Valentine’s Day and the (sociological) Power of Love

In case you were the only person who didn’t realise, last Friday was Valentine’s Day. I hate Valentine’s. Its’ ever increasing prevalence, its’ cloying, creeping appearance that infiltrates perfectly normal looking things and makes them red or pink, and the way the world suddenly becomes full of people perpetually and disgustingly in love, or stressed, or miserable and alone, or a combination of all three. If I sound bitter, please know it is definitely intentional. I am bitter, but not for the reason you’d think.  (more…)

What Comes After Woman?: gender identity and the women’s movement

Genderqueer Pride Flag

Genderqueer Pride Flag (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Last year, as I completed my fieldwork, I was unexpectedly reminded of the continuing contention around gender identity. Interviewing dozens of people involved in social movement actions around austerity and economic inequality, I anticipated that there would be some emotional responses, moments of hesitation, perhaps even discomfort around some of my inquiries. I did not expect to elicit these reactions during the demographics section of the interviews. Yet, about a third of the time, when I asked the respondent to disclose a gender identity, there would be silence. Sometimes after the long pause the respondent would cautiously clarify whether I was seeking to categorize them as either male or female (I wasn’t). Other times the interviewee would go into a longer explanation of their opposition to the gender binary before identifying with a gender non-conforming label or declaring gender irrelevant and declining to provide an identity at all. (more…)

West Virginia Chemical Spill as State-Corporate Crime

West Virginia citizens wait in line to retrieve clean water.

West Virginia citizens wait in line to retrieve clean water.

On January 9, 2014 government officials in West Virginia discovered that over 7,500 gallons of chemicals used to clean coal had leaked out of a Freedom Industries’ chemical facility and into the nearby Elk River. The location of the leaking storage facilities was just upriver from the largest treatment facility in West Virginia affecting over 300,000 residents throughout the state. Immediately discovering the leak, government officials notified the residents of Charleston and surrounding areas to stop using tap water. The government warned against water usage for drinking, cooking, and bathing. The chemicals spilled caused skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, and wheezing to several residents. (more…)

The elusive gay male soccer player in Germany – Homophobia and Solidarity

“Fans against Homophobia” display in the stadium of German soccer club Mainz 05, celebrating the 5 year anniversary of their LG(BT?)-fan club. [Source: http://www.meenzelmaenner.de/resources/_wsb_500x276_Choreo5.jpg]

In 2013, NBA player Jason Collins made headlines when he became the first active openly gay male* athlete in one of the major 4 men’s team sports in the US. A similar story made headlines this winter in Germany, when recently retired soccer player Thomas Hitzlsperger – who formerly played in the German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A and English Premier League as well as for the German national team – came out as gay in an interview with the newspaper Die Zeit, becoming the first openly gay male soccer player in Germany. Similar to Collins, Hitzlsperger tied his outing to the political project of starting a discussion about homophobia and notions of masculinity in soccer. And paralleling Collins’ story, Hitzlsperger’s outing raises the question of whether we will witness a transformation of the gender politics in big-time German professional sports.

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Fugue as Method: Concluding Thoughts on Interdisciplinary Work Within Contemporary Academia

Source: Interdisciplinary Studies Project at Louisiana State University

Source: Interdisciplinary Studies Project at Louisiana State University

 

Stretto:

“When the entry of the answer occurs before the subject is completed, overlapping with it” Oxford Dictionary of Music.

Avery Gordon  introduces a unique musical device that is characteristic of fugal compositions in her discussion of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.  One of the accomplishments of the Mothers was their ability to give voice to the silenced by interrupting the dominating discourse of the state. During the 1970s, the state systematically massacred thousands of young men and women while simultaneously denying the acts as both a means of covering their actions and as a mechanism for placing the population into a state of fear induced normalization.  These acts created a dialogue where the state would vocalize denial and citizens would respond with a façade of acceptance, although silently knowing the truth.  The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo cut off the denying vocalizations of the state.  The Mothers protested peacefully around the main square of Buenos Aires with photographs of their missing children pinned to their hearts.  In fugal composition, a stretto is a way of magnifying tensions and increasing excitement.  In April of 1977, the mother’s stretto was a means of finding their disappeared children and demanding an end of military authority and economic repression.  In both cases the expected dialogue between voices is interrupted, the character of entry is changed and the composition takes on a new direction.

For  Gordon, haunting is method and at the same time, her work takes a fugal approach in both structure and content. The silences examined in Ghostly Matters serve as a mechanism to introduce the main thematic elements of her study but also serve as a voice in their silence.  By giving complex personhood to those whose voices have been silenced in the past, Gordon creates rich contrapuntal relationships between the voices of the social world and the ghosts that vocalize that which is not being said as a mechanism for creating a more just society.  Gordon structures these dialogues in a fugal form.  She creates complex subjects where multiple voices respond in imitation and contrast.  They can speak in entirety or can be cut off by each other creating numerous melodies and strettos.  Gordon’s attempt to find a new method for the production and consumption of knowledge creates a fugal space where she alternates between history, sociology and literature.  She ultimately determines that the interdisciplinary approach is the only means available to understanding the complex relationships between subjects and objects; facts and fictions; presence and absence; and  knowing and not knowing.

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From the defining issue of our era to “green crap” – the transformation of climate change discourse in the UK.

david-cameron-green-crap

Source: http://politicalscrapbook.net/2013/11/david-cameron-get-rid-of-all-the-green-crap/

As the saying goes ‘the jury’s in’; human activity is causing global temperatures to rise unnaturally and catastrophically quickly. The IPCC’s international panel of more than 800 scientists compiled over 9,200 peer-reviewed research papers to reach this verdict.  As a result, we are said to be initiating a mass extinction event analogous to one that annihilated the dinosaurs. Yet, climate change, once a totemic issue for politicians attempting to appear progressive, is becoming one of their marginal concerns.  For example, David Cameron, when he was working to detoxify the Conservative Party, went dog-sleighing in the Artic to signify his green credentials and commitment to address global warming. In the new era of perpetual austerity he has deprioritised the environment; Downing Street appointed a climate sceptic as Enviroment Secretary and reportedly recently referred to environmental levies as ‘green crap’.

Politicians in precarious states of power are notoriously sensitive to a construct known as ‘public opinion’. Public opinion is an analogue, shape-shifting beast only temporarily captured by various combinations of: opinion polls, newspaper columns, phone-ins, Tweets, blogs, emails, petitions, TV vox-pops, and whatever people in power imagine it is. Climate change’s deprioritisation reflects the reality politicians are not under pressure from public opinion to address it. There is probably a variety of complex psychological, sociological, economic, and political reasons that could tell us how and why how we’re arrived at point. I am going to suggest some reasons for this shift by applying Foucault to my PhD research data. (more…)

Lesbians watching gay porn: fluid sexuality or a second wave hangover?

Source: feministninja.tumblr.com

This post was borne out of a recent discussion with a good friend of mine, Harriet, who is a self-identified lesbian. (I include the phrase self-identified here deliberately: I realise her propensity to prefer the company and sex of woman does not categorise her as a lesbian, but it is a term she very comfortably uses herself). She was talking about going to a sex party, and I, in what I perceived to be ignorance, asked her what her interest could be in going. “Would it not be far too full of men?” I asked naively.

I had expected her to laugh at me, which she did. My question displayed an assumption that I hadn’t realised I held, that lesbian women must only be interested in seeing women have sex with other women. Being the tolerant and long-suffering woman she is, she challenged my assumption. Sex parties often include lesbian sex, she pointed out, and just because she is a lesbian doesn’t mean she is repulsed by men or their sex, any more than a straight person should be repulsed by lesbians. Heterophobia is no more acceptable than homophobia. However, she went on to explain that actually lesbians quite often found men sexually attractive, and, slightly more unusually, they are often interested in watching men have sex with men, in the form of gay male pornography. (more…)

Do Guns Make Women’s Lives Safer?

By Francois Polito (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

One of our readers responded to my previous article on the construction of rapists vs normal men in the media and the related issue of how to best respond to popular assertion that guns could play an effective role in women’s self-defense against rape. While agreeing with my overall analysis, she is looking for argumentative tools of how to counter ‘pro gun for self-defense against rape’ style arguments. Her question comes down to this: “The ‘change the society’ rhetoric makes the very concrete threats against women on a daily basis too abstract. Arguments [that advocate guns for self-defense against rape] keep the rhetoric concrete and practical and very present for very real women. And I haven’t yet found a gun regulation… argument that adequately challenges [the] point that in today’s society as it is, a woman can defend herself with a gun better than by any other means.” This is a valid question: Could it be the case that a society without firearms would be preferable from a moral standpoint, yet firearms might allow women to protect themselves in the here and now? This article is an attempt to argue why guns do not in fact make the lives of women safer.

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Fugue as Method: Episode 2 – How Scholars Have Applied a Fugal Method

Source: Northeastern University

Source: Northeastern University

Episode 2

“When I am growing up…we girls, big and little, have at our command four languages to express desire before all that is left for us is sighs and moans: French for secret missives; Arabic for our stifled aspirations towards God-the-Father, the God of the religions of the Book; Lybico-Berber which takes us back to the pagan idols-mother-gods-of pre-Islamic Mecca.  The fourth language, for all females, young or old, cloistered or half-emancipated remains that of the body” (Djebar 1985, 180).

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Fatherhood and Black Fatherhood

Source: Wikimedia Commons

You may have noticed that a photo of a Black man doing his daughter’s hair was plastered all over Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds last month. That man, Doyin Richards, runs a blog, Daddy Doin’ Work, about his experiences raising his two daughters. But, unlike most of the posts from his blog, this photo went viral. When the photo appeared all over social media, it was paired with a quote from his blog. “I have a dream that people will view a picture like this and not think it’s such a big deal.” Despite his desire for the photo to be seen as not a big deal, Richards continues to receive a great deal of attention simply for being a Black father. (more…)