10 December 2011

The Occupy Movement: UWO's Klatt and Hammond, and other perspectives

[revised Jan 12, 2012]

In November, 2011, Heinz Klatt, retired professor, wrote a piece for Western News (UWO, London, Ont), with the title 'Occupy movement may be most vapid of all,' Nov 24, in which he complained about the Occupiers, ending with a suggestion that they might, after all, be on the same side, against the 1%.

Klatt was critical of the Occupiers not being able to articulate their concerns well or comprehend their aims sufficiently. But we all speak from our own knowledge base - from ‘education,’ the media, our own experience, and elsewhere. If the Occupiers are pursuing a particular path (placing blame on the 1%) and still sorting out where their movement is heading, then we should consider that normal, under the circumstances. Which revolutionary movement ever strated out being well organized and knowing exactly what their aims were and how they could be accomplished. Take the women's liberation movement as an example of a movement that has been chaotic at times, with no clear direction or organization in its early years. Chaining themselves to gates and throwing themselves in front of horses may not appear to us to be well thought-out strategies for success, but look at them now. As the Occupiers continue to discuss, listen to others, reflect on what they want for themselves and society, and to organize, no doubt their movement will progress in achieving their aims and their ability to express them.

The media’s emphasis, Klatt’s, and Bernie Hammond's, whose Nov 17 piece was the instigator of this discussion, all claim that the 1% is the problem, not that there could be many reasons why social inequality is worse now than in recent decades. As the division between the classes widens, there is bound to be increasing disatisfaction among those lower down, while those at the top (eg top 30-50%) reap the benefits of the 'good life.' Yet this fact of life, that the struggle for scarce resources exists at every level of society, has yet to be recognized as a contributing factor to the problem of social inequality in general.

Feminism is one contributing factor - beginning with the women's liberation movement that formed in opposition to men's dominance in society, and which now is in many ways dominant itself, if not over men of their own class, then over men and women lower down in terms of economic standing. Unfortunately, the real numbers of good careers and jobs in society has not increased, even though many more women are now working alongside men, and marrying them, resulting in increased numbers of the well-off dual-career, dual-income family and their assumptions of entitlement.

Feminism has achieved much for women's independence, but not for all women. And while men used to be dominant, in general, that dominance is now shared with women. We no longer live in a world where the man is breadwinner with a wife at home. In fact, most young people do not understand the way things were. Nor do many in the middle classes comprehend (or perhaps would rather not admit) that there are many capable people out there being pushed out, while they edge their way upwards.

Don't shrug off the power of the Occupy movement
By Bernie Hammond
Opinion, Western news
November 17, 2011

Occupy movement may be most vapid of all
By Heinz Klatt
Opinions, Western News
November 24, 2011

Income inequality: deep, complex and growing
By Jeffrey Simpson
Globe and Mail
Dec 09, 2011

The poor are doing better than you think [comments section]
By Margaret Wente [and concerned readers]
Globe and Mail
Dec 10, 2011

19 November 2011

What Justin Bieber and Gold Diggers Can Teach Us About Feminism

What Justin Bieber and feminism can tell us about gold diggers

In this Huffington Post piece by Keli Goff, the incident involving Justin Bieber and his alleged paternity has introduced issues concerning feminist views on 'gold diggers. But as I see it, the situation Bieber was involved in is not the main issue. The phenomenon of gold digging is. And I don't see feminists sitting outside of that one. I see them as being as deeply involved as anyone else.

Kanye West's video about gold digging, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vwNcNOTVzY&feature=relmfu , came out a few years ago, before Justin Bieber made headlines over his 'women problems'. The term 'gold diggers' appears to have vague meanings, but rather than being strictly about situations such as Justin Bieber's, the term seem to be about life in general, about how some men and women conduct themselves in normal human relationships. As an aside, the girls in the video don't look as though their thoughts are on motherhood.

Gold diggers used to be seen as women who sought to marry a man for his money. Sometimes this seemed obvious, when the man was 80 or more and the woman in her 20s or 30s. I believe Hugh Hefner might fall into this category. of course, everything has changed now, since feminism has got women into the workforce in increasing numbers, many of them taking positions alongside men in a professional capacity. But to some extent, don't most women of today seek to marry men who can offer them the most, in terms of security and access to financial resources, even if the women themselves have a good career? Doesn't the thought of marrying well hold the possibility of an even more 'secure' lifestyle?

Years ago, say in the 50s and 60s, marrying a man for money might have been the only way a woman could be sure of achieving financial security, as so many women didn't work but relied on men as the 'breadwinners'. But today's world is different, thanks to feminism. In some ways, it seems as though the tables are turned. It used to be men who received encouragement and had more opportunities. But feminism has changed that. Their emphasis has been women, though of course, mainly on women from the middle classes.

I don't see 'gold digging' as mainly being about women who have sex for the purpose of getting pregnant, then getting the man to marry her, as has been claimed to be Mariah Yeater's aim. She now has a son, Tristyn, she claims to be Justin Bieber's. Any man should be suspicious of that kind of claim in today's world, now that contraceptives are generally available. That kind of claim might have worked years ago, in the 50's, before contraception became available, but no longer.

Nevertheless, good jobs and financially secure husbands may be hard to come by in todays's world, where unemployment is rife and feminism's impact has led to the dual-career, dual-income family doing well, on one side, and men and women struggling for subsistence on the other - the class divide.

Women in general, who have few other resources but whose sexual appeal is high (see video, Gold Digger by Kanye West), could well use that to get a man marry her, although basing a marriage on sexual attraction may not be the best way to go about it. But first has to acknowledge that men are often swayed by women's sexuality in order to accept this view. And then, the term 'gold digger' could be applied to that situation if the motivation for marriage was seen to be money, rather than compatibility, love, etc.

What I'm leading up to is this, that it is not just the overtly sexual woman with no college education who is seeking the best mate possible. In today's world, it's a fact of life that most women will seek to enhance their own assets, even if they have good prospects for a profitable career. Marrying a partner on his way up the corporate ladder may even help her own career. But is that seen as gold digging, or is that term kept (reserved) for the uneducated woman, who overtly displays her sexual assets, or who would have little opportunity to make her way in a tradtional career, or who chooses not to?

It isn't just women of today who are seeking partners with the most to offer. Men who need power on their side, and who desire a mutually-enhancing relationship, might also seek out a female partner based on their place on the income scale. After all,it is human nature to seek the best partner one can, under the circumstances, isn't it. So,. should the term gold diggers still be used, as it relaly applies to women of earlier generations who had so few choices in life?

Rather than look at Justin Bieber's experience as typical of 'gold digger' circumstances, I think it is not typical at all.

This is what I am suggesting the term 'gold digger' applies to, in general: Gold digging behaviour is surely more an accepted part of life that applies to all sort of women, from the poor, sexy uneducated young woman to the professional woman seeking the best partner she can acquire. Kanye West made a video about it not because it is unusual, but because it is what women do. And men love it.

Income, or personal assets, is one of the main criteria for choosing a partner. What if internet dating sites did not include these criteria as part of their set of 'characteristics,' to assist in selecting or excluding certain potential candidates from selection. What if people chose mates without taking into consideration their earning potential or material wealth, as so many of us did in the 60s?

Men and women marry for all sorts of reasons. In today's postfeminist society, men marry for a regular source of sex, or to have a trophy woman on his arm when he goes out, for companionship, for financial security, etc. Women marry men, not for sex, probably, but for financial security, and as trophies, too, and to have the good life - part of the dual career, dual income class in our society. It's what men and women do. 'Gold digging', if you still want to call it that, is one aspect of finding a partner.

What Justin Bieber and Gold Diggers Can Teach Us About Feminism
by Keli Goff
Huffington Post - Culture
Nov 15, 2011

9 November 2011

Ageism, Class, and the Wealth Gap Between the Young and Old

The only place in Huffington Post that the generation gap, or aging, or ageism, is being discussed is in the business section. And even so, this piece (the US Wealth Gap) written by Hope Yen could actually be about so many things, and not just about the division of wealth between the old and the young. It is a false division, more than likely intended to create division between the generations instead of explain it.

We all know there are seniors who are living in poverty, just as we know there are under 35-year-old­s who have too much money to spend. Manipulati­ng statistics to arrive at the conclusion one wants to isn't clever. It is devious, it is cunning, and it may even work (depending on one's agenda), but how can people have respect for such a person who writes this nonsense, or for the Huff Post editors who condone it, even encourage it. After all, isn't what counts the amount of reader interest, the number of comments (over 8,000).

Furthermore, why is there still a section called 'Women' in the Living category of this paper? Why isn't it called Gender? And how about one called 'Couples and Singledom'­?

And why isn't there a category called 'Aging' or the 'Generatio­n Gap'? Why are the difference­s between the young and the old all made to come down to money? I would like to talk about aging itself, and not simply about the differences in income between the generations that some writers are treating as the main issue.

The other piece referred to below is another piece of nonsense, placing the blame squarely on the high worth of the top 1% of households in the US. Yet the problem is not the top 1%. The problem is all around us. The problem is in the way some of the higher income earners in the 99% treat others in this immense category, which includes doctors, lawyers, service workers, and receptionists. It reflects the struggle of life, the quest for more, and the effort for some to stop others from getting even a small share fo the scarce resources our world has to offer.

The problem is not that the healthcare workers are overworked. It is that they spend their effort on taks that are non-productive, on trying to give more to some individuals and making sure others get less. The system is not so much overburdened with too may sick or old people. It is overburdened with too many who have health insurance making sure they get every dollar's worth, and then some.

I don't believe that 'generational warfare' was designed by the 1% to distract the rest of us from looking at class differences, as stated in 'One Percent.' The complexity of our world is such that different agendas collide as they pursue their own interests, and sometimes join forces to gang up on one group - usually the most vulnerable, and for the purpose for protecting their own interests. Get people to blame the 1% and they won't be so ready to place the responsibility where it lies - in the way boys and girls are raised, and indoctrinated, into pushing their way forward, seeking more money, and more power. What's more, the main divide isn't between the young and old; it isn't a generational divide. It's between each level of society, between those struggling for more and those who have it and are trying to keep it!

The One Percent Turns Class War Into Generational War
By Dean Baker
Huffington Post - Business
Nov 7, 2011

U.S. Wealth Gap Between Young, Old Is Widest Ever
By Hope Yen
Huffington Post - Business
Nov 7, 2011

7 November 2011

Widest-ever wealth gap between young and old in the US

This very one-sided article has appeared in numerous newspapers' websites today. It places blame for economic disparity between the young and the old strictly on the shoulders of the old, regardless of income, home ownership, marital status, or work history.

One reason the economic division between young and old can be seen as increasing over the last 30 to 50 years is the effect of feminism and increasing numbers of women in the workforce - changing norms, in other words.

Whereas 50 years ago a wealthy man might have a wife who stayed home and did charity work, now, older men are sought out by women for what they have to offer - in the firm, or as an influential, hidden, character reference for other careers. Thus the household with the head at age 65 plus might have a 45year old wife with high earning power in today's world.

I am not surprised that whoever wrote this piece didn't want to include this probable effect. It's not something the middle class really wants to deal with. And as women continue to marry men with the best resources, how can we ever expect the situation to get better. One of the side effects of feminism. What's that called again - oh, collateral damage.

Another problem with this article - something omitted - is that many old people, particularly older women, live in poverty. They may not be in debt, and so would not be included in the 8% mentioned in the last sentence. But despite receiving old age benefits, many will be struggling to get by.

So often we see articles and blogs that onlty serve to create more antagonism between the generations. Would I be right in assuming that the author of this piece is under 40, and female, and has her own agenda?

One other issue is the comment made by Harry Holzer, labor economist and public policy prof at Georgetown University, who is quoted as saying "It makes us wonder whether the extraordinary amount of resources we spend on retirees and their health care should be at least partially reallocated to those who are hurting worse than them." Apparently he called magnitude of the wealth gap "striking."

Note that he, like the other 'experts' mentioned in this piece, places the blame on old people in general, when it is obvious that the ones who will lose out if money allocated for healthcare is taken away are those with limited resources. It will be the ones without private medical insurance who will have to try to make do with even less proper healthcare.

I don't know if we can assume that the situation is the same in Canada., regarding health care matters and more importantly, the gap between the old and the young, but knowing the effects that feminism has caused in Canada, it sounds as though it could be the same here as in the US.

U.S. Wealth Gap Between Young, Old Is Widest Ever
By Hope Yen, Associated Press
Huffington Post Business
Nov 7, 2011

U.S. wealth gap between young and old is widest ever
By Hope Yen, Associated Press
USA Today
Nov 8, 2011

Links updated July, 2012

2 November 2011

Gender, sex and aging: What do we owe our spouses?

A trio of stories on the Huffington Post drew my interest recently, all related matters, to do with gender, sex, and aging. Sex was the drawing card in D A Wolf's 'Do We Owe Our Spouses Sex?', and is an inviting resource for anyone wanting to know what other readers think about sex between two people in a relationship. The comments section attracted an enthusiastic crowd, each one either telling their own personal story, or making one up, or simply letting everyone know what they thought about the subject of Wolf's piece.

But in the next piece on sex, the attitude of readers/commenters changed considerably. This one was about sex among the baby boomers, and for that reason, it appears, became the target of jokes and ridicule. Could it be that the approach was wrong, and not simply that older citizens are the target of jokes in this ageist society of ours? In an attempt to persuade the world that baby boomers can have sex just like anyone else, and enjoy it, the writers, whoever they were, may have been just a bit on the defensive. What formed the basis of the piece were myths that were then dispelled by the writers' claims. We don't hear who the writers were, and the format of the piece was awkward to read, being fairly short but, including the comments section, split up over 7 pages.

As with the first piece on the subject of sex, this second piece was also clearly about people within the state of coupledom. Those without partners had no real need to peruse the pieces, let alone comment on them, unless they still had hope, or at least intentions, to become half of a couple sometime in the future. This was my main objection to both these pieces, that single men and women were left out or left hanging on the margins, although in the 'ageless' couples and sex article, at least that was a topic many of us knew something about from previous experience. It doesn't seem to even occur to the writers of the boomers' sex piece that most older people aren't going to have casual sex, just for the fun of it (despite what the quoted lavalifePRIME says).

The final point about these two stories is that, as usual with such stories, there is little or no analysis of the society in which it all takes place. We all take for granted that we live in western society and that both men and women have certain freedoms, but there are still the remnants of traditional marriage present in our ways of thinking, as well as the modern ways of looking at our experiences through the eyes of feminism. Thus, women are seen (and speak) from both the perspective of not being equal with men in ways of dealing with sexual matters, as well as at times acting like men and taking on men's ways of dealing with sexual matters.

And that leads us to the last of the stories, also about the older generation, about women in particular. Once again, this piece incorporates aspects of old-fashioned tradition, of a woman being a homemaker, but about doing so after having had a fulfilling career. I think one aim of it was truly to justify and uphold the legitimate choice of women to be homemakers, but quite a number of readers comments were negative about the choices available to the writer, and particularly about the perceived uselessness of her choice, to stay home. At this point in our society, in which the economy has still not rebounded, if some women express the desire to remain at home to be homemakers and/or raise children, it doesn't help to treat them like pariahs. Just as some homemakers may not take their work seriously, or do a good job, so are there women in the workforce who aren't conscientious, or doing their work to the best of their ability. It isn't work per se that makes one person better than another. It isn't the paycheque that a person brings home, or the taxes they pay, that makes them better than someone else. It might lead them to be seen as different, to be living a lifestyle that's not the norm, in this society where occupation and financial resources are the determinants of a person's identity and worth. It's much easier to do after having a career, than rely on an ex to provide a reference, but it's still good to hear about women living this way, so that society does not forget how things were done in the past.

Do We Owe Our Spouses Sex?
by D A Wolf
Huffington Post Divorce
Oct 15, 2011

Most Common Sex Myths About Baby Boomers
Huffington Post Fifty
Oct 29, 2011

Words With Friends and Back to Home-Ec
by Jamie Lee Curtis
Huffington Post Fifty
Oct 11, 2011

13 September 2011

Serena Williams penalized at the 2011 US Open tennis finals

The story of Serena Williams has dominated tennis news since Sept 11 when she railed against the umpire she suspected of having unfairly penalized her during the women's final at the US Open which was held over the last two weeks in New York. Serena let out a yelp, at the very moment her opponent was preparing to hit the ball back to Serena's side of the court. The umpire deemed the noise to be a 'hinderance' and gave the point to her opponent, Australian Samantha Stosur, at which point Serena let loose with a diatribe of accusations and insults against the umpire. Sam Stosur went on to win the match, and was already one set up at the time of the incident. Serena was fined $2000 for her outburst. Her earnings for participating in the US Open were $1.4 million.

Discussions were held at more than one newspaper site, with many viewpoints and sensitive feelings exposed. At this particular Huffington Post comment site (see below), I was surprised to see support for Serena from black people who placed blame on white people for Serena's outburst - a result of longstanding racist discrimination against her, one claimed. A heated discussion developed from such comments which I, among others, engaged in, but with no resolution. Try as I might, I could not get my point across about the concept of reverse racism. To me, Serena's comments reflected an antagonism towards the umpire that at the very least bordered on racial difference, discrimination, or intolerance.

It seemed that no matter how well off a black person became, or how successful, any perceived slight or insensitive remark could be interpreted as racist. Once again, in this sense, racism reverts simply to the colour of the skin and no other basis at all. On a wider level, racism is about denying opportunity to people on the basis of their cultural or national background or religion (or however you want to word it), but one can hardly say that Serena is still experiencing this level of racism, having reached the highest levels of international tennis tournaments. Yet here she is, letting loose on the umpire, in a similar vein as in 2009, against a linesperson.

Another aspect of the discussion was her behaviour seemingly taken out of context. Alone, with no explanation, her behaviour was described as a child's, yet Serena is a poweful woman, not just physically but in the world, having support from her family, friends, tennis support team, blacks in America no doubt, and fans of tennis eveywhere. So when a person holding such power oversteps the limit of decency and good behaviour, isn't that different than when someone with little or no power oversteps it. Are we expecting too much to want the people we admire and respect for their skills and talent to also engage in good behaviour? Do such people ever get punished to the same extent that powerless people do, or are the powerless punished more because they have no contribution to society to draw upon to excuse their bad behaviour?

So far, on this brief report alone, nearly 1800 comments have been submitted by readers. Many of them are very unhappy with her behaviour. Many others remain loyal to her. But at least people have had the opportunity, and the freedom, to give their views on this controversial incident.

Serena Williams Loses Cool With Chair Umpire In U.S. Open Final (VIDEO)
Huffington Post
Sept 11, 2011

8 April 2011

The London Slut Walk - The 'S' word should be SEX, not slut

I was just about to post a comment this evening on an article in the London Free Press (Walker objects, Apr 8) when comments were cut off, after only 4 had been posted - all by men. The article was not the first on the local response to the apparent remark by a Toronto cop addressing law students, that 'women should avoid dressing like “sluts” if they didn’t want to be victimized' (What starts with an ‘s’, April 8, LFP).

Following is my comment, mainly in response to comments made by others.

I'm not sure if Jeff is trying to say there should be a Slut Walk? (Megan Walker doesn't like the idea, and Jeff doesn't approve of her kind of activism, he says, so I gather he's all for the Walk by that name). Are you sure you won't be tempted to refer to the marchers as Sluts, Jeff?

There must be a better way to handle this situation.

Mick, the word slut has different connotations according to gender. Men have always been allowed to be proud of their sexual exploits. Not so with women. Most keep quiet about them so they won't be judged.

That's all I wrote. And my response to the other article today by Kelly Pedro is also lacking, in part due to word limits placed on contributions. I would have liked to have added that the s word in question should probably not be 'slut' at all but rather, 'sex'. Focusing on the word slut is distorting the problem, taking the emphasis off a topic that really needs to be discussed, as demonstrated by the lack of understanding by more than one commenter.

It's too bad the comment made by one commenter got deleted. It illustrated some of the attitudes that need to be addressed, instead of women simply demanding their rights to dress provocatively without considering negative consequences. Removing the derogatory comments, what remains of his comment is this:

"Now if I pin money to my shirt,walk late at night and get mugged, can the 'it shouldn't be the way I dress' excuse work too??????"

Nowhere has it been mentioned that women's behaviour is also part of the problem. Being sexually provocative might also result in unwanted attention, just as their attire might. When it comes to sexual violence, it's not always the clothing that matters. If a woman appears vulnerable, or available, she might be more likely to be seen as a target.

One issue I have concern with, regarding the Value Women campaign initiated by Megan Walker, is that it's not inclusive of the idea of 'slut,' or at least of the idea that women are sexual (and may be seen as 'sluttish'). Pushing the problem away is not a solution, either, no more than the opposite, which appears to be that of embracing the notion of women as sluts, as in the Slut Walk.

When women dress in hot outfits, that is exactly what men are thinking of when they use the word 'slut'. And that's probably what the cop meant when he used it and got into trouble for doing so. The word is used so commonly that he obviously used it in the wrong manner, and definitely in the wrong place.

Men don't think like women in matters pertaining to sex. A woman can believe she has rights (as men do too, of course), but if they act as though no one can take away those rights, or that men 'shouldn't', by dressing as they have a right to, sexually provocatively, in the wrong place at the wrong time, they may be increase the chances of being noticed, and place themslves at risk. There is a difference between 'should' and 'what is', and women are being warned by the police that men don't always think or behave rationally when it comes to sex. and if men won't be considerate of women, in such circumstances, then women have to take precautions.

Feminists claim that men have always been in awe of women's sexuality and the power it has over them, so that's one reason why, in general, some men intentionally demean women by referring to them as sluts - putting them in their place, so to speak.

It probably makes some men angry just to see the attitudes of women participating in the Slut Walk. How does that help the problem of 'violence against women.' And how did the walk itself help educate the public about violence against women?

Campaign counters Slut Walk
By Kelly Pedro
London Free Press
April 8, 2011

Slutwalk: "Because We've had Enough"
By Thomas Cermak
London Fuse
April 10, 2011

Walker objects to women being called 'sluts'
By Kelly Pedro
The London Free Press
April 8, 2011

What starts with an ‘s’ and divides women’s groups?
By Kelly Pedro
London Free Press
April 8, 2011
added May 19, 2011

Sex and the SlutWalk (with comments)
by Agenda intern Andrew Lynes
TVO - The Agenda
May 6, 2011