The Issue of the 100% Male Conference Panel | jodyb's blogpost @ Memefest
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jodyb

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The Issue of the 100% Male Conference Panel

I was one who asked the male panel at Memefest's Festival of Radical Communications 'Inspiration day' why there were no women presenters. I think it's worth unpacking this topic a little with the intention of helping Memefest develop into an network with strong input from women and other marginalised voices. Diversity of representation should by now be standard practice in any international network, but is especially critical for one that aspires to represent a radical tradition.

The Memefest speakers represent excellence in design, critical thinking, engagement with social movements and activism. In their defence the group represents those active within the Memefest network that evolved organically over the past decade. Speaker choices might not be a matter of producers choosing men but rather choosing people who were active building the network. There were many women participants in the workshop (although the facilitation was also 100% male most of the week). It was suggested that perhaps the next generation will be more equal. I consider the struggles my mother endured and am aware that changes made by feminism have been the result of active intervention; not passively waiting for the next generation to resolve masculine domination. Today women are central to all radical social movements (at least all those I know) and radical female writers are well recognised. In sharp contrast, the design industry is particularly good at privileging male voices and roles out all male panels at conferences with astonishing consistency and shamelessness. What I find particularly disturbing is that this can happen under the auspices of radical communications.

When I spend a day watching a panel of men present their work, I find myself slipping into despondency pierced by outbreaks of frustration. First, I become bored with a sameness of perspective and expression. Then these events start to represent more than just the results of one organisation's decisions on composition of a panel, but all the many subtle ways in which women are undermined in systems that still privilege men and male perspectives. In communication and design industries this masculine bias is amplified as dominant cultural discourses are constructed by and reflective of the experience of masculine cultural producers.

Although Memefest has grown organically and done an admirable job in building a community of radical communicators, this issue of balance and female voices is critical. Women and 'other' marginalised voices offer deeper critiques of systems of exploitation because we have the lived experience of being on the end of oppressive discourses, structures and systems. Feminism and anti-oppressive scholars have argued that marginalised perspectives can offer clearer critiques the ways that power works. A network of radical communicators must be explicitly feminist and anti-racist; and it must also do the work that accompanies creating inclusionary processes.

How is work created by women with different? Mapping out the territory covered by female radical communicators could be seen as an important part of the Memefest workshop's week-long project 'Mapping Socially Responsive Communications'. I believe that women communicators have unique contributions in our method, style and content due to different subjectivities. This difference is especially noticeable for radical women - as radical women will more likely challenge conventions. These differences mean that we are less likely to be featured in design magazines or conference panels. Defining difference is sketchy territory but I will hazard one comment that I think is particularily relavant. We often have a different approach to collaboration; one which accepts the value of diversity and allows voices to keep their individuality (and authorship) within a group. Perhaps this attitude comes from a historical awareness of how collectivism and universalising discourses can reproduce the perspectives (and power hierarchies) of the dominant voices.

It might sound strange to describe women's voices as excluded in an era when women are everywhere in the media. As long as women peddle the dominant ideology they are well received. Progressive networks must acknowledge women's input as vital. When there is an obvious lack of balance, conscious intervention is necessary. I am sorry that I made the panel uncomfortable on Friday, but I had to say something. Several women expressed gratitude to me. I also have to say that I resent having being forced to do so. This issue made the week quite hard work for me. It is an uncomfortable process of publicly criticising a group of men that I think are doing good projects (as individuals). I think it is important enough issue to risk the discomfort as networks and society at large will continue to perpetuate these problems until we confront the reasons why women are filtered out influential positions within industries and make determined efforts to address these problems.

I should also mention that I am have faced the same problem in other networks where I was the person at the platform. During my years with Transition Town Brixton we struggled with the fact that we had a overwhelmingly white membership in Brixton, well known for as a centre of black culture. In Climate Camp and Climate Justice Action we sought to use the privilege we held to support voices from the global south. Making concerted efforts to show solidarity across sex, race, class and location is the foundation of radical politics but always more difficult in practice than in theory. Critically, it's not about token voices, but strong critical voices. Memefest seems open making this happen and I would welcome a conversation on this topic within the Memefest community. Oliver's socially responsive communication aims to 'expose how power works'; masculine domination is one of the most subtle examples of power and should be a primary site for contestation.

Read original post here: http://www.memefest.org/en/openblog/2011/06/inspiration-day-puts-the-odd-in-the-oddstream/?showme=1

Comments

jodyb
7 years, 10 months ago

Good idea - Proactive response to male panels: http://bit.ly/ldnVTk

lenyss
7 years, 10 months ago

Thank you, Jody! I totally agree with you. Until the masculine domination will be here we won't be able to realize a socially responsive communication. As I said during a workshop - first change yourself then the others...

oliver
7 years, 10 months ago


Thanks for this post, Jody. I sincerely value your effort on highlighting this issues. I can agree with most of the stuff you wrote in your post.

It's true, the Memefest curated panel was unbalanced when it comes to gender equality. But the reason for this is quite simple.

The criteria, if you will, for curatorial decisions on speakers were two. First, the obvious: speakers had to be extremely good at what they do. Second: speakers were not only invited for the inspiration day, but were also co mentoring workshop and –very important- they were taking part in the many formal and informal discussions around Memefest and Memefest related issues in the nine days we have spent together in Nijmegen.

This of course is very important, because our meeting was a rare occasion. For financial reasons it is difficult to bring all this people from around the world together to one place at the same time. For this it was logical, that those who were invited were also the once who have played a very important role in Memefest's history. Friends, collaborators that have inspired in a very importnat way and that have contributed huge amounts of time and work to the project.

It's just a fact that there is no women who has put this much work in to Memefest in the past. Why? It's just the way it is and i can't really see any ideological reasons for this. Memefest grew organically. It was and is open to wemen.

From begin on Memefest has collaborated with women on all levels. Few examples- our web site programmer is a women. Many years Memefest visual communication media was designed by a women designer. Every year, there are women in the Jury/curatorial and editorial board. Every year women get awarded at Memefest, cca 50% workshop participants were women, i dont have the numbers but there are many, many women participating in the friendly competition each year...

It is not that women are not involved in Memefest. It is not that women do not know about Memefest. But again, for some reason, those who are the most active, those who put substantial time and work through the years in to this are men.

Personally and from discussions i know also wider Memefest team would be more than happy to collaborate with more women in a more intense and log term manner.

To go one step forward- it is of course true that women are in a position with less power than men in most of the situations in our lives. This is a fact and this is not right. We are open and we would be interested to put strong focus on women for next Memefest friendly competition theme. I hope all women reading this take it as an open and warm invitation to contribute with their thoughts ideas and most importantly actions! What can we do? What should we do?

Very much looking forward to all your thoughts and actions. Wonderful things can grow out of this!


skndugan
7 years, 10 months ago

Jody - I do agree with what you have posted, and I did notice the obvious imbalance during Inspiration Day as well, I think you raise an important concern especially regarding an open dialogue within radical communication.

Oliver - It may yield some interesting and discussion-worthy results to focus the next friendly competition around traditional and non-traditional roles in society regarding gender, sexual identity etc. I think doing something along those lines would encourage more women, as well as people in minority positions in society to participate, and further open the discussion and create collaboration with less dominant voices in the Memefest community.

Alana_Hunt
7 years, 10 months ago

I did notice, before we ever reached that little pretty city of Nijmegan, that the select crew of Memefest mentors were 100% male. I was curious to see how this would shape the workshop.

While statistically speaking gender was obviously way out of whack – personally speaking I never felt I was in an environment that “marginalised female voices”.

Statistics are important; and yes, I look forward to seeing an outpouring of inspiring women next “inspiration day”.

However, I feel it is important in these situations and within such debates to move deeper than statistics and look at how things unfold in practice.

I was disappointed to see that our mentors were all men. However, I cannot say in the slightest that they were a homogenous group or that their presentations had any kind of sameness of perspective or expression. I found their presentations quite diverse – reflective of their individual personalities and of the specific locales they had come from.

In a similar sense, I do not believe there is any kind of an essentially female perspective that a woman would bring to Memefest. Individuals are individuals. For me, the idea of women can never be a homogenous whole. We are diverse and unique, as are men.

Gender and sex themselves are sketchy definitions and there are potentially endless variations of both sex and gender that exist between the two definitions we have become so conventionally accustomed to understanding.

Instead of reinforcing the gender binary that lies behind “male domination”, I find it far more useful to break down all ideas that essentialise any gender so that we eventually come to an inclusive, diverse and ever shifting idea of feminism and gender in the world today.

I say this in the hope of bringing a more nuanced approach to gender and that very important topic of feminism to this discussion and to Memefest as a whole.

There is a baby bull at my front door, and ironically I am now headed for some kitchen work!

group_5
7 years, 10 months ago

I agree with Alana - I didn't think that the presenters in inspiration day were the same in their perspective or expression, but they were very diverse and inspiring.

I didn't see an issue with the male dominance in the workshop for two reasons: first, the mentors were there for their unique perspectives as designers and their capability to help us with the maps. Seeing it differently only shows how we as women are insecure about our position in the society, which is my second point. If women are secure enough about their abilities and their position, they would see past the gender and only see their ideas and what they can offer as individuals.

In inspiration day, the whole idea was not to show the male dominance in the Memefest organization, but to have an intellectual discussion, and as a woman, I was not concerned about the gender, but about what they were presenting.

I like Sarah's proposal of having the next "friendly competition around traditional and non-traditional roles in society regarding gender" I can't wait to see how it goes.

skndugan
7 years, 10 months ago

I do agree with you both as well, although I did notice the gender imbalance, not once did this ever really bother me. Interesting that there was an imbalance, but I liked what the mentors brought to the table and found them all all very different and inspiring on individual levels.

karin
7 years, 10 months ago

Dears,

we all had passed Memefest friendly competition. The friendly workshop was organized in Nijmegen to promote socially responsive communication concept.

I think all of us noticed that of great friendship between Memefest and 100% Male speakers of panel.
So, I'm contributing here with my question to Oliver.

I'm curious, why in Nijmegen we hadn't any female professional from the competition jury?

You publicize the principle that speakers had to be extremely good at what they do. So, no woman to be extremely good at what she does? From the other hand, I have to admit that super man professional usually doesn't discuss but evaluates. I have to admit, that Vida (she tried to be in our group) was more talkative (more as a member, than co-mentor).
Finally, we could have more discursive 'inspiration day' while it was totally representative.

oliver
7 years, 10 months ago

Karin: as i wrote in my comment above: criteria for curating speakers/mentors were two(mainly)- expertize being one of them. Longer term contribution to Memefest and Memefest community the other. Of course there are women that have been in the past jury/curatorial/editorial board that are extremely good at what they do.

Teja
7 years, 10 months ago

i think that women weren't marginalized, although there were only male presenters on Inspiration day. working and listening to all of them never made me feel like that.

i don't like the criteria for Memefest mentorship to be like a norm (determining a percentage of women represented), which is now so popular and does not change anything. eg. even in parliament they set a certain percentage of women who should be members but it still does not change anything. this, i think, is just a forced formal recognition of women. As long as women themselves are not more active, not much is going to change.

They had the same opportunities than men and i don't think the curators were discriminating any of them. of course men have different views, but also not every woman thinks the same as the other.

karin
7 years, 10 months ago

thanks, Oliver

Flami_Ka
7 years, 10 months ago

Nice intervention, Alana.

At this point I need to stress something out.

Women are underrepresented quite everywhere in the world and there is little Memefest can do about it. I wouldn't like to see a sexist criteria of chosing curators in favor of girls, I'm not interested in the so called 'panda bear treatment' either.

But I cannot say 'we' have the same opportunities as men.

We will never have more women speaking out in public as long as all domestic labour stays upon their shoulder, deprived of any value.

We'll never see them standing in front of a crowd with a mic as long as their husbands are kicking the hell out of them, just because the neighbour might find them attractive otherwise.

Just to name a couple of gender related troubles.

But the little we can do lays in addressing this kind of cultural monsters and fight, which I trust Memefest for keeping at heart.

skndugan
7 years, 10 months ago

I think for the most part, today, women do have many of the same opportunities as men. Certainly in my country I feel they do. In some countries, its absolutely not equal, but in some I would say it mostly is.

In response to the domestic labour being upon a women's shoulder, from a Canadian perspective, I disagree. I believe that is a choice, and not a gender social imbalance. Just as Oliver said the mentors were chosen based on their participation in Memefest from the beginning, so more men just took more interest to this particular community than woman, but its been open and the choice has been there. Simple as that.

Flami_Ka
7 years, 10 months ago

Canada must be a nice place where one can live. The world is not just Canada though.

It's a bit like saying: 'I live in a land where no factories have ever been built within hundreds of kilometres - ergo - there are mostly no polluted places on earth,' don't you think?

Of course, many women prefer taking care of the house and children or knitting instead of writing posts on a blog and that's simply beautiful.

Still, the one thing should not rule out the other.

According to my contacts in the very progressive U.S. of A. - not China or India where a woman may get killed just for being born one - there is, in fact, a sharp gender imbalance in the publishing sector and in general every power/decisional/managerial/public work environment.

We may want to check the VIDA (women in literary arts) http://vidaweb.org/ for some educated data.

karm3ns33ta
7 years, 10 months ago

@group 5: i disagree with using the argument that "women should be just more confident" as a solution. Because their lack of confidence is a result of general systematic oppression of women and male domination. Also saying that as long as women themselves are not active, nothing will change, is i think only a strong underestimation of gendered socialisation process which teaches women to please, and wait for the saviour and men to be heroes. Sure there are exceptions, but that doesn't mean the general rule doesn't apply.

I also agree with Flami_Ka on the issue of under-representation of women but disagree on the fact that nothing can be done about it. it can and it should.

I think it is essential for any event, group or movement with inspiration and intention to fight against existing inequalities and unfairness of the system, to make sure they include women women in. And by include I don't mean just open the door with a welcome sign, but get actively involved in the searching process.

skndugan
7 years, 10 months ago

Definitely! As I said, some there are definite equal opportunities in certain countries (such as mine) I believe, but others definitely not so much. But just because there are so many countries with massive gender imbalances in the world, its unfair to make a generalization that it exists everywhere. It certainly is a huge issue in many places, even in certain aspects of countries where its otherwise equal sometimes. It just provides hope and to some extent a framework for change, one day for other places, don't you think?

I too have heard this about the United States. I've never considered the United States to be very "progressive" in comparison to some other countries, however.

Flami_Ka
7 years, 10 months ago

I did't say 'nothing'
I said 'little' can be done.

And that little is very important.

Flami_Ka
7 years, 10 months ago

Agreed that USA is not very progressive.
There was a fair charge of sarcasm in that sentence of mine ;)

karm3ns33ta
7 years, 10 months ago

@skndugan, you are the lucky one it seems. Because where I live and where I come from the answer to the following questions is still "NO":

- Do women who have more sexual partners get away without being labelled as sluts (while men don't)?
- Do women in general get same wage as men for the same job?
- Are working positions which are predominantly feminine equally respected and as the predominantly masculine ones?
- Do women get the job as easy as men, when employer suspects they'll have children?
- Does at least 30% of men stay home with children/use maternity leave (I'd say 50% but I'm trying to be realistic)?
-Are women free from social pressure of being feminine?
- Are women well protected form violence in the family?
- Are men and women equally sharing the load of unpaid work (housework, raising children, taking care of elderly relatives/parents...)?
....

For me true equality is not and cannot be measured by statistics and law that are accepted.

@Flami_Ka: good point and in this case I agree. Little is definitely much more than nothing :)

skndugan
7 years, 10 months ago

Sarcasm's too hard to detect through only typing still... somebody needs to get on that and invent an emoticon or something... ha.

@karm3ns33ta

I feel a lot of these issues you bring up are real problems in many countries around the globe. I do not disagree at all.

Except for the question - "are women free from the social pressure of being feminine?" - I do not believe this can be attributed to a "gender imbalance", but a close-minded society in general. I think in these unequal societies men also face similar issues, for example: "are men free from the social pressure of being masculine?" - I am going to go out on a limb, and assume, NO for the most part, and go further and assume homosexuality and sexual diversity faces even more inequality than simply being a woman.

So really, the inequality is on an even larger scale than only women's rights in these countries, and these are bigger problems than just "gender imbalance".

karm3ns33ta
7 years, 9 months ago

I completely agree with you. Also men feel very strong pressure of being masculine and they shouldn't. But we have to keep in mind that the position of masculinity (though also imposed) is a privileged power position, unlike the position of femininity, which is only it's negative reflection, defined as what masculinity is not (e.g. weak, irrational/emotional...). So for me this are not really equal, despite the fact that social pressure is imposed unpin both.

Sexual identity is another thing, yes. Bare in mind that women in general face multiple oppression more often than men, due to their sex. (e.g. racism and sexism, homophobia and sexism etc.). And yes, I agree it is a part of larger problem of inequality. But unless it is addressed directly (as women do present more than 50% of population) and not only through the general fight for human rights, it will not get any better.

I do however believe that movements, fighting for equality, could work together towards achieving their goals, but without loosing focus on the intersectionality of their identities/multiple discrimination.

skndugan
7 years, 9 months ago

Yes! Maybe we should just focus the next friendly competition around the theme of "inequality",

karm3ns33ta
7 years, 9 months ago

I think this is a very good suggestion!

Flami_Ka
7 years, 9 months ago

I like where this is going. I subscribe to the idea

skndugan
7 years, 9 months ago

Oliver, we have ideas! Haha.

jodyb
7 years, 9 months ago

After a busy week I am thrilled to come back to the Memefest blog to see a healthy debate on this topic. I hope that something positive can emerge from this discussion as I have noticed disturbing retrogressive trends in regards to feminism. I only bring gender into the conversation due to a blatant power imbalance- I would prefer to move on to other topics but it seems this old thorny issue is remains a problem. I would expect that a radical network such as Memefest would be keen to demonstrate how gender equality is a starting point for any progressive agenda, much less a radical one.

I cannot help noticing a lack of critical thinking about gender in some of the earlier comments on this threat. This blanket denial of discrimination in a couple comments strikes me as distinctly conservative positions. Intellectual strategies focusing on individualizing personal problems of those in the 'oppressed' group rather than looking at the historical circumstances that led to power imbalances is a standard conservative tactic. Instead of analyzing power dynamics that keep groups out of the top spots, the victim is blamed for some problem that apparently keeps them out of the privileged positions. For example: 'Not its not that the financial system cripples the poor, its that the poor are so lazy, etc...' It's the same intellectual strategy used in the comment: 'women are insecure...'

A little historical understanding of what women over the last century have endured to win the rights that we enjoy today would help. We did not win women's rights through ignoring problems around gender. Despite the fact that young women today owe their liberty to women who fought hard for more equality, the tendency to adopt anti-feminist rhetoric is disturbing. Thankfully some more critical voices joined the discussion more recently. I might have lost hope if @Flami_Ka and @Karm3ns33ta had not joined the conversation. Thanks to @skndugan for keeping the conversation going and the suggestions on themes. Personally, I think that being explicit about gender, power and actually problems in the real world is more productive than taking abstractly about equality. Feminism must be recognized as a foundation for justice. A radical community of communicators must be explicitly feminist or else it has no business calling itself radical.

karm3ns33ta
7 years, 9 months ago

I very much agree. In the "international press agency" of the ODDstream festival we also put fair gender representation as one of the main guidelines for our group (written media). Even though I think talking about gender is not the same as talking about feminism and I support much more the latter.

This was one of the results

http://www.oddstream.org/2011/06/the-secret-life-of-women/?lang=en

skndugan
7 years, 9 months ago

Maybe we should focus on something more along the lines of "anti-sexism", occasionally hearing some feminist positions, for me, is off-putting because I do feel some sexism in comments I hear (not so much in this thread, but in my day to day life), and immediately I take the feminist position much less seriously.

But in regards to what Jody is saying perhaps this does just come back to power dynamics and conflict in the world, rather than just "inequality".

jodyb
7 years, 9 months ago

hi Sarah, What you mean by 'I do feel some sexism in comments that I hear...and immediately I take the feminist position much less seriously' - ?

Do you mean that you dislike any feminist comment that implies any essential difference between men and women that is not socially constructed?

How are feminist positions sexist?

skndugan
7 years, 9 months ago

Hmm, I just find occasionally some "feminists" I have spoken with on the issue tend to come off as sexist towards men in a sense, and well, it goes back to the old saying: two wrongs don't make a right. I haven't found that on this string, but more so through interactions I've had at my school etc., and to me that is off-putting, because it's not constructive at all.

And yes, I guess to some extent as well, I hope feminism is geared towards that issues that are socially constructed between the genders.

I don't think feminist positions ARE sexist, not all, anyways. Certainly not In theory - they shouldn't be, but I think some women who identify themselves as feminists are sexist towards men, again, nobody really on this thread, but ones I have met who just hate men for these social imbalances and power issues. It's not constructive to me.

Jason
7 years, 9 months ago

I really like the idea of exploring these themes at Memefest, but we should aim for political clarity. Definitions of sexism that are so loose as to include 'women who hate men' aren't productive. Sexism like racism etc is SYSTEMATIC prejudice, (not merely the unbound prejudice of an individual) and therefore dependant on and reinforced by social, economic and cultural dominance. A woman who 'hates a man' might be prejudiced, but by definition (or at least any meaningful definition) is not sexist.

karm3ns33ta
7 years, 9 months ago

Word!

oliver
7 years, 9 months ago

Well, while i agree with Jason, i would be happy if we could bring this discussion more in to a dialogue, instead of a confrontation of "arguments" which tries to show who is right and who is wrong. The strength of Memefest's community is it's diversity. Meaning, some people are more skilled than others in some things, others in other things. While taking position and developing arguments is necessary, listening and communicating in a manner that is inclusive of the other and working hard towards recognition of the other seems to me far more radical than any shouts for feminist action. What dialogue is about is what happens in the commons, not about who is right or wrong.

Jason
7 years, 9 months ago

yes, this why I don't blog. Writing in a hurry means tone is not always as intended. Apologies if my comment seems too closed.

skndugan
7 years, 9 months ago

You brought up a good point, Jason - that's an extremely important consideration.

I think dialogue on these issues is so crucial to truly understanding systematic influences. For example, I would never ever identify myself as a "feminist" because of the environment and society I have grown up in, if anything I sometimes feel as though, in Canada, women have it a bit better off than men (for example: car insurance prices), yet I absolutely recognize this is not the case, and not even close to the case in other countries right now. I feel this way completely in the context of my own country, because this is where the majority of my experience lies.

However I also recognize not all countries are this fortunate and how many big, big changes are still needed for even the slightest bit of equality.

I think its important to recognize whether or not we as communicators are being ethnocentric in our views on these issues. I say that in the sense, it would be very close minded of me to assume every country is like Canada, and there is no need for change (which is far from how I feel). But I also say this because although, due to our more liberal backgrounds (some of us) and upbringings in more equal countries than others, I think its fair to expect there to be some biased expectations that all countries should strive to be more liberal and equal, and certainly as equal or liberal as at least what you have experienced first hand, no?

I'm not sure all people who experience these imbalances are unhappy, or want change. I do not know, I am not them, and I do not like generalizing big groups of people, if I only hear the want for change from some. I think its realistic to consider that maybe a lot of them are okay with it though? Because of the systematic influences they have developed in, of course. Does it make imbalance wrong or right? I am not sure, I am still figuring that out for myself.

oliver
7 years, 9 months ago

i wasn't speaking about you post, jason, but the overall feel and dynamics of this discussion. in general i think things are much more nuanced, therefore we need to try to create a more nuanced interaction. i agree here with alana...

Alana_Hunt
7 years, 9 months ago

There are so many threads of this conversation to run with....and I find it difficult to know where to start. But one thread in particular does seem to capture my attention with a little more urgency.

It is the idea that issues of gender equality/feminism/and the like can be understood and generalised along the lines of nations. There is a subtle undercurrent here that seems to allude to the presence and absence of gender equality across western and non-western contexts.

Sara, it is really great how your ideas are grounded in your own experiences; this is always an important thing to work with, and really the only thing we have to work with. Though I find it difficult to conceive of Canada as a gender-equal place – outside of your own individual experiences. Inequality, particularly in relation to gender, is so multifaceted, persistent and also often discreetly naturalised.

Some threads in this discussion are constructing a restrictive kind of duality between nation-based contexts that are perceived to be “equal” and those that are “not”.

It is so important to be mindful of how/why we envision change, and what kind of change that is....It is all too common, particularly within feminist discourses, to fall into a disastrous spiral of making-the rest-of-the-world-like-the-West.

Through my own experiences, I have found that in many of those places that would conventionally be deemed “not-gender-equal” there are an array of gender-equal practices in operation that sadly fall outside the dominant gaze. Practices those places conventionally deemed “gender equal” could learn from.

I have friends who wear the hijab and abaya who experience a far greater degree of gender equality than others I know who wear bikinis. But likewise, I have friends in bikinis who experience a far greater degree of gender equality than others I know who wear the hijab and abaya.

skndugan
7 years, 9 months ago

I am interested to hear more about the gender equal practices you are familiar with, Alana, in areas that are deemed as "not-gender-equal".

You also made another important point, I was hoping to make but kind of missed the ball on - the importance of being mindful of changes, and to not fall into, as you phrase it, "the disastrous spiral of making-the-rest-of-the-world-like-the-west", what works and doesn't work for the west will not always be the same when placed into another context with different values and traditions.

Flami_Ka
7 years, 9 months ago

Speaking of gender shizzle: last evening, in a conversation with a housemate man, I came up with a distinction between Feminists and Female Supremacists, when he asked about "those feminists who think that men are the cause of all world's ugliness". I would just call them Nazis - like any other supremacist I might think of - not feminists.

To top it off, I really wish there was no need for a concept like 'feminism' at all, that no gender-specific (or color-specific, or preference-specific..) aberrations ever existed, but yeah, here we are 'cause they exist big time.

I know this would probably need a new thread and I might do it later on, now I'm wee tired.

But what are your thoughts about this distintion?
Useful/Not Useful? Should I start another thead? Or somebody wants to do it?

Thank you for thinking on my behalf now ;)
Good night

skndugan
7 years, 9 months ago

There's a term for that since you mention nazi's - feminazis, haha.

Flami_Ka
7 years, 9 months ago

cool :) feminazis is a streetwise version of female supremacists

skndugan
7 years, 9 months ago

Haha, exactly!

oliver
7 years, 9 months ago
Alana_Hunt
7 years, 9 months ago

Sorry to be so late in replying ; )

Basically Sarah, I am sceptical of the hegemonic idea that (western) modernity brought about women’s emancipation. While in some respects it most certainly has, in others it has stripped away forms of gender equality that were previously in operation – in both the west and in other parts of the world.

There is a need to problematise the way in which (western) modernity is assumed to be inherently tied to women’s emancipation, or the idea that in the West women are necessarily emancipated. For me these discourses are best understood as part of the autobiography that modernity (and the west) have written for themselves. Something we need to be sceptical of.

Feminism has an ambivalent relationship to modernity. It is important to understand the dynamics of what “gender equality” means beyond any nationalistic or culturally homogenous frame.

Here are some random examples, some of which you may be familiar with:

- In the context of South India the matriarchal lineages that dominated were actually replaced by a patriarchal system through the process of British colonialism. Interestingly, within larger India the census now has an official “third sex” option, and colonial laws that criminalised homosexuality during the British colonial era were repealed in 2010.

- In The Politics of the Veil, a book which analyses the cultural discourses around the recent implementation of laws banning the veil in France, author Joan Scott illustrates how many supporters of the law saw the veil as Islam’s ultimate resistance to modernity and hence the core principles of the French Republic. In France the political mobilisation of the headscarf debate was not only a means of expressing deep anxieties about the way in which Islam handled relations between the sexes, but also a way of insisting on the superiority of French gender relations, indeed at times, as Scott notes, even associating France with a higher form of civilisation. Importantly a number of studies argue that the Islamic headscarf is in fact largely a modern (not traditional) phenomena, an effect of recent geopolitical and cultural exchanges that are global in scale. As French Sociologist Oliver Roy has noted, the varying kinds of Islamic religiosity today are better understood as a product of and reaction to the increasing influence of western modernisation.

- In the wonderful book Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh linguist and author Helena Norberg-Hodge goes on to describe a range of experiences from within “traditional” Ladakhi culture that illustrate the way in which gender differences were not so much denied but rather less accentuated and far more fluid than in the modern west. Norberg-Hodge discusses the fluid nature of marriage, of which polyandry has traditionally been the preferred form; the fact that the ‘informal’ sector, or in other words the household, with women at the centre, is the main focus of the economy; how names for men and women are often identical and that the pronoun ‘kho’ stands in for both ‘he’ and ‘she’.

oliver
7 years, 9 months ago


This article might open some new dimensions for discussion, especially about the "men against women" part of this initial post and discussion.

This title part grabbed my attention "...one unfortunate legacy of feminism has been the idea that men and women are basically enemies. I shall suggest, instead, that most often men and women have been partners, supporting each other rather than exploiting or manipulating each other. "

There is also some interesting data that counters the prevailing feminist perspective that women are the ones who are in a bad position in our societies. But read for your self...

Although sometimes not rigorous enough in it's argumentation, the main argument of this text is strong and i can agree with it. One thing we need to understand with this discussion here is the recognition that men and women are different. The other thing: the initial argument for this post-- a somehow biased position from Memefest which prefers men, does not stand.

In the light of this text, titled "Is There Anything Good About Men?" psychologist prof. Roy F. Baumeister argues that men have different motivations than women. Again, i agree.

Maybe this is the reason (or one of the reasons) why not more women have stepped forward and got involved more actively in to Memefest in the past years?

oliver
7 years, 9 months ago

Here is the link to the text mentioned in the post above:
http://www.psy.fsu.edu/~baumeistertice/goodaboutmen.htm

karm3ns33ta
7 years, 9 months ago

It might me that the legacy of feminism or it's unwanted result is the idea of men and women being enemies, but that is for sure not what feminism was or is fighting for. It is however unfair not to recognise structural discrimination of women in the past and today. Women and men might me supporting each other, but that doesn't change the fact women are still massively exploited.

I do agree that men and women are different and if anyone thinks feministic endeavour is trying to prove otherwise, then we're not talking about the same feminism here. Being different shouldn't stop people from having equal access and chances, which we still don't.

oliver
7 years, 9 months ago

sure, but i don't think anyone tries to not recognize that women are exploited. some of the structural discrimination however might not be intended structural discrimination, but a result of the difference between men and women, even if the result in the end is a discriminating structure.

karm3ns33ta
7 years, 9 months ago

It would be great if you have some concrete examples as I'm not entirely sure if I know what it is you mean by that (result of the difference between men and women, even if the result in the end is a discriminating structure).

jodyb
7 years, 9 months ago

Lots of chaos over the past few weeks has prevented a response. Some last thoughts from me as I would really like to wrap up this conversation if possible, or at least in my own participation.

Re: Canada - My experiences was of over the top sexualisation and commodification of female bodies (when I left in the mid-1990s). I found England liberating in regards to sexual politics and this was one of many reasons that I loved the UK when I first arrived. Young women most keenly feel this pressure conform to ideal standards of feminine beauty. Today, I think England and Canada are probably equally obsessed with appearances. I will post some related links to relevant videos.

Re: This idea of ‘men against women’. Feminism has always been a movement that aimed for greater cooperation, partnership for women and men. It liberates men as well as women from strict gender roles and aims for equality of opportunity. Yes, in many places historically there has been cooperation, but the legacy of the Western tradition there is patriarchy. Where there remain dramatic power imbalances and men retain all the high status positions, then it becomes necessary to intervene. Feminism does not define itself as been ‘against’ men, but when women articulate a feminist position to men (or other women) that will not acknowledge structural discrimination there is often an inevitable conflict. Whether or not this discrimination is ‘intended’ (most often it is not intentional) or whether power imbalances result from biological differences ‘women having babies, etc.’ , the power imbalance is a problem and needs to be challenged.

Some young women seem quick to deny the relevance of a feminist critique and also quite unaware of what those critiques are. Many go that extra mile and start openly mocking feminists. For this reason, I dislike all these words being bandied about on this list about equating feminists with Nazis. This kind of talk is too easily appropriated by anti-feminists / conservatives. Anti-feminism is as unacceptable as racism. It's not a joke - ideas have consequences. On that note, I want to thank Jason for his comment.

On the other hand, I am unhappy about Oliver’s tone throughout this thread. Comments such as 'any shouts for feminist action' implies I am shouting. Actually I am simply saying something quite firmly and it is wrong to characterize this as shouting. Oliver’s comments: 'dialogue is about is what happens in the commons, not about who is right or wrong'. Well, I disagree with this comment in this context. Sexism is wrong, and Oliver’s call for greater ‘nuance’ strikes me as a defensive reaction for avoiding dealing with the systems of privilege I have been attempting to critique. Personally, I think this conversation is regressive at this stage and I no longer have the emotional energy to continue this discussion. I do not think Oliver is going to take my critique on board or stop being defensive. More recently, for example: ‘interesting data that counters the prevailing feminist perspective that women are the ones who are in a bad position in our societies…’ - I wish I had enough time to gather the data for the counter argument – but I think we will just have to agree to disagree.

Obviously, it is wrong to hold individuals responsible for the systemic problems that plague all of society, and so it is not the fault of Memefest that most 'design stars' are men. This does not absolve the responsibility of the community to attempt to address this problem in some capacity. Dealing with problems such as systemic discrimination involves listening to those who are attempting to articulate power dynamics that keep the status quo firmly in place - and not responding defensively with more of the same kind of attitude that created the problem in the first place. Radical communities should be more conscious of the need to push the agenda forward.



jodyb
7 years, 9 months ago

Killing Us Softly 4
Advertising's Image of Women

Analysis of women in the media, focusing on advertising's depiction of women and femininity.

http://www.mediaed.org/

oliver
7 years, 9 months ago

Giday,

I have once again read all the posts in this discussion and am a little bit surprised by Jodies post on 23.7.2011
10.49.

To avoid any possible misunderstandings and misinterpretations i'll try to be short and simple:

1. I have never said that there is not an unequal position of women and men in our societies. The opposite. I have welcomed critical thoughts on the relation men-women at Memefest and stepped forward suggesting very proactive action from our side towards this problem. Here is part of my first reply to the initial post:

»...To go one step forward- it is of course true that women are in a position with less power than men in most of the situations in our lives. This is a fact and this is not right. We are open and we would be interested to put strong focus on women for next Memefest friendly competition theme. »

2. I have never said that there is no structural inequality. But i have said that there are different reasons for it. Some of the reasons are due to differences of men and women. Not all power relations between sexes can be explained with the use of cultural determination prism.

3. I felt that we have enough similar views on the subject that there is more than enough ground for dialogue. And I was not referring only to you Jody, but replying to the whole forum. I am sorry to hear that you think we are on such opposite sides, that the only thing we can agree on is that we disagree. Still- I am puzzled- on what do we actually disagree?

4. The particular women-men relation have not been an explicit focus of Memfest or me personally in the past, but this can be changed. In order to work towards more equal relations, I have asked everyone to come up with suggestions and action. Another part of my initial response here: »I hope all women reading this take it as an open and warm invitation to contribute with their thoughts ideas and most importantly actions! What can we do? What should we do? »

So far, Jody, there was not a single suggestion from your side. What happened?

Your critique would definitely have more impact on this forum if you would articulate some productive suggestion toward a better position of women in Memefest. I would be very interested to read more on where and how can we identify conditions in Memefest that brought about an unequal relation of sexes. Not the fact that there were only male speakers at the conference, but the fact that women so far haven't engaged more strongly in the project and this cause.

skndugan
7 years, 8 months ago

A late reply from me as well. Thank you everyone who posted links and information though, I appreciated all of it and always find it interesting to see things and different perspectives regarding this issue.

I do agree with what Oliver says here, as my late contribution to this topic, and I too would like to know what he is asking, and I would like your opinion and suggestions, Jody, as it is very clear you feel very strongly about this!

As a final input from myself, I think it would be really interesting to focus the next friendly competition theme around the idea balance (or imbalance...) because it would build on the last theme of "love, conflict and imagination", and I think it would expose not only imbalanced power relationships, inequality etc. but also open the door for balance, constructive criticism etc. and positive relationships.

Alana_Hunt
7 years, 8 months ago

I think this idea of "balance (or imbalance)" is beautiful Sara....and a wonderful end to this discussion and a wonderful starting point for things to come.

karm3ns33ta
7 years, 8 months ago

On Oliver's 4th point about action and suggestion, I am suggesting to use next friendly competition to tackle the topic of sexism in the media.

Doable?

Flami_Ka
7 years, 8 months ago

Hi vrienden and vriendinnen,

this very interesting Egyptian/Danish project on masculinities is just published

http://dedi.org.eg/wp-content/uploads/Masculinities-e-publication.pdf

Maybe we can use it for inspiration.

I came across it with suggestion to check the article on page 61 "Humanizing masculinity" but please, the men in Memefest, don't feel accused of not being human! The effort is to be asked from those who aren't and the article is very clear and worth a read. It also addresses men problems like giving up freedom and health just to prove they are masculine.

I think the whole report is, it matches not only gender issues but also cross cultural ones.

I'll try to read it all myself, provided I can always make some time.

Highly recommended! :)

jodyb
ABOUT ME

Username

jodyb


Name

jody boehnert


Gender

female


Country

United Kingdom (Great Britain)


Website

http://www.eco-labs.org


I have joined the Memfest community becasue i am interested in

Communications, critical theory


Faculty

U of Brighton


Education

Phd candidate - due Oct. 2011


Working place

EcoLabs


Books I like

Uncivilization: The Dark Mountain Manifesto. Steps to an Ecology of Mind - Bateson, Reproduction / Masculine Domination - Pierre Bourdieu, Planet Dialectic - Sachs, Visual Language - Horn, Thinking in Systems - Meadows, Critical Pedagogy - Kahn, Ecopsychology - Roszak, Down the Wire - Orr


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http://ecolabs.posterous.com/
https://twitter.com/EcoLabs


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