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The Nature of Being

rethinking the facts of life

Month

January 2016

Man’s Interactions with Technology

Hello, my name is Aaron Vorse, and I am a second year college student currently doing an exchange year abroad in Germany. I am an engineering major with a planned German minor. I have to say that I never thought I would end up in this sociology class, however I am very glad I did. The readings and discussions have given me insight into topics that I never would have touched in my major classes.

Although a bit ambiguous at times, I found Donna Haraway’s texts very interesting. Much of her writing centralizes around the idea of gender. She also focuses on man’s interaction with animals, and how shifting gender roles over time have shaped the modern, scientific world. I particularly enjoyed when she would elaborate on human nature and the manner in which people and society think and interact.

Haraway briefly touched on the idea of “machines”. Although her use was more through metaphorical means, I would like to pick up where she left off. With my next few blog posts I would like to investigate man’s relationship with technology. I will explore how society explains its interactions with machines, as well as how we define the difference between man and machine.

 

“Culture remakes the animal; this is the universal foundation of human unity and the structure of the persistent western dualism of nature and culture, resolved through a self-making productionist dialectic. Man is his own product; that is the meaning of a human way of life.”

– Donna Haraway

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Introduction Post

To start with the question, if there would be fewer society boxes, what could we be?

Hello everyone, my name is Selina and I am 24 years old. I’m now studying Sociology in my first Master Semester. I live in Tübingen, that’s a beautiful little city in Germany with a huge university. I am interested in gender studies, because they question and explain our whole world. There are so many things in this world, of which we once believed they were all true – because we never questioned the “facts” we were told. But when we think about some of these facts and take a closer look on them, the world isn’t so simple to “explain” anymore.People have to put everything in boxes, so that the world is easy to handle. But what about the people who do not fit in this boxes or do not want to?
My preferred sentence of Donna Haraway is: “Part of the reconstruction of gender is the remapping of biological sex. Biology is an historical discourse, not the body itself.” [1] And that’s really interesting, because as soon as somebody explains something with biology or natural science in general, people believe it. But is the world really that simple?
In my blogposts I want to look at those boxes, which society makes up and what they do with people who doesn’t fit in. I want to write about arguments of groups which state that their way is the only right way. It’s also about the possibilities to open boxes or mix them up? Although I want to look at the standards, which are often used, the white heterosexual man and how the differences to this “standard” in the world are shown.

thinking-outside-the-box
[2]
The world defines us and we define the world. It’s a journey, so let’s look where we end.

 

[1] Haraway, Donna (1990): “Primate Visions. Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science”, Routledge.
[2] Graphic  https://media.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/p/3/005/05a/344/1070a4c.jpg, 26.01.16

Societies Manipulation of Thought

My name is Maranatha Croomes. I am a Third year Student, originally from Southern California, on my second year on exchange in Tuebingen. I am 20 years young going on 21 in about 2 or so months. I have explored many different horizons on my years abroad and so I am not surprised I ended up in this sociology class that has opened my eyes and broadened said horizons even further.

I feel as if society has manipulated the general mind set of what is accepted and what isn’t and it is only within the last few decades its been deemed, only by us ourselves of course, to fight back against it, go against the grain so to speak. But it make me wonder as to what have we gone against and what is imbedded into our mindset so much we fail to realize it is even a problem. Using a variant of example this is what I aim to pinpoint.

One of my favorite quotes from the texts was in Chapter 15 which is :

” a woman as a natural mother- a being consumed and fulfilled by dedication to another; a being whose meaning is the species, not the self; a being less than and more than human, but never paradigmatically man-“.

In this quote I feel as if there is so many things said and it incorporates what old time Female culture was. For example what they believed they had to be doing as their duty as a woman, like taking care of the kids, cleaning the house, and things like that and how they never had a right to themselves but always to dedicate themselves to another for their purpose to be fulfilled in life. Using this as starting point ,to open up the mind to what we are dealing with, quotes from readings like this ,as well as what I have perceived in my time as a student, I will make connections in what our societies and cultures aim to force down our throats and see where it began what it started to become and is currently changing to be.

Who am I?

My name is Monique Shifflet and I am 21 years old. I was born and raise in Southern California in the US. I am studying for a year in Germany and normally I study math, but a sociology class never hurt, right?

Upon signing up for this course, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get myself into. It was hard for me to get into some of the readings, but I was particularly interested in a certain one. I took an Anthropology class while I was studying in California and had learned about Jane Goodall. When she appeared in our readings, I was overjoyed to read about her again. I find her perseverance fascinating and admirable. She started from the bottom as a woman scientist and worked to the point where her name is known worldwide. Therefore, my favorite quote from Donna Haraway’s Primate Visions is:

But “Jane” is even more determined. Goodall is called by the familiar first name constantly, marking her status as girl, even while she is engaged on a quest that will change the definition of man.

To me, this quote says a great deal about Goodall, Haraway as a writer, and science in general. I will be basing my next 4 blog posts off of this quote and off of Goodall herself. I will be researching and writing about how women, especially Goodall, have truly impacted the fields of anthropology, sociology, and science as a whole. Women should be recognized for their achievements, even if it is on a blog post written by an exchange student.

(1) Contradictory visions of female identities: Looking at covers of women magazines

 

If men wrote women magazines_whats the difference to the original one.jpg

[1]

 

Sounds weird, right?

The picture above illustrates what women magazines could look like if men wrote them. They would probably just write about appearance and sex – but not just in general. They would write about how women shall look and have sex in order to please MEN.
These efforts seem far away from the intentions of women when writing and reading magazines, especially when considering the target group of the “world’s most successful magazine for young women”[2]: Cosmopolitan.

“Cosmo inspires and empowers readers to be their best in every aspect of their lives – to be a fun, fearless female”[3]. A fearless young woman won´t bow to every desire of a man! And a fearless young woman would notice if someone tried to manipulate her, wouldn´t she?

So the question comes up: How far away from the upper picture are “real” women magazines?

To answer this question, I took a look at 11 covers of the “Cosmopolitan U.S.” in 2012 and also at 12 covers of “Jolie” in 2015 – a famous women magazine in Germany which addresses quite the same target group. More precisely, I observed how often the magazines showed a cover-girl that could be considered as fulfilling the beauty ideal (like on the cover above) and how often they displayed the topics of diet/improvement of body shape and sexuality. Moreover, I checked how often sexuality was linked to men in terms of (1) the necessity of knowing what men want and (2) tips how to fulfill these male desires.

Lets first talk about Cosmopolitan. In fact, I was surprised how seldom the topic of diet/improvement of body shape was adressed. On 11 covers, this topic was only adressed 4 times. Numbers increased enormously when I looked at sexuality, which was displayed 25 times. What was quite astonishing was the fact that 11 times there was reference to men:

“25 sex moves he secretly wishes you´d try” [4]

“Sex he craves” [5]

“What he wants to see during Sex” [6]

So what do WE see? Often it is not about what SHE wants, but what HE wants.

Looking at “Jolie”, there is less new I can report. From 12 covers, 6 addressed the topic of diet/improvement of body shape. A little surprising was that “only” 11 headlines were concerned with sexuality – however 5 of them showed reference to men.

….Oh, one more thing I almost forgot because it seems so natural. All 23 covers showed famous women fulfilling the beauty ideal of being young, attractive, slim and mostly lightly dressed.
In my second post, I will literally turn the page to throw light on the contradictory identities of modern women and men.

But what conclusion to draw at this point? Of course there are several magazines that tread other paths and spread different pictures of women, but it is remarkable that for two such famous and successful magazines, fearless and self-confident seem to go along with male dependent and stereotypical.

Sounds weird, right?

Marcel

Logo
[7]

References:

[1] = Picture taken from http://coolmaterial.com/roundup/women/if-men-wrote-womens-magazine-the-sequel/, 27.1.2016

[2] = http://www.bauer-media.com.au/brands/cosmopolitan/, 27.1.2016

[3] = ibid, 27.1.2016

[4] = http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/news/g860/cosmo-cover-gallery/?slide=4, 29.1.2016

[5] = http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/news/g860/cosmo-cover-gallery/?slide=6, 29.1.2016

[6] = http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/news/g860/cosmo-cover-gallery/?slide=9, 29.1.2016

[7] = Logo created by myself

Feminism and Hate Culture: Notions of Rethinking Otherness

Otherness is a lesser known concept; it is not taught in schools, or used often in every day language, but it is a concept that shapes nearly all aspects of everyday life. To fully explain what I mean, otherness is a concept of definition, just as black cannot exist with out white, humanity has used societal binaries to define the nature of being in all aspects. Woman is the other of man, animal the other of human, abnormality the other of norm, and as the cogitation dictates, the other, is coded the inferior category.

The power of definition that the concept of otherness provides, is one that allows individuals to identify themselves. People define themselves against an opposition; self identity has a hard time existing without the opposite to facilitate the realization of that identity. This paradigm leads to identity power struggles, because one can not define both the other and themselves, this establishes a notion of superior and inferior.

That said, what I would like to be the emphasis of this article, is hate culture. Due to these power struggles set up by the current method of social construction, these power struggles establish a culture that is defined by the majority/minority complex, where the latter is coded as inferior and the former feels justified in committing unjust actions towards the socially constructed inferior group. This is where feminism comes in; think of feminism as the other to sexism. I say this because in many societies across the globe, sexist societal organization is the dominant source of social construction, coding nearly all norms in many societies. Patriarchy, has been deemed natural and uncontested for centuries, feminism poses the opposition, suggesting an egalitarian form of social construction where the gender binary (as well as all other genders) cease to exist within a power struggle. This is a hard concept to truly understand the gravity of, but it is a concept that would be in the best interest of the global populace to enlighten itself on.

Hate culture is a direct consequence of the use of otherness to facilitate social construction. Rationally, a system based on the establishment of superior and inferior would create social tension and stigma, what is important to keep in mind is it is just that, a construction. Otherness is a choice.  Society has chosen to use the white, upper to middle class, often times christian or catholic, man as the default for judging everyone else against. This otherness is what established other ethnicity, other genders, other religions (or lack of), other economic classes, as the inferior demographic. They are the other to the white business man. This comes with a consequence for the those that fit within the default demographic however. As I pointed out in my previous article, feminist theory has the best interest of everyone in mind, because when using the concept of otherness as your tool for definition, a world full of social problems is created, and social problems are intrinsically intertwining, they effect everyone-yourself and the other.  woman-as-other-the-second-sex

References:

http://othersociologist.com/otherness-resources/#gender -citation for photo

http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-531-91737-5_2

http://www.academia.edu/1442182/European_Identity_and_Otherness._Theoretical_Perspectives

Feminism as it Relates to the ‘Boy Crisis’: Rethinking Masculinity

Men live in a society where being the pinnacle of masculinity is the most prized achievement in life. In sociology masculine is a gender, a self defined identity, however, in commonplace life, masculinity takes a very different meaning and has very strong affects on social organization. For example, because of the masculine ideology, global society has been organized as a patriarchy, causing wage gaps between the gender binary as well as an unequal allocation of resources in various countries around the world. the most prominent issue however, is the hate culture that has been nurtured out of this form of organization (as opposed to an egalitarian form of social organization).

In the United States a term for the initial point of nurturing this hate culture has been coined: the ‘boy crisis’. What this terms means to explain, is the initial point that masculinity is enforced by the people around them, as well as society at large, generally when the boys are very young and first starting grade school. What masculinity has coded for young boys as well as teenagers and adults, is that all other genders are lesser, the masculine gender is far superior, weakness and vulnerability is unacceptable. These three axis of this masculine code have had rippling affects in society. When boys don’t feel that their emotions are valid, anger and hurt is suppressed. This suppression tends to leak out as abuse to others, the other genders (feminine genders in particular), an abuse that is coded as valid because these other genders have been deem lesser then the masculine gender. This is the ‘boy crisis’, a crisis that feminism has a direct impact on.

What I find to be generally lacking in society, is the understanding of the social interconnection between all demographics. For many people, issues such as violence against women is a woman’s problem, however, the same normative behavior that codes violence against women, also codes bullying in high schools, stigma against mental illness and various other social problems. For this reason it is the mindset of feminism, with its goals set at equality for everyone, that is best suited for analyzing and restructuring society in a way that will benefit the well being of all genders. For the sake of inclusiveness I would like to mention that there are many different branches of feminism, with slightly different modes of interpreting social organization, however,  radical feminism is the branch in particular which is the most useful to reference for my purposes.

Radical feminism is a branch of feminism that seeks a radical restructuring of society. This restructuring defines all genders as equals and promotes gender as a self defined identity. What feminism does is it questions current forms of interacting with one another, it questions why rape is coded as female and why media has stereotyped men in a way that only strengthens tensions, social gaps, and abuse between the gender binary. It also goes further then questioning, and poses alternative forms society could function and supports those forms with ways in which everyone has benefited from previous waves of feminism. For example when the female demographic in the workplace increases to half of the total work force (meaning its equal to that of males), then GDP will rise in several countries. A specific case is Italy, which would see an increase of 21% according to The Economist. There has also been numerous direct benefits for the masculine population due to radical feminism. One of my favorite being that it demands media to change its representation of men. Most are familiar with the ‘love your body’ campaign for females, however, feminism has brought to light the need for media to change the way in which it depicts men as well, arguing that the strong, muscular, and flawless image portrayed in media is hurtful to the well being of the masculine demographic. Masculinity, as it is used in society today, is a strong ideology that has the power to organize society in both beneficial and harmful ways. What feminism does is it rethinks the facts of life that have coded those harmful ways, and actively seeks to improve and restructure society in a way that benefits all genders across all spheres of societal organization. maculinity

http://mic.com/articles/88277/23-ways-feminism-has-made-the-world-a-better-place-for-men#.QNiAWZcJp

http://www.sparksummit.com/2012/11/14/feminism-what-it-is-and-why-it%E2%80%99s-still-important/

Women Earn 24% Less Than Men on Average, U.N. Report Finds

Feminism: The Current Controversy and Importance

I would like to use this post as an intro into my new research topic. For the next four or five post I will be discussing feminism and using it as a mode of analyzing social organization of western and/or industrial countries (keeping in mind these issues may pertain to other societies as well),  with a keen interest on how feminism relates to masculinity. To illustrate why I have chosen this topic, I would like to present a few of the more common controversies as well as some important modes of thought to keep in mind on how feminism (as it is coined today) has impacted societies in various places around the world.

To start, a definition of feminism, from the perspective I will be referencing from now on: Feminism is a notion towards equality for all, not just females. It is the perspective that all genders have the basic human right to equality in all spheres of society; some of which include economical, health, employment, family responsibilities, the list is endless. Feminism brings to light equality issues of ethnicity, economic class, disabilities, again, the list is endless. To create an overall image, feminism, as I will be referencing, is about rethinking otherness, and questioning a social structure that takes aim at minorities and historically disadvantaged groups.

Controversies over feminism have been largely coined from the waves of feminism in the 20th century, where strong females leaders faced large amounts of hate crimes and prejudice. Many anti-feminists buy into the ‘man-hater’ image and  the ‘crazed women’ notion of ideology. In fact, it would be very challenging to find a single feminist (of any gender, sex or sexuality) that fits this description. What these demographics fail to see is that with every leap forward, the feminist wave addresses more and more issues for the male sex. Just as many as it does with the female sex in fact (as well as all other sexual identities). Some examples include paternity leave or the social acceptance of male nurses and teachers.

My keen interest on feminism comes from the mode of analytic thought that this perspective facilitates. When engaging in feminist thought, you are engaging yourself in far more questions then just those that concern women. What I mean to emphasize with this, is that there really isn’t a single issue that just concerns women, we (all genders, not just the normative gender binary) as a society can only exist together, therefore, when one gender benefits from a moment of social restructuring, all genders do, including the masculine gender. My next post will be looking at this in more detail. feminism

A History of Difference – The Dissociation of Human and Animal in the History of Ideas

In my last post I introduced some contemporary approaches to conceptualizing human-animal relations. However, the established dichotomy between nature and culture that is manifested in the prevailing concept of human-animal relations goes back a long way in the history of ideas. Today I want to outline some of the main strands of philosophical history that helped reinforce and reproduce human and animal as conflicting parties, so that we can gain a better understanding of how we came to view our relationship to non-human animals as a binary one and the latter as inferior.[1]

Among philosophers throughout the history of ideas the differences between human and non-human beings have been emphasized, rather than their commonalities[2]. As early as for Aristotle, rationality was regarded the unique characteristic of man, making him almost god-like and all other organisms hierarchically subordinated. The stoics then radicalised the proposition that animals existed in favour of man and that the latter didn´t have any obligations toward the former due to their lack of rationality. [3] In the medieval age the rise of Christianity reproduced that narrative by adding the lack of an immortal soul in nonhuman animals (and therefore no chance for redemption) as the crucial criteria for their moral inferiority[4]. With the rise of Western modern philosophy and sciences, the tone got even more biting. René Descartes denoted nonhuman animals as insentient machines which act but randomly[5]. This is rather significant, as for the first time the alleged moral insignificancy of nonhuman animals was being used to legitimise not only killing and eating them, but also for the rising practice of animal testing.

All these narratives have a strongly anthropocentric disposition [6]. It was only in the early Modern Era that more moderate views slowly evolved. Utilitarians like Hobbes, Locke and Hume questioned the Cartesian Dualism and, for the first time, emphasize a common feature of human and animal – the ability to suffer[7]. This was elaborated by Bentham and Mill, who first stated that the capacity to suffer implied some sort of responsibility towards nonhuman animals[8]. And while Darwin finally did make a significant discovery by revealing the common origin of humans and other animals, he was all too often misinterpreted in a way that implies a teleological origin story in which man again surpasses the animal[9].

The othering undertaken by the founding fathers of Western philosophy can be seen as a strategy of constructing the human  identity. Referring to Sune Jensen, identity-construction can be understood as a dichotomous relationship between the “self” and the “discursive outside” or “other”[10]. These differences are being reproduced by referring to the other as inferior and subordinate. The philosophical narratives outlined are being used to reproduce the discursive identities of “human” and “animal” and with the ones holding the power to define these identities, being humans, they frame “man” in clear demarcation towards the – presented as morally inferior – “animal”, i.e. the other or discursive outside. A more fundamental, systematic critic about the exploitation of nonhuman animals has not emerged until the rise of critical theory with authors like Marx, Adorno and Horkheimer[11] or approaches to animal rights like Regan´s [12] or DeGrazias´[13].

We have seen in this post that, by dislocating “science” from its historical and cultural contexts, it becomes possible to make it seem “objective”, “neutral” or “natural. Through such narrative practices it becomes possible to reinforce the legitimacy of established binaries, such as the human-animal dichotomy. Donna Haraway amphasizes this, when she analyses the performative power of scientific narratives:

“[the natural scientific] narrative about progress is a method of tidying up politics by making some things exist inside and others outside a kind of “nature reserve” called science. The ideology about progress makes the sciences seem like wilderness preservation areas of the mind, free from the ravages of human culture and history”[14]. 

Footnotes:
[1] Cf. e.g. Haraway 1989: 373 about binarisms between antagonistic vs. complementary difference.
[2] Cf. e.g. Schmitz 2014 : 31.
[3] Schmitz 2014: 32.
[4] Schmitz 2014: 33.
[5] Schmitz 2014: 34f.
[6] Schmitz 2014: 43.
[7] Schmitz 2014: 38.
[8] Schmitz 2014: 38f.
[9] Schmitz 2014: 41f.
[10] Jensen 2011: 65.
[11] Schmitz 2014: 48.
[12] Bossert 2015: 26ff.
[13] Bossert 2015: 33ff.
[14] Haraway 1989: 125.

References:
Bossert, Leonie (2015): “Wildtierethik. Verpflichtungen gegenüber wildlebenden Tieren.”, Nomos: Baden-Baden.

Haraway, Donna (1990): “Primate Visions. Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science”, Routledge.

Jensen, Sune Qvotrup (2010): „Masculinity at the margins – othering marginality and resistance among young marginalized ethnic majority men“ NORMA 5(1): 7-26.

Schmitz, Friederike, Ed. (2014): “Tierethik – Eine Einführung” in Schmitz, Friederike (Ed.): Tierethik. Grundlagentexte. Suhrkamp: Berlin.

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