Thursday, June 3, 2010

Scattered Notes From the Panel on Reducing Global Levels of Machismo

Working On The Plan For Reducing Global Levels of Machismo
In her acceptance speech for the SFRA's Pilgrim Award, Gwyneth Jones characterized her particular form of feminism as "her plan for reducing global levels of machismo." Our whole culture, she said, "...could stand to be a little less masculine. Could stand a strong infusion of the values designated as 'weak' and 'feminine' -- negotiations above conflict, empathy above self-interest, and all the rest of that repertoire." But, as she noted elsewhere, we are living in a sort of perpetual wartime, dominated by masculinism and machismo, presumably the reason she calls this form of feminism "awkward." Clearly a change in administration in the US has done nothing to mitigate this culture. Is there any hope for this "awkward" kind of feminism in the near future? Or is machismo here to stay?
M: Timmi DuChamp, Andrea D. Hairston, Alexis Lothian, Cat Rambo

Today we see a movement towards deference to authority (ex: airport security) and corporate irresponsibility (BP oil spill), while in the US, maternal mortality doubled between 1987-2006, even though the US spends more than any other country on health care. What are the ways we can combat this?

Alexis: Stand up for social justice, and do so everywhere, not just in the marginal communities where one is always preaching to the choir.
Andrea: Educate girls all over the world. The countries where women have less education are also ones where there is more violence, extremism, poverty.
Cat: Witness. Spread the stories that inspire us as well as the ones that outrage us. Don't get worn down by the same arguments over and over again, but remain resolute.

A book referred to many times in the panel: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity, by Kristof and WuDunn. Has a list of organizations in the back which one can support to further education for women. The examples in the book are not always encouraging. For example, a project in Nigeria designed to create a higher yield of cassava, the only crop women were allowed to profit from, became so successful that men then took the cassava away from the women.

Our best hope may be women in other countries, since in this country, we accept global machismo. In particular, microfinancing may provide some hope.

Don't accept deceptive language-- for instance, that soldiers dying is a disaster; women dying is collateral damage.

Corporate profit is an expression of machismo, with profit providing the score card. 225 people own half the world's wealth.

Change the language and metaphors of labor. Rewarding teams rather than individual contributors has been shown to be more effective.

Tell and retell our history. Spread the stories that inspire and teach.

Fox News is a source of disinformation, rather than misinformation. People who object to its practices might look to what the Color of Change organization is doing, going to sponsors of Glenn Beck and asking if they really want to sponsor what he's saying. This has led to sponsors leaving the show - but putting their money into sponsoring other Fox News programs. The Fox News model is the repetition of disinformation until it becomes truth; must be challenged to stop this.

Can we rely on, as Audre Lorde would say, the master's tools to dismantle this structure? Search for alternate ways of doing things.

The way politics is framed is problematic. Framing every issue as a binary obliterates any chance of real politics.

Take an incremental approach. Use information tactically; ask "why didn't you (regular news outlet) see this as news?"

Use social media and nontraditional ways of spreading information.

Find common ground, a place where you can connect with those you want to persuade. Break down the concept of us vs. them and lose the attitude of superiority.

Given the rise of anti-intellectualism in this country, how do we get people to trust intellectuals?

The Overton Window - the extremes of conversation determine the continuum of the discussion. This is why it's important to have voices at the extreme left, helping expand the window, which has shrunk in recent years to a point where something previously considered moderate is now considered liberal.

Each side has framed the other in a way that prevents conversation. Again, find common ground, and use the tools that are there: politics, letters.

Finding the point where one should challenge tools rather than using them may be difficult. Much of the conversation sounds genteel, but there is a breaking point, at which one can no longer be genteel. There is a difference between compromise and finding common ground.

1 comment:

Nancy Jane Moore said...

Whenever I read something like this -- "For example, a project in Nigeria designed to create a higher yield of cassava, the only crop women were allowed to profit from, became so successful that men then took the cassava away from the women" -- my first reaction is how can women develop enough power to prevent men from taking away their successful projects. I would like to see a discussion of that in addressing the global machismo issue as well. It certainly flows from the education factor Andrea mentioned.