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Archive for the ‘classism’ Category

I’ve written a lot about maternal desire here and how poorly understood that motivation is.. but I’ve not considered paternal desire much before.

All through this research, Edin says, she’d never been interested in studying men. “It’s fun to write about people with a strong heroic element to the story,” she says. “Women have that. Men don’t have that. [They're] more complicated; they’re dogged with bad choices.” In addition, she admits, “I felt hostile after writing about the women. I really had their point of view in my head.”

It was Nelson who, after years of working on a book about religious experience in a black church, convinced her otherwise. Together, they spent several years canvassing Camden in search of dads to interview. They stopped men on the street and asked if they’d talk—sometimes right there on the spot. They put up flyers and worked with nonprofit groups and eventually knit together a sample of equal parts black and white men they interviewed at length over the better part of a decade.

Again, what they discovered surprised them. Rather than viewing unplanned fatherhood as a burden, the men almost uniformly saw it as a blessing. “It’s so antithetical to a middle-class perspective,” Edin says. “But it finally dawned on us that these guys thought that by bringing children in the world they were doing something good in the world.” Everything else around them—the violence, the poverty, their economic prospects—was so negative, she explains, a baby was “one little dot of color” on a black-and-white canvas.

Only a small percentage of the men, black or white, said the pregnancy was the result of an accident, and even fewer challenged the paternity. When the babies were born, most of the men reported a desire to be a big part of their lives. Among black men, 9 in 10 reported being deeply involved with their children under the age of two, meaning they had routine, in-person contact with their kids several times a month. But that involvement faded with time. Only a third of black fathers and a quarter of white fathers were still intensively involved with kids older than 10. Among the reasons, Edin identifies unstable relationships with the mothers—the average couple had been together only about six months before conceiving a child. The men also frequently struggled with substance abuse and stints in prison.

From “What if everything you know about poverty was wrong” by Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones.

 

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From Katha Pollitt in The Nation with “Why do so many leftists want sex work to be the new normal?”:

It’s one thing to say sex workers shouldn’t be stigmatized, let alone put in jail. But when feminists argue that sex work should be normalized, they accept male privilege they would attack in any other area. They accept that sex is something women have and men get (do I hear “rape culture,” anyone?), that men are entitled to sex without attracting a partner, even to the limited extent of a pickup in a bar, much less pleasing or satisfying her. As Grant says, they are buying a fantasy—the fantasy of the woman who wants whatever they want (how johns persuade themselves of this is beyond me). But maybe men would be better partners, in bed and out of it, if they couldn’t purchase that fantasy, if sex for them, as for women, meant finding someone who likes them enough to exchange pleasure for pleasure, intimacy for intimacy. The current way of seeing sex work is all about liberty—but what about equality?

From Melissa Gira Grant in The Nation with “Let’s call sex work what it is: work”:

When we say that sex work is service work, we don’t say that just to sanitize or elevate the status of sex workers, but also to make plain that the same workers who are performing sex work are also performing nonsexual service work. In her study of Rust Belt strippers published in Policing Pleasure: Sex Work, Policy, and the State in Global Perspective, Susan Dewey observed that the vast majority of the dancers—all but one—at one club in upstate New York had worked outside the sex industry, and “many had left intermittently for low-wage, service-sector work elsewhere before returning with the recognition that they preferred the topless bar with its possibility of periodic windfalls from customers.” For the dancers who Dewey surveyed, it was the work outside of the sex industry that was “exploitative, exclusionary, and without hope for social mobility or financial stability.”

 

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I have a co-written article with the very clever Lori Day in the Huffington Post today about the four reasons why parents buy into the culture of gender stereotyping.

 

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It’s nearly impossible to think of any other situation in which we, as viewers, including parents and pastors and progressives and feminists, are asked to watch young women and their children go through hell, and tell ourselves the proper response is inaction or even mockery. It’s hard to imagine any other situation in which we as a culture root for real young women and their real children to fail, all in the name of metaphorically saving a much larger group of young women who will never become pregnant.

Absolutely this! As I’ve said before, if you want to see patriarchal attitudes towards motherhood then look at how teenage mothers get treated and a lot of feminist sites have really dropped the ball on this one, too. Great article from Amy Benfer in Dame Magazine with “Why does everyone – from pastors to progressives – doom teen mothers to failure”.

Thanks to Kate Harding for the link.

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django-unchained-shadow

This is truly enjoyable analysis. There’s a lot of Marxism in it, probably a bit too much for me. And in my opinion it is too blunt in its assessment of pop culture but that aside, this is a great argument..

(And hold someone close as you read this because you’re fine with hating Swept Away but he’s going to slaughter a few sacred cows too, starting with Firefly).

On Firefly:

What [shows like Firefly] do perform regularly is liberal multiculturalism, which no doubt reinforces a sense that the show’s gestural anti-statism is at least consonant with an egalitarian politics. And that is a quality that makes multiculturalist egalitarianism, or identitarianism, and its various strategic programs — anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-heteronormativity, etc. — neoliberalism’s loyal opposition. Their focus is on making neoliberalism more just and, often enough, more truly efficient.

On The Help:

In both films the bogus happy endings are possible only because they characterize their respective regimes of racial hierarchy in the superficial terms of interpersonal transactions. In The Help segregationism’s evil was small-minded bigotry and lack of sensitivity; it was more like bad manners than oppression… The Help trivializes Jim Crow by reducing it to its most superficial features and irrational extremes. The master-servant nexus was, and is, a labor relation. And the problem of labor relations particular to the segregationist regime wasn’t employers’ bigoted lack of respect or failure to hear the voices of the domestic servants, or even benighted refusal to recognize their equal humanity. It was the labor relation was structure within and sustained by a political and institutional order that severely impinged on, when it didn’t altogether deny, black citizens’ avenues for pursuit of grievances and standing before the law.

On Django Unchained:

Defenses of Django Unchained pivot on claims about the social significance of the narrative of a black hero. One node of this argument emphasizes the need to validate a history of autonomous black agency and “resistance” as a politico-existential desideratum. It accommodates a view that stresses the importance of recognition of rebellious or militant individuals and revolts in black American history. Another centers on a notion that exposure to fictional black heroes can inculcate the sense of personal efficacy necessary to overcome the psychological effects of inequality and to facilitate upward mobility and may undermine some whites’ negative stereotypes about black people. In either register assignment of social or political importance to depictions of black heroes rests on presumptions about the nexus of mass cultural representation, social commentary, and racial justice that are more significant politically than the controversy about the film itself.

On Hell on Wheels:

That’s the happy face of adolescent patriarchy, its expression that doesn’t usually involve a restraining order, though it’s probably best that the brooding loner hero’s sainted wife is nearly always a martyr and thus motivation for, instead of the object of, his sadistic violence and mayhem. But in Hell on Wheels that device also reinforces the reduction of slavery to slaveholding as an individual act, a consumer preference to be negotiated within a marriage – like owning a motorcycle going to the strip club with the guys every weekend, or painting the living room magenta.

On Beasts of the Southern Wild:

The film validates their spiritually rich if economically impoverished culture and their right to it. (Actually, the Bathtub’s material infrastructure seems to derive mainly from scavenging, which should suggest a problem at the core of this bullshit allegory for all except those who imagine dumpster-diving, back-to-nature-in-the-city squatterism as a politics). Especially given its setting in south Louisiana and the hype touting the authenticity of its New Orleans-based crew and cast, Beasts most immediately evokes a warm and fuzzy rendition of the retrograde post-Katrina line that those odd people down there wouldn’t evacuate because they’re so intensely committed to place.

On Won’t Back Down:

Being a progressive is not more a matter of how one thinks about oneself than what one stands for or does in the world. The best that can be said for that perspective is that it registers acquiscence in defeat. It amounts to an effort to salvage an idea of a left by reformulating it as a sensibility within neoliberalism rather than a challenge to it.

On Swept Away:

.. their abomination completely erases the original film’s complex class and political content and replaces it with a banal – aka “universal” – story of an encounter between an older woman and a younger man, while at the same time meticulously, almost eerily, reproducing, scene by scene, the visual structure of Wertmüller’s film).

From “Why ‘cultural politics’ is worse than no politics at all” by Adolph Reed.

My problem with this debate is where does it leave us exactly..? So, too much left-wing politics is about repositioning within neoliberalism and not challenging it, and pop culture’s use of history without real politics is obscuring and undermining the very social justice causes it seeks to highlight, and our approach to making sense of racism has been derailed by a preoccupation with individuals rather than systems, and we fail to recognise in our analysis the extent to which class politics is at play in inequality because most of our analysis is done by one particular occupational class* … now what?

* Also from Reed: “the politics of a stratum of the professional-managerial class whose material location and interests, and thus whose ideological commitments, are bound up with parsing, interpreting and administering inequality defined in terms of disparities among ascriptively defined populations reified as groups or even cultures”.

Cross-posted at Hoyden About Town.

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From Michelle Goldberg in The Nation with “Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars”:

Yet even as online feminism has proved itself a real force for change, many of the most avid digital feminists will tell you that it’s become toxic. Indeed, there’s a nascent genre of essays by people who feel emotionally savaged by their involvement in it—not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists.

This is a big conversation. The answers won’t be found easily; certainly not in one article. The problems aren’t even going to be identified all that easily. Feminism is messy and difficult, as it should be.

For more on these dynamics see this excellent piece here by Quinnae Moongazer. And other times I’ve discussed Internet feminism here include: Is feminism too cool?, Understanding Internet feminism, and Criticising Twitter activism.

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It’s an inescapable fact that extracurricular activities, which increase student investment in school, are planned by parents who have ample time and money, who sometimes lack insight into the lives of students whose parents don’t. I tried to advocate for these students.

From Debra Monroe in The New York Times with “When elite parents dominate volunteers, children lose”.

I don’t want to be too hard on any parents who volunteer at school because mostly they’re women, and let’s face it, they are all doing work we rely on.. but I have witnessed similar problems to those being described in this article in P&C meetings. I have seen meetings being called at times when working-outside-the-home parents couldn’t attend. And I have been at meetings where parents were nudging the prices up for fundraising activities (and even sometimes, community-building activities) though the impact of this on low income kids was raised.

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This essay, “Chicken Soup for the Neoliberal Soul” by Chris Maisano in Jacobin is so wonderful.

The scores of young workers that she interviewed for her study had no faith in politics or collective action to address their problems or to give their lives meaning. Instead, they deal with the traumas of everyday life by crafting “deeply personal coming of age stories, grounding their adult identities in recovering from painful pasts — whether addictions, childhood abuse, family trauma, or abandonment — and forging an emancipated, transformed, adult self.”

In the language of C. Wright Mills, they lack a sociological imagination that allows them to connect personal troubles to public issues. The social damage wrought by deunionization, financialization, and deeply embedded patterns of gender and racial discrimination are consistently transmuted into evidence of personal shortcomings that, if left uncorrected, hold individuals back from attaining stability and security.

Though Polk is a child of the middle class who made a fortune before turning thirty, the narrative he crafts to explain his personal trajectory bears all of the same characteristics of Silva’s working-class interviewees. He traces all of his personal shortcomings — his youthful drug and alcohol abuse, low-level criminal activity, workplace fistfights, sexual infidelities, and lust for money — to childhood trauma at the hands of an abusive father. In his telling, it is individuals with propensities toward addictive behaviors, not political actors or socioeconomic structures, that are responsible for the vast gulf between the rich and the rest of us. It was not revulsion at the vast social wreckage of neoliberalism, but rather the development of a “core sense of self” honed through years of therapy, that finally spurred his decision to leave Wall Street.

Like his counterparts occupying the lower rungs of an increasingly precarious labor market, Polk has made sense of his life and the world by creating individualized solutions to confront and transcend a traumatic past disconnected from any wider social context. This affective orientation is a generalized condition of neoliberal subjectivity across classes.

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Kelly Briggs of @TheKooriWoman is spot on in this article of hers in The Guardian. This piece is about her experiences negotiating poverty as an Aboriginal single mother, while also managing the fear that her children might be forcibly removed from her by the state. Briggs is not worrying about whether she cares for her kids enough, she knows she does, she is worrying about what happens if she is perceived to have failed to care for them. In light of a history of racist government policies in welfare and child protection, Briggs knows her routine parenting experiences will be viewed through a very different lens to that applied to a single mother like me. (I’m white, middle-class and employed full-time in a profession). And when shit happens as it inevitably does from time to time, she knows she has much less slack to play with.

I see the advantage I hold in this area all the time. For instance, to borrow from Briggs’ example, my children get to school late quite frequently and they had a number of unexplained absences from school last year, too. Did I fret about what might happen to us because of those oversights? Nope. As part of state government policy the school requires all parents to eventually account for unexplained absences; was I treated with anything but dignity and courtesy in that process, was I treated with suspicion? Nope.

Here is Briggs in her article:

What happens if the small amount of work I have gained dries up and I am back in the position of money being so incredibly tight that the lack of it is suffocating? What if money again becomes so tight that shoes, uniforms, excursions, lunches or transport – issues that I don’t have to worry about when I’m working – become issues that keep my kids from turning up at school on occasion? What exactly is the scope of these truancy officers? Do they give my kids lunch? Buy them uniforms? Will my name be added to some department of community services list somewhere? Will there be a mark upon my name that gives rise to visits from people who can remove my children from my care?

I spoke honestly and frankly with my mother about my worries. She was amazed that this is still happening, after all the trials Aboriginal women have been put through for generations. We spoke of her own mother’s obsession with cleanliness, which sprang from her fear of the dreaded “welfare man”, a government employee who could come to your house and demand to be let inside to ensure your house was clean, that there was adequate food available, that the children were going to school.

She then went on to tell me about her own fears when she was raising me and my siblings: the absolute terror she felt when she had to collect food vouchers of some nameless person swooping in to take us kids off her because she was facing hardship after my father passed away. The tremble in her voice as she recounted this broke my heart.

Aboriginal women have been told for the better part of two centuries that they are neglectful and not fit to raise children. Policy after policy, we have borne the brunt of racist and cruel initiatives enacted purely out of ignorance and the unwillingness of decision makers to listen to what Aboriginal women think is best for their very own children.

For more of Kelly Briggs’ writing you can read her blog.

UPDATE: Just came across this on the same topic.

A decade ago, I sat talking to a young mother on welfare about her experiences with technology. When our conversation turned to Electronic Benefit Transfer cards (EBT), Dorothy* said, “They’re great. Except [Social Services] uses them as a tracking device.” I must have looked shocked, because she explained that her caseworker routinely looked at her EBT purchase records. Poor women are the test subjects for surveillance technology, Dorothy told me ruefully, and you should pay attention to what happens to us. You’re next.

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I wrote an article in defence of suburbia.

But what are the greedy masses of suburbia using to pay for all their consumption? Surely they must be creating some things of their own in order to fund consumption. And what of the creative types in the inner-city, who Stubbart and Farrelly identify with? Are they not doing some consuming also? In fact, some studies suggest the inner city, with its increasing affluence, is little better in terms of resource use than the lower density suburbs. Criticising urban development makes little sense if your criticism of people’s choices does not address the context that limits choice, and the ways in which we are connected. In terms of sustainability, we’re all part of the problem.

Stubbart is writing about New York, by the way, a place where average apartment rent is now three times the national average in the US and where homelessness is exploding to record levels in spite of national trends being in decline. This challenges another aspect of suburban dread. The right’s snobbery towards suburbia is matched by that of the left, who once worried suburbia was a way to remove yourself from working class and immigrant populations and who now fret that it is a breeding ground for racism and political apathy.

As academic Graeme Davison described, suburbia came about through a combination of evangelicalism, sanitarianism, romanticism and class segregation. And with the collapse of old forms of political engagement, obsessively wondering about and misunderstanding the views of those in the suburbs has become a preoccupation for the political class. But far from being a xenophobic monoculture, Australian suburbia is increasingly home to immigrant populations and a more diverse mix of incomes and occupations than can be found in the inner city. Stubbart believes she is exposed to a carnival of people from all walks of life in New York, but like other big cities facing housing affordability crises, what she may increasingly find are people exactly like her.

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