Showing posts from April, 2014

What is wrong with "personal responsibility"?

As a university tutor, I read a lot of scholarship critiquing traditional and digital media from a Marxist perspective. Most striking is the somewhat baffling reiteration that “personal responsibility” is a bad thing.
Let me elaborate via particularly pertinent example. In 2009 the scholars Laurie Oullette and James Hay published a paper proposing that reality television programs are a symptom of our neo-liberal context. They argue that the narratives of programs such as The Biggest Loser and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy effectively instruct people on how to modify their conduct and assume personal responsibility for their health, their finances and general welfare. The “problem” identified by Oullette and Hay is that these responsibilities were once, under pre-1980 Keynesian economic regimes, assumed by the State (presumably ensuring universal access to key services). According to their reckoning, the ascension of neoliberal economics has led to the shrinking of governments - throu…

I am not a feminist.

I am not a feminist. The policing of gender is a key cause of violence against individuals. It seems to me that if policing gender is a cause of violence, then it cannot also be the solution.

Transcending sexist tropes and stereotypes

Gender stereotypes and tropes present the contemporary Western world with a very particular type of conundrum. As feminists have pointed out for decades, the dominant ways in which women are represented in popular culture have a tendency of naturalising certain behaviours, roles and identities as ideally feminine, and demonising others as a deviation from propriety and decorum. For instance, before the second wave of feminism washed through the streets of Western civilisation, good women were represented as serving husbands, tending children and repressing sexual desire.
Our ability to resist, abolish and transcend these modes of categorisation, is however, fundamentally limited by the fact that such categories have a certain social currency that cannot be easily done away with.
For instance, stereotypes and tropes have a symbolic utility, they allow for easy communication of meaning between individuals based in existing and recognisable conventions.
Many roles and tropes derive from …