What’s Up in the World? - Weekly Digest 15/04/2016 Written by Harriet Lane-Tobin

In this weeks digest I deal to issues of perception and personhood. The questions around who gets to decide where someone ‘fits,' ‘should be,' and is understood within their reality. However, what I would like to place emphasis on within this digest is how reality in this instance is subjective and personal, and these articles highlight that. Showing the problems of being implicated to see ourselves through someone else's eyes instead of our own, especially in relation to the social structure those depicted in these articles find themselves within.

In Leo Caldwells, Huffington Post, piece “The Constant Invalidation of Personhood," he relates this to his lived experience as a transgender male. Caldwell, highlights these issues right down to the words and phrases that are applied to people who do not fit into the socially ‘acceptable’. Finally imploring that, “When we invalidate someone’s lived experience we eliminate their personhood. We eliminate them” (Caldwell 2016). Something which I would argue social scientists, and humanity at large should be striving to avoid, just because it is not your reality, does not mean its invalid or untrue.

In Tomika Anderson’s article, “Loving Yourself Enough Not To Lie," she takes a different approach. Within her article she problematises the idea of ‘reality’ and ‘truth in relation to body positivity movements. Anderson argues that the perception of self that body positive movements shift onto those who follow them can in fact have negative implications. Anderson here states that “seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes can keep you from seeing the truth through your own”. Moreover, that your personal truth and personal reality can act as two very contrasting things, and these need to be considered together in order to make a positive change.

So what is to be said of those trying to change their personal reality? In Sara Pascoe’s, Guardian, article, on boob jobs she addresses the negative side of creating a new sense of personhood. Pascoe, states that “we all have our own subjective realities that affect our decisions and that it wouldn’t be fair if I was in charge of everyone” (2016). Emphasising the importance of not invalidating someone else’s desired reality like Caldwell’s article. However she does detail that to shift ones reality is not always the utopia it is shown to be. In fact by doing so is “carving criticism on their body” rather then escaping it, in the instance of the women seeking cosmetic change.

Chin Liu and her brother, posing for a photo in Taipei studio in 2015. Photo courtesy of Chin Lu, from  http://www.vice.com/en_au/read/the-not-quite-american-feeling-of-being-a-15-generation-immigrant

Chin Liu and her brother, posing for a photo in Taipei studio in 2015. Photo courtesy of Chin Lu, from http://www.vice.com/en_au/read/the-not-quite-american-feeling-of-being-a-15-generation-immigrant

In Chin Liu’s, Vice, article, she details how these realities and places of belonging can in fact be dual sided. Liu, discusses this in relation to the new category of generation 1.5 which refers too “immigrant children's connection to their heritage culture is stronger than or similar to the second- generation immigrants," but not quite to the level of first-generation immigrants either”. Which as detailed here creates disconnects on where people feel they belong? Closing with the consideration that, “You can either choose to be an outsider everywhere, or you can decide to fit in with multiple groups and learn to rotate in and out” (Liu 2016). Engaging with the idea that ethnicity is not just lived but malleable.

Finally I would like to reflect upon how personal expression and reality can really come to clash by using a New Zealand example. In an article published on NewsHub by Caitlin Mcgee, she writes on the current ‘scandal’ around skirt length at Henderson High School in Auckland. What for me stood out was the idea this dress code was targeted toward how girls influenced the boys, and male staff, if they should present themselves in such way. I would argue this matters for an Anthropologist because it becomes telling of the world school structures would like to create, and does not draw attention to other issues at play. Is it simply girls being girls, and boys being boys, or something more troubling about how ‘we’ are taught to relate to each other in the ‘real’ world.