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Malala’s revolution

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I wonder why there has never been a revolution of women? Why have women, as a group of people who are habitually oppressed, never as a collective rebelled against their oppressors? This remains a mystery to me. It cannot all be explained by ideology and culture and norms, which restrict us. Because these same norms have been applied to other oppressed peoples, such as Afro-Americans and others.

Maybe there is a certain kind of disability in women, something that makes us less apt to rebel. Or, the rebellion lies in the future. Or, the ties that bind us to the other half are just too strong. Or, we are not as oppressed to justify this kind of outrage. I am not sure which is the answer. I tend to believe in the less optimistic explanations, that there is something that ties us too strongly, something that just cannot be overcome. But I am aware of other explanations, such as Jim Sidanius explanation in Social Dominance, where he describes that women in their totality show less social dominance orientation than men. What he leaves out, though, is the question why that is.

He seems to leave it to biology. And that for me is not a sufficient explanation. It is short-handed, similar to the traditional explanation that “Blacks are of minor intelligence” and so forth, which I don’t subscribe to either. I don’t subscribe to the explanation that women are less social dominance orientated by nature, or in other ways inferior. I see it as an outcome of nuture not nature, of culture and education and societal norms.

Women, from birth onwards, are trained to be submissive and caring and less violent then men. In all respects, society teaches us these values and punishes their violation. This won’t go without having effects on our behavior and thinking and personality in later life. It starts with the choice of toys and colors for infants. It goes on with literature for young girls and the games we are supposes to play, as well as education in school. It gets even more intense when young women reach teenage, when they are bombarded with cultural images on what it means to be a woman. It only lessens a bit when the child-bearing age is over. Women are pressed by society, from family to workplace and school, to the wider public, into feminine roles. But by far not all women feel comfortable in these roles.

What I think is particularly interesting is the emerging public presence of the gay and lesbian, as well as the transgender community (LGBT). These communities openly challenge not only sexual, but also gender roles. Women can be men, men can be women. And they openly show that our gender stereotypes at least do not fit all individuals. Stories of women wanting to be men (and becoming men often enough, the medical means are given), for example, are inspiring. Sexual identification and desire is only part of the picture. In addition, though, gender identification plays a strong role. Not all women feel comfortable in taking on the roles and playing to the stereotypes that are assigned to them by society. Values such as aggression, ambition and other traditionally male characteristics are experienced by many women, who feel punished for living what they feel is their nature. Society inhibits the exhibition of this part of their nature, while the other gender is encouraged, sometimes even against their experienced personal inclinations, to express them strongly. Gender stereotypes do not serve all people.

It is difficult to see alternatives. It is difficult to imagine a different society in the first place. For this, we need original thinkers, both men and women, who provide over the capacity to imagine alterative futures. Science fiction very often serves as a guidepost to some imagined, desirable or to be avoided path into what is to come. It would be valuable if we would have more science fiction authors in particular from the feminist and transgender communities who write about alternate futures for both men and women, who dream us other gender systems, with more freedoms and power for women and men alike. Marge Piercy’s Woman at the Edge of Time and Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 are examples. A couple of others exist in the literature. I hope, that with an increasing popularity of the LGBT movement, more of this literature will develop and inspire us to seek out alternatives.

As the recent Nobel Prize in Peace and other developments have shown, our societies still show the way for many other societies in terms of gender equality and societal norms. Malala’s success is an example that freedom from traditional gender roles is a desire that is shared by many women, not only in the West. It is an integral part of development. But we should not be complacent. Also in our Western cultures, much is still to be achieved and much left to desire. This applies not only to the gender pay gap in the workplace, it relates to many other areas too in which women are still disadvantaged and discriminated against.

I applaud the Nobel for Malala. It shows that maybe some sort of women’s revolution is underway after all, even if much less radical than the historical revolutions in history. Maybe we will make further progress with steps such as a female US President to come, and more women in all sorts of places of power, as well all sorts of more empowerment for women in areas of their daily lives. Maybe when more powers and freedoms will be achieved, women will increasingly start to think differently and feel more comfortable in taking and using their freedoms and powers. And maybe sometime in the very distant future we won’t need fixed gender stereotypes anymore and people can chose not only their professions, but also their way of life and their personality more freely.

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New Social Compact

Gold-digging & Gender Biases in Pakistani Dramas

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The phenomenon of gender-bias can be found in history as old as ever recorded in the form of written text or visual entertainment. Biases are found in multitude of matters. In this article, however, focus and stress is set upon the term “gold-digging” as found in male and female genders. A very clear distinction is generally observed on social and electronic media where whether it be jokes, memes, short videos or dramas when depicting the money-lust present in the two genders, women are shown to be far more materialistic and gold-chasing-maniacs compared to men. In simple words, women are generalized and stereotyped across the globe for having money-oriented mindsets. Despite vast majority of women being goal-diggers, they’re still perceived and stigmatized across the globe to be inherently having traits of gold-digging. Pakistan’s both broadcast and print are flourishing – yet, there exists several disparities in terms of gender inequality, gender roles and gender biases. Gender issues in Pakistani media are often portrayed in a biased manner. In order to specify the radius for this observation, a keen and close study of the most recent Pakistani dramas aired in present dates is done so that the aimed propagation of this column doesn’t become obsolete or unfounded.

Meray Pas tum ho” and “Rishtay biktay hain” are two of the most recent dramas. Between both of these visual pieces in terms of TRP’s and YouTube views, “Meray pas tum ho” by far has taken the lead with viewers belonging to both genders. The drama has been witnessed breaking records by achieving highest ever single day gross rating points (GRPs). On YouTube, each episode of “Meray Pas tum ho” gains over 10 million views within a span of few days. Talking about “Meray Pas tum ho” fever – its fame spread like fire among not just women but men aswell, who are usually less-interested in watching T.V dramas. The female lead chooses money over love and deceives the protagonist who in turn speaks some dialogues that have become eternal. The reference here is made to “Dou takkay ki larki”–a dialogue that remained talk of the town throughout the proceeding week after airing of this particular episode.

The female roles are mostly shown to be more bent towards committing or persuading to commit crimes like taking bribe as is the case in this drama. In other words,  they are depicted as two extremes i.e. “all-out bad” or impossibly overbearing and unnaturally “noble” who bears husband’s atrocities silently and waits for good days to come. There is no in-between.

In “Rishtebiktayhain”–the second selected drama highlighting the same theme of gold-run, the story focuses on amaterialistic brother-trio chasing wealth. Two women who happen to be wives to the elder brothers are absolutely loyal and committed despite being married to unappreciative husbands. This drama is aired thrice a week but the views are drastically lesser than “Meray Pas tum ho”. The YouTube views of the episodes of “Rishte bikhte hain” are less than 1 million throughout a week, the viewers primarily being women. In this particular drama, social issues in the name of  custom and traditions are highlighted like dowry, never ending demands from girl’s parents, holding them responsible for shopping for the unborn kids and setting up the son-in-law’s business. Still, huge disparity of views exists amongst the two drama serials.

Drawing comparison between the two visual pieces, it can be noticed that “Meray Pas tum ho” has a diverse audience, majority being the men as mentioned by Pakistani veteran actor, playing key role in the drama; Adnan Siddiqui in his statement that mainstream viewership of the serial comes from the men. Whereas, “Rishte bikhte hain” audience is primarily formulated by women viewership. An amusing fact over here however is that in this particular drama where men are shown materialistic – the grooming is nevertheless done by their materialistic mother – blinded by the love for wealth. Thus, portraying indirectly that underlying reasons for the development of these gold-digging traits in the brothers also lies in the hands of their mother – once again, a female figure. However, since the surface story focuses on the brothers, it hasn’t stirred as much fame and name. Another catch here is that the drama “Rishte bikhte hain” addresses diverse social issues – still the viewership is significantly lower than “Meray Pas tum ho”. This trend automatically depicts the interest of the audience in particular kind of content.  If someone argues – “Meray Pas tum ho”- like content is what audience wants to see then it can only said that what someone wants to see isn’t what they should be seeing or what’s good for them. Social issues are clearly highlighted and criticized in “Rishte bikhte hain”, but the potential reasons for less viewership can be nil interest of the male audience. Nonetheless, in “Meray Pas tum ho”, if the show was sufficiently reality based, then maybe and hardly one in a billion women would’ve taken such selfish-step despite of having such a loving husband. To simplify it, if we have more people like the character “Danish” then we will have less of the character “Mehwish” in this society.

The bottom line is that materialism and gold digging doesn’t pertain to a specific gender , anyone can have these traits. Greed is found usually in human nature but severity of it varies from person to person – not from gender to gender. Stigmatizing female for being greedy is harmful towards the psyche of the general masses. The Pakistani entertainment industry should also focus on stories of women who have fought through and stood by strongly in adverse circumstances –like husband’s sickness, poverty  or inability to fulfill the needs of the family. The producers of the drama industry should not merely focus on what sells but also what makes a positive difference in a society.

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Catalysing change for gender equality

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

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Great strides have been taken to empower women and girls in the Asia-Pacific region since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing adopted an ambitious global agenda to achieve gender equality twenty-five years ago. Gender parity has been achieved in primary education. Maternal mortality has been halved. Today, the region’s governments are committed to overcoming the persistent challenges of discrimination, gender-based violence and women’s unequal access to resources and decision-making.

The Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference for the Beijing+25 Review will meet in Bangkok this week to explore how more Beijing Declaration commitments can be met to improve the lives of women and girls in the region. Asia-Pacific governments have reviewed their progress and identified three priority areas, areas where action is imperative to accelerate progress in the coming five years.

First, we must end violence against women, such a severe human rights violation which continues to hinder women’s empowerment. As many as one in two women in the region have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in the last 12 months. Countries in the region have adopted laws and policies to prevent and respond to violence against women. This is progress on which we must build. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2015 adopted the Convention against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and a Regional Plan of Action on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 2018. Free legal services, hotlines and digital applications to report violence, and emergency shelters and safe spaces for survivors are increasingly common. New partnerships are underway challenging stigma and stereotypes, working directly with boys and men. However, more investment is needed to prevent violence, and to ensure all women and girls who experienced violence will have access to justice and essential services.

Second, women’s political representation must be increased in Asia and the Pacific. Our region’s representation rates are behind the global average. Only one in five parliamentarians are women in Asia-Pacific. Despite governments committing to gender parity in decision making 25 years ago in Beijing, the region has seen the share of women in parliament grow at just 2.2 percentage points annually over the past two decades. We must therefore look to where faster progress has been made. In several countries, quotas have helped increase the number of women in parliament. These need to be further expanded and complemented with targeted, quality training and mentoring for women leaders and removing the barriers of negative norms, stigma and stereotypes of women in politics and as leaders.

Third, economic empowerment remains key. Only half the women in our region are in paid work, compared with 80 percent of men. Ours is the only region in the world where women’s labour-force participation is decreasing in the past 10 years. Two out of three working women are in the informal sector, often with no social protection and in hazardous conditions. Legislative measures to deliver equal pay and policies to ensure the recruitment, retention and promotion of women must be part of the solution, as must supporting the transition of women from informal to formal work sectors. Digital and financial inclusion measures can empower women to unleash their entrepreneurial potential and support economic growth, jobs and poverty reduction. Action has been taken in all these areas by individual countries. They can be given scale by countries working at the regional level.

Next year will mark the convergence of the 25 years of implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the five-year milestone of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Investments and financing for gender equality need to be fully committed and resourced to realize these ambitious targets and commitments. Our hope is that the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference for the Beijing+25 Review will help provide the necessary momentum. Now is time to craft priority actions for change and accelerate the realization of human rights and opportunities for all women and men, girls and boys. Let us remain ambitious in our vision, and steadfast in our determination to achieve gender equality and women empowerment in Asia and the Pacific.

UN ESCAP

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New Social Compact

Ethics, Truth and Post-Truth: Political and social implications

Dr. Mayelinne De Lara

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I want to reflect on ethics, truth and post-truth in the context of accelerated changes in the economy, politics, society, culture and digital knowledge, information and communication media, which give rise to cyberspace and the internet.

The power of a journalist, reaching millions of people from behind his computer, is controlled by national and international laws; professional norms backed by numerous journalist associations, instructions from his media and the everyday larger and commented code of ethics. And we all know about the duty-based ethics focussed on the importance of truth; the progressive ethics based of investigative journalism, and consequentialist ethics focused on society; does the article offend someone?. Can the publication of a certain issue do more harm than good, even if the facts used were correct?.

What about losing my job, or been attacked verbally and physically? but ethics light, pass by a coloured crystal  of personal values, personal circumstances and his own loyalties wherever they are: to the general public, to the customers, the supporters and the subscribers, to the employer, the corporation, the colleagues and the professional community and to himself.

In the real world of reporting, ethics seen by the public or seen by the journalist, are different.

There is a different perception of ethics between the public and the journalist, and we must establish the differences between the media and the journalist’s work. The public believes, that it is the journalists who is dedicated to manipulate the information, and most of the time, it is the means of the media that censures or favors the publication for financial or political reasons.

Yesterday I received a complaint from a journalist who after doing an extensive interview with the Russian ambassador representative to the OPCW about the role of his country in Syria and the use of chemical weapons in Duma, no newspaper wanted to publish.

Quality, Economy and Ethics

On the side of the journalist, it is important that they be paid well and that the expenses incurred to do their work be covered; the lack of resources makes use of second-hand information, copied from social media.

For example, last week the official visit of a president in the Netherlands was covered by the medias. To report on the official visit, a journalist I know, had to go to a city that is three hours away and the media did not paid the trip; since the journalist resolved to copying and translating the news that he found in other media and social media, which maybe they were copied in turn, the original source, the authenticity, the veracity of the interviews and the context of reality were lost, causing the journalist to fall into a lack of ethics and lack of quality of the news.

Scope of information and ethics

The limitation of resources in the media due to the economic crisis, has brought a fragmentation of the media that multiply and become smaller and sectorial, specializing in niches but with less scope; since the reader cannot read 80 newspapers per day, they better select their reading by topics. For example, we are dedicated to the diplomatic world and international organizations, with a first-class content but a limited public.

The fact that journalism no longer provides a living for people who work in the industry or invest in it, has reinforced the corruption that has always overshadowed journalism and has spawned more owners who buy up media to promote their wider political and business interests.

Working conditions in newsrooms – online and offline – are equally poor. A generation of young people in the journalism schools around the world have few quality jobs to look forward to. Some will survive as freelancers, but many, are destined for advertising, corporate communications or public and political information jobs. Now more than ever before, journalism income is not determined by attachment to a single income ow, but it is based upon creative solutions to the funding crisis and may include non-traditional funding, or a mix of civic, market and public resources.

As commercial organisations, NGO’s and governments seek to manipulate news, profit-hungry social media platforms undermine quality journalism, and political propaganda masquerade as truth, journalists’ unions are campaigning for a media environment which embraces the core values of journalism.

Postmodernity has many ways from its definition to its interpretation or understanding.

What has become called post-truth, seems the resurrection of the imaginary of Jorge Luis Borges, called magical realism and that Borges published in 1935. The writer admits that it is a set of stories written, in baroque language, by an irresponsible, that gets to falsify and misrepresent other people’s stories, although the stories are based on real crimes.

The writer also states that “the volume of stories is nothing more than appearance, than a surface of images; for that reason it can please the readers”. That is, to seduce them, attract them, deceive them.

For example, the text entitled “The Atrocious Redeemer Lazarus Morell,” was written between 1933 and 1934, and it reinterprets and adapts to fiction the historical, economic, political, racial and cultural consequences derived from the claim of Father Bartolomé de las Casas to Emperor Carlos V, by means of which he asks to replace the indigenous labor, already in the process of extinction, by black slaves brought from Africa.

Could something be more like post-truth, than this eagerness to misrepresent the facts in order to present them to the readers, to the audience, to society as if they were true?

There are no barriers between reality and fiction, between truth and lies, between subjectivity and objectivity.

The Oxford Dictionary declared the post-truth “word of the year” in 2016. This famous word, would not have been possible without economic conditions, such as neoliberalism, the market empire and the unethical neoprotectionism; of a political nature, such as populism and radical nationalism; social and moral, such as xenophobia, the rejection of the poor for being poor and racism; of a cultural nature, such as multiculturalism; demographic order, such as mass migration flows through poverty, wars or religion and above all, technoscientific order, especially with the technological revolution and what they call “the digital world” the “network society” that chooses to use terms like cyberspace , cyberworld, cyberculture, cyberpolitics.

The liberal production and consumption system, as well as its legal-political structures, experienced in 2008 a deep fissure of an ethical nature, generated by the black September of the United States Stock Exchange. The serious economic consequences, spread like wildfire across Europe and Asia. These conditions gave rise to forms of degradation of power and the exercise of knowledge and politics, which are resolved, in a certain way, in what we now call post-truth.

From the value of the presumably false, to the presumably true; on the basis that giving up false judgments would be giving up life. Admit that non-truth is a condition of life: this means, confronting ethics in a dangerous way beyond good and evil.

The act of thinking, of asking suspicious questions and of challenging established knowledge as absolute truths, translates into the transmutation of all values characterized by the lack of ethical commitment and by the predominance of individualism and particular interests, over those of common value.

The history of truth, seen socially, has developed in close relation to reason and non-truth, has gone hand in hand with the history of the State, as a regulator of the order and guarantee of the rulers over the governed.

Under the pretext of owning the truth, chiefs of tribes, empires, caliphates, despotic, tyrannical, liberal and totalitarian regimes have been erected. However, its most accepted form has been attached to democracy as a political system. Today, and as a result of the validity of the post-political as a degradation of democracy and the ethical misery of the parties, this place has been occupied by post-truth. This phenomenon, as we stated at the beginning, would not have been possible without the technological revolution, the digitalization of information systems, production, consumption, communication and the creation of cybersociety and technocracy as an alternative to the welfare state.

Post-truth, gives rise to manipulation and discursive and political deception, based on a demagogic process of impersonation of objectivity. The post-truth has created the smokescreen in which the post-democracy is agitated, with a serious deficit of meaning in concepts, now inflated and distorted, such as the homeland, the people, the citizen, law, identity or freedom. To this is added, the indifference of politics to the facts themselves, however inhuman they may be. In addition, it gives rise to the divorce between power and politics, since the former is exercised in a global scope, while the latter is limited to national states.

It is paradoxical that, in the framework of the digital era, in political terms, the post-tactical is worshiped, and the distance to the post-right (tyranny or totalitarianism) is shortened. Hence the non-truth, that is, the false and imposter of objectivity is an unpredictable danger.

The postfactual threat promotes false arguments, involving them in moving and amplified stories in the resonance chambers of the network and digital communication, until changing behaviors and influencing the decision of the masses. These resonance chambers are, in the postfactual, controlled and activated by machines or robots and are capable of generating a huge amount of information and news through the “private superpowers” such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and others.

In the field of media communication, the worst threat to quality journalism, to honest, rigorous and respectful journalism, is the false news. The proliferation of false news that has brought “the chaos to the world of news”, at the same time, have revalued the role of the press as a reliable reference for information and to “control the abuses of power”

And we give way to securitization, as a trick of the politician. The trick, is the displacement that the governments of these times of late modernity, globalization and interdependence make of the genuine concern of the citizens, changing them for other problems. For example, given the inability to solve issues such as citizen insecurity, unemployment or growing poverty, this kind of politicians of securitization present other problems such as specular terrorism; or to confuse the problem of immigration with that of national and personal security; or an alleged international campaign to discredit the State.

Securitizing is, then, maintaining the state of affairs by using the public attention diversion resource.

Post-truth is an emotional root argument, which causes what appears to be true, to be more important than the true itself. It creates the illusion that there may be an alternative objectivity to ostensible objectivity. As its field of cultivation is public opinion, there, the post-truth makes concrete and objective facts less relevant than simply appealing to emotions or personal convictions.

Journalist Eric Alterman spoke of a post-true political environment when referring to the Bush administration’s misleading arguments about the tragic terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the consequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The political language that adheres to the exercise of postmodern power uses the arguments of securitization and post-truth. After historical processes such as Hiroshima and Nagasaky, the Cold War, and most especially, 9/11 in the United States, the securitization of international relations has become, in the political and business field, a kind of “discipline from fear”.

The risk of international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction have made internal security an unprecedented importance in the United States and private companies, especially in sectors such as transportation, information technology, finance, health, pharma, education and oil industry who are increasingly called and committed by the State to safeguard the internal security of the nation.

The corporate environment has substantially increased the recruitment of security personnel, communication experts and specialists in digital culture, because, in addition to having to deal with the direct and collateral effects of the fear discipline, they have to deal with strategies for managing the reputational risk, constantly threatened by rumors or discredit campaigns based on false news and the non-sanctioned objectives of post-truth.

The political problem of the journalist is to know if it is possible to constitute a new politics of truth ”by changing the political, economic, institutional regime of truth production”.  The truth is not something absolute or immovable. The truth is a dynamic, social, historical, scientific and political product, which is built and constitutes the heat of philosophical, ideological, economic and social disputes, which take place in a specific space and at a specific time.

The truth is power, and vice versa. Also the lie is a power.

The limits of truth and justice have been challenged, to promote an era of post-truth and post-justice, full of true lies and imagery, which seem to place us before the dilemma of having to choose between democracy or post-democracy, between elections and false referendums or Respect for laws established by consensus or social majority. Post-truth as a resource of legitimization of neopopulism has degenerated the exercise of politics and the performance of the function of the State and the rule of law, displacing rationality by emotion under a set of massive promises never fulfilled.

In today’s world we are suffering from a crisis of governance, due to the neutrality of the institutional framework and the rule of law. The world is heading towards a bankruptcy of authority and the system of representation, which exhibits a democracy that is increasingly lacking in content and malleable in its essence, which puts world peace at risk.

The post-truth, are nothing more than partial truths; the post-truth is neither a lie, nor innocent, but it is not the whole truth either, according to Jordi Gracia (“Post-truth is not a lie”,) the false arguments of the post-truth attempt to seduce the most economically and socially vulnerable sectors due to the effect of global toxicity virality generated by the informative and misinformation of social networks and digital platforms.

Post-truth is something that operates well beyond the reach of false news. In fact, in its twisted logic, it is much more important than something, whether true or false, it seems to be true, because this is going to be more important than the truth itself. Not only do the truths lie, but the lies lie in a sinuous, invisible and everyday dialectic that ends up being accepted as the appearance of truth.

In today’s business dynamics, the market economy is giving space to the reputation economy. What it is, fundamentally, is how the reputation of a company has as much value as that of its financial assets. What is the factor that gives this relief ?: the risk factor.

The company’s reputation translates into credibility and reliability of its investors, customers, employees, suppliers, public opinion and society. And in the same way that the image was preserved from the risks and dares of the advertising language, capable of making promises not completely enforceable, or, false, also the reputation must be safe from the claims subjective and axiologically neutral of post-truth and post-fact.

Building trust lies, is one of the great challenges of corporate communication. Hence the need to align, according to the approach of the consultant and communication strategist which is to safeguard the reputational capital of the company or institution.

The characteristic, par excellence, of that environment is given at the alternative media, capable of, through a tweet, a message via Whatsapp, an Instagram or Snapchat image, or, a statement on Facebook, a blog particular or an alert to the virtual communities of LinkedIn, create a parallel public opinion, more belligerent, more fierce and less respectful than public opinion, different from the published opinion, which is structured in conventional media.

The overwhelming force of autonomy that fuels the digital turn of communication has diminished the credibility of the media, which are a fundamental support of corporate communication. The dance between non-truth and post-truth generates a space that can only lead society, as a whole, to an inadmissible predominance of chaos.

We live in the era of digital information and knowledge. But do we control the digital information or does it control us, supported by the artificial and the posthuman? Will there be an algorithm that goes ahead with the answer? Perhaps.

From our partner International Affairs

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