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work and experience, part 1

Currently all roads are leading to ideas about work. probably because i'm spending all my days looking for it.

As a treat, I started writing a post about all the interconnecting ideas I was having about work and earning and experience. Then it became a bit of a thesis.  So, in the interest of public safety, I've broken it into a few separate posts about work and mothering, earning, work experience and about the concept of 'hard work'.

Work and mothering

Until the point I left it on a bus, I was reading Lynne Segal's first book 'is the future female?' and within it, revisiting the journey of feminist ideas about work:
- mothering-as-work,
- sexual harrassment at work,
- the disproportionate amount of women in the areas of work that are unstable and underpaid
(especially women of colour)
- and the focus of parity in the workplace
(which i have decided needs to be reworded as parity in the workforce - a difference i'll cover).

That book was published 30 years ago and it reminded me that even though many things have improved for women (especially white western women like me) - there are some more women in better jobs, we are more present in parliament and policy-making, in higher management and still rattling at the parity cage. However, many things are still unenequal, oppressive and unjust for so many.

One of the ongoing areas of change and challenge is the link between women's role as mothers, as primary child-raisers and the unpaid, unacknowledged and assumptions about that role - a role that cuts across all the sections of women's experience.

Not to mention the public's expectations of certain mothers (like I mentioned here), it is still largely assumed women will be the primary care-givers, rather than it being a considered choice between the two people responsible for raising children.

Many of my friends and family are having children at the moment and I only know one couple for whom the man is the conscious primary care giver. And another couple for whom it has turned out that way, but wasn't necessarily discussed in those terms. Those woman have gone back to work or to running their businesses, but are still expected to keep the foot on the gas. None of the male partners  have been given parental leave longer than the first three weeks of intense newborn time - some haven't even thought about it, others have, but structurally it's likeā€¦ what?

I overheard a conversation on the tube the other day that highlighted how we still have a long way to go about the relationship between work and child raising and expectations of who does that. There were three (white) lawyers - two men and a women. Both the men have young children and they 'do their best' to get up, get to work early, so they can leave at 5pm and be home in time to spend an hour with their children before they go to bed, another couple of hours with their partner before starting all over again.

The sound of melancholy and sense of 'stuckness' in those stories was awful. We're continuing to go with the idea that a man being entitled to just an hour a day in the rearing of new people as enough - it's just not right. How can the men be OK with that too? Part of it is because the rest of their good lives are enabled by this imbalance and that 'good life' is based on the old role of 'provider', etc.

I am not a mother. Or even a potential one. So I have a slightly biased and theoretical view about this issue, but it did remind me that it's still something that is very much a problem. We are still raising people to have particular gender skews towards who needs to be raising those people.

And it means that women's 'choices' about mothering - using their skills to raise children, etc, are still in response to expectation. This is not to judge the role of women in mothering. It's just to point out that having a choice about it adds value and agency to it (something i'll cover more in the next post)

As an aside, in looking for that image above, here's what came up. not even stock photography is helping us here:

Interestingly, in looking for work at the moment, I have had my first interaction with this assumption about women's roles with my own parental status.

There are probably loads of other reasons why I'm not being interviewed, but in some situations, I have became aware that, due to my particular age and gender - that winning combination -  it puts me into 'mother' or 'potential mother' range and can influence decisions about hiring. Especially in relation to my perceived commitment to a role vs my other perceived 'priorities', not to mention an expectation about working with youth.

That had never occurred to me before.

That's how much privilege I have. I've just hit my first thought of real discrimation towards work - something that is outside of my control and an assumption made without even meeting me.

Naturally, it's an opportunity for me to clarify these things in my applications but damn I've never had to include my youthful appearance, attitude and empty uterus in a cover letter before. 


90 in 90 days

Instead of running a marathon, giving up smoking, or losing a stone, I'm beginning the new year with another 90 drawings in 90 days stint.

Primarily because, as uncool as it is for commercial value, drawing connects me.

It forces me to pay attention to the world AS IT REALLY IS, I have to observe, be present, consider myself in it and it also gives a sense of accomplishment when you've done one. Even if it's left undone.

I embarked on a stint in 2012 and completed 30 drawings, including a series that helped me deal with the stress of an HIV scare and moving to the UK. i still quite like some of these drawings. 

A few weeks' ago, I discovered one I did of the V&A Museum when I first arrived in London in 2012 (above), and thought 'Hey, it's not so bad'. That feeling's quite a nice gift to give yourself.

Having decided to let go of all assumptions and misconceptions about myself and art, the desire to write and draw have bubbled up to the surface like basic needs from yesteryear. I guess they are my core methods for processing information.

Despite my raunchy love affair with web things, I still have to work out the difficult and complex things -  like feelings, perception and deep longing - with a pen and paper.

So i'm going to do one of these sessions again. 90 drawings in 90 days. This time the focus will be largely drawing from life - because of the required attention, it's a bit meditative. And I can explore how sound and writing comes into that practice.

Back to basics, kids.


hannah arendt (the movie)

Last week, as I was revisiting* the discussion between Melissa Harris-Perry and bell hooks at the New School, I remembered my academic crush on The New School as a school in which a lot of my favourite thinkers, writers and artists have taught/teach and whose research I admire (a bit like my London LSE fantasy).

Which, in turn, reminded me about the Hannah Arendt film released here last year, directed by Margarethe von Trotta, and centred around her time at the New School.

Now, I think Hannah Arendt is amazing.
Her books The Origins of Totalitarianism and The Human Condition are crucial, her take on Rosa Luxembourg is heartwarming and my copy of The Portable Hannah Arendt is tattered with love and much use. The reports she made about the extraordinary trials in Jerusalem of Adolf Eichmann were so sensational and provoked vital critical thinking about genocide, sovereignty, international law and crimes against humanity.

She has problematic views too. Her take on the Little Rock Nine and desegregation of education the US is one I categorically reject, and her complicity in the occupation of Palestine through her work with Youth Aliya disturbs me.

Yet her complexity and her writing (as a whole) is a formidable influence on my work, thinking and inevitably on the work of people I admire, too.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I approached the film. 

Much in the same way films about Frida Kahlo, Sylvia Plath and Truman Capote have been unsatisfying**, I didn't want to witness a degrading, thin or limiting rendition of someone who is complex, who I admire and who I think the world needs to pay attention to.

There is always the threat that, in attempting to funnel their life down into a story of 100 minutes within the genre of contemporary filmmaking , it will reduce them to an afterthought and undermine the work they've done, as opposed to laude and celebrate their place in the world. Especially as the history of mainstream cinema banks on that kind of entertaining reduction and revisionism: palatable, easily distributable and marketable.

Sadly, i think that's what has happened to the character of Hannah Arendt in this film.

Given that Arendt is a writer and theortician, i imagine not easy to depict this kind of life in film.  
So the obvious way through is to focus on the fracas that she caused with her New Yorker report from 1961 Eichmann in Jersualem (still available on the New Yorker website!).  So the film centred around her trip to Israel for the trials, her discussions about the trials and theories of evil, justice and humanity, the writing of those articles and the aftermath of the publishing.

It was the beginning of discussion about the role of law, who gets to punish, about the role of media/journalism in such a massive undertaking.

And given that, really, i think the title should have been Hannah Arendt: A Reporter At Large or The Eichmann trials, or something along those lines - something that was in line with the story and trajectory of the film.

By its broad title, it suggests a story about her entirety, or the whole of her career at least.

The film focused a little on her relationships with students, her work with Karl Jaspers and Youth Aliya and other writers/acedemics at the time, but it primarily focused on her relationship with her bloody husband!
Just like every other biopic about women in the arts and letters.

Frida was about Diego, Sylvia was about Ted and Hannah was about Heinrich and/or Martin. In fact, the only recent film I have seen about an influencial woman that wasn't about her husband, was The Iron Lady about Margaret Thatcher. Which was about her debilitating illness instead. Not to degrade that, mind, but for god's sake can we have a film about the breadth of an intelligent woman's life!

Yet with those criticisms out of the way, I was still chuffed to see a political theorist in film, a female academic on film: her strong and opinionate character, the smoking (lordy - she didn't stop!), her friendship with author Mary McCarthy and a bit of her connection with Martin Heidegger. To see on-screen discussion of the theories of Heidegger and the difficulty in divorcing his excellent theory work from his decision to stay in the nazi party - that was welcome. And perpetuated in similar grey areas about Arendt (although not necessarily teased out).

And, as I mentioned, I appreciated seeing the New School as a kind of character, too  - the subplot of their flip-flopping sycophancy and rejection of their controversial 'prized lecturer'.  Reminiscent of the character of Harvard University in The Social Network, the university and its influence on those who influence is an interesting side-note.

I am not sure how good a film this is if you didn't know who Hannah Arendt is. This is a shame, because film is oftentimes an opportunity to also educate or intrigue people who may be otherwise none-the-wiser.
But if you do know about Arendt and her work, it is still worthwhile seeing for a kind of curiosity, fondness or revisiting her written work. And perhaps for generating resolve towards better scriptwriting about intelligent women of influence.

*when i say revisiting, i mean clapping my hands gleefully and yahooing around the house like a madwoman.

** geez - why are all these films just their names? how about 'zapatista in surrealism' or 'in the blue hours' or 'the love of in cold blood'. OK, iIm terrible with titles, but c'mon - single word names?