TALKING WHITE TRASH: MEDIATED REPRESENTATIONS AND LIVED EXPERIENCES OF WHITE WORKING-CLASS PEOPLE
In this book, I employ a multi-method approach to analyze how popular media articulates certain ideas about white working-class people and how those who identify as members of this population negotiate such articulations. A focus on white working-class people is timely given their increasing presence in media, particularly within reality television, and their widely recognized role in the recent election of Donald Trump. Rather than relying solely on analyses of mediated portrayals to contribute to understandings of a highly influential population, my work provides alternative stories that are rarely, if ever, found in popular media. These stories foreground the varied reactions and lived experiences of white working-class people and, as such, talk to, talk with, and talk back to mediated representations and dominant cultural ideas about this population.
WHEN PROFESSOR GUILT AND MOM GUILT COLLIDE: PANDEMIC PEDAGOGY FROM A PRECARIOUS PLACE
In this autoethnography, I explore a teaching failure I experienced during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. I illustrate how this failure was exacerbated by my precarious position in the academy as a new biological mother and a pre-tenure faculty member. I specifically explain the guilt I felt as a professor, how my attempts to eradicate it backfired and contributed to mom guilt—the feeling that I was not doing enough as a parent or a partner—and what I learned from this failure to enhance my pedagogical practice through the implementation of feminist pedagogy.
"OH SNAP!": A MIXED-METHODS APPROACH TO ANALYZING THE DARK SIDE OF SNAPCHAT
Snapchat, a multimedia messaging application, has over 300 million users and is currently the third most popular social media platform for young adults. Despite its popularity and unique ephemeral content, few studies examine how Snapchat is related to mental and relational health. The goal of this study therefore is to employ a mixed-methods approach to examine the dark side of Snapchat, paying close attention to how the behaviors and ephemeral content on this platform may be detrimental for young adults’ mental health and the quality of their romantic relationships. Quantitative data comes from 118 undergraduate students who completed an online survey. Qualitative data comes from 10 undergraduate students who participated in one-on-one, in-depth interviews and another 11 students who participated in two focus groups. Results reveal that intensity of Snapchat use is associated with lower mental health. Additionally, spending time on Snapchat, communicating with others on Snapchat, monitoring ex-partners on Snapchat, and using the Snap Map feature are associated with increased jealousy in romantic relationships. In short, Snapchat appears detrimental for young adults’ mental health and romantic relationships. The study concludes with practical advice for Snapchat users that may promote mental well-being and healthy romantic relationship development.
WICKED STEPMOTHER, BEST FRIEND, AND THE UNACCOUNTED SPACE BETWEEN: A CRITICAL DUOETHNOGRAPHY OF (STEP)M(OTHER)ING IN BLENDED FAMILIES
Blended families are increasingly common, yet, our understanding of these families— especially the role of stepmothers—is limited and lacks a critical focus. Such lack is a problem when recognizing that the stepmother is one of the most culturally stigmatized family positions. Guided by family systems theory, which recognizes the family as an interdependent system where roles are created and maintained through interactions, we seek to provide a deeper understanding of how stepmothers navigate the difficulties that accompany their stigmatized role. Instead of writing about the stepmother role in the family system from an outside perspective, we use critical duoethnography to write from inside the system by composing first-person, collaborative, reflexive accounts of our lived experiences as stepmothers that highlight the unique work we do within our blended families. Our accounts engage an intersectional lens where we embrace our layered identities—as stepmothers, women, feminists, and academics who hail from the working-class and have differing ethnic backgrounds—to write ourselves out of the simplistic, and often negative cultural ideas about stepmothers. Our primary goal is to provide a dynamic illustration of the nuanced, messy, and multifaceted experiences of (step)m(Other)ing—hence the strategic use of parentheses to encapsulate such experiences. We pinpoint the struggles we encounter in striving to find a balance between establishing a close bond with our (step)children and taking on a more authoritative parental role—all while the threat of the “wicked stepmother” stereotype looms over us. Ideally, our insider accounts help to untangle the lived experiences of stepmothers from the grip of a pervasive, distorted, denigrating, and essentializing cultural construct.
DIVORCE IN THE DIGITAL AGE:
A CYBER AUTOETHNOGRAPHIC EXPLORATION
In this article, I propose and use the method of cyber autoethnography to share my lived experience of divorce in the digital landscape and how I navigate this expansive, amorphous and increasingly complex terrain. My emphasis on the digital expands the realm of autoethnographic research, which has focused primarily on human experiences in physical places. I focus instead on human experiences, particularly those of divorce, in cyber spaces such as Facebook. My vulnerability stems from the recognition that deeper qualitative understandings are needed to help people better navigate their relational histories and futures online as our lives and thus our relationships become inextricably tethered to digital technology.
CONTEMPORARY AUTOETHNOGRAPHY IS DIGITAL AUTOETHNOGRAPHY: A PROPOSAL FOR MAINTAINING METHODOLOGICAL RELEVANCE IN CHANGING TIMES
Autoethnography has become legitimized through its ability to connect culture to personal experiences. This legitimization occurred alongside a titanic shift in communication made possible by digital technology, which has rapidly transformed, multiplied, and mediated the ways through which we engage one another. This essay explores and exemplifies the necessity of autoethnography to evolve in concert with the ways our lives have become inextricably tethered to digital technology. Due to this shift, we propose that contemporary autoethnography is digital autoethnography, a method we propose that relies on personal experience(s) to foreground how meaning is made among people occupying and connected to digital spaces. Digital autoethnography is distinguishable from traditional autoethnography because the cultures analyzed are not primarily physical; they are digital. In short, the work of digital autoethnography is situated within and concerned about digital spaces and the lived experiences, interactions, and meaning-making within and beside these contexts. Embracing digital autoethnography pushes us to consider and reflect upon the ways we have changed over time with the influx of digital technology. Additionally, the method provides a framework to keep autoethnography relevant in spite of the inevitable changes to human experience that will occur as digital connectivity becomes increasingly enmeshed in our everyday lives.
DIGGING IN: WHITE TRASH, TRAILER TRASH, AND THE IM(MOBILITY) OF WHITENESS
This book chapter focuses on the discursive strategies used to maintain and destabilize white identity and privilege. I specifically analyze the use of the word “trash” and its connection to the onslaught of mediated depictions of white working-class people who live in mobile homes and who, because of their socioeconomic status, are portrayed in particularly problematic ways. I argue that this connection between “trash” and mediated representations of the white working-class population is a discursive strategy that both reveals and reinforces the (im)mobility of whiteness. My use of parentheses within the word “(im)mobility “signifies and highlights a tension that lies at the crux of this work: the immobility of white working-class people, which is discursively constructed, functions to re-center and mobilize a particular type of whiteness—one that adheres to the class and racial etiquette required of white people to preserve their power and privilege.
TAKING OUT THE TRASH: USING CRITICAL AUTOETHNOGRAPHY TO CHALLENGE REPRESENTATIONS OF WHITE WORKING-CLASS PEOPLE IN POPULAR CULTURE
This essay focuses on the tension between mediated representations and lived experiences of white working-class people. At the root of this tension is the recognition that mediated representations of white working-class people do not adequately capture the complexity of their lived experiences. With this in mind, I use critical autoethnography to share personal experiences of white working-class people that challenge the one-dimensional “white trash” caricatures which flood popular culture. What emerges through this process is a more comprehensive mode of inquiry, one that evocatively challenges the essentialism and ridicule that permeates the media sites in which white working-class people are featured as well as highlights the complexity and immobility that pervades their everyday lives. In short, by using critical autoethnography, I am able to dig deeper into and remove the “trash” of “white trash.”
ACCOMPLISHING PLACE IN PUBLIC SPACE: AUTOETHNOGRAPHIC ACCOUNTS OF HOMELESSNESS
Recognizing the deep-seated need many people share for a sense of home, we employ autoethnography to illustrate how those who are homeless can make homelike places within public spaces. By revisiting and reflexively analyzing various accounts of homelessness as experienced by one of the authors, we show that home can be made through (a) re-appropriating public spaces, (b) harnessing feelings of safety, and (c) interacting with others. We conclude by discussing how this homemaking process not only reinforces the claim that many people desire home, but also motivates us to think about the ways in which public spaces might cater to this desire in an era of urban renewal.
HERE COMES HONEY BOO BOO: A CAUTIONARY TALE STARRING WHITE WORKING-CLASS PEOPLE
Depictions of white working-class people are steadily on the rise in reality television. To understand this phenomenon, and the ways in which it articulates white working-class people in the United States today, I analyze Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, a popular reality series on TLC featuring a self-described “redneck” family. I argue that this series highlights the family's inability—because of their working-class status—to conform to “ideal whiteness,” a whiteness that displays dominant cultural standards bolstered by neoliberalism, such as wealth, rationality, personal responsibility, and self-control. The family members consequently become exemplars of “inappropriate whiteness,” a marginal identity presented as humorous and, through the use of surveillance and spectacle, authentic.
FROM THE TRAILER PARK TO THE IVORY TOWER AND SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN: A CRITICAL AUTOETHNOGRAPHY OF CLASS PERFORMATIVITY IN ACADEME
Many academics hail from working-class backgrounds but there often is reluctance to reveal this information within the ivory tower—a space notoriously associated with privilege. This essay continues the work of unconventional scholars who yearn to debunk the common assumption that the academy is a space of middle-class homogeneity. Instead of denying my working-class identity, as I have done for the past decade, I embrace it. I share how the stigma of being a working-class woman in a presumed middle-class space is lived, felt, and managed via class performativity. My hope is that the stories I write provide a space of resistance for those in academe, specifically graduate students, who may not have the resources live up to its middle-class expectations. The larger this space can become, the greater potential there is for members of the academic community to accept and make a way for those with limited means.
SUDDEN DEATH, SUDDEN FRIEND: EXPLORING THE ROLE OF FRIENDSHIP IN CONTINUING BONDS WITH THE DECEASED
Challenging the dominant paradigm that relationships with the deceased must be terminated, our goal in this article is to exemplify how these relationships can be maintained. We demonstrate, in particular, how friends with a similar loss can help one another continue bonds with their deceased loved ones. Having both lost our mothers as young adults, we provide personal insight about this process and the ways in which our friendship has been influential in maintaining strong, posthumous connections with our mothers. By sharing our personal experiences, we illustrate that continuing bonds with the deceased is not a pathological choice, but rather a mechanism through which we can enrich our lives, open spaces for emotional growth, and understand ourselves as well as our deceased loved ones better.