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Viewpoint: 'Twerking' in poor taste

BY TRINITY LIN

Published December 20, 2013

I would like to bring to attention my objection to an exam problem on Econ 102’s 3rd midterm with Lecturer Adam Stevenson.

Question number 13 asked students to “Consider the market for twerking videos of an economy in autarky.”

Since being added to Oxford Dictionaries Online in August, twerking has been defined as: “danc[ing] to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.” That’s the most appropriate definition I could find, but even then I still can’t seem to find a reason why that would be appropriate to randomly put on an exam, particularly in a school that I believed to have exceptional higher education.

Let’s put aside the fact that this term is often associated with African American stereotypes or that it’s extremely misogynistic. I’d like to put to question the responsibility educators have to their students when putting out an exam. I assume exams, regardless of who wrote it, go under review by experienced and expert faculty. This somehow passed the test, indicating that either people don’t care enough to evaluate an exam or they think this is OK.

This example was not okay. Maybe someone wrote the problem to be funny, but that makes it worse. Despite the drawing national media’s attention, perhaps you’re unaware of how the University recently called out a fraternity for using similar terms, or that students have been working all semester to speak out against microaggressions such as “twerking” stereotypes.

My problem is not that the example just mentioned "twerking videos,"but that it treated them as a commodity where I had to calculate the consumer surplus and producer surplus. More so, there was no additional explanation given as to why this “commodity” was chosen; no indication of this as a serious industry, or explanation such as “this is popular, so we want to take a look at it in a simplified economic model.”

“Twerking videos” as a product is different because it involves images of people. The world trade on videos of twerking doesn’t seem like a fair trade industry to me. The entertainment industry is some form of monopoly/oligopoly that has been perpetuating negative stereotypes about hip hop and pop culture through “twerking videos,” but I see no consumer surplus from it.

I dedicate my extracurricular life to understanding the effects of this negative culture, particularly how it affects students on campus. I don’t try to speak for others, but I have heard too many students who feel hurt by a school environment that, at the very least, is ignorant and insensitive to stereotypes like those in “twerking videos.” As a consumer of hip hop, I consume sexual, racial and misogynistic references all the time. I work to educate people that there is a deeper, more intelligent industry that is not found in the popular media. If pop culture is referenced in academia, I would hope that it is for some deeper educational value instead of a bad joke. Otherwise, it is a perpetuation of the stereotypes.

This may sound like an over-analysis, but derogatory terms and microaggressions require some critical thinking. It’s not any educators’ fault that media portrays these videos, or seems to make the younger generation more stupid and offensive. But no GSI or teacher should attempt to appeal to us, try to relate to us, through such unintelligent terms. I understand and appreciate the effort to bring humor to macroeconomics. However, for the hundreds of students that took the exam, and for the thousands more that will study it, this was a very poor example. As educators, you deserve students who think more seriously about the content of your tests. I respect faculty and teachers for dedicating their careers to teaching. I’d like to ask for the same respect, for you to treat me as a student who can critically analyze what’s in my education.

Trinity Lin is a Business sophomore.


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