Success and Generation Y Women

Sara K. Johnson

Daneen Bergland

Pop Culture SINQ


Success and Generation Y Women

Generation Y (Gen Y) consists of the demographic cohort of those individuals born between the early-mid 1980’s and the late 1990’s. There are an estimated 80 million Gen Y individuals who are beginning to enter the American workforce and they are redefining the true meaning of success (“Gen Y Women In The Workplace”). Gen Y is finally coming into it’s own. These next few decades will be managed, owned, and maintained by Generation Y men and women who are taking the work force by storm and are reinventing what is means to be young and successful. In news articles and sociological texts there is a common expression that states “Gen Y doesn’t work to live, they live to work”. But this reality of ambition and success is hidden, there is a huge disparity between what is happening in the real lives of Gen Y persons and what pop culture is telling us. This disparity is damaging to all Generation Y individuals but most prominently to Gen Y females. Gen Y females are often depicted as incapable of controlling their careers let alone themselves and these inaccuracies should not be perpetuated any further. Generation after generation, women have faced endless obstacles in both work and life to inevitability overcome them, this social liberation cannot come too soon for Gen Y working women.

Gen Y females are fighting against long standing beliefs that they are self-obsessed, uncommitted, and in some extreme cases unemployable. These beliefs contradict the real nature of Gen Y female workers who are quoted to be “defining success in a variety of ways, customizing their own approaches and balancing personal demands with their desire to succeed” (“Gen Y Women In The Workplace”). Unfortunately this reality is being overshadowed by shows that are claiming to be the “voice of our generation” and “socially accurate” that are reinforcing negative stereotypes about Gen Y women. Pop culture is stuck in a rut, falling back upon archaic female archetypes instead of keeping stride with the actual lives of Gen Y women today. The upsurge of female oriented programs such as HBO’s Girls or CBS’s 2 Broke Girls have claimed to capture the lives of Gen Y women, but that is not the case. These programs use a number of tactics to draw in viewers, spark their intrigue and appeal to their emotion while still insisting that these young women are incapable or success. I am here to challenge that.

Many financial and socioeconomic articles have debated over “What Gen Y women have to offer” and over time there has been a consensus: they have a lot to offer. These women are challenging all norms, Forbes wrote that “75% of women of all ages [say] that they disagree that women should return to their “traditional” place in society and two-thirds of Gen Y women [say] they “completely disagree” with this prospect”. This information clearly suggests that the seeds for change are already planted in the female Gen Y populous, which begs the question why are popular culture artifacts denying these ideas. These artifacts are not outright rejecting these progressive ideas, they are simply manipulating them to suit their agendas. These shows boast pro feminist dialogue but outright shame the feminists. They show young women rising up the corporate ladder only to inevitably crash and burn. These shows claim to liberate young women from the pressures of society while they themselves are adding weight to the shackles. These artifacts question the high expectations that Gen Y women have for themselves, especially for their careers. Attached is an infographic from an Accenture survey of Gen Y women. This resource gives a clear snapshot of what Gen Y women are thinking about their careers and their likelihood to succeed.

After reviewing so many pop culture artifacts, I found myself wondering, “What is the appropriate level of expectations for a Gen Y woman to have?” There is no clear definition. Generation Y females are on the cusp of great social change: There is continued feminist growth and economic change. We see that household norms are being broken and young women are putting their interests first. However Gen Y women, as a group, may feel lost or overwhelmed by the enormity of their own expectations. In all reality, this theme is present in most of my Gen Y female counterparts’ lives. We want it all while having to fight for it. We expect things that may be unattainable or impractical while working our best to maintain the basics of living through other means, such as temporary remedial jobs.  We were never taught what is the appropriate level of expectation for relationships or careers or life for that matter, we were simply taught to want it all. These high expectations are often shown as a weakness for female characters in shows such as Girls where characters like Marnie are struggling to find their own identities and success. The clip below is from the HBO show Girls. It shares a moment between Marnie, a woman who has lost her job and relationships for being too intense about her work and desiring too much, and her airheaded rival Soo Jin who has achieved all Marnie ever wanted by unspecified means. This clip is a perfect example of how these shows like to place their stronger female characters at their lowest. Girls took a strong character like Marnie and in some ways made her out to be a villain. This moment touches on the ideas of success and how it is always out of dedicated Gen Y woman’s grasp.

This clip strongly affected me. I related very much to Marnie and her sense of purpose. She is career oriented and wants more out of life than her other Gen Y female counterparts. While she is firm with her principles she has slowly degenerated over the seasons into a whiney and uncooperative character (Settembre). Girls stripped her of her dignity and took one of the gleaming examples of a young and successful woman, and put her at her lowest. I understand that Girls wants to shows that not everyone is perfect and that Gen Y women do have some serious obstacles to overcome but the fact there there is not one single episode that shows a character succeeding and not having to grovel or cheat to earn that success is disheartening. This show exudes an air of young indifference but it touches on some very serious issues that I believe are perpetuated by the constant failure of their characters. Jeanette Setembre from the Daily News noted that in Girls “Hannah (Lena Dunham) is still working at Café Grumpy, Jessa (Jemima Kirke) is mooching off her grandmother for rent and rehab, and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) is more focused on putting notches on her bedpost than beefing up her resume.” I wonder when these characters will develop, if ever?

Many of these characters are being supported by parents or loans and are dependent on these support systems to achieve their goals. In pop culture however, these support systems have a habit of failing at the last moments before a Gen Y female character achieves success. this phenomenon is demonstrated  in the clip below. It is an interesting trend that in shows like Girls, at the very last moment before a Gen Y female character achieves her goals, one of the many financial or emotional crutches that carries that character will crumble beneath her.

I have incredibly high expectations for my life while also struggling with self-doubt. After the economic crash of 2008 I felt like a lot of opportunities were taken away from both sexes of Generation Y. Growing up we were told “You can be anything you want to be” and we believed that to be the truth, but when the market crashed and we saw our parents and grandparents lose so much we turned that fear inwards and realized “We can’t be anything we want”. We had to be practical and complacent to this unseen entity that was the economy. We had to sit with our parents and discuss finances and job outlooks and what was the most practical choice for our future. We were young and confused and we had these lofty dreams that were suddenly marred by fear and doubt. There was no security to our hopes; in fact they were all the more elusive. A recent study found that “In a 1998 survey, 65% of 18- to 34-year-olds working full time or part time said they were extremely or very confident that they could find another job if they lost or left their current job. The share highly confident fell dramatically to 25% in 2009. It has rebounded somewhat since then (to 43% in the current survey) but is still nowhere near the 1998 level.” (“Young, Underemployed and Optimistic”).

My standards of living remain high but my fears keep stride. It’s like the expression “The bigger they are, the harder they fall”. Shows like Girls and 2 Broke girls highlight on these fears and use them as hubris for all Gen Y female characters. Doubt and fear, uncertainty and apprehension, however you say it these themes are ultimately what bring down even the most successful pop culture female characters. These weaknesses are what separate the women in pop culture from the men. Gen Y men are frequently attributed as being lazy, while Gen Y women are deemed something even worse: incapable. 2 Broke Girls touches on this idea of Gen Y women failing at even the most basic of jobs. There is a stigma now that Barista culture is taking over Gen Y women’s lives and this clip both mocks and reinforces these ideas. While the character Max tries to beat back the reality that she is indeed working for a corporate coffee chain with sarcasm and insults, the truth is she is incapable of performing her job there. This again shows strong Gen Y women at their lowest.

Gen Y women want it all while having to fight for it. We expect things that may be unattainable or impractical while working our hardest to be as successful as we can be. We were never taught what are the appropriate levels of expectation are for relationships or careers or life for that matter, we were simply taught to want it all. There was no goal too high; we were all going to be the first female president. With the slow progression of change within the media for Gen Y women there comes a sense of futility to what Gen Y women are achieving. Gen Y women are an incredibly successful cohort, they have tipped the scales and will continue to reshape the workforce with their inventive and ambitious ideas. How long can these media trends persist? Will the next generation face these same insecurities that pop culture is forcing upon us when in fact it is growing further a further away from the truth? There needs to be a media revolution for Gen Y women, there needs to be change so that credit is given when it is deserved. Gen Y women are one of the most ambitious cohorts to enter the American work force in decades and I am proud to count myself as one of them.

Works Cited

“2012 Women’s Research-The Path Forward.” 2012 Women’s Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2014. <;.

“Pilot- Season 1 Episode 1.” Dunham, Lena. Girls. HBO. 15 Apr. 2012. Television.

“Incidentals-Season 3 Episode 8.” Dunham, Lena. Girls. HBO. 23 Feb. 2014. Television.

“Gen Y Women In The Workplace.” Young Careerist n/a (2011): n. pag. Business & Professional Women’s Foundation. Web. 25 May 2014.

Henderson, J.. “Beyond ‘Slut’ And Shopaholic: What Being A Gen Y Woman Is Really All About.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 6 Mar. 2012. Web. 23 May 2014. <;.

“And the Group Head- Season 3 Episode 4.” King, Michael Patrick. 2 Broke Girls. CBS. 14 Oct. 2013. Television.

Settembre, Jeanette. “HBO’s hit series ‘Girls’ is getting backlash for its depiction of New Yorkers as shiftless losers.” NY Daily News. Daily News, 10 Jan. 2014. Web. 31 May 2014. <;.

Williams, Ray B. . “Is Gen Y Becoming the New “Lost Generation?”.” Wired for Success. Psychology Today, 8 Apr. 2013. Web. 29 May 2014. <>.

“Young, Underemployed and Optimistic.” Pew Research Centers Social Demographic Trends Project RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2014. <;.

Single Mid-30’s Women Personified in Popular Culture

Julia Porras

UNST 254C – Popular Culture

Instructor: Daneen Berglund


Single Mid-30’s Women Personified in Popular Culture

The identity that I’ve chosen to write about for this assignment is single mid-30’s woman. In one of the planning assignments for this essay we listed many different things that we identify as, but I feel more than any of the other identities I listed, this represents me the most as an individual. The examples that I’ve seen of this persona represented in popular culture are quite varied. I thought that the different variations of single mid-30’s women and the differences in how men are portrayed would be interesting to examine more closely. More often than not, television shows portray single women as desperate, lonely, or bitter. Though some more modern shows show men this way too, female characters in TV shows are often depicted as being obsessed with their romantic relationships. We’ll look specifically at examples of the popular culture artifacts that I’ve chosen as sources for this assignment, Sex in the City, Friends, and How I Met Your Mother. And even more specially at the characters of Miranda Hobbs, Joey Tribiani, and Ted Moseby. Most commonly single women in their mid-30’s are represented as desperate or lonely, whereas single men in their mid-30’s are considered ladies’ men or they can’t be “tied down” making them all the more desirable. How I Met Your Mother, being the most recent show, tends to bridge that gender gap and has the most gender balanced of characters of the three shows.

To analyze this trope further, first let’s consider the characters of Miranda in Sex and the City and Joey from Friends. Sex and the City, created by Darren Star, produced by HBO, 1998 – 2004. Sex and the City was an American television show. Throughout its six-year run, the show received contributions from various producers, writers and directors, including Michael Patrick King for HBO. This show was set and filmed in New York City, it is based on a book of the same name by Candace Bushnell. The show follows the lives of a group of four women—three in their mid-thirties and one in her forties. The target audience for this show was women in their late 20’s to mid-40’s. It was stylish, the main characters were all white women who drank a lot and were wealthy or at least had seemingly little income worry, at least according to their apartments and wardrobes. This series was notable for it’s style, which is very high fashion and expensive. The character of Miranda Hobbs, played by Cynthia Nixon, is very career driven but the show often focuses on her lack of dating prospects and her cynicism.

Friends, created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, broadcast on NBC, 1994 – 2004. The series was an American sitcom produced by Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, in association with Warner Bros. Television. The original executive producers were Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane, with numerous others being promoted in later seasons. It revolved around a circle of friends living in Manhattan. The target audience for this is similar to the one for Sex in the City, but expanded to both male AND female. It was funny in a cute and silly way. Also set in New York, all the main characters were heterosexual Caucasians that were very focused on their dating and relationship status. This series was very light hearted, almost slapstick. It comes off very much like a show that was a watered down version of young singles in New York City. It is interesting to me how the creators seem to do that on purpose to appeal to a wider audience. It worked too because Friends was one of the most popular shows ever on television. It’s always bothered me how with the exception of a few of the main characters, most of the people in this show were struggling professionals in their various fields. A common theme with people of this age range, however they didn’t seem to struggle when it came to their giant inner city apartments. I’ve spent a lot of time in New York and none of the people I know have apartments that nice. Also they drank a lot less than the other shows I’m using as artifacts and spent more time in their coffee shop than a bar or nightclub. The character of Joey Tribiana, was an actor, and unlike Miranda who eventually had a main relationship with the character Steve, never has a main relationship.

In the article Constructing Gender Stereotypes Through Social Roles in Prime-Time Television, the authors looked at 100 television programs to examine the social roles enacted by female and male characters. The findings confirmed that female characters continue to inhabit interpersonal roles involved with romance, family, and friends. In contrast, male characters are more likely to enact work-related roles. Maybe that’s why the character of Joey is less concerned with his dating life and could therefore focus more on his career, which was an actor. I remember more episodes centered around his job as an actor than his dating life.

My final popular culture artifact is How I Met Your Mother, created by Craig Thomas and Carter Bays, for CBS from 2005 to 2014. This was an American sitcom that follows the main character, Ted Mosby, and his group of friends in Manhattan as Ted, in the year 2030, recounts to his son and daughter the events that led him to meeting their mother. This show has a similar target audience to the other two artifacts I’m using. All college educated, Set in New York City, Mixture of men and women, Two of them were a couple. Main male character more concerned with finding love than female. The main character Ted was pretty atypical because he was a man looking for love. Most shows portray women in those types of roles or characters. The opposite is true of one of the other female characters, which is commitment phobic and not desperate at all. I like how they didn’t fall back on the same old stereotypes. While examining the dichotomies in portrayal of the female character of Miranda and the male character Joey from their respective shows, you can clearly see the slant the media takes on single-ness and gender. Because I am a happily single woman, by choice, I feel like, regardless of age, gender, or sexual preference it would be nice to see a portrayal of a mid-30’s character who wasn’t obsessed with her or his dating life.

I feel like all of these shows were popular and successful so the three similarities that I see all show how marketable shows set in New York about the romantic relationships of single mid-30’s friends are. My theme for this assignment is Mid-30’s Single Woman. I wanted to show how most TV shows who deal with mid-30’s single women are most often portrayed as desperate, lonely and/or updateable, whereas single men in their 30’s are usually less focused on their dating life and more on their work life or other pursuits. There are a lot of similarities in these 3 television shows. All are young, single, white people with little seeming shortage on funds. As I mentioned earlier this must be a very profitable formula and indeed it is. I could list countless other shows and movies centered around young single people on television today, New Girl, The Mindy Project, Friends With Better Lives, Mixology to name but a few. Being a single woman who is focused on her career and education, it would be nice to see a happily single person shown on a TV show.

In the values affirmation activity we did in week 2, the values that I listed that matter most to me were honesty, loyalty, sincerity, dedication, determination, and working hard. Of those values, I chose loyalty as being the most important as it tends to encompass a lot of the other values I listed. I think that sometimes loyalty comes naturally to people, but it takes a certain amount of determination and hard work to carry it out. I feel that my commitment to finishing my degree is a sense of loyalty to myself and my future as is definitely my main focus in life right now. Because I work full time, going to school has been that much more challenging and I’ve had to make sacrifices in almost every other area in my life, which definitely connects with my personal interests and goals. I think that my determination and focus on school is part of what brought about the focus of my essay being single mid-30’s woman because I think that this identity has made school being my main focus possible. So much of the media out there around single people in their mid-30’s has to do with dating and relationships and because I’m focused on my career and school at this point in my life and have very little time for much else, I have a hard time finding that reflection in popular culture. I’ve had a hard time connecting on a personal level to the research that I’ve done for this essay but the activities have helped me understand why this topic is so important to me, so it’s been very interesting.


Martha Lauzen, David Dozier, and Nora Horan. Constructing Gender Stereotypes Through Social Roles in Prime-Time Television.

Sex in the City. Retrieved from:

How I Met Your Mother. Retrieved from

Havrilesky, H. “Never Forget Your Friends”. Retrieved from:

Portrayal of Cyclists in American Popular Culture


In America the automobile is the dominant form of transportation, and bicycling is seen as somewhat of a joke. Nationally cycling as a mode share of commuting is only 0.6% of all trips[1], while 86.1% of people drive in some way. This fact is mirrored in American popular culture; cyclists are a minority in all forms of media. As with many minorities that are not well represented in mass media cyclists tend to be shown in a light that is far from reality. Often bike riders are shown as immature, losers, or extreme athletes. The one way cyclists are not shown is as normal people going about a normal activity, despite the fact that in many parts of the world it is just that.


Common Portrayals of US Cyclists

The Cyclists as the Loser/immature

The most common portrayal of cyclists in America is that of the immature loser. This archetype is best summarized in the film 40-Year-Old-Virgin. In the film actor Steve Carell plays Andy, a 40 year old loser who works a menial job at an electronics store and has never had sex. He also chooses to ride a bicycle to work.

Throughout the film Andy’s bike riding is a source of ridicule, some purely for comedy (speaking to a woman he meets at a bar and wants to take him home, “I hope you have a big trunk…’cus I’m going to put my bike in it!”), but much of it as an association between his lowly social status and his choice of transportation. As an example there is a scene where Andy gets a date with his eventual love interest, Trish, she asks him to pick her up, but he cannot because he rides a bicycle. Not only is Andy obviously embarrassed by this but Trish says “Oh?” with a disappointed/surprised inflection[2].

(starts at 0:15)

Later in the film during a failed sexual encounter with Trish the following exchange takes place:

Trish: I’m just…I’m trying to help you grow up, Andy.

Andy: Well thanks a lot.

Trish: I mean, my god, you ride a bicycle to work in a stock room.[3]

(starts at 1:57)

There are many other parts of the film in which Andy’s bike riding is a point of humor and ridicule. In the end Trish joins Andy on his bike rides, although it is shown as an acceptance of his eccentric personality rather than a normal activity a couple would do together.

Other examples of the loser/immature stereotype include:

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, in which an eccentric and immature man named Pee-Wee Herman rides a bicycle.Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 17.24.59An advertisement from General Motors[4] that depicts a cyclist as self conscious about his mode choice and implies he should grow up and get a car.Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 16.36.49And Napoleon Dynamite, in which the two incredibly nerdy/loser protagonists ride bicycles. [5]

Finally the stereotype is so pervasive that there is an entire blog devoted to the portrayal of cyclists in popular culture as losers and perverts.

These descriptions demonstrate that popular media in the US sees cyclists as immature losers who ride bicycles because of their deep personal and social flaws. These depictions do not show bicycling as normal or for people who are not losers.


The Cyclists as the Extreme Athlete

Another popular media portrayal of cyclists that comes from the adrenaline sports perspective. Before this section begins a bit of background; cycling for sport can be divided broadly into two classes, road riding and mountain biking. Road bikes are sleek, fast and built for going distance at speed, think the Tour de France. Mountain bikes are designed for off-road riding and for big-air tricks, think the X-games. There are additional categories that include BMX riding, Cyclocross racing and adventure touring. What they all have in common is that cycling is portrayed as an action and/or adrenaline sport, only for the hyper fit and fearless.

Mountain biking maybe the most watched type of bike riding in the US, and is generally portrayed as a sport for the extreme young white male. Examples include riders like Danny MacAskill[6]. Although mountain biking is not shown widely on television it is a large presence on YouTube and in specialty magazines.

The advertisements associated with the sport are often bike brands and energy drinks. Red Bull energy drink sponsors many events, the Red Bull Rampage[7] being just one example. The ads are overwhelmingly geared towards young white males, and often contain the mandatory scantily clad female extras and other stereotypical devices.

The road riding half also tends to show hyper-athletic men participating in competitions, with similar advertising but without the same viewership. Additionally the coverage of the Lance Armstrong scandal[8] resulted in a large amount of negative coverage for cycling in general. Add to that the spandex and alien looking helmets, and a picture of a person that is abnormal emerges.

These two classes of extreme cyclist show a version of the sport, one which is open only to elite athletes, especially those who are white and male. There is a near total absences of females, minorities or riders over 30. All this creates an image of a rider that is totally unlike the vast majority of cyclists, i.e. a normal person.


Cycling as Normal

As mentioned previously the one way cyclists are not portrayed is as normal people going about a normal activity. In many parts of the world cycling is a major form of transportation, and cyclists are seen as regular people. What does a regular person look like? They are from all walks of life, genders, ages, and races. They wear normal cloths, not specialty athletic apparel. They ride in a calm manner, not at top speed as if in a race. Children can ride unaccompanied by adults. They stop by the store to grab dinner. In short they do everything that a normal person would do in the US except that they ride a bicycle instead of drive a car.

An excellent example of this is the following video[9]  and weblog[10], which are the observations of a person from the Netherlands commenting on American cycling culture and how it compares to his home country’s. The video notes many things about the American cyclist that can be seen reflected in US popular culture; it is seen as a child’s activity or for those who have yet to “grow up”, that it is for the young, fit and daring. The lack of cycling specific infrastructure (the “infra” the video refers to) is noted and the types observed are criticized for their faults. The main premise of the video is that cycling in America is abnormal, where-as in the Netherlands it is a normal day-to-day activity.

As an interesting contrast the depiction of cyclists in the US is changing. The rate of commuting by bicycle is growing[11], and with it the examples of bicyclists shown as normal people. In the US these depictions are currently primarily limited to alternative media sources like cycling specific blogs. Many of these sources make an active effort to portray cyclists in the light of normalcy. Examples include:,,,, and (from Europe, but is often cited). All of these blogs show cycling not as an extreme sport or the realm of losers, but as normal and even fun.

Despite the prominence in alternative media bicycling is beginning to creep into the broader popular culture. In the 2012 film 21 Jump Street the protagonists are at first seen ridiculing their assignment as bike cops until they go back to high school undercover. One of the protagonists drives a muscle car to school and is teased for wasting fuel by the “cool kid”, who says, “we ride bicycles when we can…global crisis and what-not.”[12]The scene is representative of the generational shift away from driving[13] and towards other forms of transportation, which include cycling.

Additionally many major news outlets have started to pay attention to cycling, and in a way that speaks to its normality. NPR recently ran an article about cycling etiquette when commuting[14], and another article on the increase in commuting by bike to work[15]. The NPR affiliate in Portland, OR went so far as to have a race between staffers; bike, car and bus[16]. In a testament to the normalcy of the challenge the bikes won.

Other examples of the change in media perception of cyclists include: an entire news subheading on the Huffington Post[17], the numerous stories about bike sharing systems[18], and local newspaper blogs like The Oregonian’s Hard Drive Blog[19], which regularly feature stories about cycling.



Despite its portrayal in US popular culture, cycling is not only for losers, children or the hyper-athletic. Cycling is in fact a normal activity practiced by normal people. The portrayal of cycling in the media undoubtedly influences the behavior of Americans, and despite the recent increase of cycling overall, the commute rates, as noted before, remain at 0.6% nationally. What may be the turning point in US cycling rates is the portrayal of cyclists in American media. When portrayed as a normal activity, as opposed to the domain of losers and athletes, cycling can finally obtain a popular and accepted status. There may even be a day when cycling is shown as just as banal as driving in a TV show.


Footnotes and Sources

[1] US Census, Commuting In The United States 2009, Sept 2001, accessed 13 May 2014,

[2] 40-Year-Old-Virgin, 2005, Universal Pictures, clip from YouTube, accessed 14 May 2014, from 0:15 – 0:52,

[3] 40-Year-Old-Virgin, 2005, Universal Pictures, clip from YouTube, accessed 14 May 2014, from 1:57 – 2:12,

[4] Maus, Jonathan, GM ad urges college students to “Stop pedaling…start driving”,, Oct 11 2011,

[5] Napoleon Dynamite, Fox Searchlight and Paramount Pictures, 2004, clip from YouTube, accessed 29 May 2014,

[6] Promotional web page, accessed May 17 2014,


[8] Wikipedia, Lance Armstrong, accessed 17 May 2014,

[9] Wagenbuur, Mark, Cycling in the US from a Dutch perspective, 19 June 2013, accessed 17 June 2014,

[10] Wagenbuur, Mark, US cycling form a Dutch perspective, 20 June 2013, accessed 17 May 20414,

[11] League of American Bicyclists, The Growth of Bike Commuting, published 2013, accessed 29 May 2014,

[12] 21 Jump Street, Sony Pictures, 2012, clip from YouTube, accessed 13 May 2014, starts at 1:10,

[13] Pulmer, Brad, Why Aren’t Younger Americans Driving Anymore?,  Washington Post Wonkblog, 22 April 2013, accessed 14 May 2014,

[14] Silver, Marc, Don’t Salmon, Don’t Shoal: Learning the Lingo of Safe Cycling, National Public Radio, 15 May 2014, accessed 15 May 2014,

[15] Corley, Cheryl, Across the U.S. Bicycle Commuting Picks Up Speed, National Public Radio, 15 May 2014, accessed 15 May 2014,

[16] Profita, Cassandra and Kristian Foden-Vencil, Commute Race: Bike Cruise to Finish Line in 18 min, Oregon Public Broadcasting, 17 July 2012, accessed 15 May 2014,


[18] Google News search, accessed 29 May 2014,…0.0…1ac.1.8AYfWHMFalo


Life — It’s the Pits

Jamie Gibb
30 May 2014

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope” (Angelou, 2013).

In 2013 President Barack Obama stood his ground against breed-specific legislation, laws which target and outlaw specific breeds of dogs, though he had nothing to gain by making this declaration; he doesn’t own a Pit Bull (or Pit Bull mix) whom these law are strategically written for. He owns a “nice” house dog. Still, President Obama’s official statement was, “Research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources […] As an alternative to breed-specific policies, the CDC recommends a community-based approach to prevent dog bites. And ultimately, we think that’s a much more promising way to build stronger communities of pets and pet owners” (Greenwood, 2013). (Emphasis mine) But, perhaps he understood something more … something that few people do: separating dog owners from their community because their breed of dog is undesirable is equal to the segregation laws that were enacted when Jim Crow was around. Perhaps our president understood the “one-drop rule” was only a good benchmark for how American you were, and was never a good measurement for determining how much Black you had in you, or how much Pit your dog was, in order to enforce those restrictions. Perhaps it was something more, though; maybe he understood that owning a Pit Bull didn’t make people into criminals, though breed-specific legislation surely would. Regardless of how often popular culture and our media present Pit Bull owners as scary and deranged, Pit Bull owners are not criminals-in-the-making because of their dogs; Pit Bulls are loving, loyal, family dogs, not criminal manufacturers.

I was never called deviant, nor ever vilified, when I owned my Cocker Spaniel. In fact, it never occurred to me that I would be looked down on by anyone for my breed choice, except, perhaps, by those who thought spending $350 for a dog was incredibly poor judgement. But, I didn’t want a mutt from the shelter… You can’t trust those pound puppies—they’re in for a reason, you know.

The shelter gave me a choice that day; honestly, I don’t know what prompted me to go in. Maybe it was because my Cocker of 13 years had been gone for just over three, but I just wanted to see. Big, brown, almond-shaped eyes stared at me and I thought, “Oh, Lordy, who could say no to that?” Still, I wasn’t convinced; he was a mutt and there’s a lot of risk involved; those dogs usually come with some…baggage. “Take him home for the weekend, and if it doesn’t work out … bring him back,” they said. The promise of a “full refund” clinched the deal. I drove away thinking, “How much ‘damage’ could he have? He’s an 8-week-old ‘Black Lab Mix,’” as stated by all the papers I’d signed. I knew (though not from personal experience) that Labradors are sweet and tolerant to the ends of the ages. They are family dogs. Every media depiction shows how Labs go on family trips, camping, and to the beach; a Lab is what I needed. I had high expectations of personal community approval, with lots of “ooh’s and ahh’s”.

My first experience with our neighborhood’s non-approval, and media-centric “land-shark” mentality happened exactly two hours after bringing this puppy home. It was pretty clear that while he might have some other breeds in him, a Labrador mix
Imageis not what he was. I would never, never, never have rescued a Pit Bull. They’re aggressive—and, according to “everybody” who knows “anything” about these dogs, they will snap, just like rubber bands. One day everything is great and the next … Pitzilla! I had seen plenty of these news stories, too. “Maybe not right this moment,” they said… In their minds this puppy had already become some heinous creature of the night, and I, for adopting him, was taking my children’s lives, their friends’ lives, and even my neighbors’ lives into my own hands. I should, “Choose wisely,” they said, and it was suggested that *every* one of these types of dogs should be put down… to save us all — of course.

I support the idea of making the world a better place, but the assumptions and presumptions underpinning the idea that “we” need to “euthanize” an entire breed of dog in order to preserve and protect ourselves from these beasts of prey, just didn’t add up; there were plenty of negative news reports surrounding Pit Bulls and the low-life neighborhoods they were trained in, but those were nurturing stories, right? We live in a nice neighborhood; we’re nowhere close to Skid Row. Still, our neighborhood issues began that day with “us’s” versus “them’s”— sides were taken and lines were drawn; everyone knows “them’s” never come out of the deal quite as good as “us’s” so it’s best be on the “right side” early. Taking the Bull(dog) by the horns, I decided to find out
if what the media reported was true: Are Pit Bull’s little walking time-bombs? Should I take him back, or keep him crated and watch my children vigilantly? More though, will I become a criminal meth-dealer because of my very close proximity to a Pit Bull? I Googled the term, “Why + Terrible + Pit Bull.” 

—I should tell you now, before I go into much more detail, that I am a lady with a dragon tattoo and according to our media’s definition, tattoos and piercings are a part of what defines me as a Pit Bull owner— But that aside, I quickly discovered why I was “endangering” my neighbors.

The first article I found, Scared of Pit Bulls? You’d Better Be!, written by Brian C. Anderson in the spring of 1999, stated my problem clearly: “Bred for violence, these dogs can wreck a neighborhood’s quality of life as surely as prostitutes or drug dealers” (Anderson, 1999). (Emphasis mine) —Honestly, I was impressed, but this little puppy didn’t look all that powerful— Anderson continued his first paragraph about how he has personally watched drug dealers and gang members training these dogs into vicious beasts in the park across from his house. Though he tried to present both sides of the story, citing and quoting Robin Kovary, a dog breeder and Pit Bull lover, he used her quotes to further his own agenda. Kovary stated, according to Anderson, “Once the word got out […] to youths who wanted a tough dog to show off with, the breed passed into less than responsible hands—kids who wanted the dogs to be as aggressive as they could be” (Anderson, 1999). The main takeaway from his article was “criminals own these dogs” or more, “if you want to be a criminal you’ll get this dog.” Pit Bulls weren’t owned by responsible pet owners anywhere in the article. But my neighbors knew me, they knew I was responsible — why then was I suddenly the pariah of our ’hood? I returned to Google with a new search term: “Pit Bull + Family Dog”.

I was pleasantly surprised to find there are family Pit Bulls—famous family dogs, in fact—and the families were not blacklisted, nor criminals! Theodore Roosevelt owned a Pit Bull, while in the White House, named Pete; coincidentally, The Little Rascal’s named their four-legged Pittie Petey; “Sallie” is an immortalized Pit Bull standing guard over a Civil War monument in Pennsylvania; and the U.S. Navy’s loyal mascot was a Pit Bull named Sergeant Stubby. Helen Keller also had a Pit Bull named Stubby and I wondered if it was named after the Navy dog? — Regardless, none of these people were even remotely involved in criminal activity. Comedian Jamie Foxx vowed to find Barack Obama, and his family, a Pit Bull when they were trying to choose a new best friend (Moira, 2008), and he never once considered the criminal potential, I’d bet. Still, Moira, from the Dream Dogs Art site stated succinctly the problem with Pit Bulls as family pets, drawing upon a secondary negative reference I hadn’t considered, politics. “Ummm, yeah…there is no way Michelle is going to get a Pitbull for her two little girls. […] And NOBODY wants the whole Sarah Palin/Pitbull/lipstick/pig meme bubbling back up in the media again” (Moira, 2008). Yeah, the Palin thing. Nobody wants someone who owns a Pit Bull to become as tenacious as a Pit Bull, and that was a very real possibility since Pit Bulls seem to have this mind-altering ability about them. One moment you’re a law-abiding citizen, the next you find yourself wearing red lipstick or heading up a notorious criminal ring.

Maybe to mock “Moira”, I threw on some loud makeup, grabbed my puppy, and headed for the bookstore. I picked up the book Pit Bull Placebo, written in 2007 by Karen Delise; it was exactly the book I needed to read. In fact, it was the book a lot of people should have been reading. While the media portends that you likely to have a criminal lurking inside because you knowingly own a Pit Bull, Delise debunked that myth in pretty short order stating that a lot of times little people with big egos want to appear larger than life by owning one of the world’s scariest dogs, but Pit Bulls are not any scarier than other dogs; it’s a popular media ruse (Delise, 2007).

ImageThere is a media driven problem of both owner and dog stereotypes, which in turn become self-fulfilling prophesies. This cartoon, “Beware of Dog” (Epic Snaps, n.d.), is the epitome of both cliches — the Pit Bull, with the spike collar, versus the ego-heavy, brawny- scary owners, or the “Jerks with Masculinity Issues”. The cartoon drives home Delise’s point: these stereotypes of both dogs and owners are wrong, in spite of the notoriety surrounding them both (Delise, 2007).
It can be tricky to navigate through the muddy waters created by the publicity-peddled terrible owners, still, I had to trust Delise, correlation does not equal causation — drug dealers choose these dogs because of their reputation, not because that’s who these dogs make someone into. I would not be starting my own meth-lab, prostitution group, or dogfighting ring simply because I had this dog. And, Cesar Milan agreed.

Cesar Milan, known around the world as The Dog Whisperer, has his own pack of 25 dogs–his favorite is his Pit Bull, Junior (Milan, n.d.). In an article on his website, Milan tells how Pit Bull’s got the “bad rap”, blaming the problem squarely on the two-leggers; we blame the dogs for being bad, and making us bad, but really we are to blame in both cases (Milan, n.d.). Milan, working with the “Homeboy’s” in California, helped their ex-gang members with their dogs’ behavior problems. Though the media would paint all gangsters as Pit Bull owners, they are not. Some, actually, own terrible little dogs. Watching big tough guys owning little, fluffy, ornery dogs makes me laugh. They just don’t seem to …match. There’s that media stereotype for you again; it’s hard to break.

Bucking tradition, media portrayals, and popular culture’s stereotypes even further is Pit Bulls and Parolees (Drachkovitch 2009-2014). This popular show is filled with the people who don’t match with the dogs who should, by all rights and in many cases, hate humans. Tia, the “shelter-mom/rescuer”, sporting a shirt which reads “Racism Is The Pits”, has a full-plate juggling the media’s portrayal of these dogs, which makes them less than adoptable to regular families (like mine), and the full-house of Pit Bulls she currently has (Drachkovitch 2009-2014). She, like the Homeboy’s of California, believes in second chances for both people and for Pitties. She has the unenviable job of trying to break criminal-adopter stereotypes; she adopts to “normal looking” people, though her family has all the tattoos—the hard exterior shells—you’d expect to find in the owners of this infamous breed. She lives her life trying to teach people not to fear the Pittie, or their tattooed owners, making guest appearances across the country on her “‘P’ Word” tour… and working with a lot of Pit Bulls. I couldn’t have been more surprised to learn that according to temperament testing, Pit Bull’s rank right behind Labrador’s, though certainly our culture wouldn’t tell you that. I began to wonder, “If they’re wrong about what a Pit Bull is, are they also wrong about the humans who own them?”Image They are.

Tia advocates for Pit Bull owners, against breed-specific legislation, for second chance homes for Pit Bulls through her television program, and against social bias. Working with her to end stereotype biases are the second chance parolees; the group you’d think would own these dogs. Tia makes it her job to hire those she can, helping break not only dog, but people discriminations (Drachkovitch 2009-2014). Not surprisingly, after watching this show filmed in the city of second chances, New Orleans, I believed I had the bravery, wisdom, and strength to be a good second chance owner. 

To be a Pit Bull owner I must bravely fight against the idea that only criminals want these family dogs and that by owning one I am dragging the criminal element into the neighborhood. I must also understand that people are frightened by what they don’t know. Scared people are defensive; I must have the wisdom to know the difference between bad laws and bad people. And, Pit Bull owners must be “better” than every other dog owner—we must exhibit the antithesis of everything the media portrays us as, all the while standing to make people understand that racism, however it looks, is wrong; Pit owners are decent human beings, not gang members or drug dealers, regardless of how many tattoos, piercings, or Pits we might have.

Character enables you to face yourself in the mirror and like who you see; I am taking a page from my dog’s book and loyally standing strong in the face of adversity, still loving people no matter what they’ve put me through. I encourage others to follow my lead and stop bowing to peer pressure, blindly accepting bans on specific breeds of dogs because it’s the easy thing to do, especially when these bans hurt not only dogs, but the communities of families who love them — even more since these bans are about a misperception and misrepresentation of who the people are who own the dogs—law abiding citizens—and not because the dogs themselves create hostile neighborhoods. I hope, should you read nothing Imagebut this paragraph, this is what you take away: My neighbors were wrong: Pit Bull’s do not make people into criminals; nothing could be further from the truth. Loving a Pit Bull just might, however, make you into a better human being

—I know mine did.


                (Bode through the years)


Anderson, B. (1999). Scared of pit bulls? You’d better be!. Retrieved from

Angelou, M. (2013). No fences. Retrieved from

Epic Snaps. (n.d.). Beware of dog. Retrieved from

Delise, K. (2007). The pit bull placebo: The media, myths and politics of canine aggression. United States: Anubis Publishing.

Drachkovitch, R. (Executive producer). (2009-2014). Pit bulls and parolees [Television series]. Agua Dulce, CA: 44 Blue Productions. 

Fox news. (2013, February 6). Pit bulls wrongly blamed for dog attacks. Retrieved from

Greenwood, A. (2013, August 20). Obama comes out against dog breed-specific legislation, joins the fight for Pit Bulls. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Milan, C. (n.d.). How did pit bulls get a bad rap? Retrieved from

Milan, C. (n.d.). Who is Cesar Millan? Retrieved from

Moira. (2008). Dream dogs art. Retrieved from

Scheller, A. (2013). Why it’s ridiculous people still think pit bulls are inherently mean (infographic). Retrieved from