Suffragette reminds us why it’s a lie that feminists need men’s approval

From The Guardian UK:

A century on from the British suffrage campaign, feminists are still told that being pleasing is the best strategy for their success – and it’s still not true

Michelle Smith
Monday 28 December 2015

The new film Suffragette, released in Australia on Boxing Day, begins with female activists smashing London shop windows and bombing the partially completed home of the chancellor of the exchequer. It dramatises the militant actions of feminists from 1905 until the outbreak of the first world war, as they sought the right for British women to vote.

Edwardian women appear genteel in photographs, but the tactics of the suffragettes transgressed feminine expectations of the era. Suffragettes disrupted debate in parliament and struggled with police in violent marches. One famously slashed a painting of a naked woman in the National Gallery and another even came at Winston Churchill on a train platform with a riding whip.

With England more than a decade behind New Zealand, which had granted women’s suffrage in 1893, it was clear that polite and reasoned requests for women’s political rights had not worked. Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the suffrage movement, explained that unruly activism was essential:

If the general public were pleased with what we are doing, that would be a proof that our warfare is ineffective. We don’t intend that you should be pleased.

Despite the sustained campaign, full suffrage for women was not achieved until 1928. More than a century on from the British suffrage campaign, the message that being pleasing is not the optimal route to political and social change remains just as pertinent.

Increasingly men are informing feminists that they would be more successful if they made their politics more palatable. The UN’s HeforShe campaign, launched by the unthreatening Emma Watson, is often heralded as a positive way to involve men in work toward gender equality.

Both the idea that feminism needs to be appealing to men and that men should be central to its progress are anti-feminist ideas in themselves.

Regardless of their approach, feminists have always been characterised unfavourably for their social goals, looks, and refusal to defer to men.

Mocking cartoons of suffragettes showed them beating men to the ground with umbrellas or standing over their husbands and forcing them to clean the house. These caricatures took issue with the way that women’s demands for the vote seemed to be upending the natural order in which men were physically dominant and women were best suited to domestic work. Others lampooned the unattractiveness of suffragettes: they were drawn as old, dowdy and either lacking in teeth or suffering from pronounced overbites.

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For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions

From The New York Times:

The very richest are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield billions in income.

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Only in America: Four years into life, poor kids are already an entire year behind

From The Washington Post:

December 17, 2015

Wealthy parents aren’t just able to send their kids to top pre-schools—they can also purchase the latest learning technology and ensure their children experience as many museums, concerts and other cultural experiences as possible. Low-income parents, on the other hand, don’t have that opportunity. Instead, they’re often left to face the reality of sending their kids to schools without having had the chance to provide an edifying experience at home.

That might sound foreboding if not hyperbolic, but it’s a serious and widespread problem in the United States, where poor kids enter school already a year behind the kids of wealthier parents. That deficit is among the largest in the developed world, and it can be extraordinarily difficult to narrow later in life.

This is one of the key takeaways from a new book about how United States is failing its children. The book, called Too Many Children Left Behind, is written by Columbia University professor Jane Waldfogel, a long-time researcher of poverty and inequality. And it will force almost anyone to reflect on the impact of unchecked inequality on children.

Waldfogel says the massive achievement gap in the United States is a blemish for a country that aspires to be the greatest in the world. In her book, she shows that achievement gap is pronounced to a startling degree in the first years of life.

I spoke with Waldfogel to learn more about how the early years of a child’s life can impact the rest of it, what role school plays in perpetuating inequality, and why the United States isn’t doing a great job of creating an equal playing field for its children. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Merry Christmas

Your Holiday Guide to Dealing with Uncle Bob

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The Revolt of the Anxious Class

From Robert Reich:

Robert Reich
Monday, December 14, 2015

The great American middle class has become an anxious class – and it’s in revolt.

Before I explain how that revolt is playing out, you need to understand the sources of the anxiety.

Start with the fact that the middle class is shrinking, according to a new Pew survey.

The odds of falling into poverty are frighteningly high, especially for the majority without college degrees.

Two-thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Most could lose their jobs at any time.

Many are part of a burgeoning “on-demand” workforce – employed as needed, paid whatever they can get whenever they can get it.

Yet if they don’t keep up with rent or mortgage payments, or can’t pay for groceries or utilities, they’ll lose their footing.

The stress is taking a toll. For the first time in history, the lifespans of middle-class whites are dropping.

According to research by the recent Nobel-prize winning economist, Angus Deaton, and his co-researcher Anne Case, middle-aged white men and women in the United States have been dying earlier.

They’re poisoning themselves with drugs and alcohol, or committing suicide.

The odds of being gunned down in America by a jihadist are far smaller than the odds of such self-inflicted deaths, but the recent tragedy in San Bernadino only heightens an overwhelming sense of arbitrariness and fragility.

The anxious class feels vulnerable to forces over which they have no control. Terrible things happen for no reason.

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Class Differences in Child-Rearing Are on the Rise

What the books and movies called Hunger Games are really about.  What happens when you have a privileged elite running the world and an under class.

From The New York Times:

Dec. 17, 2015

The lives of children from rich and poor American families look more different than ever before.

Well-off families are ruled by calendars, with children enrolled in ballet, soccer and after-school programs, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. There are usually two parents, who spend a lot of time reading to children and worrying about their anxiety levels and hectic schedules.

In poor families, however, children tend to spend their time at home or with extended family, the survey found. They are more likely to grow up in neighborhoods that their parents say aren’t great for raising children, and their parents worry about them getting shot, beaten up or in trouble with the law.

The class differences in child rearing are growing, researchers say — a symptom of widening inequality with far-reaching consequences. Different upbringings set children on different paths and can deepen socioeconomic divisions, especially because education is strongly linked to earnings. Children grow up learning the skills to succeed in their socioeconomic stratum, but not necessarily others.

“Early childhood experiences can be very consequential for children’s long-term social, emotional and cognitive development,” said Sean F. Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford University. “And because those influence educational success and later earnings, early childhood experiences cast a lifelong shadow.”

The cycle continues: Poorer parents have less time and fewer resources to invest in their children, which can leave children less prepared for school and work, which leads to lower earnings.

American parents want similar things for their children, the Pew report and past research have found: for them to be healthy and happy, honest and ethical, caring and compassionate. There is no best parenting style or philosophy, researchers say, and across income groups, 92 percent of parents say they are doing a good job at raising their children.

Yet they are doing it quite differently.

Middle-class and higher-income parents see their children as projects in need of careful cultivation, says Annette Lareau, whose groundbreaking research on the topic was published in her book “Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race and Family Life.” They try to develop their skills through close supervision and organized activities, and teach children to question authority figures and navigate elite institutions.

Working-class parents, meanwhile, believe their children will naturally thrive, and give them far greater independence and time for free play. They are taught to be compliant and deferential to adults.

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