Critical Readability

My critical readings of the best and worst of online media

Archive for the category “Identity Politics”

Why I got married (as if it’s any of your beeswax)

This is a great article about social activism, political correctness, straight privilege, the decision to get married anyway. It was written by Alicia Walters for a blogging competition through Feministing.com. You can read my response to their play on So you Think you Can Dance here.

“I do not expect everyone to jump for joy at this milestone in my life (but if you know me, it’d be nice). There are millions of others whose relationships are not adequately recognized, protected, or  celebrated. I am aware of the privilege that comes with my straight marriedness.

And ultimately I’m happy with my decision. I’m in a healthy relationship built on trust. We’re in it for the long haul and plan to raise confident, conscious, self-and-community-loving Black children. We made a radical decision to love ourselves enough to do what made us happy…politically correct or not.”

via Why I got married (as if it’s any of your beeswax).

As Republican convention emphasizes diversity, racial incidents intrude – The Washington Post

While Harper Magazine calls the Republican outbursts “nativism,” I am far more inclined to agree with The Washington Post’s accurate assessment that recent outbursts at the Republican convention constitute pure vitriolic racism:

“On Tuesday, convention organizers ejected two attendees after they reportedly threw peanuts at a black CNN camerawoman and told her, “This is how we feed animals.” Organizers called the conduct “inexcusable and unacceptable.”

via As Republican convention emphasizes diversity, racial incidents intrude – The Washington Post.

A Troubling Chant on the Convention Floor—By Jack Hitt (Harper’s Magazine)

I guess the convention organizers forgot to tell some of their attendees that they’re trying to perform “diversity.” I’ve noticed Puerto Rican delegates mentioned two times during this year’s Republican convention : 1.)  when noting that organizers filled the first few rows with minorities to show how diverse and accepting they are; and 2.) when attendees heckled a Puerto Rican speaker for her accent:

The Puerto Rican correspondent turned to me and asked, “Is this happening?” I said I honestly didn’t know what was happening—it was astonishing to see all the brittle work of narrative construction that is a modern political convention suddenly crack before our eyes. None of us could quite believe what we were seeing: A sea of twentysomething bowties and cowboy hats morphing into frat bros apparently shrieking over (or at) a Latina. RNC chairman Reince Priebus quickly stepped up and asked for order and respect for the speaker, suggesting that, yeah, what we had just seen might well have been an ugly outburst of nativism.”

via A Troubling Chant on the Convention Floor—By Jack Hitt (Harper’s Magazine).

Why Is Iran Curtailing Female Education? – WorldWise – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Restrictions on women in education and reversal of family planning under Ahmadinejad. What I love about this article is the disparity it paints between how women in Iran since the 1979 revolution are represented by the U.S. media vs. the reality of their lives (especially under the reformist presidency of Khatami). I had no idea that leading up to the 1990s, 60% of university students in Iran were women, and that it was within the top 10 countries with regard to closing the gender gap.

That being said, the changes being enacted by Ahmadinejad are devastating for women in Iran – where, as the anonymous author mentions, the legal age for women to marry is 13 but among women with education, the mean is 23.

I also would like to emphasize some similarities between the move to limit women’s education in Iran and the proposed de-funding of higher education in the United States by Romney, et al.: “Worldwide, levels of education and activism often overlap” Want to limit political dissidence – restrict access to education.

Here is an excerpt from the article and a link to read more:

“What are the politics behind these sweeping new restrictions? Why now? Is it related to the role that women played in the 2009 protests against the disputed presidential election?

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government is chauvinist about women generally. Barring women from certain fields of study comes hand-in-hand with the reversal of Iran’s family-planning program—one of the most successful in the world. Iran’s supreme leader recently described the family-planning program as misguided and called on women to have larger families.

But politics may also be a factor in the education restrictions, partly because young educated women were at the forefront of street protests after his contested reelection in 2009. Worldwide, levels of education and activism often overlap. Education can also affect the national social structure. In Iran, for example, the legal age of marriage for girls is 13, but the mean age of marriage is 23. A woman of 23 is likely to have experienced some level of higher education and be less prepared to agree to marry a man less educated than she is.”  Read more here: Why Is Iran Curtailing Female Education? – WorldWise – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The End of Identity?

“Perhaps the reality is that Singapore cannot build both a national identity and a global city identity. The national identity served us well in our formative years, but the global city identity will carry us forward. We are actually in the midst of a transition from the former to the latter. A global city identity is much more fluid, less rooted, than a national identity.” Read the full article here: The End of Identity?.

This article by Singaporean journalist Sudhir Thomas Vadeketh has me increasingly interested in learning more about the socio-political climate of Singapore – especially because I loved every minute I spent visiting Singapore last summer. As the academic job market remains bleak for PhDs, I have started looking for jobs internationally. Singapore is always on the top of my list.

I only spent two weeks in Singapore and I just barely began to pick up on how Singaporean culture, politics, and economics are structured. From the surface, Singapore appears to have everything I love: diversity, amazing public transportation, loving & friendly people, low-crime (no crime?), happening nightlife, great food, and lots and lots of people. Beautiful people with musics and traditions and languages from all over the globe.

I have to admit, however, that the first day we arrived in Singapore my husband and I were quite shocked. We walked around the posh Orchard Road neighborhood taking in the food, all of the languages, and shops from all over the globe. We also quickly noticed the prices and the fact that we were far too poor for Singapore. Two things struck me: 1. the fact that Singapore’s booming economy paints a stark contrast to our life in the U.S. since 2008; and 2. that this is what globalization is. I mean, this is really what globalization is.

Before visiting Singapore I thought I understood the complexities and nuances of globalization because I was familiar with the major academic theories and debates. I understood it from an ideological and academic perspective. But I had never truly experienced globalization before visiting Singapore. Cosmpolitanism, yes. Globalization in constant dialogue with nationalism, yes. But not globalization in the sense that the author here discusses – when a globalized identity effectively consumes  a national identity,  that (in reality) never really existed in the first place.

That first day I walked down Orchard Road and thought “this is amazing Indian food, fantastic Chinese opera, beautiful Malay clothing, the best of European designers, the worst of U.S. popular music. But where are the Singaporeans?”

If there is a national identity still at play, and the author says there is, I did not see it during my trip. Well, I should rephrase that statement. I saw national government propaganda and experienced the not-surprisingly highly nationalistic “National Day,” but I did not see nationalism in how the actual people engaged with each other and their foreign visitors.  Yes, I know – tourist, two weeks, etc… But even if I lived there for years, if I became one of the migrant workers Vadaketh discusses, I’m not sure I would see it even then.

Which brings me to my next point.

A few days ago I was talking with my academic colleagues about looking for jobs or research fellowships in Singapore. The first question I got was, “Could you really live there?” They were referring to, of course, the strict political control exerted by the government over the population. It was amazing to visit Singapore and not see any semblance of crime or poverty, but unsettling to know that it was likely still there, hidden from view. Like crime and poverty, social tensions are lurking in the background even though on the surface people appear to get along splendidly.

I’ve also started to realize that of all the jobs I found in Singapore are in technology, and was interested in what Vadeketh had to say about the low priority on art in Singapore’s meritocracy. My colleagues also brought up what it would mean to work in a country that does not share the same ideas about freedom of speech (and hence academic freedom) as in the U.S.

Which all leaves me wondering if I could actually live there. I’m not sure. But then again, my hunch is that Singapore will continue to grow and prosper economically. Maybe it is just election season getting to me, but I have less and less faith in our political system. Singapore’s education system, while lacking crucial aspects, does continue to garner attention while ours appears to be meeting its demise. And while social injustices undoubtedly exist, I was struck by the lack of hate and anger in Singapore, particularly when compared to our current socio-political climate in the U.S. While I’m not sure what the future will hold, I will keep my eyes and ears on Singapore in my job search, if only to learn more about what I find to be a truly fascinating culture and amazing city.

The Conversation

When I teach my students a basic introduction to ethnography, we always talk about the inherent benefits and disadvantages for scholars working in an emic/etic relationship to the culture they are studying (in other words, insider/outsider relationship).  They answer quickly and correctly: insiders have detailed knowledge of the culture and greater specialization in its inner workings, but they are emotionally invested which leads to bias. Outsiders have less specialized knowledge of insider traditions, but also have less emotional connection & hence less (or more realistically different biases). For a 50 minute intro to ethnography, this is about the depth we get into. It’s of course far, far more complicated than this in reality, and in practice scholars are often a little of both.

Rob Brooks is  not an anthropologist, but this article clearly illustrates the advantages of being an insider and an outsider. Brooks is a white male evolutionary ecologist specializing in the biology of sexual conflict at the University of New South Wales in Australia. He received his education in South Africa.  He’s an insider (male and scientist) and an outsider (Australian and educated outside of U.S.). He’s clearly an expert – in fact, he appears to be one of the specialists in his field. He’s also a man and whether we like it or not his gender enables him to say things about men that women would be labeled “feminazis” and immediately discredited for saying. He is also not consumed by the lived realities that make us so emotionally invested in this election (or at least, not to the same extent).

I encourage you to read the article. It’s at once humorous and highly enlightening.  After exploring how unlike female humans, female Australian Black Field Crickets “shut down that whole thing,” he went on to say:

“What strikes me about the anachronistic attitudes of evangelicals and their Republican puppets to abortion, contraception, family planning, female economic empowerment and feminism in general is just how unambiguously male these attitudes are. All of these issues are informed by what suits men’s evolutionary and economic interests. Or more precisely by what suited the interests of men, especially rich and powerful men, before the industrial revolution.

An entire political party in one of the most advanced and educated countries on earth has become a caricature of the most basal evolved insecurities about masculinity. They seem terrified of losing control over the means of reproduction and petrified of cuckoldry.” Read more here: The Conversation.

Why Paul Ryan is not ‘bad’ for women – CNN.com

There is a lot going on in this op-ed, and I’m not going to comment on all of it. You can read for yourself why the author, Anita McBride, thinks Ryan is “not bad for women.” I mostly want to emphasize one point – the GOP and conservative media keep saying that this election is not about “social issues” it’s about the economy. They say it’s not about women, or abortion, or homosexuality and same-sex marriage. It’s not about race, or minorities, or immigration.

In reality, of course, this election is about both the economy and social issues. Why do we try to sub-divide and put everything in little boxes? These things are linked, they do not exist in a vacuum. I know it’s difficult to see shades of gray and to think critically and with nuance (especially when states like Texas and Missouri are trying to give students the right to opt out of learning critical thinking skills or subjects that challenge their beliefs). Come on people, study your history. In times of economic strife, women and minorities are always, always the first to suffer. Read Anita McBride’s article here: Why Paul Ryan is not ‘bad’ for women – CNN.com.

Examining Modesty | the fatal feminist

Love this blog entry! A few days ago I read a blog posted by a liberal Mormon that referenced quotes from the Book of Mormon to explain her beliefs. This article is written by a feminist Muslim and uses quotes from the Qur’an to explain her interpretations of guidelines on modesty. “What do I do when I hear passive aggressive statements coated deceptively in sugar about how a “woman’s best jewelry is her modesty? Chandelier earrings.” Read more here: Examining Modesty | the fatal feminist.

President Obama, come to Oak Creek – CNN.com

Just two weeks after the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the victims and the killer are no longer the center of national discussion. Conversations that should have happened regarding white supremacy, racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia were swept under the rug. Meanwhile, the mainstream media failed to report the 8 Mosque Attacks in 11 days that have desecrated holy spaces and terrorized Muslim-Americans throughout the country. And while Ms. Obama will visit the families of the victims, President Obama has not yet done so. This article by Sikh-American Valarie Kaur outlines the consequences of his absence. To read full text, click here: President Obama, come to Oak Creek – CNN.com.

Aesop to the Right: Why I Believe Bristol Palin | Owldolatrous

“Supremacy turns to hate when the feeling of innate superiority is openly challenged.

That outraged feeling you have of being oppressed or silenced just because pop culture doesn’t like you, and Rahm Emmanuel threatened to keep Chick-Fil-A out of Chicago? That’s the feeling a supremacist gets when her cultural superiority is being eroded.

Supremacy is why you and Bristol Palin have more outrage at your own inconvenience than at the legitimate oppression of others.” Read more here: Aesop to the Right: Why I Believe Bristol Palin | Owldolatrous.

If you would like to read the original post that started this conversation, you can find a link (and my thoughts) here. 

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