Categorizing “Worlds”

30 03 2009

We were talking today in my human rights course about the “First/Second/Third World” system of categorizing countries, and also about the “Fourth World” of marginalized groups such as indigenous people.  Obviously, using the number system means you’re making a value judgement, but I also object somewhat to the use of the terms “developed” and “developing” to create a dichotomy that I also feel is value-based.  I use those terms sometimes when it comes to economics, but I’m uncomfortable with them.  It’s not just that we’re calling some nations undeveloped or underdeveloped, but more that we assume “developed” is a good thing.  The right to the development presupposes that everyone wants the kind of development that we have reached in our society, as I mentioned in a previous post, and ignores not only “side effects” but also the kind of broad conceptual/perceptual shifts that are inherent in this terminology.  

So what are the alternatives?  A lot of people use the terms Global North and Global South, which are a little more “accurate” than East/West, but they still ignore the vast differences among “Global South” countries.  Another problem to any form of geographic or value-based classification system is that it ignores disparities within a country.  Some scholars, for example, have pointed out that labelling the U.S. or European countries as “developed” ignores the right to development that women living in poverty in these countries have to seek development on their own terms.  When you frame development in this way – the right to seek out your own well-being and ways to earn a living on your own terms – I think we’re really hitting on something.  

This relates to another point that I made in my law of war seminar last week, related to the question of whether the international community should have been involved in Rwanda or not.  One student repeatedly stresssed that based on state sovereignty, we should only intervene if the country wants us to – “If they ask us.”  My problem with this, is that though I think culturally appropriate tribunals and decisionmaking are a good thing, I also think that we need to be wary of using this vague “they.”  There is no “they” in a situation like that.  When women were being subjected to mass rape, and many were traumatised and extremely fearful, it is difficult to say that we should simply ignore the situation because “they” don’t want us to get involved, or because women have forgiven the perpetrators.  Perhaps they have, but I do think that it if women have no resources, no medical help, don’t feel safe, etc., we need to ask if the “forgiveness” claimed by men in power is genuine.  I’m not saying that paternalism is a good idea, but I am saying that it’s important to consider the varying experiences within a culture and to take those experiences into consideration when offering “development” or other assistance.

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Tipping the Velvet Discussion

30 03 2009

Just a head’s up: Lesbian Book Club version 2.0, so to speak, is up and running over at Goodreads here.  The site is much more user-friendly, and the new version makes it easy to participate and gives you an option of e-mail updates if you want to know when someone’s started a new post.  If you’re someone who was interested in LBC, who signed up over at the original boards but found it frustrating, or if you haven’t heard about it yet but would like to read and discuss lesbian fiction with us, please come on over.  We’re discussing Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters this round, but I’ll be adding new features soon including a thread where you can talk about whatever lesbian fiction you’ve read or are reading and maybe some games or challenges.





Quick rant

28 03 2009

Nicki: “No sex is unhealthy for the mind, body and soul.”

That annoys me.  If she means to include masturbation, then ok, I’d agree, but the context suggests that she means partner sex.  I hate it when people suggest that there’s something wrong with you if you don’t have sex for a while – I think that’s a cultural thing.  Sometimes we just don’t want to have sex.  I’d much rather be celibate for a few years than have sex with someone I don’t trust or know well.





Some thoughts on obsession

21 03 2009

There are so many things I’ve wanted to blog about – so many! – and regrettably just no time. My last semester of law school is proving no easier than the earlier ones, but fortunately I’ll be done at the end of June and back into the regular-blogging swing. I will try to provide a report on the symposia and conferences I’ve been to recently, as well as other thoughts, soon.

However, on my walk home today I was thinking about obsessions, and it raises an interesting question. Do adolescent obsessions disappear when we grow up? Or do they just fade into something more “mature?”

In my late childhood/early pre-teen years, I was obsessed with that paragon of literary merit known as the Babysitters’ Club. Then around the age of twelve I moved on to the Backstreet Boys, followed by NSync and lesser known boybands. Around fifteen, I shifted out of that (and started liking girls – coincidence?) I had a dearth of obsessions for a little while, which perhaps had something to do with getting better in school, and then at the start of college became obsessed with a local band, some of whose members became friends. They broke up a few years later, and my obsession became Lord of the Rings for a year or two. All of those obsessions came with corresponding friends, and sadly I lost touch with a lot of them as the obsessions themselves faded. However, I do note that the older I get, the more friends seem to stick around.

On my walk, I was trying to see if I could think of any current obsessions. I think you could say that early in law school, food was an obsession, considering how important it was to check my favourite blogs, stay current on recipe-copying, etc. I now have a database of thousands and thousands of recipes thanks to that obsession. Now, though, that’s dwindled a bit. I suppose you could say that I’m obsessed with law school itself, or at least my GPA, which is a little depressing (but would kind of make sense if you consider the lack of obsessions in the part of high school where I was more engaged with learning). You could say that I’m obsessed with feminism or LGBT issues, but that’s also depressing in that I certainly hope those things are lifelong interests, seeing as how I’m planning to make a career out of them. Or maybe it’s reading – I’ve become almost compulsive about trying to finish books, keep track of what I want to read (kind of like the recipes), and read more and more and more.

I’m curious what others’ experiences are, especially those my age (24) and older. Do you still have the kind of obsessions you did when you were a teenager, just more “mature” ones? Do you become obsessed with things like work, school, or family instead? Or do those obsessive tendencies fade over time?