The Patriarchy Continuum – Wage Gap Edition

Over at Larvatus Prodeo, Mark Bahnisch cites a Crikey article by Eva Cox that summarizes the state of gender inequality and wage differentials in Australia. Unsurprisingly, the inequalities persist and along with signs of structural and systemic discrimination that Cox lists:

Sadly, it does not take long for sexism to appear in the comment section, proving yet again that we may have come a long way but still have a long way to go before essentialist stereotypes disappear. Do read the whole post as well as the original Crikey article as Cox demonstrates that the usual rationalizations for the wage gap don’t hold water.

The Contracting Society? (Pun Maybe Intended… or Maybe Not)

I am reading this as an extension of privatization:

Todd Krohn provides further examples of this trend:

In addition to privatization, I would also associate this as an additional layer of the network society where it becomes more and more difficult to trace back who does what and works for whom. This contributes to not only chipping away at, but also blurring, the domain of action of the states.

This trend in contracting seems to me to be a perfect illustration of what Saskia Sassen calls the denationalization of the state where the institutions of the state contribute to their own erosion of sovereignty to further global integration into the global economy but also into  the transnational institutions of global governance (thereby contributing to the emergence what William Robinson call the transnational state).

Note that the increased used of contractor always benefit transnational corporations and often play a part in repression in various forms (prisons, torture and rendition). What this always amounts to is a loss of transparency in the inner workings of the state. So is excluded from this? Well, mostly the ever elusive global civil society, along with national civil society and social movement organizations.

ASA 2009 – Hegemonic Masculinity – Comparing Refusenik Movements

One of the interesting sessions I attended was Masculinized Violence: War, Politics and Militarization. It was presided by C. J. Pascoe. Jim Messerschmidt was no-show. The contribution that interested me the most was delivered by Sarah Anne Minkin‘s paper comparing two Refusenik movements with respect to hegemonic masculinity.

Minkin opened her presentation with a description of how gendered the Israeli culture is. Israeli culture is constructed around the dominance of militarism which, of course privileges a hegemonic masculinity symbolized by the figure of the combat soldier. As is well known, Israel has a universal draft where both men and women serve but very few women have been in combat positions and even that is a recent development. The only people exempt from such draft are Israeli Palestinians, religious orthodox individuals, pregnant women and mothers.

The national mission for men is to serve in combat. The national mission for women is to be mothers. The combat soldier then incarnates Israeli hegemonic masculinity. He represent a moral force: the ideal citizen and the ideal of male dominance that is at the heart of Israeli culture.

In light of this, refusal to serve is seen as treason. Refuseniks are ostracized, often lose their jobs and sometimes even serve jail time. In other words, there is a high price to pay in terms of stigma when one refuses to serve. For men to refuse to serve is to put their masculinity on the line. So, what strategies do they manage protest activism and masculinity? Minkin compares two social movement organizations that have adopted different strategies:

Courage to Refuse is an organization composed of veterans who now refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories. Minkin used the picture to the left (from the Courage to Refuse website) as an illustration of the fact that CtR does not challenge hegemonic masculinity. Quite the contrary, they use the legitimacy of having served already to thwart any criticism pertaining to their patriotism or loyalty to Israel.

No, the men of CtR, and they are mostly men – the only women in Ctr are veterans’s mothers or working in support roles but not the public faces of the movement – are “real” Israeli men.

Their strategy involves public refusals, that is, to make the public statement that one refuses to serve because one disagrees with the political goals of the occupation. This is in contrast to what is called grey refusal: finding medical or other reasons to not serve without invoking political motives. For the men in CtR, only a public refusal is a political act, that is, legitimate.

Moreover, their statement is couched in terms that could very well apply to soldiers in a military campaign:

This strategy has been very successful in terms of gaining legitimacy and avoiding the usual criticisms of refusenik groups. CtR has been portrayed relatively favorably by the media and they have not been too severely attacked by the government even though some of their members have been incarcerated as a result of their refusal to serve, which is part of their activism.

If one looks at the website, one would notice that it contains nationalist and patriotic symbols. So, again, there is no real challenge posed by CtR to Israeli patriarchy and hegemonic masculinity.

Another refusenik SMO – New Profile – has adopted a completely different strategy. NP’s strategy involves challenging hegemonic masculinity. NP endorses grey refusals considering all refusals as political acts. Some of the actions that NP has used to challenge the Israeli gender order has been to organize poster exhibits highlighting the mixing of gender and militarism in Israeli society (see right and click on the photo for the entire photo gallery).

Check out their flier for compare the look of NP members to that of CtR members as seen in the picture above.

And examine this opening paragraph from NP’s Charter:

The challenge to patriarchal militarism is clear and obvious.. Where CtR uses the cultural standard of strong men and claim their hegemonic masculine status, NP challenges the way men are evaluated in Israeli society. Needless to say, NP has more women and gay and lesbian members.

Moreover, there is also a class aspect to NP’s acceptance (if not encouragement) of grey refusals: public refusals (and therefore acceptance of being jailed) require socio-economic resources available only to certain social classes. Therefore, lower class men may have no choice but to serve since they cannot afford the “luxury” of a grandstanding public refusal. For them, NP offers the alternative of a grey refusal as acceptable political act.

Needless to say, NP has not received a warm welcome from the public or the government. They have been investigated.

For Minkin, there is no question that the strategic choices of each SMO has shaped its reception by the public and the government. One group fully affirmed Israeli gender norms and posed no threat to the militarist status quo and is perceived as legitimate. The other presents a deeper societal challenge and pays the price for it.

Non-Human Victims of Human Conflicts

I have blogged about this before: we know that armed conflicts wreak havoc on the environment and wildlife. However, which wildlife we choose to pay attention to (in a fashion similar to that through which we select chosen conflicts and ignore stealth conflicts) depends on whether we can anthropomorphize them or how “cute” we have defined them to be. Cases in point:

Gorillas, which have been humanized through movies and documentaries:

The whole article is worth reading as it weaves together the multiple layers of this armed conflict and the industries that fuel it along with the issue of governance in a failed state where corruption rules, along with the regional connections that go back to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

And then, there are the cute ones being slaughtered by groups taking advantage of the power vacuum following a coup in Madagascar:

I guess “gentle”, “delightful” and “unique” is what it takes for slaughter to be noticed. Too bad for the species that don’t fit that bill.

The Patriarchy Continuum – Agency Denied

Patriarchy operates at all level of social organizations: globally, nationally, organizationally, interpersonally, individually / bodily. But it all boils down to the denial of feminine agency at the structural level combined with the denial of masculine / hegemonic agency as power. For instance, Melissa McEwan, over at Shakesville has documented over and over how portrayals of rape usually use passive voice that eliminates the agency of the rapist or male perpetrators of gendered violence.

It is as if these things just “happened”. This is an argument one finds, in a different form, in Thomas Friedman’s writing on globalization: no one controls globalization. It just happens. Such a discursive device has the neat effect of eliminating any social mechanism of power involves in social relations. Power operates all the more thoroughly that it goes unmentioned, unexamined and unquestioned. Something familiar for anyone who has seen Tough Guise.

Which is why it is especially refreshing and, yes, groundbreaking to read this:

This passage reinstate the agency of the perpetrators and the multi-level consequences of gender-based violence.

So, hiding one’s agency is a mark of power so that structural violence visited upon the socially-disadvantaged categories of people appear to “just happen” and not as inflicted by the socially privileged.

At the same time, in a patriarchal society, the goal of norms and rules, sometimes legally codified, is to deny agency to the socially disadvantaged, something often presented as “for their own good” or as culturally unacceptable or social disruptive.

I shall file this item as another example of “Islam is a progressive religion that promotes peace and equality.” Snark aside, the idea here is to protest a law that would give women more agency.

And note the false equivalency “a man must protect his wife. A wife must obey her husband” as if the two side of the equation were, well, equal, as if there was no power differential involved. It makes it look like both husband and wife have equal duties but this forgets that in reality, a woman has to protect herself for fear of bringing shame to the family and the husband is supposed to protect the family, at the expense of the wife when necessary. And the duty to protect foes not involve the abdication of one’s personhood, freedom and agency to the power of another individual.

To present this gross inequality as “A has to do X and B has to do Y” as if X and Y were equivalent completely ignores the fact that X in this case imposes much less restriction on one social status and agency than Y. And it also falsely assumes that A and B are equal to start with, but just different (see also: “separate but equal”).

Is There Anything That “Social Networks” Do Not Explain?

Is  there a point at which a concept is so used and so watered down that it loses its specificity?

Here, what is being discussed is shift in social interaction patterns. Social networks are specific forms of organization not exactly synonymous with social interactions. I know certain concepts sometimes gain traction and fad-like traits (the long tail, black swans, to name only two) but one should be weary of their widespread application to the point that they lose their explanatory power as they become the explanation for everything.

Defining Privileged Experience as The Default and The Erasure of Social Disadvantages

Every time I see something like this…

I am not surprised to hear they come from MBA people. The erasure of social classes, global stratification and systemic constraints is complete. The message is presented as if the experience of the privileged classes worldwide were universal.

As if there were no digital divide between and within societies.

As if everyone had access to top-notch hardware and high broadband.

As if shopping and learning online were a universal experience.

As if no labor processes and relations were involved in manufacturing hardware.

As if everyone in the world had access to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social networking technologies.

As if we all lived in an electronic utopia where are data are not stolen and our privacy not violated.

As if we were all equal and social privileges and disadvantages did not exist. As if power and capital differentials were nonexistent.

As if these technologies did not reinforce the trends of the Risk Society and the Surveillance Society.

In other words, no critical or even reflexive analysis whatsoever.

The Interrelated Contradictions of American Culture

Illustrated (click on the image below to see the whole series):

Except, of course, that they are not really contradictions, rather mutually feeding trends: extreme religiosity leads to unhealthy views of sexuality that are related to pornified aspects of patriarchal culture, for instance.

Take this (it’s already made the rounds, I know):

There is no contradiction here either. The power of the food industry is directly related to obesity in the US.

What all these billboards do though it individual appeal (positively – do this! – or negatively – don’t do this!) and treat all these behaviors as individual choices to be either encouraged or discouraged.

Oh, and most of them are really sexist too.

Taking Sociology for the First Time: Advice from the Pros

Via The Everyday Sociology Blog:

I am a bit disappointed that only one of them mentioned the critical aspect of sociology. Is that no longer an important aspect, as opposed to “it will be useful for your life and career”… geez, so utilitarian! But then, this seems to be how education is perceived these days.