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Hmmm... I just realized I haven't posted an essay in a while, something easily rectified (since I have many essays to post still). I have completed the requirements for a B.A. in Women's and Gender Studies (which I still call Feminist Studies) and continue to debate whether to put the moxie into getting a full Honours degree in the subject (I am continuing to slog away at my more technical degrees as well). I do have to say that I apply what I have learned in my everyday living and think I do it in a way that is constructive and not overbearing... it's a very powerful toolkit for looking at the world and has formalized many of the ways I already looked at things (and thrown a few new ideas in there as well). This was the final essay for a 4th year course called "Digital Lives in Global Spaces" that looked at the construction and reconstruction of how we define gender and society in general in a globalized and technologized world (to brutally make up a word). I got a pretty good mark on it even though it's somewhat middling in terms of how I thought it turned out (it's a bit confused in places I find... the prof thought so as well and commented that it marred an otherwise interesting essay). Either way, here ya go.

Blurring Gender Boundaries For Technology

There is no aspect of culture and society that is not somehow deeply entwined with constructions of gender, and the processes used for and artifacts created by technological innovation is in no way exempt. While this results in egregiously gendered products like pink tools and toolboxes1 and pink handguns and rifles2 to purportedly make them more attractive to women and young girls, these tend to be the low hanging fruit for criticism. It is the non-obvious gendering of technology that is more insidious – requiring careful analytic skills to effectively deconstruct, understand, and hopefully challenge how gender is manifest within them. However, if it was simply that technological constructs mirrored the hegemonic gendering so prevalent in society, this would only represent a fraction of the real problem being faced. Rather, it is the ways that technology in turn informs and reinforces how gender is constructed and performed that implements a critical channel of that hegemony. Every aspect and moment of our lives, in every part of the world, is deeply reliant on some form of technology for survival and the construction and maintenance of culture – be that a tool for digging furrows or the latest smartphone. The ubiquity of technology is what makes the messages we receive from that medium so powerful. To that end, if the conformity of invention to normative gender standards is the start of the problem, then that creative process needs to be broadened to be more inclusive of other ways of being and thinking, and if gender is the issue, then queer theory provides a powerful toolkit to apply towards solutions.

The rest of the essay is here... )

With the dominance and ubiquity of the Internet as a mediator of global cultures, a queer approach to existence does not have to be a local phenomenon – it can be demonstrated on a broad scale, and in ways that are difficult to challenge in the long run (as we saw in class, there are many brutal ways online to challenge perceived deviance in the short term). As the GamerGate fiasco has shown, the patience of the accepting majority is wearing thin with abusive behaviour online, and companies like Twitter and Facebook are finally starting to realize that their profits are in jeopardy if they do not provide the tools to their users to combat the online bullying of those that certain communities have deemed to be stepping out of line – a queering of these platforms has, in some ways, begun, and the respect and celebration of difference is starting to make inroads. If this way of thinking can become a dominant discourse, then the rejection of gendered hegemonies in the production and use of technologies of all kinds will become an acceptable possibility for more people. The tipping point will be when sufficient numbers of people can identify that a technical process or artifact exhibits an unwelcome or unnecessary gendered dimension, and have the courage and support to reject the identity that technology wishes to impose upon them. In the former, feminism has provided a robust toolset that can teach how we can become observant of gendered power structures; in the latter, queer theory and culture both shows and demonstrates that it is okay to reject those imposed identities.

And the bibliography and footnotes are here... )
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I am still trying to get around to posting about the rest of my last trip to Germany... before my next trip to Germany in 5 weeks... but I dug down to the surface of the desk in my room and found a sheet of paper that reminded me I had wanted to post some definitions and a (very) short essay I had to write out for an exam in a first year feminist studies class I took a couple of summers ago (I only have one more core course, that I'm taking next term, and then a handful of electives and I will have completed the requirements for a degree in the subject... this class was also a required class for the degree program). I just tallied my marks from the latest course I took (WGST4804: Digital Lives in Global Spaces), and it looks like my final mark is going to be an A. Now if only I could pull a few of those with my physics degree ;). With any further adieu, here are some definitions and a short essay.

Define each of the following terms in paragraph-length answers: 1) Reproductive Justice, 2) Rape Culture, 3) Compulsory Able-Bodiedness, 4) Queer, 5) Fatphobia.

Reproductive Justice: Definition is under the cut... )

Rape Culture: Definition is under the cut... )

Compulsory Able-Bodiedness: Definition is under the cut... )

queer Definition is under the cut... )

Fatphobia: Definition is under the cut... )

In a 2 page handwritten essay, reflect on how the terms you’ve just defined can help you develop a set of ideas that draw links between society, power relations, and one’s physical body. What are the themes that link these terms to each other? How can these themes be used to build a set of ideas about gender that are informed by feminist thinking? How can these terms be used to challenge normative ways of thinking? In your answer, you must make reference to the terms but do not need to define them. No outside sources are needed.

The short essay answer is here... )

And the citations are here... )
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Now that I have my overall mark back for the "Information Technology and Society" course I took at the start of the summer (an "A", I'm very happy with my mark, of course!), I can finally publish the final essay that I wrote. It took a couple of interesting twists and turns and brought together a few conceptual threads that I am surprised went together as well as they did. It starts by looking at the Canadian case of a man who was arrested for distributing child pornography and subsequently launched a Supreme Court of Canada challenge against his conviction because of how the police found him. The interesting part is that the court didn't stop at ruling on his case, but made sweeping statements about what expectation citizens in a civil society have to privacy and, more surprising to me that it was also tackled, anonymity. At odds with the notion of online privacy is Dawkins' notion of "memetic life", and I bring that into the discussion to ask whether we have any chance at all of having anything like what we consider to be privacy in this networked age — whether we want it or not.

Information Privacy and The Internet

On June 13, 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of R. vs. Spencer, found that the constitutional rights of Matthew David Spencer had been violated when the police requested “pursuant to s. 7(3)(c.1)(ii) of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)”1, and subsequently received “without prior judicial authorization”1, identifying information from his Internet Service Provider (ISP) based on his Internet Protocol (IP) address and the time window of his criminal usage of the Internet. Spencer was tried and convicted with evidence collected from his residence — with a proper warrant secured to actually enter and search the house, and seize his computer equipment — based on the police’s observations of his online activities and the identifying information received from the ISP that led them there. However, Spencer appealed the conviction stating that the technique used to locate him was a violation of his Section 8 Charter rights, which states that “everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure”2. The case ultimately went to the Supreme Court of Canada which ruled that, yes, his rights had been unwittingly violated by the police, but that due to the nature of his crimes, “the exclusion of the evidence rather than its admission would bring the administration of justice into disrepute”1, and his appeal was denied. While the search was ultimately deemed to have been illegal, the police “were acting by what they reasonably thought were lawful means to pursue an important law enforcement purpose”1 (in other words, they didn’t understand how PIPEDA worked), and Spencer would do his time.

But the case took on a more important and far-reaching significance when the court went beyond the specific questions of admissibility of evidence, and took a broad look at information privacy and expectations of anonymity on the Internet. In particular, the court stated “the police request to link a given IP address to subscriber information was in effect a request to link a specific person to specific online activities [which] engages the anonymity aspect of the informational privacy interest by attempting to link the suspect with anonymously undertaken online activities”1. Since the police and the lower courts were apparently operating on an incorrect interpretation of PIPEDA and how the constitution applied to information privacy vis-a-vis the Internet, and in light of the tremendous amount of publicity and concern over privacy as it relates to the Internet at this time, the Supreme Court of Canada felt it necessary to examine the relationship between ownership and control of one’s personal information as it related to one’s activity on the Internet, and what were reasonable expectations of anonymity and privacy on what is essentially a public conveyance of information. This question is being asked in many different ways lately in light of the revelations widely circulated as part of the Snowden data leak — people are starting to question the impact of seemingly ubiquitous and aggressive government and corporate data collection on the security and privacy of customer’s data “in the cloud”, especially (but not limited to) data stored outside the borders of a country3 or that travels across international boundaries4.

The rest of the essay is here... )

The uneasy memetic to and fro between information seemingly “wanting” freedom, and the powerful drive to maintain control over it does not have a hegemonic solution, but rather will reach various states of dynamic equilibria over time. If one considers the memetic notion of info-freedom as a state, then this can be thought of as a “gaseous” phase of information; similarly, the meme of info-privacy can be conceptualized as information being in a “liquid” phase. [There can also be a “solid” phase where information is precipitated out of the infosphere and stored in a way that requires energy to release it from that phase into a liquid phase (or sublimated directly to the gas phase), but that is a subtlety that I will avoid for the moment in order to simplify the discussion]. In the former, information will expand to fill all the possible states available for it to be in and if new ideas (memes, information, data) is introduced into the system, it will over time diffuse through the entire infosphere. In the latter, information is still fluid, but it can be contained, controlled, measured, and distributed by those who manage its container. I humbly propose that what I have described comes complete with a fully-formed set of mathematical tools that could be used in the analysis of the flow of information from the “liquid” to the “gaseous” forms and back again: this field of study is called thermodynamics. Since information has already been framed using thermodynamic concepts (entropy), it seems natural to press the larger toolset available from that field into the study of how information will move towards a state where the flow of information between the “gaseous” and “liquid” states will be in balance — like a pool of liquid water in a vacuum at a certain temperature (where liquid water can still exist) will eventually stabilize into some amount of liquid and some amount of gas. As the pressure increases in the system, the equilibrium point will move toward more water and less gas; or as the temperature increases, that point will favour the gas phase. I would argue that we can consider the Internet (or broader infosphere) as the “box”, but one that is expanding exponentially (decreasing the gas pressure and favouring a gaseous state); but that the amount of information is also expanding exponentially (increasing the pressure and thus favouring a liquid state), and thus the equilibrium point is constantly moving and reacting to decisions we make regarding the extent of our global network infrastructure, privacy legislation, how much information is generated at what rate, and how accessible (from an interpretation standpoint) that information is, amongst other criteria.

Like any other ecosystem that humans participate in, we can and will shape it to suit whatever priorities we have at the time. In the end, if we consider the memetic perspective as accurate, neither absolute OCAP nor complete permissiveness will win, but rather a dynamic and ever-changing balance will be achieved between the two. The challenge we face then is, like trying to model the ecosystem of the Earth, to develop models we can use to analyze its dynamic behaviour, but to do so, we need to increase our understanding, though examinations like the R. vs. Spencer case, of what questions need to be asked.

And the bibliography is here... )
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Fines, as a tool of law enforcement and ensuring justice, are currently pointless. Consider, for instance, receiving a fine for driving while distracted by an electronic screen (which, somehow, doesn't include GPS units, but that's another argument altogether... especially considering smartphones are much more likely to be used as GPS units these days). The fine in Ontario is going up to $280. The potential consequences of driving under the influence of distraction ranges from property damage through death (particularly horrifying when it is a pedestrian or an actually responsible citizen in their own vehicle). I will not currently argue against the appropriateness of a $280 fine given the risks (I think the fine amount is low), but lets just work with that as a number.

Suppose you are in a single income household and earn minimum wage in Ontario (just increased to $11/hr) and are lucky enough to have a full time job (or jobs, amounting to 40 hours per week). Your monthly income (before tax) will be $1760 (and you'll be scraping to make ends meet, at best...). A $280 fine is 16% of your monthly income (I'll write it as 0.16 for later reference) or about 1.3% of your annual income (0.013). A huge financial hit by any measure. Definitely a tangible punishment to such a person (fyi, 8.1% of Ontarians in the workforce were working for minimum wage as of 2009 [about double what it was in 2001]... the federal government hasn't published numbers since then, fyi, they used to be published annually... but, that too, is another story). Let's turn now to a household at the median income in Ontario: in 2011, it was $73,290/year, which is about $6100/month. Considering that most of these households would likely also have access to credit, a $280 fine is already likely an "expense" that could easily be absorbed into their budget... it is 4.6% of their monthly (pre tax) income (0.046... still noticeable, but it definitely would fall within most such people's "discretionary" spending limits) or 0.4% of their annual (pre tax) income (0.004). In 2011, there were roughly 576,000 households earning $200,000 or more in Canada... let's call it half a million (that's a sufficiently large number, in my opinion, to constitute a "segment of Canadian society"). To these people, a $280 fine (let's say they have an average income of $300,000 ... which is probably a decent guess for now given that over 300,000 of that half a million have incomes greater than $250,000), would be a petty annoyance at best (I would use the slightly more emotionally charged word "laughable"). With monthly incomes of $25,000 (do the math), such a fine would be about 1% of their monthly pre-tax income (0.01) or 0.09% of their annual pre-tax income(0.0009). I would argue that a $280 fine would provide no tangible punishment whatsoever to anyone in that income bracket.

Thus, my subject of "the sliding scale of punishment"... those with lower incomes are disproportionately burdened with needing to adhere to the laws of the land, while those who have higher incomes are insulated from the impacts of transgression because of their wealth.

But my momma told me not to bitch about something unless I had something positive to suggest as well. The solution to the above situation seems self-evident to me (has for a while, but I'm just writing about it now). The key to the solution is the word in the last paragraph: disproportionate. Or more appropriately, to make the system proportionate to ensure that the burden of abiding by the laws is shared equally amongst all citizens no matter what their income (with one caveat, for the very poor, because I'm not that much of a bleeding heart, which I will discuss shortly). Rather than set a fixed amount for such fines, a percentage of household income would be used. Using household income rather than personal income is a tricky decision already, but I'm thinking of individuals who live in wealthy households as often benefiting from the family's overall income without necessarily needing their own income (children and non-working life partners, for instance). It's really trying to tie financial burden to ability to pay. On that note, I would also see it instituted that any money transferred to someone (or the value of any resources contributed) from some other part of their family network to defend themselves against or to pay for such fines would have to declared as taxable income in the year it was received... again, ability to pay. Details aside, I hope you at least accept the principle of "financial ability", however it is accounted for, as that is the core of the argument.

So, numbers time again, and let's stay with the "$280" fine amount... obviously, it won't be a $280 to everyone anymore. It's also going to be a little more thought-provoking having to set the "base amount" that the proportional "actual amount" would be calculated from. Let us, for a moment, assume that $280 is the base amount we start with. The only readily available statistic we have access to that can also be considered a baseline with regard to financial ability of the overall population is the median household income. As stated, in Ontario, this was $73,290/year and we calculated $280 as being 0.4% of their annual pre-tax income. That single income household earning minimum wage discussed earlier makes about 29% of the median household income. Applying that proportion directly to our $280 base amount, we get about $81. Going the other direction, a household earning $300,000 per year is making 409% (about 4 times) the median household income. Applying that proportion, we get a fine of about $1146. Fyi, this is the first time I've actually calculated the numbers and my first blush is that they look like they could accomplish what I was hoping for. A quick glimpse into the stratosphere: about 2500 households in Canada earned more than $2.57 million per year, and had an average income of $5.1 million per year, so let's use that number. $5.1 million is 6958% above the median income, and that that income level, the $280 fine would scale to a whopping $19484 (and before you go *whoa!*, do remember that a $20,000 fine to such a household would have the same financial impact as an $81 fine on someone in Ontario working full time for minimum wage... I would argue it would have less of an impact because the sheer quantity of wealth provides so many other buffers that would not be available to someone with a low income... they'll be fine, and maybe they will be a little more careful next time). And while I'm here... contemplate the notion of environmental fines to corporations and how they work the same way (compare this to this, for instance)... but that too is another story.

I said I would have one caveat, and here it is. It should not be possible to reduce a fine to zero by having no income. This obviously would still impact the extremely poor in some disproportionate way, but there does have to be limits. I do always like the "least among us" approach, and in Ontario, that "least" would be a single person (no dependents) on social assistance with an annual income of only $7512 [holy heck, current information was hard to find on that number... and holy heck, that is a ridiculously low number]. At that income level, our $280 fine would scale to a little under $29, and that seems pretty reasonable as a minimum fine amount regardless of income (at this point, the "driving" metaphor kind of breaks down as there is no way they could afford a car, but presume it's some other offense with the same base fine amount). And before I go completely, I did want to make one little examination of the base amount of $280... Using the minimum wage example, and $81, someone would have to work for about 7.5 hours (pre-tax) to pay off that fine. That "price" would be the same for anyone (that actually worked a salaried or hourly job) because of the scaling. When setting the "base amount", the question should be "how hard will it be to pay off this fine... will it be a significant detriment when weighed against the severity of the infraction?". I still can't help but feel that $280 is a low base amount even for "distracted driving". I would be more inclined for it to cost someone earning minimum wage $280 in fines (thus making the base amount $970 or so using the proportionality I have proposed)... but that's just me, your opinion of the severity of this particular social ill is likely different from mine.

One last comment on proportionality, because this is something I have contemplated for a while as well: speeding tickets. In Ontario, it sort of works with a sliding scale, but only based on the absolute number of km/h over the limit you were going. So... the fine is the same whether you are going 120km/h in a 100km/h zone, or if you are going 60km/h in a 40km/h zone (presumably residential). Fyi, it would be a $95.00 fine. Arguably, these are different offenses. Going 50km/h or more over the speed limit puts you into the "racing" category and it actually gets serious ("immediate 7-day license suspension and 7-day vehicle impoundment; upon conviction - $2,000 to $10,000 fine, 6 demerit points, up to 6 months jail, up to 2 years license suspension for a first conviction"). I have long thought that applying proportionality to, let's now call it, the base amount of speeding tickets makes much more sense than using an absolute speed. Back to the previous two examples, 120km/h in a 100km/h zone is going 20% over the speed limit whereas 60km/h in a 40km/h zone is going 50% over the speed limit. Again, I would argue these are two qualitatively different events. In the former, it is speeding a bit; but in the latter, it is speeding a lot. In Ontario, 0-19km/h over is $2.50 per km/h over (plus fixed fees), 20-39km/h over is $3.75 per km/h over (plus fees), 30-49km/h over is $6.00 per km/h over (plus fees), and 50km/h+ over is a different class of offense. To convert to the proportional determination using the same incremental fee schedule, you would pretty much only have to replace the "km/h over" with "% over", and you're good. In the case of our highway commuter with a heavy foot, they would be in the 20% over category and would be handed a fine of $95.00 ($20 of that is the fixed fees, the rest is the $3.75 times the number of percent over). Our suburban leadfoot, on the other hand, is 50% over the posted limit and would find their car impounded and their lives in turmoil for going 60km/h past their neighbours' driveways. And just to be clear, to get that $95.00 ticket, a speed of 48km/h would be sufficient in that 40km/h zone (20% above). Obviously, I believe that these would then also be the baseline numbers for the fines based on median income (presuming you think those are reasonable amounts... the more I think about it, the more I'm guessing the fine amounts are skewed downward to encompass the income distribution in our society and would generally go up when set against the median family income level). Thus, if your rich neighbour up the street ($300K annual household income) zipped past your house in their Kia at 55km/h in the 40km/h zone you lived in (about 38% over), the base amount of the fine would be $283, so their fine would be about $1160. If they tore past your place in their Tercel at 70km/h in a 40km/h zone and got caught, they would lose their car, be in court, and be facing fines from $8,000 to $40,000 and possible jail time. In contrast, if they did it today and were convicted (there are lawyers that make their living getting people who can afford it off the hook for these sorts of things... although that wouldn't change with the sliding scales I'm proposing I guess), they would receive a fine of $220 and some demerit points.
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I got my annotated bibliography assignment back tonight (once I was done writing my final exam earlier this evening) from my prof for the first year class I took for the full summer ("Introduction to Women and Gender Studies"). This was the class I was told I had to take to get a degree in Women and Gender Studies and I was initially trepidacious about it because I'd done a bunch of 2nd and 3rd year courses (including two on theory), but once I realized there was no escaping it (and way before the class actually started), I adjusted my attitude and chose to approach it with an open mind and the desire to learn as much as I could. Even if it did go over material I had covered before, and at a more introductory level at that, some of this stuff is so abstract and confusing that hearing it from a different perspective could be nothing but beneficial. I got a teacher that matched my learning needs very well and I ended up enjoying the class from start to finish. She was also very supportive to me in the face of the struggles I was undergoing at the start of the summer from being in the middle of dealing with a family illness (I was, frankly, utterly burned out by June). By about the middle of the summer I was mostly back on my feet, but her understanding had a huge positive impact on me turning things around relatively quickly.

As an amusing aside, there were several males in the class at the start of the class in May, but by the time we got to the second half of the course (it's a full year's worth of material in less than 4 months), we were down to just myself and one other student sporting Y chromosomes. The other male in the class was in a somewhat similar situation to me, but this summer course was actually the literal last class he had to take to graduate (he'd already completed his honours project, etc. and just needed one more full-year or two half-year courses to fulfil the credit requirements of the program he was in). He was also mildly grumbled by ending up in a first year course (he took it because it fit with his schedule and was the most interesting of the courses he could take over the summer), but by the end of it, he said he really enjoyed it too. He went further and said that he truly wishes he'd taken the course earlier in his schooling because he learned so much and so many useful tools in that class that would have made his later years both easier and more interesting. I have the same general opinion myself and if you are coming to university or just contemplating taking a course or two, I can't think of a more interesting, challenging, and engaging class than this one (it's WGST1808 at Carleton, other universities will, of course, have different course codes). Hats off to the prof as well... very few hands went up at the start of the class when she asked how many students considered themselves "feminists" and many of the questions and challenges voiced during the class were, in my opinion anyway, extremely difficult to address in a diplomatic and reasoned manner, but she handled it amazingly well (despite the occasional look of shock or mild panic at trying to figure out what to say, heh).

Anyway, I got an A+ on this assignment (woot! I worked really hard on it). We were allowed to choose any topic we had covered in the course (which was a lot of topics!), which was the one redeeming feature of this task... it was quite the slog otherwise. I chose to re-look at the topic that kicked me on my way to getting a simultaneous undergraduate degree in women and gender studies (or feminist studies as I like to say because the "f" word gets more of a confused reaction than the formal name, heh): feminist disability studies. I consider the topic to be at the forefront of social and political theory today as it has to come to grips with the outer edges of our society and even has to challenge our understandings of what it means to be human (pretty heady stuff, to say the least). If you are interested in this subject, this is a fairly good "leaping off" point as I have summarized the key readings required. Here is the prompt we used:

Students must pick one topic from the list of topics covered in the second term and create an annotated bibliography of 10 academic sources related to it. Standard citation format should be used for all sources. At least 4 of the ten sources must be from peer-reviewed journals. The goal is to survey the topic generally, and compile the ten most significant sources relating to the students’ interest in the field. Your job is to defend your choice of sources, and justify why you picked them.

The sources chosen must reflect disciplined research in the field as opposed to the first ten sources on a given topic that were found. Sources must be critically summarized in a 100-150 word annotation that demonstrates where the source fits in the broader intellectual context relating to the chosen topic. Students are asked to organize their sources thematically, in order to demonstrate patterns and debates in the field they have engaged with in their reading.
Students must highlight their findings and offer a critical analysis of the sources in a 3 page statement that situates the bibliography. No class readings are permitted on the bibliography.

A couple of us in class definitely agreed that it would have been much less work just to write an essay, but this is some research that I can come back to in the future and might (some day maybe) be of use to somebody else... Here it is:

Annotated Bibliography: Feminist Disability Studies

My introduction to the formal study of feminism came through a 2nd year Feminist Disability Studies course I took in the summer of 2010. The subject of disability and ways of conceptualizing disability had been an interest of mine long before the course, having circulated in communities for much of my life that are considered disabled (including, one could broadly argue, science fiction fandom and those involved in the punk and industrial music scenes), and eventually through raising two children with disabilities as a single parent. The most fascinating thing about this hybrid subject is how profoundly feminism clashes with the theorization of disability. When the modern feminist slogan “We Can Do It!” (Kimble and Olson 2006) just isn’t true, and someone cannot do it, then the feminist empowerment discourse becomes yet another intersecting oppression in the lives of many. New conceptual tools are being, and need to continue to be, developed to come to grips with what appear on the surface to be insurmountable incompatibilities. These disparate epistomologies challenge feminists to deconstruct their existing and any new discourses in search of hegemonic assumptions of ableism and, by extension, to more deeply examine positions that are implicitly (or explicitly) racist, sexist, heteronormative, classist, or otherwise discriminatory. It also provides a framework that teaches further lessons of how to celebrate and value difference rather than engaging in practices that require conforming identities to achieve social inclusion or political progress.

The rest of the essay is here... )

Feminist disability studies is a fledgling area of research, and we are still waiting on an effective praxis based on this challenging new field, but work done in integrating third-wave feminist theory with disability studies shows great promise. Where race and sexuality drove the discourse that eventually spawned the third wave of feminism through a critique of what feminists meant by woman, feminist disability studies challenges the very assumptions of what it means to be human. As such, it seems poised as a potential catalyst for next phase of critical discourse about the current state and future course of feminist thought and activist projects.

The annotated bibliography is here... )

And the list of references is here... )


I had a great deal of difficulty finding peer reviewed journal sources for this bibliography as much of the important work in this field seems to have been originally published in scholarly anthologies, referenced in journal and other anthologies, and then reprinted in yet more anthologies. I found a good many journal articles on the various subjects examined, but even these pointed back to several key works that have only ever appeared in anthologies. A good example of this is Nancy Harsock’s foundational essay on feminist standpoint theory, “The Feminist Standpoint: Developing the Ground for a Specifically Historical Feminist Materialism”, originally published in an anthology Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science (Sandra Harding and Merrill Hintikka, eds., Amsterdam: D. Reidel, Inc., 1983). In the end, and because of the numerous subjects that must be understood to appreciate the complexity and deeply nuanced field of feminist disability studies, I chose to mostly select anthologies that would provide both foundational and detailed explorations of some of the key required concepts. Again, an example is the Harsock essay which is reprinted in the Harding anthology which I have included in the annotated bibliography. One notable exception to this was Rosemary Garland-Thomson’s article “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory” published in NWSA Journal, but which I could not use in this bibliography as it was a course reading (although it is reprinted in the anthology “Gendering Disability” which is included in the bibliography).


As part of the feminist disability studies course I did in 2010, I composed and presented what seems to have been the first – and is what I believe remains the only – piece of music that has explicitly attempted to capture some of the key notions of that field. It is entitled Sitpoint Epistemology and can be heard here (it is best with headphones, but anything will of course do):

MP3 of Sitpoint Epistemology

A short description that was read in class as an introduction to the composition can be found on my public blog here:
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Ugh... taking a break from solving three dimensional systems of equations for a few minutes. I got back my midterm in my first year course and got an 89% on it (one mark short of an "A+", but I'm pretty freakin' happy with an "A" considering how much difficulty I had doing it... it was a pretty rough few weeks right around when it was due and I was still seriously burned out from earlier in the year). So there were two "definitions" questions that needed a paragraph each, and two short essay questions that needed to be 2 pages each. So, here again are a few short-to-read bits of feminist analysis/thought... I gotta say though that the second short-answer question on “Discourse” was the feminist studies equivalent of the famous bonus question: “Define the universe. Give three examples.” I had a really hard time distilling an answer out of such a complex and all-important concept.

In your own words, define the term “Biopower”. Discuss why biopower is important to understand when studying gender, using examples from at least two readings in a paragraph-length answer.

The paragraph answer is here... )

In your own words, define the term “Discourse”. Discuss why discourse is important to understand when studying gender, using examples from at least two readings in a paragraph-length answer.

The paragraph answer is here... )

Using examples from course readings, discuss the relationship between capitalism and militarism. What ideas about gender and identity does this relationship promote? Answer in a 2-page, typed, double-spaced essay. Cite all sources used.

The short essay answer is here... )

Using examples from Bonita Lawrence and Sherene Razack, discuss the relationship between political exclusion, colonialism, and gender. Answer in a 2-page, typed, double-spaced essay. Cite sources used.

The short essay answer is here... )

And the citations are here... )
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It has been a while since I've posted an essay, so I think it's time again now. But just a short one :). All this summer I've been taking the 1st year course "Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies" (in the second half of the summer I'm taking that course and a 3rd year course on "Gender and Health"... specifically on the social-critical analysis of women [mostly] and eating disorders, but more on that in a future post). The writing prompt was: Theoretical and Conceptual Framework Mini-Essay: Write a critical analysis of the assigned readings by McIntosh, Hill Collins, and Anderson. This paper asks you to reflect on each author’s contribution to feminist analysis, and consider the similarities and differences between their approaches. To fulfill the goals of this assignment you will need to go beyond simple summary and analyze the readings. To do this, identify each author’s key argument (thesis statement), detail the key points in the readings, and make thematic links between the readings. The review should be 3-5 pages in length, type written and double spaced and must follow a recognized bibliographic format (Chicago or MLA or APA). I got an A- on the paper, which I'm very happy with because I found it to be a very hard assignment. The issue, more than anything, is it is such a broad topic that it was really hard to narrow down on something that could fit into the "mini-essay" length allowed. The professor did have the criticism: "consider working on making your style a bit more concise. Shorter, clearer sentences, and a bit of conceptual 'signposting' may help you organize your ideas 'tighter' and bring clarity to your writing style". I have heard that more than once (okay... constantly), agree with it, and I do continue to try. Given that I've been hearing this for decades, I do wonder how successful I will be though ;).

Intersectionality Under the Yoke of Whiteness

In feminist writing, privilege is often depicted as something withheld, as something that belongs to some “other”, as a key tool in the systems of oppression we all operate within. This is certainly the prevailing argument in Anderson’s “The Construction of a Negative Identity”. But in Collins’ “Toward a New Vision – Race, Class, and Gender and Categories of Analysis and Connection”, the case is not quite so clear. While privilege is something that women of colour are certainly denied, Collins argues that other intersecting systems of privilege – class and education in her case – can exist in the same person that is oppressed in other ways, and almost always through the suppression of such privilege in another. One example she gives of this dynamic is African-American writer June Jordan’s “discomfort on a Caribbean vacation with Olive, the Black woman who cleaned her room” (Collins 76). In McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, privilege is fully constructed as something conferred rather than withheld, and conferred in such a way that it's existence is assumed by those that have it as neutral or normal rather than an intersectional identity in its own right. In all of these works, even in McIntosh’s essay where she uses the term “interlocking oppressions” (McIntosh 391), intersectionality is used to explore how multiple overlapping systems of oppression act on each of us. However, through all of the readings, including the essay by Collins which appears at first glance to be a general treatment of “race, class, and gender as categories” (Collins 72), it is whiteness, and heterosexual middle-class male whiteness in particular, that is continually pointed to as the centre of conferred privilege and the source of the oppressions that pervade the conferrence of that privilege.

The rest of the essay is here... )

Intersectionality has been a critical tool in the analysis of the impact of race, class, and gender (and ableness, age, sexuality, immigration status, geographical location, etc.) on individuals and communities, but much of this work has been done against the backdrop of an invisible whiteness. The three authors discussed all use intersectionality in their arguments, but all point to whiteness as an identifiable category, an intersectional identity in its own right along with all the others dimensions that can make up more complex identities that include or exclude whiteness in their makeup. As McIntosh states about the invisible whiteness of some versus the visible lack of whiteness in others: “to redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions” (McIntosh 391). In 2012, an elegant randomized double-blind study of 127 diverse university science professors was published showing a profound gender bias in hiring practices and their evaluation of a student applicant’s qualifications and worth: “half of the professors were told they were reviewing an application from somebody called John, whilst the other half were told the applicant’s name was Jennifer. Apart from the name, all the other information was identical” (de Lange). The study [see (Moss-Racusin et al.)] found “both male and female faculty judged a female student to be less competent and less worthy of being hired than an identical male student, and also offered her a smaller starting salary and less career mentoring” (de Lange). As with McIntosh’s realization that her observations about gender could be extended to her conceptualization of race and her own whiteness, studies such as the one described could be used as a tool to further extend our knowledge of whiteness’ role in the formation of diverse intersectional privileges and oppressions with a mind to mapping these “unseen dimensions” (not forgetting in the process, of course, Audre Lorde’s “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”). The understanding and dismantling of whiteness, made up of various intersecting systems itself, is a relatively recent, complex, and critical frontier within the feminist movement. The struggle will be long and taxing, but history has shown that once theories have been formed and meshes with activist efforts, that any system of oppression can be weakened.

And the bibliography is here... )
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I found out that I cannot apply the INSC3909 research paper I wrote on cosmic ray tomography to my physics degree core program (I can include it as an elective if I want it to just take up a half credit slot on my requirements). Sigh... I can't say that I'm particularly happy about the department's decision. I am also still waiting to find out if I'll be allowed to do my honours project over the summer. I have a supervisor lined up and wanting me to do it on the EUDET telescope Carleton is getting in (and specifically to use it to help test the thin-gap chambers being developed as part of the ATLAS muon detector upgrade project), but the department is dragging its feet about whether it will offer the course code to allow me to do it. There is less than a month left in classes this term and I still haven't heard anything. I took a brief pause writing this post and wrote another email to the person who I'm told has to coordinate things (they, however, don't seem to really know how to go about doing it, or don't have the time to deal with it, so it's somewhat problematic at best).

In better news, I got an A on this essay for my 2nd year "Activism, Feminisms, and Social Justice" course. We did our "activism project" on March 4th, and it went pretty well I thought (there are a couple of photos on the Facebook "event" page here: As part of that, myself and three other classmates also did a radio show on Febuary 27th leading up to it (the show can be listened to here: As "fallout" from that show, one of the participants may be starting a radio show on feminism (she joined me on my last show for the radio experience and starts officially training on the equipment this coming week, it's happening very fast... it's very exciting that something this amazing could come out of a class project!). The essay that follows had to be done before the "activist project" to inform the work that we were doing (we each did one... funnily enough, we weren't asked to share our work with our classmates, I will mention that in the feedback as being a weakness of the approach). This was a tough essay to write because the group I was in had to do our project on the hugely broad topic of "mental health". We, in particular, decided to do it on raising awareness about how it affected everybody in some way or another, and to then try to break down the stigma caused by labels (70% of people who need help don't seek it because of the stigma). We were also trying to open a dialogue about what "mental health" means to people, how to maintain it (similar to how to maintain physical health), and what to do when that health is compromised or lost. It was definitely a challenge to narrow the focus down so I could even start, but once started, it was a challenge not to to write way more than I was allowed to. It never seems to be anything in between ;).

You know, some day I should post one of my math or physics assignments, just to share the sort of thing I'm going, heh. It's easy to post essays because they are mostly text. I have decided that I would like to write a series of math/physics books that are extremely pedantic... taking a single question (like solving the 3-dimensional differential equations that describe the motion of a struck drum head, for instance), then starting with basic grade 11 math and providing the knowledge to do each step of the solution, and to to each step in painful detail, explaining why each thing was done... I could really have used something like that myself and I know it would benefit others too!

Anyway, here's my essay...

Broken As Designed: Mental Health Issues In Higher Education

Despite dramatic progress made by the disability rights movement with regard to physical accessibility and accommodation, and a profound retextualization of the conversation about physical impairment and the impaired in the West, those with physical or mental challenges that fall outside of a particular spectrum continue to experience a lack of acceptance with respect to their limitations and needs. While this manifests as suspicion of those with non-obvious impairments who take advantage of accommodations put in place for the physically impaired, for instance reserved parking spots or accessible seating in classrooms, those with mental health issues (into which category I will also implicitly include learning disabilities) remain largely unaccommodated and, if the impairment is perceptible to others, are often regarded with distrust and sometimes even with fear. The lack of institutionalized support, parallel in scope and visibility to the infrastructure mandated for the physically disabled, tells those with mental health issues that they remain transgressive, and if their impairment manifests itself in the presence of others that they risk rejection or even hostility. Feelings of social isolation brought on by this disabling oppression, possibly leading to physical isolation, are an inevitable outcome, and isolation is in turn a contributing factor, if not directly causal, to a heightening in severity of many mental health related conditions. Given that social institutions such as work or school are, by design, often loci of extreme stressors and are also the place where any other intersectional co-factors meet and may manifest, addressing the mental health issues caused or exacerbated by participation in these central institutions remains one of the key challenges facing our society.

The rest of the essay is here... )

As has been discussed, the post-secondary environment is a nexus where individuals at their most vulnerable age, often away from their social support network or even society, come together to participate in an institution designed to inflict damage on their psyche. Relatively little research has been done on this phenomenon versus research done on specifically identifiable groups or in the workplace environment. The role of stigma in preventing individuals from seeking help when their mental health is threatened or is already in crisis plays a huge role in the severity and disability that manifests from the underlying impairment brought on by potentially numerous intersecting oppressions and causal events. Although it was not discussed, if all those who needed assistance did seek help, considering that only about a quarter of those who need it do, any existing services infrastructure would be overwhelmed. In discussions within class, the personal feelings that “there was probably someone else who needed those scarce resources more” was a common thread, and thus the availability of services (or lack thereof) does play a role in whether someone will seek out necessary services before their situation degenerates into a full fledged health crisis. Until caring for our mental health achieves a status equivalent to caring for one’s dental health through regular cleanings and preventative care, and a mental illness is no more stigmatizing than a broken wrist or other injury, risks to one’s mental health or mental illness itself will continue to constitute yet another system of oppression in concert with the likes of gender, race, class, age, and nationality (to name a few). Universities are a logical focus for efforts to rethink and reshape how society deals with mental health issues, both from an academic point of view, and through the taking of concrete action.

And the bibliography and footnotes are here... )
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Here is my midterm essay from the course I just took, "Feminist Thought" (WGST3809). It's one of the "four core" courses in the Women and Gender Studies program at Carleton University. The other very core course is the 1st year, full year, survey course "Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies". I took another of the "core courses" last year (WGST 2800, "Critical Intersections of Gender, Race and Class") and am signed up to take the other 2nd year core course this coming, winter, term (WGST 2801 "Activism, Feminisms & Social Justice"). The last core course is WGST 3810, "Feminist Research in Our Contemporary World", which I hope to take some time next year. I am also hoping to escape from the 1st year course given than I have done a whack o' 2nd and 3rd year courses that can be substituted (e.g. the WGST2804 course that got me started down this path: "Feminist Disability Studies" that I took my first summer, and then WGST3005 "The Monstrous Feminist", a course I took last summer that was looking at the horror genre through a feminist lens [p.s. here's an interview with that prof: Dr. Aalya Ahman]. We shall see as I have not officially applied. When I'm done WGST2801 this winter, I will have (again assuming they allow me to substitute other 2nd and 3rd year WGST credits for the 1st year course) enough credits to be able to get a Minor in Women and Gender Studies. I have to get some clarification from the WGST department next year once everyone is back and settled, but if I continue to chip away at the required WGST courses, and am willing to spend an extra year at Carleton, I could graduate with both a B.Sc. in Theoretical Physics and a B.A. in Women and Gender Studies. I haven't decided to but, as I said, I will at least be able to declare a Minor if I don't get the second major. Anyway, here's the essay, I got an A-ish mark on it (I'm not quite sure as the prof. hasn't actually posted any of the individual marks... I do expect to get some sort of A as my final mark). The requirement for it was to choose a major topic from a list provided in the textbook, read at least the works in the textbook related to it, plus others suggested if possible, then provide an overview of that subject using those readings. I found it very hard to do and was not initially happy with the result, but in re-reading it as I'm posting now, it's actually a bit better than I thought it would be (which is nice).


Intersectionality is one of the greatest tools brought to bear on the theory and activity of the feminist movement, but it is far from being a completed work. From Sojourner Truth’s passionate statement of identity complexity in her 1851 speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” (Truth 75), to Kimberlé Crenshaw’s formal coining of the word intersectionality in 1989 (Crenshaw, “A Black Feminist Critique”) to describe the clash and complimentarity between her identity as a black person and her identity as a woman, it is a notion that has run the length and depth of the feminist movement. However, it is a complex tool that requires skill and training to use. While intersectionality wields the power to help make feminism the inclusive framework it purports to be, and is a powerful paradigm that can be leveraged in multiple fields studying and seeking to change cultures and societies, it problematizes feminist efforts with regards to the politicization of issues. In particular, bringing a sharp focus on a specific issue in such a way as to allow for a simple and clear public debate is almost guaranteed to be exclusionary in some way to an identifiable group facing the same issue. These efforts ultimately expose themselves to critiques from within the feminist movement itself that can with increasing regularity, with the advent of accessible gender studies programmes, formally and effectively use intersectional analysis as a means of conveying that criticism.

The rest of the essay is here... )

Along with elaborating the positive power of intersectional analysis, Crenshaw does acknowledge that using it can lead to the problematization of public dialogue, “Does that mean we cannot talk about identity? Or instead, that any discourse about identity has to acknowledge how our identities are constructed through the intersection of multiple dimensions?” (Crenshaw 489). The rigours imposed on discussion and action by requiring that the unique intersectional nature of every challenge faced by every person be acknowledged consciously as part of that discussion places a heavy burden on anyone not wanting to be exclusionary, imperialist, or a recolonizer. “Not only is the essentialist notion ‘Woman’ gone, but the category of gender has been broken into so many pieces that third-wave feminists cannot seem to get a grip on it. [...] At times, the home of third-wave feminism is so ‘messy’ that not enough pots and pans can be found within it to cook a decent feminist meal” (Tong 289). But there is no way to undo the breakthroughs in deep understanding of how individual and group identities form out of intersecting factors. We are in a difficult phase of the feminist project as we struggle to form a comprehensive and inclusive new framework within which we can each find a recognition and validation of who we believe we are individually and collectively. The challenge of reaching out with complex ideas that don’t fit well on placards or within twenty second sound bites can only be overcome with a complex approach to moving feminism forward and accepting that we can each make a contribution. Having the patience and persistence to find ways of educating the public about critical new feminist theory such as intersectionality is time honoured within the movement, and the only way forward from here.

And the bibliography is here... )
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I just got my mark back for the short essay I wrote for the 3rd year feminist seminar class I'm taking in the second half of the summer. It was a rare and mysterious thing, and something I have seen so few times in my life that it actually shocked me: I got an A+! Zomg! The class is called "The Monstrous Feminist: Gender and the Horrific in Popular Culture" and it is a course that examines horror stories and films through a feminist lens... from the Victorian Gothic to the modern day bloodbath flick. This essay was 20% of the mark. 30% of the mark is from a group class presentation of a movie... the group I'm in got Tokyo Gore Police... try discussing that from a gender politics perspective?!?!?!!! O_o. 40% is our final essay (on virtually any horror story or movie), and the last 10% is pretty much just showing up to class. The instructions for the essay were fairly simple: A critical reflection of no more than 4 pages (1000 words) on one of the short stories we read in the first part of the course. You must use the readings that accompany the stories.. I actually explain at the end of the essay why I chose this particular story.

Unfortunately, my essay won't really make any sense if you don't first read the story that it is dicussing: Joyce Carol Oates' "Extenuating Circumstances". There is a link to an online version of available by clicking this sentence. Disclaimers apply: this is a horror story; however, not a "monsters jumping out at you" or similar standard horror tale. This one is a little too believable because what it describes does actually happen, far too often. It is quite a troubling little tale of the horrible. You have been cautioned ;).

As for the essay itself, here ya go. Normally put the first and last paragraphs outside of the cut, but you really need to read the story before you read any of the essay or it just doesn't work...

Constructing a Monster in Joyce Carol Oates’
"Extenuating Circumstances"

The essay is here... )
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Well, I just wrote my final exam in my Canadian Political Institutions summer course (yikes that was compressed)! I also got my mark for the final essay I turned in on Monday so I can post it here now (that prof is seriously into his chosen field of study and his calling as a teacher... he's actually one of the best profs I've ever had in any subject: Jonathan Malloy if you ever get the chance at Carleton University or run into him somewhere in the world). I got 87% for my grade, which needless to say I'm very happy with (not so happy with the 75% I got on that last essay, but he explained [!!! an amazing prof !!!] why I got that mark and I was able to avoid many of the mistakes I made the first time around, and the mark was fair given the flaws in my work). I'm a bit sad that I didn't have time to write the optional essay on election reform, but from a marks perspective, this probably worked out better for me (I was even done this one with a little time to spare, if I'd even tried the optional one it would have been rushed and something of a hack job).

But on to the essay, the topic given was: "In his essay The Rise of Court Government in Canada, Donald Savoie argues that court government has taken root in Canada… effective power rests with the prime minister and a small group of carefully selected courtiers. This assignment asks you to address this issue and answer the following: Are Canadian prime ministers too powerful? Your essay must take a clear position on the above question and must have a clear thesis statement. It should also address, in some way, the following: Even if “court government” is real, are prime ministers sufficiently accountable for their actions? and Has Stephen Harper significantly increased the powers of the prime minister, and/or made greater use of them, more than his predecessors? It is important that you focus on the office of the prime minister as an institution, rather than your views on particular prime ministers and their policies." And here it is:

Are Canadian Prime Ministers Too Powerful?

Questions around the effectiveness and accountability of state governments is a matter of an ongoing debate that is as dynamic and constant as the nature of power itself. Controversy over the authority used or misused by the seemingly inevitable central figure(s) of state is often the focus of these ubiquitous political discussions. In Canada’s case, it is the individual in the role of prime minister that bears the brunt of this running commentary by the public, the press, the pundits, and academics alike. It is understandable in the Canadian context because, as Savoie states, “[i]t is hardly possible to overemphasize the fact that the Canadian prime ministers have few limits defining their political authority within the government” (Savoie 1999). The ambiguity of any limits on prime ministerial power is further enhanced by the largely Burkean constitution of Canada, where those “powers rest on custom and convention” (Dyck 2011). But the answer to the often central question in discussions of governance in Canada: “does the prime minister wield too much power?”, tends to depend strongly on whether they are acting in a manner consistent with one’s own expectations or desires, or whether the decisions they are making run counter to one’s perceived interests. If the former, the argument is often that the prime minister needs strong executive power to enact innovative solutions to “the issues” (whatever they may be at any given time); if the latter, the opinion is usually that they have obviously overstepped the bounds of the office and action must be taken to prevent a repeat of such behaviour in the future. Having lived through the reign of ten prime ministers, and thus having been witness to the dramatic centralization of power into the Prime Minister’s Office over that time, it seems that at least some of Canada’s electoral and governance woes can be blamed on this trend. Regardless of whether a government has generally moved in directions of the common good or not, versus special or regional interests, the inescapable conclusion must be that Canadian prime ministers are, in fact, too powerful.

The rest of the essay is here... )

Are Canadian prime ministers too powerful? Without a doubt. What does this mean for governance in Canada? That is far less clear. Previous prime ministers have been described as “friendly dictators” (Thomas 2003), but if the people of Canada are no longer the constituency that the prime minister needs to be “friendly” toward, as seems to be the case, there will be grievous consequences — ultimately resulting in unrepresented constituencies turning to other forms of governance to achieve their legitimate interests. Regional separatist movements come immediately to mind as a means of pursuing such goals if the prime minister fails to provide adequate representation. Civil disobedience or even unrest is another possibility as can be seen by the protests in Quebec caused by the feeling of disenfranchisement of certain segments of society there. The scariest scenario is one where the prime minister and their supporters decide that being “big fish in a smaller pond” is preferable than fighting to maintain the Canadian federation. Savoie’s assertion that “[n]o Canadian prime minister wants the country to break up under his or her watch” may prove to be over-optimistic. A benevolent dictator could be elected that might take steps to limit prime ministerial power (using full prime ministerial power to achieve that end), but it’s more likely that subsequent holders of the office will further centralize power in their own hands. Short of a provincial or electorate revolt (which would take the form of showing up and actually voting), it could fall to the international community to condemn the direction that executive power in Canada is taking, and embarking on economic steps to bring pressure to bear on the situation. Regardless of the outcome, a counterbalance will ultimately have to be created against the incredible powers currently wielded by Canadian prime ministers.

And the bibliography is here... )
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It's been a while... but I'm taking two "social sciences" courses this summer: one political science (May and June, Mon/Wed mornings) and one feminist studies (July and August, Tue/Thu evenings). I'm also taking a math course (statistics and probability) for the whole summer (May through August, Mon/Wed evenings). I'm also working at least full time on the CRIPT and FOREWARN projects. But with any luck, that will only go for another couple of weeks in June (and maybe a week or two in August) because the university screwed up the project's funding and they don't have enough money to pay me for the whole summer (everybody else has been laid off, sigh... although most have been picked up in some manner by other projects or endeavours at the school).

This was a fun short essay to write, it's for a course called "Canadian Political Institutions", which is described as: "An examination of Canadian political institutions, including federalism, Parliament, the constitution, political parties and the electoral system." It's almost a guilty pleasure, but I'm fascinated with this stuff. It's also the brother to the "Canadian Political Environment" course that I took a couple of years back (that course's description is: "An examination of the cultural, social, and economic context of Canadian politics, including interest groups and social movements, regionalism, language, ethnicity, and gender."). The instructions for this essay were: Peter Russell distinguishes between Burkean and Lockean styles of constitution-making, saying that Canada has traditionally taken a Burkean approach but in the late 20th century tried a more Lockean style. In your view, is a Burkean or a Lockean style of constitution-making better suited for Canada? Your essay must take a clear position on the above question and argue for either the Burkean or Lockean style. It should be between 1000 to 1250 words long and must have a clear thesis statement. It should also address, in some way, the following additional questions: Does it matter that Quebec has never agreed to the 1982 constitutional reforms? Was the pursuit of the failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords a terrible idea?.

My next essay is on electoral reform, I can't wait! But first, this one's a bit dry getting going because I have to explain the concepts, but I get frothy and opinionated later in the essay and it apparently picks up at that point ;).

Constitution-Making, Burkean Style:
A Kinder, Gentler, More Canadian Approach

Canada, in both it’s creation and evolution, has experienced a primarily Burkean, pragmatic and largely unwritten, approach to its constitutional development. This tactical, rather than strategic, approach is in profound contrast with countries such as the United States of America that took a deeply Lockean, deliberate and written, trajectory to realizing a constitution. In the late 20th century, largely motivated by the process of finalizing Canada’s independence from Britain and the separatist threat posed by Quebec, the Canadian political elite undertook a period of Lockean “mega-constitutional” projects (Dyck 2011). Of the many attempts at massive constitutional reform, only the Constitution Act of 1982 was adopted, and even it has never been ratified by the provincial legislature of Quebec. It is clear, looking back at the devastating impact of that period, that only a predominantly Burkean approach to constitutional reform will ever succeed in Canada — the Lockean style of constitution making virtually guarantees that some powerful constituency will be alienated at great cost to the federation. Thus, Canada needs to back away from further mega-constitutional attempts and adopt a deliberate and carefully thought-out Burkean strategy going forward.

The rest of the essay is here... )

A Burkean approach to the constitution in Canada has proven to be the only viable one possible given its pragmatic history, and complex federal structure in a multicultural and multi-regional environment. The mega-constitutional ventures in the late 20th century demonstrated that the Lockean approach is toxic to the organism that is Canada. The challenge going forward is to explicitly endorse the Burkean approach and implement a minimal set of guiding principles, limitations, and powers to ensure that at least the institutions that support the evolution of the constitution are up to the challenge. Ultimately, the success or failure of the approach will fall at the feet of the population — the electorate — who must hold their government responsible to them. With the dysfunctionally low voter turnout in recent elections and strong majorities explicitly representing less than a quarter of the electorate, Canada is in a state of constitutional crisis. If level heads prevail, perhaps along with the implementation of mandatory voting, we will see an end to this chapter in our evolution as a country and return to an extended period of peace, order, and good Burkean governance.

And the bibliography is here... )
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A very interesting idea, but I don't think it's one of my better essays. I went to the library because I couldn't really find anything on this specific topic anywhere else, so I really think I'm breaking a bit of ground with the concept at least. The research specialist at the library suggested that it was more of a Ph.D. topic than one appropriate for a 2nd year essay ;). I got good feedback last year from my 3rd year Feminist Political Theory prof on my essay that used the post-modern theory I learned in feminist disability theory to examine the issue of performing analysis on multicultural issues without falling into cultural appropriation or imperialism. Funny enough, I turn to feminist disability theory again in this essay... I'm noticing a trend (well, and the fact that it seriously excites me as a framework in which to examine just about any social or political issue... it has been suggested to me by more than one member of the faculty there that I do post-graduate work on it... sigh). Anyway, the course this essay is for is titled "Critical Intersections of Gender, Race, and Class", and the prompt for the essay (one of 9 I could choose from) was: "Disability, accessibility and space (you need to figure out which space you want to focus on for this topic)".

Parenthood as Impairment
in a Neo-Liberal Capitalist Society

Impairment in our society can lead to disability — in the workplace, in congregations of people, in taking care of every day needs, in the dynamics of interpersonal relationships — that can grow to dominate or even define one’s value or place within the world. While the impact of this socially constructed identity is utterly pervasive and intrusive into the life of the so disabled, it is amplified by all the same intersecting factors that lead to disadvantage in the neo-liberal capitalist society that is being actualized by the Global North: gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation, nationality, immigrant status, and heritage with respect to colonization (e.g. aboriginal peoples all over the world) to name some key factors. While the impacts of physical and overt mental impairments on the accessibility to infrastructure and the means of participating in this capitalist society has been well documented, there are many other conditions whose symptoms and intersectional profile mirror that faced by those with visible impairments. One of these is the systematic disability imposed on individuals with the impairment of parenthood.

The rest of the essay is here... )

But it is not a foregone conclusion that the world will allow the Global North's notions of neo-liberal global capitalism to succeed in the long term. While those controlling this movement are filling their pockets with unimaginable wealth, they are also undermining the strengths and cohesion of the societies that provided them with the imperialist power to enact their agendas. Against the backdrop of globalization, there continues to be a counter-movement to prevent the dystopian future just presented. If a disability is only relevant in context of particular environments or spaces, whether an impairment becomes a disability in those environments is a function of the level of its accessibility. An accessible society is one in which people with impairments can readily participate, and respects the basic dignity and civil rights of all individuals within a given society “to participate in all of that society’s activities: education, work, commerce, civic life, and government programs and services”. (Dell Orto) The classic example of accessibility is that of a person in a wheelchair attempting to access a government office or place of business: if the architecture does not provide them with a means of entering and navigating the space, then it is inaccessible to that person and their impairment manifests as a physical disability. The question with respect to parenthood becomes one of how to move past the thinking of the industrial revolution and neo-colonial imperialist world of global corporations and into a society where the private domain of child rearing and the public domain of the workplace are merged. This concept goes far beyond the notion of “reasonable accommodation” or access — which only addresses the symptoms of the underlying issues — and requires a deep analysis of the role of reproduction in our society. The theoretical framework for such an exploration is largely in place or being constructed under the guise of “feminist disability studies,” and can be applied to analysis of parenthood as a potentially disabling impairment in a hypercapitalist environment, and subsequently theorize solutions that might be employed to leverage this notion to illustrate the damaging effects of neo-liberal policies as part of a strategy of resistance to it. Abstract concepts arrived at through post-modernist deconstruction of the means by which neo-liberalism is manifesting itself in our society has failed to grab the hearts and minds of the public, but a tangible argument showing the threat to parenthood and the notion of “family” might.

And the bibliography is here... )
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In honour of Women's Day, here is my final short essay for the 3rd year Feminist Political Theory course I took last term. We were given four possible topics and had to pick one. While there were easier ones to tackle than the one I chose, I thought this was an important one for me to answer because it in some ways deals with the fact that I am male and am coming to the feminist project as an honourary "outsider". Regardless of my thinking on and participation in the subject, I have not lived the life and therefore cannot speak to it from the inside (nor would I try to). Therefore, the question of how to have a meaningful dialogue as an outsider (in the case of the essay question, as an outsider to a culture), is a very important one for me to come to grips with. The actual question was:
In her essay, “Multicultural Education and Feminist Ethics,” Marilyn Friedman identifies a dilemma involved in undertaking multicultural projects. She writes that “There is a kind of emancipationist imperialism involved in freeing someone from conditions which she herself does not regard as seriously oppressive and would not, on her own, challenge.” (p. 64). Should feminist writers take account of this in their writings? If so, how? If not, why not?
The writing of the essay was particularly challenging in that it posed an unanswerable question (well, presuming one answered "yes" to "should"... the "how" has no direct answer). It also needed to be between 6 and 8 pages double spaced, and it was challenging to tackle such a broad topic in a relatively short space. To that end, and for what it's worth, here is my essay:

Towards A Feminist Framework Of Interpretation:
The Quandary Of Analysis In A Multicultural Context

In her essay, “Multicultural Education and Feminist Ethics”, Marilyn Freeman writes “There is a kind of emancipationist imperialism involved in freeing someone from conditions which she herself does not regard as seriously oppressive and would not, on her own, challenge” (Friedman 1995). As history has shown, for example in the deeply controversial matter of cliterectomies, no matter how unambiguous the situation may seem from an external perspective – for example, that of a white, middle-class, heterosexual US woman (Friedman 1995) – the situation is considerably more complex and profoundly personal and ambiguous for those living the supposed issue. If feminist writers wish to avoid imposing their particular flavour of oppression on those they are purportedly trying to liberate, it is imperative that they take this into account in their writings – otherwise they are just trading one tyranny for another that may have unexpected and insidious, if less overt, consequences of its own. The problem occurs that in attempting to avoid any possible generalizations or universalizations, a writer of even the slightest conscience would be irrevocably paralysed for fear of transgressing their desire to “do no harm”. When it is acknowledged that no two individuals have ever shared the same epistemology, it becomes obvious that the solution is more subtle, requiring effort on the part of both the writer and the reader to understand the context of any such dialogue. While there is no “how” to this – to attempt to find a universalization for avoiding universalizations is an fool’s quest – there are disclosure guidelines that can be instituted by those who are concerned about the interpretation of their ideas in a diverse multicultural environment, and a discipline required by those analyzing the works of others to ensure that the writer’s intellectual and ideological location is well understood. Sadly, mainstream feminist scholars and activist writers have not done a stellar job of making their standpoints clear – often deliberately as part of an effort to promote a particular strategic or tactical agenda – so, ironically, it may be the wisest course to turn to feminist critics of feminist ideology to find a viable framework to apply to the problem. One such promising framework with applicability to this challenge is the emerging interdisciplinary field of “feminist disability studies”.

The rest of the essay is here... )

What is problematic for those with a Western attitude is there is no answer to this Gordian Knot of a problem. By its nature, there is no way for it to be a destination, but rather it is a process in a journey that will never end. This sort of open-ended dilemma tends to be profoundly disturbing or even disheartening to members our Western culture that teaches that any problem can be solved if sufficient resources are thrown at it, and that the challenge is simply to get those resources to throw. But this is a drama that isn’t going to be resolved at the end of the one-hour episode as we have been pop-culture imbued to believe. To apply the tools offered by the emerging field of feminist disability studies requires an unprecedented level of diligence and effort on the part of both those speaking and those listening. While there is much to recommend it, this path does not come without risk. Of particular concern is the danger of placing such excessive burden on any attempt at communication, that it will render it impossible for all but the most elite and accomplished of feminist scholars to have a conversation that meets the standards of avoiding any form of imperialism or false universalization. It is also the case that a profoundly post-modernist ideological construct is not going to find traction with a general public where an understanding of the issues is, to put it politely, far from ubiquitous. As St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote in the 17th century, “ L'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs”, or the more modern aphorism “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. In trying to avoid “emancipationist imperialism” and the misinterpretation of the nature of cultural oppression in cultures that are not one’s own – for instance, not everyone with a “disability” considers their impairment as something they would ever want to be freed from – feminist disability studies provides valuable analysis tools and standards of terminological rigour that can be applied in a broad range of situations, and particularly to that of creating feminist works in the profoundly multicultural environment we exist in.

And the bibliography is here... )
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Ah, writing essays can have entertaining moments. With this essay I had a particularly good time because I was able to call Queen Victoria names, talk about how the US had a Freudian Oedipus complex, and call the manhood of everyone (even of women) in Canada into question! This essay was written for a course I took last fall on “Indigenous Encounters with Colonial and Nation-Building Projects in Canada”, a second year Indigenous Studies (an interdisciplinary subject) class. The textbook for the course was John Ralston Saul’s A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada and this was supplemented with lectures and slides where our professor tried to take the stance that things went considerably different in Canada than they did in the US for aboriginal peoples because the power relationships during colonization were more equal and respectful, and it wasn’t until the mid to late 1800s that the formal attempts at cultural genocide, under The Indian Act, were begun proper.

Saul’s Vision for A Fair Country: Mending Our Fractured
Psyche of Through Re-Discovery Of Our Missing Parts

In his book A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada, John Ralston Saul lambastes the elite class of Canada for being castrati (Saul 2009) — that they have been emasculated and are reliant on those with power, those with testicles, to engage in the act of creation. Since the castrati have no creative endowment themselves, they have been trained to adopt a subservient posture and go pleading for guidance to those that can still wield the power and will to inflict their desires on others. Beholden to the notion that their value is in how well they serve their fertile masters, whoever they might be at any given time, this dysfunctional elite of Canada is accused by Saul of placing the need to fulfill their self-loathing ahead of the responsibilities that have been entrusted to them by the citizenry of this country. By extension, the citizenry obviously don’t rate attention from the elite because they are even further removed from those with real power, and the vast bulk of the population do seem to support that notion as they too seem to have fallen prey to that colonial insecurity and look to the lap-dog elite to guide them in their subservience. But where the bulk of Canadians have lined up, generation after generation, to metaphorically have their reproductive organs amputated in obeisance to the dominant cult of inferiority, the aboriginal peoples of Canada were specifically targeted with the most heinous of violent and involuntary castrations — that of intentional cultural genocide — during a hundred years of aggressive colonization that began here in earnest during the middle of the reign of Queen Victoria. But where the cultural genocide inflicted against aboriginal populations was overt and is now clear to be seen by all, especially those who were its target, Saul is making the argument in his book that we are all — every person in modern Canada — victims of a cultural genocide inflicted on us during the same period that has left us all impotent. The main difference is that non-aboriginals don’t realize what has been done to them, and Saul is telling us that we need look to his abstract “Métis shared heritage” in hopes that we might collectively find our balls — originally lobbed off by the British, and now done as an ongoing matter of courtesy by the “empire of the day” at our request — or at least in hopes that we might “grow a pair” by remembering we once had a unique power in this country, that arose because of our aboriginal heritage, that we could call our own.

The rest of the essay is here... )

What Saul seems to be saying is that we need to reconcile the aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples living in Canada in order to build a functional, confident, and effective society going forward. Under the influence of Victorian Empire, the colonizers forgot their history, forgot their roots, and tried to assign a father role to the aboriginal that was, at best, a specious and immature act of desperation in a failed attempt to mature. What he argues is that the aboriginal peoples were never the “other” to the European colonists in Canada, they were always “ourselves” and that together we should form a Métis nation. Where Saul’s vision falls short is how to get “there” from “here” in a, I daresay, fair manner. His vision does smack suspiciously of a sort of neo-colonialism, where the disconnected colonists have realized that they need to, once again, turn to the connected aboriginal peoples for critical resources. In this case it’s not furs, or minerals, or land. In this case, Saul thinks that despite everything that has been done to them, that the aboriginal peoples of the lands we call Canada are in possession of something we seem to have misplaced: our balls. Even if they have been carefully hiding them from us all these years for safekeeping, if we should decide we actually do want them after all, they had better make sure they have a really strong position before they do. Unfortunately, if we ever get them back, we’re likely going to be irresponsible with them for a while before we finally settle down again and are able to use them in a mature, considered, manner — and the keepers of our sacred gonads need to be able to protect themselves from our inevitable testosterone-fueled rampage until such a point as we have calmed down again.

And the bibliography is here... )

P.S. The Quill and Quire review of Saul’s book is worth a read if you’re interested (and you should be if you think Canada should have any sort of future):
Quill and Quire review )
pheloniusfriar: (Default)
Here is the essay I wrote for my 3rd year course in Feminist Political Thought. The topics were preset by the professor and we got to pick one out of the selection. This one got me the most "riled up" and so I took it on. I laugh at myself because there were times when I was writing it when I had to get up and walk around growling at how irritated I was ;). It did help me put together, what I think, is a relatively directed argument. I was concerned a couple of times that I was being unduly harsh, but then I re-read the source material and realized that I was actually being quite "staid". I do feel a little bad for beating up on her (mumble fascist mumble) grandmother, but she started it! Note: I was particularly happy with the title, heh.

Distain for Elshtain: “Feminism, Family, and Community”
and It’s Conservative Agenda for Oppression

Elshtain indicates at the opening of her essay, “Feminism, Family, and Community”, that she writes as “someone who has been involved in the politics of the feminist movement since the early 1960s” (Elshtain 1982), placing her squarely as a child of the 2nd wave movement that was focused on “seeking equal rights and opportunities for women in their economic activities, their personal lives, and politics” (Burket 2010). While the “family” was reviled as being a, if not the, key source of oppression for women by a significant number of influential feminist thinkers during this period (Elshtain 1982), that and other attacks against prevalent social structures in Western society laid the necessary foundation for the third wave of feminist thought. Elshtain makes a valid argument that the feminist movement at the time failed to provide a viable alternative to the “family” it was trying to tear apart and, as a result, ceded the realm of “family”, as embodied by her nostalgic reminiscences of her grandmother, to the political “right wing” to the detriment of the feminist movement as a whole. However, Elshtain’s argument for a purported “non-oppressive version of the traditional family” as a “source of resistance to corporate power” is harmfully antiquated and misguided strategic thinking that proposes a conservative solution to a problem that requires radical re-visioning of this outdated, and failed, industrial age power structure using the tools of modern feminist thought and contemporary scientific research. Elshtain’s essay will be used to illustrate her biases and even internal contradictions, and other works will be used to support the position that her perspective is outdated and runs counter to current understanding.

Read the rest of my passionate defense of feminist thought against Elshtain... )

While Elshtain does have a point that the feminist movement as a whole has failed to come to grips with the needs of a post-industrial society to create sustainable social units comprised of “freely choosing adults”, her assertion that we should look for our solution in some romantic vision of a time when men and women had clear gender-based roles within a “traditional” family unit, is unrealistic at best and more likely represents a tragically harmful strategy doomed to failure given the rapidly evolving socioeconomic and technological developments that characterize modern existence. Where Elshtain’s glorification of her grandmother and her apparent lack of appreciation of the true nature of the “traditional family” is problematic, it’s her statement that we cannot be allowed to choose the manner of our communities that is dangerous. Research is showing that industrial-age “traditional” families, and the myths and institutions around it, are a source of oppression and harm for all of its participants – women, children, and men equally – and one that needs to be transitioned away from as quickly as we can to minimize the ongoing damage being done. Given that there is no going back, the only possible solution is to press forward with new and, certainly from the perspective of the “traditional family”, radical approaches to building functional and healthy communities. There is obviously much more work that needs to be done before a stable post-industrial model is devised, but the fear of living though a transition period, and the unrest it will always bring, cannot be grounds for abandoning the future to try to hide in a failed past.

Bibliography... )
pheloniusfriar: (Default)
I have been digging through piles of paper looking for scraps that will allow me to piece my crumbled existence back together (okay... at very least do my back taxes... I'm owed money... the rest might take a little longer and involve more than sorting through paper). One thing I found was the proposal for the final project in the feminist disability studies course I took over the summer. I really thought it would be easier to execute than it turned out to be… If you care to listen, I still have the piece up at (you'll need good bass, or to listen to it on headphones, fyi). You can read what I said about the finished piece in this post.

Project Proposal: Exploring Feminist Disability Themes Through Music
WGST 3804A, 25 May 2010

While a robust academic discourse is at the core of advancing Feminist Disability Studies as a relatively new field of integrated study, communication of its findings and particular approach to analysis needs an activist constituency for promulgation into popular culture. While some work has been done on exploring the connection between disability and music, it is usually from the perspective of analyzing the impact of disability on musicians themselves — whether the interplay of public reaction to their disability (for instance, in “Re-narrating Disability” through Musical Performance) (Honisch) or the impact that a sudden or progressive disability had on a musician during their career (for instance, in Beethoven’s ‘Pathétique’ Sonata, First Movement, and the Normal Body: The Idea of Formal Prosthesis) (Quaglia) — or through the exploration of disability as expressed in popular music (for instance, in Transformer Man: An Exploration of Disability in Neil Young's Life and Music) (Stein). However, little work seems to have been done on creating music that expresses, through the artform of music itself, the critical analyses advanced by Feminist Disability Studies.

Outside of popular music's portrayal of disability through lyrics, whether positive or negative, two broad forms of music have managed to consistently capture the “otherness” theme that is widely explored in gender, race, and disability studies: so called “industrial” and “goth” music. These two musical genres can be considered to be “two sides to the same coin — the yin and yang, the male and female” (Smith). Both forms of art express the disability imposed upon the individuals who, for whatever reason — be it physical, mental, emotional, or social impairment — find themselves outside of the normalized expressions imposed by society. Many of these individuals transcend their disabilities through a post-modernist understanding of society and outward expression conveyed through the music and fashion (Woods), and thus choose to live on the fringes on society in a culture created by and for themselves. I hope to use some of the sensibilities, if not the actual forms, of goth and industrial music to attempt to integrate a musical narrative that will explore the themes of disability, and specifically, of gendered disability within the larger context of these experiences as expressed in the academic literature of Feminist Disability Studies.

Works Cited

Honisch, Stefan Sunandan. “"Re-narrating Disability" through Musical Performance.” Music Theory Online 15.3 and .4 (2009): n. pag. Web. 25 May 2010.

Quaglia, Bruce. “Beethoven's Pathétique Sonata, First Movement, and the Normal Body:
The Idea of Formal Prosthesis.” Rocky Mountain Chapter of the American Musicological Society. 30 Mar. 2007. Tempe, Arizona.: n. pag. Web. 25 May 2010.

Smith, Alicia Porter. “A Study of Gothic Subculture: an Inside Look for Outsiders.” Web. 25 May 2010.

Stein, Isaac. “Transformer Man: An Exploration of Disability in Neil Young’s Life and Music.” The Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal 4.2 (2008): 3-10. Print.

Woods, Bret D. “Industrial Music for Industrial People: The History and Development of An Underground Genre.” Master of Music Thesis, Florida State University, College of Music, Summer 2007. Web. 25 May 2010.
pheloniusfriar: (Default)
In working on an essay for my 3rd year Feminist Political Theory class, I was examining the roots of how women ended up "in the home" and men "in the workforce" as a byproduct of the industrialization of Western society (and the associated devaluation of work done in the home as having no "exchange value" in the external, predominantly capitalist, economy we have allowed ourselves to fall into). An article I read by Margaret Benston, "The Political Economy of Women's Liberation" (Feminist Frameworks, ed. Alison Jaggar and Paula S. Rothenberg, McGraw Hill, 1984, ISBN 0070322538, pp. 239-247), took the stand that the way housework and child rearing is done is still based on a pre-industrial model and that's why it was undervalued by our society. Emphasis was made that industrialization is not bad, in and of itself (although eco-feminists would argue with that), but that the capitalist path taken to industrialization is what caused the problems we are facing. She advocates for the centralization and industrialization of child rearing (and presumably housekeeping) just like other industrialized activities. She acknowledges that if this were done under our current capitalist model that we'd wind up with "a cross between a home for orphans and an army barracks — where we'd all be forced to live" á la "Brave New World", but argues that it doesn't have to be that way. My personal opinion is that the notion is both counter-productive and taking the wrong foundations as being valid. I agree that a revolution needs to take place to properly acknowledge and reward the work done by people (of any gender) in households1, but I think that the notion of trying to impose industrial-age solutions on the problem will not solve it.

So, as I sat for my bus to go to work on Saturday, I pondered the question of daycare. It's certainly a hot topic, but nobody has had the courage to really try to address the underlying problems or come up with a solution that isn't some form of Socialism (big 'S' as in Québec's solution) or Capitalism (big 'C' as in Ontario's solution and Canada's overall strategy). Childcare is needed by families, as much as food and water and shelter. The main difference is that childcare is something that can be produced by families even in this post-industrial age, whereas food and water (and, for all practical purposes, shelter) is now beyond the ability of most families to provide for themselves in this highly urbanized country we live in (a thought that should profoundly disturb). But before I launch into that, a couple of concepts that I did find helpful in making things clear, and that would be the notion, spelled out by Ernest Mandel, that "every commodity must have both a use-value and an exchange-value. It must have a use-value or else nobody would buy it [...] in capitalist society, commodity production, [is] the production of exchange-values [... but ...] every time a soup is made or a button sewn on a garment, it constitutes production, but it is not production for the market". So, child care has inherent use-value in our society, and we have certainly seen the commoditization of child care made available in commercial daycare centres or private daycares (thus it has provable exhange-value). However, it's not a commodity like a new HDTV, it's a basic necessity of life and civilization, and we don't have the choice but to find some way of providing it to our children — whether provided in the home or purchased from some other individual or entity. Thus, like water and food and shelter, a functional modern society requires that access to it be somehow guaranteed. But, what about the fact that so many families need both parents to work to provide adequate income to live in most urban environments? What about single parents? What about families where one parent is sick/disabled? Affordable child care outside is a requirement to survive in those situations. Either that, or the provision needs to be made (at society's expense) to allow at least someone to stay at home and raise children.

Okay, now here's the rub. Not everybody would make a good astronaut — the demands and sacrifice required are not in line with what many are willing to accept or even be able to deliver on. Similarly, not everyone is up to the demands and sacrifices of raising children 24/7. But it's already been established that raising children has both a special type of use-value as well as general exchange-value. Consider the notion: what if society recognized the true exchange-value of people who were good at child raising (without bias for gender)? What if, extensive education and training programmes were available for people who were going to be parents and/or wanted to care for children? All parents and potential caregivers. All. The people who were good at it could be recognized, further trained, and supported. The people who were marginal would be made good with training and support. The people who weren't so hot would still be better for their training, and offered extra assistance to help them with the task. Those who wanted to focus on raising children could do so with their own and could, at their discretion, also accept other children into their household (and/or there could be communal facilities for these individual providers to pool their resources and ensure plenty of social contact and access to additional resources). Society would recognize these people with some direct financial support (we already do this in Canada in some respects) as well as perhaps providing them with the sorts of medical/dental, leave, vacation, pension, etc. compensation they would get if they were in an industrial workplace (use a broad def'n of industrial to represent anywhere people have to travel to work somewhere else in groups or some such). Another thought I had was to provide the person with persistent (and generous) tax and/or education credits so that if they enter the broader workplace again after a career of childcare, that their earning power would be much larger than someone who didn't go that route (childcare could then be a long-term investment with a financial payoff down the road). Of course, it doesn't take a rocket scientist (or astronaut) to figure out that I'm talking about a (little 's') socialist approach to providing childcare, but it's more complex than that in there's a capitalist recognition of value built into it as well.

The key is to modify society's notion that women (vs. men) are "designed" to care for children (this has been found to be false in study, after study, after study) and conversely can't excel in the industrial workplace (again, proven wrong even under the discriminatory regime still in place). This will have the additional effect of de-sigmatizing home-related activities. The notion of "woman as homemaker" is a relic of the industrial revolution where the pre-industrial family structure had to be destroyed to allow at least one member of the household to go to work in the factories or centralized workplace. Given the Judeo-Christian notion of the "implicit inferiority of the female" that was still very much in play at the time of the industrial revolution in Western countries, it was easy to pull the men out of the home and impose the task of conducting all the pre-industrialization tasks (food preparation, housekeeping, child rearing, etc.) to "woman". The structures and institutions supporting this notion were knit layer upon layer until, today, it seems as though this is the way it's always been and is supposed to be (the "Conservative" movement wants to bring society back to this post-industrial, pre-feminism state where there is a clear division between those engaged in activities with exchange-value and those relegated to those activities which are purely use-valued in the home). In fact, child rearing (as well as teaching, in my opinion), constitute some of the most important, and consequently valuable, activities people can engage in within any human society. As part of coming to grips with the need to reinvent what a country or a society means in this age of information and globalization, we need to start with providing proper valuation of this (these) key endeavour(s), and the existing gender-based segregation of necessary work needs to be torn down for the proper exchange-value to be assignable to that work.

1 A Chase Manhattan Bank study estimated a woman's overall work week at 99.6 hours.
pheloniusfriar: (attitude)
This profoundly affected me when I first saw it in my feminist disability studies class early last summer and I finally went looking for a link to it last night. It continues to affect me profoundly in that it confirms what I have intuitively thought myself from the outside looking in (particularly since I had to raise an autistic child on my own):

Her blog is at:, and there is a good (multi-page) article on the video at Wired magazine: "The Truth About Autism: Scientists Reconsider What They Think They Know". I have an opinion/hypothesis about several "mental illnesses" such as autism... that they are an evolutionary work in progress and are not an illness at all per se. That, of course, implies that "curing" autism or eugenically weeding it out of the genome would be a fatal mistake for our species as a whole. Not to mention the ongoing ethical questions of what constitutes "an acceptable existence"... if autistic individuals are not acceptable because of assumed "quality of life" issues, what about poor people? Should they be sterilized so no new poor people will be created? Or people in developing nations? Maybe they should all be killed off and replaced with rich white Western men? Obviously, these are ridiculous propositions, but they are of the qualitatively same attitude and arise from the same ignorance and fear as leads our society to genetically pre-select for a particular "perfection" that we have been convinced we should want, despite the long-term implications of such decisions.
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I'm copying over some of the work I did before I set up my DW account... this is from my 1st year human rights course.

This is the essay I've been slaving over for weeks, and it's finally done. Furthermore, it is something that I've wanted to research and write for years and have used this course as an tool to finally do it. Wow, glad to have that off my chest, and I'm very proud of it as something of a political manifesto on a subject that has always interested me!

Phelonius Friar, Winter Term Essay, March 8, 2010

Indigenous Self-Determination in Canada:
A Roadmap for Reconciliation and Integration

HUMR 1001P, Zainab Amery, Section P4, Wangui Kimari

The essay I've actually wanted to write for several years... )


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