Women and Gentrification:Making Some Connections

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16, 2010 by bxnative

Angelo Arcila mazo             Professor Cacoilo

Women andMedia                May, 05, 2010

          Gentrification and Women in the U.S

            Within the past fifty years in the United States, women have increased their social clout. Women’s Movements throughout the 1960’s and 70’s helped to change the perception of what a typical family embodied and also provided opportunities for women to join the workforce. Instead of being bound to the role of home-maker, millions of women became more independent and started to connect through consciousness raising groups as well as various movements. Around this same period in the late 1970’s, when vast networks of women activist were organizing around social and gender equality, the social fabric of many cities were also changing. After the movements of the prior two decades, the 1980’s marked the beginning of the process of gentrification across much of the country. Gentrification is the process by which poor and working-class neighborhoods in the inner city are refurbished by an influx of private capital and middle-class homebuyers and renters. Large urban areas, containing largely minority groups of similar racial origins and that were considered blemishes on the image of the cities they were located in, underwent drastic transformations.

While usually seen as a genderless issue that puts a strain on all groups involved, there is no increasing research that talks about the difficulties women directly experience as a result of gentrification. Liz Bondi, a former lecturer of geography at the University of Edinburgh, wrote about the ineffectiveness of scholars and academics to study the effects increased rights along with gentrification has had on women. “Moreover, little attempt has been made to locate the role of women in gentrification within broader discussions of gender relations, although it is clearly assumed that changes in the position of women, both in the family and in paid labour force, have been influential,” says Bondi (p190). Many women with secure wages in gentrified areas were able to adapt to the economic burdens, but those who were not financially well-off or already in poverty began to suffer tremendously. 

            Likely the first essential resource lost as a result of the massive relocation of families, were the connections made through direct action groups in the Women’s and Feminist Movements. While not all forms of communication were severed as a result of geographic relocation, there was a divergence in feminist thought and discipline that gentrification brought about. As a result of this departure from a coherent interconnected structure a one more widely dispersed one, the Feminist and Women Movements of the sixties and seventies struggled to remain in tact. What emerged were diffuse and diverse, but sometimes conflicting, feminist identity in women who were becoming indifferent from one another and much of society. As an article about the decline of the women’s movement, by instructor at the University of California-Santa Cruz Barbara Epstein points out, “During the eighties and nineties a feminist perspective, or identity, spread widely and a diffuse feminist consciousness is now found nearly everywhere. But feminism has simultaneously become institutionalized and marginalized. It has been rhetorically accepted, but the wind has gone out of its sails. The organizations and academic networks that shape public perceptions of feminism, have become distant from the constituencies that once invigorated them, and have lost focus and dynamism” (p378). Whether or not the process of gentrification has had such a drastic effect on the strength of Women’s Movements is unknown, however. This is because the study of gentrification as a discipline of study does not have extensive gender specific data, to show how women in particular have been impacted by the constant changes in relation to place and status. Not to mention the other life altering transformations that women were faced with as a result of changing social roles and cites. It is hard to determine how much effect gentrification may have caused rifts in these movements. But as a 2006 urban studies article by Kathe Newman and Elvin Wyly states, as a result of displacement, “Residents may be displaced as a result of housing demolition, ownership conversion of rental units, increased housing costs (rent, taxes), landlord harassment, and evictions. Those who avoid these direct displacement pressures may benefit from neighborhood improvements, but may suffer as critical community networks and culture are dismantled.” For many women who constantly are moving their families place to place, as is a classic narrative for many women characters in Hollywood films, is impossible, many times leaves them vulnerable and lacking vital resources.

            A recent University of Oregon journal article talked about how Feminist geography literature (of the late nineteen eighties and nineties) helped to make some breakthroughs in studying the inequalities of the past that continue to plague millions of women. “An important task for feminist geographers has been to make women visible, by developing geography of women,” begins the article. “Two points have been made: women’s experiences and perceptions often differ from those of men; and women have restricted access to a range of opportunities, from paid employment to services. This is largely an empirical tradition, loosely influenced by liberal feminism and welfare geography. It has tended to focus on individuals, documenting how women’s roles as caregivers and housewives, in conjunction with the existing spatial patterns of accessibility to transport and other services such as childcare, conspire to constrain women’s access to paid employment and other resources” (p1). While the article goes on to point out the decreased emphasis placed on gender relations in subsequent studies towards the end of the century, it would be inaccurate to do so when gender inequalities cited in the article, persist across large urban areas do this day. Although the number of stay at home moms has sharply been on the decline, a December 2006 Census Press Release shows that, out of 82.5 million estimated mothers, there were 5.6 stay at home moms nationwide that year. The statistics also showed that a women age 15 and older, who works full-time, year-round, earns 77cents for every 1dollar her male counterpart earns. In an ideal world there would be no need to account for gender relations, but in actual reality there is a strong need to include them.

A similar Census track indicated that there were 7.9 million families in poverty, and that African American households possessed the lowest median income of any group. While a politically contentious a couple decades ago, the issue poverty in America has re-emerged with the onset of recent economic woes. In a 1987 entry for The Milbank Quarterly Leona Bachrach talks about the prior notions related to women and homelessness. “Few professional contributions even acknowledge gender differences in the homeless population, and fewer still focus on homeless women’s special circumstances,” says Bachrach. “Those writings that do exist are remarkably consistent in their reiteration of several basic themes: that women are being evicted and displaced in increasing numbers all over the United States; that their meager personal resources are inadequate to sustain them; that their homelessness is somehow more “invisible” than that of men; and that many of them suffer untold emotional deprivations in addition to their homelessness. (p342). In gentrification there are constant inconsistencies with the entire process of social reconfiguration. While many say the benefits of gentrification, nowadays, outweigh the detriments, large segments of any gentrified community are fully excluded from the new housing market prices. In Harlem for example, gentrification has been occurring for nearly three decades, with a recent upsurge in the percentage of Caucasians settling in the once predominantly area. These changes have resulted in difficulties for hundreds of African American and minority residents seeking affordable housing in Harlem. An NYU journalism piece recently chronicled this housing dilemma. “A lot of people are looking for a place to live here, but rent is skyrocketing and affordable housing is harder to come by everyday,” said Lester LaBoy, 51, an Art for Change employee since 2001 and lifetime resident of East Harlem. “These landlords, now all they do is put in sheet-rock and a wood floor, call it ‘renovated,’ and charge $875 for a tiny studio” (p2). Thus not only does this have an adverse effect of the social composition of neighborhoods but, various vital social networks and nodes that once existed in the neighborhood are strong-armed out of the community and forever lost.    

One neighborhood in Brooklyn, Clinton Hill, has shown how the process of gentrification does not always immediately provide an increase in quality of life for residents. The 2006 Lance Freeman book, entitled “There Goes the Hood: Views of Gentrification from the Ground Up,” talks about the long and drawn out processes of gentrification in Clinton Hill and other areas in NYC. “The gentrification of Clinton Hill, did not occur in a continuous and steady fashion” says Freeman. “The same article that described Clinton Hill as a revival neighborhood also pointed out there were no especially good streets, rather the Brownstoners were scattered throughout the neighborhood in Clinton Hill. Long-term residents, whose narratives form the basis of this book, also paint a picture of Clinton Hill in the 1970’s and 1980’s that despite the incipient gentrification still had the hallmarks of inner-city decline” (p41). Only recently has this decade has the Clinton Hill area in Brooklyn begun to emerge as a successful case study for gentrification. While the crack epidemic in the nation during this era was one of the factors that caused this long period of lag, there was also a period of economic depression described by Freeman as being one of the major culprits in the lack of progress and opportunity. In recent years, the global recession has again resulted in the rollback of gentrification in many neighborhoods across the country.

As more and more people continue to be displaced and suffer financially, there is a need to not forget just how much women are still suffering in such areas where gentrification is occurring or has become stagnant. Places designated for gentrification, such as the area of Atlantic and Pacific Avenue in Brooklyn, where residents have been told for a handful of years that developer Bruce Ratner would revitalize the area by building a multi-billion dollar sports arena along with “affordable housing” for residents, continue to wait for whatever benefits of the process. While the community vehemently opposed the project, the city, developers, and state claimed eminent domain in order to go about clearing the real estate for ground to be broken.

Hundreds in the community have had their small businesses shut down and their livelihoods taken away from them. All this occurred during the start of 2004 more or less, and more than five years after plans to break ground, the old businesses remain vacant, the promises made by the gentrifying forces remain unfulfilled, and no progress has been made as a result of the lingering recession.  As Keith Halfacree points out in his book, Migration and Gender in the Developed World, “While gentrification is by definition a class process, in that it changes the class composition of the neighborhoods affected, several commentators have argued that the position of women in the family and in the labor market have been integral to what Demaris Rose describes as the “production of gentrifiers”. Statistical evidence indicates that inner urban areas in general contain more women than men, many living in poor and disadvantaged households, including lone elderly women and lone mothers with children. However there is also some evidence to suggest that women are disproportionately represented amongst gentrifiers, in at least some localities”(p170). Through the past decades there has been somewhat of an improvement in the overall standard of living for women, although the overall living standard has been slipping. Many studies have tried to reflect these advantages experienced by women as a result of gentrification in urban areas of the metropolis. But besides the comfortable, middle class, white women, who were and continue to be targets of gentrification or who thrived in their new neighborhood, these places remain exclusive for millions of minority women while it also up-rooted millions from these areas.  

 Instead of focusing on the argument between the pros and cons, there should be a re-focusing on the way particular groups in society are affected. By doing so we can begin to see how women of all sorts experience complications due to gentrification, and what these conflicts mainly are. Unfortunately many women minority groups have remained, as Leona Bachrach put it, invisible in these new beautified settings. This remains so despite the fact that women are now officially, and have been for several years, the majority of the American population in terms of male or female. Although a large amount of women are now running their own businesses in America, gentrification is an issue that continues to change women’s perception of time, space, and self. All which are products of the process of gentrification itself, a discipline within urban sociology that needs to be approached not just as another term, but as a long, seemingly never-ending process that affects women is disproportionate ways.  

1) Bondi, Liz. Gender Divisions and Gentrification: A Critique. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 1991 New Series, Vol. 16, No. 2 (1991), pp. 190-198.

2) Goodwin, Jeff and Jasper James. “The Social Movements Reader”, The Decline of the Women’s Movement. Blackwell Publishing, Massachusetts, 2009.  

 3) University of Oregon. “Feminist Geographies”, Department of Geography: 2002. 10 May 2010   

4)  Newman, Kathe and Wyly Elvin. Gentrification and Displacement Revisited: A fresh look at the New York City experience, University of Toronto Urban Studies, vol. 43, issue 1, January 2006 

 5) United States. Department of Commerce Census Bureau. Press Release, February 2006.  

6) Bachrach, Leona. “Homeless Women: A Context for Health Planning”,The Milbank Quarterly, Blackwell Publishing, Vol. 65, No. 3:1987, pp. 371(72)-396.  

7) Winters, Rachel. Art for Change in El Barrio, NYU Journalism online: 4 August 2007, New York, 9 May 2010. <http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/pavement/in/east-harlem/art-for-change-el-barrio/>

8) Freeman, Lance. There goes the Hood: Views of Gentrification From the ground up. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006

9) Halfacree, Keith and Boyle Paul. “Migration and Gender in the Developed World”, New York: Routledge Publishing, 1999.


Internet Perils and Open Source Innovation

Posted in Uncategorized on April 5, 2010 by bxnative

Analysis 4 Due 4.6

The concepts presented by Langdon Winner on the politics of artifacts give critical insight into the relationship between society and technology. After reading the the pieces by Wu on Net Neutrality, Denardis on internet protocol and the CAE on Utopian Plagiarism , discuss the construction of digital media in relationship to the society that operates within it. What politics are at work? Which groups are supported and which are marginalized? What values should be considered when creating internet policy? You may focus your response specifically on one of the following:  internet protocol, open source ethics, copyright, net neutrality, remix culture, or a related topic of your own choosing

            In the New Age of Digital Media there is an overall sense that the internet is holistically democratic and non-discriminatory. Much of the public has limited knowledge about the issue of Network Neutrality, which profoundly affects the structure and function of the internet. The principle of network neutrality advocates no restrictions on content or sites, and demands increased public control of the network. There are many benefits and detriments to net neutrality; however there seems to be a large portion of users who favor increased neutrality. Professor John Wu is one of those people who feel the internet is becoming more a tool of capitalist or industry benefit, and is losing the interest of public good.  

            It seems to be the opinion of Wu that the concept of net neutrality is an essential aspect to the construction of internet market values. The corporate and private interest invested towards business online, eventually trumps public access and quality of the consumer service. If capitalistic gain begins to be the priority of internet providers, the competition of the industry suffers and the tactics used by industry players start to clash with societal values. A lack of regulation on service providers has lasting ramifications, with ripples which affect present day society as well as future societies and the future of the internet as a medium. With the expansive influence of the internet it is inevitable that the discrimination of content, sites, etc. by participants will spill over into/influence other industries as well. As Wu says, this would result in “a transformation from a market where innovation rules to one where deal-making rules.” Aside from all business and industry residual effects brought by the internet, there are social values inherent in internet culture that are important for present as well as future users to examine.

            These values are talked about by Laura Denardis in the article, Architecting Civil Liberties. Instead of focusing on the business side of the internet, what Denardis focuses on is the influence of technology in producing legal architecture, through the social values embodied in it. While the politics of technology can sometimes influence societal norms, through censorship or government policy, there are times when the public interest is the driving factor of internet usage and is used to reinforce values. Denardis talks about the values which enter the design process of the internet, which are basic American values of freedom of speech, personal privacy, and equality. While these are usually the values that exist or enter the process, there are also a vast new set of values which enter consideration during the further internet design. She says, “A variety of technical design communities have formed movements to consciously design values into technologies.” Although some of these communities are focused on such issues as intellectual properties or other business related issues, there are millions of other users who are truly inspired by public functions of the internet.

            Peer edited content and open source software are prime examples of how users and corporations are opting to alleviate the many constraints of the internet in favor of improving the lives of public users. IBM has been one of those giant corporations who, aside from seeking to profit for all their products/services, have significantly funded the increase of open source ethics. GNU Linux, Solaris, and MediaWiki (the software that runs wikipedia), all continue to be open source software that millions of Americans and people around the world still tinker with. There are values and ethics present in open source that symbolize to many users just exactly how the internet itself should function. As opposed to running the internet like a business or making it purely capitalistic, open source introduced a new method of sharing ideas and values, while improving certain aspects of life for everyone not just a select few. No corporation, individual, or social group is marginalized in any way when it comes to open source. The public participation displayed in open source illustrates that not all content run or created on the internet has to be relegated to a profit making tool. Opening the source code enabled a self-enhancing diversity of production models, communication paths, and interactive communities

Database Narratives

Posted in Uncategorized on March 8, 2010 by bxnative

For many people who grew up reading books or novels, the structure of the classic narrative is very specific and extremely linear. In the opinion of many of these readers what makes a narrative unique is that the writer or creator of the narrative usually dictates the setting, characters, content, and events of their own unique story. This constructive process is for the most part what many deem an intriguing and appealing aspect of any narrative. However in the new age of digital media creation, this traditional structure of the narrative has been substantially transformed. The construction of the narrative has become relatively widespread with the emergence of the database. Individuals can now extract knowledge and information from databases in order to produce a wide array of content that incorporates various aspects from them. Not to say that there are no unique works generated by users of digital media, just that people are now more than ever dependant on interface systems as well as algorithms for the production of said projects. For example I can now take endless digital photographs at the snap of a button without worrying about manually loading a roll of film or having processed, I can alter these pictures to my liking with software such as Photoshop or Illustrator, create advertisements or websites using the aforementioned programs along with Dreamweaver, or publish a piece of literature with minimal to no physical writing.

            In a holistic sense the production of the narrative has been made simpler with the emergence of databases. When talking about motion pictures and the process of making a film, the dependence upon databases is substantial. Directors film the necessary amount of footage that is needed and saves the images into a digital database. The footage is then reviewed and the necessary sounds or audio components are added, all taken from a database. Once sound is synched the editing process begins, and then there is something that resembles a film. Although numerous aspects of the film were taken from databases, the narrative is still seen and recognized as potent to many audiences. While many people are not fully conscious about the deep dependence there is upon databases for modern media production, databases are influential in the production of digital and meta-data. The user is able to organize whatever meta-data they want to, in forms such as blogs, websites, online newpaper opinion pieces, and digital planners. This leads to the substantial personalization of meta-data by the people who produce it in digital media. Not in the sense that people are shielding the information they produce, but in the sense that much of the meta-data created is personally organized in terms of preference and reference. So when one looks online and searches for funny blogs, the perception one person has about the blog being hilarious may not be even remotely funny to the next person who reads it. Meta-data is also accessed in this subjective nature many times, but is also randomly accessed as well.

Has Digital Media Transcended The Culture Industry

Posted in Uncategorized on February 23, 2010 by bxnative

            Adorno and Horkheimer, like many critics of the capitalistic system, many times in the article come across as radicalized cynics of the dominant economic structure, but do make many strong arguments that are valid. The “the absolute power of capitalism” described early in the piece was definitely existent during the post WWII era, when many global economies made the slow transition from dictatorships to democratic capitalistic societies. While many of these nations that were transformed maintained the essence of their own unique cultures, customs, and beliefs, it was evident that a kind of uniformity inevitably resulted. As Adorno says, “The result is the circle of manipulation and retroactive need in which the unity of the system grows ever stronger.” It can be argued that the full extent of the iron grip was realized during these times, and has faded in this Digital Age which we are currently in. This is in part true because people are free to surf the internet, create their own websites, blog about their convictions, or network with social players in an unprecedented way. However the computer, the functions it serves, and the many avenues which are provided most, if not all, lead back to the same point of conformity. I think that the main argument that Adorno and Horkheimer are trying to make is that “we consume so we are in agreement.” This current explosion in computer ownership throughout the United States is relatively new. One has to remember that the internet along with the home computer was created during the 1980’s and that they too were a new form of communication that quickly moved into the realm of commodity. Both were meant to be used as inventions that would in essence serve the public good, but this quickly turned out not to be the case. Inevitably those who profited largely of these new inventions were corporations and industries, whose main purpose for mass producing them were to make a profit off of the demand for them. Now nearly every household, library, and school in America contains a computer and uses them to socialize those who use them. While there is certainly diversification in the uses and forms of communication the computer/internet provide, many people are still entrenched in the culture industry when they turn on their computers. This is because everything from shopping, listening to music, watching movies, reading newspapers/magazines, learning, and working, just to name a few, can now all be done at the speed of light or in the comfort of ones own home. It is hard to escape conformity to culture industry in so many ways, and diversity is in turn substantially limited.

Many may conversely argue that not all in society conforms to popular culture. They might point to the variety of media platforms there are, such as magazines, film, music, and cable or satellite television, while identifying the plethora of distinct content there is on all these forms of entertainment. With all these choices it would be safe to say popular culture is anything but uniform. It can further be said that labeling the culture industry as uniform is absurd because new forms of fashion, social fads, and novel trends are constantly emerging and being adopted by society. But there are advertising companies, media conglomerates, production agencies, and a bevy of corporations who then pick up on these new trends and milk them for all they are worth. By the time a trend of any kind is adopted by a substantial segment of society, these aforementioned entities have already marketed it as the “next big thing” that everyone must have. The rest of the population then unconsciously buys into this concept, conform to what these corporations and are telling them and become fully entrenched in this culture of consumption (the culture industry).  As Adorno and Horkheimer say, “Something is provided for all so that none may escape; the distinctions are emphasised and extended. The public is catered for with a hierarchical range of mass-produced products of varying quality, thus advancing the rule of complete quantification. Everybody must behave (as if spontaneously) in accordance with his previously determined and indexed level, and choose the category of mass product turned out for his type.” There are those who view themselves as exempt from the culture industry and its intrusive nature. However even these people are in some way participating in it, though the participation may not be as obvious as those who overly indulge in it. Adorno puts it cleverly when he says, “personality scarcely signifies anything more than shining white teeth and freedom from body odour and emotions. The triumph of advertising in the culture industry is that consumers feel compelled to buy and use its products even though they see through them.”

New Age of Media Culture

Posted in Uncategorized on February 14, 2010 by bxnative

For consumers in this era of globalization and popular culture, it is difficult to encounter any type of art that can be labeled as unique. Popular culture today has become increasingly influenced by factors other than the intrinsic value that individuals place into the process of production. If one is a musician, a director, or an artist, the work they produce is more than likely determined by what society or culture dictates is most appealing and popular. This has caused much of the magic, cult value, and aura of works of art to be substantially diminished in the culture of present day. As Benjamin says about early cave carvings, “The elk portrayed by the man of the Stone Age on the walls of his cave was an instrument of magic. He did expose it to his fellow man, but in the main it was meant for the spirits”. Today however, with the increasing function of art as an instrument of exhibition, the artistic value no longer is premiere, instead it “may be later recognized as incidental.” Thus the luster, symbolic/creative meaning, and overall aura of the art created today is usually lost or overshadowed by extenuating factors, and can no longer be seen as possessing any unique quality.

Film, photography, and the computer have all contributed to this loss of aura, since the mechanic production enabled by these advents have allowed for easy replication or manipulation of any piece of art. What results is the mass exposure of any product of these three mediums, which leads to a degradation and frivolity in the meaning of the work. Since almost anyone who feels up to it can view the piece of “art”, offer a critique or an opinion about the meaning/significance of a film per say, and there are such divergent interpretations, the true aura is diluted, thus forever lost to speculation. Also as a result of the easy accessibility, both to the piece of art as well as the means of production to a piece of art in the mechanical mode of creation, art is commonplace and there are no longer any holistically novel approaches to the making of a work. It is so easy to snap a photo, create a movie using a digital camera, or become a publisher of literature using internet tools that the content produced has suffered, the producer made complacent, as well as infused with an overt sense of entitlement. In terms of Machinima, much of the aura which is created is minimal because it is a fully Non-Interactive media that does not force viewers to see reality any differently or think critically about social issues. For American society, culture, and youth are all to predisposed to warfare and are too desensitized to the crippling aspects of war on the people of the world. While it can be argued that pieces such as “Six Days in Fallujah” and others concerning tragedies of war serve exactly this purpose, what they actually do is trivialize the consequences of war, while deeply offending families and veterans of war.  As Aphra Kerr states in Picard’s piece, “a weakness with much political word to date is that it focuses on the formal market while tending to ignore the work of academics, artists, and user/fan groups which operate on the fringes of the market.” The downfall of this as Walter Benjamin say is that, “In Western Europe the capitalistic exploitation of the film denies consideration to modern man’s legitimate claim to being reproduced. Under these circumstances the film industry is trying hard to spur the interest of the masses through illusion-promoting spectacles and dubious speculations”. This argument can easily be made about Machinima, though the economic aspect is irrelevant. To this extent Machinmartist can vaguely be compared to the creators of images in the age of Dadaism, because far from seeking any economic worth, what they are producing is meant to shock, anger, or divert from what true aura of art is meant to resemble.

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 1, 2010 by bxnative

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