“I feel like my opinion doesn’t really matter.”

 

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“Do you not maybe feel a responsibility to vote?”
“Not really, I feel like my opinion doesn’t really matter. Like it’s only one vote, so…”

A dialogue with a millennial in a recent Guardian video.(7:38-7:48)

When one sees oneself as only as an individual voter, a sole political agent amidst millions of other, different individuals, one is unable to grasp the power and potential of the collective. That is the loss of contemporary society. That we should not vote, not do anything political, because it means nothing. Of course, if everyone thinks like that any chance of a collective movement is destroyed. The reason #BlackLivesMatter gained attention is because of the mass reaction it provoked and the thousands of activists involved.  In Postcapitalism, Paul Mason argues that the capitalism’s most effective opponent and scrutiniser was the trade unions- forcing capitalism to survive through innovation, not cutting wages (as would have benefited the factory owners). Marcuse lamented the situation of society, when people lost sight of themselves as a group and became “individuals” within a system that valued individuality and individual success above all else. For in abandoning the group to fulfil such an individual vision of success, workers lost their collective bargaining power. And thus they lost any power they really had, as financially disadvantaged or marginalised individuals in an unequal system.

Why else was Thatcher so eager to “atomise” society- to break it up into nothing more than mere individuals? Because the forming a political groups empowers the powerless through the sheer numerical strength and solidarity of a group, allowing it to challenge the privileged and powerful. It reminds us that discrimination and oppression exist in a systematic, pervasive and institutional way. That we are not alone. That these are not individual accidents or events. And that in seeing this pattern of inequality, we have the power to change it.

I am not saying that individuality is not important, I am saying it should not be the only mode of identification, nor the only way of thinking, especially when it comes to politics, where power is unequal yet the situation and cry for change is always paramount.

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Review: Gender: In World Perspective

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Connell and Pearse’s Gender is a concise and comprehensive introduction to the concept of gender and its practical implications. The authors are inclusive and do not fail to mention perspective from feminist scholars from around the world, throughout different periods of history.

The authors begin with examples of gender in everyday culture, special events and statistics on the gender pay gap, before moving onto case studies on gender from 5 continents, some historical studies. These studies are useful as they support and help the reader realise Connell’s various arguments. One case study illustrates that gender has been changing and not fixed throughout different periods of history, for example Mpondo migrant workers in South Africa, definition of “manhood” was once associated with being wise and running a self-sufficient household, which meant women could attain “manhood”, however later economic and historical developments influenced the definition to become physical aggression and toughness.

Next the Connell covers topics such as the relationship between body and gender, a brief history of gender theory, the multiple dimensions of gender and their interaction, and the process in which gender develops within a person, before proceeding to discuss how gender relates to global issues, such as the environment, global power structures and the economy. Connell is a great debater and she takes you from one theory to the next, with energy and strong criticism, before moving on to her proposed theory or solution.

Finally, Connell and Pearse’s Gender is a summary. And as a summary, it benefits from being concise and giving a comprehensive overview of a wide-range of topics and a wide range of perspectives, which makes it a great introduction. As a summary it also suffers from being too concise at times and failing to explain certain concepts clearly (especially post-modern or economic concepts, which an ordinary reader may not be familiar with, which can lead to confusion) or moving on without a definite conclusion, at times. However, the comprehensiveness and diversity of the work allows for the work’s sometimes laconic nature to be forgiven and overlooked, especially if you are willing to spend a few minutes researching those terms.

The broad but also academic approach would make this useful for students interested in reading academically about gender, but also anyone with an interest in gender.

Extra: there are plenty of summaries and shout-outs to other authors and their great works included in gender, which would probably make a great reading list on gender and gender theory, if that’s your cup of tea!

Apologies from the switches between “authors” and “Connell”, since the authorship of the work isn’t so clear to me.

(I would have preferred to have named this “Gender: In World Perspective, a Review”, but anyway, before my more style-infatuated side of me gets control…)