Thursday 30 April 2015

The -ism Series (21): Womanism

"Feminism, due to its inadequacies birthed womanism, an African-American variant. Womanism in turn purports to interpret Black female experiences globally."
Sotunsa Mobolanle Ebunoluwa (2009)

In 1983, Alice Walker introduced the word "womanism". Using the term "womanist" instead of "feminist" was a choice that was given much attention. By coining "womanism", Walker expressed a distance from feminism which was viewed as the "white women's movement" resulting in black women being reluctant to "embrace the feminist cause as their own" (Tally, n.d.). Womanists accuse feminism of being a separatist ideology that is based on the belief that women can achieve emancipation only by separating from men while womanists believe that "the emancipation of Black women folk cannot be achieved apart from the emancipation of the whole race (sic.)" (Ebunoluwa, 2009).

Feminism is criticised for not considering "the peculiarities of Black females" and for focusing on the needs of middle class white women in Britain and the U.S. The so-called peculiarities can lead to a triple oppression of Black women, i.e., the intersection of gender, ethnicity and class (Ebunoluwa, 2009).
In the key years in the history of feminism in the 19th century, feminism also showed racist tendencies. During the Civil Rights years in the 1960s, hostility between white and black women intensified (Tally, n.d.).

What distinguishes womanism from feminism is mostly the intersection of gender and ethnicity, the simultaneous experience of sexism and racism.
"(...) the impossibility of separating the two and the necessity of understanding the convergence of women's issues, race/nationalist issues, and class issues in women's consciousnesses. That understanding is in part hampered by the prevailing terminology: feminism places a priority on women; nationalism or race consciousness, a priority on race. It is the need to overcome the limitations of terminology that has led many black women to adopt the term womanist." (Barkley Brown, 1989)

In summer 1970, Jack Garofalo (1923-2004) spent six weeks in Harlem to take photographs for the cover story for the October edition of the magazine "Paris Match". In the 1960s, many residents left Harlem and moved to Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.Those who could not afford leaving stayed in Harlem. Nevertheless, there was "something vital going on in Harlem in the '70s." (via).

- Barkley Brown, E. (1989). Womanis Consciousness: Maggie Lena Walker and the Independent Order of Saint Luke. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 14(3), 610-633.
- Ebunoluwa, S. M. (2009). Feminism: The Quest for an African Variant. The Journal of Pan African Studies, 3(1), 227-234.
- Tally, J. (n.d.). Why "Womanism"? The Genesis of a New Word and What It Means. via
- photographs (Harlem in summer 1970) by Jack Garofalo (1923-2004) via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via

Monday 27 April 2015

Wil Can Fly

"When we brought Wil home from the hospital 17 months ago we were'nt quite sure what the future would hold for our family. Not soon after having him home we all started to recognize that Wil had a light about him that changed our perspectives on many things. Im happy that I was inspired enough to capture some small glimpses from the beginning of our journey down a new road." (via)

William "Wil" Lawrence is a little superhero with Down's Syndrome and the ability to fly. A while ago, his father, Alan Lawrence, started taking pictures of him showing him in situations in which little Wil seems to be flying.

When Alan Lawrence first learned about his son having Down's Syndrome, his attitude was different:“It felt as though he would put limits on what I would accomplish, what my family would accomplish." (via)
“While looking into his eyes everything started to go into a dream state <…>My emotions of joy paused as everything around me seemed to slow down. The nurse may of been talking to me but I wasn’t listening." (via)

Alan Lawrence was wrong. And he started his series "to show the world that having a child with Down's Syndrome can be a blessing." (via)

"Wil has always wanted to fly ever since he learned to roll on his stomach." (via)

"He likes to throw his arms behind his back and wiggle his feet and my family and I have always joked that he will one day take off." (via) Wil's crawling style made him look as if he were preparing for flight: "It's just an ongoing joke in the family that one day he is going to take off and fly." (via)

"So being a photographer I decided to make that a reality." (via)

"I took Wil outside and did a composite photo of me holding him up and then photoshopped me out of the picture." (via)

"We realise Wil is still young, but we know that even though he has Down Syndrome it doesn't mean he is limited. He will be able to do anything he puts his mind to."  (via)

“He is just like any other kid his age it just takes a little longer for him to reach some of those average mile stones. We know as a family that he will be able to do anything he puts his mind to. Wil Can Fly.” (via)

"I want other parents just starting out this journey ... to have a more positive outlook on it than I did." (via)

"This project is a way for us to show how much our son has blessed our family." (via)

"He's not a burden, he hasn't limited us. He's opened the door to so many new things, to new experiences." (via)

photographs by Alan Lawrence via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via

More: thatdadblog

Friday 24 April 2015

Collective Angst and Opposition to Immigration

Awareness of group history has an impact on social identity as it promotes a sense of common fate and fosters ingroup cohesion. Collective history is fundamental since "history grounds social identity and, thereby, makes social identity possible". Group history becomes more important for social identity when group members are concerned about losing their connectedness to the past. This happens when they are, for instance, afraid to lose their cultural identity, unity, and distinctiveness through immigrant minorities. The potential loss of historical continuity affects different group members in different ways. The authors hypothesise that those who strongly identify with the ingroup will suffer most when historical continuity is disrupted. It is also assumed that these higher identifiers have enhanced levels of collective angst.

Jamaican immigrants arriving at Gatwick Airport, 22nd March 1962, before the Immigration Bill becomes law.

In their studies, Jetten and Wohl measured identity preservation and protection and manipulated historical continuity by providing information about contemporary English continuity with its past.

Greek women arrive in Wellington, New Zealand, in the 1960s

Here is an example for high historical continuity condition and for low historical continuity in brackets:
"Until recently England was generally thought of as a gentle, fabled land freeze-framed sometime in the 1930s, home of the post office, country pub and vicarage. It’s now better known for vibrant cities with great nightlife and attractions, contrasted with green and pleasant countryside. It is incredible how these two sides of England can go so well together and both represent the England of today [But, it is also clear that this is no longer true for the present England. In fact, the English we know today and the English of yesteryear are two very different peoples]." 

Chinatown, London, 1955

The authors also measured collective angst and opposition to immigration. Results show that "group processes do not operate in a time-vacuum" and that the past, the present and the future are very much linked to each other shaping group actions. When the past is manipulated and presented less connected to the present, high identifiers suffer more and are particularly opposed to immigration. while lower identifiers feel less threatened by discontinuity ... and immigrants.

An Italian immigrant working in the Bedfordshire brickfields, 24th September 1955

Although the sample was rather small and only few items were used to measure complex constructs, the results are rather interesting. Hopefully, more research will follow.

Polish Church of St Bride's, Glasgow, 2nd April 1955

- Jetten, J. & Wohl, M. J. A. (2012). The past as a determinant of the present: Historical continuity, collective angst, and opposition to immigration. European Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 442-450
- photographs (first one by Keystone/Hutton Archive/Getty Images) via and via and via and  (Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty Images) via and (Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty Images) via, copyright by the respective owners

This posting was originally published on Science Google+ on 24th of January 2015

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Born this day: Rita Levi Montalcini

"If I had not been discriminated against or had not suffered persecution, I would never have received the Nobel Prize."
Rita Levi Montalcini

"At 100, I have a mind that is superior - thanks to experience - than when I was 20."
Rita Levi Montalcini

Rita Levi Montalcini, "Lady of the Cells", was born on 22nd of April 1909 in the Italian city of Turin. She graduated from medical school with summa cum laude and specialised in neurology and psychiatry when Mussolini issued the "Manifesto per la Difesa della Razza", a manifesto followed by laws barring academic careers to so-called "non-Aryan" Italians (the atheist Levi Montalcini was born to a wealthy Italian Jewish family). As she could not continue a specialised study, she decided to continue independent scientific research and built a research unit at home which she installed in her bedroom - inspired by Viktor Hamburger's article on the effects of limb extirpation in chick embryos. The heavy bombing on Turin in 1941 made her leave the city and move to a country cottage where she rebuilt her mini-laboratory. In 1943, she fled to Florence where she lived underground until the war was over and where she also worked at a refugee centre. After the war, she went back to Turin with her family.
Later, she joined Viktor Hamburger in St. Louis, was offered, the position of Associate Professor, then Full Professor. Levi Montalcini established a research unit in Rome, became the Director of the Institute of Cell Biology of the Italian National Council of Research (via) and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1986 (via) which was the most prestigious one among the many prizes she had received. In 1992, she created the Levi-Montalcini Foundation to promote education programmes worldwide, particularly for women in Africa (via). She also became the first woman to be appointed to the board of the Enciclopedia Italiana (via). It was certainly a good idea of hers to overcome her father's initial objections to women studying.
When she passed away on 30 December 2012 at the age of 103, Italy mourned.

"A child from the age of 2 or 3 absorbs what is in the environment and what generates hatred for anyone perceived to be different."
Rita Levi Montalcini

"At 20, I realized that I could not possibly adjust to a feminine role as conceived by my father and asked him permission to engage in a professional career. In eight months I filled my gaps in Latin, Greek and mathematics, graduated from high school, and entered medical school in Turin."
Rita Levi Montalcini

"After centuries of dormancy, young women... can now look toward a future moulded by their own hands."
Rita Levi Montalcini

"I told Mother of my decision to study medicine. She encouraged me to speak to Father... I began in a roundabout way... He listened, looking at me with that serious and penetrating gaze of his that caused me such trepidation, and asked whether I knew what I wanted to do."
Rita Levi Montalcini

"My experience in childhood and adolescence of the subordinate role played by the female in a society run entirely by men had convinced me that I was not cut out to be a wife."
Rita Levi Montalcini

"I should thank Mussolini for having declared me to be of an inferior race. This led me to the joy of working, not any more, unfortunately, in university institutes but in a bedroom."
Rita Levi Montalcini

photographs of Rita Levi Montalcini (Milano, 1994) via and via and via and via and via

Friday 17 April 2015

The "First Lady of Star Trek"

"When we started out in '64, um, I was playing Number One, which was a woman second in command of a starship. Now that was innovative, but of course NBC got ahold of it and 'You've got to get rid of the broad. No one will believe a woman second in control of a big star ship'. They said, 'You've got to get rid of the guy with the ears 'cos he looks too Satanic'. But the third thing was you've got to make it more men than women, because otherwise they're going to think there's a lot of hanky panky going on in the starship. Gene, realising that he was hitting his head against a wall, and realising what the mentality of the people who were making those decisions was, figured he would do in my case, although he knew it was going to break my heart, figured he would fight and keep the Spock character and marry the woman. So we all got basically what we wanted, and as far as the women are concerned, he figured that 30 good women could handle a crew of 300 anyway. So that's how we ended up with our crew." 
Majel Barrett Roddenberry

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry (1932-2008), born Majel Leigh Hudec, was a US-American actress and "the First Lady of Star Trek". She married Gene Roddenberry in 1969 and had several roles in Star Trek, such as Nurse Christine Chapel (who later became Doctor Chapel) in "The Original Series," Lwaxana Troi Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed (Counselor Deanne Troi's Betazoid mother) in "The Next Generation" and "Deep Space Nine" and provided the voice of the computers in most of the episodes and movies (via).

"A desire for equality was clearly integrated within Star Trek from Roddenberry's pilot episode, although representations of gender do not always fare particularly well - in the first instance because of network and audience objections." (Johnson-Smith, 2005)
In 1964, Majel Barrett appeared in the very first Star Trek pilot "The Cage" where she played the USS Enterprise's first officer "Number One". She did not represent the typical 1960s woman since the character written had "a highly superior computerized and logical mind", made her own decisions (Foster, 2011), was cool and efficient (Johnson-Smith, 2005). The "character's strength and authority in the Star Trek universe as a woman was unsettling" (via) so NBC insisted on Roddenberry giving the role to a man (via) because the network felt the public was "unprepared to see a woman in such a position of authority". Reactions of the test audience were ambiguous ranging from resentment to disbelief (Johnson-Smith, 2005). Both men and women in the test audience seemed to be uncomfortable with turning traditional gender roles upside down. Roddenberry was particularly disappointed with the reaction of the women to seeing a woman in a command role (DuPree, 2013). He said: "You might have thought the ladies in our test audience would have appreciated 'Number One'. Instead, their comments were, 'Who does she think she is?" (Wildermuth, 2014, p. 79). According to audience questionnaires, however, they liked the actress (Johnson-Smith, 2005).
The network did not like Spock either so Roddenberry "kept the Vulcan and married the woman, 'cause he didn't think Leonard [Nimoy] would have it the other way around." (via). The second pilot, in fact, was made with Spock as second-in-command. Obviously, "audiences could cope with an alien man as second-in-command more readily than a human woman" (Johnson-Smith, 2005).

"Back in those days before women's lib was even heard of, I put a woman second in command of our starship." Gene Roddenberry (quoted after Wildermuth, 2014, p. 79)
"The Cage" came out one year after Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" which criticised social circumstances that encouraged women to stay in the home. "The Feminine Mystique may well have been the seminal feminist work of the 1960s and in part responsible for the birth of the modern women's movement, but the reactions to Roddenberry's efforts to raise the public consciousness of women's rights suggest that Americans did pay attention to science fiction art and literature." (Foster, 2011).

"When Roddenberry filmed "The Cage", he tried something remarkably cutting-edge. He gave the role of the ship's first officer to a woman. Majel Barrett, Roddenberry's lover and future wife, played the role of "Number One", Captain Christopher Pike's second in command. Roddenberry drew particular attention to the fact that women served as active members of the crew, even if his main character was not comfortable with the idea. In the episode, the starship Enterprise had recently run into some nefarious aliens, resulting in the death of a few of her crew members. Pike's yeoman, who had been killed in the incident, was replaced by a young woman named Gilman. When Gilman appears on the bridge to deliver Pike a report he was expecting, Pike yelled, "Gilman, I thought I told you when I'm on the bridge, I don't want you (here)!" Number One pointed out, "She's replacing your former yeoman, Sir." Pike replied almost apologetically, "She does a good job alright. It's just that I can't get used to the idea of having a woman on the bridge." Realizing his faux pas, Pike said, "No offense, Lieutenant. You're different, of course." His first officer's reaction suggested that she did not know whether to be more bothered by her captain's discomfort with having women on the bridge or by the implication that he could not see her as both a valued officer and a woman."
Foster (2011, p. 37)

- DuPree, M. G. (2013). Alien Babes and Alternate Universes. The Women of Star Trek. In: Reagin, N. (ed.) Star Trek and History, 280-294, Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.
- Foster, A. E. (2011). Integrating Women Into The Astronaut Corps. Politics and Logistics at NASA, 1972-2004. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Johnson-Smith, J. (2005). American Science Fiction TV: Star Trek, Stargate and Beyond. London: I. B. Tauris & Co. Ltd.
- Wildermuth, M. E. (2014). Gender, Science Fiction Television, and the American Security State: 1958-Present. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
- photographs via and via and via and via and via and via  and via

Wednesday 15 April 2015

"Excuse my dust"

"Here lie the ashes of Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) humorist, writer, critic. Defender of human and civil rights. For her epitaph she suggested, 'Excuse my dust'. This memorial garden is dedicated to her noble spirit which celebrated the oneness of humankind and to the bonds of everlasting friendship between black and Jewish people. Dedicated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. October 28, 1988." (via)

“Heterosexuality is not normal, it's just common.” 
Dorothy Parker

US-American poet, critic, satirist and short story writer Dorothy Parker, neé Dorothy Rothshild, was born on 22 August 1893. During the 1930s and 1940s, she became an advocate for civil rights and supported the foundation of the "Hollywood Anti-Nazi League" in 1936. The league was suspected to be communist and Parker ended up on the Hollywood blacklist during the McCarthy era (with a 1.000-page dossier on her) (via). In 1943, she applied to join the Women's Army Corps, the women's branch of the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1978, but was rejected due to her age. Her conclusion: "People ought to be one of two things, young or old. No; what's the good of fooling? People ought to one of two things, young or dead." (via).

In "Arrangement in Black and White" (1930), Parker describes the "well meaning racism" of a white woman who sees herself as progressive. The woman has a conversation with a friend of her husband at a party for a famous black musician. While the woman's husband's racist attitude is more obvious, in fact, he refuses to go the the party because he thinks that it is wrong to socialise with blacks, the woman's racist attitude is more complex - as the following excerpt illustrates (via):
“I am,” she said. “I know I am. Poor Burton! Now, me, I don't feel that way at all. I haven't the slightest feeling about colored people. Why, I'm just crazy about some of them. They're just like children – just as easygoing, and always singing and laughing and everything. Aren't they the happiest things you ever saw in your life? Honestly, it makes me laugh just to hear them. Oh, I like them. I really do. Well, now, listen, I have this colored laundress, I've had her for years, and I'm devoted to her. She's a real character. And I want to tell you, I think of her as my friend. That's the way I think of her. As I say to Burton, 'Well, for heaven's sakes, we're all human beings!' Aren't we?” (via)
Dorothy Parker passed away on 7 June 1967 at the age of 73. In her will, she stated her estate of $ 20.000,- (via) be given to Martin Luther King, Jr. (via) who she had never met (via). After his death, her estate was passed to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) (via) which was a wish of hers if "something should happen to Martin Luther King". Today, the NAACP controls her literary rights. Parker was originally from New Jersey and considered New York City as her hometown. Her ashes, however, can be found at the headquarters of the NAACP in Baltimore, a place she had no connections with during her lifetime (via).
"That goddamn bitch Dorothy Parker. . . . You won't believe what she's done. I paid her hotel bill at the Volney for years, kept her in booze, paid for her suicide attempts—all on the promise that when she died, she would leave me the rights to her writing. . . . But what did she do? She left them directly to the NAACP. Damn her!" Lillian Hellman

photographs via and via and via and via

More on Dorothy Parker: Spartacus Educational