The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth
IDEOLOGY AND IDENTITY
This set of articles may seem like an unlikely collection. However, each story crosses the same landscape - American Culture. These friends of UMD all have taken the time to stop and carefully consider our environment. Speed down the freeway in a van equipped with hand controls, take a survey with UMD Seniors, tour women-owned farms and fill your pockets with huggable buddies. Take a moment to look once more at things you have seen a hundred times. You'll be sure to enjoy the journey.
In his upper-division class on Feminist Geographies, associate professor, Larry Knopp asks this question, among others, "How do women's and men's experiences of space and place differ from one another?" The students in the class examine men's and women's, often quite different, understandings of where we live and work.
Scholars are putting together two fields, geography and gender studies, and coming up with surprising observations. Consider how they look at cities. Since World War II, women entered the labor force in unprecedented numbers. That single fact shows up on city maps in dozens of ways: an increase in day-care centers, more two-car garages and expanded grocery store parking lots, to name a few. Inside the home, the floor plan has altered. For instance, the refrigerator is larger to accommodate fewer trips to the grocery store. The gap between double and single income families widens and single parents find themselves on the geographical map in a different, lower-priced area of town.
This kind of geographic study is not affected by the standard markers of change, political and military struggles, but more by economic and social transformation. The scholarly pursuits blend from geography into social anthropology and cultural studies.
One of the areas that has piqued the interest of students, faculty and researchers is women and agriculture. Third-world women farmers have provided insight to the economy and social practices of developing nations. Here in the U.S. and Canada, work has begun to observe women and farming and to compare current conditions with those of the past.
Amy Trauger, who graduatedfrom UMD in 1998, wrote her senior capstone research project on women farmers in Minnesota. The paper, "Erasing Invisibility: Placing Women Farmers in Minnesota," uncovers information about a surprising reality. In Minnesota, male-operated farms are shrinking in number while the number of farms operated by women has grown. Trauger used census data and then conducted surveys and short interviews to locate women farmers and describe their farming experience.
"According to the most recent census, male farmers are decreasing in number by 13% and female farmers are increasing by 10%," Trauger said. "Those numbers jumped out at me and I decided I had to find out more." Her search to uncover the stories behind the statistics has taken her from the northern pine forests in St. Louis County to Lac Qui Parle County's rich, black earth in the southwest part of the state.
These visits helped Trauger put faces and real people's lives into the data. "I walked into the kitchen of an organic produce farm north of Duluth and from the wall of windows I could see the farmer's greenhouses, her apple orchard, and her tiny tractor," said Trauger. The farmer told Trauger how she started by working a job in town until the orchards and gardens could bear enough fruit to make the farm profitable.
The census data points to lower wages as a prevalent factor in the lives of women farmers, and by interviewing Trauger found out more. "Farming is an isolating occupation filled with long hours alone in the field," she said. "Some women work a few hours a week at a part-time job as much for the social company as for the money." In general, she said, women do more with less.
Trauger's trip to southern Minnesota demonstrated the sharp contrasts the topography brought to the study. While the rugged, rocky soil of the north holds the highest percentage of single women farmers in Minnesota, the farms are smaller than their counterparts on the fertile land in the south. The southern farms Trauger toured raised sheep, cattle, corn and soybeans. Trauger sat inside a 100-year-old white farm house and talked about the low hog prices with a Lac Qui Parle County farmer. Old photographs of the house reminded her of the long history of the farm community and through the kitchen window Trauger could see a big, nicely-kept older barn. This single woman farmed 350 acres, sharing equipment and labor with her father and brothers.
Trauger's mother ran her own farm for a time while Trauger was growing up. She found that an understanding of the physical toil, economic uncertainty, and farm technology was helpful in establishing a good rapport with the subjects of the study.
Trauger will start in the master's program at Penn State next fall. She plans to continue her work on women farmers by expanding her study to Pennsylvania first and possibly the U.S. She will focus on the concern for the environment and ecological practice that emerged as a theme in her UMD study. From organic produce farms in the north to no-till conservation practices in the south, women repeatedly expressed their concern for the environment," she said.
The study of urban geography has drawn as much or more attention than rural geography. Knopp's work has taken him into this urban space. From New Orleans, San Francisco, Edinburgh, and Sydney, Knopp's work on gender and geography observes gay and lesbian populations. The titles of his recently published articles give insight into his pursuits: "Sexuality and Urban Space: Gay Male Identities and Cultures in the U.S., U.K. and Australia," "Rings, Circles and Perverted Justice: Gay Judges and Moral Panic in Contemporary Scotland," "Gentrification and Gay Neighborhood Formation in New Orleans: A Case Study," and "Toward an Analysis of the Role of Gay Communities in the Urban Renaissance."
In his earlier work, Knopp examined gay neighborhoods in large U.S. cities. He found a pattern that repeated itself across the country. An older neighborhood would lose its middle or working class population. Children moved away and a lack of money caused the housing structures to fall into disrepair. Marginalized groups of people, like racial minorities, immigrants, and gay men, finding inexpensive housing, would move into the neighborhood. A spirit of resistance and survival would fuel counter-culture establishments. With money flowing back into an area, renovation and restoration followed.
Knopp did not find a similar pattern in the United Kingdom, however. He found that gay communities expressed themselves in more public ways. "Here in the U.S. we have a cultural tradition of establishing group identity by claiming territory," he said. "It is very American." In the U.K. land and housing have been owned by the same families, sometimes for centuries. People can't move in and claim space as easily so group identity moves into the public arena. "Gays in Edinburgh and London brought their cultural politics to the streets, fighting for the right to assemble in parks without harassment," he said.
Back in Duluth, two of Knopp's students mapped gay and lesbian populations in 1993 and 1996. In separate studies, Joanne Grebinoski and Diane Navotney took mailing list address data from lesbian and gay organizations to look at patterns in residential density. They found a higher number of lesbians in rural environments and a higher percentage of gay men in the inner city. Follow-up interviews indicated what the literature supported; lesbians are harder to find. Like other single women they make less money and find themselves in marginalized neighborhoods or in rural areas where housing is cheaper. At the same time, the concern for the environment that Trauger found in her work with women farmers is evident in lesbian populations. There appears to be a strong female ecological ethic among many women.
In every community, on every level, we can see that women's and men's experiences of space and place can differ from one another. By stepping back and carefully re-thinking the issues, geographers can use a variety of methodologies to tell us more about the people in the world in which we live.
As the last batch of Generation Xers moves through UMD, Assistant Professor Janelle Wilson may be losing her built-in research sample. For seven years Wilson has been studying the generation born between 1961 and 1981 -- the generation that grew up in the shadow of the Baby Boomers.
Wilson's interest in what some call "The Lost Generation'' began in graduate school at Western Michigan University where she and her advisor, Gerald Markle, asked almost 300 people "If you could step into a time machine and go anywhere, what year would you pick?" Their subjects were midwestern Americans in two age groups, 18 to 24 year-olds and people in their late 40s to early 50s.
Their results were surprising. Significant percentages of both groups longed for life in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
This "displaced nostalgia" was Wilson's first look into the collective psyche of a generation of young people. "I expected our sample of young adults to chose the future but instead they looked to the past. They yearned for a simpler time, for a mom that stayed home, and parents that stayed married." With over 40% of Generation Xers coming from divorced parents, they associate the 1950s with strong families and a safe, relaxed, stress-free life. Because the media has thrown so many images of the 1950s at Baby Boomers, Gen Xers "find themselves bombarded by consumer-oriented Boomer nostalgia," said Wilson. They are sentimental about a past that they didn't know first-hand. This was only one of the clues that there was a generation of young people responding to American culture in unique ways.
After Wilson came to the UMD Department of Sociology-Anthropology in 1995, her Generation X research continued. Her articles on the topic have been published in a number of academic journals and she is a sought-after commentator in the popular press.
Wilson takes a thoughtful look at the reasons behind the behavior. For instance, she is interested in a condition she calls the "friendship community." She realized that the desire for a '50s close-knit family also made Gen Xers leery of committing to marriage. A combination of high student loans and fear of failed relationships keeps them single like their counterparts on the Friends and Seinfeld television shows. The average age for their "first" marriage is 26 years old for men and 24 for women. With an unmanageable debt load and an unwelcoming job market, friends may be more important to this group of people than to any generation before them.
Wilson said that a paradox lies in their financial struggle and conspicuous consumption. "I remember pulling into the parking lot at UMD and seeing students in much nicer cars than I have," she said. At the same time, with tuition prices rising exponentially and divorced parents helping out less, the debt they carry is staggering.
Wilson gleans some of her knowledge from class surveys and the journals of her Social Psychology class. "I regularly ask my classes to write about the generation as a whole," she said. From their responses, she discovered that this generation doesn't have a world event as a focus. "They all remember the Challenger disaster in 1986, but it didn't define them like Vietnam, Kennedy and Martin Luther King did the Boomers," she said.
Her class surveys show a number of concepts that do define this "twenty-something" group. They identify with the Gulf War, they are environmentally conscious, they are broad-minded and open, and they accept diversity. Multi-racial, multi-cultural and internationally savvy, these young people give new meaning to the word tolerant.
Wilson says that Generation X is a better name for this generation than "slackers." Some claim the name, Generation X, comes from Douglas Coupland's novel about three educated, talented, yet underemployed, 20-year-olds. Others believe it was Billy Idol's 1980s British punk band, Generation X, that inspired the tag.
In any case, Wilson says that "slackers" is not an accurate description for young adults. "They have different circumstances to deal with," Wilson said. "They have a tremendous work ethic, but it isn't the same as the World War II generation's work ethic. Some of my students work two or three jobs." With Manpower's climb to the spot as the largest employer in the country, most Xers can only find "McJobs." Companies don't have a serious commitment to their employees and Xers don't see value in working themselves to death. Instead they choose "a job with a focus on fun," said Wilson. Employers that hire young people, especially high-tech companies, are contracting out more projects. Xers do well in the consultant and contract environment. While job security is nonexistent, at least with contract work Xers don't have to sacrifice the recreation they value so highly.
The merger of different generations in the workplace has occasionally led to conflict. Wilson said that some corporations are getting help from outside professionals to solve their interpersonal problems. The key to smooth relations is communication and a willingness to understand.
Xers aren't tolerant of bureaucracy for bureaucracy's sake, in the workplace or in the political arena. That may be the reason they put Jesse Ventura in as Minnesota's governor. With Nixon's Watergate and Clinton's scandal in the White House, the failure of U.S. leaders is a public issue. "In today's all-too-public world, we know more than we need to know," said Wilson. "Ordinary people are becoming the heroes." Wilson thinks that Ventura struck a nerve with Gen Xers. "We didn't hear political rhetoric. He was down to earth and he laid it on the line. Whether he will be effective still remains to be seen," she said. Wilson's students are concerned about authenticity. She said, "One of my students wrote that we live in a fabricated world where you can't believe advertising, politicians, or city officials. Gen Xers may not have liked everything Ventura said, but at least he was genuine." And of course, he is entertaining, as both talk show hosts and UMD Gen Xers have noticed.
Entertainment is important to this group and it often enters the classroom. If you visit Wilson's classes you will not be greeted by the teacher in front of a blackboard and the students sitting in quiet rows. She recognizes the power of television-influenced learning patterns on the culture and she tries not to fight it. "I use experiential exercises, hands-on learning, and in-class discussions to reach out to contemporary students," she said. For Wilson, learning is a two-way process and through class discussions she has gained some insight into our next generation of leaders. Many have positive goals and values like anti-materialism and anti-consumerism. Wilson said, "Gen Xers are socially, economically, racially, and ethnically diverse. Most of them work, and that reality alone may force us out of our ivory towers."
A woman hesitantly stepped up to the restaurant table. "Are you Marcia Kulick?" she asked. "I saw you speak a few years ago and I wanted to tell you that your speech changed my life." Conversations like this are not unusual for Marcia Bevard Kulick. After a 1977 motorcycle accident left Kulick in a wheelchair, she has done nothing but motivate, challenge and inspire the people she meets.
This spring, Marcia Kulick was inducted into the Wheelchair Sports, USA Hall of Fame. The list of accomplishments that got her there are impressive.
Kulick was a wheelchair winner of Grandma's Marathon in 1983; a four-time Bonne Bell 10k winner from 1980-1983; and team captain for the International Wheelchair Athletic Association. She appeared on the Today Show, P.M. Magazine and That's Incredible for her swimming abilities. She won nine gold medals out of nine events at the 1982 Pan Am Games. In 1984, she got married, won six gold medals in swimming and set four world records in the Paralympics in Stoke-Mandeville, England.
Since then she has wheeled 13 marathons in the U.S., Japan and Hawaii and placed among the top three women.
When Kulick attended UMD, working on a degree in therapeutic recreation with an adapted physical education minor, she put UMD in the national spotlight. She became the first disabled person to swim on a collegiate swim team.
Kulick did double duty for UMD. She also served as a student member of the subcommittee on 504 compliance for the disabled. "I am not a soft-spoken person," she said. "I say what I think when it will help other people." The committee listened when Kulick made recommendations. While she was on campus the bathroom doors got wider and all of the doors got easier to open. She was once scheduled to take a class on the second floor of the physical education building and discovered that there was no elevator. Her husband, John Kulick, who was working in the UMD access center, fought along side her to make all UMD classrooms handicap accessible.
Some of the UMD improvements had unusual beginnings. When the television show, That's Incredible came to film Kulick's swim team practice in the Sports and Health Center, one of the hallways received an amazing transformation. Kulick had been using a dark, crowded, lower-level corridor to get to the pool. Someone must have realized that a national television show was going to follow Kulick through the campus because "new fluorescent lights were installed and the corridor was cleared all in one night," she said.
Thanks to Marcia Kulick and her committee, UMD now has great facilities for people in wheelchairs. The campus not only complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, it also goes a step further, connecting buildings with inside corridors. Students can travel the residence halls, dining center, library, classrooms, sports center, and the games room without stepping outside. Marcia said that Jim Shearer who now is the UMD Facilities Director, was an inspiration to her. "The committee and I joined Jim's effort for comprehensive accessibility," she said.
For the 49 million Americans with disabilities, the ADA has done more than put a few ramps up. In the U.S., people with disabilities drive, shop, work and play in the same places as their able-bodied counterparts. The stores have wide aisles and theaters have seats removed so people can sit near their friends in wheelchairs. "The Courage Center sets a great example," Kulick said. "They have indoor, covered parking for the disabled staff. Winter weather doesn't bother us."
Travel in some other parts of the world, however, is not nearly as pleasant. On Kulick's travels to England, France and Mexico, she encountered few handicapped bathrooms and fewer handrails. Her trip to Japan showed many barriers but it also brought an outdoor surprise. The Japanese reliance on bicycles has created a "profusion of curb cuts; they are everywhere," she said.
Americans remain the world leaders in support for the disabled. Job discrimination is prohibited, and technological advances such as voice-activated computers and e-mail are making the work place even friendlier to special needs. As the population ages, Americans have become more mindful of disabilities and more sympathetic toward people with them.
They are also finding another thing that Kulick has to offer, warm water healing. Kulick manages the warm-water therapy recreation pool at the Golden Valley, Minnesota Courage Center and she has been pool side for the past 10 years. She does rehabilitation work with people who are recovering from accidents and illness. "The warm water therapy can work miracles," she said. For instance, if a joint is stiff from an injury, it can be difficult for the person to move or even to sleep. Land exercises can be so traumatic and painful that they are out of the question. "But in a warm-water pool," said Kulick, "the muscles relax, the impact is low and people can attempt movements that earlier that day were impossible." Each regained movement in the pool is easier to do later on land.
Kulick has many rewards in her life. Helping people reach their top abilities at the Courage Center is gratifying. There is another reward that Kulick says makes her feel humble -- the Marcia Bevard Kulick Scholarship.
When Kulick attended UMD, Ray Darland set up a scholarship in her name for students with disabilities. Each year, five or six UMD students receive one of the $500-$1000 Marcia Bevard Kulick Scholarships. "UMD alumni have searched me out to tell me that they received one of my scholarships," she said. "I can't think of a higher honor."
Kulick said that when she speaks to groups, she tries to get people to look at events in their lives as a challenge. "You can use it or fight it, the choice is yours," she said. Whatever gets put in our path -- red hair, getting fired, losing a dear one, getting a bad grade -- can all be a positive challenge. "I didn't become involved in sports for the accolades, the scholarship money or the endorsements. I did it to become the best person I could be," Kulick said. "I don't even see the crisis, I see the opportunity. That does inspire some people."
Five-year-old Nathan sat outside his elementary school on the playground bench and described his Beanie Baby collection. "My favorite Beanie is the Web the Spider," he said and his face lit up.
Andi Galvin loves that look. "Seeing the expression on children's faces when they find a special Beanie Baby keeps me going," she said. Galvin's love for her job comes from the joy Beanie Babies bring to so many children. She loves seeing girls and boys walk into a store with five dollars of allowance money and come out with a pint-sized, adorable stuffed animal.
Galvin graduated from UMD in 1991 with a communication major, and minors in international studies and journalism. She now works for Ty Inc., the company that makes Beanie Babies.
In the fall of 1995, she started working for Ty as a sales representative, Beanie Babies were just beginning to take off. "I had 500 accounts and the phone rang all day, every day," she said. "I didn't have an office, I was working out of my home. I wrote out the orders by hand as fast as I could write. I thought it couldn't possibly get busier and the next week, the pace would accelerate again." Finally, she had to get help and now she has a full-time assistant, four sub-reps, and two full-time "inside" people who take orders.
Galvin wasn't always in Beanie Baby heaven. After UMD she worked as a national sales representative at trade shows, selling limited edition art sculpture. That's where she got to know the specialty and gift market. She moved to the Chicago area to represent 40 different gift lines and met a Ty Inc. vice-president who convinced Galvin to take the Chicago-area Beanie Baby accounts.
Ty Warner, owner and creator of Ty Inc., is the marketing genius behind the toy phenomenon. He has owned his own stuffed animal company since 1985 and according to Galvin, "He is approachable, artistic and a little bit eccentric. In 1993, he developed the Beanie Babies due to a demand for small nice toys. "They have been purposely understuffed with beans to make them more appealing and huggable," Galvin said. The charm of Beanie Babies may be the cuteness, cost, or the clever names. But, whatever the reason, they appeal to adults as well as children.
The media has caught Beanie Baby fever. Stories have appeared on CNN, and articles have appeared in USA Today, Vanity Fair magazine, and People Magazine. Television shows, talk-show hosts and bumper stickers banter Beanie Baby babble. Every week you see or hear something about Beanie Babies. Galvin said, "I still can't believe I am part of this whirlwind. Sometimes I wonder if I am dreaming."
During Galvin's first year with the popular pets, the company had a 1,000 percent increase in orders from the year before. Although the company won't take on any new retail stores and only sells in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and Germany, Beanies are in high demand all over the world.
Galvin said, "Who knows how long it will last? Six more months, six more years or 60 more years?" The question on everyone's mind is, "Will Beanies have the 40-year staying power that BarbieTM has?"
The business gurus are trying to predict where Beanies will land next in the business market. Marketing experts and psychologists have tried to shed light on these toys' universal appeal and the reasons we remain drawn to them even as adults. The competition is trying to mimic the formula for success. Galvin thinks it is a combination of personality and price. "There are at least 60 different toys in the Ty line being sold at all times and there is something for just about everyone. You can find a Beanie to match anyone's personality," she said.
Galvin believes the Beanies are priced just right. Some toys are made for only fourth quarter sales -- the winter holidays gift market. Those toys are priced high and then discounted later. By contrast, new Beanie Babies sell for just over $5.
Toys have always been a part of history. Evidence of Egyptian, Greek and Roman dolls have been found. Children throughout history have enjoyed their toys -- from Mayan toy carts to 15th-century Japanese Tachibina dolls, toys reflect society, culture, family traditions, history, innovations, and our observations of the world around us. Beanie Babies are definitely a part of American culture.
Think of all the toys you remember: Scooby-Doo, troll dolls, Holly Hobbie, smurfs, pet rocks, hula hoops, baseball cards, matchbox cars, and Cabbage Patch dolls. They call up associations with people and places. Galvin said, "Toys mark a moment in time. We remember the events of our childhood by what was popular. An old toy can bring back a flood of memories."
Every day, Andi Galvin is helping hundreds of children make lovely memories. And she is not dreaming.
-- Cheryl Reitan