Brit news round-up

Or, the anti-feminist digest, as I like to call it.

Leaders in England are finally calling for “positive discrimination” or what the Americans tend to call “affirmative action” in hiring practices. I can completely go for that, but apparently this is shocking to some avenues of British society, given this reaction: “White men to face jobs ban” Let me just say that the white male workforce in Britain could do with a shake-up although sadly the headline is not true and I can guess that white males of British origin will continue to dominate the hires. And those of us who are not white males of British origin will continue to feel as conspicuous as if we were green hermaphrodites of Martian origin.

In hilarious news, the Economist features a story on chavs at the Royal Ascot race, apparently demonstrating that civility has been lost in British society and no one knows how to dress properly anymore:

“KNICKERS,” read the stern advice to racegoers at Royal Ascot, one of the swankiest society events of the summer: “a definite yes, but not on show please ladies.” Reminders were in order owing to a “lack of understanding of what formal daywear actually means in this day and age”, according to the organisers of the royal meeting, which began on June 17th. Miniskirts and spaghetti straps were banned in the poshest part of the course, and girls were asked to avoid streaky fake tans.

Notice how there is no mention of men here? This is purely about keeping the ladies “lady-like”. And, to go back to the first point, not represented in the work-force. The white men need their jobs and don’t need to be told how to dress because they do it just fine, the women are the problem in all cases. Apparently. Can I come home now?

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10 responses to “Brit news round-up

  1. Men are told how to dress[1]. Perhaps they try to take fewer liberties – or perhaps “Gentlemen are required to wear either black or grey morning dress, including a waistcoat, with a top hat…” doesn’t sell as many newspapers.

    [1] http://www.ascot.co.uk/royal/royal_faq.html

  2. > the white male workforce in Britain could do with a shake-up

    If you were to categorize, say, ‘the black female workforce in America’ in the same way, wouldn’t there be a danger that such a remark could be seen as sexist / racist prejudice?

  3. Why yes, Howard, we do tend to treat as different the oppressed minority versus the oppressive majority. It makes little sense to call for a shake-up in the oppressed minority. In this case, the reaction of the oppressive majority–beyond exaggeration to flat-out scare-mongering in the case of the “white male jobs ban”–was definitely deserving of ridicule. I guess, however, from your reaction that you might not be a member of the oppressed minority?

  4. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘reaction’; all I did was to ask a question, because I am interested in what people say, and I am interested in the meanings of words. I have just looked at my dictionary, and in neither of the definitions for ‘sexist’ and ‘racist’ did the notion of oppression or minority appear as prerequisite for the meaning. The definition for ‘sexism’ did however mention ‘stereotyping’: is it possible that others might think that what you are implying about ‘the white male workforce in Britain’ is a kind of stereotyping?

    > I guess, however, from your reaction that you might not be a member of the oppressed minority?

    I am not aware that belonging to any particular grouping renders someone unfit to ask a question — surely we all have the right to do so — so I am uncertain as to the relevance of your question here.

  5. Howard, here’s the problem: it is not actually racist or sexist – oppressed minorities or majorities notwithstanding – to describe people who are white and male or black and female as such. The original sentence in the post was using the description “white male” to describe a section of the British workforce that dominates jobs and apparently feels threatened by change; the latter stereotype about people who are white and male feeling threatened is in the article, not in the post; what NFAH did was use the words “white” and “male” as descriptors of the people who work in Britain.

    If I described a group of women I know who work with me and are black and female as the “black female workforce,” I am not, in fact, saying anything that is either sexist or racist. And I think you’ll find that just about any English dictionary supports that.

  6. Thank you, Merry, for your clarifying response.

    I would have no hesitation in describing myself as a green hermaphrodite of Martian origin, nor object to being described as such by others, if I were one.

    Description is fine. Where I become nervous is when my accidental membership of a particular group is used to impute some characteristic to me, or when it is assumed I must think or behave in a certain way, simply because I am identified as being part of the group concerned.

    I also get anxious when someone suggests that something could or should happen to people grouped by accidental attribute (e.g., green, Martian, hermaphrodite) by someone who is possibly prejudiced against that group, such as being ‘shaken up’.

  7. You know, Howard, if there is a monolithic group in power that generally excludes outsiders from entry – and does so in spite of the qualifications or merits of the outsiders or legal requirements to the contrary – then it might actually need to be shaken up. I can’t possibly imagine why it would be unfair to say so. The problem in this case would not necessarily be all white men everywhere, but the dominant group of people in high ranking positions who resist diversification of their ranks, who (in this case) we can describe as being white and male.

    I actually do understand your nervousness about generalizations and sympathize, because I think there are examples of knee-jerk prejudice against white men for being something they can’t help – a member of the historical ruling class. That said, I don’t see the kind of assumptions that should worry you here – nor do I read the post as having any kind of malice toward white men, just amusement at the overwrought headline and exasperation at the lack of inclusiveness. Still sounds pretty fair to me.

    I suspect that there is still enough racial and sexual discrimination in a lot of professional fields – especially ones that are still dominated by people of certain traits who hire each other – that people who are inadvertent members of the ruling class but themselves unprejudiced need to take the lead in campaigning on behalf of more diverse qualified candidates.

  8. NFAH: In all this you forget the British thing – the “Oppressive Minority” – going by some really screwed-up headlines that abound…

    PS: I say that as minority who hates that while the majority may or may not oppress me, I may, with my colour, be confused with the oppressive minority..

  9. I can speak to this a bit, since I 1) work for a PC university, 2) have a lot of women in my life who are pretty accomplished, and 3) am personally a member of the group for which it is hardest to hunt for a job- office-oriented (meaning no manual skills) WASP males over 50.

    I started out in the business world just as the preferential remedial hiring craze was gaining steam. But I can truthfully say that I never lost out on an opportunity I sought, to a person in a “protected class” because of that class status. I actually lost promotional opportunities to other guys at times, and after my bruised ego had recovered, I had to admit that the other person fit the particular corporate mold involved better than I did. That was, in fact, how I learned what I did well and what I did not do well- and also where I did not want to compromise my nature in order to play the game.

    Were there some situations where some opportunity was perhaps not open to me? Sure. But my view of life is that you deal with the situations as they are, try to change them if possible, and get on with things if not.

    Getting on with things means that you look at what you want to do, what it takes to succeed, and if you want to succeed, you pay the price and go for it. It accomplishes nothing to complain about what is perceived to be unfair. And that especially means that we don’t get hypersensitive about terminology, or pointing out where inequities might exist, where they do.

    In my life, I have 3 different times realized that I needed more preparation in order to stay viable and competitive to succeed with the types of things I wanted to do. Three times I went back to school part-time to get it done. I found thta that was a lot more productive than fussing about affirmative action denying me things that I might have more easily had in 1959 (um, I’m not so old that I could have worked back then….)

    As I look at the world in the US or the UK, I guess I think life isn’t bad even for guys who don’t get any special group-characteristic considerations. There really are some old boys clubs, of course- I’ve never been invited, myself.

    We need to do things that make sense- that means we don’t put people in positions where they are not qualified or the best people for the positions- it also means that we don’t waste the capabilities of smart women so we can keep an old boy custom going. My advice to guys who are upset about this stuff is to look at yourself honestly, improve yourself to create opportunity, and don’t be hypersensitive about the silly politically correct world. Life is too short.

  10. Here we go, another take along the same lines as the “White men face jobs ban” approach to affirmative action:

    http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2008/07/harriet_harmenp

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