Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Life’s “we”

These thoughts don’t belong in a post about comic strips and Hula Hoops, but I don’t want to let them go either. Consider this sentence from an Editors’ Note in Life, January 31, 1964:

And don’t forget the Hula Hoop. What American didn’t climb into a colored plastic hoop in 1958 and undulate his torso?
Life’s question is rhetorical: the editors assume that we all climbed in. But consider how limited that “we” is. Set aside the generic “his” (because it’s 1964), and Life’s sense of an American still fails to account for the very young, the very old, those with disabilities or medical conditions that make movement difficult or impossible, those who might find the Hula Hoop an insult to (or unnecessary supplement to) their own traditions of dance, those living in the kind of privation that might have made Hula Hoops unaffordable or unavailable. Were Hula Hoops for sale in deepest Appalachia? That question too is rhetorical.

My point is not to hate on Life or the year 1964; it’s only to point out that anyone’s sense of who “we” are is informed by countless unexamined assumptions. Mine too.

comments: 3

Stefan said...

Our HR department somehow lost a significant number of I-9 forms, so many of us had to again prove our citizenship. I dug out my birth certificate to bring to the meeting and noticed that in 1973, there was a space for "Father's Usual Employment." There was no similar space for the mother. I thought that was so funny.

Michael Leddy said...

And remember when bureaucracies used “mother’s maiden name” to confirm your identity?

Frex said...

The unexamined "we" aside, I'm surprised--when I was a kid in the 60s-70s, only girls did hula hoops.