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Flight Assistant Gone Wild

 

Video: http://news.yahoo.com/video/houston11news-15750765/fed-up-flight-attendant-curses-passenger-grabs-beer-slides-off-plane-21333128

On Tuesday August 10th 2010, an incident regarding a flight attendant and a passenger led to some odd events that might bring about some negative repercussions. Steven, the flight attendant was asking a passenger to sit down after a plane had landed, but the passenger refused and instead hit Steven. Afterwards the flight attendant had told off the passenger via the public address system and then slid off the plane using the inflatable slide, while drinking a beer. Although the attendant was arrested, this created a buzz amongst individuals all over the United States saluting and promoting Stevens actions.

I think this type of Semiotic, non-verbal communication portrays a negative image to the public, as the signifier and the signified are misguided and giving praise to someone that doesn’t deserve it. I can understand that Steven was upset about being struck by a passenger, but there would have been a better way to handle the situation. He could of easily filed a lawsuit against that passenger, then had the passenger fined, potentially black listed, thus avoiding any future confrontations with this individual and other flight attendants, and then kept his job. Overall, this type of bad publicity will bring about more idiots doing stupid stunts just as they’re about to quit some job. It’s in our human nature to follow each other, like lemmings jumping off a cliff.

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Standpoint Theory of Mothers and Daughters

Feminist theory has a lot to contend with in today’s western society. A recent article  in MacLean’s magazine discusses the changing values of young women who now perceive the concept of feminism as negative and out-dated. The article discusses the “unique gender gap” that is emerging between mothers who grew up in an era when equal rights were still being actively sought, and their teenage daughters who believe that the fight is over and women now have all the same opportunities and rights that men do. 

MacLean’s interviews with teen girls demonstrate this generations’ prevailing attitudes about feminism. Terms that belittle women are now casually used between girls who believe that the power behind these words has been eliminated and that they have nothing left to worry about or to fight for. To this extreme are TV shows that modern teens are watching which, according to the girls’ mothers, are “worse than the 1950’s” in terms of their views on women and their place in society. These women, who in their own youth raised awareness about violence against women, are horrified to see scenes of violence against women being used as entertainment for their own daughters. Believing that feminism is a thing of the past, teenage girls are conned into believing that they should behave as “sexual beings that please men”, and that this is their own idea, unrelated to sexual inequality. 

I think this is an interesting perspective to look at Sandra Harding’s Standpoint Theory from. The idea that all women share a common standpoint is undermined by the different views of women from various generations. Notably, mothers of today’s teenagers believe that the sexually promiscuous behaviour shown in the media which targets young girls is a sign that women’s inequality is still a tremendous issue. However, the girls in question seem to entirely miss the point about the messages they are buying into. The article suggests that this is simply due to a lack of reflection: the messages come so fast and from so many different sources that girls do not stop to think about the significance of their overtly sexual behaviour. This stark contrast in opinion about the role of feminism counters the concept of “women as a single social group”.

The MacLean’s article does not take a stance as to whether the mothers or their teenage daughters are right in their argument. Are teenage girls perpetuating the inequalities between men and women with their own sexual behaviour? Or is feminism a thing of the past, as they believe, with the battles now safely won and over with?

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Feminism and Sports

According to Kramarae and other feminist theorists, women’s words are discounted in our society and women’s thoughts are devalued.  Kramarae  believes that our man-made language only aids in persecuting and excluding women.  Muted theory applies not only to women but other minorities groups as well.  The “mutedness” of an individual or group is due to the lack of power that comes with being a minority group. Kramarae says “the ever-prevalent public-private
distinction in language is a convenient way to exaggerate gender differences and pose separate sexual spheres of activity”. She says that men control the public mode of discussion and that with this control they have produced a great number of derogatory, gender specific terms.

There is no better place that i can think of than football to use as an example of a womans muted position.  I have played football since i was small, and played two years here at the University but my example comes from when i was in high school.  During my grade 11 season of football we had a couple of girls try out for our team, our team was split between those who did not want them on the team and those who didn’t care.  Personally i just wanted to win, so if they were good enough to help then let them play.  The problem with football is it is entirely male dominated, from the players and coaches to the lingo used in day to day practices.  Many words used in practice were derogatory, and often aimed at making players feel bad by saying they play like pussies, or throw like a girl.   We were bond together as men, but how were we to do that with girls on the team.   As with any high school team there was lots of hazing and practical jokes. Since we had girls on the team that year they were almost all done to them.   Having them on the team proved to mess with the team dynamics, hald of the kids didnt want to hit them because they were afraid to hurt them.  The other half didnt want to get tackled or scored on by a girl, since the team would ridicule them endlessly for doing so.  In the end both of the girls were cut from the team, one was just not very good, however the other was pretty good and could have helped the team out.  This just shows how hard it is for females to break into male dominated areas of society.

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Masculism vs Feminism

Kramarae says women’s words are discounted in our society and women’s thoughts are devalued.  Because in the past, Men has invented everything while women stays home and watch children and been doing house work. 

Now a day, women and men are equally value.  In fact in my family, my mom and my sister dominate the house while me and my dad are doing opposite.  The key difference here is that women paint men as a group as a problem in society, while men paint feminism as a theory.  You needn’t be a feminist to work with women’s issues.  You can work on all kinds of important women’s issues around the world, political or otherwise, without buying into the political ideology that is feminism or radical feminism. 

Personally I believe that there are still lots of important women’s issues around the world that need to be dealt with.

Masculism is a movement that is much needed in the world today, both as a force to put important men’s issues on the political agenda as well as a movement that dares to confront the political ideology that is feminism without attacking women and without attacking people who work with women’s issues.

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Why didn’t we cover Genderlect Styles?

Hi Folks,

I can’t help but post something on the discussion that seems to be forming around “rapport talk vs. report talk”. For those of you who don’t know the concept comes from Deborah Tannen’s genderlect styles. Every year when I put this course together I have a fair bit of leeway as to what theories I choose to cover. In the past I used to cover the genderlect styles chapter in the same week in which I would cover the intro to feminist thought we covered last week and the chapters on muted group and standpoint. I was never really comfortable putting these three together, but seating gender studies next to feminism was better than seating it next to critical theory or structuralism or others. I want some of you to take a stab at answering the following question in the comment section attaced to this post.

Why do you think I wasn’t comfortable teaching genderlect styles(a gender studies theory) in the same class as feminist theory? Why do you think I left genderlect out this year?

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More on Muted Group Theory

Reading about the Muted Group Theory has been a real eye opener for me.  I could really relate and have seen this at work in society but didn’t have the capacity to put my finger on what was happening.  I would not want to downplay the struggles that minorities have in functioning in society using a language that is not their first language – but there are definate similarities to that dynamic for women who are functioning with male-based language in male dominated environments. 

I have worked in a senior management position in a male dominated environment and can speak from experience that it is far harder for women, requires much more mental energy to communicate, and for me this resulted in a much more stressful environment than if my natural way of being was as accepted as the masculine way of being is.  It’s much more complicated than just wanting gender neutral terms used like “fire fighter”.  In a public arena where male communication is the norm, I definately choose my words more carefully and continually question whether my actual meaning is going to be understood.  The challenge is if I do or  say something that’s considered a little too feminine in a “bad way”, there is a high probability that I will be ridiculed by male counterparts at the very least.  At most I will lose credibility and be perceived as weak and this has a very real impact on how much responsibility and what types of projects I will be trusted with.  That can and does effect promotions, bonuses and salaries.  Also of note, I noticed this dynamic far more at work at the upper levels of management than in positions at the non-management level – there it is really obvious.  So just because you haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

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Consensus-Based Decision Making

In replying to Michael’s post about banking and women, my mind started on this train of thought that involves social contructionism and feminism.

He was talking about the “rapport” and “report” section in the textbook, the two definitions which are described as follows:

Rapport talk: The typical conversational style of women, which seeks to establish connection with others.

Report talk: The typical monologic style of men, which seeks to command attention, convey information and win arguments

I have a lot of problems with these two definitions, but let’s just stick to them as such.

It was suggested that perhaps men are more suited to decision making positions because of their reported inclination towards report talk. Michael asked “is it just more conversationally natural for men to dictate tasks?” which I think is a very interesting question. Yes, the definition of report talk does very pointedly suggest that this might be true. In a workplace with bosses and managers and employees and CEOs, this would fit right in.

But what about workplaces without this sort of hierarchy? I work for a co-op which is organized around consensus-based decision making. If you are not familiar with this process (it is slightly more complex than it sounds) I suggest that you read this Wikipedia article about it. In my workplace, I don’t have a boss. I don’t have a manager. There is no accountant, there is no bookkeeper, no one that does all of the product orders and most long-term employees can sign paychecks. People take turns volunteering to do the various administrative tasks. All of our decisions regarding the business are done by consensus at meetings that happen every month, and if anything comes up in the meantime it is done by e-mail in a similar fashion.

In this sort of workplace, there is no one to dictate tasks. All of a sudden this desire to “win arguments” and to “command attention” is useless. This sort of behavior is actually seen as harmful and counter-productive when trying to reach decisions by consensus. Everyone’s opinions, style of conversation and thoughts are welcomed and helpful in some way. People take turns talking and must raise their hand and be but in queue. The fact of being a man or a woman (there’s even a gender-neutral individual who works with me) becomes completely irrelevant. Any tediousness or repetitiveness that would be associated with this sort of process is worth it in the instances where it does come up, but there is a facilitator to make sure this doesn’t happen.

The structures of most businesses are not like this. We take the structure of a real-estate office or a bank or a coffee shop as the status quo, but perhaps it’s time to start looking even at that with “deep wonder.”

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The Power to Name

In accordance with the muted group theory, Dale Spender argued that the reason why childbirth is labelled a joyous and miraculous experience is because men have named it that, and they haven’t had to deal with the pain and suffering of giving birth. Perhaps that may be true, but I would also like to point out that another word for childbirth, is Labour. And that seems to coincide more with the physical demands of childbirth. I wonder if Spender would argue that a woman must have come up with that name. In my challenge to her, I would also bring up the possibility that older women themselves may have encouraged the correlation of childbirth as being miraculous and joyous, to encourage younger women to have children, because if the emphasizes was on how painful the experience was, younger women wouldn’t want to procreate.

While I’m on the subject of the power to name, I would like to point out how the military has used it to create acceptance for things that shouldn’t be accepted. My first example is the term, Friendly Fire. I don’t see anything friendly about killing people. My second example is how gay men and women are kicked out of the army for being gay. Whenever this happens now, they are said to have been Honorably Discharged. I fail to see what’s so honorable about disallowing someone to defend their country because of their sexual orientation. These are examples of how the power to name can really be twisted.

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My Mom’s Birthday

In the muted group theory, Kremarae is convinced that males have more difficulty than females in understanding what members of the other gender mean. She also suggests that men don’t have a clue about what women want, think, or feel, and its because they haven’t made the effort to find out. I have a story that challenges that.

One year, while I was growing up, my mom’s birthday was coming up and she really wanted a dustbuster. Whenever my dad was around, she would hint at how she wanted a dustbuster. When I spilled sunflower seeds on the kitchen floor one time, she said, in front of my dad, “oh, if only we had a dustbuster, i could clean it up in a jiffy”. But she never actually told my dad to his face that she wanted a dustbuster for her birthday. Whenever my dad asked her what she wanted, she said, “Oh, nothing. Don’t worry about little old me”. So, for her birthday, my Dad got her perfume, and she got all pissed off. We then went out for dinner, as we had planned. After arguing for a bit, my parents sat in an awkard silence for a while. Then, my mom asked my dad, “What’s wrong”?

I felt bad for my dad, because he honestly tried to understand my mom, but he just couldn’t interpret her symbolic meanings. Also, I really don’t think my mom actually tried to understand my dad. This example argues against Kramarae’s theory.

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The Muted Group in Mary Poppins

The early 1900’s in London, England was an exciting and influential era for feminist activism. Primarily, women were fighting for basic political rights, including the right to vote. This marks the “first wave” of feminism, during which women actively fought to be considered people under the law. These women were hugely influential in improving the lives of women, and their efforts have had a huge impact in history.

The 1964 film “Mary Poppins” is a children’s film which provides an interesting look at the fight for women’s suffrage in London England in 1910. Mrs. Banks is the wife of a successful and influential but shortsighted banker. Mr. Banks seems to represent an exaggerated example of male attitudes of the time. He is content with the status quo and considers himself the head of a successful household. His wife, on the other hand, has joined forces with many other London women to fight against this status quo which continues to restrict them from participating fully in this male-dominated society. This scene shows Mrs. Banks returning from a demonstration for women’s suffrage. This one shows Mr. Banks returning home from work and expressing his contentment with the status quo of this male-dominated society.

I think Mr. and Mrs. Banks’ relationship is a case in point for muted group theory. Despite his wife’s vocal enthusiasm, Mr. Banks remains oblivious to Mrs. Banks and all she has to say, indicating that women of this time still had a long struggle to have their voices heard. The irony of Mr. Banks’ ignorance about women and his own wife’s fight for women’s suffrage emphasizes Mrs. Banks’ muted status. Whether Mr. Banks likes it or not, times are changing and women will soon have a much more influential role to play in society. However, Mr. Banks proudly maintains that he is living in “the age of men”, arrogantly perpetuating exactly the attitude that Mrs. Banks is struggling to erase. 

 When the term “suffragette” was first used, it was a derogatory term for radical women’s rights activists. That Mrs. Banks proudly refers to herself as one suggests that her efforts are giving a voice to a group of people who have for too long been shamed into silence. When she suggests that they will someday see “political equality, and equal rights with men” the kitchen helper screams and covers her mouth in shock, so outrageous is this concept of equality. Women were conditioned in this way to believe that their place in society was below that of men. The very fact that during the demonstration a woman was “carried off to prison, singing and scattering pamphlets on the way” shows the lengths that men were willing to go to in order to silence this group of “muted” women. They were legally forbidden from expressing their views in public, and so their message seemed to fall constantly on deaf ears. It took a great deal of perseverance and repetition of their message to bring an end to this “age of men”, signaling the start of an up-hill battle for women’s rights.

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