Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Bette Davis: Reading Too Much, Getting A Divorce

On 7 December 1938, the New York Times reported that the reason for the dissolution of Bette Davis' marriage with Harmon 'Oscar' Nelson was that she read too much (via):

"Harmon O. Nelson obtained an uncontested divorce today from his actress wife, Bette Davis.
Home life with Mrs. Nelson contained little of that close communion between husband and wife, Mr. Nelson's testimony in Superior Court disclosed. He said that he usually just sat while his wife read, "to an unnecessary degree."
"She thought her work was more important than her marriage," Mr. Nelson testified. "She even insisted on reading books or manuscripts when he had guests. It was all very upsetting."
The Nelsons were married in 1932 and separated a month ago."

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photograph of Ruth Elizabeth 'Bette' Davis (1908-1989) via

Monday, 21 January 2019

"...symbolic violence, a gentle violence, imperceptible and invisible even to its victims". Pierre Bourdieu

I would probably not have embarked on such a difficult subject if I had not been compelled to do so by the whole logic of my research. I have always been astonished by what might be called the paradox of doxa -the fact that the order of the world as we find it, with its one-way streets and its no-entry signs, whether literal or figurative, its obligations and its penalties, is broadly respected; that there are not more transgressions and subversions, contraventions and 'follies' (...); or, still more surprisingly, that the established order, with its relations of domination, its rights and prerogatives, privileges and injustices, ultimately perpetuates itself so easily, apart from a few historical accidents, and that the most intolerable conditions of existence can so often be perceived as acceptable and even natural.

And I have also seen masculine domination, and the way it is imposed and suffered, as the prime example of this paradoxical submission, an effect of what I call symbolic violence, a gentle violence, imperceptible and invisible even to its victims exerted for the most part through the purely symbolic channels of communication and cognition (more precisely, misrecognition), recognition, or even feeling. This extraordinarily ordinary social relation thus offers a privileged opportunity to grasp the logic of the domination exerted in the name of a symbolic principle known and recognized both by the dominant and by the dominated -a language (or a pronunciation), a lifestyle (or a way of thinking, speaking and acting) -and, more generally, a distinctive property, whether emblem or stigma, the symbolically most powerful of which is that perfectly arbitrary and non-predictive bodily property, skin colour.

(...) Being included, as man or woman, in the object that we are trying to comprehend, we have embodied the historical structures of the masculine order in the form of unconscious schemes of perception and appreciation. When we try to understand masculine domination we are therefore likely to resort to modes ofthought that are the product of domination.

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- Bourdieu, P. (2001). Masculine Domination. Stanford: Stanford University Press, link
- photographs by Pierre Olivier Deschamps (1991) via and via

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Once upon a time...

"Historically, older people were valued and respected members of society across cultures for their vast knowledge of the culture (...). Scholars have noted a contemporary shift toward a general devaluing of older persons in modern societies, especially in Western cultures."
Levy & Macdonald (2016:18)

- Levy, S. R. & Macdonald, J. L. (2016). Progress on Understanding Ageism. Journal of Social Issues, 72(1), 5-25.
- photograph by Elliott Erwitt (Ireland, 1962) via

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The Best Men Can Be

"Thirty years ago, we launched our The Best A Man Can Get tagline.
Since then, it has been an aspirational statement, reflecting standards that many men strive to achieve.
But turn on the news today and it’s easy to believe that men are not at their best. Many find themselves at a crossroads, caught between the past and a new era of masculinity. While it is clear that changes are needed, where and how we can start to effect that change is less obvious for many. And when the changes needed seem so monumental, it can feel daunting to begin. So, let’s do it together.

It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man. With that in mind, we have spent the last few months taking a hard look at our past and coming communication and reflecting on the types of men and behaviors we want to celebrate. We’re inviting all men along this journey with us – to strive to be better, to make us better, and to help each other be better.
From today on, we pledge to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette. In the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and so much more.
As part of The Best Men Can Be campaign, Gillette is committing to donate $1 million per year for the next three years to non-profit organizations executing programs in the United States designed to inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal “best” and become role models for the next generation.
Our tagline needs to continue to inspire us all to be better every day, and to help create a new standard for boys to admire and for men to achieve… Because the boys of today are the men of tomorrow.
We’ve all got work to do. And it starts today."
"It is no longer enough for brands to simply sell a product, customers are demanding that they have a purpose – that they stand for something. Masculinity is a huge part of Gillette’s brand, and there is a recognition in this ad that the new generation is reworking that concept of masculinity, and it is no longer the cliche is once was." Mark Borkowski
In its latest advertising campaign, Gillette replaced the tagline "The best men can get" with "The best men can be". The new narrative about a different type of masculinity went viral, the company was bombarded with praise, abuse and calls for boycott (via).

Monday, 14 January 2019

Quoting Miriam Margolyes

"Anti-Semitism is a rotten thing. It's an ignorant, stupid, horrible thing. As is anti-Muslim feeling. They have to be together."
Miriam Margolyes

"The curious thing is that I embraced homosexuality with as much joy and delight as I've embraced everything else in my life."
Miriam Margolyes

"People who were gay were pitied and ridiculed by my parents - they had no modern sense of people being allowed to be who they were."
Miriam Margolyes

"Although my parents both liked her, they just didn't approve of a same-sex relationship. Nowadays, people say that you must let children be what they are, but when I was growing up, the parents defined the child - and my parents had a definite vision of how they wanted me to be."
Miriam Margolyes

"Everything's harder for women: harder to start, to stay employed, to run a life with a family."
Miriam Margolyes

"I think Britain is a bit class-ridden. People tend to be judged by how rounded their vowels are."
Miriam Margolyes

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photograph via

Thursday, 10 January 2019

The British Art of Queuing, Culture and Egalitarianism

"People usually choose to queue because it is fair. In fact, queues are places where people are obsessed with fairness, and where cutting in line is seen as a terrible crime that can lead to all sorts of scuffles, fights and frictions. (...) While the need to queue depends largely on the activity, a person’s willingness to queue occurs in varying degrees around the world. Britons, in particular, are renowned for their orderly and regimented approach to queuing. (...) The stereotype of the Anglophone countries is that queuing is something they specialise in. The more charitable view is that there is a strong tradition of egalitarianism in many of these places – and the queue is a form of equality, where if you seek a service first, you are served first, regardless of your social position."
Nick Haslam

“The British have a well-established culture of queuing and a very specific type of queue conduct, one that has been known to confuse many a foreign visitor. In a time when Britain is changing rapidly, and the ways in which we queue are shifting, the psychology behind British queuing is more important than ever – it a one of the keys to unlocking British culture.”Adrian Furnham
The least accepted "no-no", according to a survey conducted by Privilege Home Insurance, is queue skipping since it goes against the principle of "first come, first served", against the British social system of linear queueing and as it sparks a sense of injustice. Other "no-nos" are starting a conversation while queueing and accepting an offer to go ahead of someone in the queue. "In British queueing culture, not only will acceptance be perceived as impoliteness, it will also lose the individual the respect of the remaining queuers" (via).
"When humans encounter a queuing situation outside our personal and cultural expectations, we become dumb and anxious." (via)

photographs by Nina Leen (1958) via and via

Monday, 7 January 2019

White Police Officers, Black Police Officers, and Their Interpretations of Events

"Six-in-ten white and Hispanic officers characterize police relations with blacks as excellent or good, a view shared by only 32% of their black colleagues. (...) only about a quarter of all white officers (27%) but seven-in-ten of their black colleagues (69%) say the protests that followed fatal encounters between police and black citizens have been motivated at least to some extent by a genuine desire to hold police accountable. (...) virtually all white officers (92%) but only 29% of their black colleagues say that the country has made the changes needed to assure equal rights for blacks."
Pew Research Center

The Pew Research Center national survey - one of the largest ones so far in the U.S. - was conducted by the National Police Research Platform. Attitudes and experiences of almost 8.000 police officers were collected and analysed. Here are some more findings:

"Black officers are much more likely than white or Hispanic officers to say they worry more that officers will not spend enough time diagnosing a situation before acting (61% for blacks vs. 37% for whites and 44% of Hispanics). Overall, blacks and department administrators (59%) are the only two major groups in which a majority is more concerned that officers will act too quickly than worry that they will wait too long before responding to a situation. (...)
Two-thirds of police officers (67%) say the highly publicized fatal encounters between police and blacks are isolated incidents, while 31% describe them as signs of a broader problem. Yet underlying this result are striking differences between the views of black and white officers – differences that mirror the broader fault lines in society at large on racial issues.
A majority of black officers (57%) say these encounters are evidence of a broader problem between police and blacks, a view held by only about a quarter of all white (27%) and Hispanic (26%) officers.
Black female officers in particular are more likely to say these incidents signal a more far-reaching concern. Among all sworn officers, 63% of black women say this, compared with 54% of black men."
Pew Research Center

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photograph by Vivian Maier via

Friday, 4 January 2019

Outdated Stereotypes

Some of the most important barriers to developing good public-health policy on ageing are pervasive misconceptions, attitudes and assumptions about older people. Although there is substantial evidence that older people contribute to society in many ways, they are instead often stereotyped as frail, out of touch, burdensome or dependent. These ageist attitudes limit the way problems are conceptualized, the questions that are asked, and the capacity to seize innovative opportunities. As a starting point for policy-making, they often lead to great emphasis on cost containment.

These outdated stereotypes extend to the way we often frame the life course, assuming it is inevitably categorized into fixed stages. In highincome settings, these are typically early childhood, studenthood, a defined period of working age, and then retirement. Yet these are social constructs that have little physiological basis. The notion of retirement is relatively new, and for many people in low- and middle-income countries it remains abstract. The idea that learning is something that should occur only during the early stages of life reflects outdated employment patterns in which a person trained for a role and, with luck, worked at it for life, sometimes with a single employer.

One consequence of this rigid framing of the life course is that the extra years that accrue from longevity are often considered as simply extending the period of retirement. However, if these extra years can be experienced in good health, then this approach to how they might be used is very limiting. For example, the anticipation of living longer might allow people to raise children and then start a career at age 40 or even 60, to change career paths at any stage in life, or perhaps to choose to retire for a while at 35 and then re-enter the workforce. Retirement itself may evolve into choices that are less stark.

Excerpts taken from: WHO (2015) World Report on Ageing and Health, page 10

photographs by the great Vivian Maier via and via and via and via