Thursday, 2 October 2014

Things. Things are happening

Five weeks to Living Wage Campaign launch. One and a half days until I meet members of my committee. Twelve weeks until I head home to see my family and friends for Christmas. And a whole ten hours until I have to get up - that's right. It's my evening off.

The gaps are where I do my uni work
So it's time for a super-brief update. I've not taken anything else on...sort of. I'm doing the STAR award this year, because it essentially makes my VP role epic, an upgrade on the awesome it already is. I talked about the STAR award a little bit last year; it's a few hours of workshops with someone I respect and look up to on campus plus genuine employers from the world of real jobs. An extra six hours is really all it's going to cost me between now and graduation, so I feel I can take that on.

Living Wage is kind of planned out, and I need to talk to some people about getting other groups on board - groups like trade unions and Aberdeen City Youth Council, but also groups that don't even know they're powerful. Groups of staff in shit-paid jobs who could band together and apply real pressure to the people above them.

Aside from that, things progress. If you knew me a few years ago, as some of my readers do, you'll know I was an insufferable ass. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty sure there are still time when I'm that, but I think I'm getting better. Case in point: Sartre vs. Beauvoir.

N.B if you're bored by existentialist philosophy and gender roles as performances look away now.

Simone de Beauvoir (r) and Jean-Paul Sartre (l)
So: Sartre and Beauvoir, like all of the most I of VIPs, go by only one name. Sartre's existentialist philosophy is fascinating: it says we are condemned to choose. There's no God; not a God who controls us nor a God who commands us, so there is both free will and no moral imperative. If you, like young Raskolnikov, see a young woman bothered by a lecherous drunk then be assured that there is no moral imperative to act. Similarly, if you are depressed by your boss, who works you to the bone for almost nothing, then (says Sartre) you choose to allow him that. You might also choose to punch the odious boss in his pallid face and make your way through the cheering crowds - but then, you have chosen that too. Almost any person in dire circumstances, according to this philosophy (one he argues is only for philosophers, which makes a lay person like me wonder what the damn purpose of it is then), is in those circumstances as a consequence of those choices.

In an egalitarian world where everyone starts from the same circumstances I could have time for this kind of philosophising, but since it ignores all pre-existing racist, classist, sexist, cissexist and homophobic structures that already existed in society and yet were apparently invisible even to a man as smart as Sartre, this philosophy for people who've already won the lottery of life and need a reason to sneer at people in other socio-economic conditions goes IN THE BIN.


Also: check out the sheer length of that sentence. This is what happens when you read French at university: you lose all sense of scaling sentences and end up writing Ulysses. 

In any case: enter Beauvoir, who expanded on the philosophy and produced a phrase that defines feminism, the problem with so-called "femininity", and is also epic in French. In English it gets fuzzy. It goes:
On n'est pas née femme; on le devient. - We are not born women; we become women.
Womanhood - and, indeed, manhood - are performances or constructs that you grow into and in doing so you completely give up your freedom. You trade freedom for security. You fit into the mould crafted for you and you don't need to choose any more; you are no longer "condemned to choice," as Sartre said above. You can go through the motions, like a character on a cuckoo clock.

So then we get all kinds of complex questions like (a) are you betraying womanhood if you take part in this construct (b) what do you mean, womanhood? Aren't we all individuals? and (c) hey, I'm a guy, I have an opinion on this and you should listen to it.

I'm super-sarcastic this evening, and I do not even slightly apologise.

If you skipped past existentialism and gender roles, please start reading again here.

Other news: big scoops with the Tab this week, but not mine. We have done a pretty good job exposing the frankly obscene amounts the university paid a company to make a super-shitty video that they finally took down. As a sort of unofficial response to that piece of crap, there's a "Reclaim the Night" march happening in Aberdeen for self-identifying women and genderqueer people. If you don't know about it yet I know you'll be made welcome if you go, and if you are in either of those groups, do please join the march. If you are instead a man, don't go. Don't be that guy.

It's that simple.
PIR - our next event is shaping up to be bloody enormous, with over 170 folk turning up. It's going to be huge, and I will be working as per. I hope people get photos.

Right. That's a massive update. I'm well, I'm doing many things, and I shall shortly be kicking some buttock or at least poking it with intent to harm. I hope you're all well and if you've got this far have a prize of my friend John using the phrase "penis monsters" in a chat about his sexuality. 

References to Crime and Punishment are all well and good, but for humour there's nothing better than an Englishman using the word penis.