10/31/2013

Young Girls and Celebrity Crushes

As in my previous post I addressed issues with the perception of young boys' approach to sexuality, I decided to this time focus on their female counterparts.

Why do people still care if young girls have platonic crushes on teenage heartthrobs (the likes of Justin Bieber, Harry Styles, any boy band member, etc..)

Why do people care about their musical tastes? Why do people care about their preferences enough to constantly put them down as being girly and idiotic?

Young girls are exposed to the objectification of women by mainstream media enough, to then have to be ripped to shreds for professing their harmless crushes on teen male celebrities - and worse, being constantly reminded that "girly" is actually used as an insult.

There is nothing wrong with girly, yet the message being sent out to girls is that girly=stupid. We then create a division between "girly" girls and girls who reject all that is "girly" trying to detach themselves from the label, actively rejecting all the other girly girls - the early stages of woman on woman hate, which leads to sayings such as "I'm not like the other girls" or "I don't like hanging out with girls, too much drama" - when they themselves are girls - are they suggesting that if they were someone else they wouldn't hangout with their own self? No, they just seek reassurance in the opposite sex that they are cool despite their horrible curse of having been born with a vagina.

A celebrity crush is a safe space to develop one's self sexually - through daydreams and ideas where one does not risk being pressured into anything they don't want to do. At a young age, they receive very little information about relationships, and tend to look for it in images on television and in film. These images tend to slutshame girls who "give it up to easy" and mock the ones who don't give it up at all, labelling them "frigid". Trying to juggle those two ideas while dealing with peer pressure is draining and unhealthy. Making space in one's life dedicated to daydreams and fantasies which revolve around sexuality (out of reach from anyone outside of their own self) is beneficial to them - on top of the sense of safety and community that being in a fanbase can bring.

So kudos to all the young girls out there who keep true to their fandom no matter what other people have to say about it - they know they are not shaped by their crushes, and they care very little for people's hateful prejudice.

This post is dedicated to my cousin - a die hard Belieber (and I'm proud of her for it!)



Related post:
Young Boys and Pornography


10/30/2013

Young Boys and Pornography

Earlier this week I was asked:

"Why does pornography exist? It is purely a degradation of women. Younger boys are watching this, and getting a messed up view of women, which will contribute to future rapists - this is a bit broad and vague, but I'm sure you're able to pull those conclusions too?"

No.

I think pornography is degrading to those who do not do it by choice - real choice, having no other choices doesn't count.
I agree that younger audiences are gaining access to porn, mainly due to the internet.
I don't think pornography contributes to creating rapists. I think lack of respect for other human beings does.

I think pornography creates a distorted view of sex and sexuality more than a distorted view of women only, mainly because men are also hypersexualized, and the whole scenarios are those of sex on command fuckmachines rather than human sensuality and sex.

What does create a distorted view of women is mainstream media, which gives images of women that come quite close to those seen in pornography - look at Axe (Lynx) commercials, look at the KFC Man vs. World ad campaign, look at PETA's Veggie Love campaign (what the fuck). Those images are the ones we are actually exposed to on a daily basis, we are not scouting them out for a particular purpose, while pornography itself has to be sought out.

It is perfectly legitimate for models to be hypersexualized for Victoria Secret, Sports illustrated, FHM, etc, but then the same poses are used by less known women for less known magazines or brands, and they are slutshamed - why? This could be another article of its own, so back to porn.

The purpose of pornography is sexual arousal, so glamorization and exaggeration is understandable. The same cannot be said about selling cars, selling food, selling animal rights - but the oversexualization and distorsion goes unnoticed because it isn't really porn.





"I think comparing with adverts is borderline, though those aren't okay. Porn is a separate issue which is making boys a lot more sexually frustrated I can imagine, and at an early stage. Did you hear about the 14 year old guy in Manchester who has been sexually assaulting women?"

Yes I've heard of that, it's mental, but we don't know him, and we can't assume that it has anything to do with porn. Anyway, I actually think pornography is good for sexual release.

"Okay so is having porn available good or bad? Is the consequence of it not being available good or bad? My point is that it should never be the first introduction to what sex is for young boys"

Okay well I see your point, but the porn itself isn't marketed to young boys, they just look for it, find it, and expose themselves to it, like alcohol, and cigarettes, and anything. The real issue is that sex education is not strong enough to give a good basis of sexual knowledge to younger people. The reality is that if younger people had more information about sex and it weren't such a taboo until a certain age, pornography wouldn't be seen as a beacon of information. Other than watching it for arousal, younger people watch it out of curiosity, for things they have never seen before and have yet to experience. The attitude itself isn't unhealthy, its not perverted. The unhealthy attitude is withholding sexual information from them, when they should be being given tools to build a healthy relationship to sex early on. You and I consume porn differently from them because we know it is entertainment, and we know how things are. Their consumption stems from a place of lack of knowledge. 

Sex health education in a lot of places is reduced to "don't do it, and if you do, use a condom". No wonder most first times are disastrous. You know what I found out recently? That girls are not supposed to always bleed the first time, it is a myth perpetuated for the sake of pushing sex onto a girl even when she is not physically ready (lack of lubrication causes the bleeding), and to be honest, I would know, I didn't bleed my first time.

After few more exchanges regarding how informative this had been for him, the conversation ended.

I guess my conclusion is that pornography in itself is not harmful - the attitude towards it is. The acceptance of oversexualized images in mainstream media, followed by a demonization of images in pornography sends out a very confusing message to younger people, who might end up blurring the lines between one and the other.

As for images actually depicted in pornography - that'll be covered in another post^^


Note: The PETA ad was banned, but the highly sexualized campaign was not.


Related posts


10/29/2013

The Problem with "Anti-Rape" Wear

[Warning for a graphic depiction of sexual violence]

Before you read the article, make sure you watch this 



In short, they are selling underwear which can only be taken off by the wearer, and is resistant to pulling, cutting, etc..

There are many problems with this concept, so I will not go into a detailed dissection. Instead, I will give some bullet points as to what jumped out at me first, what jumped out at some friends of mine who I discussed this with, and what I feel about the actual item.
  • This item is addressing the wrong person. It's playing into victim-blaming, taking the tone that if the person had been wearing this, a rape might not have occured.
  • A person can be forced to remove their clothing by themselves, either through psychological pressure or threats of violence - this item cannot prevent that from happening.
  • It is also perpetuating the myth that resistence must occur in order for a rape to count as such, and alienates rape survivors who might not have put up a fight.
Reactions from friends

G: 
  • I find anything which is like 'you can prevent yourself being raped by x,y,z' slightly problematic.
  • I can imagine though in areas where rape is so common you'd need those clothes would be in an LEDC who wouldn't be able to afford them anyways.
E:
  • Pull a knife and job done
  • This responds to the whole logic of consume and everything will be ok
  • It is a way of avoiding dealing with the actual problem, which is social and cultural and psychological.
M:
  • I doubt its as effective as it says and it only accounts for people who are skinny.
M:
  • A person could be made to take it off. There are countless accounts of rape where a person was compliant and not physically resisted for whatever reason - fear being a big one. That's before you get into violence.
  • Imagine a smack in the face every time you were asked and didn't take it off. You might not get raped, but you might get some bones broke.
T:  
  • It's kind of a good idea, it's a shame that people think this is necessary though, really shows what our society is becoming and it still won't stop women being assaulted.

Some of the people I discussed this with thought that this seems like a good idea. The general tone seems to be that it is better than nothing. Some of the women I asked said they wouldn't buy it themselves because they didnt think they were at risk of getting raped, mainly because they stayed out of dangerous areas.

Having spoken to those who feel like the underwear is a good idea, I see even more problems with it. It reinforces the concept of rape occuring in unknown dangerous areas, when statistically, the actual danger is much more close to home. It is (again) placing responsibility on the victim for having been at the wrong place at the wrong time, behaving in a certain way.

I think the only case this could potentially be effective, is if the victim was drugged, and could not remove her underwear due to being unconscious - though sexual assault is not restricted to vaginal and anal penetration. The rapist(s) would then probably find another person to attack, because they are the ones who are the problem - not the women who weren't wearing protective underwear.

If I actually wore this underwear, I think my paranoia would increase, because I would be being reminded throughout the entire time I'm wearing it that I have actively spent money to not be raped, and that the danger is essencially everywhere and it is up to me to not get sexually assaulted, even though it is completely out of my control.

What do you think about "Anti-Rape" wear?

If a detailed dissection is more your cup of tea, then here is an article you might find interesing:


10/28/2013

FAQ - Feminist Edition: Arvida Byström


Arvida Byström is a London based photographer and occasional musician and model from Sweden. She has worked for VICE, amongst others. She self indentifies as a feminist.

Arvida Byström by Arvida Byström for ELLE Japan

I sent her a couple of questions that feminists are asked on a regular basis. I think it's more interesting to look at how different feminists answer the questions, rather than always settling for what one has to say. These are all questions that I have been asked in the past, some more than once.

Q: We have equality nowadays, so what are you fighting for?


A: Well, first of all, we don't? There are inequalities in loads of ways, not only between the genders, but also when it comes to race, class, how abled bodied people have it etc. One thing when it comes to the sexes is for example rape culture.


Q: Why not use the term "equalist" if you really want gender equality?


Because it started in the females fighting for everything they didnt have. I think again, as always, men want "non coded ways" to be "non coded" just as the default human is seen to be male and there for nothing that goes for everyone seems to be able to be written down with any terms that might incline that it has to do with females. Plus, it's about privilege and that's still on the male side. Though ofc males have problems and I do also think Internationalism is really important.


Q: What about the problems that men have in society?


A: Again well, I dont mind fighting them, like it sucks probably to be a male at times, but in general the male problems are formed from the idea that they shouldn't be females. If the binary gender system stops being binary it will profit men as well in their problems. And loads of the problems that men face aren't necessarily tied to their gender, like fights on the streets mostly includes men, but that's from one person to another, when a group becomes strategically oppressed by another (like men oppressing women, whites oppressing PoC [people of color]) then that's different.


Q: Isn't it hypocritical to want equality but still expect men to pay for everything?


A: Who said that feminists want men to pay for everything?


Q: Are you really a feminist? Because you don't look like a 40 year old dyke.


A: Ok this question is just fucked up and makes me fucking angry. It's just big fucking proof that feminism has to exist.

Thank you Arvida for answering the questions^^

Some of her work includes a series where men and women's nipples are photographed from the same viewpoint (as opposed to censoring one and not the other) and another series focused around female body hair and it's normalcy (rather than from a novelty POV).

My favorite project of hers is an editorial for VICE magazine where different women are photographed with period leaks. It shows how natural the menstrual cycle is, and how unnecessary it is to shame and censor menstruation. This is my favorite photo of the set




10/26/2013

Mainstream Feminism v Radical Feminism

This is definitely an over  caricaturization, but I think this video works to represent the difference between a mainstream feminist and a radical feminist for a public who doesn't take a particular interest to feminism.


In case it wasn't clear, Janine= Mainstream, Aparna=Radical :P

This is a very gross generalization, there are divisions amongst the radical feminists as well. They are not all violent and man hating. 

Note: Neither of these comedians are radical feminists.

Related Posts: 

10/25/2013

Feminism Done Right

I recently participated in an exchange of comments on a youtube video by an MRA (Men's Rights Activists) member. I came across the term NAFALT (not all feminists are like that) being used against me when I attempt to clarify that not all feminism is the same.

Here is the definition for the usage of that acronym [From WikipediaNo true Scotsman is an informal fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion.[1] When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim ("no Scotsman would do such a thing"), rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule ("no true Scotsman would do such a thing").

So by this logic, men who don't rape are also a "no true scotsman", as men don't rape is a fallacy because there are men who rape. Often, you will face the counterexample "real men don't rape", that would be a "no true scotsman" - /sarcasm.

Yup, this is utter bullshit.

To "not all feminists are the same", anti-feminists often reply "yes you are" or "prove it".
I do not need to prove anything. We live in a world where women's voices are progressively becoming louder, and this is not achieved through passive agreement to the notion that there should be gender equality. There are women and men (often feminists) behind this progress.

The reason mainstream feminism (non radical feminism) has been overshadowed in recent years is that it is not as loud. The reason it is not as loud is that it now deals with challenging "subtler" differences. For example: there was a time when women were not allowed a paying job, so the change from not being allowed to being able to was loud and massive and beautiful. Nowadays, we can work, but there is unequal pay. The pay gap has been closing slowly, but remains unequal. This particular fight will not be as loud as finally being able to provide money for one's self.

There are small feminist campaigns and movements (and successes :D) worldwide, on a daily basis. The fact that their focus is more local, or targets an issue you might consider less important does not diminish their accomplishments. Nowadays, there is a wide misconception that we have achieved equality in "the West", and this is why mainstream feminism aims to target more focalised areas and specific subjects, because targetting inequality in gender would be draining and would warrant no response.

"Fighting gender inequality everywhere" is a diffuse goal, we can all agree on that.

Anyway, here are just a couple of movements going on right now, that you will not necessarily hear about in mainstream media.
  • Revenge Porn Legislation - Addresses revenge porn (and a larger category of non consensual pornography), aiming to draft just sanctioning for it's distribution.
  • University of Manchester Women's Campaign 
  • Gulabi Gang - "Rural women in pink saris, weilding bamboo sticks in pursuit of justice"
  • Panmela Castro Graffiti Fine Art - Brazilian artist who brings women together through collaboration in creating commissioned murals, and teaching them about sexism and their rights at the same time (Check the post Good News :D for articles about her)
  • Hawkeye Initiative - Targets the comic book world, protests the oversexualization of female superheroes by drawing Hawkeye in the exact same ridiculous poses that they are often depicted in.

Brought to you by Feminism! - challenging societal constructs since always.

Interesting Photogaphy

Here are some interesting photo series I have come across and (I think) need to be seen by everyone everywhere ever.

Picture an Arab Man by Tamara Abdul Hadi
Portraits of semi-nude Arab men, aiming to break the stereotypes placed on arab males, and celebrating their sensual beauty.

Real Beauty by Jodi Bieber
Unedited photos of everyday South African women in their homes, in their underwear. The purpose is to counter the narrow beauty ideals sold to us on a daily basis.

Insight into the LGBT world of Beirut, one of the few Arab cities in which homosexuality is openly discussed.

4th Trimester Bodies Project by Ashlee Wells Jackson
Photo documentary project which celebrates the changes brought to the body by motherhood, childbirth, and breastfeeding.

The reason I like these is that they are all inclusive of their subjects. There is no fat-shaming, there is no thin-shaming, there is no shaming of any kind. These sets celebrate their subjects in all shapes, sizes and colors.

Related Posts

Mad about Mad About You

Mad About You"Light television comedy featuring Paul and Jaime Buchman as a recently married couple in New York City. They point out the gentle humor of domesticity and in the everyday situations of life. [IMDB]

In my opinion, this was one of the best  tv shows out there. Paul and Jaime both have well established careers, Paul as a filmmaker, and Jaime as a Public Relations specialist. In the later seasons, the couple have a baby, Mabel. The problems they portray on screen range from not knowing what gift to get one another, to deciding how to procede on the professional front after having a child.

Also, by the last seasons, the two leads were being paid equally - :D



Why it stuck with me:

  • This show does not depend on gender exclusive stereotypes for comedic purposes, all their characters are strong in their own right, regardless of sex.
  • There is a  homosexual relationship - Paul's sister Debbie and her partner Suzie. This couple is not exploited for it's novelty value, it is presented as genuine.
  • The dialogue is clever, and the fast pace and wit of it is what keeps the show fresh despite it revolving mostly around relatively "common" scenes.
  • The fact that there is much more dialogue than actions is what makes the relationship so believable - relationships are about a dialogue, and compromise, and learning that silly dance as a couple, and falling asleep infront of the television together. The show deserves major brownie points for being able to make all of these entertaining.
  • The characters are not sexualized. The wardrobe choices are not chosen to be focused on. On the women's side, they aren't clothes you would traditionally associate to the word feminine, but this choice does not take away from the characters themselves. It's a world where clothes matter (obviously, since we wear them everyday), but they don't define the people wearing them.



Show's Faults:

  • There are no significant or recurring BME characters, or characters with disabilities. This is New York in the 90s over a span of 7 years, they could have done a better job I think.
  • The female characters are all thin and conventionally attractive.
Those aside, it really is good television, whether you look at it from a feminist perspective or not. Though not world famous as Friends or other hit tv series, Mad About You did run for 7 seasons (1992-1999). Seeing as nostalgia and the 90s seem like a recurring trend these days, I'm just throwing this in there with everything else. Of course, I didn't watch it back then, as I was a baby and toddler for the most part^^

In this scene, Jamie and Paul are attempting to film 15 minutes of their daily life unedited, when Jaime's sister Lisa shows up unanounced.

Other 90s TV shows I am a big fan of (that are also sexism free!):

My So Called Life (1994-1995)

3rd Rock from the Sun (1996-2001)

The Secret World of Alex Mack (1994-1998)

Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)

10/23/2013

From a different perspective

Ain is a childhood friend of mine. She is a 21 year old Malaysian woman pursuing a Commerce degree with double majors in Eco and Intp. in Wellington, New Zealand. She is Muslim. She wears a veil - a hijaab specifically.
I decided to interview her, as I am planning on writing a series of articles focusing on the relationship between Islam and feminism. And by interview, I mean we exchanged ideas via FB chat :)

N: What do you think of the representation of Muslim women in mainstream media?

A: Honestly, I think it does in some way reflect the idea of oppression which is of course certainly not reflective of Islam. And I honestly don't think the media does justice to the different views of Islam and women, and women in Islam. Nor does it really highlight how diverse Islam really is.
As you know, I am from Malaysia and I've grown up all over the place. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw how other people and even Malaysians (domestic students since I'm a bit of a TCK) practiced Islam.
While i don't think the media is entirely wrong, there's generalization which does influence readers'/viewer's perception.

N: How do you feel about the way Muslim women are portrayed in Hollywood cinema?

A: Again, generalized. It seems to be very concentrated towards the Middle East, even though Indonesia has the largest population of Islam. The actions and views of Islamic women ties to the political culture and society of their differing countries/regions.
Some of the religious and powerful women of Islam don't necessarily cover themselves, but their practice/belief is strong. I mean, i get it. It's Hollywood. Lets dramatize everything, right?

N: So what are your views on feminism?

A: Well I don't think others would call me a feminist but I think I am a little bit inside, especially growing up with 3 brothers. Feminism is necessary and is sometimes over the top and yet not enough. Gender equality is something I advocate for to a certain extent.
I believe, I suppose, in the idea of allowing women to be women, as opposed to injecting ourselves to every cover of  society and then changing ourselves - I meant that we seem to want to uphold our own rights, but we shouldn't have to conform to the pressures of expectations. I was mainly referring to how if a woman becomes a leader, their actions or behaviour have to change towards the role. This is a clear reference to Helen Clark actually.

N: Tell me about Helen Clark and how she fits into your point

A: She was the prime minister of NZ and was head of the labour party here. But shes moved onto being the head of administration to human development department in the UN. She is quite a successful leader, however it's sad that she has been the butt of the joke due to her appearance and how she speaks. I found out that she had to practice speaking in a lower tone and shake hands differently to hold her position amongst male dominated parliament.

N: This sounds almost sounds like the opposite of empowerment.

A: Pretty much. She holds a just position and yet, she's had to adapt herself to the environment which isn't accommodating. I mean it makes sense, be assertive because you need that to be a leader, but it's a two way street. Others need to be accepting and aware of each other.

N: Non intersecional feminism is a type of feminism which does not take race/ethnicity into account (amongst other factors). What do you think of this type of feminism?

A: Ah yes. I think that it is very ambitious but not quite so applicable. I mean it's not very accommodating is it. I'd like to think that ethnicity and race is not an issue and while yes, it certainly isn't in certain parts of the world, in other cases, both those things relate to culture.
It's not sufficient to not account for race and ethnicity. Perception is first based on the physical and I'm sure there are accounts of people's actions to me first based on my ethnicity, no? I can act the way i want but they'll still think me as Asian and of course link me to Asian values.

N: Some radical feminists (Femen for example) think the veil is oppressive and that everyone who wears a veil is oppressed. What would you say to them?

A: If you choose to show yourself then there's no reason I can't cover myself. The choice is on the individual and yes covering one's self is very much encouraged, and in some aspects, brings one closer to their own belief. This is based on a personal experience. I had a very different view on covering my hair (since I just started this year). I was actually against it before. My dad encouraged me highly and consistently, and I found that my own reluctance stemmed from other's perception, so if this is so, shouldn't society's ignorance be blamed as being the source of this oppression?
Freedom to reveal is just the same as the freedom to cover one's self. The view of oppression links to extremists views of Islam which again are only reflective of certain regions.

Thank you Ain for this amazing insight!

I must admit myself, having met Ain when she was not wearing the veil, I was surprised when I started seeing photos or her wearing a hijaab. I foolishly assumed that at a certain age, some women have to start wearing a veil, I didn't consider it might have been by choice. Unfortunately, I don't think I'm the only one to hold that erroneous presumption. Let's challenge the default "oppressed Muslim woman" image in mainstream media. Let's challenge the image of Islam in mainstream media.

Marjane Satrapi and Feminism

I started researching for an article about Islam and feminism, and my first thoughts were to google if Marjane Satrapi is a feminist. She is a cartoonist, illustrator, film director, and children's book author. Her most famous work to date include the graphic novel Persepolis, and it's film adaptation - if you have not read/seen these, I recommend you go do so now. NOW.



I stumbled across these quotes that reveal her relationship to the word feminism is rocky.

[from 2004]

"You know, the feminists become very angry when I say I am not a feminist. I am a humanist. I believe in human beings" 

[from 2008]
ABC News: People see a compelling story of women in struggle in your work, but you object to being called a feminist?
Satrapi: I am absolutely not a feminist, I am against stupidity, and if it comes from males or females it doesn't change anything. If it means that women and men, they are equal, then OK, certainly I am a feminist. It happens that I am a woman, so it becomes a "woman coming of age story." I think if I was a man it wouldn't change so much, they never call it a "man coming of age story." It is a human coming of age story, let's go for the humanity and humanism, it's a much better thing than this "womanhood" and "manhood" and I don't know "hermaphrodite-hood, and etc., etc.
Though I am nobody to impose labels on anyone or anything, what I can do is give definitions (from google web definitions).
*Humanism: a rationalist outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.
*Feminism: the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
Though I understand what she means when she says she "believes in human beings", the problem is with the phrasing she chooses, which dismisses feminists, even when her work covers feminist issues in itself, and brilliantly so. If she were a "humanist", by the definition of it, she would reject religion, and said rejection would not be compatible with her work.
The point I'm trying to make is that celebrities often make it a point to dettach themselves from the feminist label, as it carries so much negative press. Focus not on the words they use in interviews, focus on their work. Persepolis is a coming of age story of a girl in an oppressive world, and her interraction with it. As Satrapi says, she does want equality for men and women, so even if she is not a feminist, she tackles gender issues.
Addressing her point on feminists being angry when she rejects the label - why wouldn't we be angry? Her point to distance herself from feminism even though she wants equal rights for men and women perpetuates the myth that feminism is after women's advancement only, which is detrimental to feminism as a movement. It gives us unfair bad press, and for that, we do have the right to be angry (though angry is a bit strong, slightly annoyed suits my reaction better :P)
In recent times, many celebrities have also opted for the usage of the word "humanist" instead of feminist, which would be fine if "humanism" were actually related to gender equality, which it isn't. Here is an article by Louise Pennington about this phenomenom.
All labels aside, Marjane Satrapi's work is extraordinary and I have nothing but respect for her. Her illustration of gender roles within a society that I am not a part of myself was very informative, and it is empowering to women. The film adaptation of her graphic novel Persepolis received an Oscar nomination for best animated feature film of the year.
And now, back to my research about Islam and feminism, which contrary to popular belief, can be compatible with each other.
Sources:


10/21/2013

On Gender Quotas

A couple of days ago (when I started the blog), on showing it around to friends on Facebook, one of the recurring questions I got was what my opinion is about gender quotas.

For those who don't know what gender quotas are:
(Gender quotas) the mandate that women must constitute a certain number or percentage of the members of a body, whether it is a candidate list, a parliamentary assembly, a committee, or a government. - From web definitions on Google


Below is the most thought out of response, which I am going to use to voice my own views on gender quotas. I got it from a contact from whom, to be honest, I didn't expect any less (alright maybe a couple of hundred words less :P). So, when asked what his opinion is about gender quotas, 24 year old Matt Jones answered:

I just want to preface with the fact that everything I’m about to say is purely a critique of the concept of workplace quotas, and it isn’t to say I believe they shouldn’t exist. They’re better than nothing, and it might be the case that they’re just the most effective method for now, all things considered, but based on my knowledge, and talking loosely about general employment in my country, the UK, I suppose this is what I think.

Off the bat I feel like the fact this system of workplace equality is referred to as a quota signifies something problematic. Quotas are bureaucratic, and I feel like bureaucracy is intrinsically the theoretical masquerading as the practical. Quotas risk reducing people to demographics and making a check-list of equality in an attempt to quantify it with the kind of ham-fisted ignorance of a toddler trying to shove a triangle block into a square hole.

I like that there are preventive measures against discrimination, but quotas are a primitive way of enforcing them. I think the fact they’re mandatory inhibits progress towards developing a more accepting culture as well. It’s like a failing company cooking its tax books so that everything seems fine on the surface – so that the statistics read as they are needed to. It eliminates any measurement of the reality.

I always thought that, originally, affirmative action plainly aimed to eliminate prejudice or bias towards anybody from the process of employment, like it was just an anti-discrimination movement and represented a shift in consciousness, but the way it manifests in the UK at least, as obligatory quotas, is contrived.

I suppose quotas ensure that at least a certain number of people that might otherwise be discriminated against aren’t prevented from getting jobs because of it, which is good in that simplistic sense, but only in the same sort of way that donating £100 to Oxfam will buy one tiny village in one tiny part of Africa a well. It doesn’t cure anything. There needs to be a more effective process. It seems like it only gestures towards a position of pro-equality by the ruling class instead of being an effective part of a wider solution too – people are still discriminated against, racism still exists, nothing is equal, but a small percentage of the people those things affect have a job now. What does it mean for the whole, and for the cause overall?

It makes me wonder who it’s most effectively serving – the people it’s meant to in order to usher out bigotry from society, or the ruling class/government, rendering it some hollow political act of conciliation which allows companies to go "we're an equal opportunities company, here, look at all these non-white/non-British/non-heterosexual/non-male people we hired" in the same way somebody trying to prove they're not racist might state "I can't be, I have black friends". Workplace quotas can come off as borderline propaganda and political pandering rather than something that’s eventually valuable to the conquering of discrimination. I don’t necessarily subscribe to this point of view, but I do think it’s a pertinent observation.

I think, and I believe most people think, that everybody should have an equal shot at something providing all else is equal (qualification for the job or whatever), but as a gesture or implication, isn't legislation enforcing it patronising and sort of insulting? There's the fact that the ruling class, and people or privilege, so benevolently handed it down, like they're so self-righteous that they think they have the authority to do that, and personally save all the helpless little non-white/non-British/non-heterosexual/non-male people. Or, in another light, isn't it a bit like someone going "oh, okay, I'll do it with one arm behind my back to give you a fair shot."? It seems condescending, and like it might diminish accomplishments if somebody benefited from it. It’s discrimination to somebody’s benefit, which is sort of like liberal guilt. It doesn't specifically make things fair; it only makes them unjust to a comparable degree, which ends up being more like somebody trying to split a pint into two glasses than an exact science – topping one up, then noting that the other is lower so pouring a little back until the outcome is roughly the same. The individual would only see the immediate detriment or the immediate benefit, rather than the bigger picture the system is predicated on.

It’s possible that I’m completely out of touch, but I feel like in general, most people aren’t racist or intentionally discriminatory, and even less of the people that are are in a position to professionally hold somebody back because of it, which makes me think the mainstream antagonist to equality in the UK is the culturally ingrained, casual ignorance and passive discrimination of people that have lived their life as the non-persecuted default, rather than a concerted resolve to box out certain races/sexualities/sexes/nationalities.

With that in mind, workplace quotas imply that equality can only be achieved through mashing together the respective biases of every culture. It’s cynical, and inverts responsibility. Discrimination – the problem itself – should be addressed, not just matched, and those to blame should be held accountable; they shouldn’t be reluctantly accepted as the reality and then dealt with by altering the context they function in.

I must say that I agree with everything Matt wrote. I do think work quotas are flawed and might not be fully functional (though I also think that we have not given them enough time yet), but that their implementation are a step in the right direction, and it brought gender bias in the workplace into international spotlight, and one thing is certain, when a problem isn't being talked about, it's hard to make change happen.

Thanks Matt, and everyone who engaged in discussions about this topic with me over the weekend, you know who you are ;)