,” premed sophomore Ronnie Risinger said after attending a climate change speaker series on campus. “They occur because of a preexisting disturbance. The ozone layer is getting thinner and thinner, and the sun is penetrating the earth more and more. The ocean is rising, and it will continue to.”
This is yet another area where the US government refuses to intervene. “(Bush) is clearly taking inaction towards global climate change,” Link said. “Making things worse than better seems to be the general trend.”
“The key thing with global warming is that it is happening,” Bidwell said. “People want to make a debate about it and throw out science. Effects in terms of climate change, people are adapting to the change. Frost coming at different times of the year, planting and harvesting can change. But it is hard for people to change their behaviors now because it is difficult to ask them to make sacrifices based on something that isn’t a direct threat to them. There are concerns as changes come because wealthy, technologically advanced nations can do a lot better at adjusting than those without that technology.”
According to NRDC research, in September 2001, EPA told the industry\’s main lobby group, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), that existing law would cut power plants\’ soot-forming sulfur dioxide pollution from 11 million tons today to two million tons by 2012, and cut smog-forming nitrous oxide emmissions from five million tons today to 1.25 million tons by 2010. The Clear Skies Initiative, however, changed the law so that deadlines to meet health standards would be delayed and this would allow violations of emissions of soot and smog into the atmosphere for a longer time. The Administration\’s plan would allow nearly twice as much sulfur dioxide for about a decade longer than the current Clean Air Act permits. [coolingpic]
“Bush is trying to roll back the Clean Air Act with the Clear Skies Initiative,” Negin said. “He’s trying to weaken the Clean Air Act by allowing coal fired power plants to pollute more and for a longer time than the Clean Air Act allows.\”
During Bush\’s first presidential race, he supported mandatory controls on carbon dioxide. However, when he gained office, he turned completely around and refused to sign policies such as the Kyoto Protocol. Last July at the G8 summit the Bush administration’s delegation attempted to water down the global warming action plan, according to NRDC. “He admitted that carbon dioxide contributes to global warming but he continues to work against it,” Negin said. “In regards to oil, the United States has 5% of the world’s population, and we use 25% of the oil produced world wide every year.\”
He added, “If the administration is successful in rolling back safe guards it will affect people’s health. People will be sicker, breathing dirtier air and drinking dirtier water.”
Solid Waste
While the issue of solid waste and the importance of recycling was a concern at the forefront during the 1980s and 90s, but have recently blown over, Bidwell said, “It continues to be a problem, but we’re not addressing it that much. It used to be a big deal, but then when things get really difficult, we don’t want to talk about it.”
Activists from the student organization Eco, like urban planning senior Ashley Miller, feel that comprehensive recycling is a big issue. “Our mission is to make students aware and to become a more sustainable campus,” Miller said. “Michigan State is the only Big 10 without comprehensive recycling in dorms and office buildings.” Eco displayed the shocking results of just how much plastic, glass and metal is wasted by the lack of a recycling facility by reporting that 250 pounds of recyclables are thrown into land fills each semester by MSU students and displaying all 250 pounds of them on October 26 by Wells Hall. [trashpic]
Other students are also fighting to sustain the environment. Resident Mentor and English senior Sarah Trudell started a comprehensive recycling program in Campbell Hall. “I think it’s ridiculous that in a university as big as this that we don’t recycle things like water bottles,” she said. She also pointed out little habitual things that bother her around campus. “I hate when people are in the caf and they use a plastic cup and straw for their Slushies when they could use a glass one.” She also mentioned that Brody complex doesn’t offer glass bowls for ice cream which causes a waste of Styrofoam.
Any student can use the three R’s they learned in elementary. Recycle, reuse, reduce. Many MSU students feel these are important words and take action on them. “I recycle because I think it’s important to reuse material we already have,” said Monica VanKlompenberg, animal science sophomore. She learned valuable lessons when she was in middle school and visited a rainforest and discovered that humans can’t continuously cut down trees because eventually there won’t be any left.
Danielle Scheetz, genetics sophomore said, “I think a lot of people are really into recycling, but they don’t know a lot about it.” She also feels that MSU should have comprehensive recycling on campus. “I think its silly that we don’t because the Big 10 schools typically follow each other and we tend to be very similar.”
Campbell Hall resident Elena Sias, nursing freshman, said that she currently recycles because “when the environment is clean, the animals live longer. We should care about everybody, not just humans.” She also thought that if there wasn’t recycling available in Campbell Hall she would probably not recycle out of pure inconvenience, which leads her to believe that MSU should have a comprehensive recycling program.
“We don’t have the luxury to just waste,” Miller added. “We have to use what we have. If we are called a land grant university, we should live up to our name.”

Wondering what you can do to help your environment?
1. Attend an ECO meeting at Wednesday nights 7:30 Illinois Room of the Union. Email eco@msu.edu or visit www.msu.edu/~eco
2. Start a comprehensive recycling program in your residence hall. Contact the office of Housing within your residence hall. They can provide the bins and signs to get a program underway. Then locate the nearest recycling facility and make a schedule for students to bring the recyclables to the center each week.
3. Join Students Embracing Environmental Disciplines (SEED). Contact President of SEED, Sam Tourtellot at tourtel1@msu.edu for more information.
4. Visit the NRDC website and check out the Bush Record – a site devoted to updating people about Bush’s actions in regards to the environment: http://www.nrdc.org/bushrecord/
5. Write a letter to your senator expressing your concern about these issues. Or write directly to the White House: The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Washington, D.C. 20500
6. For more information on these issues, Negin suggested reading Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

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Acquired Taste

“The coffee isn’t even really that good,” Patricio Brevis said as he sipped on a steaming cup of free java at the International Center.
Lackluster coffee doesn’t deter Brevis from attending the Office of International Students and Scholars International Coffee Hour. The free coffee is merely a perk of the social gathering of culturally diverse students, scholars and faculty. “It’s a way to meet people from different parts of the world,” Brevis said. “It’s good for a new student learning about the culture. It’s a place to meet people with common interests and common problems.” The Chilean native, who is working for MSU’s horticulture department, said a similar program helped him assimilate into American culture while he was earning his Ph.D. from a university in Georgia, and he was glad to see one was present in his new location. [coffeeBriggs]
While MSU has a strong advantage in international relations and students are surrounded daily by people of different countries, cultures and attitudes, international students are faced not only with a new school, but a new culture, new social norms, new day-to-day interactions and often a new language. The International Coffee Hour, held every Friday afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m. in the International Center, has served as a way of bringing this diverse group of students and faculty together into one familiar, warm setting.
Peter Briggs, director of OISS and founder of the Coffee Hour, said it was created to assist the formation of an international community on campus. “Whether they go or not, just its existence alone tells them that we care,” said Briggs. “In the post-Sept. 11 world, they are scrutinized at the airport, but we want to create the notion of a welcoming campus.” Briggs also described the levels of culture shock many international people experience, including a honeymoon stage before life becomes stressful from the accumulation of differences. “The International Coffee Hour gives them a comfort zone,” he said. “It is a safe place for international students.”
Another person socializing at the Coffee Hour, Matthias Spitzmueller, who is a management graduate student from Germany, said, “I usually just hang around people in my department. This is an opportunity to see some other people from different cultures.” [coffee hour matthias]
Psychology senior Ayaka Nangumo said she started noticing the cultural differences she would have to get accustomed to as soon as she stepped off the plane from Japan. “Everyone was wearing jeans in the airport,” which Nangumo said she wasn’t used to. Other physical differences she immediately recognized were the size of the buildings and the people – both being much taller than at home. Even the size of her coffee grew. “We have Starbucks in Japan, but it is really different here. We have a very small size, and when I ordered the smallest size here, it was huge,” she said.
Along with the surface layer of things Nangumo had to get accustomed to, she said, “In the United States everyone is individualistic. It’s ‘I’, ‘I’, ‘I.’ In Japan it is all the ‘we’ perspective. Here, they ask, what do you think? It’s kind of threatening. In Japan the self is a product of the whole community rather than creating a self image. Everyone is more relaxed here and there are more options. I go (to the Coffee Hour) simply to get to know others. It is always nice to share some stories – something about our own countries, our experiences here at MSU, or simply about our life stories. Also, I feel more comfortable sharing my own experience with other international students because I feel I am understood more by these students than by domestic students who have never traveled abroad.” Trinidad and Tobago native and College of Education graduate student Alicia Trotman agrees with Nangumo. “The individualism was a shock,” she said. “Here people don’t work as a community. Unless you request it, people won’t put their hand out to help. Everything was so impersonal. I felt lonely because I am a very social person. You have to make a plus-plus effort here to meet people.”
Social interactions were also one of the most noticeable differences to Janak De Silva, a visiting fellow of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship from Sri Lanka and public prosecutor in civil cases. “In my country we put our arm around each other, but here there is a distance while talking,” De Silva said. Casual hellos and goodbyes also caught him off-guard at first. “Here ‘hi’ and ‘goodbye’ are artificial, but ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ there means that you want to get to know someone.” De Silva’s scholarship allows people like him from developing countries in the middle of their careers to gain firsthand experience in how the American system functions.
De Silva also recognized many differences between U.S. customs and those of his native country. He was shocked at the discipline on the roads and how people actually respect the road signs. “I don’t hear horns, unless the guy is really angry,” he said. The freedom of children also grabbed his attention immediately. “Children are earning to pay for their school fees by working in supermarkets. That’s not so in my culture. Life is built around parents until they are 18 or usually older for the daughters, they are dependent on their parents. [In Sri Lanka], we seek guidance from the elders, and what they say is followed. It is not so here. There is young independence, and at a certain age people lose their value.”
East Lansing is just one more facet of American culture international people have to get accustomed to. Arriving in January 2000 to begin her college experience in New York and coming to East Lansing this August to earn her Ph.D., Trotman said she found the transition to be very difficult. “East Lansing was especially hard because it’s not as cosmopolitan,” she said. “In New York you just take people as they are, but there is a majority of Caucasians here.” She said what affected her most was coming to East Lansing without any friends or family, and the small population of Caribbean students and difficulty of her graduate work didn’t help either. “The Ph.D. program is so intense that there is no way to find your people – you just don’t have the time,” she said. [coffee Nangumo]
After a long day of work, Trotman said she couldn’t avoid the change – even her alcoholic beverage of choice changed. Also at Caribbean parties there is Caribbean music, but here she said she hears all hip-hop from this decade and the ’90s, which she doesn’t enjoy. “For leisure here there are parties – going to the bar, beer, something to drink. In the Caribbean, rum is number one. Every drink has rum in it,” she said.
Nangumo also explained many parts of campus life took some getting used to. “Parties shocked me a lot,” said Nangumo. “In Japan parties are formal parties. It’s really populated there so we can’t really go to someone’s apartment to party. I like [MSU] a lot. People wear green and white and there is a lot of school spirit. Japan doesn’t have that much college involvement.” She said adjusting culturally has been hard, not only in the United States but also when she returns to Japan. “Now I am somewhere in the middle. Here I am Japanese, there I am American. I go home once every other year, and when I am home I feel like an outsider. I feel like I’ve lost some sense of other people’s feelings. The cage of society there is so tight.”
However, for the most part, Nangumo said she feels she has comfortably assimilated into American culture. “I feel comfortable most of the time, unless I have to make a presentation in front of 550 people or something, and then I feel lost,” she said. “I feel like they think I can’t even speak proper English. And every now and then I encounter a funny situation when I can’t think of an elementary vocab word. I know all these big words relating to psychology, and then I can’t think of something like the word ‘cupboard.’”
Although Trotman also attends Coffee Hour, she said one thing that is still hard for her is missing her boyfriend who is still in New York, her family back home and some of the Trinidad and Tobago traditions including the local carnival. She hasn’t been able to attend for five or six years and said she now feels like a foreigner because of it.
However, Trotman is finding ways to cope with the new changes she has encountered. She has found other international students who she said know what she is going through. “These people are in all of my classes, and I am building closer relationships,” she said. “The loneliness is reducing.” [coffeeworld]
On the other end of the spectrum, when asked if he felt like he has assimilated into American culture, De Silva wasn’t so sure. “I don’t think so,” he said. “The culture is so complex, from state to state and city to city.” He did mention his arrival and transition have been made easier because he received information about what to pack and what to expect in the states. “The settling in process was made easy by (the Hubert H. Humphrey scholarship).”
Familial support has also helped De Silva cope with the multitude of changes. Although his wife is thousands of miles away, he said he is dealing with the situation well. “They are very supportive,” he said. “It was a good opportunity that I got, so it was difficult to say no. My wife has family and company there and this program is so intensive that I cannot just sit back and mope.”
MSU has also implemented organizations other than the International Coffee Hour to help international students adapt to the culture including Community Volunteers for International Programs (CVIP), which gives international students an opportunity to teach the community about their country; Friendship Family, a program that provides a family environment for the students and an opportunity to see an American home and family life international college students might otherwise not see; Supper Club, which allows international couples to dine together and experience unique foods; an English as a Second Language (ESL) program and the Lending Center, which provides things for the home in case international students don’t have certain supplies. “These are all important because it enriches the international students’ experience and education,” said Margaret Beall, a community volunteer through CVIP. “They get to see much more than the campus experience. It also establishes positive global relationships.”
According to Beall, such a variety of programs is not only beneficial to international students but the community as well: “The community gets to learn about new cultures and customs which widen their global perspective,” she said. “International connections are a big asset to MSU. We have one of the best numbers of enrollment in the country. This is a wonderful asset for the community to take advantage of.”
Briggs agrees MSU has a great mixture of people from around the world right at our fingertips. He pointed out 7 percent of MSU’s student population is international. “Now we just have to figure out a way to get American students there (International Coffee Hour),” he said. “The Coffee Hour is a place where you can meet a total stranger, shake their hand and have a friend from some other part of the world. International students are a fountain of information.”
Some international students already have an idea of what they will miss about the United States and what they are going to take away from their experiences. “I love music and it is very accessible here, especially world music,” said Trotman. “I will miss the bartenders. They know millions of drinks, and I love cocktails. Now, I’m not an alcoholic, but it’s amazing. Not every drink has rum in it! More seriously, I will miss the opportunities in academics. You are supported to do research on what topic you want, and you’re encouraged to progress,” she said. “Asking questions is a good thing, and I find that phenomenal.” According to Trotman, she plans to return to Trinidad and Tobago after she earns her Ph.D. since she believes it is her duty to help direct the country in a positive direction.
Nangumo said she has found ease in assimilating to American culture, but enjoys using the Coffee Hour in particular to remind her of her roots. “Although I am pretty much assimilated to American culture, I always want to remember where I come from,” she said. “Coffee Hour is a good place to remind me about the fact that I am Japanese and I have a family that cares about me in Japan.”
Although he has only been in the United States since Aug. 6, De Silva knows his time here, both at MSU and the weekly Coffee Hour gathering, will be valuable. “This opportunity has opened up for me friendships and networks,” he said. “I can make the best use of this when I get back home. There must be a continuous exchange of ideas in order to understand what each culture has. I think that is what the world as a whole has to concentrate on.”

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Culture Jumpers

Most of us raised in America can reminisce about watching The Wonder Years or of singing “God Bless the U.S.A.” in grade school, but Americans that grew up abroad have other memories. Their cultural jumps may have shaped a different life for them, but these two students wouldn’t change their experiences for the world.
[world]Julianna Durrett, a charismatic, curly-haired, history sophomore claims her childhood spent in Germany was absolutely for the better. She moved to Wiesbaden, Germany, when she was six years old and resided there until age 12. As is true for any child changing schools, it was difficult to fit in. “I was a complete outsider in second grade,” Durrett said. “I was the fat American.” Although she felt like an outcast at first, this experience helped her develop a different outlook on new students because she knows how it felt. Despite being different from most students in her school, the German students were genuinely curious about her and what it was like to live in another country.
Within six short months, Julianna knew enough German to hold a conversation with her classmates. Assistant family and child ecology professor Dr. Darrell Meece, explains that it is much easier for humans to pick up a new language in the early years of their development. “Children can pick up a language much more rapidly,” Meece said.
Durrett said being bilingual was a major advantage of living abroad as a child. “Learning another language makes you learn the structure of your own language, too,” she said.
Durrett quickly accepted German society. “I remember living in America, but after living in Germany, their norms became mine,” she said. Meece explained that as a child abroad or coming back to her native country, there are different crowds to learn about and a whole new social structure to figure out. This may be difficult, depending on the individual’s personality.
For Durrett, German society gave her a sense of independence she might have missed out on in America. “German society believes in bringing up their young gradually through responsibility,” Durrett said. For example, alcohol laws in Germany expect more responsibility at a younger age than in America. Drinking is legal at age 12 or 13 in public with your parents, and once you are 16, you can drink in pubs by yourself.
“You take individual steps,” Durret said. “It’s not all of a sudden like in the U.S. Here, you can’t drink until three years after you are considered a legal adult. By the time I was 12, I could go downtown by myself. In America, you just can’t do that. There’s no way in hell I would do that in Battle Creek when I was 12.”
Durrett’s experience with the German school system also helped her develop independence. While in the fifth grade, many mornings her parents would already be at work, and she would be responsible for getting to school on time. She also recalls making plans for herself on her days off.
Another benefit for Durrett was the opportunity to see a great deal of Europe. While Michigan elementary students were visiting the ever-captivating Capitol building in Lansing, her classmates took field trips to cities like Paris.
However, growing up as an American abroad was not always easy, which Durrett found out upon her return to the States. Her transition back to American culture was a bit more strenuous than going to Germany. Fellow students asked her incriminating questions, like if she was part of Hitler youth or a Nazi.
“In Germany, Doc Martens were really popular,” Durrett said. “Back in America, I was asked if they were Nazi combat boots. It was ridiculous. What I thought was cool wasn’t anymore, and that is a big deal when you’re in eighth grade.”
But despite some her cultural leap and the subsequent adjustments, Durrett looks back fondly on her unique adolescent years. “Sometimes I’ll be sitting around with friends and they’ll be like, ‘remember this and this,’ and I don’t because I wasn’t here. But I really don’t feel like I missed out. I’ve had a richer experience by living abroad,” Durrett said.
Living abroad during her youth not only molded her childhood but is a direct link to her current interests as a college student. Durrett, a history major, became quite interested in European history and feels that U.S. kids are only taught the American side of history.
Some of her neighbors in Germany were alive during World War II, and she heard their side of the story. “That is why I am so interested in European history,” Durrett said.
Durrett lived in a place with a rich history, which has nurtured her interests since her years there. “…There were still buildings up from a long time ago. I went to many museums and old churches like there are in France and England. There’s not that type of deep history in the U.S.” She also expressed interest in studying international law and has a strong desire to go back overseas.
We are, as Meece says, “social creatures and products of social interactions.” Based on our upbringing, each of us has a working model of how to act and react in certain situations. According to him, we bring this model with us to new situations. This model is hard to revise, but change is possible depending on the circumstances. This could explain how children are affected by childhood experiences and how that model changes over time.[born]
Now meet Justin Weinrich, a journalism senior whose smile and sincerity are captivating. Justin has a similar story of an adolescence spent abroad. Until age 12, he lived in Holland, Mich., but during the summer between sixth and seventh grade, he moved to Lima, Peru with his family. His parents decided to move their teaching careers to South America because they were tired of huge public schools and possessed unfulfilled desires to travel.
“It was a very, very hard adjustment. I was in a third world country for the first time,” Weinrich said. For Justin, one of the hardest transitions was living the first year in a new country without his dog.
Attending a school surrounded by a wall of barbed wire and guards with machine guns can be a little intimidating when coming from a small community like Holland, Mich. Even his health had some adjustments to make – he contracted typhoid and food poisoning during the early part of his life in Peru.
Weinrich recounted a time when he and a couple of friends went to the new mall in Lima, which when it was built was the biggest mall in South America. After a leisurely day at the shopping center, he and his buddies were robbed.
“The worst part was that they took my shoes so I had to walk through Lima barefoot,” he said nonchalantly. “Everyone in Peru has a story of being robbed, so you’re half expecting it.”
But this threat didn’t hinder Weinrich; he claims it created a streetwise attitude. “It’s not a reason to not move overseas. There are dangers of living anywhere. Life’s too short to focus on the negative instances.”
Learning street smarts was just one adjustment Weinrich quickly made. Within a year he was fluent in Spanish. “People have a tendency to focus on the negatives, but for every one bad thing, there are 20 good instances,” he said.
Due to the rapid change in climate and exposure to new illnesses, Weinrich was often sick which gave him time to watch many movies. “It helped me keep my sanity in Peru because I was always sick and couldn’t communicate with anyone. But it’s what made me want to become a filmmaker.”
His experiences in Peru also fueled his desire to specialize in international relations. Weinrich’s family lived in a mansion with a maid and a driver; his mother even had a masseuse. He describes this as a cultural norm for people with money. Cultural and economic polarization was very extreme in Lima.
“Right outside of our gates was extreme poverty. I couldn’t leave the wall by myself and that part was difficult. That’s also what got me interested in humanitarian work. Seeing different cultures is amazing. I plan on going into making documentaries that address world issues,” he said.
After three years in Peru, he and his family didn’t want to move back to the United States just yet. So, the summer between his sophomore and junior years of high school, they traveled to the Netherlands. “The ex-patriot life is addicting,” Weinrich said with a smile. He remembers the transition from Peru to the Netherlands being much easier than from the United States to Peru.
“Everyone in the Netherlands speaks English and you can watch American movies on TV,” he said.
His new cultural experiences didn’t end when he left South America. On a trip through small villages in the Himalayas in Nepal, Weinrich again noticed the economic differences between himself and the natives. “You’re rich and they have nothing. But all of their smiles were so nice and welcoming. I, like most people, thought they’d all be begging, sad and in pain, but that’s really just not how it is.”
Of course, like Durrett, immigrating back to his native culture was difficult. Even now, many of his American-raised friends do not understand his experiences. “Most of my friends have no idea what it was like for me growing up. I feel like I come off as arrogant, so I don’t bring it up much anymore. I don’t think I am better, it was just different and I want to share that. If I talk about my past at all, I have to talk about that. But quite often people roll their eyes.”
Weinrich explained his childhood as being in a completely different loop from his friends who grew up in the States. He never saw Full House, Boy Meets World or any of the Nickelodeon series’ so many of us loved as kids. Not being able to join in on conversations with his roommates about pop culture memories are the only drawbacks he can think of.
“I can’t get in on them, but it’s not that big of a deal. I tend to gravitate to international students because it’s nice to get that view and it is easier to talk to them about pop culture than someone from here,” Weinrich said.
But despite these gaps in culture, Weinrich would recommend living abroad to anyone. “When I have kids I would definitely do that; of course I am extremely biased, but it was a really good way to grow up,” Weinrich said. “You get a huge taste of the world.”
Through culture gaps, transitions and language barriers, Julianna and Justin both feel their experiences are irreplaceable. Perhaps living abroad as a child is ideal, but then again, most of us wouldn’t change a bit of our wonder years either.

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Another South African Sunrise

Get the little ones ready for school, clean the house, go to work and make sure there’s food on the table – a typical day for a soccer mom, right?
Not in Sub-Saharan Africa, where “soccer mom” isn’t even a term in their cultural rhetoric. Instead this is the life of a 13- or 14-year-old child who has lost his parents to AIDS and has become head of the household at a drastically young age. While the average 13-year-old American child is worrying about which videogame to play next, a child in South Africa is concerning himself with how to feed his younger brothers and sisters.
[steve] This heart-wrenching picture became a common visual for 2003 MSU graduate Steve Serling during the study abroad trip, Race Relations in South Africa. He and other students worked in collaboration with God’s Golden Acre, an HIV/AIDS orphanage. “I experienced a range of emotions,” Serling said. “You read it in a book but then to see it with your own eyes makes the book seem like fiction. When you’re holding a kid who’s three and still not potty trained… they look so innocent and then you think that they might not be alive the next year.”
“I felt hurt, frustration, but also hope. Hope that we can create positive change,” Serling said of his experience on his study abroad trip.
The program was organized by Jeanne Gazel, professor and director of Multi-Racial Unity Living Experience (MRULE), but she says it was pressure from students in MRULE at MSU that got the program off the ground. Serling described the work he and the other participants did while in Africa with a tone of great accomplishment. MRULE raised funds and built two homes close to the orphanage in the village. He explained there was a great need for new homes in this village because in many of the households the parents were unable to work or were missing from the picture entirely and the houses had begun crumbling.
“[Homes] were unfit for living by American standards. So we built new ones in the name of MSU,” Serling said. Other tasks they did in the two weeks at this orphanage included caring for children, playing outside, changing diapers, helping them learn English, and making sure they had the necessary uniform and shoes for school.
Race Relations in South Africa incorporated a “service learning project” with the typical classroom education. “I am not content with only cognitive learning,” Gazel said. “I wanted them to learn through serving the community. I didn’t want us to just be gawking at them; I want them to be offering their talents and privileges with whatever is needed.”
Most of this action was inspired by the overwhelming need in South Africa and the high concentration of AIDS victims. This nation has a tumultuous history. Many of the troubles began in 1913 when the Native Land Act was enacted. This created an authority in which black South Africans, who made up 85 percent of the population were subjugated by whites, making up 13 percent. In even simpler terminology, whites ruled over blacks and took over their land.
From 1948 until 1994, South Africa was under the rule of an apartheid regime. Apartheid is a form of strict racial coding that created laws of what inhabitants could and could not do based on their race. A similar form of rule was America’s segregation, except to the utmost extreme.
When apartheid fell, the National Unity Government took over in 1994 until South Africa could host their first democratic elections. On May 10, 1994, South African civil rights activist Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the first democratically chosen leader of South Africa. During these struggles, anti-apartheid refugees escaped jail and went into hiding in foreign countries. It was these refugees that helped end the civil unrest by creating an international isolation of South Africa.
[map] This is where AIDS comes back into the picture for South Africa. Because international businesses put economic sanctions on the nation, the rigid regime was brought down. Along with economic goods and services, this isolation kept AIDS out of the country. In a sense AIDS is spread quickly through commerce, as many the flow of goods and people can lead to increased infections.
Due to the closed ports, low availability of blood transfusions and intravenous drugs, AIDS wasn’t spreading rapidly in South Africa. But in the 1980s and ’90s, Uganda’s AIDS cases were exploding. Once the apartheid regime fell and the ports were opened, AIDS in South Africa spread like wildfire.
South Africa’s new leaders essentially had to rebuild an entire country. There were many areas of concern, including generations of uneducated people, insufficient healthcare and a weak economy. This meant HIV/AIDS did not get their full attention. It is hard to know for sure, but estimated numbers suggest the infection rate was 20-25 percent in South Africa in the late 1990s. “Forty million people have died in the last 15 years from this and we’re not curbing that,” Gazel said. “It’s not only in Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s now in Asia and many other countries.”
Gazel, who has experience speaking with South African women explained some of the cultural reasons for the AIDS crisis. “It is a very difficult concept – that you can spread a deadly disease through sex,” Gazel said. “They see sex as life-giving, an expression of manhood and womanhood. [Sex] isn’t talked about. It’s a thing you do. It’s a part of life. HIV education is slow to take hold. The biggest transmitter is heterosexual intercourse.”
Not only has the hush-hush view of sex contributed to the spread of this disease, but gender inequality plays a huge role. In many of the villages, girls drop out of school once they reach the equivalent of 8th grade in the United States and they stay home to help or may try to find work.
“You walk through these townships that people live in because they can’t afford more privacy or the ability to fend people off,” Gazel said. “People are everywhere. Three shacks could house 20 people. This creates a good sense of community, but the downside is that it breeds behaviors that are encouraging of the virus spread.”
Gazel said “roaming boys” are men in the villages that express love for the local girls. After this exchange of emotions, the man expects sexual intercourse as the next step in the relationship. “For the amount of sex going on, there is nowhere near the education needed. The girl gets pregnant, and then she is stuck there,” Gazel said.
The sister of Gazel’s 25-year-old adopted daughter in South Africa dropped out of school in 10th grade and is not allowed to look for work because the only form of employment for young girls is prostitution. But even if a wise mother says her daughter can’t go out of the house, girls can still get pregnant because of the roaming neighborhood boys and simply not knowing how to protect themselves. “You have to look at the way women are treated. Women cannot refuse a man. They can’t make the man use a condom,” she said.
Another cause of the spread of this disease in Africa is the government’s actions, or lack thereof. “…[T]he government only cares about prevention,” Serling said. “There are no treatment programs. People feel that if they get tested, it is a death penalty. The government doesn’t provide treatment. There is a stigma to testing so people still have sexual intercourse without getting tested.” Because there is a lack of education on the issues, misconceptions are abundant in many countries. “I have heard South African students say that if you have sex with a virgin, that’ll cure AIDS,” Serling said.
Lisa Robinson, a Peace Corps Recruiter at MSU, said one of the misconceptions she has heard personally and through other Peace Corps volunteers is that women believe if they are on birth control they cannot contract AIDS. She said many also believe they can get it from sitting next to someone, using the same toilet seat or through sweat and playing sports.
MSU currently has 72 Peace Corps volunteers overseas, three are health volunteers. “Peace Corps expects you to deal with AIDS no matter what your mission is. Even as an English teacher I had to deal with it,” Robinson said. MSU’s study abroad program and the Peace Corps are offered alongside courses and expeditions to Africa through the African Studies Center to inform the university community of the AIDS epidemic.
Sociology professor and Director of the African Studies Center David Wiley said MSU has the largest African curriculum in the United States and also offers more African languages than any other university. MSU has large amounts of research, grant projects and PhD dissertations written on Africa. Our university also offers more study abroad programs to Africa than any other university. Wiley said that a couple hundred MSU students and faculty travel to Africa, depending on the projects, a year.
[AIDS] “Historically, we are more linked to Africa than any place else,” Wiley said, citing that 12 to 13 percent of Americans came to the U.S. from Africa, and one-fourth of our oil comes from the continent. “We made a mess during the Cold War; we put the military power in the hands of dictators. The U.S. is the largest arms exporter to Africa and that is the last thing they need.”
When it comes to our relations with the U.S. Wiley believes, “we should clean up after ourselves.”
“We need Africa; they are a source of so many goods,” Wiley said. “We need them to be healthy. If they are in turmoil we can’t get what we need. Lots of African poverty is from the Cold War. Women become sex workers and people have sex crimes. We helped create those conditions and we’ve got to clean up our own mess.”
“We have to realize Africa is part of the world. Regardless if we think we can live in our own little bubble in East Lansing, there are numerous people dying [in Africa] and it is going to affect people around the world,” Serling said. “The world needs to wake up. We have to come together to combat HIV/AIDS. It’s a scary disease, but people need to know they can live with HIV/AIDS. It’s not a death penalty. We have to find a common humanity and figure it out together.”
Between 1997 and 2002, according to a new report from Stats SA, South Africa’s official statistics agency, the number of recorded deaths in the 20 to 45 age group more than doubled, from a little over 100,000 to more than 200,000, many of the lives claimed by AIDS. We can no longer sit idly by. While we are wondering about who will win the next sports game, someone in South Africa is wondering if she will see another sunrise.

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Riding the Third Wave

Lesbian, bitchy, man-hating, angry, ugly women. So the stereotypes are out there. Now let’s talk about feminism.
Feminism takes on many forms and can mean different things to different people. Leah Swartz, social work senior and director of MSU’s production of The Vagina Monologues, considers feminism “just believing in the power of women. Period.” Kim Drotar, social relations senior and co-president of Womyn’s Council, also explained her thoughts about being a feminist. “I believe all women should not be oppressed or persecuted or subject to any kind of discrimination. We come in all shapes, colors and sizes. I have to also include the racism and homophobia and things of that sort that some women face.”
[wave] One thing feminists agree on: women are oppressed by patriarchy and they feel this is wrong; a pretty basic concept, which shows that there’s not much that all feminists agree on. There are many types of feminists: radical feminists, Marxist feminists, black feminists, liberal feminists and separatist feminists, to name a few. According to sociology professor Toby TenEyck, there is a wide range of feminist perspectives. On one end of feminism there is the view that all men are bad and the radical thought that men and women should be separated. On the other end are the feminists who want to be treated equally and want no special privileges placing them above anyone else.
The term “feminist,” much like the word, “cunt,” has become almost a swear word, and is sometimes labeled the “f-word” for its use as a negative term. According to Sarah Steele, intradepartmental social sciences senior and member of the campus feminist group the Radical Femmes, feminism has become a backlash of sorts because individuals have made it a faux pas term. “People are not willing to take on the patriarchy that tries to prevent women from moving forward,” Steele said. Swartz warned about this mentality, where many are afraid to identify as feminists. “People shouldn’t be afraid to call themselves feminists. It doesn’t mean that you are liberal or pro–choice. You can have your own ideals and your own agenda but still believe in the power of women.”
Feminism is about women but is not and should not be restricted to women. Some men regard themselves as feminists or supporters of feminism. “Men can definitely be feminists,” Travis Reed, biochemistry, biotechnology and microbiology senior, said. “Men can fight for equality because of all of the gender inequality in our society.” Swartz currently is organizing a group called MSU Men Against Sexual Assault. “There is no reason a man can’t believe in the amazing powers women have. I think any kid with an amazing mother that they look up to is a feminist.”
[femme3] But not all feminists agree with Swartz’s viewpoint. Drotar was perplexed over the idea and hesitated, then concluded, “Men can be feminist supporters or sympathizers, but they can’t be feminists. As a white woman, I can never be black, so I can never feel like I’ve experienced those oppressions. So, [men] can be allies to feminists.”
According to TenEyck and women’s studies professor Dr. Penny Gardner, feminism has been split into three different “waves.” The first wave is typically mentioned briefly in history classes and corresponds to the suffrage movement and the first nationwide assembly of women fighting for a collective cause. Once women received the right to vote in 1920, their fighting was far from over, yet activities waned until the second wave. However, Alice Paul, a first wave feminist, wrote the 24-word Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) which would show up during the second wave in the 1960s. Across the United States in the 1960s and ’70s feminists fought for women’s rights across the board, TenEyck said. This movement was about equality all around, including the ERA and wage equality based on the fact that women made approximately 70 cents to every dollar men made in similar positions. The second wave, commonly referred to as the Women’s Movement, made a “vibrant, strong push for women’s rights to put it on the social agenda,” TenEyck said.
Today there is rumor of a third wave of feminism, but according to TenEyck, it has been only individual splashes of feminism, not waves at all. “Now women are concentrating on their own rights,” TenEyck said. “They don’t want to talk about it. They want to be able to do their own thing and not necessarily on the public stage.” This has created some tension because the second wave feminists argue if women aren’t making their fight public then they are not taking care of the problems of oppression and inequality.
[women3] Gardner looks at the third wave a little differently. She claims feminists are playing on a defensive mode and are protecting the rights they have gained already. Now their concentration is on a woman’s right to have control over her body.
Steele views feminism today as a bigger picture. “Feminism is against racism, capitalism and grander issues with the feminist perspective involved,” Steele said. “Some of the feminists I know are part of an anti-sweatshop movement, whereas in the ’60s and ’70s it was a straight up feminist movement.” Steele recognizes Condoleeza Rice’s promotion as a step forward for womankind. “Women continue to break the glass ceiling,” Steele said. “Like Condoleeza Rice, even though her politics are bad, she is still breaking the glass ceiling within the system. We are progressing gradually.”
According to Steele, the systems of capitalism and patriarchy cause feminist oppression. “The main oppression the system causes in my opinion is the concept of traditionally female characteristics,” Steele said. “They claim these things have always been traditionally female, which restricts equal pay. Typically, upper-class white men control the government and the media and essentially poison the minds of the people in the country who follow that shit.” Gardner sources feminist oppression to the highest powers in the nation. “Feminists are being scapegoated for what’s called family values,” she said. “Feminism has taken a backseat to other supposed needs and concerns.”
So where does this leave feminists? Women and men are still fighting for equality. On the MSU campus alone there are many organizations with that goal in mind. Womyn’s Council and Radical Femmes are two groups that concentrate on raising awareness. Radical Femmes is focused on direct action rather than simply holding discussions, Steele said. MSU Men Against Sexual Assault is still in the works. “When people join they aren’t going to realize that they’re being feminists,” Reed said of his group. “We want guys to realize that 98 percent of perpetrators are men. We want to tell men not to rape women.”
[penny4] MSU’s presentation of The Vagina Monologues is another example of feminist action on campus. “It’s about taking back the language and being able to speak openly about vaginas, sex and giving birth,” Swartz said. “Women should be proud to speak openly and not be ashamed of what distinctly makes women women.”
Spurred by an increase in reported rape cases this year, the new Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Task Force on campus has joined the ranks of feminist action. The task force has been split into four groups which look at various parts of campus and the level of awareness about sexual assault. “On the college level there are some people in the administration who don’t want to talk about sexuality at all,” TenEyck, a faculty member on the task force, said. “They just want to prevent it by saying women shouldn’t drink alcohol if there are a lot of men around or shouldn’t go somewhere in the dark alone. But that says that women are different. Women should be able to do the same things that men do. Women should have control of that.”
Feminism is not confined to just the United States. “With the tendencies of globalization and the different perspectives on cultural levels and the different ideas of what females are, it should be interesting to be exposed to those cultures to see how that plays out,” TenEyck said. “I don’t think feminism will go away. As it becomes more radical or more mainstream and other cultures hear what women are doing, they will see how to do it. We still have a long ways to go.”
Gardner, a long-time feminist and queer activist and scholar, lives her life and teaches in a way that will carry the movement on to her students. “Feminism endures, it is powerful, it is right,” she said. “It is unstoppable. Feminism has endured; it will continue to enlist and engage many more women and men to further its goals of equality for all women, the world over.”

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