Day of the Girl, day of the dollar October 11, 2013Posted by doctorfive in Uncategorized.
Today marks the second annual ‘International Day of the Girl’. A giant bonoism as website states
We are a 100% youth-led movement committed to promoting the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11 as a platform for change in the US. Not affiliated with any one organization.
while a slightly less grassrootsy United Nation resolution reads
The empowerment of and investment in girls, which are critical for economic growth, the achievement of all Millennium Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and extreme poverty, as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights, and recognizing also that empowering girls requires their active participation in decision-making processes and the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community
Slightly uneasy watching the awe and endless awards that follow Malala Yousafzai around the globe since she first spoke at the UN this Summer. Contrast of Tipperary Peace Prizes with Direct Provision headlines is only the start. Hers is a story as incredible as incomprehensible, no doubt about that but what orbits raises questions. On this Day of the Girl she is lighting up theatres and talk shows across the United States in a week that marks twelve years since they invaded Afghanistan. Some chance eh?
Difficult to say if we are living though the tail end or some new stage of what – I presume universally regarded as – an inevitably disastrous campaign in South Asia and the Middle East. The story of Malala is notable in a war launched with Laura Bush declaring “only the terrorists and the Taliban forbid education to women” or as Nina Power writes
Where the Right would once have bundled queers, leftists, feminists, peaceniks and other sundry misfits together as internal enemies of the state, when it came to providing reasons for the invasion of Afghanistan, in particular, the language of feminism was plucked from the dustbin of history as a specifically ‘Western’ value.
‘Respect for women … can triumph in the Middle East and beyond!’ cried Bush in a speech to the UN , perhaps forgetting that on his first day in office he had cut off funding to any international family planning organisation that offer abortion services or counselling.
Few East or West can credibly lay claim to respect for women but pertinent (if problematic) from Katha Pollitt is
US invasions have made the work of Muslim feminists much more difficult. The last thing they need is for women’s rights to be branded as the tool of the invaders and occupiers and cultural imperialists.
Time will tell but returning to those orbits and it’s difficult to swallow high level promises on global education, poverty and a future while the US stalls over healthcare, again, and Europe continues wherever it’s going.
The figure of the Dawkins acolyte and weaponised Atheism comes to mind, deeply concerned with a simplistic injustice of Yemen or Bradford while blind, indifferent or hostile to complexity on his (almost always a his) own doorstep. But in contrast to New Atheist struggle to see beyond religious bogeymen, the acute when suits eye of the Market is always turning threat to opportunity
Kate Losse’s review of Lean In identifies a practice not unique to Facebook or Sheryl Sandberg but always bears reminding
It is well-known that Facebook clones small apps and rolls them out to Facebook’s broad user base when an outside app becomes threatening to Facebook’s business model. Given that strategy, it’s not hard to see how Facebook may want to incubate its own feminist movement in order to prevent a more activist and transformative feminism from affecting Facebook’s business.
Just as with any of Facebook’s competitive moves, the need to create an in-house version of a product arises due to an external threat. And put very simply, feminism is a threat to Facebook, just as Instagram or Snapchat were threats to Facebook’s photo-sharing business.
Facebook is vulnerable to feminist critique on a number of levels: from Facebook’s all-male board up until 2012, to the lopsided distribution of genders (and compensation) across its departments, to the way women’s images drive the site itself, where the most popular content has always been intimate, personal photographs of women. Sandberg’s book, very strategically, makes no mention of feminist critiques of Facebook, and instead imagines a feminist platform where women’s problems with undercompensation and sexism lie in women themselves, thus negating the need to change Facebook’s operations.
In this way Sandberg is able to deploy Facebook’s oft-used tactic of building an in-house version of a competitive product, a move traditionally deployed against apps, against competing feminisms.
and Lindsey German
Paradoxically the triumph of the rhetoric of feminism has taken place exactly at a time when the actual conditions of women’s lives have worsened, and this rhetoric has been used to justify policies which will harm women.
Triumph may be a stretch, even in a week when Janet Yellen steps into the Fed and Hillary meets Lagarde in Washington, but here at home we find examples during the EU Presidency where we were told
Gender Equality is central to the EU’s targets for Economic Growth
or Senator Mary White fluffing FF in the Irish Times
Time to unleash potential of women entrepreneurs
and indeed the UN resolution above opens with
The empowerment of and investment in girls, which are critical for economic growth, ….
Gender equality in itself is not central nor the potential of women, even UN empowerment and investment towards ‘meaningful participation [...] breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence’ comes couched with a growth and business babble incentive. The vanguard, or tellingly best resourced, faces of change are either a) not confident enough of it’s own intrinsic value which results in b) compelled to offer a carrot for sceptics or c) a stunt. Putting a ‘progressive’ face on things, a cloak of convenience masking many other issues.
There is d) option of sincerity of course but here’s a favourite from earlier in the year
To achieve that goal, we require the active participation and support of women within the Party.
Presumably that last line isn’t implying the job falls on women to do so while they’re at it!
Michelle Murphy in a brilliant essay (one of many in a crucial collection on Gender, Justice, and Neoliberal Transformations) unpacks a merger of a feminism and finance. I could quote the whole thing but for a outline
Western feminist promissories and financial gambles merge in the current popularity of “The Girl” as a figure of transnational rescue and investment. In 1992, Lawrence Summers (then chief economist for the World Bank) delivered a famous keynote lecture, [...] By calculating The Girl as a site of investment, preventing future births was temporally pushed backward in the human life cycle to the pre-childbearing years of life.
In addition, educating girls was correlated with lower mortality and higher future income. Thus for Summers, “educating girls quite possibly yields a higher rate of return than any other investment available in the developing world.”
Since the 1990s, the figure of the racialized, “third-world girl”—typically represented as South Asian or African, often Muslim—has become the iconic vessel of human capital. Thoroughly heterosexualized, her rates of return are dependent on her forecasted compliance with expectations to serve her family—her ability to be thoroughly “girled.”
Unlike the visual representations of racialized, suffering children and women which contoured the economic development campaign literature of the 1980s, campaigns for The Girl are visually optimistic, hopeful, and animated. The Girl is represented abstractly as a charged data point, an ebullient cartoon, or an animated icon. The Girl, is thus not a subject effect, but rather a subject figure—a stereotyped representation of a subject “figured out” of a matrix of social science correlations and financial probabilities, here painted pink with tropes of agency imported from feminism for a North American audience. This visualization of The Girl as a global neoliberal subject figure charged with speculative futures repeats in campaigns by major transnational NGOS, such as Plan, and its “Because I am a Girl” campaign, US feminist NGOS, such as Care, Vital Voices, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Women Deliver, and also corporate responsibility projects of Nokia, Chevron, Shell Oil, Exxon, Credit Suisse, Walmart, Intel, and Goldman Sachs.
Reinvigorating old tropes that ethicized colonialism through the figure of the woman in need of rescue, the investable Girl as a figure of both feminism and capitalism is always already a national security solution with a neoliberal twist.
Disturbing, too, for many feminists is not the militarized and neo-imperial implications of The Girl. What distresses is the hijacking of feminist aspirations (both temporal and affective).
The Girl was built out of feminisms as much as finance. Actualizing the agency of a gendered subject has become a contact point for capitalism and feminism. The Girl is a symptom of the eruption of a twenty-first-century capitalist feminism, where investment into explicitly gendered and implicitly racialized young humans becomes a new way to hedge bets on a better, more secure, more feminist, and more prosperous future.
The Girl is a site of struggle over how to posit the future and live through speculative acts. What dreams for the future appear sensible in neoliberal times, and for whom does the free market dream?
Though capital could yet meet it’s match in The Girl. Or as Malala put it
I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one.