Feminist Economics Syllabus

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A brilliant resource from the Lady Economists blog. It can seem hard to find alternative perspectives in economics (although there are many if you look closely…) and so here’s a whole list on feminist economics.

Lady Economist

16501553-abstract-word-cloud-for-feminist-economics-with-related-tags-and-terms Feminist economics is a thing, which some non-economists are incredulous about when I tell them that is what I do. I’ve written about it a little bit on Lady Economist, but it’s always worth expanding on. Many economists might also write it off as fringe or not serious enough, but this is a whole other can of worms. When I describe it to people, I usually say that it is twofold. First, feminist economics seeks to understand the way in which gender shapes the economy and people’s economic experiences. A classic example of this would be the study of the gender wage gap . And second, feminist economics also explores the way in which gendered thinking influences the study and methodology of economics itself. Economics tends to be very masculine, not only the proportion of men in the field , but also in the way “good” economic theory is judged…

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ICYMI, #economicviolence

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Last Friday, the complicated term #economicviolence began trending on Twitter in the U.S. after Andy Smith, Suey Park, and Prison Culture initiated a tweet chat. People shared personal experiences, and the statistics that represent those stories in aggregate.

Of course, before long, tweets along the lines of “get a job,” and “get a dictionary” began to appear. Accordingly, as my job is to deal with the issues and ideas of economic violence, I want to discuss a few definitions. (And that’s not to say others aren’t already articulating these ideas well. I just hope to add to the chorus.)

Violence is a notoriously difficult thing to define. It seems straightforward at first – we can all immediately picture a fight, a war, murder, or rape.

And yet there is a lot of harm and pain in the world that is seemingly difficult to classify. For example, too many of us are familiar with the way language can be violent, even in the absence of physical contact between two people. Whether property damage is violence is a classic question, especially among activists.

There is also a great deal of clearly preventable injury and death that does not appear to come directly from an individual – the death of a child from hunger or from a disease easily cured in a richer part of the world; the illness suffered by a homeless person in a city full of vacant and foreclosed homes.

Or there is clear violence, but from an amorphous source, such as war waged by The United States. (Who, exactly, is The United States?)

And for all forms of harm – either directly inflicted or of a source more difficult to identify – there are the cultural norms that make us comfortable with its use. We may believe capital punishment or a “just” war are necessary evils, but they are violent nonetheless.

These different kinds of harm are known as direct violence, structural violence, and cultural violence.

Direct violence refers to observable incidences of self-directed, interpersonal, or collective violence, including physical, verbal, or psychological acts and acts that inhibit or insult our basic needs and/or physical persons.

Structural violence refers to the systemic ways in which a given social structure or social institution harms people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.

And cultural violence is the ways in which aspects of our culture – art, media, political and economic narratives – legitimize the use of direct and structural violence.

Economic violence can be, and is, all three.

On paper, we’ve changed the rules (in the U.S.) so that neither direct nor structural economic violence should remain. Women and Americans of color – responsible for the vast majority of the unpaid and underpaid labor that made the wealth of white men possible over the course of several centuries – are now legally allowed to participate in the economic rule making (via voting) and cannot be officially barred from the spaces of power and privilege (university classes, board rooms, golf courses, etc.). But as groups, we  still work from a structural disadvantage.

Personally, my family’s story looks like the American dream. You could attribute the lack of harm, illness, and injury in my life to my hard work and that of my parents and grandparents. But my race, citizenship, and class privilege have meant I’ve had help: I’ve gotten a loan when I needed it, been given the benefit of the doubt in a court room, been able to take unpaid internships, and have had access to professional networks that I did not build. It is a fact that not all Americans can say the same, and that they do experience harm and hardship in their lives because our culture and social structure do not make these benefits available to all.

In the post-financial crisis economy, the difference between economic privilege and not is homelessness, hunger, imprisonment, illness, and increased exposure to direct violence. Economic privilege affords safety: safe working conditions, safe neighborhoods, cab rides late at night, somewhere to go for help, and the assumption of legitimacy when we need to call on police.

Violence is a complicated element of humanity, and the injury or harm one person experiences may not look like direct violence at the individual level. But when we step back, for a broad view of the structure and the culture, and we see that the same harm is repeatedly inflicted upon individuals from the same groups, it becomes clear that violence is in fact taking place. In part, we find it to be violence because our culture and social structure are our own creation. We make the rules, and we can make them differently.

Predictably, it didn’t take long for the #economicviolence hashtag to fill with anger (and misconceptions) about communism and socialism. I’m partially motivated to present this larger framework around economic violence because I think that responding to a concern about harm inflicted upon people by the current economic system with hyperbole about alternative economic structures really misses the point.

Shortly before Howard Zinn passed away, I was fortunate enough to hear him speak. He shared that, in his experience, when the average person is asked if everyone should have access to health care and education, they say yes. When asked if the poor should be provided with homes or if corporations should be given the opportunity to build high rises and earn more profits, people say that the poor should be given homes. He gave several examples and concluded by noting that we may call these things socialism, but by and large, when asked about the realities without the vocabulary, this economy that provides for all is the one we want to live in.

I am not aware of anyone in the United States advocating for a USSR-style centrally planned economy – that the government should tell us how many shoes and light bulbs and toilets will be produced and when and where and by whom. Where the market works, we’re happy to work it. But the economy is our own creation, and if we seek to create it in a nonviolent way that reduces harms and supports the health and happiness of our neighbors, that isn’t something to argue about. That’s something to build together.

We know they don’t always, but this is

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We know they don’t always, but this is how police SHOULD deal w #streetharassment http://ow.ly/rDndA Hold your dept accountable #SSHLaws

But Look What She Was Wearing! (The problem with anti-rape underwear.)

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Perhaps you’ve heard: a company called AR Wear (anti-rape wear) is crowdfunding to release a line of underwear, running shorts, and “traveling pants,” designed to “frustrate an attack” and prevent rape. It’s structurally reinforced underwear with a combination lock that only you (and therefore not a rapist) can take off. Continue reading

Brooklyn: Share Your Street Harassment Stories

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Brooklyn: Share Your Street Harassment Stories

Catcalls, whistles, “hey baby” – it’s not a compliment, it’s street harassment. And if you’re a woman in New York City, it’s probably happened to you.

It’s annoying to be told to “smile!” because men on the street are not entitled to our attention. It’s frightening when ignoring that “hey mama….” turns to “bitch! I’m talking to you!” and a man following you down the street… And it all amounts to a constant reminder that our bodies are not considered our own. Whistles and yells are the least of it when we carry the fear that it could be so much worse.

If this sounds familiar to you, now there’s something you can do about it. Women and men around the world are organizing to end end gender-based harassment, and we’re doing it with humor, art, music, film, activism, and safe spaces.

Stop Street Harassment is part of this global movement, and on Saturday, July 13 we’re collecting stories from Brooklyn and NYC. If you live in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn or identify as a queer woman of color, come share your stories of street harassment in one of two discussion groups. Your experiences will help Stop Street Harassment and the Harlow Project in our work to make public spaces safe for everyone.  But more importantly, sharing your story in a safe space can take the edge off the fear, help you heal, and remind you that it’s not your fault.

Discussion Group 1:

Community members of the Bed-Stuy Neighborhood area are invited to share their experiences and stories with street harassment in the area, 12 – 1 p.m. EST.

Discussion Group 2:

Queer women of color from anywhere in the New York City region are invited to talk about their experiences and stories with street harassment. 2-3 p.m. EST.

Both discussions will take place at the Brooklyn Movement Center, 375 Stuyvesant Ave  Brooklyn, NY.

Click through for more details. And we look forward to hearing from you on Saturday!

What does Feminism mean to you?

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Can you take a second to share?

Whether you are or aren’t a Feminist, you probably have some thoughts on the subject.

A colleague is running a very informal survey on what Feminism means for different people. I helped her create a quick Google form, and now we’re asking people to define Feminism in their own words.

Do that here: https://docs.google.com/a/nyu.edu/forms/d/1JImR1AYdmtAPaoNnVu7fQzNwoPjL_0nzNJ0Y0YIsEEA/viewform

Thanks!

Survey responses are completely anonymous.

You’re A Woman & An Expert – I Need 5 Minutes, Please

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I just sent the below email, with this post’s title as the subject, to the women I’m close to. But I thought others might like it too. Send this to an expert you know.

Women are roughly 50% of the world’s population, but a vast minority of the voices in one of today’s greatest collections of knowledge: Wikipedia. Experts estimate the same is true of people of color and other marginalized groups.

You are an expert in something. Today, March 15th, is a feminist & POC edit-a-thon.

Check it out here on Al-Jazeera, or head straight to Wikipedia. Pick something you know & find it’s page. Where there’s something you can add, or correct or improve, click edit and share it with us. It’s easy. Women everywhere will be sharing what we know and adding to the world’s knowledge.

Please & thank you.

Señora Paloma was an expert on socialist revolution in México. 2 September 2012.

Señora Paloma was an expert on socialist revolution in México. 2 September 2012.

Follow the edit-a-thon on Twitter with the hashtag #toofew

Get started in the Teahouse – “A friendly place to help new editors become accustomed to Wikipedia culture, ask questions, and develop community relationships.”

Or go to straight to a page you know & like! I think I’ll work on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_economics later today. All the important people listed there are men!