Monday, July 15, 2019

“Sports: Paid by Performance” by Zoe Statzer

The gender pay gap has been a long-debated topic and the fight for wage equality has been straining between the sexes. Only recently are women being paid more, yet it is still only an average of seventy-nine cents to the man’s dollar. However, most minorities, both men and women, have it even worse than their white counterparts; while African Americans make sixty-one cents, Native Americans make fifty-nine cents, and Latinx make fifty-five cents to the white man’s dollar. According to the World Economic Forum, women around the globe earn on average $12,000 a year, compared to a man’s $21,000. Yet, most people still think that “this pay gap is not evidence of discrimination, but is instead a statistical artifact of failing to adjust for factors that could drive earnings differences between men and women” (Schieder). If it is not discrimination then what is it?

Major league sports are a noticeable area where this pay gap can be distinctly viewed. Women in sports such as Billie Jean King, a world-famous tennis player, and many players from the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, also known as the USWNT, are fighting to end this inequality and discrimination once and for all. Athletes should be paid on the basis of how well the team performs, not of the basis of gender, and they should be given equal training and game field conditions to their male counterparts.

To give context to a previous lawsuit, in 2016, five of the highest-ranking players on the USWNT: Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, and Becky Sauerbrunn, filed a suit against the United States Soccer Federation, or USSF, for the first time. Much like in their most recent lawsuit against the federation, the women felt that they were being discriminated against based on their gender. Unfortunately, the case was quickly ended when the USSF “recounted the role the federation has played in the growth of women’s soccer, including its introduction to the Olympic Games and in providing full-time salaries for top players” (Das, “Top Female Players Accuse”). It is here where the federation essentially tells the women that they are lucky to have the ability to play soccer at the national level and to compete in the World Cup and Olympic games, which is not something often said to men because they have always been seen as righteous in sports and women must prove their way to even be allowed to play at a competitive level. This goes hand in hand with how “opportunities for women to participate in sports have increased greatly in the more than 40 years since the passage of the gender-equity legislation known as Title IX. But sports officials continue to struggle with matters of compensation” (Das, “Top Female Players Accuse”). Rendering the federation’s actions not only unethical but also illegal. This leads up to the most recent lawsuit.

On March 8, 2019, International Women’s Day, twenty-eight the United States Women’s National Team players came forward and filed another lawsuit after receiving confirmation from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, that they could pursue one under the Equal Pay Act and the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. “The EEOC probably put a lot of resources and effort into trying to get it solved and investigating it... and finally said, 'Look, we can't get anything else done. You've got to go pursue your lawsuit or not.” (Hays). The team hopes to follow in the footsteps of Billie Jean King, a woman who started paving the way for woman to fight for equal pay by beating one of the greatest male tennis players of that time, Bobby Riggs, in a 1973 tennis match that was appropriately deemed the name “Battle of the Sexes”. Billie Jean King’s victory of this match is often credited with both starting a movement in women’s sports participation with the achievement of title IX which states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” (Department of Justice), and for empowering women to advocate for equal pay in all sectors of the workforce, not just sports.

Not only did Billie Jean King fight for equality in tennis, but even to this day she is still campaigning for equality in women’s soccer too. In a New York Times article, King reportedly states “It’s not like they don’t know it... when there’s a crisis, there’s an opportunity. It’s a moment to have a historic transformation at FIFA, and I will make my case” (Clarey). Here King suggests that if FIFA and the USSF can come together and make changes to the league it would be a historical time that is long overdue for the women. The players along with the help of King “are seeking equitable pay and treatment… The class-action request would allow any players for the team since February 2015 to join the case” (Hays). This ability to include past USWNT players like Hope Solo and Abby Wambach, who were a part of the original 2016 lawsuit, will make their class stronger and show how the USSF has discriminated against the women for so long. The Equal Pay Act prohibits discrimination of pay based on sex and according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Title VII also makes it illegal to discriminate based on sex in pay and benefits. Therefore, someone who has an Equal Pay Act claim may also have a claim under Title VII” (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). However, “It is clear that if the pay gap is to be fully addressed, a complex response is needed. Yet, as a closer look reveals, the Equal Pay Act is ill-equipped to deal with this challenge.” (Fredman). Being able to give these women the justice they deserve starts with reforming the Equal Pay Act and Title IX.

Given the following numbers, the men’s team would make more money for simply qualifying for the World Cup than the women’s team would for winning the World Cup. In an article, “The Difference Between What the US Men's and Women's Soccer Players Make is Shocking” published by Business Insider, a chart is provided that compares the statistical pay difference between the two teams if each were to win or lose the minimum required twenty “friendly” games, as well as if they were to win or lose half of their twenty games. If both teams lost all twenty games the men would make a maximum of $100,000 while the women would cap out at solely $72,000. This is a twenty-eight percent difference in player pay. Given that each team won all twenty games, the men’s team would receive up to $263,320 and the women’s team would only get up to $99,000, a sixty-two percent difference in pay (Gaines). Why is this difference so high when the women are winning nearly all of their games? Simply for qualifying for the World Cup, the men’s team would be rewarded $2.5 million compared to the women's team’s $345,000 and for winning the World Cup the men would receive $9.3 million while the women’s award would be only $1.8 million. The pay gap is very evident if you look at the numbers.

Not only is the pay gap blatantly gender discriminatory, but the women’s team is far superior, performance wise than the men’s team in terms of wins and losses of friendly matches, Olympic medals, and World Cups. Co-captain of the Women’s National Team, Carli Lloyd, in her lawsuit statements said "In light of our team's unparalleled success on the field, it's a shame that we still are fighting for treatment that reflects our achievements and contributions to the sport. We have made progress in narrowing the gender pay gap, however, progress does not mean that we will stop working to realize our legal rights and make equality a reality for our sport." (Baxer). In 2018, the USWNT won ninety percent, tied twenty percent, and lost none of their twenty games. Compared to the United States Men’s National Team, or USMNT, who won thirty percent, tied twenty percent, and lost forty percent of their ten games. The women's team has also won a total of three World Cups so far and hope to win their fourth this summer of 2019 in France while the men have still yet to win a World Cup failing to even qualify for the World Cup in 2018. As an article by ABC News states “Women Earn the Glory While Men Earn the Money in U.S. Soccer” (Davis). Not only have the women won more World Cups, but they have also won four Olympic gold medals whereas the men have not won any.

The USWNT has also been ranked number one in the world for ten of the past eleven years and has broken the record for the most watched soccer game in the history of America between men or women, while the men remain ranked at twenty-fourth in the world. The women’s national team has undoubtedly outperformed their male counterparts and the men’s team knows it as they support the women’s lawsuit as Alex Morgan states in an interview, “The men have also come out and said that they are in support of us as well and so we respect them so much for that… you know you are doing something right when you gain that support from people around you to help lift you up” (Bankert). The men showing their support for the women’s team should make it very clear to the USSF that the women deserve to be given what they have earned.

Travel expenses, otherwise known as the per diem rate, is another area where the women are not equally compensated. The women's team receives only fifty dollars a day for domestic travel and sixty dollars a day for international travel compared to the men’s team’s sixty-two dollars for domestic travel and seventy-five dollars a day for international travel. Carli Lloyd ridiculed the United States Soccer Federation over this difference in her New York Times essay, writing that “maybe they think women are smaller and thus eat less” (Das, “Pay Disparity in U.S. Soccer?”). What makes the men worthy of receiving more money than the women for simply traveling to their games?

The women’s team is also subject to poorer field conditions compared to the men’s team. The Women’s National Team is consistently being forced to play their games, including the World Cup, on artificial turf, also known as astroturf, rather than on natural grass. In 2015, Hope Solo, then the USWNT’s goalkeeper, posted a photo of the ripped artificial turf they were expected to play on that night and stated, “Our loyal fans: Thanks for standing with us against field conditions and standing tall for #equal treatment” (Solo). Artificial turf is very harmful to an athlete’s body. In an article by the Hospital for Special Surgery some of the most common injuries that were listed are anterior cruciate ligament tears, commonly known as an ACL tear, concussions, ankle sprains, major knee injuries, and turf burn (Drakos). Turf also heats up forty to seventy degrees more than the temperature outside sometimes reaching temperatures of one hundred- and eighty-degrees Fahrenheit oftentimes melting cleats and causing heat stroke, which can be very detrimental to the safety and health of the players. The women should not be subject to these poor conditions just because they are not the men who the Soccer Federation favors.

Opposing views claim that women deserve to earn less and should just get second jobs such as Gavin McInnes who states “Women do earn less in America because they chose to… you are playing a man’s game by a man’s rules this is the way it is in our world. You have got to earn it.” When given the suggestion to just get second jobs Hope Solo responded “We do not have time to go be an Uber driver. We put in the time to win gold medals for this team.” (Minhaj). Others believe that the women just do not bring in any money as an NBC Sports article states, “...The fact is, women's soccer just doesn't generate the sort of money -- at least so far -- that the men's game does” (Jaynes). However, according to the United States Soccer Federation’s own numbers, the women’s national team has brought in nearly seventeen million in profit each year and the men’s national team consistently loses the federation nearly two million in profit.

In conclusion, female athletes should not just be fighting for equal pay, they should be fighting to be paid more than the men’s team in addition to benefiting from equal per diems and field conditions. Salary should be paid based upon how the team performs not based on whether they are male or female. The evidence makes it overwhelmingly clear that the United States Women’s National Team outperforms the Men’s National Team in all aspects of play to which they deserve the same treatment and field conditions and that they have earned the right to be paid more than the men. As Alex Morgan, USWNT forward states, “Each of us is extremely proud to wear the United States jersey, and we also take seriously the responsibility that comes with that. We believe that fighting for gender equality in sports is a part of that responsibility. As players, we deserved to be paid equally for our work, regardless of our gender” (Hays). I encourage you and others to support female sports in order to cease the inequality between the sexes. 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

“A Time When Bushmen Could Choose” by Isabelle Jensen

When referencing the past, many people think of it as simpler times and become nostalgic. For the Bushmen or San people, their past is a time of less oppression and more happiness. The San have lived in southern Africa for thousands of years and are one of the longest lasting cultures. Modern-day civilization has changed their lives, from the traditional society that lacked objects to forced modern living. In the comic mockumentary film, The Gods Must Be Crazy, the Bushmen tribe was entirely separated from the rest of the country. Although they are called Bushmen, in general they prefer to be called the San so for this essay they will be referred to as such. The San people had not seen white people or anyone not in their tribe. They had no man-made tools, only what nature had given them. They had no concept of being materialistic. Everything in the tribe is shared within their kind, peaceful social community. The movie focuses on the tribe of San that live in Botswana. The movie was released in 1980 before the Botswanan government began its removal of the San people. The main San, Xi, was lucky enough to be able to keep his culture, but in the years since then, it has become harder and harder for San to keep their lives and traditions due to government intervention and their removal from their land.

In the film, a pilot threw a Coke bottle out of the sky and it fell into the deserts of Botswana. The San found it, thinking it was a gift from the gods. They had never seen anything like it and found many ways to use this new object: to cure thongs and snakeskin, make music, and make labor easier (Uys 0:08). This was the first time they had an object they could not reproduce and still needed. Greed infiltrated the tribe. “Anger, jealousy, hate, and violence,” emotions they had never felt before, were suddenly abundant (Uys 0:10). Xi was angry with the gods and blamed them for creating issues and chaos within his tribe.  He looked toward the sky and shouted “Take back your thing! We don’t want it!” (Uys 0:12). He threw it into the sky but it just came back down. It hit his daughter in the head causing even more disturbance. Xi buried it to try to keep it away from his tribe who felt shame for having acted poorly. It was found again by some of the children of the tribe. Upset that the “Evil Thing” had reappeared in their lives, the tribe discussed what to do. Xi decided it did not belong on the earth. He was to walk to the “end of the earth and throw it off” (Uys 0:14). He was incredibly dedicated to saving his people from an object that created such negative outcomes.

Xi made the choice to get rid of something that could help him just because of its emotional effect. In western society, anything that can make things easier or more fun is valued no matter what it does to our emotional health. We let objects become important despite the fact that they disturb our reality. Even if we do not fully accept the change, we do not walk miles to stop it from happening. For example, there are lots of social media apps that make many people feel terrible about themselves, but they keep using them just the same. The purity of the San culture helps them recognize what is truly hurting them. Xi had the ability to save his people from the outside world.


Xi goes on a journey in which he meets a lot of people and sees parts of the modern world. He meets whites for the first time, and he thinks they are gods (Uys 0:55). He tries to give them the bottle, but the white people have no idea what is going on so they do not take it. The one non-San who spoke San told him to “throw it away yourself” (Uys 0:58). Xi has many adventures such as learning to drive and helping save the children from terrorists. He meets many people who are kind to him and have advanced tools. After disposing of the bottle, he goes back to his tribe. He does not try to bring back any of the new things he saw. He values his culture and chooses it over western society. Unfortunately, in modern times, not all San are so lucky to have a choice.

In 1961, the San of Botswana were given a reserve to live on called the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CRS 2). It was made to protect the San way of life. Then in 1978 the government launched the Remote Area Dwellers Program which provided water and social services to the San and created new settlements (CRS 2). The San people were given some help but were mostly able to keep their culture intact. When Jamie Uys made the movie in 1980, the San had their own land and some help when they needed it. The San were supported by the government and did not have to change their lives for western society. However, this “protection” did not last long.

In 1982, diamonds were found on the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) (CRS 2). This was the first indicator of a mass relocation. Many San were told to leave the place their family had been in for generations due to the diamond mines (Survival International). The Botswana government named New Xade as a new place for the San people to live in (“Chronology for San Bushmen in Botswana”). It was a permanent settlement in which the government heavily encouraged the San to lead a “settled life by building schools, clinics, and providing potable water” (“Chronology for San Bushmen in Botswana”). The lack of edible plants and a hunting ban made it almost impossible for San people to continue their lifestyle (Tarvainen). The Botswana government also gave those that moved some money and cows to encourage settling (Tarvainen). The government decided diamonds were more important than culture. They chose greed but the San did not get a choice. 

The removal happened fairly quickly but forcefully. By 1997, 1,739 San had been relocated to New Xade (CRS 2).  In 2001, 689 San lived in the Reserve and in 2002 only 17 San did (CRS 3). However, more than 200 San snuck back onto the reserve in 2002.  The government argued that the removal was necessary to protect the land and that they have the San’s best interests in mind (CRS 3). There are claims of armed police and threats of violence to clear the settlements (Blair). Police officers who came to remove the San people told them to “leave as volunteers” and those who did not leave the police would “end up killing” them (Blair). Government agents would also threaten arson (CRS 3). The Botswana government maintains that it has not “employed force, coercion, or threats during its relocation of the San” (CRS 3).  They claim to be helping the San people to develop “socio-economic practices of the larger contemporary society” (CRS 3). In reality, this translates to trying to erase the culture of the San. According to the government, many of the San are no longer traditional anyway and use guns and cars to hunt but there is no evidence of this at any frequency on the reserve (CRS 3). A law was passed that made it illegal to hunt without a permit but the government refused to issue permits to San people making it impossible to live their traditional lives (Survival International). More than 50 San were arrested for hunting to feed their families (Survival International). The San people took it to the courts. The high courts ruled that it was unconstitutional to remove the San from their land and to require hunting permits but nothing has been done to enforce this ruling (Survival International). The Botswana government wants to look like they are helping but they are not. They will find any excuse to profit of the San’s land and will try to save their image in the process. They would rather discredit the San than admit what they are doing. 

Forcing the San people to lead different lives has not gone well. The San refer to New Xade the “Place of Death” (CRS 4). In New Xade, there are incredibly high rates of alcoholism, unemployment, crime, and HIV/AIDS (CRS 4). Botswana gave the San people cows in the hope they would settle but never taught them how to take care of them. The cows got sick and no one in New Xade knew how to keep them healthy (Fihlani). Many San people have gone back to the reserve despite the government’s strong push against it. In 2002, the government sealed all San water storage structures in the CKGR and banned NGOs from giving food or water to San on the reserve (CRS 4). Most San people just want to go back to their old life just like Xi did.

Modern-day San cannot return to their old life the same way Xi did. Just like him, they were unhappy with western influence but had nowhere to run safely back to. Xi saw the world and went back to his culture and his people. Many San people are trying to do the same thing but the diamond mines, destruction of water storage, and arrests stop them. Unfortunately, the more time passes, the more cultures are destroyed and corrupted by modern society. The real-life story is the extreme of the movie. The bottle in the movie ruined the peace of the community but diamonds and greed in real life destroyed the community entirely. Compared to modern-day San people, Xi and his tribe were lucky. Xi had a home to go back to instead of being forced to live a life he did not want. Those forced to live in a modern way are now suffering from disease, addiction, and joblessness. In the “Price of Happiness is Actually Free,” Brendan Kaston explains that Xi’s choice to return home was about the progress of the modern world versus happiness of his tribe (Kaston). Xi chose happiness. Since the mid-80s, the San have not had a choice. For them, going to the modern world is not progress. The San cannot adjust to settling and the new world they face so they make no progress and only have difficulty. 

The San people deserve to have their own choice between modern and traditional. A life or progress or a life of happiness is the choice they must make. Forcing people into one way of life just to profit from the diamonds is selfish and detrimental to the San. Xi was lucky that no one tried to change him or keep him away from his culture. He could go back to a less stressful life of fewer problems and less progress. His choice is what most San would do if they could. The struggles that San people have gone through since the movie was made are unlike anything Xi and his tribe could have imagined. His choice was not life or death unlike the choices of today. Like Xi, the San could go back but they risk arrest. The time period before the diamonds was an easier time for the Sans people. The greed of modern society and a money-hungry government made their lives incredibly difficult. The San could not choose and could not escape it. The greed of the government forced them into a life they did not want. Xi could choose, unlike many others. He saw the greed and could escape it. The San after the movie were not so lucky. 

Works Cited

Blair, David. “Bushmen Forced out of Desert after Living off Land for Thousands of 

CRS. Botswana: The Bushmen (San) Rights Case. 19 Oct. 2004, 

Fihlani, Pumza. “Botswana Bushmen: Modern Life Is Destroying Us.” BBC News, BBC, 

Kaston, Brendan. “The Price of Happiness Is Actually Free by Brendan Kaston.” The 

Price of Happiness Is Actually Free by Brendan Kaston, Taking Giant Steps, 2 Nov. 2018,

Survival International. “Bushmen.” Bushmen - Survival International, 

Tarvainen, Sinikka. “Bushmen Removed from Kalahari Land.” IOL News, 11 Nov. 2016, 

United Nations. “Chronology for San Bushmen in Botswana.” Refworld, 2004, 

Uys, Jamie, director. The Gods Must Be Crazy. New Realm, 1980.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

“To Conform or Be Cast Out: A Story on Finding True Happiness” by Lauren Cohen

People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used.


What would have happened had our ancestors not chosen to progress forward and make life easier? Would we be more carefree, like the Bushmen in Jamie Uys’ 1980 film, The Gods Must Be Crazy? Unfortunately, there is no empirical way to answer the question. However, what can be answered is how the decision to progress forward has shaped the society that we have come to know. Our lives are very similar to the urbanites in Uys’ movie. While we have been walking the path of progress, fitting ourselves into a daily schedule and a select set of social norms, we have forgotten one of the most important things in life: happiness. Unlike the Bushmen, it is rare for a member of our society to feel joyous well-being. Should it happen to someone, that individual is often judged as selfish, their felicity in question. If the only thing we care about is conformity and keeping busy, we may lose sight of the gifts that contentedness and love can bring.

Uys expands on the difference between the Bushmen and Western society by depicting Kate Thompson following the same exact routine every. As the voice-over reminds us, Western society expects its citizens to “adapt and readapt himself to every day and every hour of the day to his self-created environment” (Uys 06:25). Because humankind chose to force their natural surroundings to adapt to their own needs, they now have to readapt their lives to fit into what they have made. Life consists of waking up, going to work or school, going back home, eating dinner, doing homework, and then going to sleep, with some other activities and chores plugged in here and there every now and then. This type of a life is the typical day-to-day circumstances that just about every person leads. It is how Kate Thompson lives, given that she has a conventional job as a journalist. The problem is that these individuals are not necessarily enjoying their quality of life, at least not like the Bushmen.

In the Kalahari Desert, the Bushmen have adapted their lives to nature, as opposed to making nature adapt to their lives like Western civilization. The Bushmen rely on the resources found within the natural surroundings around them for survival. Competition does not exist; there is no sense of ownership and no bitterness. As the narrator puts it, “they must be the most contented people in the world” (Uys 02:46). They feel blessed for everything they have, and believe that the gods have given them everything they will ever need. Their lives are peaceful. That is, however, until Xi finds an empty Coca-Cola bottle that “fell out” of the sky.

Because of their strong belief that the gods send them essential needs, the Bushmen take the Coke bottle as a gift. They, then, learn how to use it for many different tasks and adapt it into their everyday lives; it becomes a snake skin smoother, a pounder for food, “ a musical instrument, a patternmaker, a fire starter, a cooking utensil, and, most of all, an object of bitter controversy” (Ebert, par. 2). Despite never having felt anger, hatred, or jealousy before, the Coke bottle invokes these exact emotions. Tension builds, anger arises, the feeling of ownership develops, and, worst of all, violence breaks out. After the tribe realizes how the bottle has changed them, they unanimously decide that it is best to get rid of the so-called “evil” bottle. So, Xi takes a journey to the “end of the earth” to “throw it off” (Uys 15:03). Making this sort of decision is not necessarily an easy one; that is, to most Western people. However, the Bushmen value their love and happiness over having life made easier for them.

That the Bushmen came to the decision to rid themselves of the Coke bottle so quickly shows how vastly different, and in a sense wiser, they are than their Western society counterparts. Had those in the cities been faced with a similar issue, that of having a single object to share in order to make life easier, all hell would have broken loose. When one thinks of it, that event reflects exactly what happened hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago when Western civilization chose to make life “easier” while natives, like the Bushmen, chose to value love and true happiness amongst each other. “Xi understands that his people have two choices . . . progress or happiness. Our ancestors chose the former, and the world has expanded . . . Xi and his tribe make the opposite choice” (Kaston, par. 2). Our ancestors chose to make their lives “easier” by inventing things, creating governmental systems, and implementing different forms of employment. However, having all these elegant social structures have made life harder rather than easier. Competition was created, rich versus poor ideals formed, tension built over time, and life as we know it has gotten to the point of there being more hate and jealousy than love. This is not the case with the Bushmen; they care for each other, and make sure that every individual is safe and satisfied. So, where did we go wrong?

We failed to ensure that our emotional well-being was stable. We put so much pressure and care into making our physical lives better that we never considered the emotional repercussions. Modern society has become so fixated on the idea of improvement and conformity that we are more stressed and depressed than ever. Just like Kate in Uys’ movie, we are being put into normal jobs that will make us money but that also bring us despair. The only difference is that we are scared to do anything about it. Kate takes a leap of faith and decides to completely change her life by becoming a teacher for children in Botswana after learning about the position through her journalism job (Uys 25:58). Not many people in today’s society would even give that idea a second chance, let alone go through with it. Unfortunately, we have become programmed to adapt to the world around us. But Kate changed the programming when she realized that it was off course. The main issue with our society’s programming is that we are forcing a world to adapt to us, yet are never truly satisfied with the changes.

Competition exists in just about every area of life. From the social ladder to economic classes to the expensive items we buy on a daily basis, competition stems from the idea that there always needs to be a new advancement in technology. With this constant change, there is next to no room for us as a society to learn and adapt to our new surroundings. With each new iPhone or new version of Amazon’s Alexa or new autopilot car, like the Tesla, that comes out, society grows ever-desperate trying to get these new pieces of technology in their hands. The problem with this is that not everyone has the availability to get it. But we make it important to have these new toys and if one does not have it, they are automatically seen as less than. Our self-value is based around the items that we can or cannot have. We will consider ourselves to be less than those who can afford the next new and improved “magic power devices” (KP). This need to adapt and conform to societal standards has threatened us, yet we have not even noticed it. 

The main focus of society’s worries and fears is judgment and standing out. It is one of society’s (most specifically our generation’s) main illnesses (Picciano, par. 2). We are so scared of being different that we will conform to whatever society deems appropriate, regardless if we disagree with it or not. This is especially seen within teens. It has become common for “teenagers [to] conform to anything and everything to avoid standing out in the fear of being judged or exiled by their peers, even if they do not agree to the beliefs of the clique they have chosen to fit into” (Bhatia, par. 3). They will do anything in their power to fit in and not be seen as an outsider. This is the type of behavior that leads to the landing of “normal” jobs and living the typical daily lives seen within The Gods Must Be Crazy. We thrive on the idea that we need to be like everyone else and live a “full” life, which is filled with next to no downtime set aside for personal care or growth. The lives that we, and those “urbanites” in the movie, chose to live has turned into this “Normative Social Influence: the idea that we comply in order to fuel our need to be liked or belong” (Green 05:55). Psychologically speaking, we want nothing more than to be seen as normal and follow whatever the current trend is in society. This sort of behavior is nothing new, as psychologists have been experimenting with the idea of conformity for over 60 years.

Solomon Asch, a social psychologist, conducted an experiment about conformity back in the 1950s. The experiment consisted of putting a participant in the same room as seven other “participants” (men who worked with Asch on the experiment) and finding out whether or not the real participant would conform to the answer that the other seven already agreed on. The participants had to distinguish which comparison line matched that of the “target” line that Asch presented to them. What Asch found was that, “On average, about one third (32%) of the participants who were placed in this situation went along and conformed with the clearly incorrect majority on the critical trials” (McLeod, par. 11). Asch discovered through this experiment thatPeople conform for two main reasons: because they want to fit in with the group (normative influence) and because they believe the group is better informed than they are (informational influence)” (McLeod, par. 16). Despite knowing that the answer was wrong, the men did not want to be seen as the “outsider,” so they went along with the incorrect answer. It is this constant need and desire to be like everyone else that we have lost a very important aspect to living a decent life: happiness and love.

There is this so called “happiness famine” (Morrill, par. 5) in society and it has caused us to lack empathy and love for each other. Most importantly, it has caused us to lose happiness for not only others, but ourselves. We are constantly wanting new “toys” and crave getting the newest technological device. So, when we are unable to get them, we become unhappy with ourselves, and after a while, it leads to self-hatred. Along with this, we force ourselves to follow the “rules” that society has laid out for us: go to school, get a degree, get a 9-5 job that will pay good money, get married, have kids, buy a big house, be rich, and boom, we have the “perfect” life. The problem, however, is that there is no such thing as a perfect life and because of that, we will never be truly happy or satisfied with where we are in life. 

We have let this concept of a perfect life consume us. It has gotten to a point where “stress consumes the population as everyone scrabbles for that house with the picket fence which they never truly get to enjoy because work is always hanging over them” (Morrill, par. 5). Because this is what society says we should have, we feel horrible when we are unable to have it. Unlike the Bushmen, we stress ourselves out trying to get the “perfect” life that an imperfect society has carved out. What this has caused is a dramatic shift in emotional and mental health, and causes distance between us and our loved ones. We live believing that “modern society equals fullness with meaning so if schedules are always booked then life must be wonderful” (Morrill, par. 7). A majority of the time, we never have time for one another, so we tend to not know what it means to love or to be happy. It has gotten to a toxic point where because of this societal pressure to be like everyone else and to have a full schedule, our mental health has worsened as a whole. This is especially true within teenagers.

Teens are being crushed under the weight of needing good grades, having a perfect social life, getting enough personal time for themselves, and, worse of all, not being seen as an “outsider.” In Rush’s 1982 song, “Subdivisions,” Neil Peart wrote, “Subdivisions in the high school halls, in the shopping malls; conform or be cast out. Subdivisions in the basement bars, in the backs of cars; be cool or be cast out” (Rush). Peart was referencing how society has created these so-called subdivisions in every aspect of life. This is especially true for students in high school. There are numerous social groups that students get placed into, and if one is to be placed in the “wrong” one, they are automatically cast out and deemed unworthy. This is the experience that I had growing up, not only in high school, but throughout my entire school life.

I was not like the “typical” girl, nor did I fit in any mold that society (specifically the one I grew up in) had premade for the different types of teenagers. This “typical,” ideal girl is the popular, outgoing, kind, friendly, party girl with an ever so slight edge. I, on the other hand, was the shy, overly nice, nerd, who loved the “wrong” music, and was obsessed with theater. I was the outsider and people thought that made me really weird, and for some time, I thought the same thing. This, then, led to my mental health becoming severely worse than it already was, resulting in an extreme case of anxiety and a very mild case of depression. But I am not the only one who goes through this. Mental illness is being diagnosed more than ever and it all stems from the society we live in, most specifically, the lives we have forced ourselves to live.

Because we want the job that makes good money, we get ones that are not necessarily what we dreamed for and end up dreading going to work. We no longer pursue dreams and are scared to work outside of the limits that society has set for us. However, we can live a life that we want and desire. The only thing it takes is stepping outside of that social norm. Take Andrew Steyn, for instance. He has a job that requires him to analyze animal excrement, yet he is content and happy. He is a scientist, one who is proud of where he is in life. Another example is when Kate makes the move to the Kalahari. It is instantly recognized that she is more content being with her students than trapped in the cubicle she used to work within. If we were to follow in their footsteps, maybe we would learn true happiness again.

In order for our society to grow and help the growing mental health crisis, we need to come together again to break these societal norms. As a person who is doing her best to break those social norms, I know how scary it is. I went from wanting to be a physical therapist to a geneticist to being a filmmaker. I may have to struggle in order to live my dream life and will have to work my butt off to make money, but I am okay with that. I would rather be happy living a life doing something I love, something that may mean sacrificing a larger paycheck, as opposed to a life where I am unhappy, stressed, and despise my job.

If we are to have a society that loves and is filled with happiness again, like the Bushmen, we need first allow ourselves to open up and learn what we want in life. With this, we will find true happiness within ourselves. This will, then, spread to each other and we will have a society filled with love and respect and kindness. It is a hard thing to accept but, “until our culture can choose peace of mind over higher productivity, we will never self-actualize like the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert” (Kaston, par. 7). The moment we as a society prioritize ourselves and those around us is the moment that we will truly grow. But until that happens, we will be stuck in the harsh conditions of Western civilization. The real question is, who will be the one to step up first and break down the walls society has built around us?

Works Cited

Bhatia, Jill. “Teens struggle to combat conformity.” Daily Records, AsburyPark, 15 Feb. 2017 

Ebert, Roger. “The Gods Must Be Crazy”, Roger Ebert,  1 Jan. 1981. 

Gordon, Paul Kirpal. Various class Discussions

Green, Hank, director. Social Influence: Crash Course Psychology #38. YouTube, YouTube, 11 Nov. 2014,

Kaston, Brandan. “The Price of Happiness is Actually Free” Taking Giant Steps, 2 Nov. 2018, 

McLeod, Saul. “Solomon Asch - Conformity Experiment.” Simply Psychology, Simply Psychology, 28 Dec. 2018,

Morrill, Morgan. “The Ironic Hospitality of the Kalahari Desert” Taking Giant Steps, 14 Mar. 2018, 

Picciano, Kelsey. “Just Another Loose Brick in the Wall” Taking Giant Steps, 16 July. 2016,

Rush, “Subdivisions”, Signals, Terry Brown, Le Studio, Quebec, 1982

The Gods Must be Crazy. Directed by Jamie Uys, performances by N!xau, Marius Weyers, and Sandra Prinsloo. 20th Century Fox., 13 July. 1984. 123Movies

Sunday, July 7, 2019

“The Beautiful, Unattainable Trophy and Beast” by Haley Ecker

Pretty? Check. Skinny? Check. Successful and smart? Check and check. This criteria makes up the modern day “trophy wife.” The term was coined in Fortune Magazine in 1989 as, “a woman who is a decade or two younger than her husband, sometimes several inches taller, beautiful, and very often accomplished” (Friedman, par. 11). For the average man, attaining a woman like this seems impossible. Getting a woman extremely out of his league would be a massive achievement and elevate the man’s status.

This pursuit becomes the goal for Gennarino, a communist, Sicilian deckhand who gets trapped on a deserted island with a beautiful, wealthy woman in Lena Wertmüller’s film, Swept Away. The object of Gennarino’s desires, Rafaella, comes from a life of leisure and luxury as opposed to his lower class background. When stowed away on the island, Gennarino abuses and assaults Rafaella multiple times in an attempt to make her want him as a potential partner. He does not do this out of love, however, as he, like many lower-class men, wants her as an object to boost his prestige. Obtaining her affection is nothing more than a way to increase his confidence and status rather than pursuing her for love.

At the beginning of the film, Gennarino is a servant to Rafaella and her husband while on their yacht. She bosses around Gennarino while she and her rich friends lounge, swim, and eat on the deck of the boat. Rafaella has complete agency over the deckhand, at this point, and does not consider him to be anywhere near as impressive as her own wealthy, intellectual husband. Gennarino complains about Rafaella behind her back, irritated by the fact that a rich woman has the audacity to boss him around, and there is nothing he can do about it (Wertmüller, 00:08:50). He loathes the pretentious, political conversations Rafaella has with her husband and shows no fondness towards her whatsoever, since she represents something he knows he can never attain.

There is a change of power, however, once the two are swept away to an abandoned island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Gennarino finds himself in power since he is the only one who knows how to perform manual labor and feed himself. Whenever Rafaella demands help, he rejects her and forces her to do demeaning tasks to earn her food. He is able to get away with things he would never have been able to do had they still been on the yacht, such as forcing Rafaella to clean his pants (Wertmüller, 00:53:00) and kiss his hand (Wertmüller, 1:00:51). Although these are traditionally flirtatious actions, Gennarino’s demand for such actions comes off as him getting Rafaella to no longer consider him as a servant but rather a master. He wants her to feel the way he felt when she was bossing him around on the boat, such as when she complained about his pasta not being edible for her (Wertmüller, 00:12:32). He does, however, eventually go on even further than the point of just getting back at her for the mistreatment. Anna Rudegeair compares Gennarino’s taming of Rafaella to be resonant of Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew. Both Katherine and Rafaella are considered challenges for their male counterparts to pursue, with love and power being the prizes at the finish line. Petruchio, Kate’s partner, “insistently flatters and threatens Kate despite her protests” (Rudegeair, par. 3). Petruchio tries to tame Kate for the purpose of winning her affection while Gennarino just wants to make Rafaella his subordinate and elevate his status by getting her to do demeaning tasks.

Gennarino’s poor treatment of Rafaella is out of frustration since she represents everything he detests about upper society. While he beats her, he screams, “that’s for causing inflation and not paying taxes and hoarding your money in Swiss banks instead… That’s for the hospitals where the poor can’t even get in… That’s for raising the prices of meat and cheese” (Wertmüller, 1:09:18). By putting her in her place, he is able to gain revenge for the lower class and feel successful in his status as a man by dominating her. There is a purpose to this domination, however, as it not only allows for Gennarino to get revenge for his lower class but also get Rafaella to look at him as a macho man rather than just a lowly deckhand.

He continuously beats Rafaella like a broken toy to the point of submission so that she wants him more than her wealthy husband. In normal circumstances, Rafaella would never bat an eye at Gennarino. On this isolated island, he finally has the opportunity to express his masculinity and dominance without any repercussions. He believes that breaking her down to the point where she sees how much bravado he has will show Rafaella that just because he is some poor Sicilian deckhand does not mean he cannot satisfy her. He is trying to prove that he is more competent and masculine than her wealthy Milanese husband. Earning her affection would boost his confidence and show the world that he is capable of wooing one of the most unattainable and untouchable women in the world.

Gennarino is trying to add another trophy to his collection, and he is aiming for the most difficult trophy in all of Italy. She presents a challenge to Gennarino because she is the kind of woman someone like him would never be able to have. Turning her into a quasi-trophy wife would allow Gennarino to feel that “he has been able to snag, in a sense, a spouse or a wife that other men are envious of” (Friedman, par. 26). No one amongst Rafaella’s rich socialite friends would be able to imagine her with someone as grimy and plain as Gennarino, which only further motivates him to get her to fall in love with him. She is unlike his ordinary Sicilian wife back home because Rafaella is “highly educated, self-assured and able to hold her own financially.  She’s also not afraid to intimidate any male” (Houghton, par. 7). These are qualities that modern day men search for when hunting for their trophy wives; they do not want just some plain Jane who does whatever he wants.

Women such as Amal Clooney, Michelle Obama, and Melinda Gates are like Rafaella in their elite status amongst society, intelligence, and ability to speak their minds. Rafaella’s verbal skills become apparent in her debate with her husband and his friends about the legality of abortion (Wertmüller, 00:04:18). She is able to carry any intellectual conversation and defend her opinion without any worry (that is, until Gennarino starts chasing her across the island). Dr. Dion Metzger, a psychiatrist and expert in couples therapy, states that “powerful men [search] for a trophy wife to accompany their wealth and prosperity” (Dixon, par. 4). On the island, Gennarino finally gets to be the “powerful man” (finally something prosperous for him) and claim Rafaella as his. The reaction he would receive back in Italy should they remain together would flabbergast his and Rafaella’s family and friends. The pursuit of Rafaella as a personal trophy serves as a way for Gennarino to exert agency over her. She represents everything Gennarino could never attain. Assaulting her and getting her to refer to him as her “master” would prove to him that he is as valuable and capable as all the elites who Rafaella associates with (Wertmüller, 00:59:44). The island is the only place on Earth where the tables are turned and she is found begging to be with him. 

Leaving the island together was supposed to be the final test to prove to the aristocrats of Italy that he is just as masculine and desirable as they are by returning home with Rafaella. He calls this the “ultimate proof” to have her show how much she wants him (Wertmüller, 1:37:58). The journey home would be the official confirmation for Gennarino that he is as good, if not better, than the elite men that Rafaella surrounds herself with. She is simply a tool for him to show the world how much of a masculine, domineering man he is. For Gennarino, having Rafaella tell her husband she prefers the Sicilian deckhand rather than her wealthy husband would be the ultimate middle finger to the upper-class folk he has been oppressed by for so long. It would put him on equal footing with the wealthy men who treated him poorly in the past.

Rafaella has the opportunity to give Gennarino the validation he craves should she leave her husband for him, but she rejects him in the end. This rejection denies Gennarino of the satisfaction and power he would have received if she chose to stay with him. Love was never the end game for Gennarino – it was all about leveling his status with the wealthy elites that have mistreated him for so long. It is understandable to empathize with him for wanting to get back at the upper class, but Gennarino’s conquest of Rafaella as the hunt for the most valuable trophy around is all for his own selfish reasons.

Works Cited

Dixon, Carole. “The Modern Day Trophy Wife Is All About Goals, Not Gold.” Bravo TV Official Site, 13 Oct. 2016, Accessed 1 Apr. 2019.

Friedman, Emily. “Blond and Beautiful? What Really Makes a 'Trophy Wife'.” ABC News, ABC News Network, Accessed 1 Apr. 2019.

Houghton, Kristen. “The New Trophy Wife.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 25 Jan. 2015, Accessed 1 Apr. 2019.

Rudegeair, Anna. “The Same Old Story: Tamed Women and Their Misogynistic Counterparts.” Blogspot. N.p. 28 Feb. 2018, Accessed 1 Apr. 2019.

Wertmüller, Lena (Dir.). Swept Away. Perf. Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato. Romano Cardarelli, 1974. Film. Accessed 1 Apr. 2019.