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The poison of neoliberalism

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By Kaylen Forsyth

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of modern politics is its anonymity. It is through this anonymity that those with power are able to manipulate and exploit those without. If people are generally unaware of the poison dominating society, how can they then overcome it?

I’m talking predominantly about neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is everywhere and has been for at least the last thirty years, prominent since the governments of Thatcher and Reagan.

For those who’ve never come across the term Neoliberalism before, it is a political theory running on the idea that governments should not interfere with free markets.
It is beyond destructive. The basic principle behind it is the dehumanisation of individuals. Society is seen as a breeding ground for competition: we are all nothing more than competitors inside a political system.

Essentially, Neoliberalism pushes the idea that wealth will trickle down from the rich to the poor, generating a false belief that “everybody gets what they deserve”. This drivel is fed to us constantly. However, it can be easily disproved.

The amount of money people make is strongly determined by what their parents earn. In the U.S., children tend to earn an extra $0.33 for each dollar that their parents earn. Yet Neoliberalism still results in the rich convincing themselves they earned their wealth fairly without stopping to check their privilege. Meanwhile, the lesser privileged classes find ways to blame themselves for their poverty. Neoliberalism has given birth to an age of competition and blame that seems inescapable.

The effect this ideology has on women, especially, is overlooked- though it definitely shouldn’t be.

The policies involved in Neoliberalism have transferred the wealth of poorer nations to Western nations. Former colonies were made to rely on loans from ex-colonial powers. These loans included harmful conditions, one of the most harmful being cuts to public services.

Export Processing Zones (EPZs) are free trade zones set up by governments to encourage export. These led to multinational companies using cheap labour, mainly women, to produce tax-free goods. What followed was a large increase in poverty, inequality and disability. With women pressured into low-wage jobs and limited public services to help them afterward, these kinds of negative results are inevitable. Women become nothing more than cheap employment for corporations who exploit them guiltlessly.

As well as creating clear gendered labour inequalities, Neoliberalism spreads dangerous values. These ideas often lead to people viewing each other as simple chances to profit. The human aspect that should be the basis of society is lost. Relationships wither soon after opportunities are drained.

Neoliberalist attitudes have led to this twisted consensus that people are to be valued on what they can give. Nothing else seems to matter. Thus, an enormous gender bias arises. Because of age-old stereotypes, women are reduced to what they can domestically provide. Their burden increases evermore. All the while Neoliberalism doesn’t provide any assistance because it believes that individuals should look after themselves – and if they aren’t coping it’s their own fault.

More than just the effects of its policies though, the very language of its philosophy oppresses women. The “market” does not support us. Instead, it perpetuates pre-existing inequalities such as race and gender imbalances. Those with higher income play more influential roles in this “market”. Due to the fact that women and people of colour are already at a disadvantage in terms of unequal pay, the “market” is intrinsically biased.

It’s almost as if Neoliberalism works to discourage those who are already discouraged by society.

This toxic system is maintaining an unhealthy status quo. The gap between different classes of women is widening at a terrifying speed; living standards between women in developing countries and those in developed are starkly different. All of this has come about because of the predominance of Neoliberalism and it is incredibly important people can identify and understand exactly what this system enables. It is the only way to begin overcoming it.

Talking About Men

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By Livvy Murphy

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Sexism is a term used when someone is discriminated against because of their gender.

So, if a boy is told to ‘man up’ and ‘stop behaving like a girl’, that is sexist.

If a boy is treated differently, or considered ‘odd’ because he wants to wear eyeliner is that sexist? Of course it is.

If a father fails to secure that promotion from his boss at work because he chose to take paternity leave and care for his newborn alongside his wife, is that sexist? Hell yeah.

And for the record, eating disorders or the ‘slimmers’ disease’ doesn’t just affect girls. They affect all genders.

These examples emphasise that men’s issues have one common denominator: the patriarchy – the perception, treatment and behaviour towards women. A combination of tradition, lack of evolution and lad culture is discriminating against both boys and girls. This is why I wish to stress: it is not a men vs women issue; it’s about people vs prejudice.

Let me explain myself. As an example, the #fitforsummer #summerbod trends affect not just us girls, but our men and boys too. With billboards of David Beckham stripped down to his briefs, David Gandy swimming seductively in his next-to-nothing swimmers for a Davidoff advert and Channing Tatum exposing his toned torso more times than not in his film ‘Magic Mike’, it is unsurprising that gym membership statistics are at their highest ever. Want to look like ‘The Rock’? Then be prepared to consume 4000 calories of lean protein and endure three rigorous workouts a day. If you fail to do so you are just not good enough.

It is this sort of pressure that is stimulated, perpetuated and fuelled by ‘lad culture’. For example, alcohol consumption (or at least the amount of ‘alcohol stamina’ one can take) gives boys massive ‘lad points.’ Such messages are prolific in the media nowadays; take reality show ‘Geordie Shore’ for example. By day the boys are in the gym ‘getting massive’, by evening they drink as much alcohol as possible without ‘getting mortal’, and by night the real success depends on whether a ‘lucky lass’ (or two, or three or four) will be staying for a sleepover. Bonus points if you ‘take one for the team’ and get with the ‘ugliest’ girl in the club.

It is this normalised misogyny that must change, and we must never underestimate the influence of societal expectation. Perhaps we should stop segregating the world into two genders and just see ourselves as ‘people’. Sexism affects all sexes and is instigated by all too. Yet, if we are so similar, why do we continue to feel the anger and desperation of men who feel it is their fundamental right to be superior to women? Ashamedly, I have been on the receiving end of comments such as: ‘if you had just stuck to the kitchen, none of this shit would have happened’. I feel it is about time that such backward thinking is abolished.

As I emphasised in my previous blog post, feminists are not man-haters. It is a particular shame that many men’s rights -activists are guilty of this misconception too, despite having so much in common with us. I feel that the majority of men feel threatened by feminism, setting themselves in stubborn and angry opposition to us, when really we could work towards equality together by sharing our stories and finding a mutual appreciation and love for one another.

Unfortunately, there is a fear that ‘male privileges’ are at risk of being taken away. The thought of abolishing page 3 for example, means abolishing a male tradition that the majority of men feel is rightfully theirs. But we should not be too quick to judge this reluctance to change. Why? Because we are conditioned to behave in ways that cohere with society. Male and female individuals adhere to societal convention to essentially ‘fit in’. I wish to increase the awareness of learned behaviours, because I believe the majority of men and women who are occasionally sexist do not do it deliberately. We must not blame these people, but the rules, traditions and conventions that govern our world. Our patriarchal culture influences all sexist behaviour, therefore in most cases sexist behaviour is not intentional. The solution is to be bold enough to challenge concrete expectations and norms, for if we don’t challenge, we will never change. We are all in this together, therefore we must work towards re-educating and reconstructing society, to make a new world where all genders are mutually respected, harmonious, and protected. Only then may we be able to truly live life to the fullest, and fulfill our potential as human beings.

*Note: This is Livvy’s last blog for PBG. We’ve been honoured to have her as a member of the team and wish her all the love and luck for the future

Being an MP is not for me

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By Becky Dudley

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Parliament: it’s a man’s world. To be more specific, it’s a straight, white, middle class man’s world. For something that’s meant to be representing our society as a whole, it’s doing a pretty awful job. What we need, more than anything, is far more people who aren’t straight, white, middle class and male to be in Parliament, representing all those currently lost in the sea of identical faces. However, with the way things stand, I, for one, will not be one of them. Despite wanting to prove a point and do what we’re not ‘meant’ to, I do not want to work in Parliament. I’m here to tell you why.

Firstly, let’s look at some statistics. In the last election, 650 people became Members of Parliament. 147 of these were women. That’s around 23% –  hardly representative of the UK population, which is 51% female. The statistics for ethnicity and class are just as bad (if not worse), and each are deserving of their own post; I could rant for hours on any of these. For now, however, I’m going to stick to looking at the statistic for women.

To try and rectify the obvious inequalities, quotas were introduced. To my mind, quotas are like Marmite – you either love them or you hate them. Like Marmite, I’ve not yet decided which side I’m on. However, what the quotas have done is given rise to new terminology – for example, ‘Blair’s Babes’ and ‘Cameron’s Cuties’. Both of these terms – which refer to the group of women working for the relevant Prime Minister – make me feel genuinely sick. They are demoralising, demeaning and downright disgusting. The use of the surname and possessive apostrophe signifies that all the women in these groups belong to the Prime Minister – playing into the ever-present objectification of women. Meanwhile, the use of ‘Babes’ and ‘Cuties’ reduces the women to pretty faces, to sex symbols. These women are all there on their own merit – they are far more deserving than these descriptions make them seem.

This is not the only problem that these women are facing. For women in Parliament, there is no way of being right. When they appear in the media, their clothing and appearance choices are far more likely to be commented on than anything else. There’s a plethora of negative stories, with each female Member of Parliament having faced their own equally awful battles, revolving around sexist comments, unfair media representation, and even discrimination based on their having children – regardless of the fact that men, too, have children and childcare responsibilities.

Even the physical representation inside Parliament is hugely biased. Whilst walking around on a recent tour, we noticed one female statue: that of Margaret Thatcher. We also played a ‘game’ of ‘Spot the Women’ with a painting of the House of Commons in session. It was far harder than the average game of ‘Where’s Wally?’.

But these all come into effect later on, once you’ve gained your votes and got the right to your bum on a seat. There are perils to face beforehand, too. To get in to Parliament, it seems that you must do two things: know the right people, and take up social drinking. Both of these are pretty exclusionary. For a start, how many average members of society have the necessary connections to get them into – or even near – Parliament? A quick survey of the eleven people I am sat with finds that no-one has these connections. Moreover, it follows that if connections are needed, then there’s likely to be a ‘sort’ of person who has them, a theory as close as proven by a look at the current government.

To look at the second option, social drinking, it’s clear that there are fundamental flaws here too. In 2009, it was found that around 15% of people in England are tee-total – they abstain from drinking alcohol, for religious, personal or other reasons. This means that 15% of the population wouldn’t be able to follow this route at all. Even for those who do drink, it’s a pretty dismal concept. What it’s saying is that, to gain a job in Parliament, you must firstly become just like every other person in Parliament. In short, you must become ‘one of the guys’.

With all of this in mind, the only conclusion I can find is one I would much rather not come to: Parliament is unrepresentative, and it’s unrepresentative for a reason. If it’s not hard enough for women to get in in the first place, life gets even harder once they’re there. I take my hat off to each and every woman working in Parliament – I couldn’t do it. It’s no wonder that the statistics are so awful. We need this to change, and we need it urgently. However, this can’t be a small change – every new woman in Parliament is a success for us all, but we need more. We need a huge, drastic change. We need 51% of the Members of Parliament to be women – something that the 50:50 Parliament campaign is currently fighting to achieve. We need to have our statues, our pictures, of women. We need the media to report on what we’re actually doing, not on what we’re wearing or looking like. In short, we have yet more need to start the revolution.

Abuse Doesn’t Exist in a Vacuum: Rotherham Is Not About Race

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By Elli Wilson

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Alexis Jay’s report on the abuse of over 1400 children over a 16 year period in Rotherham, and the “collective” failings of the police, social care and the local authority makes for tragic, uncomfortable reading. Unfortunately, whilst the scale and extent of the victims’ suffering and the authorities’ failures were certainly shocking, they did not surprise me. Britain today is still a deeply prejudiced country in which sexism and classism run deep, social services are underfunded and overstretched and young, underprivileged victims are likely to be dismissed as ‘unreliable’ or even complicit in their own abuse. In such conditions, it is hardly astonishing that vulnerable children and young people are abused and then failed by those meant to help and protect them.

With so much public anger and disgust over what happened in Rotherham, there would seem to be no better time than the present to start a national conversation about what causes rape and sexual abuse and how it can be prevented. However, in a depressingly predictable state of affairs, much of the coverage of the horrific abuse has focused on the fact that the perpetrators were predominantly British Pakistani and most of the known victims were white working-class girls.

In reality, perpetrators of sexual crimes in Britain are predominantly white. The only trait that almost all perpetrators of rape and sexual abuse share is their maleness. Sexual violence is not a crime committed by one ethnicity against another; it is a crime of male violence against women and children. Alongside class, gender is the overriding factor in the Rotherham abuse case, as with all other incidents of sexual violence.

By focusing on the ethnicity of the perpetrators in Rotherham, there is a danger that the threat of rape and sexual abuse will be othered and obscured. It is far easier and more comforting to think that such horrifying crimes are only a problem for certain sections of society, than to face the fact that in 21st century Britain children – primarily girls – are abused and exploited across all socio-economic groups and by men of all races. This is not a problem that we can safely categorise as belonging to one section of society whilst shaking our heads disapprovingly; the causes are deeply rooted in our attitudes and our establishment.

This is not to deny that different communities have different challenges in the fight to tackle abuse. For instance, Ruzwana Bashir eloquently described the culture of shame that can make it difficult for British Asian victims of abuse to seek help and justice. However, it is not as if survivors from all backgrounds don’t encounter disbelief and victim blaming attitudes. This is precisely the problem with the media’s fixation with ethnicity in relation to systemic sexual abuse; it hides the fact that the factors which contributed to the Rotherham scandal are not specific to a certain sub-culture but rather permeate all levels of society.

The scale of the abuse in Rotherham unmasks the toxic misogyny and classism that intersect to create an environment in which underprivileged girls can be raped, and then held in contempt by those meant to help them. Whilst the details of the Rotherham scandal may be particularly shocking it is important to remember that such abuse does not exist in a vacuum. If we do not engage in serious work to change attitudes of the public and those in power, and to end misogyny and victim blaming, then many other girls will be the damage of society’s collective failure.

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