Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Blog #3

Thavy Duong

During a recent trip to Target, I saw an eye liner that was only $1,  and I bought it. It was only after I bought it and was walking to the car that I remembered the Be Green challenge. I only really bought it because it was so inexpensive. If I had more money in general, I could definitely see myself breaking the Be Green challenge more often.

In this week's reading about teen-driven fashion in Japan, I saw parallels to the other street fashion trends that we have studied, such as hip hop fashion. In both cultures of Japanese "kawai" cute fashion and hop hop fashion, the trends are often informed by the consumer base. The difference I saw was that in Japan. the youth-driven fashion subcultures are even more hands on in many cases. Companies hire youth directly in order to get a sense of what's in style, and many prosperous designers had no training in fashion. They listen to their customers directly and buy and/or modify garments for their customers. The subcultures are distinct in ways that only members can really identify, and like in an fashion culture, authenticity is highly significant. (Kawamura, 2006)

I was quite surprised to see that a fashion trend in Japan was for teen girls to darken their skin and highlight their face with white makeup. I'm used to hearing about trends in Asia being along the lines of skin lightening, but this was skin darkening in exaggerated ways. Some girls are Snooky Jersey Shore tan and some are much darker, which would in America be perceived as blackface. These teens do it to be part of a certain cute culture. I'm not sure what their look accomplishes-- does it defy mainstream norms that prioritize lightness? Does it mimic American tanning culture? Is it just an outrageous way to use makeup to highlight and create a more white bone-structure?

I remember reading about another fashion trend in Japan within the last few years. A youth subculture in Japan popularized facial saline injections to make patterns protruding from their foreheads such as hills and bagels. (Clifton, 2011)

While many people, including myself, find this look alarming, I realize that it is no different from many other fashion trends. These saline injections dissipate within 24 hours, and help members of this subculture to feel connected to their group. Like any other subculture, members often use physical cues as symbols of their group membership and the values of that group. When I see someone sporting Teva sandals and a Nalgene bottle, I usually assume they are outdoorsy and have hippy values. When I see someone with Saline injections in their head that make fun 3D shapes, I'll probably associate them with that Japanese subculture that is similar to punk culture in America. It is a form of expression just like any other fashion trend. 


Clifton , J. (2011, August 28). Japanese bagelheads. Retrieved from

Kawamura, Y. (2006). Japanese teens as producers of street fashion. Current Sociology54(5), 784-801.

Blog #2

Thavy Duong

The Be Green challenge has been going pretty well for me. I went thrift store shopping once and bought used boots for $3. Other than that, I haven't bought anything aside from food. I am really on a tight budget right now, so I don't shop much anyway. Once I have extra money, I will probably struggle to avoid sale items and impulse purchases.

For class, we read about Hmong story cloths and how textiles can have great cultural and historical significance. The textiles have changed over time though, and have adapted to new situations and environments. For example, Hmong women were sometimes encouraged to "tone down" their bright colored cloths in favor of a more neutral and muted color palette in order to appeal to non-Hmong buyers. Within a contemporary American setting, Hmong textiles might continue to change because younger generations may not have the time or opportunity to learn traditional modes of embroidery.

I am not well-versed in Hmong history, and have only just begun to learn about Hmong culture and history. This section we've been studying on story cloths reminds me of the power of narrative. I think it's powerful to be able to tell your story, and story cloths are a way to both capture history and culture and express them through a practical and useable medium. Aside from the novel, The Spirit Catches You Fall Down, I have not read much else about Hmong experiences in mainstream outlets.

A year and a half ago, a controversial episode of NPR's Radiolab did a segment on Yellow Rain, a part of Hmong history. I was in an Asian American studies class at the time, and we were able to discuss it in class. I was infuriated at the show's lack of respect for their two Hmong guests, Kao Kalia Yang and her uncle, both experts in both Hmong history and experts in their own personal experiences. The show basically disregarded what Yang had to say, and badgered them in order to prove that Yellow Rain was a lie told by the Reagan Administration. They told Yang's uncle that what he saw was bee poop, and not chemical yellow rain, which Hmong people witnessed fall from airplanes. Their total disrespect for their guests, Hmong history, and the experiences and expertise of non-Western peoples disgusts me. This reminded me of our section on Orientalism. Through Radiolab's Western lens, they are able to legitimize and illegitimate the stories of Othered peoples and call it "truth". Afterall, Radiolab's mission is to use science and evidence to uncover the "truth".

An artist that I admire, Dinh Q. Le, often addresses cultural imperialism and the ways in which American media portrays Vietnam and the Vietnam War. He has done many textile art pieces, such as large tapestry-like pieces that juxtapose images of Vietnamese women in the ao dai and images from popular Vietnam War movies. His use of textile expresses narratives that deviate from mainstream media.

When I think of art, I've tended to think about film and fine arts such as painting and photography. However, this section in class helped me to see the cultural and historical significance of wearable textiles, not just quilts and rugs that hang in museums.


McCall, A. L. (1999). Speaking through cloth: Teaching Hmong history and culture through textile art. The Social Studies90(5), 230-236.

Truong, H. (2010, Feb 16). Dinh q. le at p.p.o.w.. Retrieved from

Yang, K. K. (2012, 8 12). The science of racism: Radiolab's treatment of hmong experience. Retrieved from

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Blog #3

Camilla Yuan 

This is the third week of the “Be Green Challenge.”  I have yet to break the challenge; however, I don’t know if my efforts should be applauded since I don’t usually buy clothes during the school year, unless I’m at home during the breaks.  I have noticed a need for more socks in my wardrobe, since the socks that I wear to practice in the mornings always get wet; I end up going through two pairs of socks in one day.  Luckily, my girlfriend is nice enough to lend me some socks throughout the week.  So that takes care of my need for more socks.  And since I’m able to get free coffee at Starbucks, I bring my thermos with me every time I have work—so that saves me 16 cents and reduces waste from the cup that I would need to use for the coffee. 

In 2004, the whole Abercrombie and Fitch ordeal started because the company pushed out a line of shirts that featured discriminatory and derogatory designs targeting Asian and Asian Americans.  The shirts had slogans that portrayed Asians and Asian Americans through stereotypical images, such as “Wok-N-Bowl—Let the Good Times Roll—Chinese Food & Bowling” and “Two Wongs make a White.”  These shirts caught the attention of many students of color that brought this case to court.  In the case, these students also brought forth the discriminatory actions of the Abercrombie and Fitch store managers, for instance, having a manager suggest that an employee of color work in the stock room or on the late night crew in a non-sales position, away from the front (NewsSource 13).  In the end, a settlement was reached and a change for a more diverse Abercrombie and Fitch was established.  One of the individuals who were part of the case commented that she is “looking forward to seeing a more diverse Abercrombie; one that actually reflects the look of America” (NewsSource 13). 

Now, fast forward to 2014.  During the Superbowl this year, a Coca-Cola commercial, featuring the singing of “America, the Beautiful” was aired.  This commercial stirred up controversy when it incorporated the singing of this iconic song in different languages by individuals of all ethnicities.  Coca-Cola wanted to demonstrate the “melting pot” characteristic of America and show how although we come from different backgrounds, we’re all still “American.”  Many viewers took this symbolic message as something to be applauded; however, some audiences took offense to the audacity of having “America, the Beautiful” represented in different languages.  One critic even tweeted “Dear @CocaCola: America the beautiful is snag in English.  Piss off.  #DontFuckWithUs”(Time).  The writer of this article even stated that this commercial brought out “America, the Ugly.” 

From these two instances, it’s safe to conclude that it can get pretty frustrating in the world of advertising.  With Abercrombie and Fitch, the company got in trouble for singling out and discriminating against people of color.  However, with Coca-Cola, controversy was sparked when an iconic song was sung in different languages by people of color.  I just think a middle ground needs to be found and having race be an issue in the year of 2014 is frustrating for me, since I think it’s sort of ridiculous for people to be riled up by a simple commercial that reflected the “look of America” (NewsSource 13).  

Here's the video:


"Abercrombie and Fitch Settles $40 Million Discrimination Suit." NewsSource 13. N.p., 2004. Web. 25
Feb. 2014. .

Poniewozik, James. "Coca-Cola's 'It's Beautiful' Super Bowl Ad Brings Out Some Ugly Americans."
Time: Entertainment. N.p., 2 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2014. 2014/02/02/coca-colas-its-beautiful-super-bowl-ad-brings-out-some-ugly-americans/>.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Blog #2

Timmy Huynh

In “Creating Identity, Defining Culture, and Making History from an Art Exhibit: An Unfinished Story: A Tribute to my Mothers,” by Valverde, I learned that there will always be haters. When artist Huynh Chau displayed a pedicure basin painted with the Republic Flag of Vietnam, she received a lot negative comments about her artwork from the Vietnamese diaspora community. Chau intended her art to mean one thing but the public interpreted as another. This goes to show that no matter what an artist creates. Some people are going to love it and some will dislike it.

While reading this article it reminded me of another one I read last autumn. It seems like anytime a minority in a America appropriates an iconic symbol from their childhood memory it’s controversial. Editorial cartoonist Vishavjit Singh, wore his favorite superhero costume, with the intention to challenge New Yorkers perception of superheroes. Singh received mixed feedback from the public. Some referred to him as a terrorist while others applauded him for being courageous. Do you like the turban Captain America?

Inside Source: Valverde, Kieu-Linh Caroline. 2008. "Creating Identity, Defining Culture, and Making History from an Art Exhibit: 'Unfinished Story: A Tribute to My Mothers'."Crossroads 19:2. Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University.

Outside Source: Vishavjit Singh. "Captain America in a turban" Salon News, 10 Sep. 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Blog #2

Culture as a Commodity

Amy Lee

         I was doing pretty well during the first half of the week of the challenge. In fact, I wasn't even thinking about it too much. I only focused on purchasing groceries because I've been trying to be more active and aware of my diet after midterms. I started going to the gym and taekwondo practice more. These activities didn't remind of of shopping for material things.

            My sleeping schedule has also been unstable so whenever I have free time, I try to catch up on sleep. This, combined with me wanting to save money, prevented me from buying unnecessary things like clothing. However, I've developed a new bad habit- online shopping, more like, online window shopping. I have to confess, this challenge was a tad more difficult than I expected. It's testing my will power. I usually don't shop for things other than groceries when I'm in Davis because there's only so many clothing stores here. However, I went home for the weekend for a concert and that's when I failed. I committed two violations this week.

          First violation- online shopping. As usual, I was browsing through facebook during my history class, and I saw that a thermos I've always wanted...was 70% off. It was a thermos made with DSLR lenses.  After I saw $14, tunnel vision kicked in. All my reasoning went out the window, I tuned out the professor's voice and next thing I know, my card was in my hand. I didn't even think of the Be Green challenge or the fact that I have a perfectly functioning thermos already. The only thing I was focusing on was what a great deal I was getting.

            Second violation- went to Forever21. I went back to San Francisco for a concert. I've been trying to plan out my outfit for the past week to make sure that I wont worry about it later. I had one ready. I thought I was all set. But once I got home, I started spending time with my sister and we went out to eat, then we went to buy school supplies. And then I started thinking about how I NEEDED a pair of waist high shorts because I didn't have one. I admit, I was rationalizing a violation. I bought a pair that was on sale...and I also bought two tops and a dress. I am 100% I don't need a new dress and I know I barely wear my old tops. After returning to Davis, I realized how impulsive I was and decided to return all my still tagged items.

             For this blog, I am going to focus on culture as a commodity and how it can be engrained in our consumer mindset. I'm not just talking about ethnic culture, I'm also talking about music and art culture. As many of you know, DSLR cameras have gotten popular over the years. I don't even own a camera but I was so excited to buy a thermos that represented it. As if I can take a photo with a thermos, a $14 DSLR that keeps my coffee warm. Ideas like photography is romanticized and now it doesn't just show through owning camera or being a photographer. Photography culture is also present in stationaries such as , and printed on tshirts. Concerts, music, raves, more specifically edm culture, also has step up a new standard on what is "fashion appropriate" in those environments. Colorful beaded bracelets and  lingerie are normal. Before raves, the last time I ever wore a beaded bracelet was in elementary school.

         In Ava L. McCall's "Speaking through Cloth: Teaching Hmong History and Culture through Textile Art." The significance of Hmong culture is represented through their prints. Not only do the textiles hold a visual purpose, but it also tells a story. Different pieces can represent a different sub group. Today, you can see a Hmong print on a Forever21 shirt and have no idea that its Hmong. Fashion is always changing, and it's changing faster than ever. Another example of how culture has become 
more of a commodity is the annual Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco. Every year, more and more chain companies and their floats are present: McDonalds, Toyota, and multiple banks. To them,
 this cultural celebration is just another chance to advertise. 
         I know that what I purchased this week won't stay with me for long because I have no sentiments towards them. They are simply trends. America thrives on consumerism. In a discussion in my ASA100, we talked about how the US is the only country that makes their people pay for their university education. "Citizenship is awarded to those who pay taxes, consume, and are self sufficient" (Carlson).

Inside Source: Mccall, Ava L. "More than a Pretty Cloth: Teaching Hmong History and Culture through Textile Art." Theory & Research in Social Education 25.2 (1997): 137-67. Print.

Outside Source: StAtistics Bureau of Japan. "How Other Countries Manage Paying for College."International Business Times - International Business News, Financial News, Market News, Politics, Forex, Commodities. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

Blog #2 by Yee Xiong

Week two of the challenge has been quiet... I haven't visited any stores or bought anything new--I've been recycling a lot of my clothing--I think a few people have noticed, but it really doesn't bother me. For this week's reading, I refreshed myself with some history behind the Hmong motifs that are sewn in Hmong clothing. In McCall's article, "Speaking through Cloth: Teaching Hmong History and Culture through Textile Arts", the author illustrates the history behind the story cloths and the hand sewn textiles. Ever since I was young, I was sewing these motifs into these cross stitching fabrics without know what it meant; it wasn't until more recently when I became more interested in the meaning behind the motifs that I started researching more into what it meant. I realized that sewing had become a lost art within the Hmong community; not very many 2nd generation students sew anymore. Although there has been a sort of revival for Hmong designs from some Hmong community members, it has not been loud enough to receive recognition compared to more successful non Hmong designers. 

Just recently, a set of Hmong-designed patterned scarves were being sold at the Hmong Festival New Years. This sparked a huge interest in customers who identified as Hmong. This had never been done before and it was so popular that most of my Hmong friends had one. For a moment, I thought it was cool to have one, however, I also didn't have second thoughts until later when the feeling of exploitation came up. I vowed to myself not to get one no matter how nice it looked, but the following week, my cousin had bought me a Hmong-designed scarf! Overall, I don't feel too bad because someone else had bought it, but I also have a terrible feeling because whether I bought it or not, the person buying has already participated in the role of consumerism.  

Now that Hmong-designed clothing are popping everywhere now, I hope people will appreciate it whenever they do see it being worn by somebody. The act of sewing is a very important aspect of Hmong traditional clothing and it is crucial to understand what the motifs mean in order to better understand the Hmong culture. Here is an example of a Hmong-designed clothing, made by a successful non-Hmong (actually Vietnamese) designer who sells her clothing for $300+ an item. Most of the reason why this designer is successful is because of her unique background: she was born in Vietnam but moved to Germany when she was very young. She has had a better upbringing and more resources to help with her upward mobility in the fashion industry compared to other Hmong designers who are still trying to make a name for themselves in the Hmong community. (THU THU)

For more information, visit her site:

Inside Source:  Ava L. McCall. Speaking through Cloth: Teaching Hmong History and Culture through Textile Arts.” Reader. 
Outside Source:

Blog #2

Vietnamese Ao Dai, the Bridge between Vietnamese Americans and their homeland

Vy Nguyen

I have been thinking about the possibility of applying the Be Green Challenge into purchasing an ao dai. The idea is not about buying a second-hand ao dai from somebody else, yet commits in consuming an ethnic necessity to satisfy one's curiosity. As much as Professor Valverde emphasizes how an ao dai is supposed to design to fit on one's body shape, I'm still tempted to research on how it feels to own an ao dai that does not specifically design for the wearer. My cousin, an American-born Vietnamese who owns a pre-made ao dai, responded to my question with pride and appreciation, "I love my ao dai, because it connects me to my Vietnamese American community and it's great to wear during Tet."

These are samples of pre-made ao dai, which is not fitted to the girls' bodies.

The history of the ao dai is heavily political. In class, I learned that the ao dai does not only symbolize purity and cultural aesthetics, but proclaims a political statement by "South Vietnamese" during the Vietnamese War or the "diaspora community" in present term. Indeed, the revival of the ao dai after the Economic Reform (Đổi Mới) in 1986 demonstrated the impact of diaspora community on their homeland.

In Valverde's article, Creating Identity, Defining Culture, and Making History from an Art Exhibit: 'Unfinished Story: A Tribute to My Mothers', she wrote about Chau Huynh and her seven artistic pieces presenting her personal experiences living under a communist family and marrying to a Vietnamese American husband. Her struggles of "being in the buffer zone" is similar to the political standpoint of the ao dai that leads to the question: Where does Chau Huynh/ ao dai belong in this society that simply rejects the beauty of growing out of the bloody past? 

In addition, in Lieu's book The American Dream in Vietnamese discusses a lot about how Vietnamese pageantry requires contestants to wear ao dai as "they ensure the continuance of gendered Vietnamese cultural practice" (Lieu, 67).

A poster of Miss Vietnam of Northern California in 2014

The ao dai should not be a Vietnamese or Vietnamese American ethnic clothing. It is my choice of fashion that speaks about my identity being a Vietnamese international student in California. It can also be your piece of fashion statement celebrating the Vietnamese American flag during Tet. That's why let stop putting political pressures for people my Chau Huynh who has the equal right to share about her living experience as much as other non-communist beings!

Inside source: Valverde, Kieu-Linh Caroline. 2008. "Creating Identity, Defining Culture, and Making History from an Art Exhibit: 'Unfinished Story: A Tribute to My Mothers'."Crossroads 19:2. Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University.  

Outside source: Lieu, Nhi T. "Pageantry and Nostalgia." The American Dream in Vietnamese. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2011. N. pag. Print.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Blog #2

Michelle Tin

Today marks the end of week two of the Be Green Challenge, and I am ashamed to admit that I have already cracked. As expected, it was no problem for me to avoid unnecessary spending at school. Unfortunately, I went home last weekend, and, as predicted, I was faced with consumerism as a means of social interaction.

Before even returning home, I knew I didn't stand a chance.
My best friend texted me saying she was going to be home for the weekend and wanted a day of pampering on Sunday. She wanted the works: hair cut, manicure, pedicure, and eyebrow threading. How was I going to follow her around all day and do nothing? I decided to maybe get a manicure but otherwise abide by the challenge for the rest of the weekend.

Then, Saturday came. I had been sitting for hours driving home and was in dire need of some physical activity, so my mother and I walked around a mall. I had little to no intention of purchasing anything and told my mother about the challenge. Sadly, one walk around the mall and two shopping bags later, I was done. We first went to Hollister, where they had an additional 50% off of select items. I could not pass up the opportunity to get a new work blouse and comfy t-shirt on sale! My mom paid for this purchase, so I technically was still adhering to the challenge. We went on to Forever 21, where I purchased a maxi skirt and a couple new necklaces for work. I used an old gift card, so I also kind of didn't spend money, but I did still give in to consumerism and supported Forever 21, a company I would later learn to be exploitative and deplorable. As we walked back to the car, I felt so ashamed that I had given up so quickly. I tried to reason that most of my purchases were for work, and my mother tried to reason that it was our "bonding time."

Having realized that I was already done, I gave up and let myself get a manicure on Sunday. As we sat there, allowing a friendly Vietnamese couple paint our nails, I couldn't help but wonder how they ended up in the stereotypically Vietnamese-dominated profession. I tried to ask the woman some questions, but didn't know what would be considered too personal as it was only my second time getting a manicure. I was able to find out that she had been in the business for about 15 years, and they had a son who was embarrassed when his father had nail polish on his hands after a day at the salon. Three girls came in with their grandmother. Apparently, the mother had insisted on manicures and pedicures for two of the girls. One girl said a pedicure wasn't necessary as the last one was still fine, but the grandmother was adamant that the mother had specified mani/pedi, and that was that. The grandmother left, and the girls proceeded to get their nails done. It amazed me that teenage girls were getting there nails done on a regular basis, and not only that, but that it was demanded of them by their mother. While my friend and I made an effort to talk to the couple, these girls were on their phones the whole time and hardly acknowledged the person doing their nails. It never ceases to amaze and disgust me how people treat salespeople and other service people. If only it was clear to everyone that these are PEOPLE, not OBJECTS, but I digress.

Employee Hani Khan is alleging that she was fired from the Abercrombie outlet where she worked in California for wearing a headscarf.

Hani Khan, a former stockroom worker at a Hollister Co. store in San Mateo, Calif, claims she was fired for refusing to remove her Muslim headscarf.

Hani Khan, a former stockroom worker at a Hollister Co. store in San Mateo.

The article "Abercrombie and Fitch Settles $40 Million Discrimination Suit," particularly stuck out to me because I shopped at Hollister, a store under Abercrombie and Fitch Co. The article mentions the racial discrimination in employment practices at the stores, and I have read about both racial and religious discrimination at Hollister Co. stores in the past. Around my hometown, there is a large Asian American population, so the employees are a fairly even mixture of Asian and Caucasian. However, reading the "uniform" requirements, it was apparent that they were determined to only allow a particular type of person to work there and wanted a specific look. Reading that a Hollister employee was fired for refusing to take off her headscarf or that Asian Americans were denied employment for advertisement or associate positions is something that needs to be brought to attention more often. Only the ignorant would believe that racial discrimination is a thing of the past.

I deeply apologize for this blog turned semi-rant, but I just feel that although I did fail to stick to the Be Green Challenge, my eyes opened up to a multitude of problems in our consumerist society.

Sources: "Abercrombie and Fitch Settles $40 Million Discrimination Suit." Reader.

The Associated Press. "Federal judge rules Abercrombie & Fitch wrongly fired Muslim woman who wore a headscarf." NY Daily News. 2013.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Blog #2

Blog #2
Christina Nguyen 

Simultaneously with the Be Green Challenge, I have been partaking in a “practicing poverty” challenge in my Global Poverty course. For this assignment, we are asked to live off of $3 a day for a couple days to simulate what it would feel like to live in poverty. Rather than limiting product/material consumption, this challenge focuses on food consumption. It has been an interesting experience since I have mostly been eating rice and beans or rice and eggs. While doing this, we are asked to also record a meal dairy that documents how much items cost and our calories. This assignment has made me very well aware and conscious of what I am consuming, the cost of food items/choices, and the impact it has on my body. For this assignment, I started getting more creative in buying in bulk so to get the most out of my money. While this challenge has been difficult, the Be Green Challenge has not been as hard. Part of this has to do with the fact that I am used to buying second hand. The other part has to do with the fact that I have hit midterm season. Being busy with school and work has done wonders in preventing me from having the time to think about shopping or even to go shopping. I anticipate that once midterm season passes and I have more time I may be tempted to buy things. While I can make purchases from thrift stores, I hope to even limit that and to be critical of the things I have, my needs and my wants.

In “Creating Identity, Defining Culture, and Making History from an Art Exhibit: An Unfinished Story: A Tribute to my Mothers,” Valverde writes about Huynh Chau and the controversy surrounding her art. Chau had created an art piece titled “Pedicure Basin” which illustrated the handwork, dedication, and sacrifice of her mother-in-law. Chau had been asked to translate her personal statement on her work so that it could be published to the Nguoi Viet Daily. The Vietnamese diaspora community reacted negatively to her art and claimed that she was being disrespectful to the Republic of Vietnam since the flag is painted into a pedicure basin. Furthermore, both the newspaper and artists were believed to be linked to communist Vietnam. Eventually the edition the article appeared in was recalled and the editors fired.

"Pedicure Basin"

Despite the fact that Chau had intended it to mean something completely different, others did not see it the same way, which resulted in the controversy. This goes to show how symbols, signs, and art can vary in meaning depending on the eye of the beholder. Controversy over meaning is also seen in the fashion. There has been debate around the kaffiyeh as a fashion statement versus its political and cultural origins. Urban Outfitters had tried to monopolize on this type of scarf through selling it at its stores as an “anti-war woven scarf.” Eventually, the store stopped selling the item and released an apology. Originally, the kaffiyeh was worn by Palestinian peasants but with time became a symbol of nationalism and resistance against Israel. Some Jews on the other hand do not see the kaffiyeh in this way rather they see it as a symbol of terrorism. Thus, depending on your background, how you interpret the kaffiyeh and its meaning will change.

Palestinian men wearing Kaffiyeh

Inside Source:Valverde, Kieu-Linh Caroline. 2008. "Creating Identity, Defining Culture, and Making History from an Art Exhibit: 'Unfinished Story: A Tribute to My Mothers'."Crossroads 19:2. Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University.

Outside Source: Kim, Kibum. "Where Some See Fashion, Others See Politics." The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 Feb. 2007. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Blog # 2

Barbara Peanh

After finishing up my first week of the Be Green Challenge, I find myself struggling. Last week I vowed that I would be more consumer conscious by being an ethical, green, and an activist consumer who would stop stalking online shops to deter me from spending. I faltered miserably because I constantly find myself on websites just online window shopping. Although I didn't actually buy anything or had any intentions to, going on these retail websites are just as bad because I'm exposing myself to new styles and new trends that I am psyching myself into wanting and buying.  On the other hand, I have done a pretty decent job in not consuming this past week. The only few things I purchased were hygiene essentials necessary for my upcoming trip and food because I don't have enough time to cook for myself. Also, considering Valentine's Day had just passed, I typically buy myself flowers (I know this is slightly pathetic) however I ended up taking some flowers home from work. A local flower shop distributed flowers at my workplace for the sake of advertising their business before the holiday, and I took them home instead. This was my way of making myself feel special, and ending the advertising techniques of this company to my customers so they don't consume plants and flowers just because it's a holiday.

For this week's reading, I read "Speaking through Cloth: Teaching Hmong History and Culture through Textile Art" and author Ava McCall explains how the Hmong clothing is very intricate. The textile artists use many layers and incorporate different signs and symbols that represent cultural beliefs, physical environment, and geometric patterns that represent Hmong people, culture, and lifestyle. Hmong girls are taught to sew at a very young age because all Hmong women are responsible for making the clothing for the entire family. Textile art is very unique on clothing because it helps Hmong people culturally identify families. For example White Hmong women wear black plants or white pleated skirts with embroidered aprons and highly decorated shirts and collars.

Reading this article reminds me of fashion branding and having distinct and unique pieces or trends which encourage people to consume items such as clothing garments. For Hmong people, their clothing is a representation and tangible display of their culture. In the article, Chao Yang says "Even if you are really poor, you have to get some design on the collar of the shirt. You could not wear it without a design." This statement is very true and reflects how brands affect fashion in our modern day consumption. The brands and logos similar to the Hmong textile art, is necessary for authenticity and identification of the brand. For example when one think of Missoni, the iconic Missoni zig zag print is associated with the brand. Missoni's way of luring in their consumers is by having "iconic patterns that appreciate the heritage of the brand, modernized with fashion silhouettes and on-trend color, keep the Neiman Marcus customer coming back season after season" (Ken Downing). Such unique textile arts like Hmong clothing and the Missoni pattern is what contributes high consumption of garments for those who are especially into fashion.

McCall, A. "Speaking through Cloth: Teaching Hmong History and CUlture through Textile Art." The Social Studies; Sept/ Oct 1999; 90, 5; Ethnic News Watch. Page 230.

Binkley, C. "How Missoni Keeps Iconic Brand Fresh." The Wall Street Journal: Life and Culture. Retrieved from

Hmong women in traditional clothing at New Years celebration in Fresno.
Decorated shirts and collars*

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Blog #2

Camilla Yuan

So this is week 2 of the "Be Green Challenge."  I bought groceries earlier this week and since food is a necessity, I don't think I've broken the rules yet. Because of the amount of school work piling up and the stress of rowing, shopping and buying clothes are the last things that I've been thinking about.

Our discussion in lecture last Wednesday further explained the cycle of the consumerist society and how fragmented this business has become through the years.  I've realized that as a result of our ways to keep wanting to consume and buy things, we've indirectly created a perpetual mess of supply and demand.  We create the demand for things and businesses find ways to supply our demands.  If individuals were to find out about the exploitation exhibited on workers by the businesses, it would take a lot of time in order for individuals to see changes in the industry as a result of their protesting.  As seen from the documentary in class, the immigrant workers protested for about three years before reaching an agreement with the head of Forever 21.  I think it would be difficult to implement change in these kind of systems because a business has become fragmented into many different segments (production, manufacturing, etc), so that it's hard to pin point where the change needs to occur.

In Kieu-linh Caroline Valverde's article, Chau Huynh features an exhibit consisting of seven hand-made quilts and one installiation and in return, she received many negative comments about her pieces, which are deemed controversial.  One of the main arguments in the article explained how one art piece could create many interpretations.  The sentiments surrounding a piece is purely subjective, leaving it up to the audience to decide how they feel about the piece.  Because art is supposed to create a reaction, "art, and places that display art, can shape what is considered acceptable cultural production in a society" (38).  In Huynh's case, she felt that she was creating quilts from stories that she remembered growing up and paid homage to figures in her life.  However, she was criticized for those pieces by the Vietnamese public, even deeming one of her pieces as "purposely trying to defile the South Vietnamese flag" (43).

The same controversial sentiments can be connected to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  In an effort to commemorate the war, she designed a memorial using black granite and having the overall piece be submerged into the earth as a horizontal plane.  After the memorial was built, many critics felt that the "extreme visual simplicity of Lin's monument made it easy for critics to utilize it in a concurrent debate about the merits of minimalist sculptures as public artworks" ( Many veterans also thought that the mirror-like surface of granite reflected the guilt that the American society had while at war with Vietnam.  The connection between the work of Chau Huynh and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the idea of artistic perspective--how one interprets things for oneself.  


Valverde, Kieu-Linh Caroline. 2008. "Creating Identity, Defining Culture, and Making History from an Art Exhibit: 'Unfinished Story: A Tribute to My Mothers'." Crossroads 19:2. Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University.  

Wolfson, Elizabeth. "The 'Black Gash of Shame': Revisiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Controversy." Art 21. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.

Blog #1 - Forever 21 continues to disappoint me! 
Vy Nguyen

My first weekend of participating in the “Be Green Challenge” ironically started at Forever 21 shop in Valley Fair Mall with my cousin Hang who recently comes to the United States for school. Upon her request, we ended up at Forever 21 buying more than hundred dollars worth of clothing and handbags. Since I just saw the lawsuit against Forever 21's unethical practice on immigrant workers from the movie “Made in L.A” in class this week, I felt obligated to inform my cousin about the products she was buying. Just as expected, she said the lawsuit had nothing to do with her, especially when she will only be living in California for the next three years for graduate school. According to Hang, Forever 21 is “so cheap and trendy just like any self-opened clothing shops in Saigon”. From my experience, I was amazed how Forever 21 can publicly sell designer bag imitations for so cheap without anyone reporting.
The specific imitation that I saw was the 3.1 Phillip Lim leather handbag which supposes to cost $895. The Forever 21 imitation looks almost identical with the mock-off price of around $40. Seeing teenagers grabbing these bags one by one from the display table reminded me of the comment my classmate said, “It is also the consumers' fault for purchasing and supporting business like Forever 21”. As much as I hope that this case is similar to the Phillip Lim handbag sale at Target, Forever 21 gave no credit to the designer and shamelessly put Forever 21 tag on the handbag. Credit to the article “Santa's Sweatshop” by Holstein, Palmer, Ur-Rehman and Ito, most young consumers are unaware of where these clothes are made. As these authors stressed “what Americans buy is their most direct and intimate connection with a global economy”, it is crucial that we - educated consumers - understand the interconnection and transnational relation of these clothing. Once there is a demand of trendy and cheap clothing, Forever 21 or any business alike will always make great bucks! In the end, whose fault is it to blame? 

Inside source: Holstein, William J., et al. "Santa's sweatshop." US News & World Report 50 (1996).
Outside source: "Forever 21 Mock-off." Personal interview. 16 Feb. 2014.

Blog #1

James Kim

     For the record, I absolutely love thrifting and I couldn't be more excited to apply the concept of sustainability and "being green" to a classroom setting. I feel as though this challenge is a bit of a continuation of what I've been doing for years, but with the added pressure of abstaining from purchasing anything beyond the periphery of second-hand stores. I have to say, it pains me to let a J. Crew spring sale go like that and I might even shed a little tear. Fortunately for me, I was at Bohéme the other day and found the most beautiful Alexander McQueen blazer for only fifty dollars with a previous price tag of nearly fifteen hundred dollars; so maybe this challenge is somewhat of a blessing in disguise for me? It was almost as if the stars aligned and fate brought us together—to have and to hold, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.
     But in all seriousness, modern day fashion has taken such a fucked up direction as globalization evolves and the overall demand for clothing at an affordable price increases. Corporations and business conglomerates, like Nike and Forever 21, have taken a Fordist, assembly-line approach to design, perpetuating global consumerism and exploitive practices in the garment industry. As read in Mayer's article, these industries capitalize upon the vulnerability of undocumented immigrant workers and, not only decrease their pay below minimum wage, but also threaten and nearly control the very existences and lives of their exploited employees. In addition, Palmer's article claims that these industries also deter people from even realizing that these workers are exploited under poor and dangerous working conditions, therefore, invisibilizing and propagating these problems and this systematic form of oppression.
     As consumers, what we can do to combat this seemingly endless cycle of exploitation is to purchase products from countries that do not practice exploitive methods of human labor and be wary and cautious of where our goods are manufactured. Why not invest your money in quality goods that will last you a lifetime rather than conform to "fast fashion" and consumerism? If we all had this mentality, these issues would cease to exist; but the lack of solidarity and education prevents our community from progressing in a holistic and sustainable demeanor.
     I recommend watching this Yale lecture on "Marx's theory of Class and exploitation" as it does a really wonderful job of explaining the Marxist ideology behind capitalism and consumerism that we didn't see in class. It's more interesting than pertinent, but hopefully you learn something from it!

Inside Source: Holstein, William J., et al. "Santa's sweatshop." US News & World Report 50 (1996).
Outside Source: Mayer, Robert. "Sweatshops, Exploitation, and Moral Responsibility." JOURNAL of SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY. Vol. 38.No. 4 (Winter 2007): 605–619. Web. 16 Feb. 2014. .

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Blog #1

by Thavy Duong

In the last few years, I started to cut back on my shopping habits. Sometimes I still go to Target for tights or to HM for $5 sales, but I often get clothes from friends who are getting rid of things, from my parents ( who frequently buy second-hand from flea markets) and from thrift shops and consignment stores. I like to pretend I do it all to be green and fight consumerism, but really, I also do it to save money and sometimes to have "unique" and stylish items that are more prevalent and affordable at thrift stores. For the most part, I think that my actions, however small and individual, make an impact. And that my part is important in collective action. But there are other times when I feel that the problem is so large-- that the systems of oppression engrained in our economic system and social practices are so beyond repair-- that there is no truly ethical way to be a part of contemporary society. Although that sounds bleak, I try my best to navigate within my means to align my actions with my values. But I definitely often feel like a hypocrite. I think that there is a lot more I can do to be more sustainable and ethical in my daily consumption. Aside from avoiding buying new things, I will try to pay more attention to whether other products I buy are ethically produced-- like coffee and chocolate.

I read about a new Canadian company, Local Buttons, that aims to address both environmental and social issues by up-cycling second hand clothes delivered in abundance to Haiti. The company's aims are to bring jobs to Haiti by basing their manufacturing there and reducing clothing waste by recycling clothes. It is interesting though, that they are in a way outsourcing, but with intentions of social justice. After their garments are sewed by locals in Haiti, they are shipped to the US, where they are sold in pop-up shops and an online boutique. I find it interesting that the founders mention that they would have loved to be able to be based in the NYC garment industry, but it wasn't logistically possible because, "Who would sew?" So I'm wondering whether they, like larger transnational companies, feel like it's impossible to be based in the US and stay within a desired price-point, or if they feel it is preferable to go abroad for humanitarian reasons to that they bring jobs to a third world country.
Local Buttons Interview

One of the articles for class, called "Santa's Sweatshop," helped me to understand the process of subcontracting, which many large scale clothing companies make use of in order to maximize profits. What many US companies do is subcontract labor to another country. The company is then able to absolve accountability for unethical labor practices by claiming they were not aware or in control of the labor supplied by abroad subcontractors. Although they profit heavily from subcontractors' exploitation of laborers, they do not take responsibility for it. I see this pattern of subcontracting a lot-- in clothing manufacturing and in other consumer goods. Although it seems obvious to me that companies know very well that they benefit from labor exploitation, laws continue to favor transnational corporations. Although the article ended on a positive note by featuring a list of ways consumers can make an impact (by researching companies' labor practices before buying and by only buying from ethical companies), the problem won't really be resolved without changes in government policy so that laws don't favor corporate interests over human rights. In the film we watched in class about the Forever 21 boycott, the judge initially threw out the case because Forever 21 was not held legally accountable for profiting from exploitative subcontracting.
On page 8 of "Santa's Sweatshop", the paragraph starting with, "What makes the issue so staggeringly complex is that the current system of global sourcing isn't all bad," leaves me a bit taken aback. The authors go on to explain, "today's Third World Nation can be tomorrow's success story. Take South Korea. A decade or so ago, Nike had most of its sneakers manufactured there; now South Korea has evolved into an industrial powerhouse with a higher living standard, and Nike makes most of its shoes in Indonesia and China." (Holstein et al 8) I agree that the issue is very complicated. However, I find their rationale problematic because it seems to implicitly support exploitative labor hierarchies by saying that it could all be worth it some day if those countries become "developed" capitalistically. I guess the ends justify the means? I find their neoliberal lens unsurprising, but frustrating for me, because I see the current set-up as systematically flawed.

In a journal article, entitled "The New Feudalism: Globalization, the Market, and the Great Chain of Consumption," the author describes how free market ideology boasts itself as the ultimate form of egalitarian democracy. It argues, though, that the free market is undemocratic in nature because the vast majority of power and wealth remain in the hands of the few (corporations). And we as citizens accept our oppression because we have a culture that fosters good faith that the free market will take care of everything if left undisturbed (by government intervention). The article argues that free marketology (or neoliberalism) is a regression to styles of Feudal governance, in which wealth is in the hands of the few royal. I think it's an interesting take on our current situation and foreshadows an inevitable growth in wealth disparities if nothing changes.

                                                                  Works Cited 

Duvall. (2003). The New Feudalism: Globalization, the Market, and the Great Chain of
          Consumption. New Political Science, 25(1), 81-97.
          doi: 10.1080/0739314032000071244.

Holstein, Palmer, Ur-Rehman and Ito. "Santa's Sweatshop: In a GLobal Economy, It's
          Hard to Know Who Made Your Gift-- And Under What Conditions." Reader.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Blog #1

 Timmy Huynh

Our professor asked us to participate in a anti-consumer culture, pro-green movement for the next four weeks. The purpose of this challenge is to see how long we can go without purchasing new items, learn to use our community and become smart consumers.

In the book Fashion-ology, Kawamura states that cultures use fashion as a symbolic strategy to communicate, consume and create an image or symbol for themselves (94). Yeah I can see how this is true. In lecture Professor Valverde mention national aesthetics and how it is used to strategically organize and branded to create a ideology or image. Countries do this too. In the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Prince Hubertus of Hohenlohe-Langenburg skies in a Mariachi-style ski suit for the country he was born in. Although he won't medal this year, his background story is inspiring. According to Latin Times, He founded the Mexican Ski Federation at the age of 21.  I love the design of his uniform. It is both stylish and functional at the same time.  What do y’all think? Yay or nay? Is this "fashion propaganda?"

Inside source: Kawamura, Y. Fashion-ology: An Introduction to Fashion Studies. "Consumption and Social Status."

Outside source: Longo, Donovan . "When Does Hubertus Von Hohenlohe Compete In Sochi? Find Out When To See Olympic Mexican Skier Go For Gold In Mariachi Suit." Latin Times. N.p., 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 12 Feb. 2014. .

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Blog #1

Camilla Yuan

So the next seven days marks the first week of the "Be Green Challenge."  In this movement, the goal is to not purchase anything "new" from a store or website and if we do, then we would have to either buy it second-hand or borrow it from a friend, the exceptions would be any kind of necessity.  The challenge is to see how long we can last without purchasing an item that has not been used.  Through restraining our spending, we can create an awareness of how much we are spending and the consequences of consumerism. 

In our society, consumerism has a become a norm.  People are always purchasing items left-and-right, satisfying whatever needs they have with objects that they think they need.  We often assume that brands are the means to acceptance in social groups, "whether their power is in high-end brands like Mercedes that provide entry into the elite, or low-priced options like Target and Ikea that uplift the populace with a sense of style" (Praet 48).  It is basically human nature to have a desire to want to purchase something that is new, trendy, and fashionable. From a different angle, Palmer's article discusses consumerism from the perspective of the controversial labor that is put behind a product.  Many consumerists fail to recognize the poor conditions of the laborers that actually make the final product because of our privileged society.  Palmer also brings up the point that "what may appear to be horrific working environments to most citizens in the world's richest nation are not just acceptable but actually attractive to others who live overseas or even in 'Third World pockets' of the United States" (1).  The perspective that underprivileged individuals do find horrible working conditions attractive demonstrates how dysfunction our society can be. However, with eye-opening articles, such as this one, and campaigns that bring awareness to our consumerist ways, we can combat the injustices that we indirectly put in. 

I think that this challenge will not be too difficult for me.  Because I know how much of a budget-crunching type situation that I am in, I try to not buy anything I do not really need.  However, if something still catches my eye after a good week or two of wondering whether I should get it, then I would probably take the plunge and buy it.  And plus, I do not really have the time to go shopping, or even online shopping--I am too busy with school, rowing, and work.  Usually the only time that I do splurge on clothing is when I am at home for the breaks and my dad agrees to pay for things :)  Although I think this challenge will be easy for me, I can also use this opportunity to gain an awareness of our spending habits, the world of consumerism, and how consumerism can cause social and environmental stresses.

Inside Source: Holstein, William J., et al. "Santa's sweatshop." US News & World Report 50 (1996).

Outside Source: Van Praet, Douglas. Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (And Inspire) Marketing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print. 

Blog #1 by Yee Xiong

In a world that thrives on capitalism, it is important to remember the drawbacks from high-end designs. Even the computer that I own came somewhere from the other side of the world by sweatshop laborers I will probably never get to meet in my lifetime. I became environmentally conscious a few years ago when I took a on a class project that dealt with the science and energy behind high end products such as Nike. After heavy research, my conscious became extremely guilty for every brand name product I ever purchased. I realized that high end products was the result of blood, sweat, and tears of workers trying to earn a few cents a day. Ever since this (rather late) realization, I became more conscious about what I bought and where I purchased my needs and wants. Brand names are what sell, and not quality items anymore; however, people can be loyal customers to brand names and this can be a political stance toward consumerism. Going on this "challenge" to be green is not much of a challenge for me since I have started before today. The last time I shopped was last summer when I was in London. However, I will continue on this journey to not participate in consuming items that are not a necessity or vital to my health. In Korzeniewicz's article, “Global Commodity Networks and the Leather Footwear Industry: Emerging Forms of Economic Organization in a Postmodern World”, he illustrates the local to international networks and how it works to help generate global commodity markets. To raise awareness about consumerism and to also challenge others to go green, here is an interesting and fun fact about how much water it takes to make every day items: Sources:

Blog #1

Barbara Peanh

Starting today, I will be participating in the "Be Green, Anti-Consumerism Campaign." The movement encourages people to buy less of their "wants" and really focus on our true needs and necessities in order to rid our lives of excess and hoarding. However if we do buy things, we should do so by re-using, recycling, and purchasing items that are second handed. The movement in itself is a great way for people to break out of the unconscious socialization we are all partaking in while living in this consumerist world filled with great marketing techniques, advertisements, and material goods we believe we need. For example, in "Fashion-ology," Yuniya Kawamura talks about Veblen's study of conspicuous consumption and how people acquire goods to compete with each other as social symbols of status and social position. Therefore, we buy things more so to assume an identity we want to be perceived as by using things to impress those we don't care about and are stuck in a devilish cycle of consuming.

This will be an amazing opportunity for me to personally challenge myself and my horrible consumer habits. I acknowledge that I am a terrible consumer because I know I shouldn't buy "things", but it's an addiction that for the most part that I cannot help, or at least have not tried to relinquish. My addiction most definitely started when I first started working after high school in retail at Gap, thus constantly being surrounded by clothes. Also, being the youngest of five, I grew up always wearing my older sisters' out of date, hand-me down clothing. Once I started working, I gained a new sense of power by having my own paycheck and my own money to spend which resulted in me going haywire and buying whatever it is that I want.

However, by participating in this movement for the next four weeks I will learn to fight consumerism by being an "ethical consumer, green consumer, and the activist consumer" (Sands, The Conversation). These three groups of consumers are necessary for consumer resistance with retail and assume the role of a citizen, activist, or rebel according to Sean Sands, a researcher for Retail Studies. These groups are also supportive and political of social movements against corporate dominance. By being an ethical consumer, I will think constantly about my purchases, or lack of them to remind myself that I do have enough. I will also make the conscious effort to stop stalking retail websites for the sake of browsing and being bored, because I tend to cave when I find something striking, or a striking price. I will be a green consumer by re-using or recycling my items, but most of all, I will save money. I will be an activist consumer by not supporting companies and organizations that have poor working conditions and no rights for their laborious garment workers.

Inside source: Kawamura, Y. Fashion-ology: An Introduction to Fashion Studies. "Consumption and Social Status." Pages 95-98.

Outside source: Sands, S. "The Anti Shopping Movement Goes Mainstream." The Conversation. Retrieved from

Welcome to the chaos I call a closet. This is one side of my closet, with sweaters and shirts folded on a rack under those blouses, two big bags filled with shoes in the hidden corner.. a 4 drawers that I cannot close, and a door full of scarves and jackets which are missing in action. 
 This "Be Green" challenge is necessary for me.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Blog #1

Christina Nguyen

Today marks week one of the “Be Green Challenge.” The rules outlining this compact challenge boil down to one essential thing: Do not by (new) products! This is of course excludes certain products such as medicines, hygiene products, or recreational services.  If I do desire to buy a product, then I must borrow or buy used.

I am looking forward to this this challenge since all throughout my life I have been buying a majority of things used at various thrift and second hand stores. When I was a little girl, my family would shop at Salvation Army and Goodwill because we did not have the luxury to afford new things.  Therefore, I do not anticipate this challenge to drastically change my lifestyle.

Palmer’s article discusses just how difficult it is to know where products are made and the poor work conditions of those employed by manufacturing factories. He argues that “if Americans respond to even some of these concerns, they could enjoy their shopping and improve the conditions that millions of people around the world encounter in their daily lives” (8). In the article, various steps are proposed to help consumers to become more conscious of items purchased including paying attention to where things are made or actively choosing not to purchase from countries tied with political regimes or has a history of inhuman and exploitative labor conditions.  Participating in the “Be Green Challenge” is another way to be proactive and to not feed directly into a system that often violates human rights.

Just participating in an anti-consumerism movement is not enough. Complacency is not a solution against human rights violations. Through purchasing power, consumers can place pressure on clothing and garment industry and corporations to enforce worker safety reform. An article by the NY Times outlines different approaches from Top –Down to Bottom-Up for addressing this issue. However true reform cannot be achieved until there is more of a standard for consumer and corporate social responsibility.

Inside Source: Holstein, William J., et al. "Santa's sweatshop." US News & World Report 50 (1996).

Outside Source: