Week Ten | When Fandom Goes Wrong

This week’s reading and podcast focused on the negative sides of fandom and what can go wrong in very different situations.

In Consumer Tribes, Steven Brown documents the darker side of Harry Potter Fandom and the situational times where the Fandom has dictated the direction of the Harry Potter book and film enterprises. It’s interesting that a fan text that is so well known has such a rabid fanbase and the degree of violence is variant, yet present.

The author mentioned that marketing was not a focus in the beginning of the launch and that simple word of mount had the book’s popularity spread across the world fairly quickly. It is interesting that there was little to no marketing, considering the amount of marketing that has been pushed via Warner Brothers for the film enterprise. But with book deals and film rights, some things do need to adjust over time.

In the Harry Poterism the fandom has created countless fan fiction, parodies of languages, and fansites where the iTribes have taken over and at times have spread the word faster than a marketing agency could do. I especially like the AOL mystery of the chat room showing up in the early 2000s that may have made it a national epidemic due to FOMO primarily.

Even J.K. Rowling isn’t a fan of the widespread fandom and had troubles continuing the story after the widespread popularity and at times rabid demand from the Fandom itself. The expectations that fans have for the creators is a bit absurd, yet flattering if you look at it in several angles. It’s an amazing thing, the power that fans have over the success/failures of a particular fan object/ fan text.

In Radio Lab’s Straight Outta Chevy Chase, the hosts interview Peter Rosenberg of Hot 97, who defends his stance on ‘gate-keeping’ the rap/hip-hop fandom. The argument here is that culturally and racially, hip hop has been predominantly a black art form and a white man from the suburbs doesn’t have the credentials to determine what is and what is not ‘hip hop’.

Stigmas play a huge role here, where gender and race are apparently determining factors in Rosenberg’s comments about Nicki Minaj, who he live $hit talks (streaming and on stage) during a festival. This was at a time when ‘Starships’ was blowing up and he basically said she wasn’t real hip hop/rap. Nicki immediately cancels the show and the Twitter storm that followed made his career the ‘defender of the realness’.

Nicki created a deal that involved several artists and over the span of a few months, Rosenberg created outsider status in the fan community of rap/hip-hop by putting her down. The play of race and gender argument was incredibly insulting and revealing of another debate that was not being discussed. Real hip-hop is more masculine and aggressive, where pop is more feminine.

A year into the feud, Nicki Minaj decides to settle with Rosenberg, who apologizes yet Nicki pokes at Rosenberg’s resume and tells him that she finds him annoying and doesn’t believe he has the credentials to dis her the way she had and to determine what is true hip hop and that men have created blocks for her in her career and didn’t like the overall feel of the comments made by Rosenberg and that it just felt wrong.

An alternative argument that has some merit, yet very difficult to measure is having experience that qualifies the gatekeeper is in the heart and not necessarily the background/race/experience of the person. I think this is very true in our own expressions, but unsure how this could be produced in the world where feelings are hurt often. It is very true, however in our own ways of interpreting our worlds around us.

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Week Nine | Being a Fan Object

This week in Fandom the readings centered around how Fans interpret brands and either create their own meaning as well as brands that have meaning that is created for audiences to follow.

In chapter of Buying In by Rob Walker, he discusses the ‘Pretty Good Problem’ where brands who have capital across the board are considered the most successful. With potent brands like Apple and Nike to name a few, the icon/logo is infamous — it has been used and parodies have been created over the years. Fandoms have existed for years and the fans span across a multitude of demographics, where fans have used the brands as part of their identity.

Personally, I have been a devoted Apple user for nearly 20 years. My connection to Apple Computers goes beyond my repeat purchases and scaled and increased usage over the years. It all began in High School, when the iPod came out — and quickly escalated to a few computers and iPods before joining the ranks of early Apple Retail Store employment in the mid-2000s. From there, I learned the computers and supporting products in-and-out and have owned almost every iPhone since the beginning. I currently use an Apple computer, iPad, and iPhone in my day-to-day routine. It’s an endless cycle, but couldn’t be happier as my experience with other computers and technologies just isn’t as bright.

We see this behavior in apparel and toys that are licensed to support the fan text or fan object. Band t-shirts are one of the largest grossing items that sell and support the music industry. It’s a way for fans to show and wear their favorite identifies on their bodies, showing the world who they like, which in turn allows for them to display their identity.

I found this method of expression most appealing in High School, where wearing branded merchandise (shirts, patches, stickers and buttons) from the bands I listened and identified with were part of my default outfit during my punk phase. I saw it as a way to find others that liked similar things — Myspace was really just getting the green light at the time, so this ‘old fashioned’ way of relating to the world was my ticket in with friends of similar tastes.

In From Smart Fan to Backyard Wrestler: Performance, Context, and Aesthetic Violence (WWF) written by McBride and Bird, the authors outline the idea of the difference of Smart Fans vs Mark Fans where Smart Fans are the Fans that despite the knowledge that Professional Wrestling is an acted-out event, they are 100% engaged with the degrees of facts and history of the sport, where Mark fans typically have no idea that the sport is ‘fake’ and simply go along with the storyline as if it were real — most typically children according to the authors.

The authors discuss how backyard wrestling — simply put reenactments to what the WWE on television, is to be held by normal people in their neighborhoods — grew to be a fandom of it’s own, where it extended to the internet and eventually extended into an active fandom where the ritual was replicated across the nation. This in turn was enabled by material culture of the fans — video cameras, trampolines, TV, and Internet services — and allowed participants to explore the limits of experiencing the sport beyond being a spectator.

This type of immersion in a Fandom can hold so much more meaning and sense of identity to it’s fans, as they are actively engaging and participating in matches that are either written based on existing or influenced by. Seemingly, this would engage the Smart fans of the sport more than the Mark fans — in turn, requiring smart status and knowledge to influence and produce worthwhile content most likely.

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Week Eight | My Attempt At Writing Fanfic

[Preface]

In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-three extraordinary children were spontaneously born by women who'd previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was, "To save the world."  

[Timeframe: Present Day}

The Earth is nothing more than a molten rock with a thick layer of ash.  How this happened, a chance beyond knowing — the moon encountered a beam so extreme in power that it penetrated past the surface and into the core, completely discombobulating the overall structure and composure.  In an adverse reaction the moon broke to pieces and those pieces came down to Earth in the most menacing ferocity, annihilating all life forms entirely.  

Suspended in time are one ghost and six humans, 6 of which are transforming from their adult shapes to their child forms; the fifth is already there.  Who are these people, you may think?  They are the 5 remaining members of The Umbrella Academy, time traveling back to a time before all of the bad things began to happen — to a place where at least they are all together as a family before the world was no more.

[Timeframe: Mid- 1990s]

The sky begins to weave and wobble; the Earth is shaking in all direction; the sky begins to part and seven young humans fall from the sky and into their backyard. Quite disheveled, they appear to look around checking their own continuity as well as their siblings around them.  These kids are unlike any kids — they are special in the means of gifted with extraordinary talents.  As they begin to remember who they are and where they came from (decades forward and decades back) they realized their mission for returning as this age — to prevent the apocalypse from happening.  

Number 5, stands up and shakes off the dust and grumbles that he needs to work on his landings better.  The rest of the group stares with angst in his direction and all sigh in sync showing their combined exhaustion and frustration within the moment.  In a direct and gruff tone, Number 5 stammers that “It’s a complicated process alone just to move through time alone but to not only move through nearly 3 decades and also with the 5 — well 6 of you, it’s a miracle we all made it in one piece!”   The rest of the team roll their eyes, begin to stand up and dust off from the fall on the ground.  They take the next measures and walk into the house, greeted by no other than Mother with a tray of lemonade and cookies of course.

As the children enter the kitchen, a light kettle screams in the background.  Mother asks, “Now how was your time outside today, children? Are you ready for your lessons, today?”  Before the children can answer, Mr. Pogo, a talking chimpanzee, quietly says, “this way, children.  Young Vanya you know where to go.  Your Violin is in the study — please focus on your violin while the extraordinary ones practice their abilities”.  In a fraction of a second, young Vanya (aka Number Seven) has Mr. Pogo suspended in air using her ability to translate sound into energy.  Mr. Pogo, completely bewildered, demands “..to be let go and brought back down to the earth at once!”.

All attention is on young Vanya in this moment.  She didn’t have a choice to be brought back to this time in decades past and had fainted in decades forward as the result of extending too much energy and being the cause of the world ending — and in this very moment she was at the same mental space as decades forward where she wanted to ruin all who either held her back, discouraged her greatness, or shamed her in any way.  She had full control on her powers and was keen on proceeding with her mission to destroy anyone who stood in her was.

Young Allison (aka Number 3 aka Rumor) advances towards Vanya and proceeds to calm her down, reminding her that they love her and have travelled back in time in order to fix the past.  Vanya softens and releases Mr. Pogo from her energetic holds, and then begins to break down.  All of the pain and anguish of the past memories flood in and she begins to panic in her overwhelm, unsure of what is happening in that very moment.  Mother approaches her and begins to attempt to console Vanya, bringing her to the present, having her look around at her environment that was consistent with older memories and also to her siblings who distinguishably look much different and younger than she remembers.  

Some time passes and Young Vanya is able to discern that she’s not currently in the same timeframe as she last remembers and begins to ask questions surrounding her last memory of playing first chair violin in the orchestra and not really remembering much more.  She proclaims that she feels disoriented and really confused to be in this younger body and feel so much different than memories of past timeframes — all is mis-sorted and the room becomes still.

At that very moment, Number 5 interjects in a very abrupt manner that she was responsible for the end of the world and that he brought all of the family back to this timeframe to prevent the future from happening and saving the world from ending.  Vanya’s eyes widen and she looks even more overwhelmed than prior and begins to speak when the children’s father, Sir Reginald (aka Monocle) enters the room demanding to know what all of the commotion is about.  Allison looks to Luther (aka Number 1 aka Moon boy) for direction as he has the closest relationship with the Monocle.

Everyone simmers their commentary as Luther begins to share with the Monocle what has happened in present time and past time and how Vanya has discovered her abilities even though she was told that she did not have anything extraordinary to provide the team when they were last young.  It is now where all of the present and past information begin to make sense to Vanya as she begins to speak she only asks one question, pointed at the Monocle.  “Why?”, she asks.  “Why did you treat me as though I was ordinary when I am indeed extraordinary?”

Sir Reginald darted his eyes in her direction and simply stated, “this needed to happen in order for you to build your strength to the greatest ability.  Knowing that Number 5 would be able to bring you all back with all of the information gained over the years, I was confident that you would return with a harness of your gifts and leverage them out of love verses the fear and pain you needed in order to build up the strength to unlock and build muscle around.  I is a true gift to be able to see you in full strength and ready to take on the challenges that face us presently”.

With that, Vanya’s entire body and overall energy dropped and she appeared to melt.  “All this time I thought I was a burden; a mundane figure that you just dealt with.  It’s the reason I wrote the book to begin with — I felt so much on the outside of everything.  I observed everyone from the outside and interpreted myself as an outsider when I wanted to belong so much.  I felt so conflicted over the years, wanting to be close but not understanding the space around which I could be.  It wasn’t in my conditioning to do so, so I found other way to fill my time and days.”

It was in that moment that Vanya felt belonging for the first time in her whole life — both decades forward and decades back.  It felt like a new life; the world seemed different in some way and there was a subtle excitement that became present.  That was also unfamiliar.  Not just the feeling of excitement, but feelings.  That was new due to the removal of medication for anxiety.  Feeling was new and not so extreme at this point.  What a wonderful opportunity, she thought.  This is definitely going to be something else.

All 7 children followed Mr. Pogo into the training room and began to prepare for their next mission.  Sir Reginald stood stoically with a glimpse of a simple smirk appearing on his face.  His plan had worked out after all and he was feeling a bit excited to work towards his mission and save the world from ending.

THE END


Week Five | Fangroup Motivations...Part 2

This week in Fandom, we discussed Fan Motivations and read chapter 2 of Buying In by Rob Walker. The author depicts Fandom through the DesireCode as both an escape from conformity as well as joining-in to find belonging in a community when and where there is no belonging elsewhere. Deep down, each of us is different, unique, and special. We are also all just the same. We all want to feel like individuals.  We all want to feel like part of something bigger than our selves.  Resolving that tension is what the Desire Code is all about.

The Desire Code presents a Fan Identity paradox where people are under more pressure than ever before to find identity themselves, when historically societal class structures and family backgrounds dictated who someone was and what they were able/capable of doing. In youth culture today, they are trying to find a role in society and find a way to live authentically to who they are and what they enjoy doing. Kids are adaptable and have the flexibility to try new things and reinvent themselves until they find what works for them. In a way. they have a bit of identity leisure in that they are able and capable of doing things that were not available to their families in past generations.

The author interviewed, Ed Templeton, a professional skateboarder and owner of Toy Machine (a popular brand of skateboards) and exposed a very interesting fact that there was an “outlaw aspect” to riding skateboards in the 1980s, and that a lot of kids who were into skateboarding were from broken homes. His skateboard mates were “outcast kids” and skateboarding was illegal in many public spaces of Templeton’s home town in Orange County, CA. In a place where these kids did not have stability at home, they were in turn able to create that safety within their community and skateboarding culture.

In these communities, mainstream or not — many skater kids would either get sponsored by brands to advertise their level of belonging/status/clout, or create their own fandoms within their individual groups. They would introduce their own commodities (stickers and graphics) and create underground zines as well. Within these outlawed groups, Templeton and others were able to form an identity and become an individual when outcast was all that was known before.

When I was in middle school (late 90s/early 00s), skateboarding was definitely carried a different meaning — especially if you were sponsored. I went to a middle school in a predominately white neighborhood that was on the upper middle class side of the city, where kids who skated ‘professionally’ had the best reputations. Completely opposite of what the author states here. I was a novice at best and wore the shirts, had the gear, and sold merch I collected at various competitions/expos. I was a poser and merchant simultaneously, yet I belonged. It was an identity that I had until I joined and begun my hockey career — also very similar in nature.

Adversely, Walker discusses the Red Hat Society and how they are counter-cultural in nature. They grew quickly and are known for wearing bright costumes, having exuberant group behaviors, and are typically all over the 50 year age marker. The subculture motive is to challenge the way that society expects older women to behave — they are rebelling by conforming to a new group that is highly individualistic and multicultural. Their exotic nature of wearing purple dresses and red hats grew to a network 0f 850,000 members worldwide, and a retail shop where hundreds of varieties of hats and dresses were sold as well as other commodity elements and items.

What’s so interesting is that even the most mundane items (like pens, buttons, stickers, etc) can be subverted and take on even more symbolic dimension. In skateboarding and even in custom Red Hat items, both classifications of groups have immense buying power. There is an unexpected consequence of advertising where individualization and commodity have an un-measurable amount of buying power. Marketing and advertising both fuel these groups in their claiming of cultural capital.

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Week Four | Fangroup Formation and Group Motivations

This week, Lillian Ritchie and I explored the Brony fandom community — in essence, we both remembered hearing negative press 5 or 6 years ago and wanted to see what we could find. As it turns out, Hasbro (or their legal representation) has done a pretty decent job of clearing out the negative posts and has created a public-facing company that is pretty ‘clean’ and ‘happy’ and mostly brand-centric, promoting rainbows, unicorns, sunshine, and smiles all around.

What’s most interesting here is that a fandom that was once a fairly middle-aged male dominated culture, has not much changed other than what is and what is not allowed to be shared. It’s a very self-policing environment that appears to thrive off of the accolades and ‘hoffs’ that members give one another. It appears to be a polite and supportive culture where members can ‘freely’ post within the rule-sets that are dictated on the site.

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Week Three | Fan Mentality

This week in Fandom, we discussed Fan Mentality and how Fan Groups and the subcultures within develop and maintain structure through social and cultural norms formed within the group. Fandom cannot exist in solitude — by design, it is a social activity that must include the interaction with others. These Fan Groups form because of a shared love for the same Fan Object and the basic human need to feel belonging within social context. To bridge these ideas, we read chapters 10 & 11 in the scholarly book, Consumer Tribes.

In chapter 10, titled Temperance and religiosity in a non-marginal, non-stigmatized brand community, Hope Jensen Schau and Albert M. Muniz Jr explain how brand communities, such as Star Trek and Tom Petty have strong followings, yet have very different levels of stigmatization surrounding the brands as well as the fans of these Fan Objects. The goal of this chapter was to identify why fan communities have developed and have also been the strongest among heavily marginalized communities. To express this idea, the authors describe how fans of Tom Petty (TP) as well as Tom Petty & The Heart Breakers (TPATH for short) have built and maintained a community of a non-stigmatized Fan Object and how the community comes together in order to keep the fan base on-brand.

Although Tom Petty is considered a rockstar, TPATH fans are not held socially outside of their Fandom Groups as anything but ordinary. TP fans will congregate at concert venues, private residences, and in chat rooms/online forums to pay homage and share experiences and expertise within a shared group of aficionados. The authors interviewed fans with varying timeframes in their length as a fan and the results show that TPATH fans are very welcoming to one another, all sharing a common love for Tom Petty and the individual connection fans feels towards him. Each fan documented in this chapter shares their rituals, traditions, and moral obligations that bring fans of TP and TPATH together, proving that the TPATH community is strong and holds a moral obligation to keep faithful fans in cohesion.

In the TPATH fan community there are cultural norms and rules that must be followed when engaging with other fans — in this, we see that there is a policing of sorts over inappropriate behaviors that are deemed against the interpretation (or assumption) of Tom Petty’s personal values, which hold God, family, friends, environment, and America in his highest regard. Online, fans monitor and police other fan postings on the official message boards — they determine what content is appropriate or requires age restrictions. If fans post something that references overtly sexual desires or drug usage (outside of alcohol or marijuana) , the more established members of the community will chastise the poster and in turn potentially ban them from the site. Fans will also unite and defend other fans in the case of being rumored to have been involved with activities that do not align with the image of TP that is held by the fan community.

Fans of TP and TPATH relate to the music and stories linking them intimately with their own personal life narratives. What I find most interesting is the religiosity of the TPATH Fan Groups and how spiritually supernatural they can be — in the instance of a guy healing his injured knee after seeing TP perform with also a rumored injured knee and feeling absolutely fine the next day we can see that miraculous things happen within these fans’ lives and create a more connected and romanticized relationship with their fan object. The power of will is also apparent here — but what I find so appealing with this is that these stories and meanings that fans give to these experiences are far more valuable than the experiences themselves. There’s so much here that is potentially ritualistic in nature, that sharing these experiences with others can bring even more validity to an event.

Tom Petty is pretty removed from his fan base and his fan base is not really much of the groupie type — they tend to engage more with the idea of connecting to the music and not the artist. This is fairly strange for a rockstar as they typically (or historically) have more of a symbiotic relationship with their fans. When reading chapter 11, titled Imprinting, incubation, and intensification: factors contributing to fan club formation and continuance, Paul Henry and Marylouise Caldwell depict that fans of Cliff Richard are more of the groupie type — supporting the stigma around Cliff that he is indeed a sex symbol and holds a layer of escapism. There lies a more interesting experience around celebrity worship and how Cliff Richard needs his fans in order to survive. It is a symbiotic relationship at its best and is a necessary interaction for both fans and Cliff himself. The authors state that “when a celebrity’s need for adoration fuels celebrity worship, the celebrity-fan relationship takes on a symbiotic character; fans and celebrity develop a dependency on each other. Each party becomes ‘willing prisoners’ of their expectations of each other”.

In this type of celebrity worship, what tends to show up are para-social relationships where person
A has a fully developed relationship with person B, but person B has no idea that this is going on and in most cases does not know person A at all. Especially a dynamic where a rockstar who holds a superficial allure, these types of relationships develop. It’s so interesting to think that based on the media people ingest, they are at risk of potentially developing this kind of attachment. When the relationship dissolves or if person A meets person B, and the feelings are exposed as being in person A’s own head, it can be devastating and heartbreaking to the individual who has created this idea of connection.

The celebrity or fan object can be such a huge part of their life that there can be a lack of understanding of differentiating knowing and not knowing them personally, in some cases. For example a kid of a fan ran up to Cliff Richard and hugged him in a public setting, never meeting him before. Because Cliff was a ‘friendly’ face in the home, the child unknowingly placed this connection upon him when first meeting. It is this and other types of para social relationships that are developed simply based on human’s need to connect and belong with one another over a shared space.

In some cases not being able to interact with other fans is an extremely lonely experience and takes away from the value in fandom all together. Fans describe meeting other fans as exhilarating and great to share commonalities with like minds over their love for Cliff Richard. Fan clubs are the goal and when found, they create so much relief in the fan in the desire to connect within a fan group. Feeling accepted is the most ideal aspect of joining a group and diehard fans are in it for the long haul. In some cases, fan clubs can be almost a surrogate family for many members of the group and that several members who developed personal relationships often become the most important of their lives.

The need for belonging and connection is one of the strongest desires that humans have — we can create these chemical releases that evoke the feeling of bonding and belonging even when it doesn’t fully exit; but also thrive and hold a more important value on the experiences we have when we do feel belonging. Being a member of a fan group, where all parties share one common adoration towards a fan object can hold the most important value within some people’s lives. Even so much as to replace their family bond entirely.

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Week Two | Class Struggle and Stigma in Fandom/ Fandom as Personal Identity

This week, we discussed the idea of Fandom as a way of claiming personal identity as well as the class systems and stigmas that are found within the subcultures of Fandom. To corner-in these topics, we read Shooter Boys and At-Risk Girls (Molly Crabapple) and The Logic of Stupid Poor People (Dr. Tresse McMillan Cottom) that identify and express some unique perspectives on how these movements can affect those who belong to these specific fandoms and those that are on the outside.

In Molly Crabapple’s article, Shooter Boys and At-Risk Girls, she breaks down the concept of childhood and adolescence being a rough time for a good portion of youth regardless of the idealism placed upon being a child in society today — she explains that even in her own youth in coming into adulthood, she found solace and peace within herself by rebelling from societal norms and finding her way within books, grunge, drawings, poetry, and being labeled ‘anti-social’ by most. Friends were not easy to make and relating to what was considered ‘normal’ by society was just not going to happen for her. Belonging was tough, and was found within her Fandoms — Fandoms which today are labeled icons for those who could easily participate in school shooting due to historical occurrences are isolating those that feel isolated and making the children feel even more isolated by deeming their interests threatening.

As a society, we have relied on and leveraged stereotypes to create the illusion that we know how to solve problems. Because some kids in Columbine wore trench coats, trench coats are immediately considered the icon and identifier to a potential risk to the system. This and other coping behaviors of the difficulties of fitting in to generic social norms — including drawings, poetry, art, and pretty much any way of expressing ones’ emotions outside of what society has in mind of being a well-behaved child — creates an uneasy feeling for the ‘authorities’ of education systems that want to keep the illusion that their environment is indeed safe, kind, and free of trouble. This illusion is also a utopian idealistic way of viewing the world — because, unfortunately we are never fully safe. There is no way to really know what is going through someone’s mind, and how the feeling of isolation can turn into other emotions and eventually shift into a dangerous situation.

It’s unfortunate, yes. The largest issue here is that those in authoritarian positions are trying to solve the problem at a micro-scale, identifying what others and myself think is the incorrect issues. Instead of let’s say, looking at the source of the issues — why would kids be acquiring weapons and making the decision to use them in the first place — they look at how to try to identify and solve via creating and following stereotypes crafted by the media and society. A really great way of prevention, which has been incorporated by The Center Nonviolent Communication and waldorf-based preschools and elementary schools, has been to incorporate the education of emotions & feelings and how to express them as oppose to suppress them, which is what main stream society wants us to do.

Showing emotions or expressing feelings that are not considered happy or joy are immediately rejected by what’s been ingrained into our social structures and class systems. We must appear ‘fine and good’ in order to be good citizens. It’s honestly getting old, and the world would just be so much safer if we adjusted this antiquated expression and rejoiced by creating space for ourselves and others to feel safety in the place of sharing the pains of being a human being.

In contrast, within social class systems, Dr. Tesse McMillan Cottom articulates the reasons why displaying the icon that holds value or stigmatism can create signals that one can fit in to a social class that they may not necessarily fit in with. In The Logic of Stupid Poor People, Dr. Tesse McMillan Cottom articulates that an item that would be considered as luxury by one class can be used by another class as a tool to fit in, prove belonging, or to fit in to a system that they may not typically belong with. A handbag that costs $2000 or more could be a necessity to some — showing that they understand and have the ‘uniform’ that creates this illusion.

The idea of faking it until you make it is pretty spot on in this commentary — in society, if we have the correct attire for a specific event then we belong at that event and will most likely be able to continue going to events of similar class status. We become the class that we resemble to the outside world. Even if you don’t truly belong, you can appear to have higher status, wealth, culture, and taste that will make you stand out from lower classes in society. It’s almost subversive in a way; baked into our ways and societal norms like the convection ovens of our social systems have provided us understanding. As we develop and create our communities of friends and the alike, we find that if someone doesn’t quite belong in the class structures that we have been conditioned in, then we can either work to bring them up to speed or leave them behind. It’s unfortunate and 100% unfair. But it where we’ve landed in society at this time.

In my previous work experience, it was very clear that if you didn’t fit into the culture that was formed then you had no reason to work with that particular company. This wasn’t everywhere that I’ve worked, but I will say that fitting into company culture was so important to most. Even at the hiring process, I had discussions with recruiters and team leaders who would create systems in order to hire primarily ivy-league educated graduates and by no means would they ever consider someone who didn’t graduate college. Somewhere in this designed system, we culturally have failed to look at the person and their experiences as a whole and have created these systematic norms that isolate and prevent people of particular social and class structures from joining their environments.

Personally, I’ve always done my research; worn the ‘uniform’ of choice, and designed my presentation to align with company culture. I’ve had great success here — however, my particular background, ethnicity, and pre-assumptions and biases made by the hiring managers, has supported my career and direction thus far. It’s everywhere, unavoidable, and potentially the only way we will live in this world until our last days. There are other options — but they involve removing oneself from the ‘matrix’ of society. Not a popular option, but can be wholesome and full of joy to some, mostly. But then again, this is also a utopian society, where inner rule structures exist and limitations are inevitable. For myself, I’m finding my balance between these two polar opposite ways, really taking into account honoring who I am, my needs, and overall goals.

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