Tag Archives: labor

On Lean-ing In

by Latoya Peterson

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Sheryl Sandberg currently owns the news cycle. All we’ve heard for weeks are critiques of her new book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Any possible angle about the book has been covered (see here, here, here, here, here, and criticism of the criticism)–except the most obvious one. While many of Sandberg’s critics point to the failure to engage with class as a key failing of the book, most of the coverage focuses on Sandberg herself. And while much has been made about whether Sandberg is too privileged to accurately shed light on the lives of all kinds of women, the voices of women across race and class lines are once again erased from the conversation.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to explore the topics in the book. We will host perspectives on Lean In, but also why women of color leave corporate environments in favor of forging our own paths in entrepreneurship. And we’ll look at what happens when Leaning In just isn’t an option.

We’ve asked Farai Chideya, Tami Winfrey Harris, Christina Xu, Adria Richards, Carolyn Edgar, Kishwer Vikaas, Andreana Clay, Flavia Dzodan, and many others to weigh in with stories, essays, and interviews that will be published here over the next two weeks, so watch this space.

Related:

Is Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” The Next Great Feminist Manifesto? [Ms.]
The TechCrunch ‘Lean In’ Roundtable, Part 1: Controversy, Fear, And How To Fight It [TechCrunch]
‘Lean in’? For Millennials, the question is what are we leaning toward [MHP]

Earlier:

Women of Color and Wealth Part 1, The Scope of the Problem;
2, Looking at the Wealth Gap; 3, Starting Points and Class Jumping; 4, Measuring the Intangibles; 5, Looking at Outliers and Outsiders; 5.5, Consumption and the Pressure to Shop

Quoted: Tressie McMillan Cottom On Emory U.’s President Invoking The Three-Fifths Compromise

Emory University president James Wagner. Image via Emory University Facebook page.

When Emory University president, James Wagner, made a plea for  restraint in contentious debates about the future of higher education he appealed to history. The history he chose to appeal to is shocking. Building on the U.S.’s “three-fifths” compromise, which famously enshrined blacks as 3/5 of a person into the legal and cultural coda of a nation built on an ideal of individual liberty, Wagner puts forth his vision for academic guidance during turbulent times for higher education. In it he says that the compromise between the North and South over the political value of a slave is an example of “pragmatic half-victories” that keeps in its sights a “higher aspiration”. It’s a tasteless allusion at an institution built with profits from slave labor at any time but particularly during black history month. Still, it is an allusion that reveals a lot about similar debates being had about the future of higher education. If we can, for a moment, suspend distaste to extend Wagner’s exemplar for compromise to its logical end we can ask: who, in the ideological debates over higher education, are the slaves?

That is to ask, what is this debate Wagner characterizes with such incendiary historical references a debate about really? There are the tried and true positions on who is being oppressed in academe. Education disruptors argue that recalcitrant, inefficient university models are holding hostage innovation, progress, and economic growth.  Others would argue that low wage contingent labor – adjuncts and contract teaching labor – are fueling the lower classes in the academic prestige hierarchy. It’s been said more than once that adjuncts are often working for “slave wages.” Students are profit centers with their lucrative tuition payments and keep the university machine humming along.

Innovation, adjuncts, students: all possibilities but none feel quite right. The problem lies with Wagner’s construction of a contentious debate. For a debate to be had, there must exist two opposing ideologies. There was but one guiding ideological principle at work as the North and South battled over the measure of a black body. That ideology was a commitment to maintaining cultural, political and economic hegemony for whites at the expense of black humanity and lives. The regional elites of the North and South merely quibbled about their share of the hegemonic pie, not that the pie was rotten with strange fruit.  That is not a debate. It is competition.

From her blog, February 17

 

Letter To A Brotha

By Guest Contributor Konju Oruwari, cross-posted from Vegans Of Color

What follows is the last letter traded in an exchange between a couple of 26 year-old black dudes regarding my last post on “Liberation Veganism.” My comrade is not vegan, and is concerned about “the problem with the displacement of bread and butter struggle with raw foodisms,” etc, due to my attempt to mix veganism with human liberation, or in our case black liberation.

It is an important concern for all of us, whether or not thinking about or bringing up veganism in a context like African liberation discourse is appropriate. Or the problem with making something like going vegan or trumpeting ecological awareness THE issue or THE revolution, rather than just an aspect of it. And the problem of having advocacy of those causes which are “on the periphery for me, masking as if it is at the core,” as my friend challenged. He stated that to bring up veganism at a hypothetical “cop watch” meeting and try to make the meeting about veganism would be problematic, from which I gathered that something like “cop watch” to him was a “bread and butter” ‘hood issue (as opposed to, given the tenor of our exchanges, dietary, environmental, lifestyle, quality of life, sanitation, etc. issues, which to him are more associated with white liberal green/ vegan activists for whom those things are THE issue).

Lastly we had a disagreement on this point, and I quote my brotha: “one day you said to me the first responsibility of a revolutionary is to be healthy. That was the crucial difference for me, i thought you were wrong. Our health is not the priority, the people are, when the struggle becomes for our own person health (or morality) we are distant from the people.” In subsequent retorts from myself (because I believe the exact opposite of what he asserts) I struggled with this contradiction until he later stated, “a revolutionaries health is not an end to me, it is a means to the end which is revolution.” I play with this idea as well down below.

Without further ado, then, here’s my letter to my good brother comrade in struggle, on the “bread and butter” issues of liberation struggle as pertain to defining health, priorities of concern, “revolution” and so on.

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Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: the Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft [Conference Notes]

by Latoya Peterson

These are the notes for “Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft.” The notes are for the keynote presentation given by Dr. Nakamura at the Texas A & M University Race and Ethnic Studies Institute’s Symposium exploring Race, Ethnicity and (New) Media.

The full paper is available on Lisa Nakamura’s research site. The abstract is as follows:

This article examines the racialization of informational labor in machinima about Chinese player workers in the massively multiplayer online role playing game World of Warcraft. Such fanproduced video content extends the representational space of the game and produces overtly racist narrative space to attach to a narrative that, while carefully avoiding explicit references to racism or racial conflict in our world, is premised upon a racial war in an imaginary world—the World of Azeroth.

This profiling activity is part of a larger biometric turn initiated by digital culture’s informationalization of the body and illustrates the problematics of informationalized capitalism. If late capitalism is characterized by the requirement for subjects to be possessive individuals, to make claims to citizenship based on ownership of property, then player workers are unnatural subjects in that they are unable to obtain avatarial self-possession. The painful paradox of this dynamic lies in the ways that it mirrors the dispossession of information workers in the Fourth Worlds engendered by ongoing processes of globalization. As long as Asian “farmers” are figured as unwanted guest workers within the culture of MMOs, user-produced extensions of MMO-space like machinima will most likely continue to depict Asian culture as threatening to the beauty and desirability of shared virtual space in the World of Warcraft.

Notes

  • People don’t hold video games accountable for racism; however they do hold them responsible for violence. Gaming has to constantly defend its portrayals of violence, but almost never discusses how it reinforces racism.
  • More people play Warcraft now than were on the internet in 1995. There are a significant number of players in China and S. Korea. Digital games are one of the only platforms we had that were transnational from the inception. People who would never think of trying out Japanese media has actually been engaging for a long time without being aware of it through the gaming world.
  • Nakamura starts her presentation off with a clip from South Park from the episode Make Love, Not Warcraft. In the segment she plays, the following conversation happens:
      Cartman: “I am the mightiest dwarf in all of Azeroth!”
      Kyle: “Wow, look at all these people playing right now.”
      Cartman: “yeah, it’s bullcrap. I bet half of these people are Koreans.”

    With that, Nakamura starts the discussion on how Cartman’s off-handed comment reveals how many think of Asian players – specifically Korean and Chinese – as “not real” players in this online world and begins to explore how racial bigotry is manifesting itself in the World of Warcraft.

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