Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Inktober 2018 Part 2. Roles and Representation

So my enthusiasm waxed and waned over the second week, but am pleased I made it through. What occurred to me in the general sense as I worked this week and further speculated (I don't get much feedback or engagement) on the concept of representation of roles for women, was I guess further building on the Amelia Earhart effect. Maybe also the Frida Kahlo effect.

What is lost in the exercise is that even though it's not hard in this day and age to find women represented everywhere in just about every role conceivable, and furthermore also historically - it's a question of proportionality, there are less female military figures, less female nobel science prize winners, less female truck drivers etc. There are less female pilots like Amelia Earhart and less female surrealists (although that's not how she identified) like Frida Kahlo.

Nevertheless, in terms of mindshare, Frida Kahlo has eclipsed her husband Diego Riviera in legacy, though Diego it appears eclipsed her during their lifetimes, perhaps in a similar fashion to the academic school eclipsing the impressionists in regard when they started. Same with Earhart and Lindbergh, even with the Lindbergh kidnapping, I feel Earhart is now more famous. Obviously that's highly contentious.

The point of my speculation being, is that through what marketers call 'category leadership' while the problem might be that these female role models are exceptional rather than normal, it makes them far more noticeable than male counterparts that may outnumber them. Men in certain roles are far more likely to just be a member of a group than a celebrated individual.

In absolute terms, women being underrepresented in certain career paths provides a problem for those wishing to succeed in that field, a lack of female colleagues leading to isolation, or a culture proving hostile to women minorities adding extra friction to a career path. But having a few exceptional women succeed at the very least provides readily available precedent for any young girl wanting to try. And with anything, you really just need one precedent.

The fact of those precedents furthermore, indicates that for those precedents, you don't even need a precedent to succeed.

Anyway, the question is interesting, at least to me, because at least half this issue has to be about perception in order to enact change. This aspect of exceptional women, or category leaders - female pilot, female astronaut, female head of state etc. potentially cuts both ways.

 8. Crone

Through previous inktobers and exhibiting, it seems people love a celebration of the elderly. I suspect, more than they are fans of the elderly themselves. I wrote up on instagram that I was thinking about the Lilly Allen song '22' and find it depressing. Hence my interest in the role in society for women beyond their fertile years. Apparently humans are the only primates, and mammals that have the phenomena of menopause, I haven't read Germaine Greer's 'The Change' so I don't really know much about the experience of menopause, nor do I care, but I have heard one evolutionary biologist speculate that menopause is their in order to 'activate' grandma mode, necessary for successfully raising human children.
I can't recall enough to do that narrative justice, but it does seem to be a massive social deficit that the most promoted and celebrated role for women in society - baby makers, more commonly described as 'sex objects' has such a short career. And then there's the after, the post baby making career to worry about, and it is much less discussed. Hence when Lily Allen sings:

'It's sad but it's true how society says her life is already over
There's nothing to do and there's nothing to say
'Til the man of her dreams comes along
Picks her up and puts her over his shoulder
It seems so unlikely in this day and age'

it is a depressing thought, that a women has to find the best possible partner and then commit to child rearing within an 8 year reproductive career. Of course, that has is not a hard has. But the fact is, I don't have that kind of pressure applied to me as a man. I'm not into population arguments, because I actually understand economics, so it's more the lack of psychic attention given the fact that when a woman hits age 30 her life isn't already over. She is likely in the wealthy west to live for another 50 or so years. It's more that nobody cares at that point... or do they?

I went to a highschool where, as myself and my chauvinistic friends put it, had a particularly 'high batting average'. Translated for those outside a cricket or baseball analogy culture, it meant there were a lot of attractive women among the student population. I don't know how they'd rate the population of guys. Private school boys are possibly private school boys only fans. However this lead me to believe that in the career path of modelling, whether high fashion, to bikini modelling, or pornographic modelling, my intuition is that the the number of potential models has to be under-capitalised.

What I mean by that is that I feel a lot of women who could be models, aren't. Never even try or apply, because there are better career paths out there that have greater longevity, are non-scalable (not a winner-takes-all industry like art) and probably involve working with less creeps. A lot of could-be-models I suspect, go to medical school, business school etc. In much the same way as I've seen a (not quite plausible) theory that there's no White-Michael-Jordan to have emerged because there are much safer career paths available to white men in America such that the white answer to Michael Jordan is probably practicing dentistry somewhere. Personally I just think white guys are intrinsically inferior at basketball, and can only succeed through less spectacular styles of play like MVPs Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash. I don't want a league full of players like Nowitzki and Nash, I want more Jordans.

And this started out being about 'crones' well that's just the question of what use is an old woman? given that a lot of people on Earth are going to become one. It seems the consensus is 'nothing' and it has lead to a widespread desperate industry based upon old women trying to pass as imitations of women in their fertile prime, botox, chemical peels, cosmetic surgery, hair dye... all of that.

9. Musician

For all I know, the music industry may be female dominated. Though I doubt in terms of the corporate sense. So this one was more of a question as to whether could be represented in music not for their sex appeal, but for their ability to compose and execute music. Can a homely, matronly, bull dog of a woman sell their music unsweetened by sex? Historically the answer is yes. And again it's not hard to think of examples of successful non-sex symbol women in music. Susan Boyle, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin (although I would have gone there) etc.
Furthermore within bands their are no 'traditionally' male or female roles that hold up. Women aren't just singers or backing vocals. There are women represented in percussion, lead guitar, bass, synth. Women perform music of every style, women even play the didgeridoo.
This was a pushover, although I hate drawing guitars and I've fucked up many a decent guitar depiction when it comes to adding strings. Hence I didn't. So this lady could just be insane.
This is one of the pieces that is nudging me towards a broader conclusion that I suspect nobody will like, so I'll save that for a sting in the tail when I complete this inktober.

10. Bully

I'm going to assert something that, like most assertions, comes with little empirical research to back it. But I'm guessing at some point in just about every adolescent boys years, they have glanced over to the girls camp and witnessed a going on, that has had them utter a silent prayer of gratitude that boys just beat each other up.
This is probably my personal favorite piece I've done. Which is interesting to me because it has multiple figures. Again more so than the music industry, I have a sneaking suspicion that bullying may be a role dominated by women, even though if you say 'bully' to me I'm prompted to think of some meathead boy with his sleeves rolled up in the schoolyard.
And I probably should back down a bit from that speculation, because if you prefix 'bully' with 'corporate' it becomes an all-male affair to my mind.
Back in Melbourne on one of my regular running trails, I used to pass a piece of graffiti that read 'Matriarchy Now' and while it doesn't really fill me with dread, (I haven't witnessed any credible threats to 'the patriarchy' whatever that may prove to be, in my lifetime) it did get me speculating as to what in all the critiques of the patriarchy and its oppression, the alternate model may be. As it's very rare for a positive alternative model to be proffered for comparison by the critics.
To some degree, I imagine I may not need to speculate, I can just log onto face book. Life under a matriarchy may resemble social media as currently practiced, a domain of thought crimes, the ever present threats of public shaming and ostracism and where survival is about public profession or self-censorship (liking the right status updates and ignoring the wrong ones).
Much as I would never begrudge someone for refusing to participate in 'the patriarchy' I hope I can similarly be excused from participating in a 'matriarchy' given that I have one precious life and I can't imagine a worse way to spend it than trying to succeed in a feminine social hierarchy. (Well, I can imagine worse, but that's still dipping below the threshold of a life actually worth living).
Anyway, I personally cringe every time I see the 'bullying epidemic' addressed in the media or by policy. I almost feel like nobody wants to understand bullying, and it's possibly a domain of human behavior in which all but the Japanese are entirely hypocritical.
Japan being the exception because teachers have often been known to participate in bullying, or 'ijime' as they call it over there.
It seems in all but the domain of school children, when it comes to how we act, bullying is in fact celebrated. The education system appears to always have a bully on staff, to the point where a vice-principle bully character is almost a trope.
I... don't much give a fuck about bullying in high-school, albeit, I went to high-school long before smart phones and social media were a thing. So I can imagine it might be completely out of hand now, given how much I see going on online in my circle of educated adults.
My general objection to how people attempt to address bullying is the usual - campaigns always are an exercise in hand-washing and empathising/identifying with the victims, not the bullies.
I am partial to Gordon Neufeld's approach though I'm not the biggest fan of him as a speaker. But he lays out the challenges well for anyone attempting to address bullying. The one that particularly resonates with me is his obsevation that any theory of bullying has to also explain bullying in animals, as it's observed in Elephants among others.
The solution with Elephants was simple given identifying the problem in Elephants - a lack of role models was remedied by introducing older bulls as role models, and a previously all juvenile population of elephants transformed over night, once they had someone to look up to.
Every effort to address bullying has appeared to precipitate an escalation in the crisis. Not surprising given the campaigns basically always consist of 'just don't do it!' aka no solution at all.
I added the feminist fist pin to my bully, just to give a tip of the hat to the biggest bullies I know - progressives. I'm not an apologist for right wing fascists, or conservative bullies, or theocratic bullies. I just don't know any of these people.
What I do know is a lot of people who criticize the world's most famous bully - Donald Trump, and yet while avoiding being as stupid, resemble him in critical ways.
Bullies in my experience, feel themselves to be victims, the world conspiring against them and on some intuitive level pick on soft targets they know they can beat. This describes the majority of my progressive friends, and the most vocal feminists in my feed.
And standing up to bullies is unpleasant and particularly thankless. I'm in a good position to do so, but perhaps an unethical one, given how asymmetric the equation is. But still if I engage one, it fills my system with adrenaline and can set me ruminating all day. So I'm not sure if I do have an obligation to stand up to them, although given that most progressive 'policy' promotes the denigration of mental health and spreads anxiety and depression, I feel like if I can do something I perhaps should do something. At any rate, I'm in no rush.
The task is made thankless because it's so easy to conflate a criticism of someone's tactics with a criticism of their position. One thing that makes 'feminists' rife with bullies is that there is absolutely no quality control to calling oneself a feminist. People just go 'feminism = good, therefore all feminists = good.' or 'racism = bad, therefore racists deserve everything they get.' No. Sadly, no.

11. Loser

Fittingly, this was one of the least popular of the whole series thus far. And while it would be attempting to attribute that to my success in capturing the essence of loserdom for which nobody wishes to be affiliated, I'm sure it's more that people are averse to sharing in my judgmental nature...
Anyway broadly I guess there's a shallow but significant comment with these undesirable roles, about risk which is, in broadening the scope of roles from the virgin/whore sexual dichotomy (that I'm still skeptical about beyond the days where the Church commissioned all the art, hence the Virgin Mary was the most popular female subject) there can be this blindside of roles that are worse perhaps than being someone's desired virgin or whore, which is to say, someone desirable to just about nobody.
Which I don't think is a real danger, people with nothing going for them are exceptionally rare, and even then, there's nothing there to cast judgement that they are somehow bad people. A loser in the above case is someone who simply isn't in demand.
I don't think anyone would find it controversial if I condemned say... cosmetic advertising for some product like fuller, longer lashes, as unethical - creating a perceived gap between the actual self and the ideal self that can be bridged with products to be sold.
And while it isn't hard to find examples of 'loser' women in film, virtually every film and tv show targeted at teenagers contains a loser archetype, nerds, geeks, awkward girls, weird girls... Carrie, She's All That, The Princess Diaries, Clueless, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Cobra Kai, The Big Bang Theory, Hairspray, Mean Girls, Spiderman Homecoming, The Breakfast Club... it's a very well represented role except, perhaps with the exception of Carrie and Cobra Kai they are all redemption narratives. Carrie and Cobra Kai (thus far) being vindictive revenge narratives.
Typically onscreen losers are simply 'sneaky-hot' awaiting a makeover that can consist of something as simple as removing glasses and a ponytail.
This narrative, popular and comforting as it is, is to me unethical, perhaps even dangerous. I'm generally disapproving of notions like 'hard work pays off' and a much bigger fan of 'time and chance happen to us all.'
For starters, losers are often portrayed as simply misunderstood people with hearts of gold. Often a desirable boy has to realize his babe girlfriend is in fact vacuous and cruel and that if he can see beyond looks a truly beautiful person resides within some loser.
The cruelty of psychological phenomena though, is that often there is no compensation for the disadvantaged. The cosmetically challenged are not shored up by inner beauty, not always. Attractive children get more attention and encouragement from adults than the ugly, ungainly and uncoordinated children do. This is called the 'halo effect' which is to say, we all tend to find beautiful people not only more beautiful than the average, but rate them higher in other qualities too - more intelligent, kinder, funnier etc. even when this is illusory.
Then the Matthew Effect kicks in and the illusory advantages of the halo-effect translate into real advantages over time. It's true that a makeover might allow a loser to tap into the halo and Matthew Effect, but I feel it is cruel to suggest that people's popularity is to a larger rather than lesser extent within their control.
The existence of psychological phenomena like the halo and matthew effect, suggest that the just world hypothesis is invalid, and this is bad news for ugly, hefty, homely, gangly and awkward teenage girls. Thus I find the narrative cruel to inculcate false hope for young girls everywhere and spare them the bad news, that in your class might be a girl who is not only prettier than you, but smarter, stronger, faster, more musically talented, more creative, imaginative and better at video games than you.
The narrative I would put in place is the unglamorous economic theory of comparative advantage. Which is to say, instead of wishful, alchemical thinking where the answer lies in changes of hairstyle and wardrobe, it is pragmatic strategic thinking. The revelation that one can still succeed even when outclassed in every dimension by the competition. Life does not appear to be zero sum.
Comparative advantage was taught to me as two nations, two commodities model. Wool and Wheat. Relative advantage is where for every 1 input by country A, they can produce 1 wool and 2 wheat. Country B: 2 wool and 1 wheat. Therefore, with trade if country A specializes in producing wheat and country B specializes in producing wool then by trading both countries wind up being better off than if they were to produce both commodities themselves with their limited input.
Comparative advantage is where Country A now for each input produces 3 wool and 6 wheat and country B produces 2 wool and 1 wheat. It might seem intuitively that Country B has nothing to offer Country A, however if both contries focus on what they are best at, they are still both better off. Country B still has something to offer if it plays it's resources right.
Same same between Doris and Jennifer. (Which I assume you have already stereotyped into losers and winners) furthermore, if Doris plays her weak hand right, and Jennifer doesn't because she follows her naive intuitions that she can do shit better herself rather than strategically cooperating with Doris, in the long game a loser like Doris can drive Jennifer to extinction.
Time and chance happen to us all, and as I said on my instagram post, we are all losers sometimes. But false bravado is suicidal, as is false hope. I lost someone dear to me earlier this year and for much of his life people would have said they had everything going for them and scratch their heads as to the mystery of how they could lose it all.
In many ways it's not fair to try and picture a loser, because anyone could be a loser. Often it is increasingly my experience the biggest and most consequential disadvantage in life is to have never had the secure attachment of a loving mother, followed closely by a dysfunctional relationship with either parent.
The Stoics almost all point out the ability to be dissatisfied in any circumstances provided you have no sense of self.

12. Samurai

I was on the backfoot with this one and I fear I made her too fair of face. Like many people would 'go there'. Onna Bugeisha are a historical fact, however that history is not as awesome and kick-ass as I fear many would hope. I've depicted a woman with a Katana blade but women generally carried the Japanese halberd or naginata. Even as recognized members of the warrior caste, duties were still specialized into gender roles with female samurai responsible for defending the household and honor. They get mentioned in Bushido though this text was written post-fuedal Japan. Women for example, defended their honor post rape by committing suicide. So there's a lot of culture one has to wade through.
Furthermore with the advent of the Edo-Period which unified Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate, given the eradication of the risk one's stronghold was going to be stormed by a rival Samurai clan or fiefdom, women were summarily stripped of their warrior duties and increasingly just baby factories for their lords and masters.
Anyway this can all be read on wikipedia. The reality differs greatly from how samurai women are romanticized in Movies, Cartoons and Videogames, however this is true between the sexes. It is rarely covered reality that knights just pissed and shat themselves in their armor.

13. Bouncer

I feel I found a role that women are virtually never depicted in. However this could be a failure of my recall rather than a true reflection of the reality. My google-fu also failed to unearth any lady bouncers on the big screen. However, they do exist in practice out there in the real world. Google does provide that.
There are also very few films where bouncers play more than a cursory role. The most noteable is Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse.
I don't think too many people like bouncers, and yet they clearly have to play a critical role in facilitating night-life. Which by and large must be safer for their presence than their absence even though there's so many stories of bouncers doing bad shit. Worst of which may be the British bouncer that transmitted HIV to some hundred young girls. But I know of a woman in Melbourne who was blinded in one eye by a bouncer, and the news periodically features stories of bouncers overstepping themselves and seriously injuring or killing someone. However the bouncers in all these anecdotes are male, and I have to concede that bouncers job is to deal with drunk and irrational people who are also already violent. They are generally hired precisely for their ability to overpower the average person and they are typically blind-stinking-sober while having to deal with people at their worst.
One thing I also have never heard, and presume I will never hear is 'why aren't there more female bouncers?' and I don't think that's because the realities of sexual dimorphism have been rationally accepted by the masses, but because it's an undesirable low-skilled and oft-undignified profession. I imagine if there is a campaign to encourage the proliferation of female bouncers, it'll be to rename door bitch' to one equal in respect and dignity to that of bouncer.

14. Scientist

I introduced this as an ironic no-brainer. After 'athlete' there's probably no role women play in society that has more prolific and diverse representation both in media and history. That isn't to say it's proportional, but the list of notable female scientists is as far as hashtag's are concerned, inexhaustible.
This isn't to say that there is therefore no disparity between genders in terms of esteem, recognition and compensation. But women in the sciences go back to some alchemist known as 'Mary the Jewess' and long before there was any public or popular campaign to push women into STEM professions, from Mary Curie, to She-Who-Sells-Sea-Shells-On-The-Sea-Shore, Ada Lovelace, Barbara McClintock, Jane Goodall, Caroline Herschel... it is exhausting, but while women were certainly excluded from professional scientific bodies throughout history, some went unrecognized for their contributions in their own lifetimes etc. there is not much evidence to suggest women with an interest in the sciences could be stopped from practicing science. And owing to the nature of science as opposed to say... religion, women's contributions to science are undeniable.
The other interesting thing in this domain, that I haven't dug into, is that as a culture moves towards actual gender parity, the less women proportionally pursue careers in STEM. China and India have a greater percentage of women in Sciences, Technology and Engineering than the Scandinavian states.
That mystery has to be looked at by those advocating. To me it suggests that the issue isn't that women are being forcefully kept out of the sciences - though I've heard anecdotally that some disciplines of science, like theoretical physics have a noxious hyper masculine culture - but that it's the way we compensate and value different roles in society based along gender roles divisions.
I suspect the ready at hand answer is that the patriarchy oppresses young girls out of an interest in the sciences. I find this explanation though to be empty of any nutrition, and defied by the lack of the easy remedy to that conditioning in adolescence and adulthood, and contradicted by the success of women in the sciences historically.
Strangely all the people I know who actually wear lab coats to work and do science shit for a career, are women.

Check my last post for days 1-7, and a link to my instagram where I'm posting these as the days tick over.

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