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Saturday, December 03, 2005

open thread on Scene Magazine

After Chadwick's post below, most comments quipped that Chadwick hates white people (although Chadwick is emphatically white) and/or is a self-serving elitist (a compliment he proudly accepted). However, I think Sarika makes a good point:
I hate to be a critic here (well maybe not but if I don't say that I'll sound like a jerk), but I have been really unimpressed with most of the 17 comments to this piece. Are people afraid to discuss the existence of this alternate Harvard? Obviously all the stereotypes in the post don't apply to every white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, but they clearly apply to most people covered in Scene magazine. Simply saying how Chadwick is "reinforcing hurtful stereotypes" will get us nowhere in understanding sub-populations of Harvard students. Nobody has yet critiqued the veracity of Chadwick's words in relation to the magazine and in relation to dynamics between types of students -- only when that happens will this conversation be even close to productive.
I agree and, because the other thread is already so long, I offer you this open thread!


At 4:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What pisses me off about Scene Magazine, beyond the simply arrogance and elitism that Chadwick so effectively lampoons, is that the authors actually think that this is what most people experience at Harvard. They have no recongnition of the fact that probably barely 10% of students have the financial means, much less the desire, to live this kind of extravagant and superficial lifestyle. What scares me, though, is that they may be more right than I would like to believe in that this may be the aspiration of many who are not already on the "Scene." If you consider how many Harvard students go into (or try to go into) what are essentially jobs in the national and international financial elite (whether at Goldman, Kinsey, Wachovia or Baine), you've got to think that Scene is representing a lot of Harvard student's aspirations. This makes me want to cry...

At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where do I find a copy? I'm sick of reading all the back and forth without getting the chance to see what we're all talking about...

At 9:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there should be some in your house...they were plenty in mine.

At 11:41 AM, Blogger Andrew Prokop said...

I think the "whiteness" criticism is off-base and just distracts from legitimate gripes about the publication. First of all, I don't really understand where folks are getting the idea that the magazine focuses on "Anglo-Saxon Protestants." The names of the "editorial board" sure don't sound WASP-y to me. But I understand why some have focused on that-- it's "okay" in some circles to make fun of Anglo-Saxon Protestants but not to make fun of other ethnic groups. I personally don't think any ethnic group should be mocked or stereotyped as a whole, but that's just me.

Second, I'd like those who complain about the magazine's "whiteness" to offer up some specifics. The photo spread has been mentioned-- does the behavior shown there tend to characterize the white race? And apart from the spread, I don't see where you're coming from at all-- I don't recall the rest of the magazine being oppressively "white." Of course, Scene is obviously soaked in a culture of privilege, which I think is what the critics are trying to get at. But "white" and "privileged" don't mean the same thing, so I'd suggest avoiding the racial terminology: it's just inaccurate, and it provides an easy target with which people can accuse you of being racist (look at how quickly the last thread degenerated!).

The magazine is poorly written, poorly designed, ostentatious, self-indulgent, and utterly content-free. There's more than enough to mock there without having to resort to inaccurate, kneejerk condemnations of "whiteness."

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Andrew Prokop said...

On another note, it's interesting to read between the lines of that Boston Globe article that was mentioned in another post.


Here's a helpful chart comparing the two magazines, from information in the article:

Got Advice from:
Freeze: founder's father
Scene: the editor of Vanity Fair (a friend of a friend)

Got Funding from:
Freeze: founder is trying to recoup $8,000 invested from her savings and a loan from her parents
Scene: "Washkowitz won't discuss Scene's finances, except to say the magazine paid for itself."

Got Advertising from:
Freeze: Attempts to find advertisers yielded only one taker
Scene: Attempts to find advertisers yielded Neiman Marcus

My only comment on this will be that the creators of Freeze clearly put quite a lot of work into their magazine, and that I wish them the best of luck in their endeavor.

At 6:10 PM, Blogger katie loncke said...

The whiteness issue as I see it is not a question of whiteness as a race, but of whiteness as an unmarked category of privilege.

Unless they have some other qualifications I don't know about, it seems to me the people in 'the Scene' who created this magazine are basically a self-selected group of friends and/or schmoozers. As the first anonymous notes, they are not representative of the student body's reality or aspirations, as they claim to be. But the fact that most of them are white (and those who are not are integrated seamlessly and seemingly unproblematically into the fold) interacts with the high class status they flaunt to make their purported representation more believable. They claim to be elite mainstream, and elite mainstream is white by default.

If, for example, a similarly-sized group of comparably wealthy mostly-minority socialites got together to create a magazine purporting to represent Harvard students, their claim of representation would be received very differently. They would probably have to call themselves the 'ethnic' or 'minority' subculture of upper-tier student life at Harvard. The fact that the mostly-white makers of Scene felt no need to identify themselves this way is an example of what it means for whiteness to be an unmarked category.

Some might argue that since the majority of Harvard students are white, it makes sense that a representational magazine would feature members of that majority, and even tailor its content to the majority's interests. That would be fine by me if the makers of the magazine were explicit in this decision. In fact, I wondered whether this was what they were trying to get at in the letter from the editors which stated that the magazine "features the diversity we aim to cover." So that could be the diversity within the rich, white, straight Harvard community. But given other claims by the editors that Scene contains "something for everyone," I think the diversity statement is more an example of unclear writing than an attempt by the creators to locate themselves and their magazine's perspective as white and wealthy. So the issue remains that the magazine presents itself as being neutral, when really the points of view expressed are unlocated, and therefore appear to be white.

Others might say that since the magazine focuses more on class, style, and pop culture, not race, it's relatable to readers of all ethnic backgrounds. Minorities are honored in the 10 people to know list, pictured in the Phillips Brooks photo spread, and some of the writers might even be non-white (I don't know, personally, but it's possible). But, again, the issue here is not whether non-white people are represented. The problem is that that representation is mere tokenism unless the non-white magazine writers attempt to contextualize themselves or the non-white people they cover. As a black woman, no matter how wealthy I become and no matter which elite circles I run with, my class status will never be quite the same as a white woman of similar means. While we may think we can separate race and class and treat them individually, the fact is race and class always interact with each other to create more complex differences. These differences can be subtle, but they are real.

There's a lot more to say about the intersectionality of race and class, but I'll leave it there for now. I'm glad we're having this conversation. Also, I guess I should clarify that I recognize that presentations of neutrality defaulting to whiteness are mostly unintentional and certainly aren't particular to Scene; I'm not trying to vilify the creators, I'm just trying to talk about a larger issue the magazine exemplifies. That's why I believe something good can come out of even publications like this one. They give us more material to question and analyze. And in doing so, we often get the sense that there's something wrong with what's being presented, but we can't quite put our finger on it, or the explanations offered don't ring true. In an effort to sort out what is problematic about Scene in terms of whiteness, I hope people can expand on and correct my stab at describing intersectionality, and offer alternative analysis of how whiteness comes to bear on the magazine.

At 6:22 PM, Blogger katie loncke said...

And by Phillips Brooks, I mean Brooks Brothers. Sorry PBH, you know I love you guys :)

At 1:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it hard to believe that there are so many people who keep critisizing Scene Magazine. Maybe if you people didn't sit at your computers and insult the people who created it, you too could publish a magazine more in-line with what you beleive Harvard to be. What have any of you done that is worthy of any commentary? Anyways, enjoy posting more blogs and comments. Seriously, all of you need to get a life!

At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the above statement. If you dont like the magazine, dont read it! There are a lot of other crappy magazines that are door dropped that claim to "give voice to" some select group that I couldnt care less about.

At 5:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the above two commenters are most likely scene magazine writers or editors, and if they're not I challenge them to actually post their names.

To the first of the two asking the question "what you you done that is worthy of any commentary?"

Cambridge Common has been in the Crimson a bunch, the indy, some other stuff, not to mention Golis having quotes all over heck and back. AND, it's a publication in it's own right, so I don't understand that question.

To the second, the same applies. Just because Cambridge Common editors don't have daddies that will fund their stupid projects and therefore write on free blogs as opposed to glossy magazines doesn't mean they're not trying to "give voice" to something different.

It's also funny that neither commenter actually refutes the intellectual bases of the criticisms... Probably because they wouldn't know how to if they wanted to!


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