Weekly Roundup- 23rd to 29th April

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“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.”

– Abigail Adams

In today’s world of information overload, we might miss something worthwhile. Every week, I’ll be flagging some of the articles I have read, which I found interesting, for you. Here’s the roundup for the week:

  1. In an opinion piece, Tricia Lowther for The Guardian highlights why labelling books by gender for children only enforces stereotypes, even when it seeks to reduce them. She takes the cases of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, and its more recent male equivalent Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different, which are among a clutch of bestselling children’s books that supposedly break down gender stereotypes. She says that books like them, even while they showcase the inspirational stories of men and women, only emphasises the difference between boys and girls through their titles, and thus impedes equality.
  2. Bustle focuses on a new font, created by Leslie Sims, Chief Creative Officer of global advertising agency Young & Rubicam (Y&R), who realised that we lack a physical language that encompasses all the issues that women face, every day. Hence, she created The Feminist Letters. Sims says that ‘Each letter represents a specific issue, through both the design and what the letter stands for, in order to further call attention to the reality of the large span that the women’s rights movement covers (for example, E is for elections, and V is for voting). By selecting a letter, you are actively learning background information and factual evidence about the relevant legislation of that issue.’
  3. Timothy Williams for the New York Times examines the differences between the trials faced by Bill Cosby, where he was accused of having drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand. Between the first trial, where the jury could not agree on whether Cosby was guilty or not, and the second trial, where he was sentenced to jail, a series of revelations over Harvey Weinstein and a cascade of other powerful men invigorated the #MeToo movement. Williams examines the differences in the two trials and whether Cosby’s case was also part of a shift in the ‘norms of accountability’.
  4. BBC reports on the rules introduced by the IAAF in a bid to stop women with higher testosterone gaining a competitive advantage, and the impact it’ll have on elite female athletes, including Caster Semenya, Olympic 800m champion. These rules have been seen as divisive, and politically motivated. Further, as stated by Katrina Karkazis, a bioethicist and visiting senior fellow at the Global Health Justice Partnership at Yale, the hammer throw and the pole vault categories, which showed the highest performance advantage for women with elevated testosterone in the 2017 I.A.A.F. study, are not included in the new rules, the regulations appear to be arbitrary and not based on solid science.

LGBTQIA+ and the Workplace.

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As more and more LGBTQIA people embrace their sexual and gender identity, forward thinking and innovative workplaces need to ensure that all colleagues, irrespective of the sexual or gender orientation have the security of a safe and welcoming workplace. Each workplace’s focus should be on the skills of each worker, not their gender or sexual orientation.

3 specific examples of ways that LGBTQIA employees are discriminated against are:

  1. Refusal to hire- Many LGBTQIA individuals are not hired due to their gender or sexual orientation. More than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias. This can be seen in the data collected, which claims 44% of transgender people are passed over for a job, 23% are denied a promotion and 26% are fired because they were trans- as seen in the case of Law Enforcement officer, Mia Massey, which was a precedent for recognizing the rights of LGBTQIA workers everywhere.
  2. Violence- It has been found that fully 90% of transgendered individuals have encountered some form of harassment on the job. 47% of workers have experienced an adverse job outcome because they are transgender. Further, 27% of LGB individuals have experienced workplace harassment, according to data gathered by the Williams Institute.
  3. Wage disparity- Studies consistently show that gay men earn significantly less than their heterosexual counterparts. Census data analyses also confirm that in nearly every state, men in same-sex couples earn less than men in heterosexual marriages. Further, several studies show that large percentages of the transgender population are unemployed or have incomes far below the national average. Other studies show that discrimination, fear of discrimination, and concealing one’s LGBT identity can negatively impact the well-being of LGBT employees, including their mental and physical health, productivity in the workplace, and job satisfaction.

Four strategies to improve the climate for LGBTQIA employees are:

  1. The creation of a workplace discrimination policy statement that includes protections for transgender and gender queer people.
  2. The bathrooms must be equally accessible to people of all genders. Gender-inclusive bathrooms must be proximal to the work areas. Further, all employees should be welcome to use the bathroom facilities that best correspond to their gender identity.
  3. All employees should be asked in their intake process what their gender identity is, what pronouns they use, and what name they prefer to use. This is an empowering way of ensuring that employees will be addressed appropriately from the beginning of their time in the company office or workplace.
  4. Policing of gender, such as so-called teasing, or chiding coworkers for not being manly or womanly enough, judging coworker’s style of dress, use of makeup, mannerisms or ways of speaking, gesturing, moving, sitting, standing, etc., is always unacceptable and can reinforce rigid conceptions of gender that marginalize trans and gender queer colleagues. Strict action against discrimination must be taken.

Ultimately, to create an inclusive workplace, every single employee must be mindful of their actions and language and support LGBTQIA individuals. All workers must try to educate themselves on the discrimination face by LGBTQIA people and refrain from such practices. In addition they should try to educate their colleagues and promote sensitive behaviour in the workplace. All managers/supervisors need to be cognizant of the organisation’s gender related policies and work towards setting an example for their subordinates and colleagues. Additionally, any complaints should be taken seriously and given due consideration, after all, an LGBTQIA inclusive workplace can only be made when all employees, workers, businesses, etc. work together to promote and listen to LGBTQIA perspectives.

Weekly Roundup- 16th to 22nd April

let's all (3)

“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.”

– Abigail Adams

In today’s world of information overload, we might miss something worthwhile. Every week, I’ll be flagging some of the articles I have read, which I found interesting, for you. Here’s the roundup for the week:

  1. Ruth Marcus for the Washington Post highlights 3 women who have made the news this week-  U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Southwest Airlines pilot Tammie Jo Shults and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Army veteran- and compares them to Barbara Bush in a beautiful tribute to the way she inspired change and defied norms present at that time.
  2. The Harvard Crimson muses about sexual harassment and the way it’s dealt with at Harvard University, taking in particular the case of the sexual harassment faced by Terry L. Karl by Government professor Jorge I. Dominguez, along with the writer’s personal experiences.
  3. The Good News Network spoke about the amazing work done by Gulika Reddy, a Fellow in Global Good Fund’s cohort of 2018. Currently a Dubin Fellow at Harvard Kennedy Business School, Gullika is the founder and director of Schools of Equality, a nonprofit that runs activity-based programs that reach young people to shift attitudes that perpetuate gender-based violence and other forms of discrimination.
  4. Nicola Heath, for The Guardian, talks about ‘gender creative parenting’, which seeks raise children in an environment free from gender bias. For these parents “the gender binary must not simply be smudged but wholly eradicated from the moment that socialisation begins, clearing the way both for their child’s future gender exploration and for wholesale cultural change”, writes Alex Morris.

What is Toxic Masculinity?

TOXIC MASCULINITY 101

Toxic Masculinity is a term given to the phenomena where to be a ‘real man’, men are expected to be violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, etc. Its most often cited as an example to show how a patriarchal society affects men negatively too.

What’s important to recognize is that toxic masculinity doesn’t and shouldn’t be seen as the epitome of masculinity. Many people identify more as masculine than feminine, which is completely alright. Masculinity, and masculine traits help one understand themselves, and figure out what their identity comprises of. However, toxic masculinity is simply a poisonous byproduct of a society where men were/are supposed to portray themselves as invincible.

Examples of toxic masculinity can be seen everywhere you look. Here are some:

  • “Men are not interested in parenting and cannot handle a family on their own”: This builds on the patriarchal notion that women are made to be caretakers; they should not work and focus instead on family life. What is implied, or in many cases, said outright, is that men are not responsible for raising children, and are unsuited to handling a family, or being a single parent. What this notion does is discourage men from actively participating in their children’s lives, as they assume that is the job of the mother only. Further, it leads to the assumption that in the case of a divorce, the children will live with their mother, hence depriving fathers of their right to a fair custody agreement as it is outweighed by social expectations and norms. Obviously, the above examples assume that we are talking about a straight man, but even a man who is part of the lgbtq+ community suffers similar backlash, as seen where homosexual couples find it hard to adopt a child as many people argue that two men will not be able to take adequate care of a child.
  • Men are always interested in sex and cannot be a victim of abuse: People often say that men are always interested in sex, and are ready to have sex at almost any time. What this notion does is discard the idea of consent for men. By this assumption, one negates their personal right to refuse to perform a sexual act, or respond to sexual advances. It makes men, especially young men, uncomfortable and more likely to stay silent instead of telling their partner they’re not in the mood. This can be seen in situations of abuse, where a common retort men often hear when they share their experiences of abuse, is that since they are men, they cannot be abused. They are often told that they should have just been happy and enjoyed the act, which sets a harmful precedent on how society treats male victims of abuse, especially legally.
  • Emasculation: This encompasses a range of activities that a ‘Real Man’ wouldn’t do, for example taking interest in one’s looks, being emotional and crying, needing help, being sympathetic, appreciating “frivolous” things such as sugary “girly” drinks, romantic styles, cute animal videos, romcom flicks. By belittling activities such as these, which are not seen as masculine enough, and promoting traits like excessive aggression, society encourages the toxic side of masculinity only to gasp in horror when the toxicity seeps into the system.

More than a phrase I

YOU'RE NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS

What this is supposed to mean: Other people, usually of a different gender, say this as a way to make you feel special and unique. They use this tagline as a way of differentiating you from a category you belong to, as a way of explaining why they are attracted to you, or why they want to be around you. By saying you’re not like other girls, they put you on a pedestal, and justify their love or appreciation for you. So you’re not like other girls is supposed to be a compliment, and a way to make you feel unique and special.

What it actually means: When someone says ‘you’re not like other girls’, they’re belittling an entire gender. The ‘other girl’ is an amalgamation of all the negative stereotypes society has about girls– they’re petty, cruel, bitchy, weak, bad leaders, overly emotional, passive, etc. By revealing that this is how they view other girls, a person shows you how they truly view females. ‘You’re not like other girls’ is a statement laden with inherent prejudice.

What it leads to: The statement ‘you’re not like other girls’ pits you against your own gender. It reinforces the notion that the only positive traits are the ones associated with masculinity, and feminine traits are bad, and must be discarded. Especially if you hear this statement as a teenager or younger you’re more likely to distance yourself from feminine activities or traits as you grow older. It makes you believe that to be worthy of attention, you must be less of a girl. Less feminine. The phrase makes you put other people down in order to make yourself feel worthwhile. “You’re not like other girls” sows the seeds of hatred in you. There is power in femininity, just as there is in masculinity, and phrases like this seek to undermine that power, and make you believe to do well you must present yourself as a ‘cool girl’– a girl who has traits associated with masculinity and enjoys activities seen as masculine.

How to respond: When someone tells you you’re not like other girls, correct them. Ask them why being like other girls is a bad thing. Tell them that you’re glad they like you, but you’re proud of the gender you belong to and you would rather not belittle all the amazing girls you know by insisting you’re not like them to satisfy a patriarchal stereotype of what girls are. At the end of the day, all girls aren’t the same, just like all boys aren’t, and it’s harmful to assume they are all different versions of the same mold. So, when someone tells you you’re not like other girls, call them out.

Thoughts on the Oscars 2018

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The Oscars took place on March 4th this year, and were characterized by vocal support for movements like Times Up and #MeToo. Ever since last year, when the Harvey Weinstein scandal erupted, it seemed like the 2018 Oscars were destined to be, for once, culturally and politically relevant.  Throughout the ceremony, multiple celebrities, including Best Actress winner Frances Dormund, used their speeches to talk about things that matter, but their extremely valid efforts were marred in part by Oscars producers’ that still insists that the ceremony is a place to only have ‘fun’ and is for ‘entertainment’, leading to many awkward clips inserted during politically charged moments in a half hearted effort to keep the Oscars from being too outspoken, while still profiting from the many social and cultural movements that have occurred in the past year. At the end of the day, the Oscars are a production desperately trying to keep its ratings up, and failing. But what the upside of this is that, even when the Oscars themselves might not be as relevant as they were 4 years ago, the political and social movements the actresses and actors of Hollywood support continue to garner media attention.  The Oscars also managed to be much more diverse than they usually are, with a person of colour winning Best Director, reminding all viewers of a time when #OscarsSoWhite was trending. However, there is no doubt that there is still a long long way to go when it comes to parity in the industry, a point that was highlighted in many of the comments and responses on social media–upset that Ryan Seacrest, who has been accused of sexual harassment, retained his position as the red carpet host. This naturally opened the door to the larger debate of adequate investigation into claims of sexual harassment, and the lack of subsequent justice for many victims.  Excuse us if we wonder if everything is just a prop. At the end of the day, the Oscars remained what it has always been: a platform to promote the film industry and distribute platitudes, which might not be a good thing, or a bad thing, but remains a thing that we will probably be watching for many years to come.