Archive for Society

The Ones “The Lost Generation” Lost

Young people are in trouble. Here in Britain they are called “The Lost Generation”, those under 25 who are not in employment, education or training. My using of the third person plural merits some explanation. It’s due to the fact that the number “25” is pulled out of someone’s arse. Social commentators have been going on about “The Lost Generation” roughly since the economic recession hit; 3 years ago. Some of the people under 25 then are over 25 now. Does anything magical happen once they turn 26? Do they suddenly become “Found”? Or do they carry on having similar difficulties to the ones they had 3 years ago? Everyone is concerned about “The Lost Generation” because it’s well understood that once young people go through hardship when they should be studying or working, the years spent on unemployment are not gained back. They are, in economic terms, “wasted” years. So why do we stop taking young people into account when they cross that esoteric threshold? Those who have already turned 26, 27 or 28 are still part of “The Lost Generation”. That’s how one considers “generations”. Not as the people within a specific age range right now, but as people born between a specific range of years. Because people grow up. Or grow old. There isn’t such a thing as the “under 25s” generation just like there isn’t such a thing as the “those in their 60s” generation. We call them “baby boomers”, just like we did 20 years ago when they were in their 40s.
I pick on this for several reasons. First because this is more than sloppy analysis. The number of people affected by the crisis will obviously be larger if we include those who have already crossed the 25 years of existence. Furthermore, that number will get higher and higher the more people that cross it, or rather, the longer the recession carries on. If we present the problem in this way, that is, getting worse by the day, it suddenly becomes more pressing. And the last thing I want to see is those in power making a big problem appear smaller.
Second, because it acknowledges certain continuity in life that the other perspective doesn’t. Human life is more than statistics and bills made of paper. Politicians are trying to calm everyone’s anxiety by creating schemes addressed to those “under 25” which we know will take a couple of years to be implemented, and even then will only help a small portion of those affected. Even if they take two years to become effective, by then it will be five since the recession kicked in. The just about under 25 are now hovering the 30s. It’s too late for them to take apprenticeships, or volunteer, or do unpaid work. They want to live by themselves, maybe start a family… And they can’t do that without jobs that pay a decent wage. That’s the problem, you see. People’s lives aren’t put on hold when the economy slows down. Focusing on those affected by the crisis, and carrying on caring as they grow older, is more humane. It brings down the issues to actual people’s lives.
A third reason is simply that I don’t like sloppy analysis. For a long time now, social commentators have been trying and failing to find a way to define the baby boomer’s children. The problem is that there has been no major event, no big war that can clearly define them. We are all one big blob of people, everyone born between the mid 60s til today, all without a clear historical referent, an identity. And as if this wasn’t insulting enough, we are referred to as “under 25s” but stop being mentioned altogether once we turn 26? Pinfeathers!
Last, of course, is the very obvious reason why I don’t like the term “under 25s”. Because it alienates me. See, I was under 25 when the recession started, but, unable to put my life on hold until things got better, I was forced to keep on celebrating birthdays. And now I and those around my age don’t matter anymore because we eventually stopped belonging to this magical, mythical age group conceived by Jobcentre Plus? Hang it all!

To sum up. They are either those “under 25s” or they are “The Lost Generation”. But the two are not compatible. An age range refers to a particular portion of the population that changes over time, and a generation refers to the same group of people as they carry on over time.

Coarse language brought to you by The Sword In The Stone.

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And THAT Is How It’s Done

Behold, fellow Feminists! Battles are being won before our very eyes! Or at least in Iceland.

“Iceland has passed a law that will result in every strip club in the country being shut down. And forget hiring a topless waitress in an attempt to get around the bar: the law, which was passed with no votes against and only two abstentions, will make it illegal for any business to profit from the nudity of its employees.”

Simple and to the point. Wasn’t so hard, now, was it?

Guðrún Jónsdóttir of Stígamót, an organisation based in Reykjavik that campaigns against sexual violence, (said):

“I guess the men of Iceland will just have to get used to the idea that women are not for sale.”

This feminist victories in Iceland remind me of the expansion of women’s rights in Spain in the last decade. And all it took was a government that was committed to equality and had the outrageous conviction that domestic violence was unacceptable.

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Research Spin

If you’ve been anywhere near The Guardian for the past three days you will have come across this “intent” to curb the hypersexualisation of our beloved media.
There’s absolutely nothing in this new report or in the proposed “action plans” that we feminists haven’t seen at least a billion times since the ‘70s. This is a well known tactic used by governments when they can’t possibly avoid an “issue” any longer: they commission research. “You say there’s a problem? Don’t worry, we’ll look into it, leave it to us.” Ten years pass by and nothing gets done, on accounts that the research is not “conclusive” enough. So then more research is commissioned, another ten years pass by and the whole thing repeats itself again. This system of permanent “spin” is applied to anything that the public might show interest in, from acid rain to advertising aimed at children. The excuse for inaction is “we don’t know for sure yet”. In the meantime, the concerned public is appeased, the outrage conveniently dispersed. It’s a “safety valve” designed to stop pressure from effecting change. Or causing explosions. Both of which are dangerous to the status quo.

The problem is not lack of research, you see. We have known the harmful effects of pornography since the very invention of pornography. Not only we do not need further research, but we have never needed research in the first place. Accepting that we ever did acts to sow doubt in our minds. “Maybe we don’t know it all. Maybe the blatant truth in front of us is not quite what it seems”. So we better go to the big institutions, the big authority figures, the State, the Universities, all of which are designed to keep the status quo intact, to provide us with irrevocable proof that yes, the truth is indeed true.
We don’t need research to tell us that poisoning a river is “bad” any more than we need research to tell us that denigrating images of women are “bad”. And for good measure, we don’t need research to tell us that torture in Guantanamo is “bad” either.
The way to fight back against this “spin” nonsense is to do away with research altogether. You want proof that hypersexualisation is harmful? Our rage is proof enough. We want this to stop and we demand this to be stopped. End of story.
The way to rationalize this approach is to understand that the current state of affairs wasn’t put in place because the research proved it to be the best possible alternative. No one carried out extensive research comparing the benefits of a hypersexualised culture versus a non hypersexualised one and concluded that, yes, hypersexualisation was the way to go. If “they” didn’t need research to put it there we shouldn’t need research to take it down.
Or you can think about it this way: did the government commission studies to prove that bailing out banks was the most favourable social outcome? Thought so. Furthermore, did they go back and said “the evidence is non conclusive, come back in a year or two with better data”? Exactly.
Those in power get to call the shots, independently of whether they make sense or not. The rest of us don’t have that privilege. If we want to change something, we better justify it a thousand times over.

Just to finish this off, take a closer look at this line in the editorial article about this very topic:

“Today a Home Office report proposes action to try to reduce access to the kind of magazines and advertising that appear to objectify young girls, and more education to arm all young people against it.”

Did it occur to anyone that maybe there shouldn’t be stuff in our society for which young people should be armed against? What is this? A war?

Maybe it is. A war over who gets to decide what goes on in our minds. And we are losing.

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Why I Don’t Talk About The Nuclear Family – Part Words

a.k.a. “Why I’m not so eager to dance on the grave of the nuclear family”

(Second Part of this post)

I tend to remain quiet on topics I know very little about but I make exceptions with the ones I can give a different spin to. And this is one of those topics.

The Traditional Nuclear Family™ is falling apart. We all know that. The Conservative Right goes ballistic over this and puts the blame squarely at the feet of women, more precisely, women’s liberation. The so-called progressives/leftists/feminists respond to this attack with some variation of “Thank god the Traditional Nuclear Family is going! About bloody time!”.
I, however, am not so eager to dance on the grave of the nuclear family. Why? Because I don’t see anything stepping in to replace it

It is very clear to “people who know” like sociologists that there simply must be something that organizes people around each other. It’s basic human nature and it stems from the fact that we are “social” beings. This is the argument in favour of the nuclear family which you hear from those well meaning people from the Right (they exist, I haves seen them).

But if it’s not the Evol Feminism™ that is murdering the families, then what is?

Feminism is not the cause behind the demise of the patriarchal nuclear family. If that were the case, feminists would be pushing forward something to replace it with, some other kind of family arrangement. Matriarchy? Matrilineality? Matricentricity? Matrifocality? Goddess knows. One thing is clear, though. We are not short of ideas. Or models.

But the fact that there’s nothing in sight to take the place of the nuclear family should be enough evidence that it’s not a direct action of the people involved. The fact that it’s causing a helluva lot of pain should provide the final argument to the ones who remain unconvinced. Every heterosexual couple that decides to get married does so convinced that they will be able to make it work. And yet. How many of those couples who gets a divorce wishes they hadn’t have to? And among those who do not, how many wishes they could have spared the collateral damage to those who are affected by the divorce, namely children, extended family and friends? It’s clear to me that the nuclear family is crumbling despite people’s intentions, not as a result of them.

I’d say that either someone or something is invested in killing the traditional nuclear family. Alternatively, its death could be a consequence of a much bigger someone or something. I’d go for the second first and the first second; in that order. I blame the status quo. The politico-economic system. Capitalism. And all that encompasses it.
I think the nuclear family as we think of it today was useful for the system some time ago. Now it’s become an obstacle to something much bigger. Which is why it’s quietly but steadily falling apart. Because the bigger thing cannot be stopped. And if the nuclear family happens to be on its way, then too bad.

Now I make no grand claims to know why the nuclear family is disappearing before our eyes. I have some vague ideas, but nothing more. What I can see is the advantages that this has for the status quo. Having a society made up of unconnected individuals is the best recipe for dealing with potential uprisings. If people cannot get together out of love for each other, what chance do they have of getting together for some common “cause” that could, perhaps, be realized 500 years after they pass away? Worse still, if people do not get close enough to talk to each other, how can they ever find out what their commonalities are? Even worse still, if people never know that they have anything in common with others, why would they ever care about others in the first place?

And if people cannot find things in common with other people, they will never develop bonds between them, which will guarantee that they will never find what they common miseries are, which in turn will guarantee that they never get together to fight the cause of those common miseries.

Neat plan, ah?

Of course my little analysis has been clear for ages to those superb feminists with huge brains one never hears about. Claudia von Werlhof, who is clearly one of them, summarizes it nicely in “Capitalist Patriarchy and The Negation of Matriarchy”.

“In patriarchal societies we can always find vestiges of former matriarchal societies-matriarchy as “second culture” (Genth 1996)-left over or newly re-organized after the patriarchs had started to deny the reality and quality of matriarchal society (Werlhof 2004b). This matriarchy as second culture can be observed everywhere, for example, in mother-child AND OTHER LOVE -relationships, and in gift giving generally (Vaughan 1997).

It contradicts the patriarchal order, but also helps it to exist, because a society without any matriarchal relations could simply not survive. Therefore, patriarchies are always somehow “mixed” societies, whether to a higher or lower degree, and they are hiding this fact as much as they can-for obvious reasons. But today it is clear that patriarchy is trying to complete its negation of matriarchy in order to replace it WITH ITSELF, A “PURE” PATRIARCHY, as much as possible. This destruction and the fading away of the second culture in patriarchy, and of much of the still existing gift paradigm within it, is one of the main reasons for the depth of the crisis of contemporary civilization.”

Where I disagree with her is in the assertion that “patriarchy is trying to complete its negation of matriarchy”. That doesn’t seem to fit with the victories of feminism which, though modest, have indeed taken place and are relatively recent. I think patriarchy is going stronger in some areas, those which are “behind the crisis of contemporary civilization”, and is going weaker in others, those where women have gained some ground. I know; it’s not a very positive way to see it.

Still, if we want humanity to survive (though not, perhaps, civilization), we should be aware that some kind of family or group arrangement is necessary, both to our survival and to overturn the system that is doing us, and the planet, in.
We need to get the message across that yes, we do need families but they don’t need to be the traditional, patriarchal, nuclear type that we are used to.

And no, this is not an easy message to get across. Like pretty much every aspect of human nature, family has been co-opted by the dominant discourse. So when you say “family” people understand “patriarchal nuclear family with the man as breadwinner and the woman as house slave”; much like when one says “morality” and people understand “list of rules from the bible used by nasty prudes to make sex a sin”.
But it’s not an impossible task. And rest assure that those superb feminists with huge brains one never hears about have many ideas. And models.

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Happily Oppressed

Have you noticed how the most oppressed groups tend to have quite “happy” stereotypes? In other words, how the most oppressed groups are expected to be the happiest?
The more I think about it, the more examples I find.
For african-americans there used to be the myth of the “happy slave”. Nowadays, I find that black people are often presented as cheerful and happy, especially women.
The case of latinos is particularly compelling. The whole of latinamerica is presented as this land of permanent partying, with permanently happy people. How could they not be happy with all those parties going on and all the pina colada sprouting from the ground of those happy white sand beaches?
For gay people, the idea is that they are, well, “gay”. And do we ever see them in any context outside of the tired cliche of partying semi naked in some parade or other?
What about disabled people? Is anyone interested in listening to the story of a severely disabled person who is not cheerfully happy despite the adverse circumstances? No, that wouldn’t be all that inspiring.
And last, but not least, we have the case of women. Women are always supposed to be happy and smiling to prove it. Women’s happiest day is when they get married. And we all know the myth of the “happy housewife”, which took all the energy of the second-wave feminists to debunk.
But this whole “happily oppressed” dealio reaches its highest, nastiest peak when we consider the myth of the “happy hooker”. The woman who is literally the least likely to be free to “choose”, the least likely to be “happy” (as long as we consider happiness to depend on freedom), that woman is the one who is supposedly the happiest. Indeed. On an entirely unrelated note, I was just listening to this podcast on poverty and drugs (and race) in the US and the woman speaking mentioned what a kid from Vegas told her: “I can’t stop working as a prostitute, I have two sisters to support”. Oh yeah, the happiness is so thick I cannot see through it.
I am not saying this is a perfect rule, nor am I saying that the happiness in the stereotype results directly from the oppression. But it is something to think about. Do we present these people with a happy face to ease the sense of guilt we might feel when we are the oppressors? Or maybe we do it to downright dismiss any claim that they might not have it all that happy and that somehow we might be benefiting from that? Could it be that they are actually happy because, since they cannot escape their oppression, well, why the Heck not be happy? Or maybe happiness is not tied to “freedom” but is actually in direct oposition to it?
At any rate, there is a big difference between oppressed people being happy and oppressors “expecting” oppressed people to be happy.

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Spa Me!

Spa Me

Spas seem to be all the rage lately. Every now and then one of them will appear on the news for the sole merit of having come up with a brand new gimmick to “treat” people with. Some time ago, it was stones. Now, I love stones as much as the next witch apprentice, BUT this use of stones seems to me to corrupt the whole principle of stones. Then it was chocolate. Now I think it’s immersing yourself in a bath tub of wine or something like that.

Oh, how I love laughing at the ridiculous practices of the ubber rich!

 

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Women’s Places Before and Now

This idea sounded better in my head. Oh well.

Here’s a depiction of how women were distributed in the hierachical structure that is patriarchal society* BEFORE…

Before...

And NOW…

Now

I tried to show how things have changed. Well yes, they have, but mostly for those on top. You know, the ones who were already A-OK-ish.
There’s a big reason why the people at the bottom of the structure are sistematically ignored by feminism. Yes, it is, partly, because feminists who have time to engage in feminism are usually from the top themselves. But also, because the only way to move the people at the bottom UP is to move the people at the top DOWN. And yes, the very feminists who are at the top are not very likely to work towards moving themselves down. But also, because in order for that to happen, we would have to bring “teh left” into the table. And “teh left” is, like, not cool. It’s a dirty word. It’s not gonna make you very popular. And it’s definitely not gonna help you sell “cool” books.

Constructive criticism welcomed!

* not to scale, not scientific, not researched, not… that good.

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