- November 15, 2012 | Filed under: BizTechNews | Posted by: bowatkin If you don’t believe that racism in the job market is real, then please read this article by Yolanda Spivey. Spivey, who was seeking work in the insurance industry, found that she wasn’t getting any job offers. But as an experiment, she changed her name to Bianca White, to see if employers would respond differently. You’ll be shocked and amazed by her phenomenal story.
- Yolanda Spivey Writes:
- First, I created an email account and resume for Bianca. I kept the same employment history and educational background on her resume that was listed on my own. But I removed my home phone number, kept my listed cell phone number, and changed my cell phone greeting to say, “You have reached Bianca White. Please leave a message.” Then I created an online Monster.com account, listed Bianca as a White woman on the diversity questionnaire, and activated the account.
- That very same day, I received a phone call. The next day, my phone line and Bianca’s email address, were packed with potential employers calling for an interview. I was stunned. More shocking was that some employers, mostly Caucasian-sounding women, were calling Bianca more than once, desperate to get an interview with her. All along, my real Monster.com account was open and active; but, despite having the same background as Bianca, I received no phone calls.
So Labour have been trying to hop on the bandwagon following months of organising on Merseyside against the bedroom tax. This is pretty much to be expected and has been covered quite well by others:
What I didn’t expect, however, was what happened in Wallasey when we started arranging organising meetings here. A room was booked in a pub for a tenants’ meeting for the purposes of organising community resistance. I know this because I arranged the venue myself, about a week later, however, I was forwarded some emails written by the treasurer of the local Constituency Labour Party claiming that the meeting had been “organised by our Liscard cllrs in partnership with Unite the Union.”
On contacting members of the Wirral Unite Community Branch, I was told that this was news to them as much as me. The local Labour Party appear to be ignoring emails reminding them that the meeting was not organised by them and that they have no right to claim that it has been. I expect the Labour Party to attempt to co-opt grassroots anger for their own ends, that’s basically what they’re for, but this is cheek on the level of pissing through somebody’s letterbox and then asking how far it went.
Needless to say, any councillors who turn up at our meeting expecting to be allowed to take charge are in for a hell of a shock.
I’d like you to remember the last time you found it difficult to give an explicit “no” to somebody in a non-sexual context. Maybe they asked you to do them a favour, or to join them for a drink. Did you speak up and say, outright, “No?” Did you apologise for your “no?” Did you qualify it and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t make it today?” If you gave an outright “no,” what privileged positions do you occupy in society, and how does your answer differ from the answers of people occupying more marginalised positions?
This form of refusal was analysed in 1999 by Kitzinger and Frith (K&F) in Just Say No? The Use of Conversation Analysis in Developing a Feminist Perspective on Sexual Refusal. Despite the seeming ambiguity in question/refusal acts like, “We were wondering if you wanted to come over Saturday for dinner,” “Well, uhh, it’d be great but we promised Carol already,” they are widely understood by the participants as straightforward refusals.
K&F conclude by saying that, “For men to claim [in a sexual context] that they do not ‘understand’ such refusals to be refusals (because, for example, they do not include the word ‘no’) is to lay claim to an astounding and implausible ignorance of normative conversational patterns.”” —
Like I’ve said before. There’s no excuse.
The recent discussions around the AF Women’s Caucuses’ discussion document A Class Struggle Analysis of Privilege Theory have been at turns interesting, repetitive and incredibly frustrating. I have followed the discussion within the AF itself and on public forums and thought I’d throw together a few thoughts on the discussion so far. The following does not represent a single coherent argument, just my immediate reactions to arguments I have seen or heard either in face to face meetings or on various bits of the interblag, it is written entirely in a personal capacity and does not represent a response or a position from the AF or any group within the AF.
Why does privilege matter?
As several people have pointed out, “privilege” is not a theory in itself. We can talk about the theory of privilege in the sense of how we theorise privilege, but privilege does not represent a unified body of thought and use of the term does not necessarily imply any particular political position.
So what is privilege? Not a theory, but a fact of life in any society based on oppression and exploitation. Privilege is a term that allows us to talk about the material factors that may lead to particular sections of the working class aligning themselves with capital against other sections of the class.
In recent discussions within the AF on picket lines and strikes, several people raised the issue of reactionary strikes. It seemed that everybody agreed that it was acceptable to cross a picket line if the demands of a strike were racist, as with the dockers for Enoch Powell, or sexist, as with the trade unions’ historical role in trying to force women out of workplaces, however, no satisfactory conclusion was ever reached on:
Why white or male workers sometimes take part in these reactionary actions, which further divide the class and;
Exactly what the definition of a “reactionary strike” should be.
I would argue that privilege, as a concept, is hugely useful in answering both points.
Within the zero sum game that capitalism forces us all to play, white workers and male workers are both privileged in the sense that they are paid more than their non-white or female counterparts and enjoy a certain level of social power over these groups. The desire to defend this privilege from anything that might threaten it lead workers who happen to be white/male to identify not just as workers, but specifically as white workers/male workers, with distinct interests as white or male.
A strike is reactionary where it seeks to defend the privileges of a particular section of the working class.
We aim for working class unity. This unity does not exist a priori as a part of the working class’ social position, rather it is something that we struggle for, something that we have to create through organisation and agitation. Overcoming divisions within the class is vital, but cannot happen unless we recognise and deal with the material basis of those divisions, privilege gives us a name for this, it allows us to talk about the ways in which sections of the class come to see themselves as possessing distinct interests apart from those of the wider class.
‘An individual approach’
Some people responding to the privilege discussion document have argued that an analysis that accounts for privilege will inherently be an individualist (and hence liberal) analysis.
The extent to which this is true is pretty questionable. Privilege isn’t just something that comes into play when looking at the relations between individuals. How many times have we all heard some reactionary bemoan the fact that immigrants of one sort or another are taking up resources (jobs, public services, housing) that they see themselves as entitled to by virtue of the place of birth? These reactionaries are well aware of the privilege they enjoy as British citizens (a social group that they strongly identify with, not simply a collection of individuals), and will often fight to defend it.
Even so, sometimes we need an individual approach. People from oppressed groups of varying stripes have reported experiencing a range of seriously problematic behaviours from individuals within the movement that have led to their feeling marginalised or unsafe. For example, far too many women in the movement report being at the receiving end of condescension, dismissal, sexual harassment and even sexual assault or rape from their male counterparts. If we want women, queers, people of colour, disabled people, etc. to be a part of our movement, then we need to tackle this behaviour head on as it is happening. It is simply not enough to tell comrades suffering marginalisation and violence in the here and now that it will all be better after the revolution, when the structural basis of their oppression will be removed.
Where we have individuals who are behaving in such a way that they make others feel marginalised or unsafe and we do nothing, we are effectively allowing those individuals to drive people out of the movement. Whether or it is a political movement, a social scene or a pub, people simply do not stay where they feel unwelcome or unsafe. This doesn’t mean we should be policing every little misstep or accidental use of problematic language within the movement, but it does mean that when a given individual’s behaviour reaches a point where it is having a serious effect on others, those individuals need to be held to account. It also means that we need to try to pre-empt these situations by taking a collective approach, coming to an understanding about what attitudes and behaviours reinforce oppression and trying to avoid them.
Class, oppression and exploitation
Much has been made of the document’s description of class as being one of many oppressions. The argument has been put forward that class is fundamentally different to patriarchy, racism, heteronormativity, ableism, etc. because is is based on exploitation, rather than oppression.
This seems a little arbitrary, since much of what we call oppression is deeply exploitative in the sense of being a means for capital to extract surplus value. Were the Africans brought to America as slaves not exploited? What about housewives, who carry out the vital role of reproducing labour for no wage at all? Undocumented workers who carry out dirty, dangerous work for next to no pay under the threat of deportation? Clearly we are talking about exploitation mediated through race, gender and nationality.
Class may well be fundamentally different to gender, race, sexuality, ability and the rest, but it is not different because it is exploitative, exploitation is a common feature across many differing forms of oppression.
So how is class different? Capital is driven to extract surplus value, to exploit us. We call the struggle against this exploitation the class struggle. Oppression is both a means by which we are exploited and something that divides us in our struggle against exploitation, wherever we struggle against a form of oppression that affects a section of our class, we are participating in the class struggle. In this sense, class is all-encompassing, as argued by the original document.
It has been pointed out that it doesn’t make sense, strictly speaking, to talk of class both being all-encompassing and as intersecting, we usually do not talk about something that encompasses all other things intersecting with them. Intersectionality is, of course, a visual metaphor and consequently will never be a perfect representation of complex social realities, but perhaps we can attempt to find a more fitting metaphor.
In trying to represent intersectionality visually, we might try to draw a Venn diagram of various oppressions:
This is flawed in several ways. It does not allow for a situation where e.g. gender and ability intersect but sexuality is not a major factor, such as gendered access to healthcare services (though of course whether or not sexuality is a major factor may vary depending on race and geography). However, it does provide us with a starting point.
Perhaps we could take the notion of “axes of oppression” a little more literally, seeing them as actual axes which mark positions of social power. So we might have:
With positions along these axes representing relationships to different sorts of social power and class representing the entire space in which they exist. Immediately we hit a problem, there are so many axes we could potentially represent (on top of those already represented) that we are now trying to visualise class as a space with enough dimensions to make a string theorist go for a lie down in a dark room. While this metaphor represents the sort of analysis we may want to depict quite well, it is actually incredibly difficult to visualise as a whole picture.
There is a further problem in reducing each “oppression” to a single one dimensional axis. Oppressions themselves are multi-dimensional, with multiple, complex factors interacting with each other.
Surprisingly, it may well be impossible to construct a simple, accurate, visual metaphor that accounts for the full complexity of social relations and all forms of oppression. However, this sort of visualisation does allow us to think about class as a social field in which multiple oppressions interact a little more easily. Class, basically, is a big ball of wibbily-wobbly exploity-oppressy stuff.
[NB: Ryan’s policies affect more people than just cis women.](via keepyourbsoutofmyuterus)
Radical feminist writers’ work is never supposed to be “met” on its own terms, by the reader; there is no imperative on privileged people to do their homework, so to speak, before approaching the radical woman’s material—inside or outside the academy. However, whole college courses and books for Dummies exist to help us with the basic concepts and framework, the analysis, the terminology of the “great and influential ideas” of dead white men; I’ve read several of them. If I’m in the academy and I don’t get it, I am advised to take the intro course again, or to please stop wasting everyone’s time with my misunderstandings and inaccurate interpretations. I might be advised to speak with someone “in the know” before approaching the great white man’s work again. And if I do, I will be asked to metaphorically remove my shoes before entering.
From Plato to Derrida, if you are not familiar with the framework or philosophy—and sometimes also the non-English language—the usually European man’s great mind is operating out of or critiquing, the failure to comprehend the material belongs to you. With women writers, the failure to comprehend is placed back on the author. The dog-shit on the soles of anyone’s shoes may be wiped on the feminist soul’s work, and too often, no one will notice or care.” —Over Her Dead Body: How Ariel Levy Smears the Ashes of Andrea Dworkin by Julian Real
Look, I think we can all agree that Julian Assange’s prosecution for rape is unfair. Of course he deserves equal treatment under the law. We need to fix this. Fortunately, feminists have been working on a plan to do just that since before the man was even born.
The plan goes like this: all the other rapists should face consequences, too.
^Sounds like a plan to me.
- if girls are asking to be raped because their clothes don't completely cover all of their bodies, then boys are asking to be kicked in the balls just because they don't wear cups everywhere.
Catherine MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law (Harvard University Press, 1987), p31
- know they’re problematic
- know why they’re problematic
- don’t dismiss people’s feelings/dissatisfaction with them
- don’t silence people when they’re talking about the problems in your media, because your enjoyment is not more important than that discussion.
Congratulations, you’ve reached the minimum level of decency for being a person who enjoys things that might be problematic.
I will not be handing you a cookie.
Ju Gosling (Co-Chair) says: “Over the past few years, Pride organisers have consistently removed the ‘reasonable adjustments’ that the old democratic Pride London organisation put in place during the 1990s to enable disabled LGBT people to participate on equal terms, although Regard has campaigned tirelessly to raise Pride’s awareness about the importance of these. We have also continually offered to fundraise to meet the costs of the access arrangements and to work alongside Pride to implement them, as we used to do in the past.
Despite this the access arrangements have become poorer each year, and we have faced considerable hostility from the Pride directors as well as being misled on a number of occasions. For example, last year we were told that Westminster Council had refused permission for Blue Badge parking, when in fact they had never been asked. We have reported on these problems for many years in our Annual Reports and we have also produced a Pride Access Guide to show the sorts of things that are needed to create a truly accessible Pride: these are available on our website at www.regard.org.uk
Having had no contact from the Pride organisers at all this year, and with no access information appearing on their website until 28th June (after a disability journalist telephoned them), Regard took the decision some months ago to pull out of Pride and concentrate on our own activities. This was on the basis that we had no confidence in their ability to deliver an accessible and inclusive event, and that the health and safety of disabled people could not be guaranteed.
We would also question why the responsibility for the current crisis is being laid at the feet of the funders and regulatory bodies? Regard warned funders and sponsors last autumn that we did not believe the current directors to be capable of delivering World Pride, and so it has proved. We will be in exactly the same position again next year if real change is not achieved now, and as above Regard welcomes the TUC’s promise to hold a meeting where the whole community can be represented as soon as possible. Regard believes that real community engagement with Pride has been absent for far too long, and welcomes all moves towards the return of the old democratic structure. We would like to see membership of Pride open to all again, with annual elections, open meetings, and the restoration of the old sub-committees where directors met regularly with relevant community representations to look at issues around inclusion.” —Regard statement on why they are boycotting World Pride London.