From the ridiculous state of the presidential election and the leak of the Panama Papers, to the national conversations started by Twitter movements like #ConcernedStudent1950 and #OscarsSoWhite, 2015 and 2016 have made it impossible not to recognize the disorder embedded in the law and other institutions.
At best, what’s beneath the long black robe of justice is merely chaos in disguise, but sometimes more sinister forces are at play. This semester with “Law & Disorder,” kitsch is exploring how the arbiters of power in our society affect the order of our lives. Last issue, we chose the theme of “Binaries,” focusing on social constructions and how they govern behavior and identity. So it seemed like the natural next step to turn our attention to institutions and their role in creating and enforcing often-harmful norms.
To that end, some of our writers examined the complicity of governmental structures in marginalizing certain groups. Brendan Murphy argues that the CDC’s recent recommendations to women promote archaic gender roles. Katie O’Brien condemns the discriminatory “bathroom bills” that sanction violence against trans women under the guise of protecting cis women. And Nuha Fariha raises the veil over the U.S. immigration policies that oppress and silence South Asian refugees fleeing political violence.
Other writers looked to the social and political power of the entertainment and media industries. Nadine Fuller and Yana Makuwa discuss how celebrities can and should use their platform to affect positive change by looking at women pop stars and Trevor Noah. However, celebrity is not always a boon—Aelya Ehtasham criticizes the news media for creating reality TV stars out of political candidates.
As students, we can’t help but be concerned with the University as a system that governs us. Chris Skawski contemplates the CUPD’s role on campus, and its enforcement of not just the law but Cornell’s code of conduct. Jagravi Dave criticizes liberal arts schools’ Western-centric approach to teaching the humanities. And ILR Professor Liz Karns talked to us about Cornell’s lack of transparency on sexual assault, showing how an institution that is supposed to protect us can fail.
In light of all this, it is easy to feel hopeless about the pervasive control of institutions over every aspect of our lives. But we’re going to go ahead and take comfort in the fact that for every loudmouthed, bigoted, moralizing politician, there are hundreds of naive yet well-intentioned college students writing angry thinkpieces to try to prove them wrong.
Peace, love, and kitsch,
Katie O’Brien and Yana Makuwa