Friday 31 January 2014

The -ism(o) Series (7): Machismo

"I have two ambitions in life: one is to drink every pub dry, the other is to sleep with every woman on earth." Oliver Reed (actor with macho image)

Machismo refers to a standard of behaviour shown by Mexican men. More or less. Sometimes its definition is more vastly understood and the term refers to men in Latin America in general. The vagueness of who it refers to is not the only aspect that is criticised. Another point of criticism is the restrictive and negative concept of machismo past research focused on (Arciniega et al., 2008). The work of North American anthropologists in Mexico depicts a stereotypical view which has been fostered by the entertainment industry, researchers are confronted with allegations of racism (Welsh, 2001). Machos are usually presented as hypermasculine, violent, rude, heavy-drinking and seducing womanisers. As the positive aspects are neglected an "inadequate picture of Mexican American male behavior is generated". In psychological and sociological research the trend is growing to assess machismo as both positive and negative. The positive aspects resemble "caballerismo", the ethical code of chivalry, and refer to protection of the family, wisdom, hard work, responsibility, and emotional connectedness (Arciniega et al, 2008).

Connell discusses the construction of  Latin America machismo as "a product of the interplay of cultures under colonialism" (De Oliveira, 2000). Delgado views machismo as an expression of counter-hegemonic identity as Latin American immigrants feel culturally displaced in the US, Amaya analyses it from a historical point of view and calls machismo an overcompensating reaction to the submissive role of natives during the Spanish conquest and a way to construct post-revolutionary Mexican identity (Hernandez, 2012). Others state that machismo did not start in Latin America with the Spanish conquest but that it started transforming into an oppressive ideology through the experiences of men and women during that time. The feeling of powerlessness mixed with anger, guilt and shame supposedly pushed the genders further apart (Welsh, 2001).

Arciniega, G. M., Anderson, T. C., Tovar-Blank, Z. G. & Treacey, J. G. (2008) Toward a Fuller Conception of Machismo: Development of a Traditional Machismo and Caballerismo Scale. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 55(1), 19-33
De Oliveira, J. B. L. (2000) Deconstructing "Machismo": Victims of "Machismo Ideology" Dominating in Brazil (via)
Hernandez, J. C. (2011) Machismo: The Role of Chicano Rap in the Construction of the Latino Identity Presented at WSCA (Monterey, CA, 2011). International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 2(20), special issue
Welsh, P. (2001) Men aren't from Mars. Unlearning machismo in Nicaragua. Development practice paper via
photos of Oliver Reed via and via and via

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Sophia, Spaghetti, Barilla and the Classic Family

"Spaghetti can be eaten most successfully if you inhale it like a vacuum cleaner."
Sophia Loren

"Everything you see I owe to Spaghetti."
Sophia Loren

The Italian food company Barilla, world's leading pasta maker, was founded in 1877 and is now in the fourth generation of family ownership. It is controlled by three brothers Guido, Luca and Paolo Barilla (via).

On 25th of September 2013, Guido Barilla's attitude to gay consumers sparked a boycott. During an interview the chairman was asked if the company would feature gay families in their advertisments. Guido Barilla answered that they would not because he liked the traditional family and that the "sacral family" remained one of the company's core values. "If gays like our pasta and our advertisings, they will eat our pasta; if they don't like that, they will eat someone else's pasta." (via). Shortly after the interview gay rights activists in Italy launched a boycott accepting the invitation not to eat Barilla's pasta and within hours the hashtag "boicotta-barilla" trended on Twitter (via). Barilla's main competitor "Bertolli" reacted with inclusive messages, pro-gay images, the slogan "Love and pasta for all" and the statement "Bertolli welcomes everyone, especially those with an empty stomach" (via).

Barilla reacted, too. The very next day the chairman apologised and said he was sorry his remarks had caused offence. And on 4th of November (in other words, soon later) the company announced a "Leadership Initiative in Diversity & Inclusion" with steps ranging from the establishment of a Diversity & Inclusion Board to the launch of a global contest. The policies are inspired and based on recommendations of civil and human rights leaders. "We are grateful to those who took the time to share their perspectives with us, and to get to know Barilla as a company. As a socially responsible company that serves and respects diverse consumers, we know we have to expand our commitment." (via)
Barilla produces pasta in over 120 shapes and sizes (via). For a long time, the company seemed to aim to enhance "pasta diversity". Now it has made the step to extend and deepen its understanding of diversity.

photos via and via and via and via and via

Monday 27 January 2014

Police & Diversity: The First Female Police Chief in Afghanistan

In 2007, a recruitment programme started adding 1000 female Afghan police officers between 2007 and 2012. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry initiated a project to encourage women to join the Afghan police force, to recruit and train them. One aim is to have 5000 policewomen by June 2014. But the real aim is not about figures. Working in the police force means having access to education and training. And it also means dealing with a great many challenges ranging from traditional perceptions of gender-related incapability to life-threatening reactions. According to a survey conducted by the UNDP in 2011, 53% of Afghans were in favour of having female police officers (via).
This month, the first female district police chief, Jameela Bayaz, was appointed in Kabul. According to an interior ministry spokesman, this step is to support the role of Afghan women in the police (via). Jameela Bayaz: "This is a chance not just for me, but for the women of Afghanistan."

Photo of military policewoman directing traffic by Keystone/Getty Images (circa 1955) via

Saturday 25 January 2014

Quoting Barbra Streisand

"How I wish we lived in a time when laws were not necessary to safeguard us from discrimination."
Barbra Streisand


photo via

Thursday 23 January 2014

The -ism Series (6): Normalism

I don't know what "normal" means, anyway.
Karl Lagerfeld

The German literary scientist Jürgen Link developed the concept of "normalism". According to Link, the mass collection and processing of data (using questionnaires, mathematical-statistical theories of distribution) produce normalities. These normalities are based on average statistical distributions following the ideal of the Gaussian distribution: one "normal" range in the middle that is average and two "anormal" extreme zones on each side of it (i.e. one above and one below average).
Link concludes that normalism "provides a simple, and apparently effective, set of tools for the regulation of in- and exclusion" as all attitudes, actions, roles and individuals within the normal boundaries are included whereas those outside the boundaries are excluded. He continues: "What seems so simple upon first glance turns out to be more difficult" as "no mathematical criterion exists which establishes the boundaries of normality" since the transition between normality and anormality is continuous. Interestingly, the normality boundaries can be tightened and as the normal range narrows, the anormal ones expand. The concept of normality is flexible, and with it, the concept of anormality.

Link, J. (2003) Concerning Two Normalistic Strategies: Regulating Inclusion and Exclusion, in: Normalising Diversity, based on a Workshop held on 2-3 June 2002, EUI Working Paper HEC, No. 2003/5, European University Institute, Florence, 9-22 (via), photo via

Monday 20 January 2014

Nina Simone

Nina Simone (1933-2003), one time Grammy Hall of Fame Award winner and fifteen times nominee, became involved in the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. Civil rights messages became an integral part of her songs - the first time with "Mississippi Goddam", a song that was boycotted in some southern states, (via) a song she had written in response to the assassination of the civil rights activist Medgar Evers (1925-1963) and the Birmingham church bombing in 1963 (via).

Recently, her biography - or rather the casting decision for the film "Nina" - caused some controversy. The Afro-Latina actress of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent Zoe Saldana was chosen to play Nina Simone. Some criticised the fact that Saldana would barely resemble Simone (via), that Hollywood would "whitewash and lightwash" and choose what media considers blackness to be. An online petition followed to change the cast and replace Saldana (via). The petition was signed by more than 10.000 people (via). When photos of Zoe Saldana were published wearing an afro wig and darker makeup in order to resemble Simone and to be able to play her role, accusations of blackface and parody followed (via).
Nina Simone's daughter: "My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise this is not the best choice." (via)

Sunday 19 January 2014

World Religion Day

Established by the Bahá'i communities in 1950, World Religion Day is to encourage people to talk to and listen to people from different faiths, i.e., different from their own one (via) and at the same time celebrate similarities. It aims to foster interfaith understanding and harmony (via) and is observed with conferences and interfaith activities (via).

Photo of Sophia Loren by Tazio Secchiaroli (1925-1998) via

Thursday 16 January 2014

The -ism Series (5): Classism

"I'm every bourgeois nightmare - a Cockney with intelligence and a million dollars."
Michael Caine

Class is a rather vague term. So are class distinctions in many countries. In some, there is the prevailing myth of a classless society adding to its elusive nature. Although it is called a myth, the construct of class is said to influence virtually everybody. Money is a crucial aspect of class but it is also about power, prestige (Russell, 1996) and access to resources. The concept of power is strongly linked to class since it can predict to what extent one can benefit from a society's resources. It correlates with life experiences and has an impact on what an individual is likely to learn, believe, achieve (Lott, 2012) and think about himself or herself. The experience that one belongs to a disapprobated group can affect self-concept and self-esteem and may lead to an internalisation of classism (Russell, 1996).

Cockney is both a regional dialect and a class dialect. It is connected with London's working class and used to be considered as the most despised non-standard form of English probably because Cockneys lived near London's high society which made the difference to standard English more noticeable. Today, people seem to be comparably more tolerable to Cockney (Koudelkova, 2012). No longer "every bourgeouis nightmare"...

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- Lott, B. (2012) The Social Psychology of Class and Classism, American Psychologist, 650-658
- Koudelkova, L. (2012) Cockney and Estuary English. Diploma Thesis via
- Richardson, L. (2005) Sticks and Stones: An Exploration of the Embodiment of Social Classism. Qualitative Inquiry, 11(4), 485-491
- Russell, G. M. (1996) Internalized Classism: The Role of Class in the Development of Self. 59-71
- Photograph of Michael Caine (by Brian Duffy) via

Monday 13 January 2014

Blue or Green? Culture, Language and Colours

According to the linguistic relativity hypothesis, culturally shared language experiences lead to shared ways of thinking. In other words, the individual's organisation of language is influenced by the way culture organises language. Much empirical attention has been paid to the question whether language influences encoding and categorisation of experiences such as colour perception (Chiu, 2011).

Languages structure and categorise colours differently which again can affect an individual's perception of colour. Empirically, not all the studies conducted so far support the linguistic relativity hypothesis. The more recent studies, in particular, are in favour of this hypothesis and show that when an individual uses the colour terms in a certain language to describe the colours, his or her memory of the colours may be influenced by the colour terms used in the very description (Chiu, 2011).

In their cross-cultural study, Kay and Kempton asked native speakers of English and speakers of Tarahumara (spoken in northern Mexico) to judge the perceptual distance among eight colour chips of varying shades of greenish blue and blueish green. As the categories "green" and "blue" are not distinguished in the Tarahumaran language - wheras they are in English - the results showed culture-bound differences in the perceived distances between colours: English-speaking participants systematically overestimated the distances between blue and green while the Tarahumara did not. In a second study, Kay and Kempton showed that the distances reported by the English-speaking participants agreed with the Tarahumara-speaking participants once the effects of linguistic encoding had vanished by encoding each colour as "the bluer" and "the greener" one (Chiu, 2011, Kay & Kempton, 1984).

As predicted by the linguistic relativity hypthesis, the linguistic difference between green/blue and siyóname produced a difference in the perceived distance between colours. Colours near the green/blue-boundary were pushed apart by English speakers because of their concept of green and blue (Kay & Kempton, 1984).
For a discussion of the link between language, colour perception and right vs. left hemisphere see e.g. Gilbert et al. or Regier & Kay.

Chiu, C. (2011). Language and Culture. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 4(2) via
Kay, P. & Kempton, W. (1984) What Is the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis? American Anthropologist, New Series, 86(1), 65-79
Regier, T. & Kay, P. (2009) Language, thought, and color: Whorf was half right. Trends in Cognitive Science, 13(19), 439-446
Photo from Clairol ad (around 1966) via, photo of Audrey Hepburn via, photo of mousing fox by Richard Peters (Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012) via, photo of Audrey wearing "China blue" dress by Givenchy taken by Bert Stern (1963) via

Thursday 9 January 2014

Urban Planning and Active Ageing

Statistics showing the two trends that in general a) society is getting older and b) the number of older people is increasing are not new and more or less well known. The need to adapt is a notion that seems to be comparatively less widely spread. In the field of urban planning that means that older people need to be involved as they often feel a stronger sense of isolation in cities than other age groups. One possible explanation is that older people are among the last to be included when it comes to decisions concerning urban development (via).

Philip Johnson wearing a model of his 1984 Pittsburgh landmark via

In 2011, the Dublin Declaration on Age-Friendly Cities and Communities was signed by more than forty cities, inspired by the World Health Organization's definition of active ageing as "the process of optimising opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age, allowing people to realise their potential for physical, social and mental well-being throughout their lives and to participate in society according to their needs, desires and capabilities, while providing them with adequate protection, security and care when they require assistance" (via).

In the UK, Manchester is the first Age Friendly City. The projects comprise e.g. housing support, neighbourhood regeneration, cultural programmes, road safety, public health (e.g. free swimming and physical activity), local work, age-friendly design, and civic representation (via).

Beth Johnson Foundation & Manchester City Council Creating (2011) Age-friendly Places. A guide for cities, boroughs, towns or counties, councils, partners and communities (via)
Photos of Philip Johnson (1906-2005) via and via

Tuesday 7 January 2014

The -ism Series (4): Racism

According to the social constructionist view, the concept of race is a "pseudo-biological concept that has been used to justify and rationalize the unequal treatment of groups of people by others". Its classification is based on skin colour, hair style and other characteristics that are (mis)used as biological markers which are to identify "biological groups". As there is more genetic variability within "racial" groups than between them, social constructivists see race as nonexistent, as instable, as something that is constantly transformed by political struggle (Machery & Faucher, 2005).

The absurdity of the alleged biologically determined inferiority of certain "racial" groups and superiority of others is best expressed by the interdisciplinary consensus among scientists that there is no discrete, measururable and scientifically meaningful definition of "racial groups". Race as biology is fiction. Racism is real (Smedley & Smedley, 2005).

Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks (1912-2006) was a photographer, musician, writer, film director ("Shaft") and civil rights activist. His photograph "American Gothic, Washington D.C.", a photo of a black woman standing in front of the American flag with a broom in one hand became one of his best-known ones. Parks was the first African American who worked at Life magazine and the first who wrote, directed, and scored a Hollywood film (via).

"A radically prosaic approach to civil rights images": Parks' segregation photographs focus on everyday activities, on "normal" life in an environment of restriction and intimidation (via).

Below: Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama, 1956, (c) The Gordon Parks Foundation, courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery via

Machery, E. & Faucher, L. (2005) Social Construction and the Concept of Race. Philosophy of Science, 72, 1208-1219.
Smedley, A. & Smedley, B. D. (2005) Race as Biology is Fiction, Racism as a Social Problem is Real. Anthropological and Historical Perspectives on the Social Construction of Race. American Psychologist, 60(1), 16-26; photos by Gordon Parks via and via and via

Sunday 5 January 2014

Quoting Quincy Jones

"The climate in the '50s and '60s for black performers or black people in the entertainment business was atrocious. It was atrocious."
Quincy Jones

The Italian Job (1969) Opening "On Days Like These", music by Quincy Jones

Quincy Delight Jones, Jr. is the first African-American to be nominated twice in one year for an Academy Award for Best Original Score, the first African-American to be named musical director of the Academy Awards ceremony, the first African-American to receive the Academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, and one of the first African-Americans to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Jones started supporting Martin Luther King in the 1960s. He is one of the founders of the Institute of Black American Music and of the Black Arts Festival in Chicago. He formed the Quincy Jones Workshops, founded the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation and supports a great many more charities (via).

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This posting was slightly modified in August 2017 (photograph added).

Saturday 4 January 2014

World Braille Day

The 4th of January commemorates the birthday of Louis Braille (1809-1852) who invented "Braille" in 1821. Braille was blinded in an accident when he was three years old. By the age of fifteen he had developed the Braille system of reading and writing (via). The Braille code is one means to ensure inclusion and equal opportunities for a great many people worldwide (via).

Rubik's Cube Braille Version via

Braille Stamps by Dutch Design Award winner René Put via

Braille Graffiti via

According to the World Health Organization, about 285 million people are visually impaired, 39 million are blind and 246 million people have low vision. 90% of people of the world's visually impaired live in developing countries, 80% of all visual impairment can be avoided or cured (via).