telling stories, hearing lives

Category: Digital Storytelling (Page 4 of 6)

“American Dream” Scavenger Hunt – Families & The Media Group


1) For our group presentation, we decided to look at this year’s main Coke advertisement from the superbowl. The main reason we chose to look at this piece was because of the controversy of that surrounded the advertisement. Within the commercial America the Beautiful is sung by a variety of ethnicities. Not only that but, for each ethnicity, each individual sang it in their native language. Images of everyday life were being projected onto the screen. This commercial is the “American Dream”. Many different people, speaking many different languages, all doing something that resembled American life. This commercial promoted the idea of the “American Dream” to the viewers. It says, ‘no matter what color skin you have, no matter where you are from, and no matter what language you speak, we are all American, and the “Dream” is out there for us.’ This is what the “American Dream” is about today. Coke is also appealing to its slogan “Open Happiness”, since the “American Dream” is meant to be a happy thought. Coke wants Americans to be happy and chase this “American Dream”.


2) American Dad is the perfect television example of the “American Dream” ideal. Stan Smith represents the patriarchal head of household with the perfect family. His beautiful wife Francine is often expected to fulfill domestic roles while her husband works for the government. Their nuclear family structure (heterosexual, married parents with two children) and suburban home perpetuate the idea of the “American Dream.” Even though the show is often a humorous critique of traditional, American values, Stan’s family is portrayed as the ideal family. In Season 5, Episode 11, Roger is depicted as the stereotypical welfare mother. This image is juxtaposed with Stan and his family eating together at the dinner table. When families enter welfare programs it typically implies that they need money to help provide for their families because they don’t reach a certain income. In this episode the nuclear family (and the audience) looks critically on the welfare mother as she declared she was spending her welfare check to buy unnecessary things such as candy and alcohol. The welfare family unit is thoroughly coded as NOT the “American Dream” and as something disgusting and lesser than the “true” nuclear family. These conflicting images show viewers which families are considered legitimate and desirable versus illegitimate in the United States; an individual is supposed to search for “the one,” marry, have children, and buy a house. This is seen as the successful “American family”, and these ideas are supported by media representations.


3) Race shapes different families across the “American Dream” because it affects families’ access to what is included in that “American Dream.” For those who don’t constitute as “American” or “Newly American” it becomes an issue of “ well you’re in America, what more do you want? Work and work and maybe you’ll get somewhere” instead of the idea of having easier access to success simply because you are in America like many believe the “American Dream” to be. We’ve decided to look at the Cheerios commercial linked at the bottom of this. This example utilizes cultural assumptions about race to categorize families because it made the viewers catch themselves and played with our American culture. In the beginning the viewer sees the white mother and then a bi-racial child enters the frame. We don’t really notice that the child is bi-racial or that this is an interracial family until the view switches to the child black father in the next room. We didn’t even notice, but we assumed for the child’s father to be white or maybe another race but black would be the last guess. It may not be because of any underlying racism in the viewer but it is because this is what the media pumps into us regularly.

Black ladies and welfare queens

Black ladies and welfare queens brought to my attention the infuses we place on the meanings of family roles and those individuals within the family. In this case the label welfare queen is a very general title that suppresses the person with this label. It becomes negative and may down play that persons need for assistance. With all of this in consideration I couldn’t help but think about new ways to approach these different archetypes that we have in our society. I raise the questions that are all archetypes and generalizations about family bad and could they actually serve some type of purpose?

Understanding that this maybe an odd way of viewing stereotypes but, our culture thinks this way for a reason, why not try to understand it and then work on changing it. I think the term welfare queen is inappropriate but, maybe this title could help some women out after all. When others know and see people in need they are more likely to help them so, although this may not be the best terminology to use it may spark someone’s interest in helping and stopping so many mothers and women from being in situations like this.  Another example would be the unfortunate status of being a single mother.  When my oldest sister tells people that she is a single parent people automatically make assumptions about her and her daughters father. They immediately sympathize with her and are quick to become a source of help if she were to ever need it. Although my sister does not like this attention and does not need assistance she’s never turned down the assistance either. So, maybe there are more aspects to having a stereotypical single more or welfare queen status than we consider.

 Again, I’m not saying that having these archetypes in our society are good things to have. Telling people what is “normal” or “ideal” only makes others feel ostracized. The Black ladies and welfare queens reading just made me think differently about these types of situations and made me want to understand the way we do things rather than just trying to explain why these stereotypes are wrong.

News As Myth

I found the News As Myth article by Jack Lule to be very interesting. I thought that it addressed many issues very well. I specifically found the subheading of News and Myths tell the “Real” Stories and News and Myths are public stories to be interesting because we often don’t get the real news stories. Racial profiling will always affect the family but especially when it ends in death. Racial profiling affects the family because it takes an innocent individual and transforms them into something that needs to be “watched.” It’s creates mistrust not only from institution to individual but from individual to institution. It makes individuals feel isolated and may make them feel as if their citizenship is legitimate in papers but not in the hearts of fellow citizens. To relate this to the family we can take for instance the news stories of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Their families and friends always build the publics’ idea and perception of these types of victims. This is not to say that what their family and friends say about them isn’t believable or true but it is biased, just like the publics’ idea of the killer is biased. These news stories became famous because they were very similar in the facts that the people killed were completely unarmed and both black men who were believed to be “threatening.” These are new news stories but after closer research this idea of these teenagers being threatening has been connected to the old stories of the Brute Negro caricature. The Brute Negro is ugly and barbarian-like. He is violent and a male predator who targets helpless victims, especially white women. If you compared the characteristics of the brute negro and the characteristics that George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn, the shooters in these cases, proclaimed that these teenagers had, they are very similar.

The question is if these teenagers had been white would they still be targeted for such a barbaric action? This directly relates to the subheading News and Myths tell the “Real” Stories because there are two sides of two stories that did not get told because two people were killed. This also goes with News and Myths are Public Stories because of the controversial “Stand Your Ground” Law that Florida and a few other states have. These cannot be classified as the real story because there are still other sides that have not and will not be told. News stories lose credibility when one side is not able to tell their side. But realistically when stories like this have no visual and auditory proof they have no credibility. Instead of he said she said it’s he said, he’s dead. As human beings we are inherently moved by emotion and because of this even without trying many times we will always be biased. There is real truth but we won’t ever tell the real truth because everyone perceives things differently and everyone has different ideas of what details and aspects are important. This is why these types of stories will always affect the family because what is of value to one person may mean absolutely nothing to another. These types of news stories and the way that the media paints the victim as a “thug” will always portray the idea that black men are “thugs” and it is because of ideas like the brute negro and other caricatures.

Gender Roles

While I was busy on my nearly daily exploration of, I came across a video called “12 Reasons It’s Really Hard to Act Ladylike.” So, of course I clicked on it immediately. I have been known to not be very “ladylike” in many situations so I knew I would let out a few giggles as I watched the video. After the video ended though I began to think, “Why is it that in 2014 it is still expected of a woman to act ‘ladylike’ at all times?” I hardly ever pull a dress out of my closet and the first time I wore heels was in my brother’s wedding when I was 14, and you best believe I was holding on for dear life to the groomsman I was walking with. If I was going down, he was coming with me. Luckily, I was able to avoid that embarrassing situation. Later that night of course I went around and snuck sips of beer from my brothers and mom, any drink I could get I chugged it down. I cuss every chance I get because to be honest, it makes me happy. There are days I don’t shower and throw my hair up in a ponytail, deal with it. My purse is only used when I feel like it needs to be and I don’t use it to look cute, it is actually filled with a wide assortment of random objects because I have no idea what you’re even supposed to even carry around in it. I know I am not the only girl who faces these “unladylike” situations every day, and I think it is sad that when we are not dressed to the nines we are seen as less of a woman. Even if I’m in sweatpants and have no makeup on I am still a woman, and I want to be treated like one. The same goes for the issue of men, if a man does not act “manly” it is seen as a huge negative and there is no excuse for it. If a man does not play football and instead is interested in being involved in the theater program at his high school, he might be teased and some might even go as far as to call him homosexual. It is sad that we still live in a world where we must meet this social norms or face ridicule from others who “fit in.”  Like I said, it’s 2014, let’s look past this old idea of every woman must act perfect and “ladylike” at all times and accept the fact that woman are woman, no matter how they act.

Gender pay gap Erik Puricelli

In his latest state of the union address President Obama had this to say about the gender pay gap and what women go through living in America. “Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.”

This is a nice sentiment; but is anything going to be done about the problem? If we are teaching our children that women can do anything men do, but continue to pay them less for the same work simply does not make sense. I hope the United Stares becomes less politically polarized so something can be done. A good idea to narrowing this gap would be to empower women to propose policy instead of upper class white males. The same can be said for abortion issues. The idea of a male dominated world should end. In 2014 families no longer look like they did on Leave it to Beaver. The dynamics in the household have changed, and women are excelling in the workplace and even surpassing men. Why shouldn’t they be paid for their success, instead of their sex?

The goal of this blog post is to shed light on the gender pay gap in America. In “Feminism and the Family: Two Decades of Thought” Barrie Thorne describes what the ideal family was supposed to be. “ In contemporary parlance, ‘the family’ often implies, in addition, a particular sexual division of labor: a breadwinner husband, freed for and identified with activities in a separate economic sphere, and a full-time wife and mother whose being is often equated with the family itself.” (P.7) This is no longer how the division of labor in a family is separated. Women in America are no longer confined to household chores and childcare as a job. I have always been taught that women can accomplish anything that a man can. Throughout history this has been proven. However, after having fought for years for equal rights more women are entering the workforce. Why are they still being paid less than men?

In a CNN article Maya Harris discusses what the President and Congress can do to narrow the wage gap. “Congress can start by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act so that women can’t get fired for asking their co-workers about their pay. As Lilly Ledbetter pointed out this week, “How will a woman know she’s being paid less if she can’t ask?” Today, nearly half of all workers labor in jobs where they are either prohibited by policy or discouraged by their employers from talking about their pay. They can face severe consequences if they do, including termination. The good news for Congress in this election year is that this issue has the support of most Americans, regardless of geography, gender, race or party affiliation. And if Congress fails to act, the President has been clear that he will.”

My hope is that the President and Congress will act to level out the pay gap and end gender inequality in the workplace.

Transnational Adoption

Kelly Meyer

“…Families – like religions, economies, governments, or courts of law – are not unchanging but the product of various social forms, that the relationships of spouses and parents to their young are apt to be different things in different social orders” (Collier et al. 39). Differing values between societies lead to diverse forms of family and how those families function within a given society. The process of adding guidelines and procedures to transnational adoption begins to define who is able to have family and who is not. It is a direct process of allowing individuals and couples to become parents and start or grow a family. When this practices in countries forbid adoption to certain groups of people, the message is sent to society that this individual is not a fit parent. This is a process where the standardization of family is able to occur and there is a form of control over who is and is not a legitimate family. When it comes to transnational adoption, those values can conflict at times and lead to a difficult adoption process for both the child and the awaiting parents. We can see this play out in the article International Adoptions in Decline as Number of Orphans Grows, countries are becoming less welcoming of foreign adoptions regardless of the fact their orphaned children need loving homes. This reveals the idea of a country not wanting children from their country raised with different values and family practices. Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Donaldson Adoption Institute, explains this issue “No country likes that it’s not tending to all of its own children” (Voigt, Brown 2). Countries that once had the highest numbers of children being adopted, such as China and Russia, are now making it nearly impossible for international adoptions.

“International adoption: Individuals and families opening their lives to the world’s most underprivileged orphans” (Voigt, Brown 3).  When looking at international adoption it is more than seeing an orphan given a family, but also the effects that it may have on that child by leaving their culture and home. China has implemented new policy on who is allowed to adopt their children, including not allowing obese people, homosexuals, single men, as well as implementing a minimum income for the family. China is trying to ensure the best interest of Chinese orphans (Voigt, Brown 4). These regulations step in the way of many people creating their own family and leaving the orphans without anyone to call family. This article portrays the control the state still has in the determination of family and who is and is not family. For example in China with the one child law, parents are inclined to giving children up for adoption when their first child is not a son. This causes a larger population of orphaned children, or children that do not have a family or home. Although their biological parents are still alive in most cases, they are not in contact with them or being provided for by these individuals. The policies that China implements changes the dynamics of family not only for those giving children up for adoption, but people who are looking to adopt these children as well.  Who should be in control of the orphaned children? Are the regulations posing as healthy guidelines or infringing on the rights of the child?


  • Voigt, Kevin, and Sophie Brown. “International Adoptions in Decline as Number of Orphans Grows.” Cable News Network (CNN). Turner Broadcasting System, 17 Sept. 2013. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.<>.
  • Collier, Jane et al. “Is There a Family.” Rethinking the Family. Ed. Barrie Throne, 1982. 31-46. Print.

Women in the Media

Halli Kubes

When you hear the word family, what do you first think of? Personally, I think of a father, a mother and 2.5 children, throw a family pet in there and you have the perfect well-rounded family. Many people still believe that our society is filled with monolithic, “modern” families, when in fact it is quite the opposite of that. Stacey conducted an “ethnographic study, expecting to find that working-class informants would uphold the idea of the “modern” or traditional nuclear family. Instead she found a great deal of variation and fluidity in types of national statistics showing that in 1986 only 7 percent of households fit the pattern of breadwinning father, full-time mother, and at least one child under age eighteen” (Thorne, page 9).

This is exactly how a family is portrayed in the media. Cleaning product advertisements are directed towards the women of the household, because they are the ones who buy cleaning products. As an advertising major, this really resonates with me. Every ad I look at I decipher why they chose the color scheme, the people etc. However, this is not how it is portrayed in many TV series. As a society we still think of the modern family as a mom, dad and 2.5 children. Some TV series such as “Modern Family” have challenged this ideal and this is a step in the right direction.

In Barrie Thorne’s, Feminism and the Family: Two Decades of Thought she looks at how women’s roles have changed over time. Women are still paid less than men on a national average and also do more of the housework (second shift). We are slow to accept these changes overtime. Going back to cleaning product advertisements, it is mostly women featured in them because as Thorne touches on, women are still the ones doing most of the housework. These women also look happy to be doing the work as well. “Many women and men see the doing of housework as what women “properly” or “naturally” do; through cooking, keeping the house clean, and engaging in caring work, women affirm their “gendered relation to the work and to the world””(Thorne, Page 19).

Thorne writes about how women have started to do more, and more and more women have gone into the workforce. This is true for Olympic medalists Noelle Pikus-Pace. The mother of two is a professional athlete, competing in skeleton runs. She has been to the Olympics three times, and this was her final competition. In a news story with NBC, Noelle talks about how it has been challenging to balance training with being a mom, she even brings her kids to the gym with her. In this video you do not see her husband caring for the kids, just her. She was training for the Olympic games and still caring more for her children (women’s work) than her husband, at least in this video. This goes to show that although women have come a long way in the past two decades, there is still a long way to go.

“The literature on domestic labor pursues a troubling question: Given women’s rapid entry into the paid labor force, why haven’t more men, in parallel fashion, increased their contributions to housework and child care? The link between housework and gender, as a division of labor filled with contradictory meanings, has proven to be extremely complex” (Thorne, page 19-20).




Barrie, Thorne. “Chapter 1.” Feminism and the Family: Two Decades of Thought. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 2-23. Print.



Media Implications of the American Family

I found an interesting article about breadwinner moms on CNN’s website within the “Living” section. The author, Kelly Wallace, states that the number of mothers that earn more than their partners is growing. According to a survey of 2,000 working parents by Working Mother Media, 71% of primary breadwinners entered this role by circumstance, chance or luck rather than choice. The survey divided the women into ‘pleased’ and ‘reluctant’ breadwinning moms. Many women reported that they still felt a need to manage the household regardless of the work that the spouse put into raising the children and doing chores. It is no wonder that women still feel that they should be doing their domestic duties based off the messages the media is portraying.

Wallace also points out the rising number of working mothers that are depicted in television shows. After watching Color Adjustment in class, I realize the impact that media has on the public’s conception of the family in everyday life. The film asked if seemingly progressive images of black characters in TV shows were truly positive. One example that Marlon Riggs, the writer and director of the documentary, provides is The Bill Cosby Show. Most television shows before the 1970s revolved around middle-class, white, nuclear families. The Bill Cosby Show presented a black family as the happy American family. The parents were married and both had successful careers. This image contradicted stereotypes of the black family living in the city with a single, working mother. The Bill Cosby Show was also problematic because it reinforced the “American dream” belief in which hard work allows one to climb the ladder of success and obtain one’s dream career. The American dream does not take race, ethnicity, gender, or income into consideration.

It is also important to ask how the media is representing working mothers. Are TV shows showing women being successful in their careers but then coming home to manage the housework at the end of her work day actually progressing feminist thought? This representation reinforces the idea that raising children and taking care of the home is not “work.” It is what women are expected to do, which supports stereotypical gender roles and the idea that housework should not be paid or compensated in any way. Are stay-at-home dads being represented in the media? The news article mentions that “one thing both breadwinning moms and dads agree on, according to the survey, is how expectations about family roles still need to change, with 74% of breadwinning moms and 72% of dads saying society remains more comfortable with men as the primary earners even after the recession” (Wallace).

One article that we have read for class, “Feminism and The Family,” provides us with a way of reframing the family. Thorne points out that we must challenge what we consider to be normal and legitimate, which is often the nuclear family with a breadwinner husband and full-time wife/mother. This conception of the family delegitimizes any family in which the parents are not married or heterosexual. Television shows and movies are hesitant to create storylines around these “deviant” families. We need to be critical of the types of family the media is showing us. Just because the majority of representations depict traditional, nuclear families does not mean this is the only type of family that exists or is normal. It also makes social progress difficult, even when we are seeing a rise in breadwinner moms.

Thorne points out that the closest ties humans have to one another are through blood relations. As we experience reality, there are many ways to shape one’s support system. One person could see his or her family as being only individuals who share a last name or have entered the family through marriage. Another person may consider his or her friends as a family more so than blood relatives. Therefore, it is unfair to present only particular experiences of family. Those public images are labeled by individuals as “normal,” influencing behavior and thought within the private realm. Media complicates the public/private dichotomy that Thorne discusses. If one is continually influencing the other, how can we separate them?

Reading this article with the feminist family in mind allows us to reconfigure our image of the typical American family. As Rebecca Hughes Parker says, “You still see commercials where it’s the woman cleaning the floor, not the man cleaning the floor, like in my house. You don’t see that” (Wallace). If advertising and other forms of media are still feeding us images of the 1950’s nuclear family, it is vital that we continue to challenge stereotypes. Americans today are required to be critical thinkers rather than absentmindedly aligning with the beliefs media images are imposing.

Interracial Families in the Media

Analyzing Interracial Families through analytical tools in Wahneema Lubiano’s piece, “Black Ladies, Welfare Queens and State Minstrels.”

The elite (white Anglo Saxon protestant male), manipulates] cultural narratives such as the ‘poverty-produced welfare queen and the affirmative action black lady not only perpetuating racism and sexism but to guarantee the continued unequal distribution of economic resources,” (Lubiano).

Narratives about interracial marriage are sewn throughout our culture. An ideological war is raging across our country and it is in large part because of these common narratives developed and kept over time.

The disconnect between reality and what the media portrays as ‘normal’ is extremely misleading. According to a Pew Research Study, the proportion of interracial marriage reached an all-time high in 2010. In that year, about 15 percent of all new marriages were interracial and 8.4 percent of all existing marriages were interracial.

But the television and film industry have not caught up to the reality of interracial families.

graph 1 graph 2

Interracial marriages are becoming more common but lack of interracial marriage represented in the media causes shock from many groups, the few times families are showcased in television, films or ads.

This Cheerio’s commercial, “Just Checking” caused a lot of outrage among certain citizens. The Cheerios ad featured a little girl, her white mother and her black father. The ad brought a rash of racists’ comments to YouTube, Facebook and Redditt including insensitive jokes and racial rants. (Sample quote: “If the dad was a stereotypical black, I don’t think they would have needed more than 2 actors for the commercial.)

Although, The Supreme Court struck down laws that banned interracial marriage way back in 1967, our ideological narratives still give that underlying story of these types of marriages to be outside of the ‘norm’ or ‘bad.’ The lack of interracial families in media can also stand for the media trying to hide it or pretend it doesn’t exist. The racial comments towards this ad shows how strong certain types of families become ingrained in our society and those outside of the ‘norm’ are criticized.

There are even certain narratives within certain interracial relationships. According to Bitch Magazine:

“A University of Florida study of blockbuster Hollywood films between 1967 and 2005 concluded that the media is stuck on specific portrayals of interracial relationships: in the movies sampled, 42 percent of female characters in such pairings were victims of violence. “While white women in interracial relationships came across as either morally corrupt or socially inept or as victims of physical or sexual abuse, women of color who become involved with white men were often presented as erotic, exotic and possessing exceptional talents.” And although it is statistically more likely for black men to ‘marry out’ of their race, the movie industry seems less keen on interracial couples with black men. According to this informal accumulation of movies with interracial couples, there are twice as many films featuring white men with black women than black men with white women.”

Lubiano is fearful that certain narratives can shape and destroy the way we view other people. In Lubiano’s piece certain narratives—they maybe the ‘sapphire’, the ‘strong black woman’ or ‘the welfare queen’, categorize black women. An individual cannot rid themselves of these labels when they are ingrained into our culture. Lubiano says that, “These pictures through their timing and their spatial arrangement, were signposts for a successful set of narrative constructions, activations, and deployments by the state—including what people are reminded of when certain categories, phrases, and abstract figures with political resonance are evoked,” (Black Ladies and Welfare Queens).  The state uses narratives of interracial couples (or purposefully leaves them out) in order to control what is ‘acceptable’ for an American family and what is not.

Understanding how and why the state manipulates narratives of family will help us recognize the line between real and cultural politics. These narratives mask the failures of the state and place blame on the individual for not living up to the idealized (and often, unattainable standards) given to them.

The Legitimacy of Family: Analyzing Same-Sex Marriage and Civil Unions through the Lens of Collier et al

     In Is There a Family? New Anthropological Views, Jane Collier, Michelle Z. Rosaldo, and Sylvia Yanagisako discuss “what families ‘really’ are like” (Collier et al, 31). The authors first reference Bronislaw Malinowski, an anthropologist who published The Family among the Australian Aborigines in 1913. In this work, Malinowski disproved the idea that the Australian Aborigines and other “primitives” were incapable of having families as a result of their sexual promiscuity (Collier et al, 32-33). The advocates of social evolution thought that this would cause children to not be able to distinguish their fathers from other men. However, Malinowski showed that the aborigines “had rules regulating who might have intercourse with whom during sexual orgies” and “also differentiated between legal marriages and casual unions” (Collier et al, 32). In fact, children were able to recognize their fathers because each mother had a single husband, regardless of how many wives each husband had.

        Malinowski therefore felt that sexual promiscuity did not affect the existence of a family, and that families were necessary for the human need of child rearing, a need that he regarded as universal (Collier et al, 32). He established three aspects that were necessary of a family as a result of this universal need: 1) families needed to be a group of people that were distinguishable from outsiders, 2) families had to have a “home” or a physical space that family-focused tasks could take place, and 3) family members felt a certain set of affectionate and loving emotions not felt for others (Collier et al, 33). However, other anthropologists challenged aspects of Malinowski’s claims about families.

            First of all, some anthropologists disagreed with Malinowski’s argument that families were the result of the need for child rearing. “[B]ecause a social institution is observed to perform a certain necessary function does not mean either that the function would not be performed if the institution did not exist or that the function is responsible for the existence of the institution” (Collier et al, 34). Furthermore, later anthropologies disagreed with Malinowski’s idea that families always include a father; however, these same anthropologies regarded a mother and her children as a family. Other anthropologies pointed out that many languages do not have a word like the English word “family” for a parents-and-children unit (Collier et al, 35). Also, some anthropologists recognized that some “families” lacked physical spaces as homes, such as the Mundurucu of South America who have men sleep in different areas than women and children (Collier et al, 35). Finally, it was refuted that family members need to “love” each other, with examples being modern Zambia and the Cheyenne Indians.

          Collier et al acknowledge that Victorian-period evolutionists were at least right in understanding that The Family is affected by society and culture; The Family is not single fixed notion. The authors state that they “understood, as we do not today, that families – like religions, economies, governments, or courts of law – are not unchanging but the product of various social forms, that the relationships of spouses and parents to their young are apt to be different things in different social orders” (Collier et al, 38). Therefore, Collier et al argue that this “ideological construct” can be molded by what we believe we want and need The Family to be (Collier et al, 45).

            In regards to applying this piece by Collier et al to a contemporary news story, one can use the various viewpoints of family as an analytical tool to examine LGBT rights and issues. Last March, a story of Boise, Idaho couple Lori and Teresa Burke-Ellet was produced in light of the discussions by the Supreme Court regarding the same-sex marriage ban in California that same week. The article stated that Lori and Teresa have a 4-year-old son, David, and have been together for 10 years ( Though they had a church wedding and have a civil-union, the couple wants same-sex marriage to be legalized federally. Lori Burke-Ellet stated, “[f]or us it’s making a statement that we are a legitimate family.” The topic of same-sex marriage is a very prominent debate in recent years, with arguments against it ranging from it being “bad for children” to the argument that marriage is “only between a man and a woman.” Drawing from perspectives in Collier et al, one could argue that if a family’s purpose is to nurture children, and if a father is not necessary to make a family, then having two mothers cannot be “bad for” the Burke-Ellet’s son. Therefore, why is a family with two mothers not legally recognized? (Of course, I feel that a family with two fathers should be legally recognized as well; this is only an analytical example.) Ultimately, one could analyze the relationship between LGBT rights and the notion of family through the concluding statements of Collier et al: “family,” and in this case “marriage,” are what Collier et al call “ideological constructs,” meaning that they are developed by society and culture and are not actually set in stone. Understanding this and using it to analyze the article, it is perfectly rational for the Bruke-Ellets (and other same-sex couples) to desire a legally-recognized marriage. Therefore, it is not that same-sex marriage would be “bad for children” or “can only be between a man and a woman.” That is simply what some people have said it is; it is up to our society as a whole to decide what The Family and A Marriage mean, and we must recognize that these definitions can – and will – change over time.

           Looking back in history, it was not uncommon for politically-powerful men to have more than one “wife.” Today, marriage as understood by some religions (such as Mormonism) can involve more than one wife. Furthermore, some countries already give freedom to marry to same-sex couples, including The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Canada. In each of these cases, as well as in the case of the Australian Aborigines, a family does not mean simply one man and one woman with children. Families can come in all forms and sizes: two moms and children, two dads and children, a couple without children, a single parent with children… The list goes on and on. These differences are not necessarily “bad for children and human reproduction.”  Based on the arguments by Collier et al, we will someday see same-sex marriage be federally recognized in the United States, and the Bruke-Ellets will finally be a legally “legitimate family.”

Check out the article here:

-Aly Schmidt

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