glitzfrau: (knew it all by sinsense)

I felt quite pleased with this rant I posted in [livejournal.com profile] shreena's journal re: St. Vincent Cable's claim that government-subsidised higher education is 'unaffordable', so I thought I'd post it here;

I have yet to hear the case for the 'affordability' of systematically and publicly deskilling Britain's workforce. For advertising to foreign investors that the pool of skilled labour in Britain will shrink rapidly over the next few years. For pulling investment out of poor cities highly dependent on universities for development. For consigning school leavers to years of restricted incomes and poverty.

But then, I'm not a Tory nor a Lib Dem, so I am clearly foolish in my notion that investment in higher education isn't just one of the smarter moves a developed economy can make, but an essential one. And I'm not British, so I'm sure I can't understand why it's a savvy idea to divest from higher education when everywhere else in the developed and developing world is moving towards the highest possible participation in higher education. We foolish Irish with our 70% rate of participation! See where that got us.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

london met

Sep. 4th, 2012 10:30 am
glitzfrau: (jesusgun)
I was going to post a big long rant about how angry I am that the UK Borders Agency has revoked London Metropolitan University's right to issue visas, leaving thousands of international students threatened with deportation right before the beginning of term. The The Pequod posted pretty much exactly what I think of this decision, so that's OK. One or two extra points:
  • [livejournal.com profile] biascut argues, correctly, that the whole ungodly mess is largely the result of government cuts. UKBA is woefully understaffed, and is running four months behind in issuing visas. Meanwhile, they have outsourced as much as possible of their work to universities.

  • This is the one I am furious about, and have been for three years: I am an unpaid agent of the UKBA. If you work in UK higher education, chances are you are too. Every time I fill in an attendance register for a class online, it is sent to UKBA, and if international students miss too many classes, they're liable to deportation - because of my actions. I don't know who's an EU student in my classes, and I don't want to know. I don't want to discriminate. But an EU student has the right to attend a family funeral at short notice, take time off for the Olympics, spend a morning in bed with a hangover, with no greater sanction than a bollocking from me or, at worst, suspension from studies; non-EU students get deported for that. I think that's gross. In fact, I think when I go back I have half a mind to check which students are non-EU and mark them present at every class, just because.

  • What is the result of an international headline stating 'International students at UK university to be deported through no fault of their own?' A drop in international recruitment, of course. Commentators are arguing that this is an appalling knock-on effect, that the reputational damage is irreparable, what were the government thinking? I say, if you want to know why a decision was made, look at its outcomes. Outcome: the Daily Mail is happy, racism is stoked among the population (all the discourse in the headlines is about 'genuine' versus 'fraudulent' students - just as it was last year about 'fraudulent' benefits claimants), and Johnny Foreigner is told he's jolly well not welcome in Britain. I would say that's exactly what the government wanted to achieve. Where is David Willetts, defending these students and the institution? Nowhere. That speaks for itself.

  • And ANOTHER thing: I suspect one ancillary reason why the government doesn't give a toss or is rejoicing in London Met's downfall is that they are mostly Oxbridge poshos. They can't imagine that any 'genuine' international student could possibly want to pay £30,000 to attend a dismal ex-poly like London Met. Everyone knows that genuine international students are luminaries like Aung San Su Kyi and Benazir Bhutto studying PPE at Oxbridge and glittering in the Students' Union there.

    What Brazilian would pay through the nose to do a scummy course like - ugh! - media or business studies at London Met? Only a fraudster, clearly. About time this racket was closed down, and elitist excellence restored. If the knock-on effect damages more of those so-called 'new universities', so much the better, right? They were supposed to wither away and die under the new fees regime anyway.


END OF RANT. I am cross. But oh well, the booing of George Osborne and cheering of Gordon Brown at the Paralympics last night are glorious things.
glitzfrau: (jesusgun)
How to win friends and influence people:

On 19 Jun 2012, at 09:56, A Man wrote:

My good lady works at the City Centre and has just been sent this by their security so thought I should pass it on:
“It has been brought to my attention that there were two attempted rape incidents this weekend along the canal in the city centre. In both cases the victims were female joggers. One of these attacks was at 4.00 pm on Sunday afternoon in broad daylight. The culprit/s have not been caught.

It would therefore be advisable until further notice to not go running in those areas and not to run alone at all.

Please let as many runners as you know as possible (please forward on!!!) including guys, as they can pass the message on to more people too.”

Dear A Man,

Thank you for your mail. It might be more advisable for you to pass on the following advice to men at the university:

* Do not rape female joggers
* If you see a female jogger, do not act threateningly towards her
* If a female jogger appears alarmed at your presence, leave the canal area
* If one of your friends says he has raped a female jogger, report him to the police

I fail to see why we women are being called upon to change our behaviour when it is men who are committing this crime.

Best wishes,

Angry Glitz
glitzfrau: (jesusgun)
Please stop posting that wanky macro about how Assange is a HERO and yet treated like a VILLAIN, whereas Zuckerberg is the real CROOK HERE.oh, this macro is so CLEVER and LIBERTARIAN )

Then, when I point out that there are outstanding rape allegations against Assange, and that he has wantonly endangered the lives of human rights defenders by leaking their details, do not respond by saying 'we are all entitled to a fair trial'. We are all indeed entitled to due process, indeed, but skulking abroad evading trial, complaining that we are 'emasculated' by having to wear an ankle tag and playing the martyr does not add to our heroism. Instead, it makes us look like a rapey wanker.

Also, no-one is forcing us to sign up to Facebook. By doing so, we enter into a contract with Zuckerberg willingly - unlike the women who may not have been allowed to consent to sex with Assange, or the defenders who did not consent to the endangerment of their lives.

Seriously, so-called 'friends'. THREE TIMES? Could somebody kill this rapey macro now, please?
glitzfrau: (jesusgun)
ME: Why did the Today programme just ask Ed Miliband why people thought he was weird? He's not weird! He's perfectly normal! What an odd question.

[livejournal.com profile] biascut: Because he's Jewish. Sorry, am I obsessed?

ME: No, you're quite right. Of course.

*both girls sigh*
glitzfrau: (linke emanze)
On my holidays, I finished Eichmann in Jerusalem and moved on to How to Be a Woman. Oh, it's so tempting to say, from the sublime to the ridiculous, but unfair too. While I was reading Arendt, a sense of awe built up in me at her absolutely perfect prose, the flawless construction of her sentences and paragraphs and arguments; how every sentence answered the one before and raised a question for the next one to answer; how subtle themes ran through and were never dropped; how the level of argument was intellectually rigorous and yet completely transparent; how her incandescent anger was at no time in doubt but at no time overcame her prose. And that in her second language!

It is a perfect book, if you ask me. She considers and deals with difficulties for just the right length of time for the reader to understand and follow them, such as her elegant dismissal of the 'anyone else would have done the same' defence - you are not put on trial for hypothetical crimes that others may or may not have committed, you are being put on trial for these specific crimes to which you have confessed (so there, Bernhard Schlink). Others have been furious with the book, and I can see why: she's unstinting on the sarcasm, and considerably more scathing about the State of Israel than I expected, though she most definitely supports the legal basis of Eichmann's trial and execution. And her savage indictment of the Jewish councils of Nazi-occuppied countries makes difficult reading, and I don't know enough history to know whether she is right to accuse elders such as the esteemed Leo Baeck of complicity in genocide. But oh, so beautifully written, and a wonderfully clear introduction into the world of 1960s Holocaust philosophy that I need to dive into. Harrowing, obviously, but (and this is in no way a noble thing to be saying) I've read worse.

And so to Caitlin Moran's pop-feminist bible for our generation. Moran is funny, and smart, and bang-on my age, and is defending feminism in an accessible and lovable fashion, so it is mean to criticise too much. But oh, from the poised and pointed perfection of Arendt's prose to the jolly wobbly waffle of Moran's is a bit of a lurch. And, well. As I've said before, I'm becoming less interested in the cultural aspects of white Western feminism that she takes on, depilation and It bags and Jordan. It all seems a bit teenage, and it seems a bit too easy to bracket out, as Moran does, issues of violence and equal pay and serious discrimination from the start of her book.

It's not that I disagree with what she says, nor that I suspect she would take much umbrage were I to say (for instance) that actually, I don't think strippers are betraying the sisterhood, nor that fashion is a sinister sniper lurking ready to shoot feminism down. Moreover, she makes some very good points - she makes my point about Women's Work is Worthless, for one, namely that non-parenting work done by women might actually have some inherent value for the world at large, something I very rarely hear said elsewhere. I also liked her robust defence of paying cleaners against the anti-feminist sneerers (because why should a woman feel guilty that she is paying a woman to do her cleaning? why is it her responsibility to feel the guilt rather than a man's?) Her tales of motherhood and abortion are direct and more honest and moving than almost anything I've read.

But it's still chewing-gummish prose, ephemeral meanderings pumped out to pad a few simple arguments which are a bit difficult to pick out of the fluff. Moran rather artlessly dismisses all academic feminists as more or less irrelevant, and then goes on to hero-worship Germaine Greer and Zoe Williams, both of whom, besides being very funny journalists when they try, have a pretty damned good acquaintance with difficult but important French feminism and later gender theories. What's more, the book does read somewhat as a straight It Gets Better video. Oppressed by the Beauty Myth as a teenager? Sexually harassed at the office? Treated like rubbish by self-obsessed men in your early twenties? Don't worry! Get married to a lovely man and you'll be grand! Her husband really does sound lovely, and Moran is very talented, not at all privileged and has made her own happiness - but still, her story is hardly representative. There's absolutely nothing there about lesbian life, apart from a fig-leaf 'I'm not cool enough to be a lesbian, honestly' throwaway statement. I don't mean to sound like an earnest 1930s sociologist demanding a treatise on The Lesbian Problem, but an acknowledgment that we're feminists battling our own battles too might be nice. Equally, nothing on women of colour, nothing on women who stay desperately poor. And while I've come to most of Moran's own conclusions about high heels, shaving, porn and the rest, not all women and not all feminists will, but we all need to fight the real battles together, including, f'rinstance, this terrifying new abortion bill in the UK.

In short: Caitlin, I'll get drunk with you and Lady Gaga in a Berlin sex club any time, but I'll turn to Arendt for my hero worship, if that's OK.
glitzfrau: (knew it all by sinsense)
I HAVE A NEW THEORY ABOUT THE RIOTS. And I will mention it briefly, then move on, because the analysis and reconstruction are much much better left to wiser, more patient, more experienced people than an armchair middle-classnik like me. (Read [livejournal.com profile] ultraruby, for instance.) But anyway, I am wondering to what extent the Great British Narrative of Decline informs the situation, at every level. Tories spouting that family breakdown and liberal policing have caused the misery, unlike an imagined golden age in the past where paterfamilias kept order and your friendly local white bobby just had to frown at one of the dastardly gypsies from Enid Blyton and crime was averted. Lefties blaming the cuts in EMA and youth services, as though there were never any riots, any theft or any deprivation in the glorious Blair years or in the 1950s, as though people weren't still dying young of TB and as though all those vaunted manufacturing industry jobs didn't also routinely cause hideous industrial accidents and life-long disability. Liberals talking about poverty of aspiration in an increasingly unequal society, as though the "more equal" Britain of the 1960s wasn't built on a toxic practice of empire and on trade protectionism; just look at Britain's filthy little satrapy in Northern Ireland in those years for a flipside to the narrative of the "age of opportunity", never mind the ways in which Jamaican immigrants or Kenyan freedom fighters were treated.

Britain was better, then. People worked harder, aspired more, had decent jobs to go to, respected community more, were wealthier, healthier, less in thrall to television. Not like today's broken Britain. All the coalition government and the UK media have to offer the British public is a non-stop narrative of misery, austerity, corruption, sinking living standards, cuts in services, poverty in old age, massive middle-class debt, the pauperisation of social tenants, decline and fall.

Maybe I'm wrong, but thinking back to the 1980s Ireland of my childhood, where there was an enormous amount of poverty but not so much social unrest (we exported it to the North), I think that narratives of decline and fall had no place. There was no golden age for us to hark back to; there was the grinding poverty of the 1950s, the unsustainable and preposterous separatism of the 1930s, and the humiliation of colonisation. Whether or not things had been better under the British in the 1910s than under de Valera in the 1940s (as I sometimes suspect they must have been), no Irish citizen in the 1980s and no Irish citizen now yearns to return to British imperial rule. Even now, I don't hear many Irish people saying "if only we could return to the glorious Tiger days of 1999". We know we've messed up, but the only way is forward, hoping and planning for a new better Ireland. And I suspect - though what would I know? - that this is why the Irish culture of education is so much stronger than the British one, where 50% going to university is only an abandoned aspiration (in Ireland, it's the norm, and numbers are going up year on year). Maybe I'm just a big Hegelian banging on about narratives of progress here, but the British narrative of decline just seems to be leading to despair and rancour. I am very tired of it.
glitzfrau: (lowry)
From about 4.00, [livejournal.com profile] biascut was getting a bit agitated on Facebook worrying about the rumours on Twitter. This struck me as a little too much social media fussing, so when she came home at five, I told her to stop being silly and to go out to her pottery class in the leafy suburbs. Sure if she would be safe anywhere, it would be in posh Chorlton! I sent her on her way, and decided to finish up work in favour of going to Boots for medicine for a very minor complaint. It's ten minutes' walk into the city centre from the houseen, and once I had crossed the boundary into the shopping area, the streets were thrumming with riot police. Glitzy Cathedral Street was filled with nervy teenagers and shoppers; all the high-end shops were shut up, apart from that palace of classiness, the UGG shop, smashed in and looted. Walking on, M&S had a smashed window, JB Sports was boarding itself up, and Boots was shut. Everything was shut. Well, shite. Home for me, dinner and more work.

Except as I came in, [livejournal.com profile] biascut came in too. She'd gone to meet her pottery chum @maerk for their ritual burrito-before-pottery at Piccadilly Gardens, locked up her bike, come out to find it turned upside down and the frame dented. Also, the busses to the leafy suburbs were cancelled. So that was that, and she was a little rattled. My father's hotel was on Piccadilly, and I started ringing him to no avail; probably, I consoled myself, he was in a lecture theatre, blissfully unaware of events.

The rest of the night was mostly Twitter, really, and trying to ring my father. I rang my mother in Dublin, who was maddeningly unconcerned, and said, 'Maybe your father is holed up in the university with a gun poking out of the castellated turrets!' Twitter told me Miss Selfridge was up in flames; the Arndale was broken into; Affleck's, the alternative market, was being looted; the shops under Brideshead Revisited's flat being looted (he was fine, but holed up in some alarm); Oxfam was being trashed; the police were chasing gangs of gurriers. Around eleven, I finally got through to my father, who had been at dinner in town only a few metres from the BBC's live riot cam.

'Do you want to come here, Daddy?' I asked, worried. 'It's quiet here, and I know it's hairy in Piccadilly'. 'Oh no, not after the Arndale!' he said. 'It's safer here... erm... there's a crowd of rioters running down the street outside my window... I've never seen so many... they must be organised... oh, there's riot police chasing them down the street... and now they're being encircled against my hotel...'

'Eek, you stay put!' I said, 'we're safe here at least... erm... is that smoke I smell? Oh look, a huge plume of smoke outside my bedroom window... erm... maybe I'd best investigate that'.

Damage done: a rather handsome but derelict Victorian pub set on fire at the edge of our estate, all the streets filled with smoke. I'm about to walk down Piccadilly to get the train, so that will be a little heartbreaking. My mother was supposed to come to Manchester tonight till Saturday, but she's not going to come now; the plan was to shop, and what's the point in that now?

In London, marginalised black people turned on their own areas in a horrifying exhibition of rage and nihilism. Here in Manchester, white kids came in from the suburbs to loot Armani and Ugg. Teenagers testing boundaries, as teenagers do, and going that little bit further than underage drinking in underpasses and smash-and-grab raids on parked cars. It didn't take these riots to tell me that there's an enormous amount of social deprivation and exclusion in Greater Manchester, sure there always has been, since the industrial revolution. Yes, UK society needs changing, and my friend English Thomas optimistically hopes that these events will unmask the bankruptcy of aristocratic rule, but the riots tell us nothing other than that teenagers running riot can go way too far. Shite.

I had grown so proud of the handsome fabric of Manchester and the ambitious building projects that even now, in the thick of the recession, were springing up everywhere around my house. I can only hope that the vandalism acts as a catalyst for renewal, like the IRA bomb. And the worst of it was thinking of my elderly nervy father, alone in his glass tower in the heart of the violence, and me unable to help him one bit other than being on the other end of the phone. Awful. I wonder if my parents will ever come back.
glitzfrau: (executive lesbian from sinsense)
Or maybe it won't work. Let's see!

Last week, LJ came under attack and was down for three days. I missed it horribly; I went over to Dreamwidth, but it just wasn't the same. When LJ came up, several of my good friends posted to say how much they missed LJ, but several also posted to wonder whether this wasn't really the end for LJ, whether they wouldn't just move wholesale to DW or Twitter or Google+, for so few people post now and so few comment.

Let's make this week Show LJ Some Love week! If a friend posts to LJ, and you've read that post, comment. Even if it's just a silly three-word comment going 'that's really hilarious!', 'your boss sucks' or 'get a divorce', show that the community's still here. I know I have many friends on my list whom I do read every day, whose lives I do know about and care about, but whom I never comment on, because it doesn't occur to me, or because I don't think I have the time, or because I'm on my iPhone and typing is a pain. This week, that's going to change. Are you in?
glitzfrau: (executive lesbian from sinsense)
A propos of this excellent post on the Anti-Room about motherhood and careers, but also in response to many, many debates in the media about the choice between motherhood and careers. You know the way these debates play out: some point out, rightly, that it is never a choice between fatherhood and careers, now is it? some that most women cannot financially afford the choice not to work, some that the idea of a choice is laughable, because a working mother is still a mother, she doesn't choose not to be one. Some argue that motherhood often involves a profound shift in priorities, and that women often gladly embrace a meaningful existence with their children that they felt was denied them in the cold world of paid work, some that small children are best taken care of by their mothers, some that women are stealing jobs that rightfully belong to male breadwinners, some that money isn't everything.

What infuriates me about all of these motherhood v. career debates is that no-one ever, ever suggests that women’s paid work has some inherent actual value. No, it’s always the woman’s selfish, or rightful, desire to have an activity outside the home, or her desperate need to earn money, that motivates her. No-one ever suggests that a woman’s journalism might have value to society, that being a cleaner, an engineer, an administrator, a politician, an entrepreneur, a nanny is actually contributing to society and the economy in a profoundly important way. A woman with a career is either a juggling marvel or a hard-hearted harridan; in either case, her work affects only herself, her children and her husband. (In these debates, it seems that the mother is almost inevitably allied to a man, though I'd be delighted to be pointed in the direction of lesbian-themed counter-examples.) At the very best, she is a wonderful role model for us all.

But she is never someone who does something that is essential to our lives, such as providing us with higher education, writing novels that entrance us, providing us with efficient service at supermarkets, driving us home at night safely, writing software to help us maximise our profit margins, fighting for our rights in an NGO. No. And because a woman's work is essentially valueless in monetary terms, except to herself, there's another good reason to pay women less and dismiss their work.

addendum )

(Women's Work is Worthless, part I)
glitzfrau: (sophie)
Diana Wynne Jones has died. I find it very hard to say quite how much her work meant to me. When I first met and fell in love with [livejournal.com profile] erisian, he gave me books by Robert Anton Wilson and Hunter S. Thompson to read, grown-up bad-boy books; I gave him The Time of the Ghost, the pinnacle of teenage girl gothness, pitched somewhere magical between Jane Eyre, Flowers in the Attic and Five Children and It. I'm not sure he ever read it or got it; perhaps you had to be a teenage girl to understand. Certainly, although I've giggled at her more recent books, they don't create a core at the heart of me the way that Charmed Life, Powers of Three and Howl's Moving Castle do, the ones I read when I was ten and thirteen.

I loved her books for so many reasons; the beautiful writing, the bone-dry and perfectly timed humour, the truculent, clever characters, the utterly convincing depictions of other magical worlds silly and sublime, the light-hearted references to a range of myths and literature, the rich variety of tone in her books from frothy and fun (The Magicians of Caprona) to unbearably bleak (The Homeward Bounders). Part of me was simply overjoyed that such rich magical writing was being produced in my era, long after the golden days of E. Nesbit and even Alan Garner, a wonderful survival in what seemed to me a children's literature drought of the 1980s.

What I loved most about her books, though, was the truth about families they contained, how utterly wretched and destructive and dysfunctional they can be. In so much children's writing, parents are rendered conveniently absent but saintly (Harry Potter, Narnia), or possibly distant but benevolent (The Treasure Seekers). Diana Wynne Jones's parents and families are spectacularly toxic: the furious and neglectful parents in The Time of the Ghost, the cold and uncaring mother in The Lives of Christopher Chant, the outrageously selfish and uncaring parents in Fire and Hemlock, of the murderous sister in Charmed Life. Even her happy families, in Archer's Goon, or Powers of Three, feature parents who are frequently silly, irresponsible, selfish or slightly crap. It seems an odd thing to praise a children's writer for, but for a teenager who didn't feel particularly at home at home and who often wrestled with an psychologically complex family life that she rarely saw reflected in books, Diana Wynne Jones told a truth that few would acknowledge, while refusing to regress to the tedious gritty realism fashionable in so much other children's literature. You could come from a crap family, be a stroppy self-involved child who makes selfish and arrogant decisions, have genuinely bad things happen to you and still have meaningful, magical, fun adventures that ended in the formation of rich relationships. Wonderful.

And then, possibly the most touching tribute: a dear friend telling me that Witch Week gave him more courage than any other book as a teenager, as the most knowing and powerful allegory for being a gay teenager in a homophobic world. I never even read it that way, I just thought it captured the grinding general misery of school in a dank October perfectly. That's perfect children's writing right there, that can speak to two people very differently, contain a coded but powerful political message, while at the same time reducing them to tears of laughter (that's you, Nirupam Singh on the hoe). I will miss you so much, Diana. Thank you for knowing.
glitzfrau: (sophie)
Diana Wynne Jones has died. I find it very hard to say quite how much her work meant to me. When I first met and fell in love with [livejournal.com profile] erisian, he gave me books by Robert Anton Wilson and Hunter S. Thompson to read, grown-up bad-boy books; I gave him The Time of the Ghost, the pinnacle of teenage girl gothness, pitched somewhere magical between Jane Eyre, Flowers in the Attic and Five Children and It. I'm not sure he ever read it or got it; perhaps you had to be a teenage girl to understand. Certainly, although I've giggled at her more recent books, they don't create a core at the heart of me the way that Charmed Life, Powers of Three and Howl's Moving Castle do, the ones I read when I was ten and thirteen.

I loved her books for so many reasons; the beautiful writing, the bone-dry and perfectly timed humour, the truculent, clever characters, the utterly convincing depictions of other magical worlds silly and sublime, the light-hearted references to a range of myths and literature, the rich variety of tone in her books from frothy and fun (The Magicians of Caprona) to unbearably bleak (The Homeward Bounders). Part of me was simply overjoyed that such rich magical writing was being produced in my era, long after the golden days of E. Nesbit and even Alan Garner, a wonderful survival in what seemed to me a children's literature drought of the 1980s.

What I loved most about her books, though, was the truth about families they contained, how utterly wretched and destructive and dysfunctional they can be. In so much children's writing, parents are rendered conveniently absent but saintly (Harry Potter, Narnia), or possibly distant but benevolent (The Treasure Seekers). Diana Wynne Jones's parents and families are spectacularly toxic: the furious and neglectful parents in The Time of the Ghost, the cold and uncaring mother in The Lives of Christopher Chant, the outrageously selfish and uncaring parents in Fire and Hemlock, of the murderous sister in Charmed Life. Even her happy families, in Archer's Goon, or Powers of Three, feature parents who are frequently silly, irresponsible, selfish or slightly crap. It seems an odd thing to praise a children's writer for, but for a teenager who didn't feel particularly at home at home and who often wrestled with an psychologically complex family life that she rarely saw reflected in books, Diana Wynne Jones told a truth that few would acknowledge, while refusing to regress to the tedious gritty realism fashionable in so much other children's literature. You could come from a crap family, be a stroppy self-involved child who makes selfish and arrogant decisions, have genuinely bad things happen to you and still have meaningful, magical, fun adventures that ended in the formation of rich relationships. Wonderful.

And then, possibly the most touching tribute: a dear friend telling me that Witch Week gave him more courage than any other book as a teenager, as the most knowing and powerful allegory for being a gay teenager in a homophobic world. I never even read it that way, I just thought it captured the grinding general misery of school in a dank October perfectly. That's perfect children's writing right there, that can speak to two people very differently, contain a coded but powerful political message, while at the same time reducing them to tears of laughter (that's you, Nirupam Singh on the hoe). I will miss you so much, Diana. Thank you for knowing.
glitzfrau: (kill your gender)
(Note: I know that Sunday evening is a dead time to post, but I won't have a chance again before Tuesday. And my rage will not wait that long.)

Yesterday's Guardian carried a piece with the arresting title, £26,000: the salary you need just to cover childcare. The article continued, The British pay more for childcare than anywhere else in the world – and planned cuts in tax credits will discourage women from returning to work. It had me in rage all afternoon. Rage, firstly, because childcare in Britain is so damned expensive, and the Tories have let slip that they have no interest whatever in making it easier for mothers to return to work, for after all would they not be better off at home minding the kids in classic 1950s fashion. Rage that the government are once again cutting tax credits in a way that hurts the poorest most. It is not an appealing choice that the Guardian outlines for a single mother on the minimum wage, that of either being trapped at home on benefits or working to sink further into debt; if this government is working on the nudge principle rather than the choice principle, it's clear which way the poor are being nudged, no matter what rhetoric they may have about making work pay.

And then there's the question of how hard it is for a woman to earn £26k and above, even in London, which is where that cost is calculated. I earn well over that, but I have a background of rock-solid middle class privilege, three degrees and - crucially - I am in my mid-thirties. Most heterosexual women have children far before they reach my age. Their chances of earning over £26k are eroded by education, expectations (do what you love, not what's mercenary! do caring feminine work, not mathsy managerial manly work!), and missing out on the crucial career- and income- building years between 25 and 35 if they have children in that window. Median earnings for women aged 30-39, according to the UK National Statistics Agency, are £25896 - almost exactly the cost of childcare for two children in London. Median earnings for women outside of this golden age group are £22152, far below this cost.

But it's not even this that enrages me. I come from Ireland, where child care is just as prohibitively expensive. We know that neither Ireland nor the UK has been prepared to fund childcare via the State in any meaningful way. And we know that the Tories hate women and want them to stay barefoot and pregnant, or possibly pregnant and fragrant. That's not news. What's horrifying, in an insidious, creeping way, is the tone the Guardian takes on the story: if women don't earn above the magic £26k, they might as well give up their jobs. Depressingly, their reasoning for doing so is clear: 'While childcare should be seen as the responsibility of both parents in a double-income household, in reality, the mother's wage is often weighed against the costs.' The article continues, and here is where the real poison lies:
Of course, there are long-term career, monetary and psychological benefits. These include payments into pension plans; the security of a job that will be worth more once the preschool stage is over, and which can hopefully be retained in a recession; and a sense of identity beyond motherhood [...] But when totting up childcare costs [...] these may not come into play.

Avoiding the depressingly frequent trap of female poverty in old age? Building financial security and a meaningful career? Having a strong sense of self beyond the biological function of motherhood? I always thought these were among the core goals of feminism, but no, they don't really count. Women's paid work isn't really meaningful, in the way that men's paid work is; women's work is only ever set against that of a nursery nurse, and no matter what the skills a woman might learn in the workplace while her children are in childcare, what good she might achieve at work, what pension contributions she might make for an independent old age, what promotions she might attain, what a social network she might build up, these are all irrelevant if her salary is less than the cost of childcare. The government says so, the heterosexual couples interviewed appear to say so, and most depressingly, the bastion of left-wing journalism, the Guardian says so. Women don't have careers, they just have jobs for pin-money, and mothering is always the most suitable career for them really.

I think this is massively dangerous. Dropping out of the workforce puts women at risk of poverty in old age, of unemployability if they return to work after a long career gap, makes them dependent on a male partner who may very well become ill, lose his job or leave her, and tells her that a sense of identity outside the home is a frivolous luxury. Why are feminists not screaming about these very real risks, and the dangerous media culture that is promoting them - as well as the government who is exacerbating them? It's this silence that causes me to lose patience with young feminists on the The F Word, who frequently put issues of body image and sex work above those of female poverty, and above all with Laurie Penny, with her talk about how her generation of young women has been uniquely abandoned and isolated by older feminists, whose work is irrelevant to their realities. Younger sisters, wake up! These risks - of poverty, unemployment and erasure of identity - are yours as much as they are ours. Rape culture and poverty in old age, misogynist advertising and the glass ceiling, sexual liberation and economic agencies - these aren't issues that exist in isolation from each other, they are part of a whole patriarchal matrix. A little intergenerational solidarity is required, if we are ever to fight back.

And finally, the obvious disclaimer: I know that women choose to work as mothers for lots of very good reasons. This rant is not intended to attack those choices; it is to point out that it is a choice, and a choice made in a patriarchal context, a choice that has consequences like any other, rather than the natural destiny of women in the Big Society.
glitzfrau: (kill your gender)
(Note: I know that Sunday evening is a dead time to post, but I won't have a chance again before Tuesday. And my rage will not wait that long.)

Yesterday's Guardian carried a piece with the arresting title, £26,000: the salary you need just to cover childcare. The article continued, The British pay more for childcare than anywhere else in the world – and planned cuts in tax credits will discourage women from returning to work. It had me in rage all afternoon. Rage, firstly, because childcare in Britain is so damned expensive, and the Tories have let slip that they have no interest whatever in making it easier for mothers to return to work, for after all would they not be better off at home minding the kids in classic 1950s fashion. Rage that the government are once again cutting tax credits in a way that hurts the poorest most. It is not an appealing choice that the Guardian outlines for a single mother on the minimum wage, that of either being trapped at home on benefits or working to sink further into debt; if this government is working on the nudge principle rather than the choice principle, it's clear which way the poor are being nudged, no matter what rhetoric they may have about making work pay.

And then there's the question of how hard it is for a woman to earn £26k and above, even in London, which is where that cost is calculated. I earn well over that, but I have a background of rock-solid middle class privilege, three degrees and - crucially - I am in my mid-thirties. Most heterosexual women have children far before they reach my age. Their chances of earning over £26k are eroded by education, expectations (do what you love, not what's mercenary! do caring feminine work, not mathsy managerial manly work!), and missing out on the crucial career- and income- building years between 25 and 35 if they have children in that window. Median earnings for women aged 30-39, according to the UK National Statistics Agency, are £25896 - almost exactly the cost of childcare for two children in London. Median earnings for women outside of this golden age group are £22152, far below this cost.

But it's not even this that enrages me. I come from Ireland, where child care is just as prohibitively expensive. We know that neither Ireland nor the UK has been prepared to fund childcare via the State in any meaningful way. And we know that the Tories hate women and want them to stay barefoot and pregnant, or possibly pregnant and fragrant. That's not news. What's horrifying, in an insidious, creeping way, is the tone the Guardian takes on the story: if women don't earn above the magic £26k, they might as well give up their jobs. Depressingly, their reasoning for doing so is clear: 'While childcare should be seen as the responsibility of both parents in a double-income household, in reality, the mother's wage is often weighed against the costs.' The article continues, and here is where the real poison lies:
Of course, there are long-term career, monetary and psychological benefits. These include payments into pension plans; the security of a job that will be worth more once the preschool stage is over, and which can hopefully be retained in a recession; and a sense of identity beyond motherhood [...] But when totting up childcare costs [...] these may not come into play.

Avoiding the depressingly frequent trap of female poverty in old age? Building financial security and a meaningful career? Having a strong sense of self beyond the biological function of motherhood? I always thought these were among the core goals of feminism, but no, they don't really count. Women's paid work isn't really meaningful, in the way that men's paid work is; women's work is only ever set against that of a nursery nurse, and no matter what the skills a woman might learn in the workplace while her children are in childcare, what good she might achieve at work, what pension contributions she might make for an independent old age, what promotions she might attain, what a social network she might build up, these are all irrelevant if her salary is less than the cost of childcare. The government says so, the heterosexual couples interviewed appear to say so, and most depressingly, the bastion of left-wing journalism, the Guardian says so. Women don't have careers, they just have jobs for pin-money, and mothering is always the most suitable career for them really.

I think this is massively dangerous. Dropping out of the workforce puts women at risk of poverty in old age, of unemployability if they return to work after a long career gap, makes them dependent on a male partner who may very well become ill, lose his job or leave her, and tells her that a sense of identity outside the home is a frivolous luxury. Why are feminists not screaming about these very real risks, and the dangerous media culture that is promoting them - as well as the government who is exacerbating them? It's this silence that causes me to lose patience with young feminists on the The F Word, who frequently put issues of body image and sex work above those of female poverty, and above all with Laurie Penny, with her talk about how her generation of young women has been uniquely abandoned and isolated by older feminists, whose work is irrelevant to their realities. Younger sisters, wake up! These risks - of poverty, unemployment and erasure of identity - are yours as much as they are ours. Rape culture and poverty in old age, misogynist advertising and the glass ceiling, sexual liberation and economic agencies - these aren't issues that exist in isolation from each other, they are part of a whole patriarchal matrix. A little intergenerational solidarity is required, if we are ever to fight back.

And finally, the obvious disclaimer: I know that women choose to work as mothers for lots of very good reasons. This rant is not intended to attack those choices; it is to point out that it is a choice, and a choice made in a patriarchal context, a choice that has consequences like any other, rather than the natural destiny of women in the Big Society.
glitzfrau: (jesusgun)
Why is no-one anonymising today? Here's anonycomments with a difference: if you met a member of the British cabinet or the Irish government on your commute home this afternoon, what would you say to them in person? Unpopular political opinions can be uttered without fear of personal retribution!
glitzfrau: (jesusgun)
Why is no-one anonymising today? Here's anonycomments with a difference: if you met a member of the British cabinet or the Irish government on your commute home this afternoon, what would you say to them in person? Unpopular political opinions can be uttered without fear of personal retribution!
glitzfrau: (ueberspod)
I am not the best authority to comment on the Browne report or the spending review in higher education, but here are my thoughts, anyway:
  • The proposal to strip funding from all but 'core' subjects in the Browne report will necessarily hit languages very hard, and arts subjects in general hard, as we are and will continue to be heavily dependent on teaching funding from the government. It is generally acknowledged that the proposed rise in the fees to a 'soft cap' of £6000 will not cover teaching costs once the government cuts our teaching funding. Departments, faculties and schools will close.

  • There is a myth surrounding arts degrees: the graffiti over the toilet roll holder, saying Arts degrees, please take one. Employers, in the private sector as well as the public sector, love arts graduates, for their critical thinking skills, self-motivation, writing skills, research skills and the rest of the package. Arts graduates are to be found in the most influential positions around the world - Obama, for instance, and if we were to go through the UK cabinet present and past, the number of arts graduates would be very high. Arts skills are essential to the economy, but so far employers aren't prepared to fund them, in the way that they are happy to cross-fund science graduates via industry collaborations with universities. So when departments, faculties and universities shut, unless industry and public sector bodies start funding the arts students they desperately need, the economy will lose a proven, essential high-skills resource. Very foolish.

  • Apparently, free fees in Scotland haven't widened participation; free fees have widened participation mildly in Ireland; moderate fees in England have widened participation significantly. So there is a case to be made for fees. However, the premium promised to graduates at present is only £100,000 increase in earnings over a lifetime, an unlikely figure in any case, and this will shrink as more people have degrees. Further, once students graduate with £50,000 in debt, the attractiveness of that premium will shrink. So I cannot see how this massive hike in fees will not dissuade people on low incomes, and condemn them to a life at the bottom of an economy that, increasingly, relies on graduates, not unskilled or low-skilled workers.

  • Further, has anyone gender-proofed this proposed fees hike? Men may earn enough to pay off their debt and realise a profit; women, who earn less in general and in particular once they have children, may well not.

  • Finally, as Jonathan Freedland said, the entire argument for raising fees is an individualistic one that sees a degree as a commodity, and a university as a service provider for a rational, discriminating sixteen year old consumer. (I have yet to meet this sixteen year old, but if you know the one who does patient, disinterested research into their degree without being influenced at all by their family, class and social group, please let me know.)

    But a degree is a social and personal good. We provide free primary and secondary education because society as a whole could not function without them; increasingly, the same is true of tertiary education, and every other European country subsidises higher education for this reason. Eastern Europe has poured money into higher education in the past ten years, Germany is stepping up its investment; they will reap the rewards, and English young people will be left crushed by a choice between unemployability or massive debt that Czech and French young people will never need to be worried by. This does not strike me as the way to ensure national prosperity.

    Further, higher education provides a cultural resource for a society, of a graduate cohort who have engaged with and created cultural and scientific knowledge, who bring that knowledge into their careers and families and use the skills they have learned at university to better society and the economy. That seems irrelevant to the government, too.

    I am beginning to think that the only way to sell an arts degree to a student in future will not be in terms of value for money - because no non-professional degree will be able to guarantee value for money at £50,000 a pop - nor in terms of employability, but more in the good old-fashioned terms of higher education: the three years at university are valuable in themselves as a wonderful time spent developing the mind. I genuinely believe that this is true. Unfortunately, in the future it looks as though only the very, very privileged English will be able to afford it.


Me, I'm happy to emigrate, as are many other scientists and academics. And I suspect many students will begin to do the same. Why would an English student pay £50,000 for a British degree when they could do a degree at Ghent or Uppsala, in English, for a fraction of the price?

Es wird nichts so heiss gegessen wie es gekocht wird; we will see what will really happen. But these new suggestions are ridiculous.
glitzfrau: (ueberspod)
I am not the best authority to comment on the Browne report or the spending review in higher education, but here are my thoughts, anyway:
  • The proposal to strip funding from all but 'core' subjects in the Browne report will necessarily hit languages very hard, and arts subjects in general hard, as we are and will continue to be heavily dependent on teaching funding from the government. It is generally acknowledged that the proposed rise in the fees to a 'soft cap' of £6000 will not cover teaching costs once the government cuts our teaching funding. Departments, faculties and schools will close.

  • There is a myth surrounding arts degrees: the graffiti over the toilet roll holder, saying Arts degrees, please take one. Employers, in the private sector as well as the public sector, love arts graduates, for their critical thinking skills, self-motivation, writing skills, research skills and the rest of the package. Arts graduates are to be found in the most influential positions around the world - Obama, for instance, and if we were to go through the UK cabinet present and past, the number of arts graduates would be very high. Arts skills are essential to the economy, but so far employers aren't prepared to fund them, in the way that they are happy to cross-fund science graduates via industry collaborations with universities. So when departments, faculties and universities shut, unless industry and public sector bodies start funding the arts students they desperately need, the economy will lose a proven, essential high-skills resource. Very foolish.

  • Apparently, free fees in Scotland haven't widened participation; free fees have widened participation mildly in Ireland; moderate fees in England have widened participation significantly. So there is a case to be made for fees. However, the premium promised to graduates at present is only £100,000 increase in earnings over a lifetime, an unlikely figure in any case, and this will shrink as more people have degrees. Further, once students graduate with £50,000 in debt, the attractiveness of that premium will shrink. So I cannot see how this massive hike in fees will not dissuade people on low incomes, and condemn them to a life at the bottom of an economy that, increasingly, relies on graduates, not unskilled or low-skilled workers.

  • Further, has anyone gender-proofed this proposed fees hike? Men may earn enough to pay off their debt and realise a profit; women, who earn less in general and in particular once they have children, may well not.

  • Finally, as Jonathan Freedland said, the entire argument for raising fees is an individualistic one that sees a degree as a commodity, and a university as a service provider for a rational, discriminating sixteen year old consumer. (I have yet to meet this sixteen year old, but if you know the one who does patient, disinterested research into their degree without being influenced at all by their family, class and social group, please let me know.)

    But a degree is a social and personal good. We provide free primary and secondary education because society as a whole could not function without them; increasingly, the same is true of tertiary education, and every other European country subsidises higher education for this reason. Eastern Europe has poured money into higher education in the past ten years, Germany is stepping up its investment; they will reap the rewards, and English young people will be left crushed by a choice between unemployability or massive debt that Czech and French young people will never need to be worried by. This does not strike me as the way to ensure national prosperity.

    Further, higher education provides a cultural resource for a society, of a graduate cohort who have engaged with and created cultural and scientific knowledge, who bring that knowledge into their careers and families and use the skills they have learned at university to better society and the economy. That seems irrelevant to the government, too.

    I am beginning to think that the only way to sell an arts degree to a student in future will not be in terms of value for money - because no non-professional degree will be able to guarantee value for money at £50,000 a pop - nor in terms of employability, but more in the good old-fashioned terms of higher education: the three years at university are valuable in themselves as a wonderful time spent developing the mind. I genuinely believe that this is true. Unfortunately, in the future it looks as though only the very, very privileged English will be able to afford it.


Me, I'm happy to emigrate, as are many other scientists and academics. And I suspect many students will begin to do the same. Why would an English student pay £50,000 for a British degree when they could do a degree at Ghent or Uppsala, in English, for a fraction of the price?

Es wird nichts so heiss gegessen wie es gekocht wird; we will see what will really happen. But these new suggestions are ridiculous.
glitzfrau: (jesusgun)

We were wandering around the cold bright cloisters of I Can't Believe It's Not Oxbridge, when a plump, greasy-haired man shambling in my direction caught my eye. "Is that who I think it is?" I muttered to my companion, who looked, did a double take, said "Oh my God, it is!". We did our best not to look conspicuous as Nick Griffin walked along the cathedral precinct, flanked incongrously by teenaged girls. "I bet he's shadowed by fascist goons," I added, and now we're on a BNP watch list for having noticed him. Shit."

"But where is he going?!" asked a shocked companion. We chased after him into the castle yard, but he was gone. Was he going to Evensong too? We didn't see him, and couldn't decide whether it was his thing; on the one hand, what more English than Evensong? but on the other, isn't he a proper blood and runes Nazi? We didn't have to walk out in protest at least.

Anyway. I can confirm that he is as swivel-eyed and dodgy looking in person as he is in the media. And that I am a craven conformist. How often have you heard someone argue passionately, If only I had been in Munich in 1922, I could have shot Hitler and then the whole terrible Nazi history need never have happened. Did I shoot Nick Griffin? No. I did not even spit at him. If all non-white people are expelled from Britain in ten years time, you have me to blame.

In other news, in bed this morning I dreamt I was writing an article, using my hangover as a source. "Glitz (2010) thinks that she just needs to sleep it out," I wrote. "But Glitz (2010) is of the opinion that this will be one of those creeping hangovers that builds all day and crucifies her at three in the afternoon." Sigh.

glitzfrau: (jesusgun)

We were wandering around the cold bright cloisters of I Can't Believe It's Not Oxbridge, when a plump, greasy-haired man shambling in my direction caught my eye. "Is that who I think it is?" I muttered to my companion, who looked, did a double take, said "Oh my God, it is!". We did our best not to look conspicuous as Nick Griffin walked along the cathedral precinct, flanked incongrously by teenaged girls. "I bet he's shadowed by fascist goons," I added, and now we're on a BNP watch list for having noticed him. Shit."

"But where is he going?!" asked a shocked companion. We chased after him into the castle yard, but he was gone. Was he going to Evensong too? We didn't see him, and couldn't decide whether it was his thing; on the one hand, what more English than Evensong? but on the other, isn't he a proper blood and runes Nazi? We didn't have to walk out in protest at least.

Anyway. I can confirm that he is as swivel-eyed and dodgy looking in person as he is in the media. And that I am a craven conformist. How often have you heard someone argue passionately, If only I had been in Munich in 1922, I could have shot Hitler and then the whole terrible Nazi history need never have happened. Did I shoot Nick Griffin? No. I did not even spit at him. If all non-white people are expelled from Britain in ten years time, you have me to blame.

In other news, in bed this morning I dreamt I was writing an article, using my hangover as a source. "Glitz (2010) thinks that she just needs to sleep it out," I wrote. "But Glitz (2010) is of the opinion that this will be one of those creeping hangovers that builds all day and crucifies her at three in the afternoon." Sigh.