Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Invisible Man

From Nowthatslingerie
"If representational visibility equals power," says Peggy Phelan, "then almost-naked young white women should be running Western culture."

Frog by Matsumoto Hoji -
random postcard sending site.
'Kay yah, this blogpost is about the invisible 'unmarked' nature of power. It provides part of the explanation as to why women; people from black and minority ethnic communities;the disabled; gay, lesbian and bisexual and many other kinds of people who are not quite 'the Man', do not do as well as we ought to. We don't get into positions where we can work even though we have a better understanding of power. We end up noisily proclaiming how well we would manage power if we could get it in our hands - whenever we can lift our eyes up from scrubbing the floor. (Nietzsche calls this the 'frog's perspective' - that is another blogpost.)

I love Peggy Phelan's thinking. She writes about performance and power and the deeper performance we enact in order to be certain identities. Judith Butler calls this performativity, to try to show that it's not a volitional performance. We can't choose to 'do' femininity, Asian-ness, lesbianness. We are 'called' into being these kinds of people, with or without power. We can't refuse. Think about the murder of Brandon Teena. That's how cruelly society can punish you just because you want to be a different gender to the one they think you ought to be. (I can't help wondering why people would get so agitated just because they think you ought to be feminine and you want to 'do' the masculine. Oh, well, again ... that's another story.)

What Peggy Phelan points to in describing the way that the visibility of young women doesn't lead to power is that to have real power, you should not stand up and claim it. You should just be able to assume you've got it, and everyone around you assumes so too.

From Hive.
Rui takes up statistics
to impress her dreamboat
guy. But what of geeky
bespectacled Mr Yamamoto
who can even teach
standard deviation ...?
Let's think about getting a job. Maybe you are a skilled teacher of social sciences. You have been running a module in exemplary fashion in a key area of social science for a year. A permanent job comes up and you suggest you be redeployed into this post. "But ... you can't teach statistics," management say in bewilderment. "Actually, I am already teaching statistics for another university I work for," you say proudly (also thinking about the last time they lambasted all the permanent staff saying a good social scientist should be able to turn their fist and teach any area of the the social sciences). Then they reject your application on the grounds that your research is not up to scratch.

From hereticaljargon.
So you can see that the Man-agement has a real problem thinking of you as a serious manly kind of social scientist teacher. Are your skills invisible to them? No, your femininity is all too visible, clouding your invisible skills. How about if you kick off and have a tantrum on the office floor going: "You appointed me to my one year post as a researcher as well as teacher. It is impossible for me to have been good enough at research to teach a year ago and not be good enough now! Wah wah! I am going to get the Union in!"

Well, dahlinks, you sure made yourself visible. The Man-agement are thinking, 'what a troublesome woman. She is way too much trouble. Anyway, I have already got my li'l student lined up for this job (hmmm? Oh well, as a matter of fact he is white, male, able-bodied, heterosexual ... but that is all irrelevant.He is the kind of serious person who focuses on social science not kicking off all over the place about things not being fair).'

If you are a certain kind of person - which happens to be the same kind of person as 95% of management, you are just assumed to be suitable for proper jobs. If you are not, then you have to jump up and down to prove your suitability but the very fact that you have to do that shows you are an unsuitable show-off loudmouth.The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Oh ... cleaning up world 
mess is best done by a 
man, too? But I have such a 
lot of experience with a mop. 
So, the Man-agement tend to appoint people they just assume are right for the job - often for reasons which are not to do with qualifications and experience. If you make your qualifications and experience visible to them, you are trying too hard. Your qualifications and experience can't be that good if you are having to make such a song and dance about them. C'mon, stop making such a fuss. The Man-agement aren't going to feel confident about appointing you if you go on in such a hysterical fashion about your amazing amazingness.

Hmmm, bit of a dilemma here ... (whoah, girl! you are wielding that mop a mite fiercely into the floor today). 

ETA: Tio_Narratore tells me almost-naked women are making a bold attempt to run Western culture! Or at least prevent it making a complete arse of itself: article on topless protest inside Quebec legislature

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