What does the US Navy and SLU have in common?

As we sat down on Sunday evening, we tried to decompress the section “Myth Today” from Roland Barthes Mythologies. Immediately, the consensus was that we hoped we didn’t have a quiz. However, we did agree on other things dealing with myths, significations, neologism, and the other things Barthes discussed that further fuzzied our minds….

The one piece of the article that stood out to us was the story of the African American French boy soldier saluting on the cover of the magazine. By talking through it, we came to understand the signifier (the image), the signified (African American boy saluting), and the sign (French imperialism.) Each step adds a bit more to the previous aspect; thus leading us more and more into a deeper understanding of the image. As we were all intrigued by this concept, we decided to find examples in our everyday life that could be similar to this example.

Haley immediately went to the US Navy website. The first thing she noticed was that it was VERY diverse through the pictures. We could easily see a white man, white woman, among men and women of different ethnicities and backgrounds. Even more so, these pictures seemed to express that the US Navy was a unified, equal, non-judgmental organization seeking to protect the great country of America. We could even feel the sense of “pride” coming from these photos. Yet, we knew it wasn’t all that it seems to be. Haley pointed out that, in reality, the US Navy has had issues with racism and gender. It is hard to believe that there is no inequality among people of varying backgrounds and sex throughout the US Navy. Yet, the images want us to believe that…

Another example, closer to home, was the St. Lawrence University viewbook. Take any day of the week and walk from Dana Dining Hall to Noble Center. What do you see? Patagonia jackets, books in hands, and smiling kids headed off to class. Yet, these students are predominantly “white” students from middle to upper class. Of course you will see students of diversity among the mix, but the obvious observation is the amount of white students on campus. However, the SLU viewbook paints a bit of a different picture. On the cover, students of many different ethnicities, cultures, backgrounds are seen studying, laughing, eating on the St. Lawrence campus. Furthermore, it is noticeable that students of diversity, on campus, generally stick together with those other students of diversity. This obviously isn’t the case for every student of diversity, but it is something to be noted. We decided that the myth was telling this story of SLU having a wonderful diverse and intermingled campus when in reality, that is not necessarily the case. This isn’t just unique to St. Lawrence University either. Many universities, institutions, organizations flaunt “diversity” through their social media despite diversity, in reality, to be lacking at the institution.

We ended the discussion by trying to sum up what “myth” meant. Previously, we discussed that it meant something that was false. However, Barthes was taking myth somewhere else. We came to the conclusion that myth is what something is trying to say, instead of a lie. It is a story; whether it is the whole truth, half-truth, or just a little truth. Now it is up to us, as students of Global Studies Theories, to find out the truth in these signifiers that we are being fed everyday.

– Chloe

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