The Pheminist Manifesto

Over the last several months at Le Moyne, a group of student activists have come together to protest sexism and gender injustice. They call themselves ‘Pheminists’ (our mascot here at Le Moyne is the Dolphin). They have written a declaration of intent they call the Pheminist Manifesto, and have asked that I make it available for sharing here here on my blog.

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The Pheminist Manifesto: A declaration of Intent

We, the feminists of Le Moyne College, declare our intention to make issues of sexism and gender injustice a priority. We pledge to educate our community, bring awareness to gender injustices both on campus and off, and push for change at Le Moyne College as long as gender injustices continue.

We believe each woman has the right to dictate any decisions involving her body, her education, her career, her spirituality, her beliefs, her family and her overall quality of life. Every woman has the human right to a life free from patriarchal, paternalistic coercion.

Our particular brand of feminism is inclusive and intersectional. Women of all ethnicities,  all faiths, all ideologies, all sexualities, all bodies, and all gender expressions have a place among us.

Men also have a place among us; we welcome men who regard women as equals. Male feminists are a testament that toxic and hegemonic masculinity can be resisted, and its subversion should be celebrated and encouraged. We reject the notion that feminism is, or ever has been, synonymous with “man-hating.” However, we must remember that the scars etched by the patriarchy are deepest in women and non-male and/or non-conforming gender identities, and that is where we focus our energies.

As educated individuals for and with others, we pledge to recognize our privileged status, and use it to raise campus and community consciousness about sexism, including the ways in which it intersects with racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism and all forms of oppression.

We pledge to cultivate a safe community free from shaming of any kind. We encourage questions and conversation. We acknowledge our individual experiences and we pledge to support and empower all women. We are feminists working together towards the transcendence of gender injustice. This is our pledge as ’Phins for Pheminism.
The Le Moyne Pheminists

Artists and Alienation: Everyday Marxism at Subway

I eat at Subway, a lot. Probably more than any self-respecting person should. In fact, including this post, my blog has a bit of a Subway Series going on here and here. Maybe I should write a book on the sociology of Subway.

The Subway I go to most often requires its employees to shout ‘Welcome to Subway!’ whenever someone walks through the door. Other places do this as well – i.e. “Welcome to Moe’s!” I don’t find it particularly welcoming to be shouted at by strangers when I walk through doors. Does anyone ever shout back – “Oh my! It’s so nice to see you all today!” That would be weird. But, more than not feeling welcomed, it makes me feel guilty about imposing on these low wage workers making sandwiches on command for strangers all day. (I mean, not so guilty that I don’t eat there twice a week and load my card with points.)

A couple of months ago I was at a different Subway than my usual spot, but they still do the Welcome to Subway Shout – standardized welcoming is heartwarming. This day, however, it was less a shout and much more of a ‘dumb things I gotta do today mumble.’ I totally get that – no offense taken. In fact, I’ve often thought that ‘Subway sandwich maker’ has got to be one of the most alienating jobs available. These folks are making products that they immediately give away to their boss of the moment. They make the sandwich, someone else eats the sandwich – all day long. Not only do they immediately lose the product of their labor to someone else, they have to experience alienation from customers who often make really odd demands for sandwiches (i.e. “cut the bread the old way”). Customers are the sandwich exploiters of these Sandwich laborers – or as they are known in the industry: Sandwich Artists.

Yes, Corporate Subway calls these folks Sandwich Artists. This has to be as ironic an employee moniker as there is – it’s much worse than Wal-Mart’s ‘associates.’ There is nothing artistic about using predetermined ingredients, in required amounts, at the command of strangers walking through the door. This is not craft nor creativity, but rather carefully monitored capitalist production.

Here is a screenshot from Subway Corporate describing the position of Sandwich Artist:

Sandwich Artists report to Management.

Sandwich Artists report to Management.

Notice the happy Sandwich Artist who ‘Reports to: Management.’ I’d guess this isn’t the same as an artist working for a patron. These are well managed artists, as we can see in the position’s Tasks and Responsibilities which include exhibiting “a cheerful and helpful manner while greeting guests and preparing their orders” and preparing “food neatly, according to formula, and in a timely manner.” These artists are paid for emotional labor and following a formula. Smiling and painting by numbers isn’t how I think of artists! That said, some members of the Subway Family are very fast – and, like any strong, artistically inclined family, Subway celebrates their efficiency.

Once at my favorite little corner Subway, I was chatting with a Sandwich Artist I’d come to know a little bit. She’d start my Veggie Delite before I ordered it. Yes, there was a sense of friendship here, not alienation. As we worked our way down the sandwich assembly line she mentioned she’d just given her two weeks and was leaving without a new job yet acquired. I said, ‘oh, that’s too bad, why are you leaving?.’ She gave me the most obvious look one could give, and said “It’s Subway.”

Yep. It’s Subway. Home of the alienated artist.

Teaching Weber’s concepts of Class and Status with The Washington Post and Todd Snider

Here’s an article that would be useful for a range of sociology and political science courses (What is the ‘Middle Class’? It depends who’s using the term, and why). I could see using it in a social theory course, a social inequality class, or the public opinion seminar I’m teaching this semester.

For Social Inequality, I’d use it early in the semester when I’m providing an overview of income and wealth distributions in the U.S. One of the things I’ve learned teaching inequality over the years is that students really don’t have a working knowledge of the income distribution and where they or their families fall in the spread. Many of the students I teach are relatively privileged, and don’t seem to understand it. This partly because even the relatively privileged stress over paying for the American Dream. The article illustrates both of these issues quite well.

In Public Opinion I’d use it to illustrate good use of public opinion data and to show how public opinion often doesn’t match very well with other sorts of data. I’d use it to start a conversation about why that’s the case.

In Social Theory I’d use it when I was teaching Weber’s “Class, Status, Party.” In this case I’d use it not because it’s a good example, but to demonstrate why Weber thought it was important to distinguish class and status. Read this paragraph:

The problem with that emerges immediately. In New York County, N.Y — that is, Manhattan — the median household income in 2013 was almost $69,659. In Tuscaloosa County, Ala., the median was $45,408. That’s a function, among other things, of cost of living differences. But someone making $55,000 in Alabama is above average. Making that in New York, below. The status conferred by income is relative.

Do you see what I see? The author starts by making a good point about how cost of living differences across the U.S make national numbers somewhat misleading at the local level. But, that last sentence conflates class and status. When I look at cost of living differences I read those as indicators of how the distribution of material goods works in a place. An income of $45,000 in Tuscaloosa County, Ala. is going to allow a relatively decent standard of material living, while that’s much less likely in Manhattan. But, in Weber’s analysis, that’s not a perfect predictor of status – the esteem granted to you by others. You can have low income and high status, so the author shouldn’t have equated the two.

Of course, Weber tells us class and status are often closely related to one another, but seeing how the two are different helps us better understand the complexity of social life. I might then move the conversation to a discussion of the status of a Manhattan banker in Manhattan and Tuscaloosa. One can imagine ways the ‘banker’ might have different statuses in the two places, even with the same income. Maybe I’d use Todd Snider’s song “New York Banker” to make the point with a little soulful humor.

Dry Lake – SoundCloud

My computer crashed! Can’t do syllabi, so I did this:

Listen to Dry Lake by opiatesofsilicon #np on #SoundCloud

Some day I want to write about music making. Maybe soon.

I’m not your boss, sir: service worker small talk as class warfare?

One of my least favorite social interactions is when service workers, often waitstaff, use ‘terms of endearment.’ You know, “what can I get you, hon?” or “there you go, boss.” It makes me uncomfortable. I say service workers because these are the interactions in which I notice it, but surely it happens elsewhere too. Quite frankly, terms of endearment from just about anyone make me uncomfortable, so it may just be that I’m atypically socially distant (I’d buy that). Maybe, but I think there are social patterns here to be considered

First, the phenomenon appears gendered. I’ve never noticed a male waiter call me ‘hon’ or ‘sweetie,’ and I don’t recall a lot of female service workers calling me ‘boss.’ Service workers have an opportunity to do some fun breaching experiments here. I imagine most folks wouldn’t notice if a female worker called them ‘boss,’ but I imagine nearly every male would notice if a male worker called him ‘sweetie.’  Having read about ‘everyday sexism‘, I’d guess women hear a lot more of this sort of small talk than do men, from both women and men. Women are probably uncomfortably called ‘sweetie’ all the time, by everyone. Do male workers call female customers ‘boss’?

Second, why do I find it so uncomfortable? I think the language is too intimate for what are nearly always fleeting relationships in the context of economic transactions. While I’ve never said it, I always think “I’m not your hon,” or “I’m not your boss”  Maybe Donald Black’s theory of Moral Time could help me understand a bit of it. Is the conflict I feel a result of ‘over intimacy?’ That seems reasonable for ‘hon’ and ‘sweetie’ and the like, but maybe not for ‘boss.’ I find ‘boss’ harder to take. I always hear with it a bit of disdain. Maybe it’s a small shot at the inequality of the service relationship? Maybe in this context ‘boss’ is meant to draw attention to the fact that work is being done, for me, by someone who is likely underpaid and under appreciated. Maybe it’s a subtle critique of class privilege? Maybe it’s the expression of completely internalized capitalistic social relations?

Why I Prefer Todd Schoepflin’s perspective to Orlando Patterson’s

My friend and colleague Todd Schoepflin tweeted earlier today about having enough points on a ‘sub card’ to get a free sub. It’s an exciting moment. I’ve been there, and that sub really does taste better. It’s revealing about the value of money and food, I’d argue, and how emotions and physiological experiences are context dependent. I might be over interpreting that, fine, but there is certainly room for an interesting sociological analysis of sandwich transactions.

Todd later made a somewhat self deprecating tweet about ‘tweeting the mundane.’ I think sociologists can and should say revealing things about the mundane. Most of every life is mostly mundane. It is the routines of the mundane that makes sociology possible in the first place, and it’s a part of human life that I think sociologists have a unique opportunity and skill set to explore. I believe this even in light of the recent conversation on my social media sources about Orlando Patterson’s complaint that sociologists have made themselves irrelevant. First, I’d ask irrelevant to what? Next, I’d say I just don’t think it’s true that we’ve ‘made ourselves’ irrelevant. I think it’s at least as reasonable to argue we’ve been ignored and demonized by policy makers for doing exactly what we should be doing – questioning the ideologies of the powerful.

Yes, sociologists should make their work available to policy makers and do everything we can to affect change through such channels. I know several sociologists who do this very well without finding the limelight or writing Piketty-esque books. But it would be a shame if our collective effort was aimed at becoming part of the power-elite at the expense of paying close attention to how and why folks buy subs, make subs as employment, sit in traffic, parent in public, fall in love, manage the work/life balance, and all the million other mundane things most of us do most of the time.

Banned Essay: You’re Probably a Pheminist

The following essay was written by Le Moyne Peace and Global Studies/Political Science double major Kailey McDonald. She submitted it to the Le Moyne student newspaper, The Dolphin, and the student run paper refused to print it. So, I’m sharing it here.

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You’re probably a Pheminist

By Kailey McDonald ‘15

GUEST WRITER

“I support equality and everything, but I’m not a Feminist because…” WAIT. Stop right there. You actually are a feminist. I understand the confusion, though. Feminism has a lot of reincarnations, and the most well known is the man-hating, bra-burning warrior queen. To be fair, that Feminist is still pretty darn badass.

It takes an incredible amount of courage to speak out against the mainstream the way our foremothers did, and some pretty hefty ovaries to burn a 50 dollar bra [the sheer amount of cereal and PB&J that money could’ve bought is staggering]. But I’m a feminist, and I love men. I love my bras. I don’t feel any particular desire to burn them either.

So what does it mean to be a feminist?

The answer is pretty complicated. There are different types of feminism, and people wield their feminism in many different ways. But my feminism is about gender justice for every type of human, and plain old justice in general.

Maybe this is the fourth-wave of feminism, this “I’m not a feminist, I’m an equalist” rhetoric popular amongst the youngin’s these days [but let’s stick with the term feminist, I’d like to honor our foremothers’ courage with their coined term].  We’re moving away from the exclusive women-only feminist model popular in the 70s towards something new, something that has a place for every person burning for gender justice.

Millennial feminism can’t and won’t hate men, because it’s not [millennial] feminism if it’s exclusive. We cannot ignore the feminists that do not fit the middle-to-upper class white cis-women mold, the way they were excluded from the movement in the past. We cannot exclude anyone, because it’s not justice if it’s not for all.  This is my feminism, and my pledge.

We will not skinny-shame, fat-shame or slut-shame. We will not tell you that you cannot be a stay-at-home mother or father. We will not tell you that you can’t wear makeup, or must work full-time, or any of the other things you think feminism will tell you.

What feminism will tell you is that you alone can make the decisions that regard your future, your education, your body, your clothes, your makeup, your sexuality and all of the other decisions we make in our lives, whether you are a man, a woman, or identify as neither. These are basic rights that belong inherently to every human being, and I am here as a feminist to fight for them.

Chances are you want to support human rights for everyone. You like the idea of justice for all, and maybe you don’t know what gender justice is but it sounds pretty damn awesome. Chances are, you are a feminist. And there’s nothing negative or shameful about it! Let’s celebrate our feminism! I say we all get loud and proud. Let’s  make Le Moyne the cultural center of a movement. Let’s reclaim feminism, and make it the feminism we want it to be. If you’re “not a feminist, but…,” why don’t you join me, and take all of those absolutely dreadful things you hate about “feminism” and throw them out the window. Ixnay on the bra-burning for now [though I repeat, pretty bad ass]. Let’s brand it as something all Dolphins stand for. Let’s make feminism ours.

Let’s stand up as ‘Phins for Pheminism.

‘Merican Douchebags?: Elitist and Redneck discourse

This Michael Mark Cohen essay about ‘douchebag’ as a white racial slur has come my way a few times recently. Whatever you think about the argument, it could be a useful resource to start conversations about the intersectionality of white, male, upper class privilege.

Here’s how Cohen puts it:

For the time being, this is the vernacular critique of whiteness that we’ve always needed, and its been right before our eyes all along. The term douchebag, again used as we already use it, has the power to name white ruling class power and white sexist privilege as noxious, selfish, toxic, foolish and above all, dangerous.

What got me thinking about this again today was sitting in a Bruegger’s watching a ‘preppy’ white guy parked in a running Jeep Grand Cherokee 4 X 4 on his cellphone for at least 15 minutes, and he was still there when I left. As anyone who drives with me knows, I’ll barely let my car idle between turning the key and moving, or stopping and shutting down. Idling, in almost any instance, is bad for the environment, our health, and wastes expensive fossil fuel (8 facts and myths about warming up your car). This well dressed guy, sitting in a behemoth that probably cost north of $30,000 and manages an around town mpg rating in the low 20s, clearly cared about none of those things.

But, I don’t think this particular automotive behavior is significantly classed or raced in America. If anything, being obsessed with environmentally conscious behavior is maybe a bourgeois affliction. The term I thought when I walked past this guy, tempted to knock on the window and ask him what the hell he was thinking, was this: Merica (urban dictionary). I realized, however, that I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use the term (what is the correct version, anyway?) except to denigrate or celebrate what I think of as working class, white culture. I grew up in that culture, in a town that has advertised “Redneck Games” on the webpage of its visitors bureau. If that’s not ‘Mercia, I don’t know what is.

So, I checked, and Cohen’s article doesn’t make any mention of “merica” or its other forms. I’d hypothesize it’s use would correlate with ‘cracker,’ ‘hillbilly,’ and ‘redneck,’ or the other terms that Cohen correctly points out also discriminate by class. Google Correlate didn’t show any search results, but this post at floatingsheep (Welcome to ‘Merica (Or is it ‘Murica?)) maps Twitter use of the two terms, and argues that the more sarcastic ‘murica is preferred by coastal elites who may be eager to differentiate themselves from the yokels in flyover country. At the same time, I’ve been to fireworks shows and sporting events where people in the middle of a good time shout ‘Murica!’ to advertise and celebrate their fun.

So, what’s the function of ‘merica/’murica? Is it for elites to denigrate America’s working class? Is it to celebrate ‘middle America’ fun? When I saw that douche in the 4 X 4 guzzling gas and a large coffee, was ‘Merica a reasonable response?

Let’s settle it with some enraged comments on the internet!

 

Sports: Who benefits?

Who benefits from sports? A lot folks, certainly. I’m sitting here watching a Milwaukee Bucks game as I write. I’m benefiting because I’m being entertained. The players are benefiting because they are being paid, and hopefully having fun. The coaches and team staff benefit because they get jobs, and the owner benefits because he (they are mostly men in pro sports) makes money. There are stadium staff from food service to custodial. Restaurant and bar owners in the area benefit from folks who gather to watch the games and buy food and drink. Fans may stay in hotels, so the hotel owners benefit too. The league and other retailers sell team merchandise. In short, there is a lot of economic benefit to go around.

What about amateur sports? Who benefits? If we are talking about NCAA sports, it’s very similar to the pros, except for the players aren’t being paid. But, they must love the game more, right? Otherwise, why play? Sure, there is the college education, but student-athlete is in many cases a misnomer. Especially for ‘big time’ college sports, the athletes are often playing as much for the chance to make money in the pros as they are to get an education.

What about folks who play in recreational leagues and pick up games? There, it seems that the economic benefits for others not involved in the play are much less direct. I’d guess they are still there as it’s not that uncommon to go from the game to dinner or a bar, and a few folks will probably stop and watch for a few minutes to see what’s going on in the park.

In recreational leagues the benefits accrue most completely to the participants themselves. What about as sports become more commodified? Do the athletes still benefit the most? It’s hard to argue that’s the case for ‘big time’ college sports. So many people are making so much money, and getting so much entertainment, while the student-athletes tend to be so focused on the sport that they often don’t have time to take full advantage of the academic scholarship, and the NCAA produces some funky numbers to inflate ‘graduation rates.’ Do the athletes get what they deserve given the work they do to produce the product? This Forbes article compares the market value of college athletes to professional athletes, and it doesn’t seem to be the case.

I’m obviously asking more questions than I’m answering, but these are questions worth considering. Who gets the most from sports? Players, those who extract value from the game but don’t play it, fans? Who should get the most?

As I wrote the Bucks lost, so it wasn’t quite as fun as it could have been, and those guys still get paid!

The locker room as sexualized space?

Today’s ‘Sports in America’ discussion was about 2 recent articles related to Michael Sam and the details of his pre-draft coming out, draft result, and experiences with the Rams and Cowboys afterward. Here are the two articles we read, both by Dave Zirin:

After the Press Conference: Michael Sam and “The Man Box

Michael Sam gets drafted and the NFL has issues

These were great conversation starters, but I couldn’t have predicted the way the conversation went. Early on one of the students asked if Michael Sam being openly gay would be a problem in the locker room, and if so, why? The class was in general agreement that while, morally, it shouldn’t be a problem, sociologically, it almost certainly would be. Why?

While our 50 minute conversation took many twists and turns, we spent a good bit of time talking about locker room norms and culture. The male students, most of whom are athletes now or have high school sports experience, told stories of ‘life in the locker-room.’ One said, basically, ‘in the locker room everyone is 12.’ I said, but why would homosexuality matter, in that case? It turns out that the locker room must be a very sexualized space. To hear my students tell it, the locker room is a place where straight men engage in a range of behavior, some of which mimic sex, and sexualized dancing. One student said it really was expected if you are to be part of the team. So, everyone should be sexual, but no one should take it too seriously. The fear (yes, it’s homophobia) is that a gay teammate might ‘take it too seriously.’

Obviously there is much here to explore, but I was surprised to learn that the locker room may in fact be a very sexualized place for male athletes. I shouldn’t have been surprised that performances of masculinity would be different in a locker room than elsewhere, as Tristan Bridges points out here. Bridges writes that locker rooms are “often presented as a cultural “safe space” for men—a space in which they can talk and act however they want without fear of reprisal.” I would have imagined hyper-heterosexuality, not ‘blurred lines’ between heterosexuality and homosexuality that would generate homophobia because ‘gay guys might not understand.’ The female student athletes seemed to know this, too, but said the female locker room isn’t the same. Nonetheless, there was discomfort at the thought of lesbian athletes in the women’s locker room. What explains it there?