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Panel Notes: Reducing Global Machismo [Jun. 3rd, 2010|01:46 pm]
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 Working On The Plan For Reducing Global Levels of Machismo
In her acceptance speech for the SFRA's Pilgrim Award, Gwyneth Jones characterized her particular form of feminism as "her plan for reducing global levels of machismo." Our whole culture, she said, "...could stand to be a little less masculine. Could stand a strong infusion of the values designated as 'weak' and 'feminine' -- negotiations above conflict, empathy above self-interest, and all the rest of that repertoire." But, as she noted elsewhere, we are living in a sort of perpetual wartime, dominated by masculinism and machismo, presumably the reason she calls this form of feminism "awkward." Clearly a change in administration in the US has done nothing to mitigate this culture. Is there any hope for this "awkward" kind of feminism in the near future? Or is machismo here to stay?
M: Timmi DuChamp, Andrea D. Hairston, Alexis Lothian, Cat Rambo

Today we see a movement towards deference to authority (ex: airport security) and corporate irresponsibility (BP oil spill), while in he US, maternal mortality doubled between 1987-2006, even though the US spends more than any other country on health care. What are the ways we can combat this?

Alexis: Stand up for social justice, and do so everywhere, not just in the marginal communities where one is always preaching to the choir.
Andrea: Educate girls all over the world. The countries where women have less education are also ones where there is more violence, extremism, poverty.
Cat: Witness. Spread the stories that inspire us as well as the ones that outrage us. Don't get worn down by the same arguments over and over again, but remain resolute.

Book referred to many times in the panel: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity, by Kristof and WuDunn. Has a list of organizations in the back which one can support to further education for women. The examples in the book are not always encouraging. For example a project in Nigeria designed to create a higher yield of cassava, the only crop women were allowed to profit from, became so successful that men then took the cassava away from the women.

Our best hope may be women in other countries, since this country, we accept global machismo. In particular, microfinancing may provide some hope.

Don't accept deceptive language. Soldiers dying is a disaster; women dying is collateral damage.

Corporate profit is an expression of machismo, with profit providing the score card. 225 people own half the world's wealth.

Change the language and metaphors of labor. Rewarding teams rather than individual contributors has been shown to be more effective.

Tell and retell our history. Spread the stories that inspire and teach.

Fox News is a source of disinformation, rather than misinformation. People who object to its practices might look to what the Color of Change organization is doing, going to sponsors of Glenn Beck and asking if they really want to sponsor what he's saying. This has led to sponsors leaving the show - but putting their money into sponsoring other Fox News programs. The Fox News model is the repetition of disinformation until it becomes truth; must be challenged to stop this.

Can we rely on, as Audre Lord would say, the master's tools to dismantle this structure? Search for alternate ways of doing things.

The way politics is framed is problematic. The binary obliterates any chance of real politics.

Take an incremental approach. Use information tactically; ask "why didn't you (regular news outlet) see this as news?"

Use social media and non-traditional ways of spreading information.

Find common ground, a place where you can connect with those you want to persuade. Break down the concept of us vs. them and lose the attitude of superiority.

Given the rise of anti-intellectualism in this country, how do we get people to trust intellectuals?

The Overton Window - the extremes of conversation determine the continuum of the discussion. This is why it's important to have voices at the extreme left, helping expand the window, which has shrunk in recent years to a point where something previously considered moderate can be considered liberal.

Each side has framed the other in a way that prevents conversation. Again, find common ground, and use the tools that are there: politics, letters.

Finding the point where one should challenge tools rather than using them may be difficult. Much of the conversation sounds genteel, but there is a breaking point, at which one can no longer be genteel. There is a difference between compromise and finding common ground.
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Comments:
From: smodell1995
2010-06-03 09:26 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Very true. Thank you for posting.

I cannot agree more with the hopes of educating women everywhere, as well as giving witness to stories both inspirational and horrific. Hopes need fresh air to keep them alive, and nightmares, like infections, often need to be aired out to heal.

One of my college courses was Multicultural Education, teaching the concept of "Anti-Biased Curiculum". Signing up, I was certain the class was about early childhood education models around the world. How wrong I was. It addressed many of the same concepts you noted in your post, particularly the use of language when describing events or presenting information. It was that class which opened my eyes to the insidious and pervasive nature of the language of advertising, and how such language has hobbled hopes of gender equality.
From: (Anonymous)
2010-06-08 04:37 am (UTC)

A tangent?

(Link)

First: I fully support the empowerment of women, and I am not familiar with Gwyneth Jones's work. That said--and in the interest of furthering the conversation without "framing the other" to prevent progress--I'd like to make a few observations about your notes.

I make these comments because I'd genuinely like to prevent such sentiments from remaining merely "preaching to the choir," which I fear they remain in their current context and presentation. It's not merely a matter of packaging; I think there are some underexamined issues reflected here. To wit:

"...negotiations above conflict, empathy above self-interest..."

This sounds great. Can anyone identify an historically documented, prosperous culture (one which had extensive interaction with other cultures) which abided more by such a philosophy than its opposite? I ask in all seriousness, because I'm not aware of one. Speaking softly is a noble goal, but carrying a big stick is the requisite complement. Sometimes the stick has to be used, because in a room full of soft speakers, someone will inevitably raise their voice to take advantage. I'm not at all cynical about the human potential for change and self-improvement, but there's a crucial difference between fictional, imaginable, internally self-consistent socio-political structures, and those which are plausible on 21st century Earth. A foundation in the social science of Game Theory is an excellent starting place for drawing and understanding such distinctions.

"Soldiers dying is a disaster; women dying is collateral damage."

This is a fine example of the type of claim that is unfailingly met with sympathetic nodded heads in the environments where it is usually spoken. But let's be analytical: is this a claim that a majority of individuals (or even just males?) genuinely feel more grief for dead soldiers than for dead non-combatants (of either gender)? I don't know--personally or anecdotally--any such person. Is the claim about institutions? Does the UN publicly worry more about soldiers than civilians? Or the media? Suggesting that dead women get less column space in the NYT than dead soldiers is, excuse me, patently ridiculous. If it seems otherwise at times, that is likely because the soldiers are usually "ours", while the dead civilians are "others", which is a different conversation entirely.

"225 people own half the world's wealth."

While I admit this seems unfair in the abstract, please be explicit about the workable alternatives. Specifically, how to reconcile the socialist impulse with its nearly unbroken string of failures in implementation. (Also--oof--fact check time. This number didn't pass the smell test for me: a few minutes' research shows this claim being repeated in vague terms on many "alt" sites, but it originally comes from a UN report stating that the 225 richest people have a net worth of one trillion US dollars--equal to the annual income of the poorest 47% of humans. With a current global GDP of 60-70 trillion dollars, that means that those 225 people actually "own" less than 2% of one's year's worth of the "world's wealth." That's a HUGE difference from what is claimed. You might shrug and say that the indignant sentiment is still valid, but if so, don't expect to be taken seriously by the those who are numerically literate.)

The way politics is framed is problematic. The binary obliterates any chance of real politics."

Perhaps I am obtuse, but what is "the binary" here? The American two-party system? The one which has successfully navigated the trials of time--by constantly morphing to a degree unimagined in most multi-party systems--to claim the title of the oldest constitutional government in the modern world?

And, truly, not to be flip or glib, but what is the quantitative measure of global machismo? How do we know that it is currently too high? At what point would it be OK, in polite society, to give speeches and hold panels titled "Reducing Global Femininity: F the Effete"?

OK, it does sound glib. But for what it's worth, I'm a practicing social science researcher with graduate degrees in sociology and psychology, and if there's one answer I'd really like to see, it's this!
[User Picture]From: catrambo
2010-06-08 10:37 pm (UTC)

Re: A tangent?

(Link)

Some replies:
"This sounds great. Can anyone identify an historically documented, prosperous culture (one which had extensive interaction with other cultures) which abided more by such a philosophy than its opposite? "

Is historical precedent necessary? Can we not attempt to construct something new by looking at past societies and learning from (what we perceive of) as their errors? And even so, does it need to be applied at the societal level at first? One of the things I've seen recently is my partner moving from a corporate work environment to one that practices active programming, which pairs people as developers and has them switch around in a way that keeps people from feeling that they "own" the project. It seems to work very well to me, and I mentioned it at the panel as an example of moving from a competitive paradigm to one that encourages teamwork.

"Soldiers dying is a disaster; women dying is collateral damage."
This was (imo) more about deceptive language than feeling grief. "Collateral damage" is used to describe civilians dying, and it's a phrase used to mask some of the impact of war.

"225 people own half the world's wealth."
Fair enough on the stats, but I'd still argue that wealth is spread out across this world in a very disproportionate way, as reported in this UN study from 2006: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=20856&Crl=University

"The way politics is framed is problematic. The binary obliterates any chance of real politics."
I believe the speaker was talking about the English political system at that point. Right now, (my perception is) that the two party system is broken - we see politicians adhering to party lines in a way that often appears obstructionist.

Beyond that, I think that any discussion which involves "us" versus "them" is one that won't get very far. One of the things mentioned in the panel was the need to find or establish common ground in discussions and then move from there.

"And, truly, not to be flip or glib, but what is the quantitative measure of global machismo? How do we know that it is currently too high? At what point would it be OK, in polite society, to give speeches and hold panels titled "Reducing Global Femininity: F the Effete"?"

Don't we already have this? Google around and there's plenty of critics talking about the "feminization" of American society.

As for quantitative measures, I'd love to see some arrived at. How do we know it's too high? Perhaps by looking at maternal death rates or the rate of violence against women. I think that's a superb question, though, even from my point of view I perceive an American society that does glorify machismo - take a look at some recent presidents for examples.

I'd urge you, though, to take up this discussion on the Aqueduct Press blog, where I also posted the notes and where more of the participants may see the discussion and be able to add harder figures than I can off the top of my head.

Could I also ask that you identify yourself by name, so I know who I'm talking to?