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Amazing Structure: A Conversation With Ursula Franklin - Robinson Meyer - The Atlantic
"The gender issue is really a postwar issue. Women, wherever they were, what side or what in the war situation, stepped into the places that men had left. And they were competent, and they could do it. It was only after the war, when the men came back, that they needed the mystique—that she’s a girl, and so oughtn’t [to be] there, this is a man’s job. The gender issue, in practical terms—either who [could be] in school or who thought they could do which job, which science, which math—is a postwar issue anywhere in the world.

And it’s the issue of a large number of well-organized men, who often got their training in the army during the war, returning and needing both work and justification for their organized maleness in a very hierarchical structure. These guys came out of the military, and brought skills, but mostly brought demands.

There were women who had coped—often very well in very technical [positions]—but what was needed now was a distinction between those who came out of a culture of order, discipline, and minimal consideration of an individual’s contribution. So you had to get the women out of the workplace. And that’s when that question—they can’t do math, or they are frightened of machines—that’s where all that crap comes from. But it’s there, and it took until the late ’50s when women said: “Ah ah! What’s going on here?”

It’s the collectivity—with some consciousness-raising, you see—that actually, the personal is political. It’s not that our skirts are too short or too long; it’s just that we are being pushed around and maybe we have to put a stop to it collectively. But that gender-based look at knowledge and competency is postwar.

So my school experience: It was ‘so what?’ "



"There’s no question that somebody who was in the position I was when my son was born, and said to somebody, ‘I’m pregnant.’ There’s legislation now; they have to keep your job; they have to give you that much maternity leave; you have a medical insurance system that picks up some of those expenses; and no employer can say no. That’s an enormous change.

The salary thing is still a question where one may have to struggle, but it is not that a priori a woman gets paid less for work of equal value. And there are laws that one can change. Not that people who need to challenge have the power to do so, but that exists. I mean if you see the number of women—school principals and university presidents—that is the change.

I constantly emphasize that the issue is not essentially gender. The issue is patriarchy. I must say that I myself have been surprised at the rapid rise of lady patriarchs. And of course there are lady patriarchs. I was surprised how easily young women who have all options open for patriarchy become as much the patriarch in a hierarchical structure as any man does; and conversely, how many men—how many men, not that many—have found a collaborative structure convenient and don’t pull rank. 

The developments flow from there. The main development is legislation—and that hand-waving isn’t good enough."



"[Q] And when you say “lady patriarchs,” what do you mean?

I mean women who behave as if they are generals or bishops. It makes no difference in many ways if it’s a woman or a man. In particular positions, a woman can be as inconsiderate a lady patriarch as a male patriarch would have been. So the issue is the hierarchical structuring; the issue is patriarchy.

[Q] You were also involved in strontium testing. Did that float out of your social work in the ’60s, your work as a citizen?

What you are referring to is the sense that one is a citizen first and happen to be a professional in one area or another, but you don’t stop being a citizen because you are a highway engineer or a professor of metallurgy, but you also don’t leave all your scientific knowledge when you are a resident in the district that is suddenly heavily influence by pollution from another plant; or, globally, from fallout or chemical pollution.

When you object to things like that, you bring the skills that you have to have professionally to it, as do all the others who may provide citizen input or position. The whole fabric of the democratic process comes from citizens who are competent in various ways, and my competency happens to be science. I have a certain skill in teaching to make it clear to people without using jargon what certain inevitable things, such as nuclear fallout or river pollution, mean, and that the half-life of uranium doesn’t change when you change governments. Somebody has to say that at the right place in the right language, and I’ve always taken these opportunities and, like others, contributed with the best I had.

So I’ve very much been a part of women’s peace organizations and very much meet in the most active form of pacifism—the prevention of situations that lead to war. So the pacifism, elective pacifism, are all the political and social measures against injustices that in the end drive hatred and violence.

[Q] Once you were at the University of Toronto, and got into archeometry and teaching, I suppose that followed the reforms in Canada. Did you see the university change over your time there, and just generally what was it like to be a female professor of engineering during the ’70s and ’80s?

Well… pretty lonely. You know the real difficulty is to protect and advance your women students, and to see that they are in a hassle-free learning environment. When I came to the university, I’d been around long enough to know that I wasn’t one of the gang, and I never would be. I didn’t have a desire to be one of the boys.

But the great wish—to give my women students a hassle-free, happy learning environment—that’s what’s difficult. The culture of engineering is not a culture of acceptance and understanding of anything that is female and—at the same time—equal. So that’s… that’s a real job. It was a long and hard [work] in this, and it’s by no means yet all done."

[See also Annes post about Ursula Franklin: http://designculturelab.org/2012/07/17/from-the-plsj-archives-an-extraordinary-mind/ ]
ursulafranklin  robinsonmeyer  2014  interviews  feminism  partiarchy  gender  hierarchy  hierarchies  law  legal  women  science  structures  management  organizations  history  canada  highered  highereducation  labor  regulation  standards  quakers  pacifism  peace  equality  quaker 
march 2014 by robertogreco

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