A little bit of everything, all rolled into one

Please can you all take a minute to fill in my Family Fortunes survey thing for my Christmas party. It won’t take long at all. Thankyooo.

The play went well, although there have been a few ructions between people. I think it’s the whole pioneer vs settler/developer thing, which could be a bit tricky over the coming months…

I can’t be the only one utterly loving BBC Four right now, can I? Alongside its always excellent documentaries and ‘seasons’, we also have repeats of Damages, and a brand new series of Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe beginning tonight, as well as the fabulous Only Connect. It really is one of the best channels on the box. BBC Three, on the other hand, has cancelled Pulling, one of its best and best-rated shows, for the likes of the excerable Coming of Age. It’s telling that the only things worth watching on the children’s channel these days are Heroes and Family Guy (imports) and repeats of series 3 Doctor Who (love Freema and David. And Catherine and David. Series 3 and 4 = so much greater than series 1 and 2. And for the record: Bille and David = rubbish although Billie and Chris = great).

Am nearly done with the Booker shortlist (and have also read several of the longlist). I’m about halfway through the doorstop that is The Northern Clemency. I thought I’d enjoy the Sheffield setting, but in a lot of ways, it’s annoying me because some of the references seem so gratuitous. Unsurprisingly, as with most years, the winning book (The White Tiger) was my least favourite. I enjoyed A Fraction of the Whole, but whilst it’s funny, it’s rather bleak, and it could easily be half the length without losing much. The Clothes on Their Backs was alright, but not amazing. I really liked The Secret Scripture, and although it took a while to get into, I liked Sea of Poppies, too, and anticipate its sequels.

On the longlist, Child 44 was grim and predictable, A Case of Exploding Mangoes was pretty good, and the other one I’ve read so far was so memorable that I can’t even recall which it was.

Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, on a different note, was very interesting and quite scary, althuogh her point has been exaggerated for effect. Probably one that capitalists will sniff at, whilst the rest of us mutter vive la revolution and sit on our arses.

Which leads me to…

I’m finding myself increasingly interested in politics and current affairs. I think it’s a combination of my age and my job. I seem to be having lots of long conversations into the night about these things too. There’s so much I’d like to blog if I had time, but the main things I have been thinking about are identity politics.

I am convinced if Hillary Clinton was a man and hadn’t been married to a previous president, that she would be in the White House. This is to take nothing away from Barack Obama, who seems great, but to suggest that sexism is still ridiculously rife in politics. Also interesting: Hollywood has given us loads of quality black presidents in film and TV over the past twenty years. The only woman fictional president I can recall is Geena Davis in Commander in Chief. Whilst media effects and influence are debatable, I do think the positive images of black presidents over the years can’t have hurt Obama’s cause, and I wonder why there have been so few fictional depictions of women presidents. In the UK, we have had very few fictional black/Asian PMs, although we’ve had a couple of quality women ones: Harriet Jones, Mrs Pritchard. But then we’ve had a female PM. However, I do wonder if despite this, we’d be more likely to elect a black or Asian PM than another woman one.

I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination that we are in a post-racist world. I was speaking to Robert Beckford about some of this the other day and he said that there is a lot of dissilusionment in the black community about doing things like going into academia (including going to uni for a first degree) and that black people in the media are mostly still sports people, musicians/dancers or people looking after the children, which all harks back to stuff Stuart Hall was saying in the 70s. Good old Stuart Hall, you begin to resent him a bit at 18 when you study cultural studies stuff because it seems everything you read is by him, but he’s a quality bloke who knows his stuff.

Anyway, any fule kno that the media and thus wider society still segregates and stereotypes people according to race, amongst many other things (although for an interesting debate on class, John Prescott’s recent series was rather enlightening, if not for him, than for the rest of us), and the cultures of institutional racism have been so embedded, even if they are being dismantled (e.g. in the police) that black people have been turned off particular careers and opportunities, and it will take a lot of strong role models to turn that around (something Beckford is trying to do, something Obama will probably aid in. On a side note, I don’t totally get the Obama being black over him being mixed race thing. I understand it’s helpful for people from ethnic minorities who’ve been oppressed, and I definitely understand it is better for a powerful mixed race person to emphasise their blackness over their whiteness for the same reason, but doesn’t it deny and slightly put down his white family and act like they don’t matter? I’m not saying HE is doing that, because as far as I can tell, he isn’t, but wouldn’t it be good for mixed race people to see that dual heritage is something to celebrate? I don’t know. Answers on a postcard?).

However, because being seen as racist is completely socially unacceptable (I emphasise being seen as, rather than being), I honestly believe a man from a black, asian (although not a muslim, clearly, with all the Islamophobic discourses around at present) or mixed race background has a better chance of being President or PM than a woman, because being sexist is more socially acceptable now than it has been at pretty much any point in my life.

I am not a Thatcherite in any way, I don’t agree with her politics, nor do I think she was particularly that amazing in terms of women’s lib. However, she was a woman who was determined and did what she needed to do, and was a charismatic leader. Where are the women in politics doing that now? (Also, where are the people from ethnic minorities doing the same, and to an extent, where are the gay people doing likewise? I know lots of these people are doing their thing on the fringes, perhaps because the mainstream is so exclusionary, or at least has been.) In business, this is (slowly) beginning to change, but in politics we’ve regresssed. And prominent women (whether politicians, sports people, TV presenters etc) are still portrayed in relation to ‘traditional’ female roles (usually motherhood), when a man in the same position wouldn’t be.

Look at adverts as well – that Nintendo DS thing with the pink console and the games about puppies and kittens and dress making (my friend Carrie alerted me to this), the still repeated stuff about ‘mums going to Iceland’ and so on. Did feminism never occur? I know I’ve been vocal about this a lot, but, oooh, it makes me mad.

Anyway, it’s all got me thinking about what I can do, and although I can do a lot in my teaching, helping students to challenge the white male capitalist hegemony (and how did they become so conservative and traditional anyway? They seem so different to us when we were their age, and it’s only ten years between us – they are post-Thatcher babies. Does that make a difference? They were born post-miners’ strike, post-female PM, post-many-unions, post-privatisation), I wonder if I should enter politics in some way. I believe the mainstream is where change needs to happen, the fringes can highlight and challenge issues but cannot overturn things.

I don’t mean I just want to stop women, ethnic minorities, gay people etc being oppressed, there are so many areas I care about. But I don’t know if I could handle the lifestyle of an MP. Nor would I neccessarily want to give up academia for it. Maybe I could be a councillor or something? But that would all mean choosing a political party, and they all suck at the moment. I don’t agree with any of them on everything, and there are some things I so strongly disagree with it would put me off being in that party. I’m also not sure whether I would be Labour or Lib Dem. Will the Lib Dems ever be seen as significant enough to cause change? Could I sell out enough to join Labour?

Someone like Jamie Oliver is inspirational (despite his failings) for instigating social action projects, discipleship etc and challenging the political system, whilst deliberately standing outside of it, but he’s a proper celebrity with a talent and all. I’m just an academic type person who thinks and talks a lot who lives in the North, so I can’t really be like him. All of this is of course theoretical until 2011 when I finish the doctorate, but it’s just stuff I’m mulling over…


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