Author: Katie Jeddeloh

Man buns highlight gender fluid expression

At St. Olaf College, the man bun seems an inescapable topic. Whether accompanied by a bandana, reined in with a headband or complemented with an undercut, man buns are everywhere and only growing in popularity on campus as well as in American culture as a whole.

The man bun can be considered a classic hippie hairstyle that has been around for decades, moving in and out of fashion but never entirely disappearing. Today, however, the man bun seems to be making its place as a men’s hairstyle mainstay and a contemporary cultural phenomenon. I argue that the man bun’s prominence is a reversal of traditional masculinity and a new fluidity to gender expression.

Traditional male hairstyles are short. Any men’s magazine will tell you the classic, clean-cut guy has short hair—nowhere near the lengths needed to pull up the mane into a bun—and society accepts this style as gender-normative for males. Collectively as a culture, we have decided the rigid rules for male hairstyle as part of gender expression: it is considered more masculine to have short hair. Clearly, the long locks necessary for a man bun defy this construct.

Thus, if it is decidedly more masculine to clip your hair far before it reaches up-do lengths, why has this style so bombarded our culture with its presence? The man bun is everywhere; there are Buzzfeed articles about it, Instagram accounts devoted to it and photos of Donald Trump with a man bun Photoshopped to his head. It has even inspired controversy about man buns as a cause of “traction alopecia,” leading to premature hair loss (the science behind which is debatable).

All this commotion and controversy surrounding something as superficial as hair is a result of the man bun’s refutal of traditional gender expectations. Our culture, though it still has long strides to make, has become more accepting of a more fluid gender performance. There has always been variance between short and long hair for men and women in the past, but only recently has it become more normalized.

Women wear short pixie cuts. Men grow their hair out. Our current culture accepts, more widely than ever before, that gender is not tied to our hair (or other physical features), and today’s obsession with the man bun reflects this movement toward looser gender expectations for appearance.

Additionally, the concept of gender and gender performance has become a more mainstream discussion. Again, though there is still plenty room for greater acceptance, our culture has grown more open to gender identities such as transgender, gender fluid and other non-binary identities. For many non-binary people, though certainly not all, a non-binary identity is tied to gender performance—how one dresses and appears masculine or feminine to others.

Though I certainly don’t want to conflate man buns with gender identity, I merely argue that a wider definition of masculinity as supported by the non-binary community has added to the culture that allows for the popularity of the man bun. As we grow more open to greater variations in gender identity and performance, the man bun becomes a trend that assists in subverting traditional gender norms.

However, the man bun is not the answer to gender expression equality. Consider the term itself, “man bun.” Why must we specify that this bun belongs to a man when women wear buns as well? Are men’s and women’s hair buns all that different that we must give them their own name? And what of people with middle-of-the-spectrum identities who wear buns?

Further, at the end of the day, a man bun is just hair. Though its popularity may indicate more fluidity for masculinity in our culture, it is more a symptom of the growing acceptance rather than a cause.

In any case, I personally love the man bun and hope it sticks around for a while. The man bun results from expanding gender performance norms, and it encourages people to wear their hair any way they feel most comfortable. So keep rocking your buns, Oles, whether they be man, woman or anything in between.

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Criminal injustice

Traci Burch lectured in Viking Theatre on Monday, April 20, offering a perspective on the detrimental effects of mass incarceration in the United States.

Burch is an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University and a research professor for the American Bar Foundation. Her lecture, “Mass Imprisonment: Consequences for Society and Politics,” was sponsored by the political science student group Pi Sigma Alpha as well as the Institute for Freedom and Community. Given the prominence of police brutality as a topic in the news media, the groups selected Burch as the speaker to give the spring lecture for Pi Sigma Alpha.

Her lecture focused primarily not on police brutality itself, but rather on the way mass incarceration of young black men has been institutionalized into the criminal justice system in America. Burch’s research examined the ways in which the system is slanted toward certain groups and areas.

“It is both demographically and geographically concentrated,” she said. “As many of 10% of residents in disadvantaged communities are in prison at any given time.”

Burch illustrated that there are “communities that are prone to incidences of mass incarceration,” displaying maps with shading to represent black density black people per square mile superimposed over a map with prisoner density prisoners per square mile. Her research showed that prisoner density can even be drastic within specific neighborhoods, showing that one area in Georgia had a prisoner density of 470 prisoners per square mile.

Olivia Slack ’15, member of the executive board of Pi Sigma Alpha, helped to organize the lecture and contact Burch. She described the data sets with the juxtaposed maps as visually jarring and discussed how it was a distinct and understandable way to see the connection rather than simplyhearing about it. She praised Burch’s lecture, saying, “Her research is very clear and accessible by people that are not political science majors and people not knowledgeable on the topic.”

Following this, Burch enumerated the various consequences of mass imprisonment: crime, disease, difficulties with familial relationships and lack of political representation for the imprisoned. To highlight the effects beyond crime rate and incarceration, Burch discussed familial structure and the way children are adversely affected by this phenomenon as well as our political system.

“Individual offenders and their treatment are not the only factors that matter when we look at criminal justice policies,” Burch said. She argued that the problem within the criminal justice system is not merely police brutality, but rather it is an institutionalized issue.

Slack was also intrigued greatly by these detrimental effects.

“It’s a huge issue, and I especially was surprised by her point about how 20% of black men in Florida had been incarcerated,” she said. “If you’re a felon, you can’t vote, and that has huge political importance. If 20% of the black male population can’t vote, that’s voter suppression in a way. I don’t think people usually think of imprisonment as another form of voter suppression.”

Burch concluded her lecture by imploring students and faculty to consider the ways in which we might change the system to better the lives of people in disadvantaged communities by bettering conditions in and out of prison. Burch asked the audience, “Are there ways, for instance, that we might revise penal policies to decrease infectious disease within prisons?”

Additionally, she discussed simpler ways the system can be fought at a grassroots level by fostering things like stability in disadvantaged neighborhoods through creating friendships and trust within communities.

Overall, the lecture was received well through the St. Olaf community in both the political science community as well as the general student and faculty population. Slack described the reactions to Burch as typically positive and additive to the ongoing campus discussion of race and politics in the United States.

jeddel1@stolaf.edu

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North by Northfield

North by Northfield, the second annual celebration of punk, DIY, alternative and independent music and record labels, took over Northfield the weekend of April 18. It offered the works not only of local musicians, but also of several writers, including some students and faculty of St. Olaf College.

The weeklong program of music and literature featured various performances in Northfield venues such as the Reub’n’Stein, the Northfield Eagle’s Club, Carleton College’s Cave and even a collaboration with Barely Brothers Records in St. Paul that featured local bands.

The festival kicked off upstairs in the Reub’n’Stein on Tuesday, April 14, with a reading from St. Olaf’s Writer in Residence Ben Percy, as well as a concert from Matt Arthur & The Bratlanders and Wesley Church & the Fabulous Vanguards. Percy read from his new novel, The Dead Lands, a gripping post-apocalyptic novel depicting a world of nuclear fallout and a deadly “super-flu.” Percy’s work includes writing for the DC Comics’ Green Arrow series and writing for Black Gold, a crime drama currently in development for the Starz television network.

Regarding the North by Northfield festival and the town itself, Percy said in an interview with the Northfield News, “This is an impossibly beautiful town with so many unbelievable spaces to experience art and share in community.”

Other St. Olaf involvement in the festival included performances around town from campus bands Air is Air, Megatherium Club, Fringe Pipes and solo act Christian Wheeler. Additionally, student poets Clair Dunlap ’15, Cynthia Zapata ’16 and Ola Faleti ’15 read their work at the Eagle’s Club on Thursday, April 16.

When asked about the artistic and literary culture of Northfield, Zapata said, “We have a really big poetry scene, much bigger than my hometown. That comes from being squished between two colleges. Northfield is really awesome about doing events through the public library, arts guild and the bookstore, like the sidewalk poetry competition. The town is definitely a healthy environment for writers and poets.”

Zapata went on to discuss the necessity of literature both in the town and on campus.

“This work is important because people don’t know that you can make money off something you love,” Zapata said. “I think a lot of people major in English or something like that and think they can only be an editor, or a journalist or a teacher; but you can be a performer, and this festival reflects that here in Northfield.”

Michael Morris, a local musician in the band Dewi Saint, not only played on the Wednesday bill for the week, but also assisted in organizing the festival as a whole. He discussed his enthusiasm for North by Northfield and the influence of art on the local culture.

“I truly believe that art made for honest reasons heals the human heart, soul and mind in so many ways, and ultimately makes the world a better place,” Morris said. “So, my hope in any effort to have more music played and written words shared is to raise the collective sense of empathy and compassion in the world – or at least in this world, the Northfield community – in which the art is shared.”

The festival spanned six days and concluded with a brunch at Martha’s Eats and Treats with a performance from Railyard Ghosts on Sunday, April 19.

North by Northfield attracted the attention of the students and faculty of both St. Olaf and Carleton, giving many residents a chance to engage with the local arts scene in an exciting new way. This unique celebration is sure to return next year with even more creative expression in music and literature and interesting performances from a wide variety of writers and musicians.

jeddel1@stolaf.edu

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St. Olaf Handbell Choir returns from Annual Tour

Upon return from a three-day tour around the Midwest, the St. Olaf Handbell Choir performed its home concert in Urness Recital Hall on March 9. The tour, an annual event for the bell choir, included stops in Austin, Minn., Omaha, Neb. and Waverly, Iowa.

The students traveled in buses and slept in the homes of their patrons. When asked how she would describe the tour, Madelyn Woolums 17, a biology major, said, “It’s really good group bonding. We always feel so much closer to the other ensemble members when we come back from tour.”

This group bonding is important to any handbell choir, as it is a kind of music that requires communication and cohesion among members to create their sound.

“They are very tight. It’s been fun over twenty years to watch it develop. They really have to interact,” Jill Mahr, director of the St. Olaf Handbell Choir and Chapel Ringers, said.

Mahr teaches flute and conducts the handbell choirs at St. Olaf, leads a youth program for handbells at her church and is a member of Handbell Musicians of America. The St. Olaf Handbell Choir was founded in 1983 under the direction of Robert Thompson, taken over by Norman Heitz in 1985, later directed by Karl Zinsmeister and since 1995 has been directed by Mahr. The program has grown to now include three handbell ensembles: the St. Olaf Handbell Choir, the Chapel Ringers and the Manitou Handbell Choir, a student-directed group.

The Manitou Handbell Choir is directed by Gabrielle Sanderson 15, a math and physics major. She spoke highly of the ensemble under her direction.

“They’re a really good group of ringers, and they’re especially good at rhythm,” Sanderson said.

Sanderson is also involved in the handbell quartet on campus, a student group that, upon suggestion from Mahr, began this year with a group of seasoned ringers. The quartet played two songs on the St. Olaf Handbell Choir’s program this year, “Fanfare for an Uncommon Instrument,” a Susan T. Nelson piece that reminisces Aaron Copland’s similarly titled song “Fanfare for a Common Man” and “Roundup,” a brief, upbeat André Previn piece arranged by Erin K. Downey.

In addition to these, the St. Olaf Handbell Choir performed a great variety of music for its concert. Their pieces were diverse in era of composition, genre and style, demonstrating a full range of the musical possibilities for handbells.

From a Bach fugue to a new arrangement of “What a Wonderful World,” the choir exhibited a wide selection of music as well as interesting sound elements incorporated into the concert such as a flute, drums, various kinds of chimes and even a bell tree. “De Profundis,” one of the more contemporary pieces on the program, was written for the St. Olaf Handbell Choir by Jason Krug, and the group premiered it on this tour. The piece used unique ways to make music, including swirling wooden blocks around the bells to produce sound.

“Audiences are always surprised, because they don’t know that handbells can be so versatile,” Sanderson said.

The St. Olaf Handbell Choir also works in the community, doing events such as a biannual children’s concert as well as putting on a concert for a local nursing home. The ensemble has a Christmas concert earlier in the year and a spring concert wherein all three handbell choirs play. In regard to the unique opportunity handbell choir presents, Mahr said, “I think it’s really cool that St. Olaf is a liberal arts school, so students have a chance to experience so many different things.”

For more information on getting involved in the handbell choir, students can contact Mahr at mahrj@stolaf.edu or Sanderson at sanderso@stolaf.edu.

jeddel1@stolaf.edu

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Ban on bullets incites NRA anger

Beginning in February, the Obama administration once again began to traverse the seemingly endless Second Amendment debate with new regulations for a specific kind of bullet. Proponents of this bullet argue it will enhance public safety, but the discussion has sparked irate responses from members of the National Rifle Association NRA.

Recently, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ATF proposed new legislation to place a ban on the armor-piercing 5.56-millimeter “M855 green tip” rifle bullet, a bullet commonly used by hunters and target shooters. The ban was proposed in response to the proliferation of a new handgun that uses the bullets and would therefore pose a threat to the police, as it would be portable and easy to conceal. According to the ATF, the “manufacturers will be unable to produce such armor-piercing ammunition, importers will be unable to import such ammunition, and manufacturers and importers will be prohibited from selling or distributing the ammunition.”

Reactions from gun activists have been immense, including tens of thousands of letters being sent to Congress. Following the proposal, gun shops experienced a sharp increase in sales of the bullet, as gun rights organizations urgently warned their members of the possible ban. Chris W. Cox, the executive director at the NRA, even stated that the proposal “is Obama’s latest action in a lifetime devoted to the dismantling of the Second Amendment.”

Regardless of the overt obtuseness of Cox’s statement, there is no question that gun rights and bans on certain guns or ammunition have been a persistently and hotly contested policy debate, pitting those on opposite ends of the political spectrum against each other for decades. Such vehement arguments can be traced to varied and misguided understandings of the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right of the people to bear arms. However, the ATF’s proposal is no new idea in this realm, with many attempts in the last few years to change public policy at both the federal and state levels to prevent gun crime in the United States. Gun activists fight a losing battle in a world where gun control and harsher restrictions on the sale and purchase of firearms and bullets are becoming more regulated, and the regulation in question is certainly out of necessity.

The results of stricter gun laws in other countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and Japan serve as evidence for the overwhelmingly positive impact of more prominent regulation such as the new proposal suggested by the Obama administration. For example, the Japanese have placed thorough restrictions on firearms to the point where almost no one in the country owns a gun. Given these rules, according to GunPolicy.org, there were only 11 Japanese firearm homicides in 2008, compared with the over 12,000 that occurred in the United States that year.

Such statistics cannot be refuted. Although Cox makes a purposefully inflammatory statement about President Obama’s entire life being dedicated to the “dismantling of the Second Amendment,” perhaps we must consider and integrate this very idea. Why should we continue the attempt to make relevant legislation written over two centuries ago? The gun technology of today such as the M855 green tip rifle bullet could not possibly have been foreseen by the writers of the outdated Constitution – can the intentionally unclear wording of the Second Amendment defend such a device?

In favor of human rights over gun rights, the proposal made by the ATF could be the beginning of a gateway to a safer United States in which gun violence is merely history.

Katie Jeddeloh ’18 jedde1@stolaf.edu is from Denver, Colo. She majors in English and political science.

Graphic Credit: ERIN KNADLER/MANITOU MESSENGER

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