Expanding on “Zones of Degeneracy”

In their article “Missing and Murdered Women: Reproducing Marginality in News Discourse,” Jewani and Young talk about the way that the media represents violence against women with focus on aborignality. Their research site is the news representation by the Vancouver Sun on the murdered and missing women of the Downtown Eastside, otherwise knows as the poorest postal code in Canada.

Young and Jiwani bring in in a scholar by the name of Sherene Razack, a Salteaux woman, who introduces the idea of “zones of degeneracy” (899). “Zones of degeneracy” are places where hegemonic masculinity is reinforced. It is reinforced because these zones are places for men to visit, do their business, and leave, thereby exploiting these spaces and the women who live there. The zones only exist for the purpose of the other. Additionally, the authors mention how with the existence of zones of degeneracy there must be zones of “respectability.” The men are able to cross between both zones, transcending any stigma for existing in the zone of degeneracy.

Jiwani and Young make the argument that the DTES is a “zone of degeneracy” where men come to slum-it-up and have a good time. In regards to the DTES they say:

 “not only are areas such as the Downtown Eastside created as degenerate zones that can be frequented with impunity by men, but such zones are also designed to demarcate degrease bodies” (900).

As they argue, the zones are created to separate, isolate, and identify those that society deem unwanted.

Expanding on the idea that “zones of degeneracy” are created, I will show that by looking at Geography’s understanding of place and space we can better understand the problems around the zones.

In geography 122 we often talk about how colonizers, or people in power, often fail to consider place and space. They usually just think of an area as a space rather than a place. They think of an area as a space for resource extraction, or as a strategic destination for military. We can consider that men are looking at the DTES as a space (or zone) of degeneracy, without considering the people who live in and animate the neighbourhood. Is problematic to think of an area as space, rather than place, because you fail to acknowledge local needs and concerns. A space is only important in relation to other spaces. Similarly, a zone of  degeneracy only exists in contrast to zones of respectability. However, a place is important in of itself without needing a relationship.

Furthermore, we can better understand the media attention that is drawn to the DTES and how it only portrays an image of a crime filled neighbourhood, by considering space and place. As can been seen in the hyper representation aboriginal women as “drug filled prostitutes”, the media takes a broad stereotypical understanding of a space and applies it to all the people within the zone.

The problematically of considering zones of degeneracy as spaces is that it fails to meet the issues of the community. This can be seen by the ongoing concerns of gentrification in the DTES. In “Through a Blue Lens” Nicola talks about being literally pushed into the DTES by security guards. She was being pushed into these spaces of degeneracy. These spaces where the poor/the prostitutes/the mentality ill/the old go. Perhaps if these “zones” can be understood as a place in the city, and not where we shove the unwanted, Vancouver could address the issues that happen in the DTES.


How Narratives Get Taken Up: Vancity Buzz

Last friday February 7th there was a lantern event held at Spanish banks for two very different reasons.

The first, by organizer Yakiv Yaholnitser, was a way to peacefully protest and raise funds for the conflicts occurring in Ukraine dubbed “Euromaiden.”

The second, by Vancity Buzz was “an authentic Chinese New Year Sky Lantern Festival.”

Problems on authenticity aside, what happened was that Vancity Buzz miss interpreted an event for the UBC community and broadcasted it to the wider Vancouver audience. The event was promoted as a Chinese New Year event which was not the purpose that Yaholnitser, a Ukrainian, had in mind. (Edit: Looking at Vancity Buzz’s post again it seems that they added a bit saying that the money is going to Ukraine. However it is at the very bottom of the page and was probably added due to complaint).

This is not the first time Vancity Buzz has been in trouble for taking up other people’s stories/event. Back in October the site stole a post made on the “#WhatShouldWeCallUBC” tumblr and reposted it on their site without recognition. The Ubyssey (who I write for occasionally) wrote a cool blog post about it here.

Yaholnitser received a lot of criticism for the event indirectly on the Vancity Buzz article. People gave him a lot of hate for destroying the environment, putting peoples houses at risk, etc. However, his lanterns that he sold specifically for the UBC event were biodegradable (made out of bamboo and rice paper), but the other 6,000 people who showed up had a variety of lantern.  Some that included metal framed ones that do NOT biodegrade. So his close intimate gathering was turned into this massive publicized event that garnered him un wanted and un expected attention.

Vanicty Buzz took up his personal narrative of being a Ukrainian national and having a personal connection to the violence occurring there, in order to bringing revenue to their site. The site is a for profit company that operates on a ad based revenue stream and the article, which received 14, 000 “likes” sure brought in some money. So we can look at how his personal life narrative was taken, twisted, and commodified in order to promote Vancity Buzz as a company that is “just letting you know about the cool thing happening in our city.”

What happened raises a lot of questions on the ethics of the reproduction of people’s own stories by other bigger companies. Because, yes the event was a completely unexpected success gathering  7,000 people, but was it a success for the purposes originally set out? Perhaps if the event was marketed as a Ukrainian event it would be okay, because it would keep the original message. However, because it blatantly ignored Yaholnitser’s personal story, I believe that it was not a success. Vancity Buzz profited on the stealing of a UBC event.