Jock Young – A Tribute

Aside

I have been rather saddened recently to learn of the death of Jock Young. An academic who gave so much to the world, I wish to share the impact I feel he had on both the general academic world and my own.

Most students of sociology and criminology know Jock Young best for his work on social exclusion and crime and his early use of the idea of the term moral panic.

young

I remember reading Jock Young’s (1999) book ‘The Exclusive Society: Social Exclusion, Crime and Difference in Late Modernity’ during my second year of undergraduate study. Broadly, the book charts societal change over 30 years from a inclusive, homogeneous society to an exclusive society of division and change. A society where blame is apportioned to vulnerable sections of the community and society. I admit that it took me a while to get to grips with the content, but when I did I liked the fact that his work brought me to think of society and crime in a different light. I also remember being encouraged to read Jock Young’s (1973) article ‘The Myth of the Drug Takers in the Mass Media’ in which Young made reference to the ideas of moral panic.

For me, however, the biggest influence on my academic work, particularly in my Masters research, was Young’s work on cultural criminology. Cultural criminology is a theoretical and methodological approach to the study of crime ad deviance. It is different from other theoretical approaches as it views crime and the corresponding agencies and institutions of crime control as cultural products/cultural constructs. (To see more information regarding cultural criminology, please click here to be taken to a webpage created by the academic leaders of the cultural criminology movement). As a result ethnographic and media (image and film) use are favoured in research by the approach. I was introduced to cultural criminology through a third year assignment. I read his work in a joint publication titled ‘Cultural Criminology: An Invitation’ (By Ferrell, Hayward and Young (2008)). As a result of my reading, I decided to use images in my Masters dissertation to aid my research (to see the post discussing my research please click here).

63

For me, and I’m sure for many other students of criminology and sociology, Jock Young is a big influence in academic work and life, and influence which I think will continue for years to come.

Feel free to comment if you would like to share how Jock Young’s work influenced you in your work or views.

References

Ferrell, J., Hayward, K. and Young, J. (2008) Cultural Criminology: An Invitation. Sage: London.

Young, J. (1973) ‘The Myth of the Drug Takers in the Mass Media’ in S. Cohen and J. Young (eds) The Manufacture of News: Deviance, Social Problems and the Mass Media. Constable and Co: London: 315-322

Young, J. (1999) The Exclusive Society: Social Exclusion, Crime and Difference in Late Modernity. Sage Publications: London

Proposed Prison Reform – An Attempt At Change Or A Political Gimmick?

I have been reading a lot of things regarding Chris Grayling’s proposed changes to the prison system. The claim is that it is meant to help prisoners and while some agree that it may help, many feel that it will be a hindrance and cause more problems than resolve.

The proposed reform will tackle many different areas. On the one hand there is a pledge to aid rehabilitation of prisoners, but on the other there is a pledge to  become more tough on prisoners creating an immediate conflict of interest. Some of the proposals include:

  • A rehabilitation revolution with a shake up in probation and a pay by results system
  • A change in prisoner perks. 
  • Removing daytime television and freeview tv
  • Engaging prisoners in more purposeful activity, such as work or education

Rehabilitation is an interesting one. The main worry for me in the ‘shake up’ is the payment by results, and there are several reasons why. The first big one is that it is ethically not a good idea. If you motivate people through money then there is a risk that prisoners will not get the services that they need. Instead some companies may create ‘sticking plaster’ solutions, essentially fixing the visible surface problems but not dealing with the bigger underlying problems that may cause offending behaviour. In doing so companies would be able to get more individuals through their programmes seemingly doing a job in ‘correcting’ the behaviour and achieving set targets thus being able to collect money for their services. However, another issue relating to this is how do you measure success? For a start there is a prominent problem that many offenders are part of more than one programme to ensure that each need is supported and helped – thus how can you decide which programme resulted in a change of behaviour? Furthermore, when you look at individual re-offending, sometime offenders go on to commit an offence different to the one they were committed for. For example prisoner A could be arrested for a knife related crime but then be rearrested for stealing a jar of coffee – is that success? A further problem is that the pay by results method has not been fully tested yet. It was first put to the full test in 2010, and since then results have been mixed on whether they work or not.

However, the idea  is not bad in its entirety. In theory it could be an effective model. It could provide more value for taxpayers who, ultimately, will at least in part fun this. The method would enable those who have effective rehabilitation programmes to gain money for the services which they could then invest and make it even better, assuming that the extra money does not disapear into a pocket.  

The change in prisoner privileges I think is one of the more riskier changes. Under the current UK prison system there are three levels of privileges: basic, standard and enhanced. When inmates enter the prison system they automatically start at standard level which enables various privileges such as access to private money and being allowed to wear their own clothes. The changes to the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme, which are supposed to come into effect sometime this month, create a new level known as ‘entry’. This is a more austere version of the basic level of privileges (which is typically reserved for punishing bad behaviour). The new level will deny entering prisoners access to the typical entitlements for entering prison. After two weeks of being in prison, the prisoners behaviour will be reviewed and if they have cooperated with the prison regime and have actively engaged in rehabilitation they will progress to the standard level, if not they will be at basic. The theory behind this is controlling behaviour. There have been a lot of stories in the media surrounding bad prisoner behaviour. While it seems a good idea in theory, in practical terms it is a dangerous game to play.

The first month of imprisonment is the time period when prisoners are most at risk of self harm and/or suicide. If you then start prisoners on a punitive and austere regime, do you not risk higher rates of harm and suicide? A further issue that makes me feel very uncomfortable is the fact that it reminds me of Haney, Banks and Zimbardo’s (1973) Stanford Prison Experiment (click here to view a video of the Stanford Prison Experiment). The main reason for this is the depersonalisation of the prisoner upon entering the prison by removing access to their belongings. This was commented upon in the debriefing of Haney, Banks and ZImbardo’s (1973) study and it aided the prisoners becoming institutionalised. Now while this would in theory help with behaviour, it also creates a barrier to rehabilitation. Institutionalisation requires an individual to relinquish their freedom and autonomy to make choices and decisions thus removing the ability to be self-sufficient. This can result in individuals becoming reliant upon the institution that institutionalised. This creates a barrier in terms of rehabilitation by making re-integration into society more difficult. Those who become profoundly institutionalised can become harmful or self-destructive when given back freedoms and choices that were previously either denied or withheld (Travis and Waul, 2003).

Removing television is a difficult one. I am aware that there is a general public dissatisfaction around prisoners having access to television. However, when these prisoners are confined to their cell for the majority of their day they need something to do. At this many people cry out ‘but there are books! Why don’t they read?’. Well the main reason is that reading levels are so low among prisoners. 48% of prisoners have literacy skills at or below level 1, the expected reading level of an 11 year old (Home Office, 2004). If reading is at the age of an eleven year old, you are limited in terms of reading material. Furthermore, television is a way of staying in contact with the wider world. This is important particularly for reintegration into society, which is a major part of rehabilitation success.

Now I agree that engaging prisoners in work or education is a good idea. However, I think that education is more important in terms of engagement. 52% of male offenders and 71% of female offenders have no qualifications. This poses a problem in terms of getting a job, particularly when you consider that 49% of the UK go into university education (BBC, 2013).  

 

I think it is safe to say that prison has long been a political tool. It is a way for politicians to quickly gain favour by professing to reduce crime through either increasing the rehabilitative success of prison or through making prison conditions more punitive and harsh. I think that this is very much what has happened here. It seems that the Conservatives have used an easy target to gain more votes. However through doing so they have created a dilemma. Initially the claim was to improve rehabilitation in prison, but then later Chris Grayling claimed that the Conservatives planned to get rid of ‘cushy’ and ‘soft’ prisons. It seems to me, from these comments alone, that too much notice has been paid to the Daily Mail and the Sun newspapers. Routinely these papers project a (false) view that prison is an easy ride and is soft and pleasant. We must remember that these papers are out to make a profit and so will print stories that will encourage the reader to buy the paper in question. I am of the firm opinion that prison is not as soft as the media leads us to believe. Sykes (1958) argued that there are intrinsic pains of imprisonment built into the prison culture. These are: deprivation of liberty, deprivation of goods and services, deprivation of heterosexual relationships, deprivation of autonomy, and deprivation of personal security – all pains which I feel are very much present today. I think that the proposals are more of a political piece than an attempt to help prisoners ‘break the cycle’ of crime. The proposals feel rushed and unfounded in terms of evidence. I think that the time following the implementation of these proposals, more problems will arise than solutions.

 

References

BBC News (2013) ‘University entry levels reach 49%’ [online] <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-22280939> [accessed 18 November 2013]

Haney, C., Banks, W.C., and Zimbardo, P. G. (1973) ‘A Study of Prisoners and Guards In A Simulated Prison’ Naval Research Review 30, 4-17.

Home Office (2004) Reducing Re-offending: National Action Plan. London: Home Office.

Sykes, G. (1958) The Society of Captives Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Travis, J. and Waul, M (2003) Prisoners Once Removed: The Impact of Incarceration and Reentry on Children, Families, and Communities. Washington: The Urban Institute.

The Lad Mag Debate

Aside

After handing in my dissertation recently I am now going to catch up on some of the issues that have interested and bemused me. The main subject that has caught my attention is the media reports on modesty bags over lads mags, and the more recent news stating that campaigners and lawyers are calling for Tesco to stop selling so called ‘lads mags’ in their stores. The argument seems to be that these magazines are sexist and degrading and portray women as dehumanised sexual objects. A further argument seems to be that these magazines fuel attitudes underpinning violence towards women. This story follows reports that some shops have agreed to place ‘modesty bags’ over lads mags to prevent young people viewing them. However, with the demands being taken up a notch, with campaigners and lawyers threatening legal action if it ‘continues to expose customers and staff to the titles’, people are now beginning to question whether attempting to censor the magazine industry is the way to go (an accusation that the campaigners have denied doing). While I agree that the campaign is not at the point of censorship as is occurring with Cameron’s policy of censoring internet pornography, with the threats of taking Tesco to court, how long will it be before a blanket removal of lads mags in shops occurs, thus essentially censoring the magazine sales industry.

My thoughts on the matter is that censoring is damaging for men and for women, but not in the way that campaigners are claiming.

The first issue that comes to my mind in relation to this campaign against lads mags, is the message that it send out. To me, the message suggests that the viewing of women in lads mags is wrong. An interesting comment that I came across in some of the campaigns is one by End Violence Against Women (EVAW). The director of EVAW, Holly Dustin, stated that ‘We live in a world where lads mags and other media relentlessly portray women in a sexualised and sexist way’.

While this is arguably true, it is a bit naive to suggest that it is only women who suffer this. At the end of the day both women and men ‘suffer’ from being portrayed in a sexualised manner in the media and magazines. If you walk into the supermarket today and pick up any of the weekly women’s magazines, such as heat or closer, you will find a picture of a half naked man, whether that is in the form of a poster, a photoshoot for an interview or just a photo from the paparazzi of a male celebrity on the beach. It is not just women’s magazines, if you look at health magazines or body building magazines most front covers have a toned and tanned guy on the front. If you look in advertising too, the objectification and sexualisation of men can arguably be worse as it does not seem to be as cautious as it is with sexualising women, take Barry M’s 2013 nail advert, Dolce and Gabbana’s Light Blue advertisement or the adverts that David Beckham did for Giorgio Armarni. All of these adverts and magazines depict toned men, some of whom bow down to and are dominated by women. How is it that this constant bombardment is not harmful for men? I’m sure there are some who would argue that young women are affected more by portrayals of women in the media. This is a) not true b) misleading and c) dangerous for young men, who may feel abnormal if they then feel inadequate in comparison to the ‘god like’ toned men depicted in the media. In fact academic research even tells us that the portrayal of men in the media and advertising has a negative effect on self esteem and  on self image just as much as the effect on women (Elliott and Elliott, 2005).

tumblr_md2tp5mwsp1r0shcx

In the case of women in advertising, which I think is interesting is that when it is media advertising or entertainment, it is wrong for women to be sexualised. Yet it seems strange to me that there have been many charity campaigns where women are posed in sexualised manners to raise awareness for these causes. Unusually this seems to be acceptable to campaigners and the wider public. Maybe I am being naive here, but surely campaigns by PETA using well known slim and well sculpted women in the media to pose seductively while naked with tag lines such as ‘want my body, go vegetarian’ or ‘ “I always fake it” I’d never wear fur’ are just as ‘bad’ as campaigners claim lads mags are on women’s self-esteem and self image? It is not just PETA that use this method to gain awareness for their campaigns. Victoria Beckham, Kate Upton and Miley Cyrus have all posed nude in arguably sexualised ways for t-shirt prints to raise awareness for skin cancer. There are many many more examples of this occurring, yet we rarely, if ever, hear the outcry and disbelief aimed in that direction.

Peta-Bonnie-Jill Laflin-print-ad

Another issue that I think arises out of this campaign is the claim that the availability and viewing of lads mags contribute to rape culture and sexual violence. This is an extremely strange claim to make considering that no research study so far has demonstrated reliable evidence, that has not later been disproved, that non-violent pornography or lads mags contribute to sexual violence or rape, instead a tenable link has been shown between watching violent pornography and an increased chance of sexual violence (Sumner, 2011). In my view I think lads mags are very much ‘non-violent’, something which I think many others would agree, and thus this claim that lads mags increase sexual violence is unfounded.

It is further interesting that women who view pornography are not included in this theory. It has been suggested that more and more women are looking at pornography. Therefore, if we are being equal about things, if looking at lads mags and other pornography makes men more likely to rape and be sexually violent then it must be the same effect for women. If commentators then turn around and suggest that women would not behave in such a way then this is merely creating what campaigners are fighting against: gender stereotypes.

But the inequalities are not just relating to men in this campaign. What of the women? The campaign is telling us that it is wrong for women to be objectified and sexualised. What if that is what some women want? When it comes to sex, part of sex is the objectification of the other partner. You view then as an attractive being that you want to gain pleasure from. In my experience, and my reading of academic literature, it is a very very small proportion of the male population who cannot differentiate between sex and real life. To me, it seems that suggesting that men either objectify or do not objectify is extremely reductionist and creates an unnecessary stereotype that men are one dimensional and unable to recognise the context of a situation. Furthermore if, as the campaigners suggest,  we are striving for equality then we must understand that if men can objectify women, then women can objectify men. But by telling men that women cannot be objectified, but men can be, then an inequality has been created by pushing the men down a level so that the women can rise up, as opposed to the women rising up to meet the level of men. As I said at the beginning of the paragraph, an inequality is being made for women just as much as men. For those women who wish to be objectified by others, then this campaign is creating a problem for those women. It is encouraging the population to look down on the content of magazines, some of which is women choosing to pose in the magazine. This to me is a very subtle form of slut shaming, suggesting that it is wrong for women to be posing or looked at in that manner. Not only that, but it is undoing much of the work of the early feminists who worked hard to give women the choice to be who or what they wanted.

All in all I feel that this campaign is damaging. It is reducing the freedoms of men and women and thus creating more inequality than equality. However, with my points and opinions I feel that I am part of a small voice swimming against a sea of the many.

 

N.B. – If you are interested in the argument that I have made against the campaign to remove lads mags there are several other written pieces that may be of interest. In particular a forum post on The Escapist I found particularly interesting as well as an article on The Guardian by Julie Bindel.

Lads Mags and Legal Action

The BBC have published an article today stating that retailers could potentially face legal action in the UK, if they continue to sell magazines showing naked and semi-naked images of women. Pressure groups and lawyers are claiming that displaying the magazines, or requiring staff to handle them, could amount to sexual harassment or discrimination.

There are two defined forms of sexual harassment. The first is any treatment that is conducted with the purpose of, or have the effect of, violating your dignity or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you. This conduct does not have to be sexual in nature and the treatment has to be proven to be because the individual is a woman or man, therefore being treated that way because they are from a particular sex or gender. The second definition is treatment that is sexual in nature involving comments or physical touching or threats. Again  the conduct must be done with the purpose of, or have the effect of, violating your dignity, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the individual. The definition of discrimination that I have been taught consists of “unfavorable treatment based on a person’s sex, gender, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, language, class, sexual preference, age, physical disability or any other improper ground. It limits the economic, social and political opportunities of the individual or group discriminated against” (Bowling, 2006: 135).

Image

The argument behind this campaign is that lads mags dehumanise and objectify women, and promote harmful attitudes that underpin discrimination and violence against women and girls. It is further argued that such magazines reduce women to sexual objects and sends out the message that women are constantly sexually available. DI splaying such magazines in everyday spaces such as supermarkets and corner shops is thought to normalise the sexism bound within the magazines. While I can see where this argument has some foundation, I also question why similar campaigns are not created around the objectification of men in magazines and, more prevalent, in adverts. There are many women’s magazines that display half naked men on the front cover with the accompanying text of ‘torso of the week’. Similar objectification of men can be seen in the current diet coke advert, or even in barry m’s ‘giant of a hippo nail advert’. This objectification of men seems to be perfectly acceptable, yet objectification of women does not.

What seems to be ironic is the claim that selling these magazines is in breach of the Equality Act 2010. In my mind, if we are to remove all so called lads mags because they are offensive then we must also remove all women’s magazines that display pictures of half naked men on the cover if we are to maintain this equality. If we supposedly empower women by removing these ‘offensive’ lads mags an then oppress men by leaving the magazines and adverts aimed at women by objectifying men as sexual objects then how are we maintaining equality?

Image

To me this seems to be a wild step in the wrong direction, in order for women to gain true equality, they should be working to raise up to the men’s level rather than attempting to drag them down to, or even below, the level of women. Oppression is the exact thing that feminist groups and campaigners are working to combat, yet by removing lads mags and keeping womens mags that objectify men they are merely being hypocritical and perpetuating the exact thing that they want to stop.

While it is not pleasant to be faced with half naked images of women (a feeling that I presume is the same for men viewing half naked males on the front of women’s magazines), I do not think that threatening shopkeepers with legal action is the answer. The media have suggested that previous incidents of employees suing their employers for exposure to pornographic images. If these cases are similar to the current campaigns surrounding lads mags, I think that these cases are again a wild step in the wrong direction. At the end of the day, if seeing these magazines in a shop that someone works in is such a major issue – don’t work there! While I do not enjoy seeing these magazines I do not feel that they oppress me nor do they prevent me from leading nor succeeding in my life. I fear that the issue of equality is in the initial stages of being taken a step too far.

References

Bowling, B. (2006) ‘Discrimination’ in E. McLaughlin and J. Muncie (eds.) The Sage Dictionary of Criminology (2nd Edition), London: Sage Publications, 135-137. 

Quiverfull – Who is Really in Charge?

An article on the BBC recently detailed how a Christian evangelical movement is becoming more popular in the UK (BBC News, 2013).

A core motivation of the Quiverfull movement is the desire to obey God’s commands as stated in the bible. The rationale of the Quiverfull religion is to have as large a family as possible. It advocates leaving family planning entirely up to God, whether that means many children, few children or no children. It also advocated refusal to use contraception, medical treatments or natural family planning to prevent or control pregnancy. The main basis of the Quiverfull stems from  a biblical quote, psalm 127: 4-5, which reads: “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them,”. But the Quiverfull movement not only emphasises the creation of children, it also advocates the proper training of children. The Quiverfull psalm previously mentioned reflects an important aspect of the Quiverfull worldview, which sees the world as a battlefield between Good and Evil. The Quiverfull movement is a neo-fundametalist one, and thus consider those who oppose their viewpoint as being on the wrong side of the battlefield in the war between God and Satan along with ‘secular humanists’, religious liberals, corrupting elites in encroaching government, mass media and education.

Many feminist groups are expressing concern around the Quiverfull movement, the concern being around the patriarchal model that the religion follows, with the husband having full control of the entire family making every decision for the whole family and the promotion of female submission.

Graphic

But I question whether there is as much oppression of women in this movement as is suggested. On the BBC’s Heart and Soul programme ‘A Womb is a Weapon’, the presenter pointed out that many of the main fan base of the quiverfull movement are female. In the BBC article on the Quiverfull movement, it is put across in the cases mentioned that the women are generally being the leading partner in wanting to join the movement, with one case stipulating that “in common with other Quiverfull families Vicki had to wait for her husband to come round to her ideas”. Now to me, if you are having to wait for your husband to come round to an idea and potentially coerce and coax him towards it, does he really have leadership in the first place? If he is playing a part in a religion which he may not necessarily be comfortable with, particularly considering the prospect of having to provide for many potential children. This, in theory, could be taken as the man being oppressed rather than the woman.

While I do understand the concerns of the risk of men who ‘rule women with an iron fist’ being drawn to such religions, and also of the possible oppression of women being unable to go out and work due to having to stay at home producing more children and looking after the ones that she already has, to me it seems that many of the women involved WANT to be in that life. They WANT to have lots of children, they WANT to be stay at home mothers, and at the end of the day why should we stop them. Who are we, as a society, to stand there pointing a finger and claiming that they are oppressed women and are not being treated equally in a religion that they choose to be in while ignoring the potential for men to become oppressed and treated unequally. I doubt very much that it is allowed for any of the men to become stay at home dads if they wish. They may get to make many of the day to day decisions in family life, but at the end of the day this is undermined by the fact that in many cases it is the female who made the decision to join the religion, the man at the end of the day seems to be the sheep following.

References

BBC News (2013) The Quiverfull: The evangelical Christians opposed to contraception <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22526252> (accessed 21 May 2013)

For further reading on the Quiverfull movement I would recommend looking at Juliana Denson’s research on the Quiverful movement which I used to better inform myself for the writing of this blog post <http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010&context=lux&seiredir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.co.uk%2Furl%3Fsa%3Dt%26rct%3Dj%26q%3Dfeminists%2520against%2520quiverfull%26source%3Dweb%26cd%3D8%26ved%3D0CGIQFjAH%26url%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fscholarship.claremont.edu%252Fcgi%252Fviewcontent.cgi%253Farticle%253D1010%2526context%253Dlux%26ei%3DYBKcUa7yN6KP7Aa0soGgAw%26usg%3DAFQjCNGgPUj5yY59DRvPHHDMtrxpRR4cbA#search=%22feminists%20against%20quiverfull%22>

Surveillance, Privacy And The Use Of Google Glass

A common concern that is raised in the public sphere is the issue of surveillance and privacy. This issue has raised its head again in relation to Google Glass, a wearable computing device created by google.

Google glass is essentially a portable device built into spectacle frames so that you can film, take pictures, translate and search on the go. It overlays data into a users vision without obstructing the users view. While some are hailing the technological revolution of said google glass, others are becoming increasingly concerned with the potential problems of surveillance privacy issues that are related to google glass.

The concerns around surveillance and privacy are not a new phenomenon. The same debate has been raged around the use of CCTV and police powers to monitor people’s online activity. Many are concerned with how other people’s rights to privacy will be protected through other’s use of google glass due to its potential to gather video, images and other data around almost anything that the user sees.

Google_Glass_Explorer_Edition.jpeg

A major concern with google glass is the intrusive nature of the technology and that it can record or photograph someone without their knowledge or consent. This concern has prompted many to call for those who use the google glass technology to seek people’s permission before filming or photographing. While I understand this concern, it seems that, to some degree that it has been blown a little out of proportion. For example, the main concern repeatedly cited in the media is that someone using google glass could record or photograph someone without their knowledge, and thus cannot provide permission. According to some experts testimonies, after using google glass, claim that this is a difficult thing to achieve. In order to photograph someone, or more specifically record someone, you have to have that individual in the wearers field of vision for a fair amount of time. Take a common concern, again commonly cited in the media, being recorded in a public bathroom by someone wearing google glasses. In order for this to be achieved, the wearer has to stand and stare at you and, for the time being, give a verbal command to begin recording or to take a picture. This, in my mind, would make it fairly obvious if you were being recorded or photographed in a public bathroom.

Other concerns relating to google glass have been captured in a comic sketch by Mashabl and is well worth a look for a more funny take on the issue – (Google Glass: Don’t Be A Glasshole).

But is it actually an invasion of privacy? If it is in the public space then possibly not. Most surveillance systems, such as CCTV, are simply collecting data that human investigators did in the past, but in a more efficient manner. At the end of the day, said surveillance systems do not invade our private homes unless we choose it too. I feel that this approach can also be adapted with social networking. Many claim that surveillance of social networking sites is an invasion of privacy, If an individual has not privatised the data of their page or site, then it is not an invasion of privacy.

I have two main concerns about the use of google glass – the breakdown of communication and the effect on young children.

A major concern for me is the breakdown of communication. I already think that in the modern world communication is at a low point. Yes we can communicate more easily and speedily but it is often through the aid of a computer whether that be via email, text or facebook message. Human verbal contact is vanishing fast. The younger members of my family have been hooked on technology from a young age – they were born into an era where technology is an ‘essential’ part of life. This has lead to some young people, those in my family included, being unable to communicate effectively face to face, not knowing what to say nor how to express it properly. Not only that but they avoid verbal communication on the phone. When one recently went abroad on holiday they telephoned me asking if I could help them with talking to a hotel owner who did not speak fluent English. I questioned why they needed my help, thinking that they would have a language book to help, the response I received was ‘my phone is broken so my translator is gone’…I wonder whether google glass will encourage this reliance on technology to facilitate communication. Personally I was always encouraged by my parents to learn at least the basics of a language, either to be polite in social settings or to help me get by whilst on holiday. Google glass will potentially discourage such behaviours, with the ability to translate your voice.

GoogleGlassCartoon

The issue of technology being involved in communication becomes particularly salient with children. In the description of ‘what google glass does’ it has the caption ‘say take a picture to take a picture’ with the image above being of a child being swung round by (presumably) a parent, taken through point of view perspective. Considering this photo , I wonder how it will affect children communicating with the wider world if the parent spends most of the time with the child wearing google glass so that they can capture a special moment. While it can be beneficial, such as capturing a child’s first steps, I feel it would be a constraint. Not only that but does it not remove a child’s right to privacy if a parent is constantly taking photos without a moments notice removing the option to run away or duck and hide (as I often did). We have already headed that way with parents placing pictures of their children on social networking sites. Pictures of them opening birthday presents, of them playing at the park, sitting in the bath, all without the consent of the child. Now with google glass, if you are to demand the right for people to ask your permission before taking a a picture of you and potentially using it with google glass, then you must afford that same right to children, which will certainly prove problematic for those at the age where talking is not yet learnt.

In our current technological age privacy is not something that we can claim. With access to social networking 24/7 via our smart phones, having the workplace be able to send you emails to your Blackberry, even on your weekends off, privacy is no longer something that we can claim nor afford. People already take our photos and film us without asking and post them up online. If this already occurs, why is it now suddenly a problem with the advent of new technology that essentially does what a smartphone does with the only exception that it is hands-free?

‘Necessary’

I read with discomfort about a prominent Japanese politician who described the system during World War II in which women were forced to become prostitutes for troops as ‘necessary’. As reported in the BBC, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto acknowledged that women were acting against their will in working as prostitutes for World War II Japanese troops. Hashimoto further claimed that it was necessary as it gave soldiers who put their lives at risk a chance to ‘rest’, stating that ‘it is the result of the tragedy of war that they became comfort women against their will’ (for more on the BBC news story, please follow this link – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-22519384).

During World War II it is estimated that between 80,000 to 200,000 women were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese military in what is often described as one of the world’s biggest cases of human trafficking (Amnesty International, n.d.). Many of the women came from Korea, Japan and the Dutch East Indies, obtained through abduction, deception or, in some cases, purchased. These women were taken to ‘comfort stations’ throughout the Pacific and were kept for months or years on end. Many of the women were under the age of twenty, with some being suggested in documents to have been as young as twelve. Women who were able to return home following the end of the war remained silent about their experience, through fear and shame of the horrific treatment that they had endured. Thus, in reading the comments of Toru Hashimoto, it seemed almost to sweep away the fact that the experiences that many women in these ‘comfort stations’ should never have happened. By saying that it was necessary to abduct, deceive and purchase women and treat them as though they were nothing more than objects to be used on a whim is nothing more than a trivial event of war.

Image

Yet do we in the West have a leg to stand on in this issue. In discussions on the occurrence of the comfort women many Western books on the matter label the stations as ‘rape camps’ (McDougall, 1998) and ‘military sexual slavery’ (Coomaraswamy, 1996), as well they should considering that it was women forced into prostitution. However, while it is right to acknowledge the atrocities Japan committed during the war in forcing women to become prostitutes  there seems to be a case of sweeping some events under the carpet. Namely the part that Western troops played in perpetuating the comfort women camps. When America arrived in Korea 18 days after the liberation from Japan they officially outlawed prostitution in response to the Japanese comfort women system. Unofficially however America transferred the comfort stations from Japanese to U.S. control. By 1953 there was an estimated 350,000 women working as prostitutes with 60% of these women working to help said soldiers relax and ‘rest’ (Cho, 2007: 163). Can we ourselves condemn what happened within the Japanese forces, as it seems many Western papers are doing, when we ourselves ‘unofficially’ perpetuated what they set up. The problem here is that, certainly in the sources I found, it is never made clear whether the women used for ‘comfort’ were there of their own free will or forced. The source simply leaves it up to the reader to assume for themselves.

While I cannot condone what happened in relation to the ‘comfort women’ in World War II, nor can I condone the comments made by Toru Hashimoto, I can at least praise Japan for acknowledging that the atrocities did happen within the Japanese forces. As Toru Hashimoto pointed out in his comments, the then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama did apologise in 1995 for its war time actions, as did Shinzō Abe, the current Prime Minsiter of Japan, in 2007, which is more than the West have done for their part in indulging in and perpetuating the ‘comfort women’ systems.

References

Amnesty International (n.d.) Stop Violence Against Women: “Comfort Women” <http://www.amnesty.org.nz/files/Comfort-Women-factsheet.pdf> (accessed 14 May 2013)

Cho, G.M. (2007) ‘Voices from the Teum: Synesthetic Trauma and the Ghosts of the Korean Diaspora’ in P.T. Clough and J. Halley (eds.) The Affective Turn: Theorizing The Social, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 151-169.

Coomaraswamy, R. (1996) Report on the mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the issue of military sexual slavery in wartime <http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/0/b6ad5f3990967f3e802566d600575fcb?Opendocument> (accessed 14 May 2013).

McDougall, G.J. (1998) Systematic ape, sexual slavery and slavery-like practices during armed conflict – final report <http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/demo/ContemporaryformsofSlavery_McDougall.pdf> (accessed 14 May 2013).