Feminism

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Abstract

There is a substantial amount of feminist research on sexism in language and various forms of media sexism (children’s literature, print, radio, and television advertising and programming, and motion pictures). However, after an extensive search for studies linking language and media sexism to unintentional propaganda that occurs in small groups and one-on-one, nothing specifically linking them was uncovered. This literature review hopes to fill that gap.

Keywords: feminism, sexism, language, media, unintentional propaganda

 

Research Statement

While my fascination and study of propaganda began several years ago, I did not make the leap and link it to language and media sexism until a few years ago through a feminist psychology course. My research began with the definition of unintentional propaganda supplied by Leonard W. Doob (1966). This definition allowed me to make the connection to language, small groups and unintentional influence. When I began researching literature for this bibliography, I was hopeful that I would find unintentional propaganda, or at least propaganda linked to language and media sexism within the research. After an extensive search, I found nothing directly. Instead, I found references to overt, subtle, and unintentional sexism embedded in language, literature, and media texts. I was able to tie these directly to unintentional propaganda based on discussion material in each source.

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“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” -Assata Shakur.

While I am certainly not qualified to compose a proper tribute to Sandra Bland, I am qualified as a social psychologist to analyze some elements of #BlackLivesMatter in relation to Individual Evolution1. In order for either to impact societal change, it will be necessary for both to be revolutionary. In this case, revolution implies change. Whether it is gradual or immediate depends upon the need and the circumstances. Political minorities have been programmed into subservience for centuries via a political majority fueled by institutionalized racism utilizing propaganda promoting the idea that if they do what they are taught, what they are told, and what is demanded of them, they will receive fair treatment, equality, and integration with that political majority. In other words, if they play nice, institutionalized racism will eventually disappear. That has not happened, and it will never happen unless it is demanded as forcefully as possible and racism is deinstitutionalized. For most people, recent events contradict the myth of a peaceful transition. For some, Individual Evolution does not need to proceed according to a formula that progresses from a bureaucratic vision to an evolutionary power (the Head of logical thought through the Heart of desire to the Hand of action). And while individual evolution continues to evolve through a series of conference call classes anyone interested is welcome to attend, I will argue that it doesn’t necessarily need to follow this method to be successful.

A friend asked me to write this, even after I explained that I am not worthy to write a tribute to Sandra Bland, the woman who was recently murdered by a Texas police officer and made to appear as though she hanged herself in her jail cell. I know I am not worthy because Sandra Bland should not have been murdered. I know I am not worthy because the families of every person of colour, men and women that have left us too, too soon, before and after Michael Brown in recent months and, frankly, in the last few hundred years of murder in the employ of institutionalized slavery and racism, understand what is at stake better than I do. People of colour have died and continue to die needlessly, sacrificed to the bloodlust of a white patriarchy that doesn’t care, a white patriarchy that lashes out in fear and hatred with the knowledge that their control, their enslavement of everyone not like them, their reign, will end soon. Those that have been awake for centuries are still awake, and they have awakened the rest of us, though frankly we all should have been wide awake and alert for decades if not centuries, leaving institutionalized slavery, with all its permutations, in a weakened blob at the bottom of the dustbin of history.

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For your listening pleasure, here is my radio interview from last night.  This is something I had not thought about doing until the opportunity was presented to me by the producers of Radio Islam who found my content here.  For those of you who are curious, I am open to other opportunities to discuss cultural conditioning/propaganda, sexism, racism and everything that the intersection of all of those subjects entail and more. I am about halfway into the show. If you have time to listen, I would love to know what you think. 

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(A first attempt at technical writing.  It’s not perfect but it’s not terrible either.  With more practice, this will improve as well.)

As a metaphor, social psychology is much like the epic novel of a country’s history laid bare from all perspectives including political majority and minorities viewed through the inner workings of their movements explained and interpreted through words, ideas, and points of view, which are generally limited. Statistical research, on the other hand, if it is conducted and interpreted properly, reveals numerical probabilities that cannot be ignored and are similar to the infinity of a profound piece of art,pierre august renoir like Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “In The Meadow,” that pulls you further and deeper in each time you look to see newer details of raw art or numbers in front of you. In the case of the statistics, the numbers are interpreted through a filter, usually, software, that allows us to see details that the naked eye cannot.

The study of statistics has helped me understand concepts related to raw numbers, and statistics will continue to teach me as I learn further to understand and analyze study results and their interpretations in news articles and academic literature, such as the one I am concerned with here, “The Gendering of Language: A Comparison of Gender Equality in Countries with Gendered, Natural Gender, and Genderless Languages.” While there is more than enough detail in this article to encourage further study, I would like to understand the implications of this study, before moving on to read further academic articles and perform my own research.

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Abstract

While propaganda in the form of unintentional influence and the language of sexism has been independently researched, a review of literature reveals no such studies that link these two topics.   In this paper, I link these two subjects to study the hypothesis that the language of sexism, embedded within media, unintentionally influences individuals and small groups.  Through participatory action research methodology, participants will take part in a series of focus groups analyzing sexist language within media contexts. Findings will indicate how media sexism influences individuals and small groups, what that influence means to the health of their local community, and what action should be taken to alleviate negative consequences.

 

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Buddhism is about everything, and it is about nothing.  The readings cover varied and various aspects of Buddhism that I have read in the past, and these also delve more deeply.  Dewit ‘s “inner flourishing,” Suzuki’s “wisdom and knowledge,” Karr’s stages of “awareness, ” Salzburg’s “loveliness,” Rahula’s personal realization of “Truth, ”Hanh’s “open”-ness, and Wallace’s “directed attention” are not independent, but they are divisions of one purpose or they seem to be divisions of one subject.

There are three stages of significance, rather than three themes in these readings. These stages may be divided into further stages along a path of evolutionary and revolutionary growth, but as everything is connected, these are all connected.  At the beginning of this journey into Buddhist psychology, what is needed is an acceptance of true openness, to accept viewpoints and ideas that are different and unfamiliar.

“Open-mindedness, which is the fruit of mindfulness, forms the basis for the disciplines of insight.” (De Wit 2001: 17) This allows the inner flourishing, that glow that some can see in others, but seldom in themselves, to occur, to discover what appears naturally. Further, Hanh reveals, “ A teacher cannot give you truth. The truth is already in you.  You only need to open yourself . . . .” (Hanh 1998:  12).  This supports Suzuki’s revelation that knowledge is the equivalent of book learning but not experience, that true wisdom is the realization that one knows nothing.  One who stays open with an “original mind” is an “empty mind and a ready mind” (Suzuki 1970: 21).  Karr elaborates this open-ness as awareness of listening, contemplating and meditating upon peace and insight into what is self and phenomenal reality (Karr 2007:  10-12).

“The spirit of metta is unconditional:  open and unobstructed.” “Metta is the ability to embrace all parts of ourselves, as well as all parts of the world.” (Salzburg 2004: 19, 23).  It is love of everything, the bad and the good in everything and everyone, even ourselves.  The open-ness of unconditional love is a power that can uproot negativity within each of us.  Wallace emphasizes the open-ness of “your awareness to the entire field of sensations throughout the body, especially those related to respiration.” (Wallace 2006:  19).  This open-ness and lovingkindness, the evolutionary love of one’s and the world’s humanity, are one.  One cannot exist without the other.  But how does one accept the love and open-ness of humanity with the evil that exists in the world, evil that exists to either deliberately or apathetically exists to harm humanity, whether it is sexism, racism, or holocaust of one form or another? This is a question that deserves discussion.

This is a simple but continuous process that utilizes knowledge and wisdom. In Rahula, the Buddha explains enlightenment, “’The eye was born, knowledge was born, wisdom was born, . . . . .’ It is always seeing through knowledge or wisdom (nana-dassana), and not believing through faith.  (Rahula 1974:  9).  Elsewhere, the Buddha uses a simile where “his teaching is compared to a raft for crossing over, and not for getting hold of and carrying on one’s back.” (Rahula 1974:  11).  Each of us uses a different vehicle to get across in a spiritually evolutionary practice that is entirely individual, but once they have reached the other side, attachment to that vehicle is no longer needed.  Everything and everyone is connected.  While each of these authors see things as each of us see things in our own ways, our ideas are connected, helping each of us process and proceed to our own enlightenment.

References

De Wit, H. (March 2001). The Case for Contemplative Psychology. Shambhala Sun. Retrieved from http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2388

Suzuki, S. (1970). Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (Prologue). Retrieved from http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/zenmind.pdf

Karr, A. (2007). Chapters One and Two in Contemplating Reality: A Practitioner’s Guide to the View in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. Shambhala Publications.

Salzberg, S. (2004). Chapters One and Two in Lovingkindness: The revolutionary art of happiness. Shambhala Publications.

Rahula, W. (1974). What the Buddha taught. New York: Grove Press.
Thich Nhat Hanh. The heart of the Buddha’s teaching. (1999). New York: Broadway 
Books.

Thich Nhat Hanh. (1988). The heart of understanding: Commentaries on the 
Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.

Wallace, B. A. (2006). The attention revolution: Unlocking the power of the focused 
mind (1st ed.). Boston: Wisdom Publications.

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(Once again, I freely admit this isn’t perfect, but from the earlier Goffman Paper to this, I see some marked improvements. I would also like your constructive feedback when you have a chance to read it.  This paper is slightly similar to the Research Proposal but there are minor but significant changes to this one when you have a chance to read and skim.)

It may not be necessary to research the sexism embedded in the English language because it is overt and omnipresent to the people who are aware of and affected by it the most.  However, a grand examination or even a small study in a quiet corner of the language to determine sexism’s extent and affect would be extensive and vast, due to the limitless language of male domination employed and reflected in the conquering of foreign lands and peoples of the “New World,” much like the Romans in the old world before.  Inherent within our verbs, nouns, and grammar is the nationalism, capitalism, and cultural values that devalue women and people of color and dominate the usage that is taught to foreign nationals learning English for the first time (Piercey 2009:  111).  Frankly, if each of us notice enough of the English language and work to change it within our speck of the Universe, the English that all of us use will evolve over time. It won’t eliminate sexism completely, but evolutionary change will happen.

Obviously, sexism may be apparent in media texts such as television programming, advertising, and movies, but the sexism within those texts employs sexist language that is embedded within our language that was discussed briefly earlier in the semester during one of many discussions of media sexism.  The origin and effects of specific propaganda can be overt or subtle and embedded so deep in the language that it becomes difficult to recognize and challenging to change. Intentional propaganda is that which is practiced and performed by media companies with a deliberate agenda to promote or sell ideas or products utilizing language or socially constructed visual symbols that are already present and used instinctually and subconsciously.  Sexist propaganda is that language, by common usage, that places women in an inferior or subservient role to men rather than the role of an equal.  Sometimes this language can be blatant, and sometimes it can be subtle, commonly overt and socially accepted (Chew & Kelley-Chew 2007:  644). However, to counter the effects of sexist language that all of us are subject to daily, gender-neutral language will be employed throughout this paper rather than the sexist language that will be used as illustrations within directly quoted examples. Specifically, instead of using he as a “neutral” gendered term, s/he or one will be used, and instead of him, herm may be used.  They may also be used to signify a singular or plural pronoun.

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(Once again, I freely admit this isn’t perfect, but from the earlier Goffman Paper to this, I see some marked improvements. I would also like your constructive feedback when you have a chance to read this since I would like to make this a real study that perhaps my followers could participate in at some future date.)

To what extent are individuals influenced by the language of sexist propaganda embedded in media advertising and programming perpetuated by small in-group conversations that reinforce sexist media texts? And how aware are individuals of their use of sexist language that perpetuate themes and ideas from sexist media propaganda?  The implications of this question lie in the definition of propaganda as much as in the definition of sexist language.

Propaganda is the use of communication to achieve behavior and attitude changes amongst one group of people by another individual or group.  Intentional propaganda is that which is practiced and performed by media companies with a deliberate agenda to promote ideas or products utilizing sexist media texts already present in our language or visual symbols that are used instinctually.

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History in the Western Hemisphere, especially the United States is filled with example after example of the upper classes, the rich and wealthy, engaging in social reform of the poor and the lower classes.  But those rich and wealthy, who thought they knew better, passed judgment on those so-called poor and lower classes, and judged them based on their own high society morals.  Very little progressive social reform occurred under those circumstances, except for the limited viewpoints of those impressing their morals on others. Beyond my rant of the legislative and social morality of the present and past, it is indeed refreshing that there are other countries and individuals that are interested in actually helping rather than moralizing to a populace. 

The founder of Childline, Jeroo Billimoria, actively engages in participatory action research (PAR) or action-based community development (ABCD) or a combination of the two to improve the lives of homeless children in India.  This is something I have never seen done in the United States and certainly not in a project of this grand scale. Each time I see an example of humanity and progress such as this, it gives me ideas and hope for the future and how I can actively help people help themselves. Billimoria actively trains, teaches, and employs the children that she has saved and she treats them with humanity and respect.  They have grown up and they help others.  When I was younger, I dreamed and tried to create a self-propelled paddleboat.  This is an example of a well-oiled paddleboat that helps itself by helping others who, in turn, stay to continue helping.  This is what I want to do on some level in some way.  The whole history of Childline is one where trial and error are valued in order to evolve and improve the assistance to the homeless children of India.  Rather than give up when faced with what appeared to be failure, Billimoria learned from her mistakes and worked to improve the manner in which Childline responded and the manner in which it interacted with other agencies.

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(And so the saga continues as I wrassle with determining what a proper hypothesis.  The below is an indication of how far I have come and ow far I need to go.  But I am getting closer.) 

  1. Original Hypothesis:  Individuals and small groups are influenced by intentional sexist propaganda embedded in media texts that influence unintentional propaganda in conversational language.
  2. Alternative Hypothesis 1:  Implicit language in media texts will influence the behavior of individuals and small groups.
  3. Alternative Hypothesis 2:  Unintentional propaganda that occurs between individuals and in small groups is influenced by the language of sexism within everyday conversation embedded within media texts. Read the rest of this entry »

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I know there are” ideal” companies to work for, not because I have worked for them (because I haven’t), but because very few friends have mentioned their work environments and their ideal supervisors and because I have read about them occasionally in the news pages.  But now that I have read Hacker and Robert’s analysis of when great managers fail to become great leaders.  In point of fact, I have rarely encountered what I consider a great manager, and when I have, they moved on shortly thereafter or I did.  I suspect that most managers, and frankly most front line employees, according to Hacker and Roberts’ description, don’t receive proper mentoring or training to be managers or leaders.  On that level, this book is rather enlightening and if all companies don’t need to read and apply this, most do.

I have worked in several industries for several companies, and I have no interest in working for any more companies any more than I have to.  I am more interested in working for myself teaching and learning from others and helping them individually and in small groups find their life’s passion in their local environment.  Given that this is a corporate-slanted text, I am surprised and impressed to see a whole chapter devoted to creating a life of meaning.  This concept has puzzled my family since they felt I should be doing one thing from the beginning of my working life to the end of my working life and I did not because I did not and still do not feel that I fit a mold or stereotype that they forced themselves into.  Retirement is a social construct designed to give people a false impression that they cannot do what they love and do something instead that they are obligated to do for family, for society, for security until they are too tired to continue doing it. When did this happen? In the not to distant past, each of our ancestors, wherever they were, worked the land, worked with their hands, worked with their brains to offer local wisdom to heal.  In a manner of speaking, a career was something that you simply were, rather than something you did temporarily. I have no intention of retiring. I don’t know what that would look like, and it certainly would literally bore me to death.

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Growing up, I had enough struggles to keep out of the way, to understand what was going on around me, and to navigate my own way through puberty in junior high and high school.  As it was for everyone else, it wasn’t easy for me.  I had no conversation with my parents about any of it because I did not feel comfortable talking with my parents or my father about anything.  Understanding came later with my father and it is still difficult to have any conversation with my mother.  Oddly, the one person I felt completely safe with, my grandmother, never brought up the subject and I never thought to ask.

I was different.  I read a lot of books and my socialability developed late, so I was shy and appeared withdrawn and awkward.  Where other boys were abusive and rude to teenage girls (which in retrospect is “normal” in this society of male conditioning), I made an effort to be kind, understanding, and as protective as I was able because that’s what I projected from childhood.  I am still that was in many aspects.  When boys stole purses to torment, I attempted to play along when they were playing catch and once I had the item, I returned it.

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(Possibly part of an ongoing series.  Stay tuned)

Beginning this I had thought that it should be, “I am a feminist because…” primarily because feminism has been on my mind for the last several years probably without placing the label on it, and quite possibly due to the roles that my grandmother and my aunt have played in my life.  My life is an evolutionary process and, thus, I am learning, and programming thoughts in my life on a daily basis.

So the fact is I need feminism because, I become irritated and angry when human beings are treated as inferior because their socially constructed gender, race, or “acceptable” or “unacceptable” appearance does not conform to the so-called majority.  I need it because my grandmother and my aunt were THE strong and intelligent family leaders in my immediate and extended family, and my father, who immigrated from a heavily male-dominated society, Italy, was the most obvious sexist in my life.  Juxtaposing those two contrasts disturbed me enough to think about equality and feminism without placing a label on it until later

For me, the subject of propaganda will come up many times in this class, because it is a subject that fascinates me as a neutral term, rather than a negative one.  It is the intention and the effects that can be either positive or negative.  But I also see a very strong relation between feminism and propaganda texts (either feminist or sexist, but primarily sexist) used within advertising, television programming and motion pictures, newspaper articles and op-ed pieces.  Make no mistake that I see the overt propaganda in all media, but the sexist textual context is something I obviously need to learn more about, so yes, I need feminism because. The conversations that I have with friends and acquaintances and conversations that I overhear where human beings are prejudged as either superior, equal, or inferior based on part or all of their appearance kept me silent but disturbed until recently when I have reached the end of my patience, which can only turn me into a better activist for equality.  People who assume the inferiority of a person based solely on their gender, color, and body modifications particularly disturb me.  The psychological effects can be debilitating and superficially unnoticeable.

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