Thursday, December 5, 2019

Survivor's Sickening Sexism

I'm a few episodes behind on season 39 of CBS's Survivor, so no doubt others have written at length and in shorter social media posts, but I can't help myself. The episode reeks of both interpersonal and institutionalized sexism. The production team (i.e., institution) confirms their heightened awareness of the issue at hand by opening the episode with this warning:

The concerns revolve around contestant, Dan, who's alleged of sexually harassing a number of female contestants. Without getting into all the details, a visibly upset Kellee asserts, "He literally has done this (touched inappropriately) to five different women in this game. This sucks." The production team responds, informing her they can intervene if she wishes (see below, right):

From there, the following messages are shown to the audience, confirming that concerns of sexual harassment are real, as producers state they have met with all contestants and individually with Dan, who was formally warned. Bottom line, the allegations and feelings expressed by female contestants were not considered fabricated.

But then the game play begins. This isn't a blog about who tricked/out played who. This is about manipulating discrimination. In the end after Kellee is ousted from the tribe, Janet finds out she was played by Elizabeth who told her that she felt uncomfortable about Dan's touching. But really, Elizabeth was working along side Dan, and the pitch to Janet about sexual harassment was just game play.

Elizabeth outright admits this, but the primary thing Dan, Missy or anyone else involved really cares about is if their alliance is stable. To be clear, sexual harassment is a form of gender-based discrimination. That's indisputable. Therefore, Elizabeth (and potentially others) consciously used a form of discrimination as game play.

Would it be permissible for a white player to go up to an African American player and say, "Hey, 'player X over there used the n-word'", as a means to advance their game? I don't think so. Why then is it acceptable for people in this season of Survivor to consciously manipulate sexual harassment as part of their strategy?

Then Tribal Council happens again in the episode. The contestants are discussing the issue as the now exiled Kellee must watch in silence. And how problematic is that - the rules of Survivor prohibit a victim from speaking about her victimization while everyone else talks about it right in front of her. Jamal extremely eloquently lays it down, explaining why men should acknowledge their privilege and not question when women and girls express feeling uncomfortable when males touch them inappropriately and/or are sexually assaulted. Listen, it's less than 90 seconds, or read below.

"...I think this issue is a lot bigger than the game of Survivor...from my positionality with my gender, far be it from me to speak for women, what I can do as a man, I can give a little bit of advice as to how hear these stories, when we're talking about harassment, when we're talking about discomfort, when we're talking about male entitlement. It behooves us all as men to take a step back and look at our own behavior, and imagine that you had no idea that what you were doing was inappropriate, that was making someone uncomfortable, and you believe women if they choose to bring that up because it's difficult enough to do that in and of itself. We have a responsibility to hear women, listen to women and believe women when they're ready to tell their stories." 

And ultimately what happens after Jamal says this? He's voted off. No, not because he said what he said. The problem is he was kicked off in spite of what he said. Ultimately, the players cared about advancing in the game more than they cared about someone who had the courage to say all the right things regarding this particular form of discrimination, including that sexual harassment is bigger than the game of Survivor.

Unfortunately, no, not in this world. A game for $1,000,000 and all kinds of status ended up being bigger than the manipulation of sexual harassment. Not for Janet - she put aside her game play to try and oust someone who she was told was harassing women. Not for Jamal - he expressed what society needs so desperately to understand. But for the players who colluded to kick Jamal out, his and Janet's efforts to stand up to sexual harassment were superseded by our society's pathetic desire for money and fame, and that's just sad. Unfortunately that's what Survivor is - yeah, a microcosm for society at large, whose values are disgustingly twisted.

And what about Survivor's production team? Are they going to let this go? Apparently it's now acceptable for players to use discrimination as a form of game play. Will they bring this up at the season finale, and do so appropriately? Or will they simply convey, "Sexual harassment is bad and won't be tolerated." Cause fact is, on this episode sexual harassment wasn't just tolerated, it was outright allowed as strategic trickery (Elizabeth admitted it on camera), and the institution sat idly by when that happened.

Discrimination can never be game play, period, because if it is, it communicates that discrimination can be used as "game play" in other social institutions (e.g., work places, schools, sports teams). Why can't the Survivor production team get that? Apologies from the contestants are something, but the institution should have intervened appropriately and immediately.

Further reading: Survivor's "#MeToo moment" protected the game instead of the players

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Trends in Contemporary Social Movement Leaders

Beginning with Malala Yousafzai, she along with Emma González and Greta Thurnberg, have been leading major campaigns since the early 2010's. Lots of patterns to recognise here, not only with respect to these three individuals, but also in how segments of society have responded to them.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Contemporary Slavery in Thailand

Over at Sociology in Focus, I have a completed 4-part series on contemporary slavery in Thailand based on a recent trip I took in August with Global Exchange.

Part 1 is titled "Contemporary Slavery: Developing and Preying on Vulnerability". It explains the socio-political backdrop to worker exploitation and full-fledged slavery in Thailand. The two groups that face the greatest levels of exploitation are Burmese migrants and rural hill tribe Thai, both of whom lack critical citizenship rights, thereby increasing their vulnerability.

Part 2 is titled "Contemporary Slavery: How's that Shrimp You're Eating?". This post examines the shrimping industry in Thailand - one that doesn't receive much media attention, but is extremely large, and rests upon massive labour exploits.

Part 3 is titled "Contemporary Slavery: Connections to Thailand's War on Drugs". This post ties Thailand's harsh war against methamphetamines that began in 2003, describing how such punitive and violent measures carried out by the state exacerbated social inequality and was particularly harmful to those groups in Thailand that were already most vulnerable to being exploited.

Part 4 is titled "Contemporary Slavery: Thailand's Matrix of Domination". In this final post, I discuss how hill tribe Thai males are driven into commercial sexual exploitation, operating in an extreme limited opportunity structure.

Click on any of the links above to read the stories; in each one there are additional links, videos, and pictures accompanying the content.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Let's Hold Obama To It

Okay, so Obama pulled it off. I'm happy, but more so relieved that Romney didn't win. In typical Obama fashion, a well delivered victory speech:

@ 11:00:
"We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America open to the dreams of an immigrant's daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag..."

@ 19:05:
"America, I believe we can build on the progress we've made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunities and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you're willing to try."

Well, in reality, I disagree because discrimination and inequality still exists. Too many Americans won't keep that promise because America is still ensconced with significant bigotry and ignorance that won't let so many minorities succeed no matter how hard they work. However, the ideal is nice to express, and let's face it, you would never hear such a message from Romney or really any other prominent Republican candidate that speaks appreciably to that level of diversity. 

So, now, it's time to hold President Obama to being the progressive president he claimed to be four years ago. There's no campaigning to worry about four years from now. Get it done!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Voting for Romney is Voting for Patriarchy

Patriarchy is defined as “…a form of social organization in which cultural and institutional beliefs and patterns accept, support, and reproduce the domination of women and younger men by older or more powerful men. Literally the ‘rule of the fathers,’ today sociologists view as patriarchal any system that contributes to the social, cultural, and economic superiority or hegemony of men.” If the American public elects Republican nominee Mitt Romney to presidency, they will be further entrenching a system of patriarchy where old men utilize methods of social control to repress women.
Throughout the 2012 U.S. presidential campaigns, women’s rights have been a major issue. While President Obama has offered more specific examples of how his administration supports women’s rights, candidate Romney has argued his proposed policies would be more supportive of women through a revamping of economic policies. A closer look at Romney’s perspectives on social issues specific to women’s rights, however, demonstrates that Romney would push America into a patriarchal abyss where wealthy men in positions of power dictate women’s decisions.
First of all, let’s not forget that Romney has openly supported Republican politician Richard Mourdock, a man who claims, “Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” Irrespective of how such sentiments are framed (i.e., focused on offspring or how offspring were conceived), you have men in extreme positions of power supporting one another in an attempt to limit women’s control over their own bodies (tell ‘em Cher; see video, below).

Romney's support of Mourdock is a classic example of patriarchy, where the institutions of government and religion combine to constrain women’s choices. The connection to government is obvious (these are politicians talking here), but also note Mourdock’s quote, which pays homage to “God.” Hence, it is simultaneously government and religion that are used in tandem as institutions of social control, which would render most women criminal if they were to choose abortion under a Romney presidency. As stated on Romney’s official website, “[Romney] believes that the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade” (and notably limits “defining marriage as between one man and one woman”).
Romney, of course paints himself as a “moderate” Republican. The party’s official stance on abortion, and that of Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, calls for total elimination of abortion rights – even if conception was the result of rape, incest, or if the birth of a child threatens a mother’s life. There would be literally no exceptions. As a self-proclaimed moderate, Romney would allow for these three exceptions to stand. Still, as Katha Pollitt argues, a Romney change in policy would criminalize the vast majority of women who want and/or need an abortion:
Romney, in fact, supports banning abortion except in cases of rape or incest, or to save the woman’s life. He’s running ads that tout these exceptions as evidence of his moderation, but what kind of moderate wants to criminalize 93 percent of all abortions? Among those who would not be lucky enough to qualify for Romney’s exceptions are women carrying fetusus with fatal conditions, the mentally ill and pregnant women at risk for any injury short of death. In reality, Romney would criminalize most abortions for rape and incest victims, too, since most rapes and incest are not reported…
Furthermore, a Romney administration would likely end aspects of “Obamacare” that enable working women “to obtain contraception, annual well-woman visits, screenings for sexually transmitted infections and gestational diabetes, breastfeeding support and supplies, and domestic violence screenings without any co-pays or deductibles.” And finally, a Romney administration would certainly end all federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
As stated by Romney, “Planned Parenthood is a private organization. What I want to get rid of is the federal funding of Planned Parenthood.” But deteriorating support for Planned Parenthood means decreasing federal support for cancer screenings and perhaps unsurprisingly related to the criminalization of abortion, birth control. So here we have a man hoping to end access to birth control, which would help decrease unwanted pregnancies and in turn, abortions, a practice this same man wants to criminalize! Neither the irony nor the patriarchy in a Romney/Ryan administration could be more obvious.
Granted, voting for Obama will not end patriarchy in the United States or even in government specifically. The Obama administration has not been perfect and could have done much more the last four years. But to vote for Romney/Ryan is to vote for a much more overt and pointed patriarchy; it is to vote for a country where a few men in extreme positions of power control women by limiting their choices. Is this the direction our world should be moving?

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Obama, Romney, the 2012 Presidential Election and Diversity

Within the party, leadership admits Republican disapproval directed towards President Obama is tied heavily to ongoing racist values.  Via the Huffington Post:

Such trends noted above by Lawrence Wilkerson help to explain that which has been made clear by the Washington Post -- the upcoming presidential election looks to be one very much divided along racial lines. As noted in the article, comparing trends from 2008, "Romney appears to have made no inroads in chipping away at Obama's support among Hispanics and African Americans" and further, that "Fully 91 percent of Romney’s support comes from white voters." Oddly enough, the Romney preference among white voters is tied heavily to perceptions that Romney would do more to help the American economy:

There is no way to tell from these findings what role, if any, racial prejudice may play on either side of the racial gap. But the data suggest that concern about the economy is amplifying the division, as Obama’s decline in support among white voters appears to be closely linked to views of his handling of the economy. And yet minorities have suffered severe unemployment and housing foreclosures in the current economy as well.

Romney's economic policies, however, are most clearly illustrated in action. Production for Romney paraphernalia is not happening in the United States. Rather, it is happening abroad. How exactly does that promote American jobs and the broader economy? It doesn't. See picture, below:

And if considering global perceptions, the BBC polled a sample of 21,797 people from 21 countries to get a gauge on the world's preference between Obama and Romney. Only Pakistan showed a preference for Romney, and a narrow one at that. Those polled from every other country expressed a strong preference for Obama, exhibiting the more positive global reputation Obama has achieved over the past four years. See the graphic, below:

We don't live in isolation, and the United States is not an ethnically homogeneous country.  Romney is NOT the answer.

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