The Great Generation Divide: the Educated, Young ‘Elite’ who Cannot Appeal to the Electorate

“For decades, political activism has been the territory of the young; whenever it is upheld for public scrutiny in the media, the methods of the young are frequently up for inspection.” Let’s change the wording of that statement. “Political activism is often held up for public scrutiny in the mainstream media; the so-called ‘establishment’ is in need of fodder to demonise various parts of society, starting with the young.” I wonder – have I now outed myself as a rabid millennial, foaming at the mouth for social justice, just by changing up my terminology in that sentence? I’ve got no doubt that I have. (And yes, you’re playing into my hands by believing that.)

In a recent discussion video by Novara Media, an independent media organisation, the topic of Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion to provide free school meals in all primary schools came up. A journalist on the panel, Maya Goodfellow, launched in with the typical response of the most educated yet poorly paid generation in years; the opposition to free school meals for all, in both the state and private sector, is apparently indicative of the encroaching power of the ‘establishment’ and an opposition to ‘universalism’. Her typical collegiate response in immediately pointing this out is accurate enough, and is no doubt to her credit. But is this constant linking back to the -isms of politics a good tactic, or is it making any progress at all? I guarantee you that the average person, upon hearing the news that Jeremy Corbyn plans to provide free school meals across the board for primary school children, would want to know his reasons for doing so, rather than a swift analysis of how this action is a subtle attack against the pervasive ‘establishment’.

Many of our current young, dynamic left-leaning representatives reside in this academic bubble of obscurity, uploading videos of their latest hallowed discussions to edify us mere mortals. Now, I grant that not all the digital content produced by the young left is so sharply separate from non-academic political discussion. But with so many young graduates in humanities subjects receiving a thorough grounding on the unimaginable horrors of colonialism throughout history, what else can you expect? In another episode of the same series, they admit seeing that viewing the Westminster attack in the hours after its announcement in the context of politics or religion does provide the perpetrators with more power, and often allows for no increase in public approval for either the left or the right. Therefore, I wonder at their continued desire, particularly post-Brexit, to advise that Labour launch a pro-migrant campaign for the 2017 General Election, and their insistence to approach a major political event with a vision specific to their own personal beliefs and causes, when it is abundantly clear that the rest of the country does not have the same socio-political leanings that they do.

I know I cannot speak on behalf of minorities as a whole; so I don’t. I use social media to advocate for various causes that affect me in moderation. I do not intend to presume that the average person cares little for atrocities against minority communities in our society – the 2016 Orlando attack was publicly denounced as inhumane – simply because they did not tweet the required amount of times under the specified hashtags. However, dragging minorities into the limelight in the name of intersectionality is hurting our cause more than it is helping it. Those who have been privileged enough to get a university education have no right to look down their noses from their pedestal of years of being immured in an academic bubble, safely sheltered from the realities of life, shaking their heads at those of us who dare to question their rhetoric. ‘But I’m doing a Masters in Anthropological Research Methods and Migration, Diaspora Studies and Intersectionality! You have to listen to me!’

No, we don’t, I’m afraid. Let it be known that I’m not making a critique as a fellow left-leaning student, shaking my head at the actions of those who are unfortunately within my cohort. I’m not here to discuss whether or not the liberal left’s understanding of the people/the welfare state/the economy has degenerated. Neither do I presume to police what people choose to campaign for. The average person, who either votes or chooses not to, either works or studies (or does both) and by all accounts conducts themselves as a respectable citizen should not be subjected to the scrutiny and censure of those who consider their opinion and rhetoric to be the only one worthy of following. These individuals are unfortunately the representatives of the social justice movement that sweeps our social media, and that is giving an entire generation a bad name.

But, with all this notwithstanding, this inability of the young to construe their discourse for all areas of society, not just the ones that they care about, is one of the primary factors that is affecting the outreach potential of young members of the ‘Left’. As a young person myself, I am used to consuming digital content. And I’m fully in support of all these new, digital media driven outposts that are cropping up, such as Media Diversified, Novara Media, AJ+ and Democracy Now. Nonetheless, they are in serious need of ensuring that they adapt to the demands of an entire country of voters, who are open-minded enough to seek out decision-making material online and want to see digital content that targets them – not just young people. The young are already a guaranteed audience; being constantly exposed to social media and digital content, they will never fail to catch the latest YouTube video on a topic that they care about. After all, every 22 minutes YouTube provides more content than Hollywood does in a year.

Even terms such as ‘bringing down inequality and increasing social mobility’ – what do those actually mean in the eyes of the average working class family? It makes those who have the luxury to sit down and discuss political issues seem even more isolated and separatist from the average person than ever. They want to know how universalist policies will affect their daily lives, not how well it works after being heavily analysed in a theoretical environment. If none of these proposals have been tried and tested, ‘statistically and scientifically’ means nothing before it is applied in real life. I by no means am implying that the average person is too ‘dim’ to understand terms such as ‘pluralism’ or ‘counter-hegenomy’. if you assume so, then you’ve misunderstood the entire premise of my article. I am merely stating that their time is over now; they’ve brought us here, but we must work to take ourselves further. The young should – and are – harnessing technology to disseminate information, but this must be used to appeal to the entire electorate, not just a few select age groups. If we do not do this, we will be in the same place 5 years from now, with age related political divisions in our society remaining firmly in place.

Examining human nature outside of the veneer of academia does occur, believe it or not. Many voting statistics can be explained simply, without any reference to ‘the establishment’. Perhaps another young person votes against what these young, left-leaning campaigners for social justice believe is the norm. Their local MP might have done them a favour, or written back to them over an issue they care about. If they are too young to be cynical, they may simply think he or she is a nice, decent person and they wouldn’t want to be responsible for them being kicked out of their job. Only recently I spoke to a young woman who is planning to vote Conservative in the 2017 General Election, as she wishes for her local MP to remain in office. I wonder how she may have felt regarding that same MP’s stance on voting in favour of the Human Rights Amendment, or in regards to the Marris Assisted Suicide Bill. But if no one ever asks, then how can they further understand her reasons, or convince her to change her mind for the ‘greater good’ of society?

The constant mandate of left-leaning campaigners is to ‘serve the needs of the majority, not the minority’. Now, how do you go about making the eligible voters of this country – en masse – understand your perspective and pledge to support you if your public rhetoric is entirely driven by minority concerns? To appeal to people regardless of divisions is a colossal undertaking. Many people are filled with animosity towards migration because they see it as a threat, which is understandable, even if it can be disproved in the academic sphere. If the young left wish to neglect this, and perpetuate their purely academic rhetoric to the masses, then I struggle to see how any real, rapid progress can be made as the General Election becomes more imminent.

If this continues, then I may easily say that the young left are just as sheeplike as the members of our society that they choose to deride.

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Academia: The Enigmatic Equaliser or the Dogmatic Deterrent?

I’m going to ask you to make the assumption that education – whether online or self-taught, free courses for the under 25s, apprenticeships, compulsory education for those under 18, and the fraudulent commodity that is today’s university education – is pretty widely available in the first world. Having established that, let’s explore the divisions academia still causes in our society, despite us having pragmatically moved on (outside of the House of Commons that is) into a technology-based workforce that is devoid of the restrictions and hierarchy of an academic world. A world of freedom and opportunity, where knowledge of programming languages such as HTML, Python and Ruby on Rails can get you far within the job market regardless of your age or amount of qualifications. This decade is an entrepreneur’s dream; with social media, we can harness any of our skills, no matter how indecipherable they are, and make ourselves a brand.

 

However, many young adults persist in ruminating through the blessed halls of their alma mater long after they have left the comforting surety of the university environment. Gone are the days when the undergraduates dined together amidst jolly British banter. The world has moved on; yet many young people are being left behind. With everything obscured through the clouded veneer of academia, with the fervour it provokes in young, left-leaning graduates to explain everything down to the most minute detail, progress is slowing down regarding the appeal of modern political ideas to the electorate as a whole. Much of social media and digital content produced by young people in the wake of Brexit indicates this; an inability to directly empathise with the requirements of the older generation and therefore unable to adapt their rhetoric to it when campaigning. Many of our politically active young, as university graduates, exist in an academic bubble, which is very apparent to me as a young working individual. Criticising the older generation from your sophisticated, cerebral soapbox is not helping to disperse your message.

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I am not advocating against explanation – far from it. Discussion develops the mind by raising new thoughts and ideas. But we can spend our entire lives explaining things.  Furthermore, if this occurs within an echo chamber of other like-minded individuals, all similarly educated and experienced, then how does it make progress? How does it strike out as something unique and different, a new idea to shape the fortunes of man? How does it emerge from the much cultivated creation of a perhaps over-educated adult into a rhetoric that can reach the understanding and support of millions?

Young activists are, instead of assessing their rhetoric and its appeal, choosing to look down on those who disagree with them. What else can you expect in a world where, at least on social media, choosing not to crusade for the rights of a migrant community can brand you a pariah? ‘White’ people must be constantly aware of their privilege, to the point of mentally flagellating themselves in their earnestness to prove that they are out for ‘the many and not the few’. Many are starting to notice this, but so far, those of us who choose to speak out against this unnecessarily exaggerated response to injustice are silenced by the excessive media visibility of the more ‘hive-minded’ members of our generation. Their inability to address the issues that face all age groups in our society today with pragmatic empathy and understanding is becoming our Achilles heel as a generation; this is clearly indicated by the current political divisions that are sharply influenced by age within our society. This is stopping us from successfully dispersing digital content across all generations, so that all can benefit from the freedom and accessibility it provides.

Being educated to whatever level of your choosing – BA with honours, BSc, MA, PhD – is a worthwhile undertaking and entirely to your credit.  However,  currently, most young people who are enjoy a public, digital platform take their possession of advanced, academic qualifications entirely too far. Possessing more than one post-nominal letter at a young age does not  then qualify you to undertake the role of an evangelist. John Major may have benefited from access to a soapbox in the literal sense, but using your education to manufacture one is not going to help. Forcing all political discussion into academic headings such as ‘libertarian communism’ and ‘socialist anarchy’ is far more likely to alienate the average individual than inspire them to take up your mantle alongside you.

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If we are going to engineer a more approachable and generationally encompassing kind of politics, one that matches up to the immense ease the digital age has brought to how information is distributed, then we must adapt to our changing political landscape instead of choosing to fruitlessly pound our fists against our own mental glass ceilings, shouting a one-sided rhetoric into an echo chamber of our own making.

Jeer at the Juvenile, whilst Idolising Infants

We Dismiss and Demonise our Youth, yet Exalt our Children

We are well within our rights, as the younger generation, to scorn the objectionable qualities we see in our elders. However, I wouldn’t want to commit reverse ageism; we’re all human, and values such as prejudice, greed, envy and malice are present in the oldest to the youngest of us. What I take issue with is those who see fit to use their platform to unashamedly insult and harangue young people, as if their position has suddenly provided them with omniscience. Entrenched in the media upon their soapboxes of experience, these paragons of all that is flawed amongst our youth make broad, sweeping statements condemning the young for their short-sightedness, their senseless hatred, and their stubborn ‘snowflake-ism’. 

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What happened to good, old fashioned advice? Bear in mind: I’m hardly a sensitive snowflake who needs a cup of oolong tea and a dairy-free biscuit served with a cutlet of ‘constructive’ criticism in order to stomach it, but there’s a line between the rational and the overtly exaggerated that is being steadily crossed. Does the current trend amongst the older generation of journalists consist of ill-disguised, one-sided rhetoric against the young? I’m proud of Generation Z for hitting back against those that condemn us through unlimited digital content creation, pioneering a new industry in a fast-paced, tech-based world within the brief time we’ve had available to us. In the face of all this progress, I can think of nothing more perverse than affluent older adults, looking with blinkered vision from the safe hill of middle aged success, shaking their heads and sucking their teeth at the follies of the young.

For those who are fortunate enough to be looking back from that comfortable position, it does seem ridiculous to condemn the behaviour of the young in regards to issues such as their unorthodox career choices, their usage of social media, and their family planning, when the world has changed rapidly in just the last five years, and unimaginably in the last thirty. Young people today, while in many respects enjoying successes in a new and dynamic tech workforce, are also facing a future of encroaching automation that will target many jobs. They face the concern of climate change, which is insolvable unless we, as a species, stop undermining each other and work together. Generation Z are looking to adapt and move forward in this changing technological landscape, instead of adhering to old ideals and perspectives that no longer apply to our current landscape. It’s time older generations followed suit, instead of short-sightedly choosing to demonise the young while positively worshipping at the altar of childhood’s innocent lisp.

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One of the Internet’s rare blind spots is that it has provided a platform to anyone, regardless of their critical-thinking skills. It has provided a generation of entitled parents with a voice: the dreaded ‘mummy bloggers’. These women write extensively on the trials of raising children, balancing their (often non-existent) careers, and how little their partners help them, yet simultaneously attempt to emphasise how important and worthwhile it all is, what a sacrifice they are making and how we, the childless youth, are not fit to speak on the matter due to our ‘immaturity’. This trend is one that I find especially provoking in its duplicity. Whoever thought it was a good idea to give these women a paid platform in which to air their marital and financial problems to the masses? It’s a traditional little pattern that the age of millennial journalism has ruthlessly exposed to Generation Z. People idolise babies; speak fondly, if exasperatedly, about the trials of raising toddlers, wax lyrical about the charms and talents of their child when they’re in the single digits … and then promptly, once they reach the dreaded period of being a teenager, proceed to treat them like pariahs if they dare open their mouth to express an original thought, or publish a YouTube video on childfreedom. They can now answer back, think for themselves, and question lifestyle conventions.

What I’m observing is a clear case of cognitive dissonance from the current generation of parents, backed by the more conservative members of the older generation, who look forward to becoming grandparents despite the rampant animosity that exists between the younger generation and ‘Baby Boomers’ at present, for obvious reasons. In the last 30 years education costs have inflated beyond recognition and more jobs today require a 4 year degree than ever, simply to tick a checkbox than it having any actual value. It seems terribly perverse to me to mock your children’s economic situation, while at the same time acknowledge how easy it was to move out and achieve independence in 1985. Sorry, parents of millennials, you do yourselves no favours, at least intellectually, by speaking badly of your children’s generation.

In light of this, it would be a welcome change to hear from more experienced parents in society, such as the parents of adult children, or those who are happily childfree in their middle age. Those are the individuals that are suffering the most from the obscure devil of no platforming. They get little to no cross-generational coverage in the media apart from the opportunity to stand on a pedestal and insult their children’s generation. It’d be a welcome change to hear from more older adults who are satisfied with their lives and the different path they took, rather than those who attempt to push the conventional values of parenthood on today’s youth.

No Platforming vs Non Partisan Neutrality: Can’t have one without the other

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‘Always keep your foes confused; if they don’t know who you are, or what you want, they can never know what you’re planning to do next.’ It’s been a long time since I quoted the estimable Petyr Baelish from Game of Thrones; and in very bad taste, I’m about to compare the gory politics of that TV show with the actions of the Conservative Party representatives we’ve been confronted with recently.

Thus Sky News, on the morning of the 26th of April, featuring Asa Bennett and Aaron Bastani.  Here was was a clear example of why the world would be a better place if the platform afforded to some individuals was awarded to another who would do the job better. Or, specifically, how ‘political commentator’ Asa Bennett and his ilk portray a different yet salient aspect of that insufferable horror, according to the older generation of journalists: no platforming. That intolerable demon, spearheaded by much of today’s youth, out to cannibalise free speech as we know it! Is it really the horror they believe it is, or do they judge an entire generation of university students on their more vitriolic and vocal counterparts, that, in reality, make up the minority? The policy is extreme, but valid. It should instead be administered to those more deserving of its liberty-robbing results; where it is desperately needed to fight the wave of sheeplike thought that pervades much of Britain’s older televised-news-watching generation. Being labelled a ‘social justice warrior’ for daring to rob someone of that divine right, a platform, isn’t a very cutting insult; it’s more of a backhanded compliment. But for someone who masquerades as a non-discriminatory political commentator for money, while showing a clear bias when afforded with a public platform to speak from? If I composed an insult for someone like that, it wouldn’t be very PG.

Individuals such as Bennett will attempt to remain non-partisan in their written work, as their role is to criticise politicians, policies, political parties, and types of government, presumably with little personal bias. Therefore, they are often provided with the role of a supposedly ‘impartial’ representative to participate in political discussions on outlets such as Sky News. They’re safely immersed in their bubble of political commentary; steadfastly detached from the more partisan, less academically cushioned perspectives of us lesser mortals. And I’ll admit it: as a journalist, Bennett does not seem to taint his articles with much of a transparent partiality to one side or the other; politicians are criticised indiscriminately for their actions (Of course, I’m judging from the snippet I’ve been permitted to read, not being inclined to pay towards Telegraph Premium).

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They are there to become a foil, an obstruction to any of that dangerous rhetoric those loquacious lefties decide to spout on live coverage. They are trusted, by the political parties that nominate them to speak for them, to conceal from the general public any facts that have the potential to disturb them. This is at least what I’ve observed, judging by Bennett’s complete omission of any concrete Conservative Party policies in his conversation with Aaron Bastani and the mediating Sky News presenter. Maybe he was just doing his job; shielding us from the complicated facts that our non publicly-educated brains can’t cope with. I don’t think so, however. He was steering the conversation repeatedly towards the alleged failings of Labour that the mainstream media pluck from obscurity day by day to shower us with. With his over-educated tones and condescending mien contrasted with Bastani’s more accessible discourse, the conclusion was a no-brainer for me. The Conservative Party do not nominate representatives that speak to the people of this country as they wish to be spoken to.

And that will be their downfall.

In the digital age, political discourse has been, to quote Wikipedia: “revolutionised to the extent that the public now has a virtually unlimited education quite literally at its fingertips.

The many means of exchanging ideas, including blogs and internet forums, has extended the political debate to anyone that cares to contribute. This ability and speed with which ideas can flow has literally changed the way that political parties stay connected to constituents.”

Indeed. I wonder why the more right wing end of the political spectrum has not yet been represented by an independent media organisation that produces accessible video and audio content, such as Bastani’s co-founded Novara Media. I’d suggest it might be because they don’t need it as much. Despite impartiality being one of the requirements to become a political commentator – at least in my opinion – Bennett’s headline of ‘If Jeremy Corbyn’s TV debate wish was granted, Theresa May would fillet him live on air’ seems to be showing a clear bias towards Theresa May. Now, don’t come at me; I understand that judging a politician’s technique and charisma is an entirely subjective thing. Nonetheless, his use of a headline such as that, coupled with the stance he took as a ‘commentator’ on Sky News, means the Tories need to spend more time selecting their representatives; particularly if they want to catch the vote of the young. Since the snap election was announced, over 100,000 people under 25 have registered to vote, and Labour’s video campaign seems set to target them directly, with cat videos being compared to the time in which it takes to register to vote.

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By mocking students who argue for the no-platforming of those who they think provide only a one-sided, non-intersectional viewpoint, many of the older generation make themselves look ridiculous. If you genuinely think that absolutely no human being should be forced to surrender to the horrendous insult that is to be no-platformed, then you seem to support the notion that the general public should be subliminally influenced by partisan political commentators along with their morning Kenco and cornflakes.

Will we, as a society, support those who write and produce content for the people, or will those who write for the few always be dominating political journalism? As young people, we consume digital content daily, almost hourly; those who support a leftist perspective are gripping the attention of the young, with organisations like Novara Media at the helm. All the excess coverage that UKIP received in 2016, all of the inflammatory programmes that triggered a public hatred for migrants – they were brought into light by a media that is working against the people, and for their own agenda, backed by millions of dollars.

It’s time we admit that the mainstream media is indeed the demon those on the left portray it as. We have been liberated by the Internet’s existence. There are unlimited articles to read, resources to find, discussions to be had on various forums. Why read newspapers and watch BBC news religiously while naively believing that they are there to provide you with the resources to make up your mind? Yes, age may be a limiting factor; but I’d never insult the older generation by implying that they are too wrapped up in tradition to dig further into a new medium.

The Internet has raised a generation of free thinkers. Deal with it. We all have doubt, deep down; some, old and young, do not always have the energy to question everything, but with the existence of the Internet, there are ways to gain access to resources from various outlets to shape your viewpoint into one that is reliably informed. Anything is preferable to allowing your brain to be a helpless propaganda machine instead of armed with knowledge from all sources. No more are we forced to flounder among the agendas that those in power decide. We can, and we will, take back control, no platforming the non-partisan puppets one by one.

A surfeit of one vs a scarcity of the other: Cultural appropriation vs cultural appreciation

During the first three months of this year, I had the (rather idiosyncratically termed) ‘privilege’ of attending several concerts in Camden, London, to see a few of my favourite South Korean artists. I should preface this by stating that I have been a fan of South Korean music since 2014, but in no way am I particularly ‘obsessed’ with the culture, in the manner of those who are colloquially nicknamed ‘Koreaboos’. Necessary disclaimer: I am in no way advocating for anyone to jump on the concert circuit to see if my experiences carry any weight, unless you are willing to risk your health, sanity and finances.

Firstly, I’d like to encourage anyone, whoever you are, whatever your opinion of hip-hop is (I was indifferent to it as a genre prior to 2014) to do yourselves a favour and check out some Korean hip-hop. In it I see the integrity and flair of the Western rap scene back in the 90s, and a level of originality, credibility and longevity that the oversaturated, hyper-sexual and repetitive popular tracks of the Western scene simply lack. Of course some Western artists are a great example to the rest (J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper) but the most popular (Drake, Wiz Khalifa, Chris Brown) leave a lot to be desired. As an example, Korean-American rapper Kevin Hwang, otherwise known as G2 of Hi-Lite records, recently dropped an exceptional hip-hop album ‘G2’s Life’. One of the headline tracks, ‘Knockin’ At the Door’ with all its authentically superb majesty, deserves, to me, the South Korean equivalent of a Grammy Award (Mnet Asian Music Award for Best Rap Performance).

Anyway: Zico x MISBHV on January the 5th, 2017. Perhaps the most inflammatory music event, especially regarding the aftermath, that I’ve ever been to. Zico, as a South Korean rapper, producer and songwriter (active within his own group, Block B, as well as being a solo artist), is extremely well known among k-pop and k-hip-hop fans and a very talented artist. I won’t even begin to describe how difficult it was to secure a VIP ticket for this event; the Facebook group was an absolute bloodbath. I consider myself lucky to have not been duped into paying far more than the agreed price, as many sadly were. It really is a perverse state of affairs when older adults – in their 30s/40s, for example – sink so low as to scam broke younger adults and teens who are desperate to secure a ticket to see their favourite artist.

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Zico, surrounded by his adoring fans

But behind all the platitudes, I need only ask you one question in order to make my point: When going to a gig, what do you expect to be listening to? ‘Music in the genre that you paid for’ – yes, that’s what I thought too. However, in the opinion of our esteemed event organisers, Cult of Ya, this didn’t seem to be the most suitable option. In the interminable amount of time we spent waiting for the so-called ‘headline artist’ to make their appearance, my ears were regaled persistently with the typical Western hip-hop club tunes that I’d heard repeatedly during 2016. Occasionally, our prized DJ taunted us with a snatch of a song we recognised and that was of the appropriate genre for the event – such as It G Ma, the South Korean-Japanese collaboration by Keith Ape, a track by Jay Park (‘B0$$’) and one from GD&TOP, a hiphop duo from the immensely popular k-pop group BIGBANG. That was it. Less than ten k-hip-hop songs amongst a perfectly boring collection of US hip-hop. I was stunned.

Continue reading A surfeit of one vs a scarcity of the other: Cultural appropriation vs cultural appreciation

‘The maintenance of progress in the 21st century’ Or: Can women really ‘have it all’?

Progress: a word that’s used rather haphazardly, if at all, in news outlets everywhere. Recently, it’s become a mild obsession of mine: simply because so many seem to take a dismissive approach to it. Progress is defined as ‘development towards an improved or more advanced condition’. Surely, if a condition is to be advanced and improved continuously in order to secure long term, beneficial change as opposed to short term, inconsequential change, it can hardly apply to a situation in which humanity seem to sit back and say ‘Well, that’s us done for today. People will thank us in 100 years, we hope – if the changes we’ve made last that long, that is.’ So said the Wright brothers, after the invention of the first plane, despite the fact that left to its own devices it was inadequate to withstand the test of time. ‘We’ve done it. We’ve done something. We’ve made a breakthrough, so now our work is done, right?’

No, of course they didn’t. They constantly pushed towards greater success, continuously striving to a more advanced and improved condition than the one before. That, to me, is what progress is: an ongoing pursuit of advancement, throughout the ages. The process of securing equal rights for women has never been a process in which the participants could consider themselves ‘done for the day’. This, arguably, is caused by the issues that arose in opposition to the women’s rights movement, particularly the divisions between women themselves, that are so crucial in dissecting the development of the women’s rights movement in the USA. But now, in the year 2016? There’s some that might say anything to let us of the hook from pushing for further progress. ‘The wage gap? Oh, that’s just a myth.’ ‘We’re a meritocracy! That’s the reason for strategic employment of men and women. Oh, there’s no gender bias. None at all.’ ‘Ladies, it’s your biological imperative. You can’t argue with that, can you? You wouldn’t want to seem unnatural, would you?’

Of course, the argument that carries the most weight is the one examining whether women can ‘have it all’. That the quintessential, all American family life with the white picket fence, 2.5 kids and a full-time career; that’s perfectly possible. But is it? And what are the implications of this so called ‘biological’ expectation for young, childless women entering the workforce for the first time?

Yes, I’m sounding rather contradictory as a feminist. Surely, I should wholeheartedly support the notion that women can have it all, and more; I should brook no arguments, regardless of how well-researched they are. However, I’m going to attempt to do the exact opposite. No, women can’t ‘have it all’ according to the popular definition of the concept. The implications of this attitude regarding my perceived stance towards third wave feminism aside, I’m afraid 2.5 kids, loyal husband and calm domesticity sharply contrasting with the cut throat business world is not going to cut it for myself and others of the ambitious ilk.

As a woman of my acquaintance who works in academia put it: “When you’re a young woman, you are negatively judged for your reproductive ability by potential bosses and collaborators. When other women have children and leave the field, right in the middle of their prime, the rest of us are judged heavily on whether or not we will do the same in the near future.” This situation occurs so frequently in the US that it merits a term: ABD, or ‘All But Dissertation’. A woman, studying in the graduate program, quite close to completing her studies, suddenly announces that she’s ‘sick of academia’, and is seemingly quite happy to leave the establishment altogether and settle down at home with husband and kids in tow. Yes, I hear you. It’s their choice, as free thinking individuals. But to me, she’s ceasing to develop as an academic in her field from this point forward. To further your career requires the utmost dedication. I would like to ask: Is the stalling of progress the abandonment of progress itself? Or is it something deeper and far more serious? Regarding the glass ceiling argument: Why does it exist? Have we become it – imposed a glass ceiling upon ourselves through our negligence in representing ourselves as the female workforce in the 21st century?

Continue reading ‘The maintenance of progress in the 21st century’ Or: Can women really ‘have it all’?

The return of the prodigal daughter?

2015. If I’m perfectly honest, the best way for me to sum up this year is to confess, heartfelt, that I’m grateful to be alive at the end of it; privileged to be seeing in the new year. What an exhilarating, dangerous, terrifying and complicated ride this year has been. Much of the first half was spent working furiously hard; the remainder consumed with battling a crippling anxiety and a humongous workload, all the while experiencing an extended recovery from retinal detachment surgery.

This year has been one torn with violence (Beirut, Syria, much of the Middle East, Europe, America and many other places besides), political and legal obscenities (the UK general election 2015; the despicable legal actions that led to the death of Sandra Bland; Cleveland officer who murdered 12-year-old Tamir Rice not to face criminal charges), and climate change (the ongoing refugee plight). However, good things have occurred; the legalisation of same sex marriage across the US, for one.

I remember my naive seventeen year old self vowing, her indomitable spirit shining in her (undamaged) eyes, that she would gladly suffer any hardships that would come, for every year of her life, if only to gain that little bit more in strength; to exercise her spirit of steel when triumphing over adversity. Well, this year was sure not what she was anticipating. I don’t like to claim that my eighteen year old self is now so much more able to make the claim that her past self once did; having suffered beyond what she had previously envisaged. But I do think attitude is something that changes whether we realise it or not, and I hope that can work in my favour in the future.

Happy New Year. Keep writing.