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Weekly Job Roundup

Disclaimer: None of the jobs in these round-ups are endorsed by anyone at FWD. We can’t answer any questions about them.

United States:

The Perkins Institute for the Blind has a list of job opportunities. The ones that specifically came to my attention were Director, Perkins International Program and Director of International Resource Development.

Hungary:

MDAC is searching for a Legal Officer to develop cases for submission to domestic courts, the European Court of Human Rights and other human rights mechanisms. The Legal Officer will work in close collaboration with the legal as well as policy and advocacy staff, liaise with lawyers and NGOs, carry out legal research and draft cases under the guidance of the Litigation Director. The post is based at the MDAC headquarters in Budapest, Hungary.

Essential qualifications and experience include a university degree in law from a Member State of the Council of Europe and minimum two years of work experience conducting human rights litigation or advising and advocating on behalf of clients regarding issues related to disability or human rights.

The ideal candidate must have excellent legal English language skills and the highest commitment to MDAC’s mission, vision and organisational values. More Information.

Deadline is September 3, 2010.

Buenos Aires:

There is an immediate opening for a full-time position of Latin America Regional Officer for the Disability Rights Promotion International (D.R.P.I.) project.

D.R.P.I. is a collaborative project working to establish a holistic and sustainable global system to monitor the human rights of people with disabilities. D.R.P.I.’s International Coordination Centre is based at York University in Toronto, Canada. In collaboration with Red Latinoamericana de Organizaciones No Gubernatmentales de Personas con Discapacidad y sus Familias (R.I.A.D.I.S.) and its Argentina member organization, Disability Rights Network (R.E.D.I.), D.R.P.I. is establishing a Regional Centre for Latin America in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Latin America Regional Officer will work from the Buenos Aires office, Monday to Friday, 10am-6pm.

The D.R.P.I. project is guided by the principle that people with all types of disabilities and their representative organizations should be actively involved in all aspects of disability rights monitoring. D.R.P.I. adopts a holistic approach to monitoring disability rights, focusing on three inter-related areas: individual experiences (gathering information about the personal experiences of people with disabilities), systems (assessing laws, policies and programs impacting the rights of people with disabilities) and societal attitudes (examining the coverage and depiction of disability in the media). Further information may be found on the project website at http://www.yorku.ca/drpi/.

Dr. Bengt Lindqvist (UN Special Rapporteur on Disability 1994-2002) and Dr. Marcia Rioux, Professor, School of Health Policy and Management, M.A. and Ph.D. (Critical Disability Studies), York University co-direct the project.

Duties:

The position will involve working under the direction of D.R.P.I.’s Co-Directors and with the co-supervision of R.E.D.I. to:

* Collaboration with the D.R.P.I. Coordinator and other researchers
* Coordinate a regional disability rights monitoring training including the logistics of organizing the venue; participant travel, board and lodging; printing of materials, etc.;
* Plan and supervise disability rights monitoring projects;
* Liaise with D.R.P.I. project personnel and partners;
* Seek funding opportunities for disability rights monitoring activities;
* Assist national and local organizations of people with disabilities to apply for and secure funding;
* Offer support to disability rights monitoring activities taking place in Latin America;
* Develop and foster partnerships between and among disability rights and human rights organizations in Latin America;
* Assist with the preparation of reports to funding bodies and international and regional human rights monitoring mechanisms;
* Raise awareness of disability rights monitoring activities taking place in Latin America (by, for example, coordinating media campaigns, writing content for the D.R.P.I. website and list serv, attending and presenting at relevant meetings, etc.)
* Maintain accurate accounts of funding and provide periodic reports to D.R.P.I.,
* Other tasks, as required by the D.R.P.I. Co-Directors or their designate.

Qualifications:

Required:

1. Experience in project administration and management, organizing events and writing funding proposals;
2. Experience contributing to effective communication strategies including newsletters, reports, websites, etc;
3. Excellent oral and written communication skills in Spanish;
4. Able to communicate in English effectively.
5. Understanding of human rights and of disability as a human rights issue; and
6. Willing to travel.

Preferred:

1. A university degree in the area of law, social sciences or other related discipline.
2. Personal experience of disability and/or working with people with disabilities.
3. Fluency in Portuguese is a strong asset.
4. Pan-Latin American working experience.

Salary:
Compensation will be commensurate with the qualifications and experience of the successful candidate.

Please note that it will not be possible to cover the cost of the successful candidate’s moving and/or relocation expenses.

We encourage applications from persons with disabilities, women, ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups.

Applications will be accepted until September 5, 2010.

Interested candidates should submit a cover letter and their résumé to Dr. Marcia Rioux at mrioux@yorku.ca. Please indicate “APPLICATION – LATIN AMERICA REGIONAL OFFICER” in the subject line of the email.

For further information about this posting, please contact:
Dr. Marcia Rioux
Disability Rights Promotion International (D.R.P.I.)
York University, 4700 Keele St., Suite 5021,TEL Building, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Canada
telephone: +1 416 736 2100 extension 22112
email: mrioux@yorku.ca

By 30 August, 2010.    job roundup   



Weekly Job Roundup

Canada:

(This one came over an email list I’m on specifically looking for people with disabilities or ties to the disability community.)

In this newly created position, Flight Centre Accessible Travel is seeking an ambitious Business Development Manager to join their dedicated team in Vancouver.

In this unique role, the successful candidate will use their sales expertise to scout new leads, develop profitable client relationships, and secure fresh business opportunities.

We are looking for an outstanding sales professional with an impressive track record of meeting their targets and winning new accounts. You will use your creative ability to think of new initiatives to make relationships and establish a presence in this undeveloped, vibrant market.

You will be regularly meeting clients in person as well as closing sales over the phone, so to achieve in the people-focused role, you will need to have confidence, charisma, and a way with words.

The ideal candidate will have several years of new business development experience, and have the experience or network of contacts within the disability sector. We encourage applicants from this industry to apply.

We are seeking an ambitious, enterprising individual who has experience in cold calling and generating their own leads. Flight Centre is looking for a highly motivated professional with excellent communication skills that has an insatiable appetite for sales.

In addition, the candidate will need to be an effective communicator with the confidence and energy to develop a rapport with a diverse range of clients and professionals. The successful candidate will therefore require strong interpersonal skills (including skills in relationship building, negotiation and persuasion), and a strong business and commercial acumen.

Your core working hours will be from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday to Friday. However due to the nature of this role you will be expected to attend some after hours company and networking events.

For more information, see this website.

By 22 August, 2010.    job roundup   



Weekly Job Roundup

Toronto, Canada:

The School of Health Policy and Management, Faculty of Health at York University (Toronto, Canada) invites applications for a full-time tenure track position in Critical Disability Studies at the Assistant Professor level, effective January 1, 2011. For details, please refer to the job posting.

The closing date for this position is September 30, 2010.

Enquiries regarding this position are to be directed to:

Ms. Regina Pinto,
Administrative Assistant
School of Health Policy and Management
Faculty of Health
York University
Ph: 416-736-5157
E-mail: rpinto@yorku.ca

Bangkok, Thailand:

There is an immediate opening for a full-time position of Asia-Pacific Regional Officer for the Disability Rights Promotion International (D.R.P.I.) project.

D.R.P.I. is a collaborative project working to establish a holistic and
sustainable global system to monitor the human rights of people with
disabilities. D.R.P.I.’s International Coordination Centre is based at York
University in Toronto, Canada. With the support of Disabled Peoples
International – Asia-Pacific Region (D.P.I.A.P.), D.R.P.I. is establishing a
Regional Centre for Asia-Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand. The Asia-Pacific
Regional Officer will work from the Bangkok office.

The D.R.P.I. project is guided by the principle that people with all types
of disabilities and their representative organizations should be actively
involved in all aspects of disability rights monitoring. D.R.P.I. adopts a
holistic approach to monitoring disability rights, focusing on three
inter-related areas: individual experiences (gathering information about the personal experiences of people with disabilities), systems (assessing laws, policies and programs impacting the rights of people with disabilities) and societal attitudes (examining the coverage and depiction of disability in the media). Further information may be found on the project website .

Dr. Bengt Lindqvist (UN Special Rapporteur on Disability 1994-2002) and Dr.Marcia Rioux, Professor, School of Health Policy and Management, M.A. and Ph.D. (Critical Disability Studies), York University co-direct the project.

Duties:

The position will involve working under the direction of D.R.P.I.’s
Co-Directors and in collaboration with the D.R.P.I. Project Coordinator and other researchers to:

* Coordinate a regional disability rights monitoring training including
the logistics of organizing the venue; participant travel, board and
lodging; printing of materials, etc.;
* Plan and supervise disability rights monitoring projects;
* Liaise with D.R.P.I. project personnel and partners;
* Seek funding opportunities for disability rights monitoring activities;
* Assist national and local organizations of people with disabilities to
apply for and secure funding;
* Offer support to disability rights monitoring activities taking place
in Asia-Pacific;
* Develop and foster partnerships between and among disability rights and human rights organizations in Asia-Pacific;
* Assist with the preparation of reports to funding bodies and
international and regional human rights monitoring mechanisms;
* Raise awareness of disability rights monitoring activities taking place in Asia-Pacific (by, for example, coordinating media campaigns, writing content for the D.R.P.I. website and list serv, attending and presenting at relevant meetings, etc.)
* Other tasks, as required by the Co-Directors or their designate.

Qualifications:

Required:

1. Experience in project administration and management, organizing events and writing funding proposals;
2. Experience contributing to effective communication strategies including newsletters, reports, websites, etc;
3. Excellent oral and written communication skills in English.
4. Understanding of human rights and of disability as a human rights issue;
and
5. Willing to travel.

Preferred:

1. Citizen or resident of a country in the Asia-Pacific region.
2. A university degree in the area of law, social sciences or other related discipline.
3. Personal experience of disability.
4. Fluency in other languages spoken in the Asia-Pacific region is a strong asset.
5. Pan-Asia-Pacific experience.

Salary:
Compensation will be commensurate with the qualifications and experience of the successful candidate.

Please note that it will not be possible to cover the cost of the successful candidate’s moving and/or relocation expenses.

We encourage applications from persons with disabilities, women, ethnic
minorities and other marginalized groups.

Applications will be accepted until 8 September, 2010

Interested candidates should submit a cover letter and their résumé to Dr. Marcia Rioux at drpi@yorku.ca
Please indicate “APPLICATION -ASIA-PACIFIC REGIONAL OFFICER” in the subject line of the email.

For further information about this posting, please contact:

Dr. Marcia Rioux
Disability Rights Promotion International (D.R.P.I.)
York University, 4700 Keele St., Suite 5021,TEL Building, Toronto, ON M3J
1P3, Canada
telephone: +1 416 736 2100 extension 20718
email: drpi@yorku.ca

By 16 August, 2010.    job roundup   



(semi)-Weekly Job Round-up

Brussels: European Disability Forum

The European Disability Forum is looking for a dynamic policy officer with good knowledge in social, employment policies and human rights.

You are committed to a human rights and social model approach to disability, and you have an understanding of social policy in relation to disability policies. You work in both English and French. You are looking for a challenging position to improve the life of 65 million Europeans with disabilities.

This position is based in Brussels and is a unique opportunity to advocate human rights before the European institutions. The knowledge of EU policies, institutions and procedures is an asset.

Gross starting salary: 2800 E/month

Contract: One year renewable
Closing date for receipt of applications: 30 August 2010
Date of the interview: 21 September 2010
Contact: recruitment@edf-feph.org
The European Disability Forum is an equal opportunities employer and believes that its objectives will be better achieved if a significant proportion of its staff at all levels is composed of persons with disabilities.

Location: Belgrade

Seeking Applications for Eastern Europe Regional Officer position – Belgrade, Serbia

Disability Rights Promotion International (D.R.P.I.) is establishing its Eastern Europe Regional Centre in Belgrade, Serbia, in partnership with Centre for Society Orientation – COD and Autism Society of Serbia.

There is an immediate opening for the full-time position of Eastern Europe Regional Officer working from the Eastern Europe Regional Centre in Belgrade. Please see the attached posting for details about the position and the application process. Applications will be received until August 25, 2010.

Please share this information with your networks.
Contact:
Disability Rights Promotion International (DRPI)
York University, 5021 TEL
4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M3J 1P3
tel: 416-736-2100 ext. 20718 fax: 416-736-5986
e-mail: drpi@yorku.ca
web site: DRPI

By 10 August, 2010.    job roundup   



Fabulousness From the Comments

It has been entirely too long since we featured some awesome comments, and we have gotten some really good ones lately, so without further ado:

AWV, on ‘Ableist Word Profile: Special‘:

[snipped for brevity]

In general, I guess I don’t get why we can’t just say disability. Like, why can’t special education just be called education for students with disabilities? Why do we need to use a euphemism?

I feel like it’s good to use the word disability because when you just talk about something openly and straightforwardly, it’s harder for people to say and do messed-up things. I feel like the word disability politicizes things, for one thing. “Special education” is education for a particular population of students who are part of an oppressed minority group. They deserve equal treatment. It’s not cute rainbow unicorn education. It’s education for disabled students.

RT, on ‘Today In Journalism: Do You  Feel Special? Well? Do You?!‘:

“Imagine for a moment….” those are words to loathe. One cannot imagine the depth and scope of what living with a disability is until one becomes a disabled person, and even then it is hard to imagine living with disabilities you don’t have.

People need to get it in their heads that they don’t need to imagine what it is like to be disabled. They need to pay attention to what a disabled person might tell them about the world that they live in and respect us as fully human as they.

Jack, on ‘Yes, I have a limp, and no, it’s not really any of your business‘:

And the thing is, when you get inappropriately nosy in return, they take offence. (I’ve tried it for fun.)

I’ve started telling people really random stories – attacked by a swan, bronco-riding, that kind of thing – until they give up asking. This has lead to other disabled people getting huffy about how I’m making them look rude, but frankly, no-one’s paying me to represent disabled people as a group.

The “You’re [insert really obvious thing]!” always baffles me. Happened when I dyed my hair blue – what, they think someone dyed me in my sleep? Happened when I started using a cane full-time – apparently, I didn’t notice myself getting out my debit card, polling my friends to help me pick between a couple of good ones, and waiting for the delivery guy to arrive. Or, you know, the fact I was carting around just shy of three feet of wood in my left hand. You’d think a person might notice that.

Rebecca, on ‘On Cure Evangelism‘:

A few weeks ago I filled in a survey online and one of the questions was ‘Do you suffer from obesity?’. Now, I am a fat woman, I’m deathfatz in fact, but I ticked no. I don’t suffer from it, see. I do quite well and exist quite happily in my fat body. I had a little giggle to myself because of that.

By 10 July, 2010.    From the comments   



Once-a-week Job Search Roundup

Here’s a list of potential jobs that explicitly seek people with disabilities/disabled people, or are explicitly invited to apply, that have come across my desk this week.

Please note: I have no knowledge of these jobs, don’t endorse them, and can tell you nothing about them.

United States: Jobs for College Grads with Disabilities is a portal site for job seekers in the US.

Uganda: Handicap International is looking for a Victim Assistance Technical Advisor in Uganda (As of today it is the final job offer listed on the site):

HI is currently assisting the Ugandan authorities to prevent disability from contamination of ERW, protect most at risk groups until clearance and return is possible, and contribute to victim assistance in Western Uganda.

Based in Kampala, Uganda, with regular visits to western and northern regions, and under the supervision of the Head of Mission, the Victim Assistance (VA) Technical Advisor is responsible for supporting the Uganda Mine Action Centre (UMAC), the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MoGLSD), the Ministry of Health (MoH) and other relevant national stakeholders in the development of the below-mentioned activities.

PDF Link: There is an immediate opening for a full-time position of African Regional Officer for the Disability Rights Promotion International (D.R.P.I.) project. [Alternate Link]

The position will involve working under the direction of D.R.P.I.’s Co-Directors and in collaboration with the D.R.P.I. Project Coordinator and other researchers to:

* Coordinate a regional disability rights monitoring training including the logistics of organizing the venue; participant travel, board and lodging; printing of materials, etc.;
* Plan and supervise disability rights monitoring projects;
* Liaise with D.R.P.I. project personnel and partners;
* Seek funding opportunities for disability rights monitoring activities;
* Assist national and local organizations of people with disabilities to apply for and secure funding;
* Offer support to disability rights monitoring activities taking place in Africa;
* Develop and foster partnerships between and among disability rights and human rights organizations in Africa;
* Assist with the preparation of reports to funding bodies and international and regional human rights monitoring mechanisms;
* Raise awareness of disability rights monitoring activities taking place in Africa (by, for example, coordinating media campaigns, writing content for the D.R.P.I. website and list serv, attending and presenting at relevant meetings, etc.)
* Other tasks, as required by the Co-Directors or their designate.

If you know jobs that should be included in this round-up, please email us at admin at disabledfeminists dot com.

By 28 June, 2010.    job roundup   



Once-a-Week Job Search Roundup

Here’s a list of potential jobs that explicitly seek people with disabilities/disabled people, or are explicitly invited to apply, that have come across my desk this week.

Please note: I have no knowledge of these jobs, don’t endorse them, and can tell you nothing about them.

European Network on Independent Living (Policy) Intern Dublin, Ireland: “In conjunction with the support offered to ENIL by the intern, the primary purpose of the Policy Internship is to give applicants an opportunity to learn about equality, community development, programs, policies, and practices first-hand. By the end of the internship, the intern will have been supported to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to work in and contribute to the community/voluntary sector in the future.”

Support to the Disability and Rehabilitation Department of the Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan “To support the MoPH in its stewardship role of fostering policies and strategies for equal opportunities and full participation of children, women and men with disabilities in the process of the reconstruction of Afghanistan.”

If you know jobs that should be included in this round-up, please email us at admin at disabledfeminists dot com.

By 21 June, 2010.    job roundup   



What’s the Big Deal With Pop Culture? (And Why Do You Keep Talking About it?)

Content note: This post is the result of a collaboration between a group of FWD contributors, abby jean, Annaham, Anna, and s.e. smith, which is why it is credited to ‘Staff.’ This is part two in a two part series.

What happens when you, as a blogger, delve into pop culture? A lot of unpleasant things, as it turns out.

Annaham got rape threats. s.e. has been called a ‘stupid fat bitch’ for daring to critique Joss Whedon (‘rarely has one person gotten something so wrong, so verbosely’ is s.e.’s current favourite review from a fellow Whedon fan). Anna’s received anonymous comments calling her r#tarded.

Such intense levels of vitriol obviously come from a very personal place. What’s curious is that while the critique also comes from a personal place, it’s not an attack on people—the fans or those who create pop culture. It’s a discussion of structures and tropes, a conversation about narratives, which is read by people who don’t agree as an attack levied at them personally. Some of these people seem to feel that they need to defend the creators of pop culture from the mean disabled feminists, while others seem to genuinely feel that they are being accused of being bad people for missing the problematic aspects of the work they enjoy so much, or choosing to like work even though it has problematic components—so they lash out.

Often, this is done with ‘it’s just pop culture’ and ‘you are reading too much into it‘ and ‘why can’t you just relax and enjoy it’ and ‘you’re just looking for something to get offended about’ and ‘you’re thinking too much‘ and ‘watch your tone‘ and, of course, the ‘I disagree with your reading, so obviously you are wrong’ arguments. These arguments act to trivialise pop culture itself, ignoring the profound impact pop culture has on society, and to silence the critic. Some people seem to want to have it both ways and simultaneously insist that pop culture has a profound impact on society while dismissing critiques based on pop culture’s social impact; they want us to celebrate ‘feminist auteurs,’ for example, without ever talking about the things those people do which are not feminist, or the fact that they can’t even be bothered to create a main character who identifies as feminist.

This is also paired with ‘don’t you have more important things to do?’ Because, obviously, you can only do one thing or explore one set of issues at once. So while you’re writing that post about Glee in California, disabled children are being tipped from wheelchairs in Berlin, and you are somehow personally responsible for that. Why aren’t you writing about that? Don’t you have something more important to do?

Because this argument comes up so much, it’s worth briefly addressing. Starting with here at FWD, where you can see numerous examples of other things we write about and have written about. And on our personal websites, where we write about much more. And in our personal lives, off the Internet, where we are engaged in all sorts of activities, a lot of which you don’t read about because we don’t write about everything we do. So, if the question is ‘don’t you have something more important to do,’ maybe you should check and see if your target is doing anything else first.

For those who manage not to tell us that we have something more important to do, there’s the ‘well why are you upset about this, and not that?’ argument. We’ve noted that some folks who stop in on a drive-by because we’ve attacked their favourite pop culture icon seem to have trouble grasping the fact that we have site archives. When a particularly controversial pop culture post goes up, people demand to know why we haven’t written about [this] or [that]. Often, we have and it’s in our archives, it’s on one of our personal sites, or it’s on another site we’ve written for. Sometimes we even link to it in the very post under discussion!

We are simultaneously expected to address every single instance of pop culture ever, while also doing more important things, while also not writing about pop culture at all ever because it’s just pop culture why do you have to go dragging your FEMINISM into it, while also being reminded that if we don’t like every single aspect of something we just shouldn’t watch it or engage with it (because why would you be so ANGRY about it if you liked it?!), while also just shutting up really because no one likes to hear us talk or cares about what we have to say.

Pop culture writing is accessible because there’s a common frame of reference. Structural critiques appear to be less so because that frame of reference is not present. Yet, it goes beyond this. Discussions about issues like disability, race, and gender in pop culture sometimes evoke very violent responses, including concerted attempts to drive the critiquer off the Internet. Sometimes even the creators of the pop culture become involved in the attack, raising some serious questions about power dynamics. When a noted and well-loved artist is encouraging fans to attack someone, how can that person, lacking a dedicated fan base of thousands, hope to respond?

The question is, why does pop culture get all the attention? How come no one leaps forward to defend the government of California when abby jean criticises the administration of In Home Support Services? Why is it that Anna’s posts about accessibility issues at universities are not read as personal attacks on those institutions? When s.e. writes about occupational health and safety, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of outrage about workers who are injured, disabled, and killed on the job. Annaham’s discussion of sit/lie laws in San Francisco didn’t attract enraged San Franciscans to FWD. Yet, all of these posts were about very important social and policy issues.

Why is it that many of the detailed and highly focused structural critiques we do are ignored in favour of pop culture posts? A post with a promotional still from Glee will get far more attention than a heavily researched and sourced post on disability in Haiti. Both posts are important and both posts serve a function, but people only choose to engage with one.

Is it just that people feel more comfortable in the pop culture zone than anywhere else, and that they feel personally about the critiques they encounter? And that structural things can be abstracted, so criticizing structural issues is not read in the same way that critiquing pop culture is? Or are they bothered about the critiquer coming in to ruin their fun?

Racialicious recently put up a post discussing some of the challenges involved in curating a space specifically for people of colour to discuss race and pop culture. The pushback we experience as people with disabilities talking about pop culture is similar to that documented in the Racialicious post; some people really do not like to see people critiquing pop culture from a social justice perspective and carving out spaces to do that. People don’t just feel challenged by such critiques, they feel personally threatened by them and they resist the very idea of spaces dedicated to these kinds of discussions.

FWD isn’t a pop culture blog, although we do discuss pop culture frequently. And it’s the pop culture which attracts the most attention, the most outrage, and the most ire, so it’s not surprising that people sometimes think we are a pop culture site. It’s the pop culture which sometimes makes some of us want to turn comments off and hide on a remote island somewhere far, far away.

But it’s also the pop culture which serves as an introduction to social justice issues for so many people. People who feel like they ‘aren’t qualified’ to understand structural critiques or who think that they need to read a bookshelf worth of theory to talk about feminism can and do engage with pop culture discussions and not a week goes by that one of us doesn’t get at least one email from someone reading along the lines of: ‘I never thought about this issue until you brought it up in the context of [show] and now I’m really interested and exploring theory and thank you!’

And that’s probably the most important reason to keep writing about it, and to keep creating and maintaining spaces to have conversations about pop culture from a social justice perspective.

What’s The Big Deal With Pop Culture?

Content note: This post is the result of a collaboration between a group of FWD contributors, abby jean, Annaham, Anna, and s.e. smith, which is why it is credited to ‘Staff.’ This is part one in a two part series.

One thing has been clearly established: Something guaranteed to attract absurd amounts of traffic is a post on pop culture. Whether you’re writing about Evelyn Evelyn, Glee, Lost, Lady Gaga, Harry Potter…people pay attention. If you think your bandwidth limit might not be in danger of being exceeded this month, pop up a post about the representations of disability in some book, or show, or song, and fear no more!

People pay more attention to pop culture critique than anything else on this site, and it’s something that puzzles us. We certainly enjoy critiquing pop culture and think that it is an important part of our work, but we also enjoy the structural critiques, the stories that we tell, features on art by disabled artists, curating Recommend Reading, trashing bad advice columns, and the myriad other things we do here.

So, what’s the big deal with pop culture? What is so compelling about pop culture posts that they attract extreme levels of ire which sometimes cross the line into outright abuse? And not just here at FWD, but elsewhere on the Internet; commentaries on pop culture attract the most scrutiny and the most violent responses whether they are written by anti-racist pop culture bloggers, feminists exploring the feminist implications of pop culture, or trans women examining transphobia and transmisogyny in pop culture.

One theory is that pop culture is something which everyone has opinions about. As consumers of pop culture, many of us also feel that we are authorities on it, which makes it comfortable ground for discussion. Fewer people have opinions on structural issues which do not immediately affect them because they are not engaging with them on a personal level. Or they feel that they are unqualified because of social attitudes about who is allowed to speak in structural settings.

Pop culture is,  by nature, something which is supposed to be accessible to the masses, and thus, the masses respond to it. There are some interesting social attitudes bound up in this, along with ideas about what makes ‘art’ distinct from ‘pop’ and where these concepts intersect, and who gets to talk about it. We feel like we own pop culture in a way that we don’t own things like policy and other structures that contribute to the world around us.

Pop culture also builds and creates communities. Communities of fans are rich and complex organisms, just like the feminist blogging community, the political blogging community, and so forth. Communities sometimes grow defensive about discussions and critiques which they perceive as coming from outsiders; even though some of us here at FWD are actually quite active fans of the work we talk about and often explicitly say so, our writings here are still perceived as coming from the outside because of where they are being published. When communities feel threatened, they tend to become defensive, and sometimes that manifests in extreme ugliness.

Pop culture is also something which many people feel very strongly about. We are, in a word, attached to our stories. Anna is an ardent Doctor Who fan. Annaham has a soft spot for musician Jesse Sykes. s.e. eagerly awaits every new episode of Lost, while woe betide the person who interrupts abby jean while she’s watching 90210.

We feel an intense and personal attachment to these things. They speak to us and to our experiences. When someone views something from a different perspective and a different experience, it’s sometimes jarring and unsettling. The first response is often defensive and angry, because the critique is a form of challenge.

Some of us are able to engage with these differing perspectives, to look at critiques of works we love and say ‘ah, you know, you have something there,’ or ‘I’ve kind of been thinking that too, you are articulating this very well,’ or ‘well, actually, I kind of disagree, and here’s why,’ or even ‘I don’t really care what you have to say, I’m too busy having my own thoughts.’ We approach this from a place of mutual fandom; we are talking about these things because we love them, and we are excited about them, and we want to explore them more. Connecting with other fans is a huge part of the excitement of consuming pop culture.

Some of us are…not. Some people respond to critiques of pop culture in a way which is meant to invalidate the critiquer. The critique is disliked, these words are unpleasant to hear, so obviously the thing to do is to shut the critiquer in a box so that the actual points made do not have to be addressed.

Part two of this series delves into some of the ways in which  backlash against pop culture critiques manifests, and why we keep talking about it anyway.

Quick Bug Note

For all of you who subscribe to comments via email: Thanks to a reader who emailed us to let us know, we are aware that the “manage subscriptions” page where you are supposed to be able to manage your email subscriptions is all borky (unless black on black is your thing). We are working on it and will hopefully have things in a more legible state soon.

We *always* appreciate reader emails about bugs and accessibility issues, and please consider this post an open thread for bringing up any bugs/accessibility problems/requests!

By 17 December, 2009.    accessibility, administrivia   



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