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Republicanism and agency April 22, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Feminism, Irish Politics, Republicanism, The Left.

An…erm… bracing review in the Irish Times of a new book that seeks to give an overview of Irish political and social thought from the 17th century onwards. This is from Bryan Fanning and Tom Garvin and entitled ‘The Books That Define Ireland’. The review is by Nicholas Allen and in the course of dissecting the 29 essays on 27 individual books he argues that the authors have produced:

…an uneven collection that starts slowly and generates interest only when the two authors begin to introduce personal experience into passages of otherwise pedestrian critique.

But Allen’s critique is intriguing too for the angle taken:

The essays are dense with biography, history and textual summary. Together they form the catechism of an Ireland whose imaginative cartography is strangely alien. I was left with the impression that the two greatest historical threats to the island’s survival were masturbation and the IRA.


This is in part because the two shadows that reach longest over the books that Fanning and Garvin read are religion and statehood, a condition sometimes mistaken for nationality.

Which is a most interesting point. But Allen goes further…

…a persistent antagonism to later forms of republicanism in Ireland sours the tone of the accompanying essay. Thinking of the sorrow of starvation in Skibbereen, Garvin concludes that “the entire IRA tradition feeds off enduring memories of British indifference to the suffering of their putative ancestors, and many an atrocity has been justified by reference to ‘Black ’47’ “. This is a claim absurd in its imprecision.

Or how about this?

It is one of a series that mars the book. Another such is the unlikely suggestion that “much of the pseudo-history of traditionalist outfits like the IRA is directly or indirectly inspired by Geoffrey Keating”. Another records Fanning’s disappointment that Patrick Pearse and “romantic nationalists like him … successfully co-opted the real Wolfe Tone”.

But we’re only getting started really:

Garvin suggests there that the dual traditions of civil disobedience and of military struggle against British rule have metastasised post-independence into a disregard for the State and its authority. The argument is worth discussion. Garvin’s conclusions are not. “It would be interesting,” he writes, “to see how many people involved in the recent wave of public scandals have Northern or Border backgrounds and close or distant IRA connections.” If there is some genius in the ability to be so vaguely offensive, there is little compelling in the argument, even if we take the North to begin somewhere on a line between south Dublin and Co Offaly.

There does seem to be some truth in the idea that there is in some quarters a curious exaggeration of the degree of agency republicanism (and PIRA in particular, though not just or only them) have had. In a strong form that can be seen in the strictures recommended (and imposed) by those like Conor Cruise O’Brien, a sort of belief in an innate credulity on the part of the inhabitants of this island (or some significant portion of same) to anything wrapped in a tricolour and referencing 1916. This persists in the curious attitudes of Harris et al (I was entertained by his thoughts this weekend as to a kinder gentler independence struggle run along essentially pacifist lines – something that seems bizarrely partitionist and also underestimating of the nature of the British state during that period). I guess the weak form is seen in various manifestations both at state and other levels – perhaps the current issue over the participation of British royalty at the 1916 commemorations is of a piece with that.

Of course one has to admit that there was some agency – and at times a considerable degree of agency. And no state(s) are comfortable with the prospect of paramilitarism, for obvious reasons. And yet, the near existential nature of the threat as posited by those mentioned above, always seemed to me to be overblown. Where was the evidence of parallel structures that could supplant those of the Republic, let alone a genuine and long-lasting public enthusiasm for same? And what of the institutions of state which – and perhaps the current period of economic crisis underlines this perfectly – if anything appear to be deep rooted and, for all the rhetoric, continuing to retain democratic legitimation in the eyes of those who afford that legitimation. And all this before we arrive at the arms of that state and how they would respond to any genuine internal threat to their position. But perhaps these are discussions for another day.

Allen makes a range of other useful points…

The Ireland that this book defines is an oddity already. The first woman author appears in Chapter Twenty One; the Celtic Tiger has been relegated already to the category of shameful secret; and the span of nearly 400 years in what the authors call historical and social literature makes for often dry reading (both authors admit they are untrained in advanced literary study; perhaps their work’s greatest achievement is to prove the value of such scholarship)

And yet, it does make me curious to actually read the book.

Women employees ‘accepting’ less remuneration than men for the same roles? April 15, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Feminism, Gender Issues, Workers Rights.

Ignore the fluff in much of this report and check this out, from the Irish Times, in relation to a Employment Market Monitor from CPl.

The survey also found that 40 per cent of employers said that women generally accept less remuneration than men for equal roles, particularly in the tech sector, while the monitor points to a strong first quarter for job listings, with the level of jobs posted in the science, engineering & supply chain segment showing the strongest growth since early 2013.

What, one wonders, is the definition of ‘accept’ used in that statement?

Everyday sexism… April 5, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Feminism.

…did this as reported in the Guardian. It’s a powerful inversion of an embedded dynamic. The comments section in the Guardian underneath it is a sight to behold with a lot of complaints that those who are targeted in this are effectively (my word, not theirs) ‘innocent’. Yeah, that’s sort of the point.

“Radical feminism which is actually communism…” April 1, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Feminism.

Okay, and we’re back, and I’ve got to be honest, even joking it was kind of creepy.

Meanwhile, listening to Today with Sean O’Rourke this morning was a strange experience. Why so? Well, the lineup was:

Sean was joined in studio now by a number of women with views on this – they are Roisin O’Hara, who juggles work with having four small children; Evanna Boyle, also a mum of four who gave up work as a solicitor to mind her kids; Independent Senator Jillian Van Turnhout and Theresa Heaney, Chairperson of the Mothers’ Alliance Ireland.

Some curiously conservative lines pushed in relation to children in creches and supposed negative outcomes. Ms. Heaney came out with the line (at 19.18 minutes) … in relation to mothers working outside the home that:

….the governments are implementing an agenda which is actually radical feminism which is actually communism because if you look into the principles of communism it is to separate out separate husband from wife, babies from mothers and to take control of the children… I’m not making this up… if you actually read Marx and Engels, Firestone the feminist [that'd be Shulamith Firestone I presume - wbs], they lay down very clearly how they want to achieve their goals, and part of this is to get the children into childcare…

Remarkable. It is perhaps to the credit of the other contributor…

Also on the phone, was David Quinn of the Iona Institute.

…that he actually pointed out it was ‘captains of industry’ and ‘capitalism’ who ‘also wanted to get mothers out of the home’. Perhaps to his credit, though almost needless to say he was quick enough with his own anti-statist line in relation to childcare and what appeared to be the assumption that the mother should really, y’know really, be in the home.

A strange mixture with two profoundly conservative participants in a panel of five.

Hard to tell if Sean O’Rourke was being ironic when he noted that ‘there must be a lot of dysfunctional adults around’ who had been deprived of ‘three years parenting from their mother’ while in creches. I think he was, but it was one of those radio shows where you just wouldn’t know.

Rebranding feminism? Part 1 March 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Feminism.

There’s an image in this piece on designtaxi from late last year which really resonates with me. The piece notes that:

For the November issue of women’s magazine ELLE UK, agency W+K London teamed up with feminist cofounders of Vagenda, Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, to rebrand feminism.

And that’s an interesting project in itself which raises many issues – does feminism need to be rebranded, what would such an exercise actually constitute or achieve and of course certain contradictions, not least the use of corporate media, advertising and so on in relation to advancing feminism. One commentor in comments beneath the piece noted some of the materials produced are great, but pink as a colour in one piece (and more on that issue again)?

And the image from the piece that resonated? Here it is.


The sign on the right brings back an experience from last Summer in the UK.

Sitting in a restaurant/bar a male waiter/manager commented negatively on a woman in the group I was in for having a pint instead of a glass (or ‘half’), something along the lines of ‘a glass of wine for the lady’; ‘no thanks, I’ll have a beer’; ‘I’ll bring a half over’; ‘No thanks, I’ll have a pint’… cue an expression of obvious disdain bordering on distaste and a muttered comment. Add to that at the end of the meal the term ‘we know who is wearing the trousers’ in relation to a brief discussion as to who was paying a bill and it surely underscores what the expectations of some men are.

Perhaps that was unusual, perhaps my experience – and that of those I was with – is atypical, but having been in a number of places in England and Wales across that period I’m not so confident about that.

A long way to go.

Rhetoric and reality March 27, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Feminism, Irish Politics, The Left.

There were some very valid criticisms as regards this post here on the ramifications of the political aftermath of the Nulty resignation made by beibhinn47. In focussing on the latter it had the appearance of ignoring the events that occurred and the impacts on those women affected by such communications. The sense and actuality of such a breach of trust is obvious – and more on that thought below. But it goes beyond reprehensible (and it appears that there is more to be revealed).

It does once again demonstrate pernicious behaviours that manifest both on and off line in power relationships, and most particularly in recent times on parts of the left both here and abroad in gendered power relationships. And we’ve seen those both on the left and far beyond it.

Elsewhere some in comments have argued that these communications we have read about don’t really represent an abuse of power. It is an argument that is impossible to sustain because the disparity in the balance of power between a TD in their constituency office (or the Dáil) and a constituent is self-evident. The constituent is seeking advice or aid or support from the TD. If the TD then introduces any elements at all that distort that communication (and anything that is overly familiar or makes requests of those seeking the assistance is just such a distortion) is simply wrong, and making ‘personal’ contacts using what is confidential information about addresses and contact numbers supplied in what should be a neutral context defies belief, not least because they imply at the least the expectation of some sort of quid pro quo from the person making the initial contact.

Just to be clear my intention wasn’t to minimise the issue of the social media interactions or indeed to suggest that social media as such were responsible for those interactions. It seems to me that social media make the gap between thought and deed smaller erasing for some a very necessary critical space but lest that seem like an excuse for wrong actions – and it isn’t intended to be because that critical space should for leftists whatever about anyone else be so automatically infused with an understanding of what is appropriate or not, what is right and what is wrong in respect of gendered and other power relationships – they also seem to more clearly amplify or enable already existing patterns of thought and behaviour and in that they are revealing.

For the abuse on such media points up an underlying truth, the reality that such patterns of thought exist. And as has just been demonstrated, they persist amongst those we would have had every reasonable expectation to think they would not.

Indeed perhaps the most disturbing aspect in regard to that last is how self-proclaimed progressives – and again we’ve had more than one example of this in recent times from the left here and slightly further afield – can act in ways which utterly void the ideas of equality, feminism and what might be termed a sense of genuine community and solidarity, that they outwardly profess. Is it that that rhetoric just doesn’t connect, that it is an outward show of adherence to words that have no real meaning for those uttering them? Or is it simply that for some attaining positions of seeming power or authority means they believe they can act unchecked and linked to that that what appears to be an internalisation of misogynistic approaches to women that in a given context where there is that seeming power or authority manifest themselves.

I don’t want to say that this is a problem exclusive to the left, and of course it isn’t. But simply to state that underscores just how problematic, how pernicious, this is because in various forms these sorts of behaviours are found across the society. But that it happens on the left should cause deep and serious concerns.

How extensive is this Janus-like approach? It’s a question well worth asking (it’s also worth considering how the issue of feminism is dealt with in some supposedly progressive quarters). And what are the mechanisms extant for bringing examples of this to the fore and, as importantly, dealing with them so they do not recur? It would be interesting to hear any thoughts on that.

Leaning in… March 19, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Feminism, The Left.

Some interesting thoughts raised in this piece in last week’s Observer by playwright Lucy Prebble while talking about women and tech and in particular gaming. She notes that in the latter area it’s astounding how marginalised women are in the context of games themselves. This isn’t news, but it does seem curious given the number of women who purchase and play games that…

Last year, women made up almost half of the gaming audience and only around 5% of games’ protagonists (acknowledging that 40% of games have genderless protagonists). That’s still weird. Ethnic diversity statistics are even harder to find, mirroring workforce diversity statistics from within tech companies which they refuse to give out.

It is clear from even a cursory analysis of gaming across the decades that there’s a determined slant in games towards male protagonists. This isn’t the fault of individual gamers, but it surely is an issue that those who produce the games should be attempting to address. And it’s not like it’s that difficult. It’s strange indeed to read that GTA V hasn’t one female protagonist. Like in 2014, not one. Not possible to put in a female criminal?

Check out this apologia from the source:

Houser also briefly tackled the reason why one of the protagonists wasn’t a woman, something that has yet to happen in the entire GTA franchise.

“The concept of being masculine was so key to this story” Houser said simply.

That’s some bundle of expectations there as regards what ‘masculine’ means. And the oddity of this is that Rockstar hasn’t been unable to work with concepts of diversity in the past – from gay and white and back protagonists (just for the record I’ve never been able to play any of the GTA’s, finding myself driving and walking around in preference to actually y’know doing anything).

Prebble makes a particularly interesting point here I think in the following:

The dominant contemporary solution to these homogeneity problems is expressed in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In (just sold to Sony in a major motion picture deal). It basically encourages the rest of us to try harder. It advocates stepping further towards the mainstream, further into it, becoming more like the thing that is excluding you. I’ve sat around glass conference tables as the only woman and been tempted to lean. It’s thrilling as well as pressurising to feel important yet different, to speak for “women” in a room (after all, who will contradict me?) It’s also totally, devastatingly false. And dangerous, as bell hooks has brilliantly outlined.

I can’t speak for women of different socio-economic backgrounds, older women, women of colour. By leaning in to a dominant system, fitting in too far, I eventually barely even speak for myself. I speak for the system.

Some thoughts on feminism and the left March 14, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Feminism, The Left.

I thought this an interesting piece on aspects of feminism and the left by Yassamine Mather’s on the CPGB’s site which discusses gender quota’s amongst other things.

I’m not really that antagonistic to quotas, but I think the problems we face are so deep rooted that quotas don’t necessarily address the issue.

The points that capitalism itself was responsible for much of the social ferment of the 1960s and onwards rings true with me. Mather’s argues that:

It is true that the ‘nuclear family’ was confronted by many changes in the 1970s – I do not underestimate the influence of the women’s movement, the other liberation movements, 1968 and so on. But what was happening beneath all this was western capitalism’s financialisation – moving away from domestic production and the transfer of industries to where there was cheaper labour and an absence of workers’ rights: fewer obstacles to the maximum extraction of surplus value.

That’s a strong rebuttal of a certain conservative view that ‘liberalism’ unleashed social change when such social change was in part a symptom rather than a cause (though in fairness, and Mather’s makes this clear, it’s not that it lacked all agency of its own).

I like the sympathetic take on intersectionality in the piece, even if I’d have a question mark over the use of the word ‘leadership’ in the context of same, my sense was that the meaning of intersectionality goes a bit beyond ‘leadership’. Anyhow, well worth a read. More on all these topics in the future.

I also like the strong defence of feminism as intrinsic to the left, for example:

Women were told that they were free to work, that they were liberated from the shackles of the nuclear family – there was some truth in that – but at the same time they had no additional support as they took up full-time or part-time work: the double burden of oppression – production and reproduction [in the broadest sense - wbs] – remained.

International Women’s Day 2014 March 8, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Feminism, Uncategorized.

Is today. There’s an useful timeline here which points to the history of the day and its development and how it is rooted in politics of feminism and class.

On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. In 1913 following discussions, International Women’s Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Women’s Day ever since. In 1914 further women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the war and to express women’s solidarity.

WD is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.

The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.

The female voice… February 28, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Feminism, The Left.

A thought-provoking lecture given by Mary Beard for the LRB a week or so ago and one well worth thinking about. In it she discusses the way in which women’s voices are excluded by a range of factors from the general (and socio-political) discourse. She talks about how in antiquity ‘A woman speaking in public was, in most circumstances, by definition not a woman. ’ and how a raft of gendered assumptions entered into the picture (low voices – manly, courage, high pitched voices – unmanly, cowardice, etc). Her argument is multilayered. She notes that:

This is the tradition of gendered speaking – and the theorising of gendered speaking – of which we are still, directly or more often indirectly, the heirs. I don’t want to overstate the case. Western culture doesn’t owe everything to the Greeks and Romans, in speaking or in anything else (thank heavens it doesn’t; none of us would fancy living in a Greco-Roman world). There are all kinds of variant and competing influences on us, and our political system has happily overthrown many of the gendered certainties of antiquity.

And this has both a political aspect and a very contemporary social media one…

Of course, we don’t talk in those bald terms now. Or not quite? For it seems to me that many aspects of this traditional package of views about the unsuitability of women for public speaking in general – a package going back in its essentials over two millennia – still underlies some of our own assumptions about, and awkwardness with, the female voice in public. Take the language we still use to describe the sound of women’s speech, which isn’t all that far from James or our pontificating Romans. In making a public case, in fighting their corner, in speaking out, what are women said to be? ‘Strident’; they ‘whinge’ and they ‘whine’. When, after one particular vile bout of internet comments on my genitalia, I tweeted (rather pluckily, I thought) that it was all a bit ‘gob-smacking’, this was reported by one commentator in a mainstream British magazine in these terms: ‘The misogyny is truly “gob-smacking”, she whined.’ (So far as I can see from a quick Google trawl, the only other group in this country said to ‘whine’ as much as women are unpopular Premiership football managers on a losing streak.)

In a context like this it becomes a situation where for women the very act of speaking becomes one which is hedged in by this tangle of preconceptions, assumptions and diversions so that the essence of that speech, the message that is sought to be imparted is lost entirely, or at the very least muted. And we’ve all seen this, the unconscious and sometimes conscious marginalization of women in discussion and debates, the tendency to defer to men, to seek the ‘last word’ from them. My thought was that if they didn’t get how problematic that was then chances are they didn’t get anything at all.
One of my least cherished moments was at a meeting of politicians – all supposedly ‘progressive’ – where as a bystander I saw what could only be described as the males overdosing on their own testosterone and the females sitting impatiently waiting for them to be done. What was remarkable to me was that rather than a discussion of equals it was one where there was a meta discussion taking place between the men and directed to one another in the form of jokes and asides and the more serious formal discussion – engaged in by the women – was effectively sidelined.
Which means that when Beard asks the following it resonates with me very strongly:

Do those words matter? Of course they do, because they underpin an idiom that acts to remove the authority, the force, even the humour from what women have to say. It’s an idiom that effectively repositions women back into the domestic sphere (people ‘whinge’ over things like the washing up); it trivialises their words, or it ‘re-privatises’ them. Contrast the ‘deep-voiced’ man with all the connotations of profundity that the simple word ‘deep’ brings. It is still the case that when listeners hear a female voice, they don’t hear a voice that connotes authority; or rather they have not learned how to hear authority in it; they don’t hear muthos. And it isn’t just voice: you can add in the craggy or wrinkled faces that signal mature wisdom in the case of a bloke, but ‘past-my-use-by-date’ in the case of a woman.

I hope that last is changing, if only very slightly and with agonising slowness, and there may be a few straws in the wind that indicate that it is. It’s difficult to judge – and I have to be careful that my own age doesn’t inflect my observations here – but it does seem that older women are becoming an increasing part of the societal backdrop and where – for example in the media, when their voices and faces are excluded there is much more a recognition of same and a backlash against it.

Beard also points to the way in which some women negotiate this issue – and in my view, rightly points to the enormous problematical aspects of same.

Those who do manage successfully to get their voice across very often adopt some version of the ‘androgyne’ route, like Maesia in the Forum or ‘Elizabeth’ at Tilbury – consciously aping aspects of male rhetoric. That was what Margaret Thatcher did when she took voice training specifically to lower her voice, to add the tone of authority that her advisers thought her high pitch lacked. And that’s fine, in a way, if it works, but all tactics of that type tend to leave women still feeling on the outside, impersonators of rhetorical roles that they don’t feel they own. Putting it bluntly, having women pretend to be men may be a quick fix, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the problem.

But then as has been evident all too often online it’s often irrelevant whether a woman adopts a certain persona and role or not but the very fact that she is a woman. As evidenced by social media:

Some of these same issues of voice and gender have to do with internet trolls, death-threats and abuse. We have to be careful about generalising too confidently about the nastier sides of the internet: they appear in many different forms (it’s not quite the same on Twitter, for example, as it is under the line in a newspaper comment section), and criminal death threats are a different kettle of fish from merely ‘unpleasant’ sexist abuse. Many different people are the targets, from grieving parents of dead teenagers to ‘celebrities’ of all kinds. What is clear is that many more men than women are the perpetrators of this stuff, and they attack women far more than they attack men (one academic study put the ratio at something like 30 to 1, female to male targets). For what it’s worth (and I haven’t suffered anything like as much as some women), I receive something we might euphemistically call an ‘inappropriately hostile’ response (that’s to say, more than fair criticism or even fair anger) every time I speak on radio or television.

That statistic alone, if accurate or even if only half or a quarter or a tenth accurate, of 30:1 attacks online on women is dispiriting in the extreme. And it raises a parallel question, what is wrong with men (and a small minority of women) who carry them out? What is it in their psychological make up that they feel it is appropriate to act in ways that offline would be regarded as sociopathic at best? And worse still, what of this attitude inflects their offline interactions with women?

And Beard makes some very pertinent points about the reality as against the perception of social media and its effectivity and those who use it for hateful purposes:

It’s driven, I’m sure, by many different things. Some of it’s from kids acting up; some from people who’ve had far too much to drink; some from people who for a moment have lost their inner inhibitors (and can be very apologetic later). More are sad than are villainous. When I’m feeling charitable I think quite a lot comes from people who feel let down by the false promises of democratisation blazoned by, for example, Twitter. It was supposed to put us directly in touch with those in power, and open up a new democratic kind of conversation. It does nothing of the sort: if we tweet the prime minister or the pope, they no more read it than if we send them a letter – and for the most part, the prime minister doesn’t even write the tweets that appear under his name. How could he? (I’m not so sure about the Pope.) Some of the abuse, I suspect, is a squeal of frustration at those false promises, taking aim at a convenient traditional target (‘a gobby woman’). Women are not the only ones who may feel themselves ‘voiceless’.

Beard draws a line between the societal exclusion of the female voice and online media and the offline world too. And again she makes a clear point about the political aspect of this.

But the more I have looked at the threats and insults that women have received, the more I have found that they fit into the old patterns I’ve been talking about. For a start it doesn’t much matter what line you take as a woman, if you venture into traditional male territory, the abuse comes anyway. It’s not what you say that prompts it, it’s the fact you’re saying it. And that matches the detail of the threats themselves. They include a fairly predictable menu of rape, bombing, murder and so forth (I may sound very relaxed about it now; that doesn’t mean it’s not scary when it comes late at night). But a significant subsection is directed at silencing the woman – ‘Shut up you bitch’ is a fairly common refrain. Or it promises to remove the capacity of the woman to speak. ‘I’m going to cut off your head and rape it’ was one tweet I got. ‘Headlessfemalepig’ was the Twitter name chosen by someone threatening an American journalist. ‘You should have your tongue ripped out’ was tweeted to another journalist. In its crude, aggressive way, this is about keeping, or getting, women out of man’s talk. It’s hard not to see some faint connection between these mad Twitter outbursts – most of them are just that – and the men in the House of Commons heckling women MPs so loudly that you simply can’t hear what they’re saying (in the Afghan parliament, apparently, they disconnect the mics when they don’t want to hear the women speak). Ironically the well-meaning solution often recommended when women are on the receiving end of this stuff turns out to bring about the very result the abusers want: namely, their silence. ‘Don’t call the abusers out. Don’t give them any attention; that’s what they want. Just keep mum,’ you’re told, which amounts to leaving the bullies in unchallenged occupation of the playground.

It’s misogynistic process where such behaviours are if not excused allowed to persist.

She doesn’t offer a clear path forward, perhaps because there isn’t one. Instead she argues that:

We need to think more fundamentally about the rules of our rhetorical operations. I don’t mean the old stand-by of ‘men and women talk different languages, after all’ (if they do, it’s surely because they’ve been taught different languages). And I certainly don’t mean to suggest that we go down the ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ route. My hunch is that if we’re going to make real progress with the ‘Miss Triggs question’, we need to go back to some first principles about the nature of spoken authority, about what constitutes it, and how we have learned to hear authority where we do. And rather than push women into voice training classes to get a nice, deep, husky and entirely artificial tone, we should be thinking more about the faultlines and fractures that underlie dominant male discourse.

What I’m pointing to here is a critically self-aware ancient tradition: not one that directly challenges the basic template I’ve been outlining, but one that is determined to reveal its conflicts and paradoxes, and to raise bigger questions about the nature and purpose of speech, male or female. We should perhaps take our cue from this, and try to bring to the surface the kinds of question we tend to shelve about how we speak in public, why and whose voice fits. What we need is some old fashioned consciousness-raising about what we mean by the voice of authority and how we’ve come to construct it. We need to work that out before we figure out how we modern Penelopes might answer back to our own Telemachuses – or for that matter just decide to lend Miss Triggs some hairpins.

Consciousness raising. Questioning the fault lines and fractures that underlie dominant male discourse. And all that those entail. Her vision and her part-solution are egalitarian and necessary. They link into clearly progressive areas but they remained focus on one key issue in a structure that is by any standard oppressive/repressive.


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