Two key themes emerged for us from the Gender, Media and Generation conference. In another post we explore how race and masculinity were absent presences throughout the day, and in a final short post reflect on working as feminist scholars in contemporary climate of academia. In this post we explore what speakers had to say about social class and femininity and how this relates to our own research.
Posts Tagged ‘social class’
X-Factor judge and singer Tulisa was in the press last month for her response to comments made by fellow judge Louis Walsh about her ‘WAG’ status. On a recent live show, Louis called Tulisa ‘Mrs WAG’, referring to media reports of her relationship with footballer Danny Simpson. In a quick and defensive riposte, Tulisa replied: ‘Excuse me? You mean I’m a WAF! It means: “Was Already Famous”’. In this post, Kim takes a look underneath the meanings of WAG and WAF and examines Tulisa’s position within wider debates about contemporary fame.
We were delighted to see Caitlin Moran telling John Lanchester why celebrity culture is too important to leave to the gossip magazines. She explains how celebrity seems to be confined to the likes of OK, Heat and Hello which tend to reduce the discussion to “always being, ‘well, she’s sweaty, she’s fat, she couldn’t hold it together’, end”. Instead Moran wants to see people “treating it with the importance it deserves”. Laura, Kim and I are spending a lot of time doing just that through this project and feel lucky that we managed to convince the ESRC that it was worth £170k. Despite welcoming this intervention from Moran and her earlier one into debates on feminism, we have a few qualms about one aspect of what she said…
Last week, David Laws, Minister for Education, attacked teachers and careers educators for creating a culture of ‘depressingly low expectations’ and holding back disadvantaged children by discouraging them from ‘aiming for the stars’. Laws argued that the flatlining of ‘social mobility’ (highlighted by Alan Milburn’s recent report) was not simply the result of poverty but a lack of ambition among teachers which led young people to only consider local employers and ‘lower status’ careers:
Even in my own constituency, Yeovil, which would not be regarded as one of the deprivation blackspots of the country, most young people would regard going into investment banking as almost leaving the country, because it’s a different world… They will often be encouraged to think it is beyond them…. there are too many young people who think that the two or three big employers in their local town are the limit of their aspiration.
Laws is not a lone voice here. Only a few weeks ago, Michael Gove spoke at the Conservative Party Conference about a ‘soft bigotry’ of low expectations among teachers which was failing to address the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils.
Scholarship in the sociology of education has critically engaged with the ways in which discourses of ‘aspiration’ circulate across government policy and how these constitute particular kinds of pupil – and parent – subjects. This research, including my own work with Heather and elsewhere with Sumi Hollingworth – has problematised asocial discourses of ‘low aspirations’. As I have previously argued on this blog, such individualising discourses negate the wider economic structures within which aspirations can be realised.
A Facebook message appears in my inbox. A 30th birthday party invite from a close friend. The party has a ‘fancy dress’ theme: ‘What did you want to be when you grew up…. ?’ A mixture of feelings comes over me: excitement at celebrating a close friend’s special birthday; anticipation at the varied outfits and guises that will great me; and anxiety as I think about my child self…. What did I want to be when I grew up? Will it be different enough, ambitious enough? Will my childhood dreams of ‘becoming’ reflect where I am now? What will these dreams say to others about the person I have become?…
I was reminded of these thoughts as I listened to a recent podcast of the BBC Radio 4 programme Woman’s Hour featuring a discussion on school children’s aspirations. The segment opened with the voices of a group of 7-year old pupils from a school in Bromley, South London. What did they want to be when they grew up? The responses were varied, from the ‘traditional’ and solid to the vague and, well, interesting….
Who comes to mind when we think about contemporary celebrities? Perhaps like me you watched Summer 2012’s UK Celebrity Big Brother so it’s Julian Clary, Julie Goodyear and Danica Thrall who stood out from the gang of A-to-Z-listers. Or, if you spent a summer watching the Olympics and Paralympics, perhaps it’s ‘our’ medal winners. In my first post I want to mention a few less talked about sporting celebrities – those famous for throwing arrows.