Posts Tagged ‘ identity ’

What’s in a name?


In varying religions of the world, to be able to name a thing (or person) is to have control of it, such as Catholic priests needing to know the name of a demon before it can be cast out. Similar premises exist also in Pagan belief systems. When people have your name they’ve got you pinned; from the register being called at school to your ‘paper’ trail in adult life right up to your tombstone/tasteful wall plaque. This person was/did these things. Names are bestowed, though often changed by the individual; I’ve lost count of the people I know —across several generation I might add— who prefer to use their second names and there are innumerable people who shorten their names as I have done.

Spartacus is the name given to him by Batiatus, who refuses to even hear his true name

One of the first things we learn to speak and to write, to deny a person their name is to deny them their identity. This can be done by giving them a new name and refusing to acknowledge their true/preferred name (as seen in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, left), using the wrong version of the right name or even, as seen in the prison systems of yore, by ascribing them a number and addressing them by it without exception.

I recently moved to a new city and got a new job which involves me working in any one of 22 different places, in which there are dozens of new people, about three of whom have grasped my name. It’s Geo. It’s not that difficult to grasp. It’s as short as you can get Georgina without just addressing me as “G”. Despite this I have thus far been (and continue to be) referred to as any one of the following:

Georgia, Georgie, George, Cleo, Chloe, Joey, Jojo and yesterday I was even addressed as Shelley. Add to this the painfully inaccurate spellings of any of the above that I have seen (e.g. Gorja, and Gorga) and I am left feeling like the guy from Scrubs:

 

Helloooo, identity crisis.

I’d sign off, but I’m not sure who I am today. Could be Shelley.

Happy New Year to whoever you are, from whoever I am

;):-

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Genderqueer – gender outside of the binary


biological sex: male

Browsing one site a while ago I came across an interesting term, genderqueer. Implicitly the meaning of this is obvious, but it doesn’t do to assume when an article hinges on the term in question, so I looked it up. What am I talking about? Well…

biological sex: female

intergender

bigendered

ambigender

intergender

non-gendered

androgyne

third gendered

gender-fluid

transgendered

genderfuck

All these terms, according to Wiki, basically mean the same thing, i.e.people who do not define themselves in alignment to the ‘traditional’ or sociotypical binary gender identities allocated by biological sex:

Gender identity (otherwise known as core gender identity) is the gender(s), or lack thereof, a person self-identifies as. It is not necessarily based on biological sex, either real or perceived, nor is it always based on sexual orientation. The gender identities one may identify as include male, female, both, somewhere in between (“third gender“), or neither.

Some genderqueer people see their identity as one of many possible genders other than man or woman, while others see “genderqueer” as an umbrella term that encompasses all of those possible genders. Still others see “genderqueer” as a third gender to complement the traditional two, while others identify as genderless or agender. The term “genderqueer” can also be used as an adjective to refer to any people who transgress distinctions of gender, regardless of their self-defined gender identity.

Polygender describes it this way:

What does it mean to be polygendered?

Polygendered people are transgendered. Transgendered people are defined by TGS-PFLAG as “individuals of any age or sex who manifest characteristics, behaviors or self-expression, which in their own or someone else’s perception, is typical of or commonly associated with persons of another gender. ” Among transgendered people, there are transsexuals (who get sex-change operations), non-op transsexuals (who fulfill all the steps of a sex-change except for the genital operation), drag kings and queens (who dress as the “opposite” sex for performances) and transvestites (who do so all the time). And then there are us, the less well-known transgender folks. We are people who identify as bi-gendered, non-gendered, or third-gendered. We may feel we belong to more than one gender, that we have no gender at all, or that we are our own gender, something neither male nor female.

I should mention at this point that these terms are not to be confused with or substituted for intersex people, pomosexuals, or guydykes and girlfags, which are a whole other kettle of fish that I am so not getting into right now.

So why bring all this up? Well because it’s salient (to me at least), it’s interesting and it’s a sign of our times. The diversity and complexity of our society, the blurring of lines. It gives me hope. Binary is boring, restrictive and oppressive. If I go to a formal occasion, e.g. a wedding/funeral/interview, I wear a suit. That’s what I feel appropriate wearing for those occasions. I do not, even for a moment, consider wearing a dress/skirt and a pair of heels. Why? Because it’s unnatural (for me, yes, it is). So why should I get disparaging looks because I don’t fit into some age-old patriarchal dichotomy? I look forward to a time when gender-fluidity is known beyond just the catwalks and crude stereotypes of gay people. Acceptance of difference and variation could be the glue that binds us as a species — if we can just get over our social conditioning first.

Yours,

Anti-Barbie ;):-

***

Sites for and about genderqueer people:

Genderqueer – beyond the binaries

Genderfork – beauty in ambiguity

Below the Belt – deconstructing gender

Polygender and Transgender information

United Genders of the Universe

Does accent matter? [short version]


Martha’s Vineyard

The question [does accent matter?] can be taken in a number of different ways:

  • Who does it matter to; the listener or the speaker?
  • Does it have an impact on the intelligibility of the message?
  • Does it have an impact on the perceived credence or status of the speaker?

This essay, citing an international study from New Zealand and inter-regional studies from America and Italy, will conclude that across the world, accent —or the sociolinguistic cues imbued in them—does matter.

First then, does accent matter to the listener only or also to the speaker? Labov [1963] and more recently Cavanaugh [2003] have clearly demonstrated that it matters a great deal to both.

Cavanaugh’s study enlarging on Goffman [1974], conceived of accents ‘as the phonological representations of sociogeographical characterological figures’ [p.127] According to Cavanaugh, for all Italians, accent is very important because they perceive it as representing not only geography, socio-economic status and education, but also such things as friendliness, trustworthiness and authoritativeness [Galli de’ Paratesi, 1997, 1985, cited in Cavanaugh, p.133].

Vornik, Sharman and Garry did an experiment in New Zealand to see if the accent of people supplying post event information [PEI] would have an impact on the misinformation effect. The results showed that while accent does not per se affect the misinformation effect, it operates as ‘a vehicle for information about the power and social attractiveness of the speaker’ and this information was strong enough to influence the misinformation effect. [Vornik, Sharman and Garry, 2003, p.106].

In conclusion, does accent matter?  It has been shown on numerous occasions in the local, national and international arenas that it has a bearing on how we perceive not only others around us but also how we perceive ourselves. It is and can be used as a reflection and a projection of who we are, where we come from and of our social status —and what, should we be linguistically adept to do so, we want others to think about us— and can even infer details about our geographical landscapes as well as our sociogeographical, socio-economic cultures. We can use accents to influence the way others see and remember events and the confidence with which they make judgments when supported by the social attractiveness, power and authoritativeness of certain accents.

In short, yes, accent does matter.

The full version of this essay can be found here.

EDIT May 6th 2013: For examples of how accent if used in the media to convey different characteristics, backgrounds and classes, see the following article on Game of Thrones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “worthless” demographic: beggars, buskers, Big Issue sellers and students


I recently read an Independent article regarding the homelessness problem in Bournemouth. The article itself is dated 1994, but the issues raised in it are ever current and, according to the Council’s reports, on the rise. The article, however, is written in a biased and inflammatory manner and carefully omits certain things. For example, when describing the increased incidence of hotels having to take in people receiving social security and housing benefits, the article doesn’t elaborate on the two such hotel guests who didn’t live like pigs or become violent,

Former guesthouse landlady Janet: ‘I was facing having the place repossessed. I took in four, just to tide me over. Two of them lived like pigs, not like people. The place was filthy, windows and furniture were broken. They were always drunk. Then they stopped paying regularly. I went in to get my money and one of them just hit me across the face. I had to call the police to get them out.’

Yet the article does include the vitriolic bile of people who choose to throw university students in with smack addicts as a demographic.

‘We don’t want any of them,’ said one tight-lipped elderly resident. ‘Not the scroungers, and not the students – they’ll only go on the dole themselves when they finish their courses. Bournemouth is marvellous – but it needs to be saved from all these layabouts.’

Not all students are lazy, nor are all homeless people scroungers. This particular tight-lipped elderly resident may speak for many, but certainly not for everyone. By the same token it could be said that all elderly people are crabby, pessimistic, resistant to change, hating of young people and ensnared in the haze of bygone ‘golden years’. Also not true.

Golden years are those in the past that people prefer to see through rose-tinted glasses, not that were particularly any better as a matter of fact, e.g. Jack the Ripper was murdering people when the streets were still lit by gas lamps and the first half of the 20th century was riddled with wars. Yet these eras were no doubt viewed by many nostalgics as ‘golden days’.

It’s a mater of perception. Mine is that there were/are no golden days, only recollections with the gristle and grime omitted or the viewpoints of sheltered, cotton wool-wrapped individuals who haven’t seen enough of the real world to be able to offer a balanced view.

But I digress…

The point is: do the exceptions prove the rule when it comes to lazy students and drug-taking homeless people?

The following is a truncated version of a feature article I wrote for my degree concerning homelessness [‘lazy’ students is another issue].

###

Thirteen years ago I held a steak-knife to a man’s throat. I told him to leave me alone to sleep. Needless to say, he wasn’t impressed, but neither was I. He had somewhere to stay. It was nearly October, it was cold and I was about to sleep on the beach. I had a car blanket, he’d had other ideas. He left issuing threats, but fortunately I didn’t see him again.

There are many myths and assumptions regarding homeless people, some of which possess an element of truth and others that do not. I spoke to Jo, Dave and Pepsi about their experiences of homelessness and it is their words with which I hope to elucidate some of the notions surrounding what is becoming an ever more prevalent aspect of life in ‘sunny’ Bournemouth.

Myth 1: Homeless people will disappear if you ignore them

People avoid the homeless for several reasons, such as them being ‘dirty’ or wariness of ‘catching something ‘. It is possible to be clean when homeless, but it’s a catch-22 situation. The public expects a certain appearance of homeless people, otherwise they question or disbelieve that they are homeless at all. Being unwashed, unshaven and wearing stereotypically travelleresque garb is part of this expected image. Clean shirts and white trainers are a no-no. The worse I dressed, the more (Big) Issues I sold and I know others, including Jo, Dave and Pepsi, have found the same. The public wants scruff, but when it gets it, it recoils.

Myth 2: All homeless people are junkies, crack addicts or alcoholics

Some of the homeless who are addicted to hard drugs such as heroin, crack and alcohol often seem ‘out of it’, are ruder, pushier and sometimes abusive when asking for money. It is this kind of behaviour that gets noticed, not the quiet, polite people just trying to scrape their next meal together. This behaviour doesn’t just extend to the public either. There’s a rule on the street: Don’t beg off a beggar. It’s etiquette. The few people that breach it tend to be the ones who are quite far along the path of addiction. It’s important to point out that —though there are an awful lot of addicts who are homeless— many homeless people do not even use drugs. moreover, stereotyping to the contrary leads to a lot of negative and abusive behaviour towards them.

Myth 3: It’s their own fault homeless people are on the street

This blanket assumption is what psychologists call the Fundamental Attribution Error, which, put simply, means that we attribute our own errors to external factors others’ errors to internal factors. It’s never our fault, but it is theirs.

Granted, with some people it is; for Jo her relationship with her parents became irreconcilable as a result of “teenage stupidity and stubbornness” and there are people who get into drugs and lose their homes for not paying the rent, but since the recession —and before that when industrial and unskilled work started being outsourced abroad—  jobs have been evaporating. [Not to mention the people whose home life is abusive and they have no where left to turn]. This leads to a vicious circle: no job = no address, no address = no job. It’s worth remembering that next time you hear someone shout ‘get a job’ at busker, beggar or Big Issue seller.

This is another point of contention. Selling the Big Issue is not begging. A product, bought at wholesale price, is being retailed. There is an exchange. Indeed, standing on the high street prey to people’s contemptuous, pitying looks and occasional abuse is not an easy job. Being a Big Issue seller can make you a sitting duck. They know where to find you and they know that no one is going to come looking for you. The murder of Westbourne vendor Ralph Millward last year is testament to that.

Some people, however, choose homelessness. Pepsi and her boyfriend have been vending the Issue for a couple of years in Bournemouth centre. She said, “I did get a flat a while ago, but I felt trapped in, so I left. I like the open air and I earn my own way selling this so I don’t see the problem.” Life on the street is different for everyone, it can be both unbearable and enjoyable and often alternates between the two.

Myth 4: Homeless people are lost causes

Sometimes this is true. A man on the street at the same time as me, Zeb, had collapsed most of the veins in his body through injecting heroin into them and had resorted to his jugular, which is, in the long-term, fatal. Zeb hasn’t been seen for years, but his companion has. Thirteen years later he is still begging, still lying and still hooked.

But it doesn’t always have to be that way, not for everyone. I was on the street for eight months, Jo for six. I built a career in retail before going to university, Jo has been a happy employee of the post office depot for nine years. A man I knew, Mac, was on the street for years selling the Issue between Bournemouth and Ebbw Vale (in Wales) and is now the manager of a fishing shop. There are success stories from the street.

ID cards, privacy & hope for a UK Bill of Rights


The increase in surveillance of the British public has long been on the up, but a new state of the nation poll (reported in the Guardian) shows that the country has hit its tipping point.

One such aspect that has come under public scrutiny is the ID card. In July 2009, the home secretary, Alan Johnson, said the card were a ‘no brainer. They would allow easy travel between EU countries— passport free, only terrorists wouldn’t have them, and so on.

“The identity card is a safe, secure and simple way for people to protect and prove their identity and to travel around Europe but leave their passport at home,” he said. “Given the growing problem of ID fraud and the inconvenience of having to carry passports coupled with gas bills or six months worth of bank statements to prove identity, I believe the ID card will be welcomed as an important addition to the many plastic cards that most people already carry.”

And then a UK newspaper hired a hacker to test the ‘unhackable’ cards out. With a phone and a laptop, the card was hacked in minutes and cloned, with new information put on it. Not so fraud-resistant after all. Besides which, even if they were, it only takes one corrupt/breakable/bribable individual on the inside to screw the whole system. On the surface a good, all-inclusive, ‘no sensitive info‘, easy idea. On the inside, deeply flawed and unlikely to go down well in a country where trust in the government is at best tenuous.

The last state of the nation poll showed only 33% of people opposing ID cards. Now 53% perceive them to be a [very/]bad and 63% of people– up from 53% – worry about the government holding information on them.

The state of the nation poll shows the rights that the sample believed should be included in a Bill of Rights:

81% – the right to know what information government departments hold on you

79% – the right to privacy in your phone, mail and email communications

76% – the right to join a legal strike without losing your job

75% – the right to obtain information from government bodies about their activities

72% – and the right to free and peaceful assembly.

Which just goes to show that the UK still wants to be a free society.

This information was released by Power 2010, which asked the public to choose its top five priorities for political reform, the poll revealed that

80% agreed with the need for a bill of rights, 52% strongly.

The British public seems to be rejecting the idea of massive centralised power over which they have no control.

56% thought government power was too centralised, with

88% saying that local communities should have more say over decisions that affect them.

And that’s what democracy is all about… Right?

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