The Social Factory

the blog of King's CMCI PostGrad Society


What Natalie did next…or life after The CMCI Social Factory

For anyone who doesn’t already know, I’m no longer running the CMCI blog but since September I’ve been running social media for the Women’s Film and Television History Network. They asked us to write about our experiences so far. If you’re interested you can see the blog here and find out more about the Network. thanks, Natalie

Women's Film and Television History Network-UK/Ireland

WFTHN Facebook

We are the new(ish) faces behind WFTHN’s social media. We took over the running of WFTHN’s Facebook and Twitter accounts in September 2014. We are both PhD students and Graduate Teaching Assistants. Natalie has worked in the UK film industry for many years, including as a Senior Development Executive at the UK Film Council and for Granada Film.

SMOsNatalie is at King’s College London and her research is attempting to unpack why there are so few female screenwriters in the UK film industry, and why it’s not changing despite increased interest in gender inequality. Hannah is at the University of Warwick. Her archival-based research explores the work of “message movie” producers and the gendered construction of liberalism in mid-century Hollywood.

Since we took over our Facebook followers have increased from 317 to 417 at time of writing, and Twitter followers are up from 126 to 265.  If you’ve recently joined…

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Very Clever Very Conservative. Some thoughts on the Paul Talyor Seminar

It’s not good to shoot from the hip but for Paul Taylor it seems the bad is the good and the good is the bad. So I will take a chance on following his philosophy.

As a first year PhD student I have been aware for a while that it is only a matter of time before I am confronted head on with the bizarre but telling spectacle of a extreme left wing culturalist exposition performed in the heart of the modern neo-liberal environment that is the contemporary elite British university. Telling because for all it cleverness – it clabbering to be ever so much more critical of anything that moves than the next guy – it betrays an awful conservatism, even a reactionary essence, which is fully compatible with its embeddedness in a site of capitalist reproduction.

To give this milieu a taste of its own medicine I could and I would argue that paranoiac and cynical assertions that fascism, instrumentalism, and a host of other bads lie within just about – no lets not be too liberal – lie in absolutely everything that exists in the social field reveals a classic psychological displacement. It allows the subject to feel ever so radical and yet do nothing practical about his or her situation. Its extremity compensates for the timidity of positive action in the face of the contemporary intensification of the neo-liberal project. As the psychological literature has conclusively shown being has little or no impact on doing. And what you do, or don’t do in this case, makes you who you are. The notion that radical thought is subversive without concurrent positive action is hopelessly idealistic as it is empirically unsustainable.

As he slipped into his initial remarks, as if the truth was self evident, the true intellectual has the privilege of being able to question but not to give answers. This is a grotesque formulation violates the more fundamental human responsibility to propose to the extent that we criticize. To have the latter without the former allows one to slide into an infantile idealism which ironically abandons the status quo to the social forces of reaction.

This may seem like just another quaint eccentricity of the academic ivory tower but having spent much of my life as an organiser and trainer variously in the peace, radical green and anarchist movements before moving into social entrepreneurship I can say without a shadow of doubt that this fashion for extreme idealistic negativity has been an absolute disaster for the project of creating viable alternative economic and political institutional formations. Nothing can happen when people don’t turn up on time, leave without notice, accuse anything that gets going as compromised and reactionary, and generally view the practical inevitability of give and take as a betrayal of their principles. What seems like very radical and very clever turns out in practice to be just plain stupid and a complete waste of space.

With no institutionalisation – no culture of imperfect but still radical collective organisation and norms – every bottom up social movement has to re-learn the same basic lessons and structures. To take a classic example, sophisticated consensus decision making has been going on at least since the eighteenth century with the Quakers – and certainly from the radical sixties through to the 1980s peace movement. Fast forward to the Occupy generation and the first general assemblies had no idea that consensus procedures can have stages between agreement and blocking. In amongst the reams on Foucault where are the manuals for deliberative democracy?

Even within the realm of academic political criticism Paul’s points go beyond the ridiculous and become, well – just plain silly. The notion that the film Finding Sergeant Ryan betrays fascist overtones because the main character’s granddaughters have blond hair in first scene of the film is beyond bizarre. In fact I am sure that many of the survivors of the D-Day landing would find the proposition profoundly insulting. The film’s main point of course is that it graphically displays the horror of war and served a useful social function of making a new generation aware of the sacrifices of an older generation that didn’t have the luxury of cynicism in the face of the existential threat of fascism.

As David Graeber argued in his book The Democracy Project, working people do not share this cynical cleverness of the metropolitan intellectual. What they see is a system of privilege which systematically excludes their participation. How many British working class people are doing PhDs at Kings? What people want is secure jobs, a reduction in work stress, and time with their families. Correct deconstructions of soap adverts in not high on their list. The same point was made by George Orwell commenting on an Italian republican volunteer in his ‘Homage to Catalonia’.

And the last irony, if we are to indulge in such things, is that for the second week running the seminar started late and finished without any time for questions. So much for a university creating a space for intellectual dialogue and debate. The speaker made his points and then it was time to go.

There was a facility admin meeting which was supposed to finish at 3.30 so that the seminar could have started on time at 3.45. At 3.43 when I left it was still going on. So let’s forget about the heady heights of critical deconstruction and start by getting things to start on time. Let’s focus on some basics – seminars which are worthy of the name, adequate space for PhD students to work in, and not forgetting that ultimate violation of the lifeworld – charging people to go to a Christmas Party (anyone read any Jesus lately?)

None of this should be read as absolute criticism (an indulgence which is self contradictory as it is unconstructive) and I have no reason to believe that Paul Taylor is not a thoroughly nice guy – and even if he isn’t I am not in the business of judging souls. The point is that whatever the supposedly insightfulness of this analyses, the impact of his philosophy is socially and politically ruinous. The world is becoming a dangerous place in case we hadn’t noticed and academics need to start thinking more seriously about providing a constructive contribution to the anti-hegemonic project. If not our children may well not be deconstructing Sergeant Ryan but re-enacting it.

Roger Hallam.


Calling all Sweetcorn Club agents…

Okay so this quite possibly should not be going on this blog but then again apparently I am organising it now so maybe this is part of the “new regime”.

After todays seminar, prompted no doubt by the somewhat depressing prospect that the monetary value of our creative labours are going to be sucked up by the ubiquitous neo-liberal beast, we got talking about money and making it. And so here’s a little business plan as promised with the organic veg thing. I have taken the liberty to call ourselves the Sweetcorn Club after the distribution of the arguably very nice sweetcorn I brought in the other week. Please can someone get that picture up on the blog so we can all see it!

So a car arrives outside Kings at 1pm on Wednesdays. There’s about 8 of us new PhD people – so we have 80 bags – 10 for each person/agent. Each of us takes 10 bags and distributes them to people who have ordered through us around Kings.

The maths/money..

Each bag sells for £10 (maybe £12.50 for richer people like the VC?!). The cost is £6 each so each person makes a nice £40 for say 15 minutes work. Well that’s like £160/hr which is.. what ,40 times more than the £4/hour that PhD people get paid for doing teaching, taking into account preparations etc (or is it £5/hr .. whatever – it’s not that great).

Sounds pretty good to me. If you’re interested the inaugural meeting of the Sweetcorn Club will take place – after the seminar next week?

If all this seems a bit tricky let me finish this post with an antidote to all that post-modernist miserablism, from Nelson Mandala

“Things seem impossible till they happen” – and well who would want to argue with Nelson on that score.

Roger


Want Your Kids To Grow Up Thinking Men Are More Important Than Women? Read Them Children’s Books.

Calm Down Dear

This piece was also published on the Huffington Post

It’s amazing how much routine sexism we regularly feed our kids via their reading material. Strange as it may seem, research suggests that a female has a greater chance of securing a seat on the board of a Fortune 500 company, in Congress or in the Senate than she does of appearing as a main character in a children’s book. When they do appear, if they’re not carrying wands or broomsticks, or attempting to marry unelected future heads of state, female characters are usually sidekicks or help-mates.

Take Roger Hargreaves’ Mr Men books, childhood favourites of mine. As the series title suggests, their world is as exclusively male as a frat house or a submarine, a science fiction-style dystopia in which all the women appear to have been wiped out. Although in an environment in which each man possesses just one…

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Exclusive: Disney Says Star Wars Toys for Girls Are Coming

News just in…

TIME

Disney told TIME on Wednesday that it would add Princess Leia toys to its existing Star Wars merchandise line soon, following recent criticism from parents and bloggers about the lack of products for girls.

“The current assortment of Star Wars products at the Disney Store launched earlier this year, and is just the beginning of what is to come,” Disney spokeswoman Margita Thompson told TIME. “We’re excited to be rolling out new products in the coming months, including several items that will feature Princess Leia, one of the most iconic characters in the Star Wars galaxy.”

Thompson also pointed out that there are Princess Leia-themed costumes and toys available on Amazon.com.

Parents took to Twitter last week to protest the fact that the Disney Store contains almost no Star Wars themed gear for girls, even though it’s chock full of Jedi playthings for boys. And a new line…

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Why #WeWantLeia Is Another Proof Of Why We Need #YesAllWomen and #YesAllGirls

The latest in a long line of blogs supporting Natalie Wreyford’s campaign to persuade The Disney Store that girls like Star Wars and/or boys like female characters. So far, The Disney Store have been very dismissive, despite a growing campaign for Leia to be included in the first wave of Star Wars merchandise. If you support the cause, or just want to ask Disney to be more gender neutral in it’s toy manufacturing, you can sign the petition here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/hey-disney-wewantleia

Natacha Guyot

LeiaSupportsGunRights-ANH

One could think that tying a “toy issue” to a hashtag created in the aftermath of a misogynist and tragic event is far-fetched. It isn’t. All of this is linked.

#YesAllWomen and #YesAllGirls denounced how misogyny is hurtful in our culture, and is since childhood when wrong and damaging “models” and “behaviors” are learned, if not outright encouraged. A better mindset, a better culture, which encourages equality between all, must be attained, no matter how long and trying this can be.

The fact that Disney Stores don’t plan to include Leia in upcoming Star Wars products is heartbreaking and extremely disappointing. I encourage you to read the article on the Daily Dot, whether you are familiar with the topic or not. Checking the #WeWantLeia hashtag on Twitter is also extremely telling.

I previously talked about gender representation in children and youth media, and I am a firm believer in…

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Battling with Boy Theory at the Big Conference – by Sara De Benedictis

Read CMCI’s Sara De Benedictis on the WomenTheory blog: “Battling with boy theory at the big conference.”

WomanTheory are keen to welcome new people to post their stories. Click here to find out more: Submit your WomanTheory story

womantheory

My first encounter of the dominance of boy theory and theorists at supposedly feminist informed and ‘friendly’ conferences was a shock to the system. When I was in my first year of my postgraduate degree I had the opportunity to go to a very large established Cultural Studies conference. The specificity of the conference, location and people are irrelevant. I am certain that this story will be familiar to many and could easily stand in for experiences that others have had. These stories tend to be silenced publically. You will not usually find the reporting of academic sexism at conferences on the (now obligatory) twitter hashtag. Rather these stories are told in hushed, angry tones between feminist friends and colleagues unable to compute the hypocrisy of the situation that they have witnessed; gender inequality playing out so palpably in sites that they should not.

I was fortunate that my experiences…

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