How to miss the point: Lesson 1

Don’t get me wrong: I love the Guardian newspaper. But I can only hope Tim Lott’s column today is a poor attempt at a spoof:

This week I am going to write about the biggest taboo in relationships I know… I’m going to write about money. Money in marriage is incendiary. It involves issues of power, feminism, patriarchy, trust and much besides. I have tried to write this column once before and had it flatly vetoed by my wife because she felt that the ground I was treading on was too dangerous.

Sensible wife. Tell me, why did she think it was too dangerous?

This column appears only after an emotional and sometimes painful back-and-forth about the subject. She accused me of sexism, while I suggested she was using double standards (I asked her, in her imagination, to switch the gender roles to see how it would look then).

Ah. I expect she found that reassuring. When people suggest that I switch gender roles in my imagination, I feel totally reassured they’re not being sexist.

My wife works as a part-time associate lecturer and, like many part-time workers, who are predominantly women, tends to be discriminated against in terms of financial reward and employment opportunities. I, on the other hand, am reasonably well paid for challenging but not backbreaking work.

Probably not unusual. So tell me, Tim, what are the implications for your family’s home life?

My wife does more of the childcare, cleaning and cooking than me. This is predominantly for practical reasons. She is physically at home for a lot more of the time than I am and, with a part-time career, she has more hours available. She also tackles all the laundry, having rejected my offers of participation in that area after I shrunk a cashmere sweater, pegged it out incorrectly and turned a dazzling white load grey.

Oh! Of course. Those pesky practical reasons why women do more childcare, cleaning and cooking.  And of course, all your talent for challenging but not backbreaking work doesn’t mean you could learn to wash a sweater.

The income inequalities also mean that if there’s a big expense, like a foreign holiday or house improvements, I tend to have the last say. She feels that infantilises her, as she needs to “ask me”…  My wife says that my having more money than her makes me feel powerful. She’s right – up to a point. It gives me an area of control, although I don’t think I use it in order to control. I just think that some form of imbalance is inevitable.

Unbelievable. I just don’t even know where to start. Go read it for yourself.

 

 

Recognition for Australians who identify as neither sex

Cool!

Australian judges have ruled that people do not have to be registered as a man or a woman on the register of births, deaths and marriages.

The New South Wales Court of Appeal overturned an earlier decision that a person’s sex could not be listed as “non-specific” under Australian law.

The court ruled that sex does not bear a binary meaning of “male” or “female”.

(Thanks, DW!)

Guardian Witness: New shoots of student feminism

From the Guardian Witness (part of the UK-based Guardian newspaper’s website):

Lad culture appears to permeate all aspects of student life – from Facebook newsfeedsto the debating chamber of Glasgow University. But women are fighting back – or at least that’s what the recent surge in the number of student feminist societies suggests.

From burnt bras to feminist graffiti and event flyers, we want to see the shoots of the new feminism on your campus. Share your images and videos.

Well, go on, then! Head over there and share!

Equality in higher education: a fair outlook?

It could be wishful thinking, but it seems to me that efforts to promote equality in UK higher education have picked up some momentum recently. For instance, last week the latest round of Athena SWAN awards were announced, which

recognise success in developing employment practices to further and support the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) departments in higher education… The Charter exists to instigate real and continuing change for women, and also their male colleagues… departments have to demonstrate not just a commitment to improving working practices but also measure the impact these changes are having, and tackle areas where progress hasn’t been as fast.

The Equality Challenge Unit have also announced that they’re going to expand the pilot which extends the Athena SWAN programme beyond STEMM subjects to humanities and social sciences (philosophy, are you listening?) as well as beginning a small pilot project doing similar work on ‘race’ equality.  And they’ve just published some nice short briefings for academic staff on inclusive practice, promoting good relations and pastoral care.

Then there’s the Royal Society’s programme of work on diversity, including the STEM disability committee and a new diversity blog.  There’s Sheffield University’s Women Academic Returners’ Programme, which offers additional support (worth a maximum of £10,000) to women returning from maternity leave to minimise the impact on research activities.  Oh, and the Guardian Higher Education Network is having a live online chat about diversity in the university, today at midday.

There are things to celebrate: genuinely, if cautiously.  It’s good that the topic is getting attention.

But. But… to me, it feels a bit thin – even (potentially) a bit self-congratulatory.  Lots of us individually know full well that sexual harassment is a real and serious and current problem in universities, and one which is compounded by the failures of institutions to respond effectively.  So is bullying.  But ‘we’ don’t yet seem to know this collectively, as the academy, in a way which would make it intolerable for it to continue.

If the BBC can finally start to be honest about bullying and sexual harassment, why can’t we?

Art Activism: Bedding Out

Liz Crow, artist and activist, is starting a revolution from her bed.

BEDDING OUT emerges from the current welfare benefits overhaul, which threatens many with poverty and a propagandist campaign that has seen disability hate crime leap by 50%.

“I wear a public self that is energetic, dynamic and happening,” explains artist-activist Liz Crow. “I am also ill and spend much of life in bed. The private self is neither beautiful nor grownup, it does not win friends or accolades and I conceal it carefully.

“But for me, along with thousands more, this new system of benefits demands a reversal: my public self implies I don’t need support and must be denied, whilst my private self must be paraded as justification for the state’s support. For months, I have lain low for fear of being penalised, but the performer is beginning to re-emerge. Instead of letting fear determine who I am, I’d rather stare it in the face.” BEDDING OUT is a performance in which I take my private self and make it public, something I have not done in over 30 years. On this stage, for a period of 48 hours, I am performing the other side of my fractured self, my bed-life. Since the public me is so carefully constructed, this will be a kind of un-performing of my self.

“I want to show that what many people see as contradiction – what they call ‘fraud’ – is only the complexity of real life. This is not a work of tragedy, but of in/visibility and complication; a chance to perform my self without façade.”

Join her live over the next 48 hours!

Now that’s what I call access!!

Awesome blog post from Benefit Scrounging Scum about the difference it makes when a place is really genuinely accessible:

Going through the front entrance, the main entrance of a beautiful old listed building felt like such a privilege, something I can’t remember doing since becoming disabled. It made me feel wanted, that I belonged there, that I could, even if only for a lunch, access somewhere on the same terms as everyone else.

There’s a video in the post showing how the fancy stone steps of the restaurant at One Great George Street retract to reveal a wheelchair lift.  It’s SO cool.  Listed buildings really need to start admitting that lack of access is about not spending the money, not about restrictions on alterations.  Clearly, if you want to make it work, you can!

Game on: Marriage Equality in the South

The Campaign for Southern Equality will be visiting seven states in the southern US as part of their WE DO campaign, which

involves LGBT couples in the Southern communities where they live requesting – and being denied – marriage licenses in order to call for full equality under federal law and to resist unjust state laws….

These WE DO actions serve to make the impact of discriminatory laws visible to the general public; they illustrate what it looks like when LGBT people are treated as second-class citizens under the law. Sometimes these actions include non-violent acts of civil disobedience in the form of individuals refusing to leave the public office where the denial of  a license has occured. The purpose of civil disobedience is to resist unjust state laws and to express a belief that LGBT people are fully human and should be treated as equal citizens under our nation’s laws.

To date, 38 couples in 10 cities across North and South Carolina have sought marriage licenses as part of the WE DO campaign.

They’ve put together a great video:

 

Thanks, JF!

Promoting job-sharing: let’s start at the top!

Next Tuesday, John McDonnell MP will introduce a bill to the UK Parliament which would change the law to allow members of parliament to job-share.  According to the explanatory notes,

Over recent decades the practice of job sharing has been introduced into many fields of public administration, private sector companies, professions and civil society organisations.

There is considerable research evidence to demonstrate that job sharing is not only possible and practicable but also benefits both the individuals involved and the organisations that they serve.

More recently the proposal that the role of a Member of Parliament could be job shared has been proposed to enable more people to become MPs who may not be able to at present because of their disabilities or their caring responsibilities.

It has also been suggested that job sharing could be a way of attracting into Parliament people who may wish to contribute to our society by representing their community as the local MP but who also want to continue to contribute to society by working in their chosen field or profession.

It’s being supported by Disability Politics UK and the Fawcett Society, among others. There’s an e-petition you can sign, and if you’re in the UK, encourage your MP to support it!

Survey on experiences of faculty with mental-health diagnoses or issues

This sounds like a really important survey, especially in view of some of the experiences described at Disabled Philosophers, and they’re encouraging people from outside the US to respond, too.  Go fill it in!

We (Margaret Price of Spelman College; Mark Salzer and Alyssa Balletta of Temple University; and Stephanie Kerschbaum of the University of Delaware) have just launched a survey that aims to gather information about disclosures of mental health issues among faculty.

This is the first large-scale survey that aims to gather information not only about how many faculty members experience mental health issues, but also what that experience is like and how it affects their work lives.

Who can take the survey: Anyone who has received mental-health care and/or a mental-health diagnosis. For the purposes of this study, faculty member means someone who is employed (part- or full-time) at an institution of higher education and is not a graduate student. Faculty members may have titles including “instructor,” “lecturer,” “professor,” or another title.

What the survey covers: The survey asks about topics including diagnoses, hospitalizations, relations with co-workers, and experiences of disclosure at work. We understand that some of these topics may be distressing or triggering, and we have taken great care to ensure that the survey is as safe as possible. It is completely anonymous, and participants may skip any questions they wish.

How long it takes: Pilot testers found that the survey takes about 15 minutes, although this will depend upon each participant’s particular speed and how much open-ended information is included.

Further information: If you have any questions about this research project, please email us at facultydisclosureproject@gmail.com. You may also email facultydisclosureproject@gmail.com if you’d like to take part in the interview portion of the study but would rather not fill out the survey.

Thank you very much for helping to spread the word.

Warmly,

Margaret Price
Mark Salzer
Alyssa Balletta
Stephanie Kerschbaum

(Also, I really recommend Margaret Price’s book Mad at School. Thanks for writing it, Margaret.)