Wednesday, 1 January 2014

some summer reading

happy new year everyone.  while many of us are getting a much-needed break over this time, i'm always mindful of those who don't get a break or those whose break isn't the joyful, carefree time that many of us expect.  hoping things go well for all of you.

being one of those lucky enough to get a decent break, i've had time to read & watch some interesting things, so here's a round-up.

if you haven't heard of sheryl sandberg's "lean in", then here's a review worth reading. one of the main criticisms of the book is that it posits the solution to equality for women in the workplace lies in individual action, ie in individual women changing the way they do things. it's a neo-liberal interpretation of feminism that ignores structural & cultural issues, and assumes that what worked for her will work for all women in the workplace. in that context, here's some research showing the structural issues which ms sandberg has completely failed to address:

Meanwhile, the Conference Board of Canada has found that an "unconscious bias" leads companies to underestimate and overlook young women employees. The study results demonstrate that only 45 per cent of young women are likely to be identified as "high potential" compared to 53 per cent of their male peers, even though 74 per cent of young women display the characteristics of "high performers" compared to only 66 per cent of their male peers.


The Lean In zeitgeist says individual women can take personal responsibility for failure and act to achieve success. Meanwhile, recent research says there is an unconscious bias in corporate Canada that prevents equally qualified women from attaining the same level of success as men, and even more concerning, that senior execs remain unconcerned.

i'd really recommend reading the whole article.  the research is particularly interesting in light of earlier research which debunks the myth that women get paid less because they don't ask for raises as aggressively as men do:

Our recent Catalyst report, The Myth of the Ideal Worker , reveals that women do ask for raises and promotions. They just don’t get as much in return

The research focused on career paths of high-potential men and women, drawing on thousands of MBA graduates from top schools around the world. Catalyst found that, among those who had moved on from their first post-MBA job, there was no significant difference in the proportion of women and men who asked for increased compensation or a higher position.

Yet the rewards were different.

all of which shows that when the problems are structural, the solutions need to be structural & political as well.

i'm not always a fan of stephen colbert, but he does do some great stuff.  i found the work of ameena matthews really inspiring, so recommend this clip.

i love the writing of sady doyle, and this review of the movie "her" is spot on in its analysis:

Feminists have spent decades trying to explain concepts like “objectification”—the reduction of a person to a tool for another person's gratification or use, typically sexual—and now, as a reward for all our hard work, we’re faced with a “Movie of the Year” in which the ideal woman is, literally, an object. An object that, it is promised, will “listen to you and understand you” and have a personality designed explicitly around your needs. Theodore picks the system up, seemingly both intrigued by the promise of companionship and interested in the OS's mundane usefulness, but when he turns the system on and adjusts his preferred user settings to “female,” out comes a charming personality that is complex enough to be indistinguishable from a person.

And she's just dying to do some chores for him. Samantha cleans up Theodore’s inbox, copyedits his writing, books his reservations at restaurants, gets him out of bed in the morning, helps him win video games, provides him with what is essentially phone sex, listens to his problems and even secures him a book deal. Yet we’re too busy praising all the wounded male vulnerability to notice the male control.

again, i really recommend reading the whole thing, which raises issues of consent & agency as well as control.

via hoyden about town, i found this article on internet linguistics really interesting.  it's quite long, but worth the read.  i'm one who finds pedantry in following rules of grammar & spelling generally annoying and limiting (which you can probably tell from the lack of capitals), especially as it can often mask an intellectual elitism that is silencing of others who aren't so proficient in expressing themselves but nonetheless have worthwhile things to say.

so the analysis resonated with me. and i also liked this bit:

However, what I find most fascinating about the Internet Language is that it is making language less, not more, gendered. Men and women on the Internet use many of the same tropes, enthusiasm markers and emphasizers in order to communicate. In the world of blogging and Internet writing, women are the creators of language. It is a realm in which women are not being socialized with already existing language but are doing the work of socializing and creating a community. Women dominate every important social media platform. Women outnumber men on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and account for 72% of all social media users. On Tumblr, where the number of men and women is roughly equal, women dominate the conversation.

here is the comment i made on facebook in regards to this: it's especially interesting because a few years back, there were all these conversations by guys on the internet about "where are all the women political bloggers?". and we were like "we're right here, writing about political stuff, stuff like breastfeeding in public, rape culture, access to childcare etc etc". and the guys said "but, but, but that's not politics". when we said "actually, yes it is & that's why feminists say the personal is political", the guys were all "well, it's not 'hard' politics, so it doesn't count". [it was incredibly frustrating that they chose to define politics in a way that conveniently excluded most of the things women bloggers were writing about, then continued to ask where the women political bloggers were.] in that context, it's good to know that [women are] here, we're having all sorts of important conversations including the shaping of how language develops online. perhaps we won't be seen as invisible or unimportant any more. (a huge helping of "yeah right" would probably be too cynical at this point).

this piece makes the case for giving money to people suffering from poverty and homelessness. how often do we hear right-wingers say "throwing money at the problem won't solve it". well actually, it does:

A year after the experiment had started, eleven out of thirteen had a roof above their heads. They accepted accommodation, enrolled in education, learnt how to cook, got treatment for drug use, visited their families and made plans for the future. ‘I loved the cold weather,’ one of them remembers. ‘Now I hate it.’ After decades of authorities’ fruitless pushing, pulling, fines and persecution, eleven notorious vagrants finally moved off the streets.

Costs? 50,000 pounds a year, including the wages of the aid workers. In addition to giving eleven individuals another shot at life, the project had saved money by a factor of at least 7.

Even The Economist concluded:

‘The most efficient way to spend money on the homeless might be to give it to them.’

finally, really worth reading is this woman's experience of working on the US drone programme:

It's also important for the public to grasp that there are human beings operating and analysing intelligence these UAVs. I know because I was one of them, and nothing can prepare you for an almost daily routine of flying combat aerial surveillance missions over a war zone. UAV proponents claim that troops who do this kind of work are not affected by observing this combat because they are never directly in danger physically.

But here's the thing: I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.

again, please click through to read the whole piece.


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Mercy Seat said...

While the relationship in "Her" is obviously dysfunctional, that's kind of the point of the movie. It's not to present an ideal relationship to be emulated, it's to show how a man who seems to be nice and pleasant ends up seeking out a relationship that's deeply flawed.

Mercy Seat said...

I also find it very worrying the way Doyle thinks that showing women having negative emotional reactions is somehow sexist.

Unresolved Melody said...

Yes, those poor US soldiers, forced to suffer through the experience of killing innocent Muslims. I feel so sorry for the soldiers. It must be so hard for them.