welcome to the site! Read the description to the left for details regarding the theory behind this site. Some may know this section as an "Abstract"
The History of Energy
the beginning is the end
Under this section is a paper written for an Honours Psychology course, the History of Psychology. The task was to trace a topic from contemperary Psychology back through various historical stages to see how that topic has grown over the course of time. The topic I chose was energy, or Energy Psychology. Enjoy research from Feinstein (most recent) all the way back to Pythagoras.
The Future of Energy
the end is the beginning. This section includes all the previous homepage fails ;) enjoy!
This is the major veiwpoint taken on this site in regard to these topics, but since the completion of my Masters degree in Gender Studies, I've been trying to go back and make it more inclusive. This link includes a proposed field theory for Psychology because the two major branches of Psychology (quantitative and qualitative) find it hard to see eye to eye. This (and the next) section is for members only.
This section proposes a Grand Unified Field theory or "theory of everything" for Physics, backed up by a mathematical equation.
This section unites all sections together to unite the branches of Science and Religion. Many different perspectives are taken and these two seemingly opposing forces are united through many different angles.
This section looks at the conflicts or cycles between New Age free thought and Orthodox dogmaticism. The feud between these two opposing forces revealed the truth regarding the story of Jesus, what he really taught and to whom he truly gave the rites to teach his faith. This section explores why the movie The Last Temptation of Christ was banned in other countries, looks at the Da Vinci Code and presents a controversial paper/theory showing the hidden meaning of world religious symbols.
This section begins with a confusing paper about taking back the spirit. If the point can be penetrated, it tells an interesting story about Modernity and the Age of Reason, with a twist by providing evidence that emotion could be considered superior to reason. It also complicates Carteasian mind/body distinctions by adding spirit back into the equation. Have fun following that one lol. I can't even follow it ;) There are other papers about explaining Mystical experiences and others comparing Western and Eastern styles of consciousness. My favourite is the book review of Kabbalah. I like how this site allows me to go back and fix/reword old papers/ideas. This section really details what it is like to have a theory in the making and shows how ideas develop over time. One day my ideas/theory will be comprehensive to others outside my wacky brain :)
This section includes research done on the importance of emotional charge on ESP communication. It proposes that it is emotion communication that makes telepathy successful. The second paper in this section addresses dreams and dream interpretation. Two Dream interpretation methods (Freud's and Jung's) were analyzed to determine which method produced the most accurate results. The third paper presents research on Understanding Altered States of Conciousness and the last paper in this section is about Western Consciousness and how we are very individualized and perhaps out of balance due to us being lost in the Grand Illusion (Maya). The next paper looks at The Implication of Eastern Concepts on Western Ideals, to propose a potential balance between the two world views.
This section includes a paper about the subject-object dichotomy in Philosophy
This section begins with a work that is a detailed analysis of the screenplay/poem found in the Art section of this site. This paper looks at the research behind the play that inspired its manifestation (or why I wrote the play). It is hard to avoid the Book of Revelations when the topic of the Apocalypse comes up, so the next paper in this section is a comparison of the similarities and differences of the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelations. Many similarities were found and the research leads one to beleive that we are in the dawning of the Age when we will see great changes in the world as we know it today.
This section includes papers on 3 pathways to happiness (physical, mental, emotional), followed by a paper on how to end prejudice, a paper on the polarization of the sexes is next (as it is hypothesized by this site that the true or pure unification of All That is in the Universe is solved by the reunification of the energy of the sexes ;). Finally, this section ends with an empirical thesis exploring the equal validation or rational and emotional styles.
This section contains a play or screenplay called the Grand Drama that is written entirely out of prose (the owner and creator of this website has personally written everything that appears on it). This work of art reveals a hidden message, one that may unlock the key to the mysteries of the universe! This page also includes a shortened poem of the Grand Drama and provides a link to a song that is about Plato's Analogy of the Cave (members only).
this is a collection of my poetry - enjoy!
This is a collection of my songs - enjoy! =)
This is my photo collection
Key to the Legend
Red = Philosophy
Blue = Physics
Yellow = mathematics
green = hard sciences
grey = psychology
the parts under construction are labeled as such or blanketed by <<< ____ >>> indicating personal notes to self to improve the site, or the layout of the information presented.
Climate Anxiety, Mental Health and Children & Youth
Precarious Work in Violation of Human Rights: Corporations attain Human Rights while Humans become Commodities
The Pathways to Happiness: Through Positive Psychology
Testing Plato's hypothesis that everything we've been taught is based on a false premise
Challenges in Community-University Collaboration
Anxiety and Mental Health in Child and Youth
Climate Anxiety, also referred to as Ecoanxiety is “anxiety or worry felt about climate change and its effects” (Clayton, 2020, p.3), or “dread associated with negative environmental information” which includes “uncertainty about the future environment, grief about the loss of valued places and things, and concern about possible future harm to one’s children” (p. 2).
Perceived Ecological Distress is “personal stress associated with environmental problems” (Clayton, 2020, p. 3). When it comes to children and youth, the term generation anxiety is used.
Which is “existential dread about what lies ahead…for millennial[s]” (Chisholm, 2019, p. 1). This includes “rising income inequality, bitter political polarization, precarious work and a rapidly warming planet” (p. 1). Global inequality and climate change are some of the worries.Psychological wellbeing is influenced by climate change and there is substantial evidence showing that weather events and natural disasters impact mental health (Clayton, 2020; Masten, 2014). The groups most affected are Indigenous peoples, the elderly, and children (Clayton, 2020). According to Clayton (2020) “[t]here has been relatively little acknowledgement of the mental health implications of climate change” (p. 5). Research on how climate anxiety affects mental health shows increased levels of PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and even domestic violence.
America. Regarding prevalence, in America, Clayton and Karazsia (2020) found that about 17-27% of their online sample reported their ability to function was impacted by climate anxiety. A survey by the New York Times found that “25% of 1800 Americans said they expected to have fewer children than they considered ideal [and] of these, 33% cited worry about climate change” (Clayton, 2020, p.4). In 2018, emotional responses to climate change documented by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, found that “69% of Americans are at least ‘somewhat worried’ about global warming and 29% said they were ‘very worried.’ Almost half (49%) think they are personally going to be harmed by it” (p.3). In the same year, the “stress in America survey showed that 51% of respondents listed climate change as ‘a somewhat or significant source of stress.’ (p. 3) The American Psychological association conducted a survey 2020 and “found that two-thirds of respondents felt as least a little ‘eco-anxiety’…and about one-quarter of them said they felt a lot of eco-anxiety” (p. 3).Australia. In Australia, 86% “reported some concern, and 20% reported feeling ‘appreciable distress’ associated with climate change” (p. 3). In this survey, 39% of the responders said that climate change was “the most serious problem facing the world in the future” (cited in Clayton, 2020, p. 3). Australian farmers experiencing climate change reported an increased self-perceived risk of depression and suicide” (p. 3). In Greenland a national survey reported that 38% experienced moderate to very strong fear, “19% reported moderate or strong sadness, and 18% reported moderate or strong hopelessness” (p. 3). In Tuvalu, an island nation experiencing noticeable effects of climate change, “95% reported distress from climate change” and impaired normal functioning in 87% of the cases (p. 3). In Canada increases in substance abuse and suicidal ideation was reported among Inuit peoples (p.3).
Youth & Climate AnxietyYounger adults “experience the strongest effects” and are more vulnerable when climate change is a direct experience. Young adults are more likely to score higher in climate anxiety than older adults (Clayton, 2020, p.2). When it comes to extreme weather events, children and youth have, on average, stronger responses such as sleep disorders, depression, and PTSD (Clayton, 2020). When weather events occur, children are more vulnerable because of their dependence on parents and the likelihood that social supports are disrupted are increased (Bartlett, 2008). In the US in 2019, Kaplan and Guskin found that “57% of teens said they were afraid of climate change (as cited in Clayton, 2020, p. 4). Younger adolescents and young adults think more about their future than older adults (Clayton, 2020) and this could be impacting the degree of anxiety experienced by younger aged groups. For example, the Toronto Star exclaims that issues such as the climate crisis have created “a generation that’s supercharged with anxieties” (Chisholm, 2019, p. A1). One student reports his experience of anxiety as being “strongest on my heart…a feeling I don’t know how to explain, but it’s like tight or very heavy” (Wang as cited in Chisholm, 2019, p. A21). The effects of generation and climate anxiety has created a 35% increase in “counselling appointments across 13 post-secondary institutions and post secondary institutions have not caught up with demand. Students are reporting extremely long wait times for counselling. This is why it is shocking to hear that Ford “reduced planned annual funding to mental health programs by $335 million dollars.” Kim Moran, CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario” says “we are failing, have failed, and are continuing to fail a whole generation of children (Chisholm, 2019, p. A20).
Implications of a Warming Planet
It is surprizing, the implications a rapidly warming planet can have on mental health. For example, heat “has been consistently associated with aggression and conflict and more recently has been found to correlate with increased rates of suicide and of hospitalization for mental illness” (Miles-Novel et al.; Carlton, 2017; Obradovick et al., as cited in Clayton, 2020, p. 1). Climate change is associated with pollution due to increased levels of particulate matter, ozone, and carbon, and warmer air holds “higher levels of these pollutants” (Clayton, 2020, p. 2).
In 2018 Greta began striking at the Parliament buildings in Sweden with a sign that read "School Strike for Climate" (BBC News). Her cause became viral with her #FridaysForFuture strikes. This is not surprising considering the movement suggests students skip school. In September 2019, she set off on an environmentally friendly yacht to address a UN climate conference in New York. Greta refuses to fly because of the environmental impact. Graham & Metz, (2017) state that “By 2050, air travel is expected to quadruple and the price of this ”falls heavily on the shoulders of the planet, with scientists linking increasing global carbon dioxide emissions to climate change (Baumeister & Onkila, 2017; Becken, 2007).Greta is an interesting example in climate anxiety and mental health because her advocacy for a clean planet creates mixed emotions (Mkono et al., 2020). The scapegoat ecology framework is a strategy deployed in response to “environmental activism and activists [and] It provides a lens through which to understand why people may often be disproportionately angered or provoked by an individual’s efforts to change the status quo” (Mkono et al., 2020, p. 2081). Greta, therefore, gets some backlash in her efforts and her Asperger’s is wielded as a weapon against the credibility of her cause. However, Greta is an exemplary spokesperson for mental health and de-stigmatization of mental illness because she refers to her Asperger’s as a “superpower” (BBC). Linking this to Crip theory, the term ‘crip’ emerged in disability movements, as an adaptation and reworking of the derogatory word ‘crip**’ (Oxford Reference). In Crip theory, taking back the name in an attempt to transform it from its pejorative connotations is a way for those with disabilities to insert and exert their voice into mainstream consciousness in order to “resist the contemporary spectacle of able-bodied heteronormativity” (Oxford Reference). Like queer theory disrupts by ‘queering things up,’ crip theory ‘crips things up’ and challenges dominant frameworks of disability. The positive embracing of Asperger’s as a part of herself could be considered a protective factor for mental health.
Some other protective factors are resilience, good adaptation, social connections, and societal wellbeing (Clayton, 2020). For example, “human interdependence in young people who are resilient, flexible, have common attributes and connections to community support systems are important protective factors (Masten, 2014). Also, having an attachment figure close by during and after natural disasters is protective (Masten, 2014, p. 8), as well as good parenting (p. 10) and the development of “executive function skills” (Masten, 2014, p. 10).
Some say that validating, rather than pathologizing people’s emotional responses to climate anxiety can protect from negative effects (Clayton, 2020, p. 5). If one is not too severely distressed over climate change, then active engagement in climate resolution or doing their part can be a protective factor. “Doherty (2015) has emphasized the importance of empowerment, encouraging people who are experiencing climate anxiety [to] engage in [environmental] conservation actions [because it] can promote perceived efficacy and competence [leading] to an ‘adaptation-mitigation cascade’” (p. 208). [Adaptation-mitigation cascade means that mitigating] climate change facilitates adaptation to the threat. If one has not been directly affected by climate change, it is suggested that engagement in climate activism, could be considered a form of proactive or anticipatory coping (Reser et al., 2012).
Research shows positive correlations between happiness and environmental action (Corral-Verdugo, Mireles-Acosta, Tapia-Fonllem, & Fraijo-Sing, 2011; Howell & Passmore, 2013), and even those who perceive the threat from climate change as severe show reduced distress and depressive symptoms when they are involved in behavior to mitigate the problem (Bradley et al., 2014) (This is all from Clayton, 2020 p. 5).Culture has been found to be a protective factor, including cultural rituals, and respect for indigenous community values important to their culture such as acts of reconciliation and forgiveness as promoted by the Mmi’kmaq indigenous peoples (Clayton, 2020, p. 12). Discussing protective factors, involves interaction between various complex systems involved, especially in adaptive systems. Developmental Psychopathology can be useful for studying the interaction of complex systems or how they “co-act to shape the course of development, across levels of function, from the molecular to the macro-levels of physical and sociocultural ecologies” (Masten, 2014, p. 9). Developmental psychopathology can use complex models to determine protective/risk factors and trajectories (Rutter Stroufe, 2000). So next I will discuss some risk factors.
Some risk factors involved in eco-anxiety and exposure to natural disasters are again, the proximity of the attachment figure because if they are not present, trauma is increased (Cohen et al., 2009). For example, one girl was separated from her mother after Hurricane Katrina hit because it was her father’s weekend. She reports the trauma of getting to a local stadium where aid was set up and wished she were with her mother (Cohen et al., 2009). Depression after an environmental disaster increases the risk for “developing PTSD and related symptoms” (Cohen et al., 2009, p. 55) and chronic PTSD symptoms cause “cognitive and educational impairments, relationship problems, significantly increased health care usage, substance abuse, suicide attempts, and completed suicide” (p. 56).
The greater the exposure to the disaster (Cohen, 2009), “indexed by proximity to the epicenter of the devastation,” traumatic experiences are increased (Masten, 2014, p. 8). Children who live in disaster zones are likely to have experienced previous traumas and new disasters can activate previous PTSD symptoms (Cohen et al., 2009). There are sex and age effects because younger females are more vulnerable to the negative effects of natural disasters. Those who have been exposed to child maltreatment (Masten, 2014, p. 10), and children who have a predisposition for mental disorders and parental PTSD are also more vulnerable (Cohen et al., 2009).Having to relocate after an environmental disruption also increases the risk of anxiety and PTSD. The riskiest group for developing greater symptoms are those who had family members die from natural disasters. Cohen et al. (2009) report that “children [who] had be relocated multiple times” and are not in their own homes are more likely to be exposed to adult behaviours such as “drinking, sexual activity, and violence” (p. 56). Masten (2014) states that “violence at the community level influences family function …[and] cascades to affect children” (p. 10). Another risk factor is lack of social assistance for children and “barriers to opportunity” (Masten, 2014, p. 12). Those who experience climate anxiety are “likely to be people who have strong connections to the natural environment” (Clayton, 2020, p. 5). This is why indigenous peoples are more likely to experience climate anxiety. However, “Going out on the land was seen not only as restorative… but as a way of participating in traditional culture which itself was a source of resilience” (p. 5). This is what made me want to explore culture as both a risk and a protective factor in my final paper. Next, I will quickly discuss some trajectories including mediating and moderating variables because the degree of development of negative symptoms from climate anxiety and natural disasters can be mitigated by certain factors.
Some trajectories or pathways climate anxiety can take include increases in migration and conflict (Clayton, 2020, p. 1). People may be forced to leave their homes not just from natural disasters, but from the effect of climate change such as “rising sea levels, thawing permafrost, melting glaciers, or desertification” (p. 1). For example, there are “significant levels of drought threatening the Great Barrier Reef… and wildfires [have] threatened communities and killed enormous numbers of iconic animals” in Australia (Clayton, 2020, p. 2). Migrating to different places can be very stressful, especially when moving to a different country. This can come with economic challenges and social conflict, especially if they are not welcomed by the new community, both of which are threats to mental health (Clayton, 2020). Clayton (2020) discusses how the home can facilitate resilience and when it is taken away, especially involuntarily, it can “threaten mental health” (p. 1). Solastagia, is a term used to “describe the chronic distress people experience in response to negative environmental change, particularly when it affects a home environment” (Clayton, 2020, p. 2).
Research shows there is a “possibility for long-term and/or permanent effects of early experience of trauma which can impair children’s ability to regulate their own emotions and can lead to learning or behavioural problems” (p. 2). Early stress can also increase the risk of mental health problems later in life (Clayton, 2020, p. 2). Doherty & Clayton (2011) found “intense emotions associated with observations of climate change effects worldwide and anxiety and uncertainty about the unprecedented scale of current and future risks” (p. 265).
If chronic worry about the environment and ecological anxiety is not dealt with, it can lead to a “potentially disabling response to risk” (p. 3) and can “interfere with a person’s ability to sleep, work, or socialize. As briefly discussed before, channeling the stress into doing something about the situation can be helpful and adaptive. However, individual differences in achieving this change of focus show that some may experience “ecoparalysis” which is “the inability to act on environmental challenges due to a perception that the are intractable” (Clayton, 2020, p. 2). When experiences of ecoanxiety, solastalgia and ecoparalysis are compounded, they create a constellation of mental health referred to as psychoterratic syndromes which are all associated with environmental damage and change (Albrecht, 2005).
If negative reactions to climate change are not based on direct experience, mediators affecting the degree of anxiety are social context and/or media (Clayton, 2020, p. 3). Norgaard, (2006) notes that because attitudes towards climate change vary across cultures, to a degree, climate change is socially constructed. So, culture and context mediate the degree of distress. This is why research should focus on the “role of context in moderating [or mediating] the influence of individual differences on adaptive function and development” (p. 14). Therefore, a suggestion for future research, would be to focus more on context and culture as a way to mitigate perceptions around climate change and anxiety.Other factors that moderate the experience of climate anxiety are whether or not there is social assistance “and access to coping resources” (Clayton, 2020, p. 2). Age and resilience also moderate climate anxiety. When it come to accurate trajectories and predictions of the future, however, Clayton (2020) states that “no one can predict the exact impacts in a particular place and time (Clayton, 2020, p. 2).
One of the groups most affected by climate change are indigenous peoples because they are more likely to be living in areas in danger from rising sea levels and melting (Clayton, 2020). According to Aboriginal understandings, the relationship of the human to the environment (and other animals and plants etc.) is reciprocal. Sylvia Moore (2017) discusses how we are part of the circle of life and connected to the trees, the water, and even the salmon. There is no separation between humans, animals, and the environment. If distinctions are made, however, then they are an I/We distinction and not an I/You contrast (Chilisa & Kawulich, 2012). This is different from Western understandings that tend towards binaristic thinking and antagonism between categories in a binary. Binaries and binaristic thinking are a product of the English language and thus affect our thinking and influence our world view (von Humboldt, 1836/1999; Whorf, 1956). Those who speak English, therefore, may have a propensity to think in binaries.
Aboriginal languages, such as the Hopi language do not set up the world to be in binaries, but rather, through their language, see the world as a unified whole (Whorf, 1956). For example, in the Hopi language, the same word for apple also means tree, and also means decay, capturing the cyclical motion of life (Whorf, 1956). The Maori peoples of New Zealand have a worldview based on the principle of Whakapapa which “turns the universe into a moral space where all things great and small are interconnected” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2008, p. 11). Similarly, Mi’kmaq “teachings are based on the interconnectedness of all things” (Marshall as cited in Moore, 2017, p. 24). These understandings see human beings as interconnected with the living world and therefore are emersed in many relations and connections (Chilisa & Kawulich, 2012).
In contrast, Western thinking tends to produce a linear, fragmented, and compartmentalized world where the sum of the parts equals the whole. This produces a mechanistic world view, as opposed to indigenous thinking that produces an organistic world view (Coole & Frost, 2010; Harris et al., 1977). Organistic thinking, also called ‘system thinking’ (Angyal, 1965), sees the world in terms of complex patterns with an implicit order of unification. This is somewhat in line with Developmental Psychopathology because it stresses the importance of dynamism and reciprocity and uses complex models (Cicchetti & Rogosch, 1996; Rutter & Stroufe, 2000; Stroufe & Rutter, 1984). But goes against traditional positivist understandings of reductionism and simple causation and against a mechanistic worldview that focuses on linear relationships and individual elements or parts (Harris et al., 1977). According to Coole and Frost (2010), “[h]ostilities between [mechanistic and organistic] approaches have traditionally been staged as an opposition between mechanistic and vitalist understandings of (dead versus lively) matter” (p. 9). As well as producing a short-sighted understanding of complex systems, mechanistic thinking objectifies the Earth. This objectification subsequently justifies the exploitation of the Earth and the unrestrained extraction of its resources for personal gain. Mechanistic thinking, therefore, is a slippery slope towards aggressive neoliberal exploitation of peoples and the Earth in the pursuit of profit.
Remember article 24 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) that demands “clean drinking-water, [and the] taking into consideration the dangers and risks of environmental pollution” (United Nations Human Rights, 1998)? Well, this leads me to believe that climate change is, in part due, to neoliberalism and globalization. For example, “open-pit mining in Costa Rica uses the extremely toxic cyanide lixiviation technique, which has led to severe pollution and consequently to organized resistance among local communities” (Isla, 2002, p. 148). Clayton (2020) reports that “damage associated with mining in…Australia was associated with mental distress among local residents” (p. 2).Aboriginal understandings of the Earth as a living, interconnected, organism feeds into their climate anxiety and “changes to the natural environment mandate changes in traditional practices (Clayton, 2020, p. 4). Perhaps the reason an indigenous or organistic world view is a risk factor is more due to their social positioning. For example, if the elites and those who have power in this world would adopt an indigenous, organistic worldview, they would be more likely to see the role of humans as stewards of the land, rather than conquerors of it. This is the analysis I will be posing in my final paper. It also begins to steer us towards solutions to climate change and climate anxiety.
Similar to indigenous understandings, “Ecotherapy…stems from the belief that people are part of the web of life and that our psyches are not isolated or separate from our environment. Ecopsychology is informed by systems theory and provides individuals with an opportunity to explore their relationship with nature—an area that may be overlooked in many other types of psychotherapy” (Good Therapy, 2018). Research shows after completing a 40-minute cognitive task designed to induce mental fatigue, the participants, who had walked in the nature preserve reported “less anger and more positive emotions than those who engaged in the other activities” (Good Therapy, 2018). An experiential example from someone who went through Ecotherapy reports, “I remember walking into the garden, and I immediately felt better…There was food growing, and flowers. It really helped to shift my thinking” (Smith as cited in Hamblin, 2015). In another study “a nature walk reduced symptoms of depression in 71% of participants, compared to only 45% of those who took a walk through a shopping center” (MIND, 2007). Chalquist (2009) found that if you hold soil bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae in your hand for 20 minutes, it can improve one’s mood. In more recent studies, Mycobacterium vaccae, has been suggested as a vaccine after showing “good protection in mice against tuberculosis” (Gong et al., 2020).Even though the idea of Ecotherapy should be credited to Shamanism and is more commonly credited to Henry David Thoreau’s in his 1864 The Main Woods, Ecotherapy as a profession, is considered fairly new (Hamblin, 2015). There are skeptics that demand the practice should be standardized and be subjected to “licensing requirements.” They also say it should not be “a replacement for standard evidence-based treatments” (Hamblin, 2015). After hearing about the experiments with soil bacteria, Hamblin (2015) quips “ask your doctor before replacing your psychoactive medications with dirt.” Since Ecotherapy brings in elements of indigenous knowledge, ecology, biology, sociology, and psychology, it could be considered a transdisciplinary venture.
Transdisciplinarity is an emerging research practice that is gaining momentum and notoriety and could be said to a ‘buzzword’ when it comes to graduate work. Transdisciplinarity integrates many disciplines and a good example of this is the broad discipline of sustainability which integrates “politics, economics, philosophy…social sciences as well as the hard sciences” (Arizona State University; Robinson, 2008). It promotes renewable resources, alternative energies, and new modes of transportation. This could address the real-world problem of climate anxiety and ease the mind of Greta Thunberg and the like who suffer from its negative effects. The idea of a healthy, sustainable planet lends itself well to transdiciplinarity because it demands an activist or social justice component (Pycroft & Bartollas, 2014). Transdisciplinary work is “interactive and holistic” and typically involves “different perspectives…on resolving real world or complex problems (Choi & Pak, 2006). Like indigenous knowledges, transdisciplinarity “is consistent with underlying belief in the unity of knowledge” (Robinson, 2008, p. 71), and uses “complex system thinking” (p. 75).
Transdisciplinarity can be used as
a method in itself and is said to consist of four main aspects (Montuori,
2005a/2010/2013) which are “1) Inquiry-based rather than discipline-based; 2)
integrating rather than eliminating the inquirer from the inquiry; 3)
meta-paradigmatic rather than intra-paradigmatic; and 4) applying systems and
complex thought rather than reductive/disjunctive thinking” (Montuori, 2013, p.
46). I use transdisciplinarity as a methodology by compiling research examples
from many disciplines and use them as converging evidence, which is
meta-paradigmatic and produces a well-rounded case. An example of how I
integrated various disciplines in my last paper is shown here on the slide.
This diagram could be used as a heuristic for understanding how to apply
transdisciplinarity into one’s research.
In this paper, climate anxiety research demands a well-rounded case and argues that context, culture, and complex systems be used when exploring eco and climate anxiety. Therefore, transdisciplinarity lends itself well to climate anxiety research because it does not stop at the ‘what and how’ descriptions of climate anxiety and its effects but allows for a paradigm shift in pooling disciplinary knowledge together to find real world solutions, like Ecotherapy.
Precarious Work in Violation of Human Rights: Corporations attain Human Rights while Humans become Commodities (SLIDE)
Freud once said that “Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.” But, I fail to see how life or humanness is this simple. In my experience as a single mother engaged in precarious work, I have found a distinction can be made between creative, enjoyable work and necessary work (Lowe, 2015; Tremsness, 2016). The work I call necessary lacks control and creativity and has become increasingly dehumanized. (SLIDE)
In 1844 Marx discussed two main critiques of capitalist labour saying that it created alienation and was exploitive (Lowe, 2015). Marx’s concept of commodity fetishism discusses how the value of labour has been dehumanized by only seeing value as in the product itself (Tromsness, 2016). This has the effect of turning the product into the subject and the human subject into an object. Hence the title of my project. (SLIDE)
On an international level, in the 1970’s, neoliberalism and globalization began to create a new employment climate due to austere capitalist social and economic thinkers that increasingly saw the world as an open market (Standing, 2016). Neoliberal ideas consisted of convincing companies that reducing worker securities, such as benefits, and de-industrialising unions would stall the rise of unemployment and poverty and if they did not put these changes into place, then “economic growth would slow down, [and] investment would flow out” (Standing, 2016, p. 6). However, what it did was produce more insecurity and poverty, which trickled down to all levels of society with serious consequences. Neoliberal attitudes place the onus of survival onto the individual, relieving the state of responsibility. (SLIDE)
This project will show the ubiquity of precarious work. I will argue that precarious work is dehumanizing and exploitive to the point that it violates human rights. Precarious work is responsible for negative health effects and contributes to the feminization of poverty. I desire to make jobs less precarious on local, provincial and national levels. First, I will define precarious work, then show how it violates human rights and on what grounds. On both a provincial and federal level, suggested remedies for the negative effects caused by precarious work will be discussed. (SLIDE)
Precarious work is described by contract work, that is part-time, has little-to-no benefits (Standing, 2016), and has little chance for advancement (Gazso, 2010). Precarious employment contains elements of “uncertainty, insecurity and lack of control” (Lewchuck et al., 2015, p. 14) and are considered to be jobs that do not fall under the “Standard Employment Relationship” (SER) which are jobs defined by security, provide a “full range of benefits and [have a] possible career path” (Lewchuck et al., 2015, p. 10). Precarious jobs are dead end, come with reduced job and life opportunities, are demeaning, alienating and considered “not big enough for the human spirit” (as cited by Allan, Bamber, & Timo, 2004, p. 405). Precarious work is increasing on a global scale (Standing, 2016) and the unstable work environment has become the new norm in Canada (Canada without Poverty, 2017). (SLIDE)
The group most affected by the exploitation and dehumanizing effects of precarious work are women: particularly those with children and women of colour. The fact that the trend of precarious work negatively affects these groups disproportionately is why precarious work can be considered in violation of Human Rights on the grounds of sex, family status and ethnicity. (SLIDE)
Discrimination via Sex
Precarious work leads to discrimination on the grounds of sex because precarious jobs are held disproportionately by women (Shaw & Lee, 2012; Bose & Whaley, 2012; Young, 2010). Women in Canada work “30 hours per week less than men” (Moyser, 2017). In the year 2000, 47% of Canadian women’s jobs were precarious compared to 27% of men’s jobs (Wallis & Kwok, 2008). In 2007, “almost half a million part-time temporary employees were women whereas just over a quarter of a million were men” (Vosko & Clark, 2009, p. 29). In 2015, 18.9% of Canadian women were engaged in part‑time (precarious) work, compared to 5.5% of employed men (Moyser, 2017).
The disproportionate streaming of women into precarious jobs creates the wage gap. In 1999 “women earn[ed] an average of 74 cents for every men’s dollar” (Bose & Whaley, 2012). Statistics Canada said in 2015, women made 87 cents to every man’s dollar (Moyser, 2017). The degree of gap, however, varies depending on where they work (Moyser, 2017). For example, in 2006, Hamilton women made 62 cents to the man’s dollar (Shaw, 2006). This report also stated that Canada has the fifth largest wage gap out of 29 developed countries (Shaw, 2006). Precarious work also leads to the glass ceiling, which is the little chance of advancement in the workplace. This, of course is not an exhaustive list and are only some of the reasons why precarious work leads to the feminization of poverty. More women than men experience a time crunch where it feels like both work and domestic duties cannot be completed in time, or done well (Gaszo, 2010). The “double day” of juggling domestic and work-related duties, creates stress and leads to depression and other negative effects such as exhaustion and burn-out (Gazso, 2010). (SLIDE)
Research finding a link between precarious work and overall negative health is robust (Lewchuk, Clarke, & deWolf, 2008; Young, 2010) and can also be responsible for suicide (Standing, 2016). Precarious jobs also contribute to heart disease, hypertension, gastric problems, (Gasper, 2012). Dissatisfaction of work can cause pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, frustration, tension, problems sleeping and headaches, whereas more permanent work led to less chronic illness and better overall health (Lewchuck et al., 2008). Since women are more likely to engage in precarious work, women are more likely to experience negative health effects. (SLIDE)
Discrimination via Family Status
Another violation of Human Rights is on the grounds of family status due to something called the “family penalty,” in which child-care affects the ability to engage in paid work (Gazso, 2010, p. 230). Childcare is the major reason for women taking part-time work in Canada (Moyser, 2017). This can include the increasing number of children staying at home for longer periods of time due to the inability to find jobs or find jobs that pay enough to move out (Burke, 2017). The family penalty can also include those described by the “sandwich generation” who are placed in dual care-giving roles of both younger and older generations (Burke, 2017, p. 3). Statistics Canada (2010) reported that 30 percent of Canadians aged 45 to 64 are simultaneously responsible for their children under 25 and their aging parents (Burke, 2017, p. 4). Two-thirds of Canadian parents said they were dipping into their savings to care for older children staying at home (Burke, 2017). Due to these factors, some women either engage less with paid work or quit their jobs altogether (Burke, 2017; Shaw & Lee, 2012). The ability to save money is hindered by caregiving responsibilities, having lower savings and retirement money than men and by the time women are ready to go back to work, they may have been deskilled in the process (Burke, 2017). (SLIDE)
The lack of effective national child-care has been said to be the major factor in why women have difficulty balancing work and domestic responsibilities (Gazso, 2010). In Canada, we have yet to establish effective national child-care (Wallis & Kwok, 2012).
Wallis and Kwok (2008) state that “[s]tructural poverty is a violence” (p. 9) and that the feminization of poverty is due to policy changes around Employment Insurance (EI), welfare assistance, and lack of social support (Gazso, 2010). Changes in EI, from what used to be called Unemployment Insurance (UI) disadvantaged women when eligibility for leave became determined by the number of hours worked, rather than weeks worked (Gazso, 2010). Not only were less women eligible, but maximum compensation for leave went from 60% of previous earnings to 55% (Gazso, 2010). In Canada, there is a weak safety net for families requiring assistance (Gazso, 2010). All these factors, plus many more, contribute to the feminization of poverty (Wallis & Kwok, 2008) and affect health negatively (SLIDE)
Discrimination via Racialization
In the workplace, even though it is illegal to discriminate based on ethnicity and sex, it persists (Bose & Whaley, 2012). Racialized women, particularly immigrants “experience the worst labour market conditions and outcomes” (Premji, Shakya, Spasevski, Merolli, & Athar, 2014, p. 123). Racialized women are overly represented in precarious jobs that are high risk (Law Commission of Canada, 2012), non-standard and receive low pay (Gazso, 2010). Women of colour experience more discrimination in hiring and employment opportunities due to their gender, ethnicity and class (Premji et al., 2014; Gazso, 2010; Clement, Mathieu, Prus & Uckardesler, 2009; Gupta, 2009) than white Canadian-born women (Gazso, 2010). Non-whites and immigrants experience systemic discrimination due to the devaluing of their education, lack of access to professional training, language barriers and the demand for vaguely defined “Canadian experience” (Gupta, 2009, p. 147). (SLIDE)
I place this project into the realm of Social Justice because human rights are a social justice concern. Though there is no agreed upon universal definition, the general definition is “Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society” (Dictionary.com). Scholarly articles describe social justice as a moral imperative and demand that “Individuals and groups…receive fair treatment and an impartial share of the benefits of society” (Hemphill, 2015, p. 1). Social justice can also be a global movement defined as “the way in which human rights are manifested in the everyday lives of people at every level of society” (Edmund Rice Centre, 2000, p. 1). The United Nation’s (2006) definition is “the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth” (p. 16). Because the distribution of economic wealth is not proportionate or fair to women, especially mothers and women of colour, we can see that precarious work is in violation of human rights an is in need of social justice. (SLIDE)
Going up against the Government of Canada, however, has only been done successfully once in October 2014 regarding the National Child Welfare case which led to the Truth and Reconciliation Act. It is good news that there is precedence, however, a great deal of research and statistics would be involved in filing a case about precarious work at the Human Rights Tribunal of Canada or the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Therefore, my project will gather as much data as possible to show that similar patterns affect women on all levels of society by showing that it happens right here in the Niagara Region. It will also seek out particular struggles in order to suggest policy changes on a provincial level and social services on a federal level. (SLIDE)
Collaborating with the Poverty and Employment Precarity in Niagara (PEPiN) project, I can show that even on a local level, there are similar patterns to Canada-wide statistics. Analyzing the PEPiN (2017) random digit dial phone survey dataset, 57.1% women reported anxiety produced from the uncertainty of the work schedule interfering with socializing with both friends and family, compared to 42.9 % of men (n = 710, 3 = missing). Analyzing this further to determine if there was a significant difference between men and women in the Niagara Region, a chi square test of independence was conducted. A significant difference between men and women’s reported anxiety was found X² (df = 3, n = 708, 5 = missing) = 9.059, p = .029. (SLIDE)
The PEPiN project also conducted an on-line survey at the beginning of 2018, that asked “How has precarious employment impacted you?” One respondent said they had” [c]onstant anxiety over if [they] can afford living, [and had to] hold off starting a family” (p. 67). Another respondent said, “In Niagara there is always this fear that we could potentially lose our job especially being a woman, so I try my best to put a smile on even though I am mentally and physically exhausted most days” (p. 60).
A lot of respondents complained of the unpredictability of the work, unpredictable scheduling, and 44% asked for more job security. All 71 respondents (N = 71, 60 = female, 8 = male, 1 = gender neutral, 1 = missing) said that money in some way was the biggest challenge when dealing with precarious work including inability to pay bills, save, pay a mortgage, or a car loan, make ends meet, “save for retirement and education funds for [their] kids” (sic) (p. 21), difficulty paying medical expenses, and lack of benefits. Some respondents asked for more paid sick days. (SLIDE)
Precarious work is a serious issue and due to its negative effects should not be allowed to be the “new norm in Canada.” One respondent wished for “somehow stopping companies from using loopholes, [have] better legislation, [and] basic income. There's so many people in precarious work that we would have the power to force change but we're all too busy working multiple jobs for little money that people feel powerless…We need to help the people of these communities, it's like those in power are so far separated and privileged they have no idea what most are going through. (PEPiN, 2018, p. 30) (SLIDE)
Taking the research and responses into consideration, if a case is filed at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, remedies on a provincial level would demand more paid sick days, more predictable schedules and make schedules available at an earlier timeframe to help balance more than one part-time job and/or help balance family and work responsibilities. Policies could also demand “[s]tricter laws for more mandatory hours” (p.33) or more stable work hours and more notice for layoffs. We also need policies that create “[m]ore good quality jobs (full-time, [have] benefits, [are] permanent, with pay we deserve” (p. 52). Benefits are important to workers, 51% of the respondents in the Niagara Region asked for benefits.
Lowering the cost of living was also suggested as a remedy. One respondent said that “raising the minimum wage was stupid because employers are cutting hours at every corner. What we should be doing is lowering the cost of living…” (p. 37). Since each province has their own tax system, perhaps less taxes could be added to goods and services. Policies that inform employers about the various disadvantages to women and the negative health effects involved could help workplaces compensate for the negative effects that come with precarious work. Suggestions include daycare facilities at workplaces, shift sharing, where many women can split the shift times depending on their availability. Also, a new understanding of when and where work needs to be done could allow more women to work at night and/or from home. (SLIDE)
If a case against precarious work is to be filed at the Canadian Human Right Tribunal, remedies on a federal level would demand more social services such as federally-funded universal childcare, easier access to EI and welfare. Also, easier access to professional training, language classes and the demand for a more specific and detailed definition of “Canadian experience” would benefit women of colour, immigrants and migrant workers. (SLIDE)
This project has shown the ubiquity of precarious work and how it adversely affects women, especially mothers and women of colour in Canada. There certainly seems to be a strong case against the federal and provincial government to get better social services and create policy changes regarding work making work less precarious. (SLIDES)
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The Pathways to Happiness: Through
The Pathways to Happiness
Happiness is a rather difficult concept to define but intuitively, not only does everyone have an idea about what happiness is, but they also strive to have it in their life. Happiness can also be referred to as subjective well-being and/or life satisfaction (Peterson, 2006). Subjective well-being could also be defined as the combination of happiness and life satisfaction (Myers, 2000). Happiness, or subjective well being involve how the individual perceives him or herself to be and life satisfaction is how contented or fulfilled one is in their life. This paper will help those who are looking for happiness, find it more easily by discussing the three major pathways to happiness (or subjective well-being). The three major pathways are (1) Hedonia, which refers to pleasure and enjoyment (2) Engagement which refers to involvement or immersion in activities and (3) Eudaimonia which is the idea of finding meaning in life (Peterson, 2006; Personal communication, S. Sadava,
Pathway of Hedonia
Hedonism is the experience of increasing physical pleasure or enjoyment and minimizing pain (Peterson, 2006). Increasing physical pleasure can be achieved by satisfying or fulfilling sex and/or hunger needs (Oishi, Schimmack & Diener, 2001). The idea of Hedonia implies that happiness can be found in the activities in which an individual finds the most enjoyment. Research has shown that physical pleasure can increase daily reports of life satisfaction, especially if the individual seeks pleasure during that day (Oishi et al., 2001). Happiness produced by physical pleasure can be moderated by a certain personality characteristic. Oishe et al. (2001) have found that those who are high in sensation seeking are more likely to find happiness through physical pleasures. Thus, an individual is likely to display risk taking behaviour when after stimuli that is exciting and novel (Oishe et al., 2001), Therefore, people who search pleasure are more likely to find happiness through physical pleasure.
The concept that happiness can be reached by increasing physical pleasure and decreasing pain was taken up by the Epicureans as an ideology to improve the self (Oishe et al. 2001). This too is the contemporary implication of studying happiness. However, the contemporary view of the Epicureans is misinterpreted as over-indulgence of pleasure to the point of gluttony or sin (Oishe et al. 2001; Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). The actual idea of the Epicureans was to balance out the lows and the highs of pleasure and pain to reach the feeling and the understanding of the “power of the now” which produces a quiet bliss accompanied by the experience of the “immediate presence of existence” (Personal communication, H. Hunt,
Pathway of Engagement
Flow produced from engagement has been found to be inwardly rewarding (Keller & Bless, 2008) and has shown that if an individual’s activities can produce a state or experience of flow, then happiness can result (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). The key to achieving flow is finding a balance between too much control and too little control over what one is doing. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). The idea of flow is not to exert too much in control because flow ensues from an effortless or spontaneous state and it is through this spontaneous effortless type of flow that one can find happiness (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). It has also been found that the flow experience is more likely reached when skill and challenge are balanced (Peterson, 2006).
Flow can be found in a number of different activities such as creativity including music, art, sports, and games. The experience distorts the passing of time and can create a feeling of oneness with the universe (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999; Peterson, 2006). From personal experience, flow from writing songs on the guitar brings the most happiness. Sometimes it feels like the song writes itself by flowing out through me, or like the song has always existed in the ether of the universe and all that was needed to be done was to grab it and bring it down into the material world. It seemed as though the song was written in three minutes, even though a half hour had gone by. It is these experiences that can produce happiness from flow.
Flow can also be reached from doing work. Job-related stress is so prevalent in society that it has been increasingly recognized in health literature (Howard, 2008). This is good news for those who feel they hate their jobs because if flow can be achieved even on an assembly line in a factory, the benefit of happiness can result (Personal communication, S. Sadava,
Pathway of Eudaimonia
Eudaimonia is cultivating one’s inner self (Peterson, 2006) or finding happiness through the discovery of one’s “true potential” (Ryff & Singer, 1998). It is essentially about finding meaning in life (Personal communication, S. Sadava,
Spirituality is different from religion in that the former is a subjective, first hand experience whereas the latter is more formal and includes rituals, ceremonies (Personal communication, S. Sadava,
These pathways to happiness can be used as an ideology to help individuals increase happiness, subjective well-being and life satisfaction. The high sensation seeker can use physical pleasure as a means to happiness, the individual unhappy with his or her job can strive to attain flow at work to increase happiness, and happiness can be increased by finding meaning in life through spiritual and/or religious practices.Therefore, happiness can be found on a physical, mental and emotional level. And perhaps if one wanted to explore this further, there may be different combinations of physical, mental and emotional that can create higher levels of happiness. But, whatever the path you choose, please enjoy... =)
Word Count: 1,132
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International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 8, 149-164.
November 29, 2017
Intersectionality, coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989/1991), is an important tool for understanding how power intersects with certain traits such as sex, gender and ethnicity. Intersectionality is “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage” (dictionary.com). Originally developed to understand how oppression can become compounded, intersectionality has been used to understand how law, policies and work jockey to further oppress and discriminate minority groups; especially those who embody many minority characteristics at once. For example, an older, Black lesbian woman of low socio-economic status (SES), with a disability would be exposed to more (compounded) oppression than, a Black, middle-class heterosexual woman. Yet, a Black middle-class heterosexual woman would be exposed to more oppression and discrimination than a white woman of low SES and she would experience more oppression than a white middle-class man. The power dynamics that create compounded oppressions are therefore complex and in need of a heuristic or metaphor for better comprehension (Garry, 2015); especially in court and at work (Crenshaw, 1991).
Gender Studies research has suggested many metaphors to describe intersectionality (that I will discuss later in the paper) and traditional sciences and social sciences have taken up the task of looking at these different embodied characteristics seperately (Cho, Crenshaw & McCall, 2013). This is referred to as single-axis thinking. Looking at these embodied traits separately does an injustice to those who experience compounded oppression and discrimination. Therefore, intersectionality is also an important heuristic for countering “traditional single-axis horizons” (Cho, Crenshaw & McCall, 2013, p. 785), which tend to undermine the complexities of the human experience.
From an anti-racist, social justice perspective intersectionality works to show how discrimination and oppression can become a compounded experience due to power dynamics embedded in characteristics such as ethnicity, sex, gender, with the later addition of SES, ability, age, orientation, religion and culture (Crenshaw, 1991; Evans, 2016). For this paper I will focus on Cho, Crenshaw and McCall’s (2013) exploration of the use of intersectionality as a conceptual tool; expanding on their project towards a collaborative field approach. I will therefore help work to imagine ways to develop their main objective which is to:
illustrate its potential for achieving greater theoretical, methodological, [and]
substantive...literacy without demanding greater [homogenization] across the growing
diversity of fields that constitute the study of intersectionality. Implicit in this aspiration
is an understanding of intersectional arenas not as a rigidly delimited set of subfields,
separate from other like-minded approaches, but as part and parcel of them...it would seem
that the future development of intersectionality as a field would be advanced by
maximizing the interface between the centrifugal and the centripetal process. (Cho,
Crenshaw & McCall, 2013, p. 792/794)
Centrifugal processes are defined as those “moving or tending to move away from a center” (dictionary.com) and are referred to as here as those travelling away from its core intention/definition rooted in Black feminism, to other disciplines (Cho, Crenshaw & McCall, 2013). These processes seem to apply the standards of their own disciplines and seem to “build…from the ground of empirical research up” (p. 792). Centripetal processes are those “moving or tending to move toward a center” (dictionary.com). These processes are referred to here as those in the margins of their fields who are “skeptical about the possibility of integration mainstream methods and theories into their intersectional research” (Cho, Crenshaw & McCall, 2013, p. 793). They perhaps try to keep intersectionality free from colonialization, or free from the ’flattening’ of quantitative research that tends to homogenize and stereotype groups.
The colonization of intersectionality refers to when mainstream research, mostly white researchers, use the term and fail to put its use into context, or ignore its originator, Kimberlé Crenshaw (“We’re all Just Different”, 2017). Research using intersectionality should highlight the complications and struggles of Black women’s oppression through policy, law and work (which I will be doing more in my MRP than here). The examination of how white supremacy creates oppression is also overlooked in mainstream research (“We’re all Just Different”, 2017). There are other ways in which the term is colonized, which will be addressed below. Therefore, there are ethical considerations involved in doing research with intersectionality.
Using critical theory as my theoretical framework, I will deconstruct and compare the various ways in which intersectionality is imagined and utilized. Using a multidisciplinary approach (Psychology, Sociology, Gender Studies & Quantum Physics), I will take up the challenge of “synthesizing intersectional projects across disciplines and contexts” (Cho, Crenshaw & McCall, 2013, p. 793). I will attempt to do this by adding a new practical matrix or heuristic to the theoretical framework.
In order to take up the task suggested by Cho, Crenshaw and McCall (2013), and integrate the various projects, I will have to try and “maximize the interface between centrifugal and centripetal processes” (p. 794). The model/matrix/metaphor/heuristic I will introduce may help in the integration of projects across disciplines because it can be used quantitatively (centrifugal) and qualitatively (centripetal) or both. The purpose of this paper is to look mainly at the various embodied characteristics and flesh out how to conceptualize their compounded nature. Bringing power and oppression back into the picture, I will then use this heuristic to see how power dynamics can be measured in certain situations. The matrix could, in theory, be used to point out certain situations where white supremacy is prominent. After this paper, my MRP will then further work to implement the ideas explored in this paper to policy, law and work, to end up with a more complete picture of intersectional struggles and complexities.
Being a white, middle-class, able-bodied, middle-aged, heterosexual Canadian there are certain ethical considerations required. Using centripetal understandings, I will remember that the term, coined by Crenshaw, a Black woman, was originally used to understand how Black women are discriminated against and how race and gender come together to produce violence and oppression (Crenshaw, 1991). For example, intersectional analysis began as a response to labour and law. Crenshaw (1989) compiled a collection of cases where “Black female claimants were unsuccessful” in their cases due to confusion over intersectionality (p. 790). There was frustration regarding the articulation of the compounded racist and sexist discrimination that left them unemployed (Cho, Crenshaw & McCall, 2013). Anti-discrimination laws seem to recognize Black male discrimination and white female discrimination, but do not accommodate for Black-female discrimination (Cho, Crenshaw & McCall, 2013). Crenshaw herself should also not be ignored (“We’re all Just Different”, 2017). Therefore, to keep Crenshaw at the centre, I will choose not to use et al. when citing the article of focus, as to keep her name visible throughout the paper. Even though I will venture off into centrifugal conceptions and discuss/incorporate other characteristics that have ‘stretched’ intersectionality out to include SES, ability, age, orientation (Krizsan, Skjeie & Squires, 2012), religion and culture, I will attempt to introduce a mechanism that can have the effect of re-centring the focus of race and sex/gender.
That being said, even though I will discuss all the different characteristics, I will try not to use the appendage etc. The “’et cetera’ problem” (Cho, Crenshaw & McCall, 2013, p. 787), as I understand it, can lead to the colonization of the term by leaving out certain characteristics that are not focused on in mainstream research circles. By saying etc. researchers can minimize whichever characteristics they wish and push these aspects out to the margins; rendering them invisible.
The ‘et cetera problem’ also ignores the fact that these characteristics are compounded and cannot be separated out for analysis. To avoid the ‘et cetera problem’ I have come up with an inclusive acronym that has been chosen, not for its order of appearance, but by the word it spells. This is to stress the importance of the compounded nature of the human experience as well as to show that certain characteristics are not superior to others; nor are certain types of one characteristic better than another. I want to stress the importance of the overall human experience or pattern, rather than the individual pieces/characteristics, so I have chosen the acronym CORSAAGES. My intent is to focus on the flower, its beauty and pattern, rather than its use. However, given that a corsage is something one wears or puts on, it provides an apt analogy. For example, according to Butler (1990/1997), gender is a performance or a “mode of enacting and reenacting” (p. 95), therefore CORSAAGES may be something we put on. I realize some might see the use of the corsage as heteronormative, but I welcome the critique and open it up for discussion. In no particular order, CORSAAGES stands for Culture, Orientation, Religion, Socio-economic Status (SES), Ability, Age, Gender, Ethnicity and Sex. The two characteristics I propose to add to this are time and space, but they are not included in the acronym because these represent the dynamic qualities in which persons are confronted. Time and space are extrinsic influences and not a part of the person themselves.
The ‘et cetera problem’ also addresses the tension between the “fixed versus the dynamic and contextual orientation of intersectional research” (Cho, Crenshaw & McCall, 2013, p. 787). My acronym represents the (somewhat) fixed, and the dimensions of time and space represent the dynamic aspects in which a person is placed. The addition of time and space to the equation would allow for the person to be simultaneously (somewhat) fixed, yet also in flux or fluid. This could potentially address the debate regarding
whether there is an essential subject of intersectionality and, if so, whether the subject is
statically situated in terms of identity, geography, or temporality or is dynamically
constituted within institutions and structure that are neither temporally nor spatially
circumscribed. (Cho, Crenshaw & McCall, 2013)
I argue that we can be both static and dynamic at once. For example, Sundar (2008) explains that “identity is an expression fitted to the changing demands of the situation” (p.255). She uses the term ‘bi-cultural identity’ to describe the how a person can strategically maneuver their identities to bridge the two worlds of the dominant culture and culture of origin. Therefore, depending on the situation one can get the “best of both worlds” (as cited in Sundar, 2008, p. 255). Therefore, the importance/salience/visibility of each characteristic in CORSAAGES may vary depending on the circumstance (set and setting) rendering some characteristics more or less salient. The matrix/mechanism/heuristic/model I will propose at the end of the paper will attempt to do just this; allow a person to be both simultaneously static and dynamic. First, however, I will engage with some previous research on different methods in which identity is measured, beginning with quantitative matrices, then moving to qualitative heuristics. I will then bring it back full circle to Gender Studies/feminist metaphors of intersectionality.
Intersectionality came about for many reasons. One reason, as stated earlier, is to challenge single-axis thinking (Cho, Crenshaw & McCall, 2013). Single-axis thinking refers to researchers, especially in the social sciences, looking at only one aspect of the human experience. For example, an experiment or study that only looks at sex, or only looks at SES would be examples of single axis thinking. Yet, there are multiple ways in which characteristics come together that create the human experience (Cho, Crenshaw & McCall, 2013) and these characteristics cannot be parsed apart from one another for analysis. As Lorde states “[t]here is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives” (as cited by “We’re all Just Different”, 2017). The interaction of these characteristics is what produces behaviour; not just one aspect alone. Experiments and studies using only one dimension, therefore produce non-representative and non-generalizable results.
Single-axis thinking also tends to reproduce white, middle-class, patriarchal ideologies by ignoring the full spectrum of human experience. The “issues of masculinity, power, and authority in knowledge creation” are still prominent and feminist critique of methodology used in research is continuously evolving (Doucet, 2006, p. 36). Intersectionality throws a wretch into positivist quantitative methodology because it creates too many dimensions for researchers to examine in one project. For example, quantifying multiple categories for regression analysis reduces power in the experiment to find significant results. Also, quantitative analysis has a tendency towards the mean, levelling out or homogenizing entire populations. All those who do not nicely fit into the average, are considered outliers and are extracted from the analysis altogether. Positivism and quantitative analysis tends to be standardized and white, middle-class, patriarchal interests seem to be the yardstick applied to everyone. This is how intersectionality itself has been appropriated and colonized by western thinkers, by ignoring white supremacy (“We’re all Just Different”, 2017). Even though I understand white supremacy to be wrong, as a white researcher, I need to be careful and respectful when using it as a conceptual tool, especially as I incorporate positivist psychometrics in my mechanism/heuristic. Now that I have discussed examples of single-axis thinking, I will then turn to quantitative methodologies that do try to look at more than one dimension at once; such as psychometrics. The methodology used in psychometrics may be useful for creating models/matrices for intersectionality.Psychometrics are used in personality assessment and are often influenced by Trait theory. “Trait theories state that personality consists of broad dispositions, called traits, that tend to lead to characteristic responses” (Santrock & Mitterer, 2001, p. 429). I do like how they say, ‘tend to lead to’ but the matrices ‘tend to be’ used to predict and create stereotypes. They attempt to ‘plot’ people onto a matrix that pins them down to certain personality traits. So instead of using traits like CORSAAGES, they measure people on continuums of Introverted vs Extroverted and Stable vs Unstable. Eysenck, who originated personality testing, plotted these on a Cartesian matrix (see Figure 1: Eysenck’s dimensions of personality,1967).
In psychometrics, a questionnaire asks questions related to each dimension and plots people on a continuum for each trait. For example, I tend to score high on Openness to Experience and low on Conscientiousness due to my limited ability to inhibit my behaviour.
Being situated in a continuum, these matrices reinforce and depend upon dichotomous thinking (Hill Collins, 2012). Even though Trait theory models try to use more than one dimension, they keep these dimensions separate in their analysis, then do not report findings based on the aggregated data to put all the pieces back together into an integrated whole person. I like Hill Collins’ (2012) examples of how emotion and reason are not mutually exclusive aspects or the fact that “I don’t stop being a mother when I drop my child off at school, or forget everything I learned while scrubbing the toilet” (p. 61). Therefore, we have many labels or ‘hats’ and they are all with us all the time; some just may be more activated at certain times and spaces.
Seeing the human as a bunch of parts is an example of what are called “pop-bead” analogies or “pop-bead” metaphysics (Spelman, 1988). It seems as though intersectionality itself has been made into a “pop-bead” analogy by adding “beads” of different characteristics onto race, sex and gender. “Pop-bead” or additive analogies or do not seem to work because, even though the beads create one necklace they can still be separated (Garry, 2012). They are also linear, which is limiting to full comprehension of what compounded oppression is like. These analogies can even marginalize and offend those who may feel their particular oppression as “tacked on to the end like an afterthought” (K. Grossman, personal communication, September 2017, regarding disability). Therefore, personality questionnaires seem to divide a person into compartmentalized categories. Even if they could report the aggregated data of all dimensions into one assessment, people are not the sum of their parts (Hill Collins, 2009), which is why, again, “pop-bead” analogies may not work (Garry, 2012). This begs the question of how to incorporate or measure CORSAAGE as a whole, rather than on individual, separate continuums.
CentripetalOther models then began to cross disciplinary boundaries, from Psychology into Sociology. One example is the identity wheel (see Figure 4: Other examples of models crossing over disciplines; sociology).
We tend to “have students fill [them] out but don’t interrogate how those multiple forms of identity compound in our own complicity in the oppression of students” (“We are All Just Different,” 2017). An important element missing from these models or matrices is the element of power. This is another way in which researchers can colonize intersectionality, because if it is used without addressing power and oppression, then it is considered appropriation (“We’re all Just Different”, 2017). Patricia Hill Collins believes intersectionality to be very important because it can be a helpful tool in recognizing and identifying the “oppressor within us” (as cited by Garry, 2015, p. 826). People do not just have different personality characteristics, but these dimensions of the human experience also create overlapping points of violence and oppression (Crenshaw, 1991). Therefore, heuristics of intersectionality in sociology are missing a power analysis and may be misleading as a result.
What models in Gender Studies do is keep to the core understanding of intersectionality and address the element of power and oppression. Here is where we get into metaphors mentioned in Cho, Crenshaw and McCall (2013), of the road intersection, matrix or “interlock[ing] visions of oppression” (p. 787). Researching further, in the road intersection metaphor, we are to
consider an analogy to traffic in an intersection, coming and going in all four directions.
Discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may
flow in another. If an accident happens in an intersection, it can be caused by cars
traveling from any number of directions and sometimes from all of them. (Crenshaw,
1989, p. 149)
Therefore, if the person (Black woman) is standing in the intersection and gets hit by a car, it could be due to both racism and sexism at the same time or individually (Garry, 2015). The critique of this analogy remains in its linearity, it is difficult to understand how compounded oppressions interact (Garry, 2015). Here Garry (2015) suggests a roundabout to show that axes of power can mix to produce a “distinct mixture” (p. 831). I might take this further to suggest that compounded acts of oppression can create a different type of oppression altogether; a new, emergent compounded axis, out from the other axes that represents its own separate axes of power. I like how Garry (2015) explains that [c]ars, trains, buses and motorcycles all could be vehicles carrying different axes of oppression into the central space” (p. 832). She goes on to explain that they could all crash and fuse together even before hitting the person in the intersection. The critique of this analogy is it does not address how those who experience privilege are included (Garry, 2015)? A person can be privileged in one space and oppressed in another.
Hirschmann (2012) critiques in a similar way by believing intersectionality to be too focused on differences, rather than the things we may have in common. Are we not, in some way all interconnected? Hirschmann (2012) references Gilligan’s web metaphor to get across the “complicated path of connections” (p. 403). I find the web metaphor to be useful in seeing everyone and everything as interconnected. But, if everything is the web, what is the spider? (see Figure 5 for images of feminist models of intersectionality).
Research in Quantum Physics supports the notion of interconnectivity in its recent work on Quantum Entanglement. Quantum Entanglement is the observation that when changes are made to one particle, it produces simultaneous, equal and opposite behaviours in another particle; even at great distances apart from each other. “[M]easurements performed on one system seem to be instantaneously influencing other systems entangled with it (“Science Daily,” n.d). This finding goes against the theory of Local Realism that states “that information about the state of a system should only be mediated by interactions in its immediate surroundings” (“Science Daily,” n.d). This confuses the practicality of my proposed model that adds the dimension of space into the heuristic because putting a person into context in a certain space where they are made to feel oppressed, they are being affected by their local surroundings. But, the dimension of time is also added to the equation and time can transcend space. Therefore, my matrix/mechanism/heuristic supports the notion of interconnectivity by adding time and space because a person can feel discriminated in a particular situation, but bring that experience with them no matter where they are. They can feel that same oppression the next day and even after a long span of time. This is why imagining people and their experience outside the context of time and space is problematic, because it makes the person fixed or static and ignores interconnectivity.Considering all these models, matrices and metaphors together, perhaps a new suggestion on how to conceptualize intersectionality can be made. Using the intersection analogy, I could take the wheel(s) from the vehicles and think of the heuristic as having axles, rather than axes. Imagine an old wagon wheel, the hub in the middle represents ‘space’ (the Earth) and give the wheel 7.6 billion spokes. The rim represents ‘time.’ Now imagine a wheel within a wheel, to avoid linearity and to represent movement (see Figure 6: Wheel within the wheel: Most typically associated with Ezekiel).
The idea is to try and not fix the person and make them static, but recognize that people are fluid and in flux. At the same time, however, we must recognize that some things are somewhat fixed. The one wheel represents the static or fixed and the other fluidity. The one wheel could also represent the macrocosm (everyone and the earth limited by time) and the other the microcosm (you and your interaction with time and space). The two wheels can also be used as a practical matrix to measure the degree of oppression involved in a situation. I will explain this further, but first I feel I need to overcome the problems inherent in Venn diagrams as I am suggesting a model with two wheels or circles.
Venn diagrams (and double helix models) tend to reinforce binaries (Hirschmann, 2012). Hirschmann (2012) discusses that even though the Venn diagram is more inclusive, it still “presumes a combination of two separate and distinct identities that happen to overlap” (p. 401). By adding the elements of time and space, and seeing the wheels as microcosm/macrocosm, two distinct and separate aspects are not as easily imagined. For example, are the earth and its 7.6 billion people separate and distinct from you? I would say there is interconnectivity and that having to be on and share the Earth, it creates more overlap if not complete overlap, whereas the traditional Venn diagram only has a small area overlapping.
I find the concept of wheels within wheels to be an appropriate analogy also here. Its definition explains that if you use the term wheels within wheels it represents “a number of different influences, reasons, and actions which together make a situation complicated and difficult to understand” (Collins Dictionary on-line). Intersectionality is complicated and difficult to understand due to its compounded nature. Wheels within wheels is also referred to as “a series of intricately connected events, plots, etc” (Collins dictionary on-line). This leads to the plotting of my proposed matrix/mechanism/heuristic.
For my final section I will attempt to unite the centrifugal and centripetal standpoints in intersectionality and attempt to bridge the interdisciplinary gap between qualitative and quantitative methodologies. For the purposes of explaining the matrix or heuristic, let’s remove the second wheel from the conceptualization suggested above. Let’s then reduce the number of spokes in the wheel to nine representing each characteristic in CORSAAGES. Unfortunately, for those who may want to use this quantitatively, odd numbers are not the best or easiest to work with in psychometrics. Even though there is overlap between culture and citizenship, a citizen identity could be seen as conceptually different from a cultural identity. Separating Citizenship from Culture into its own characteristic, it will make an even number; making CCORSAAGES.
Let’s then imagine each spoke as a continuum similar to the personality Trait theory models, but realize that these continuums should be in the shape of an asterisk; like a wheel. Each line or continuum can be used like a Likert scale I---------------------------------------I that ranges from least salient to most salient; instead of positive and negative or agree/disagree like a Likert scale used in Psychology (Johns, 2010). A tick can be placed anywhere on the line representing how much each trait is salient or visible. Do this for each continuum beginning with the thought that you are doing the first wheel as your baseline. Your baseline is your resting state, or the way you feel on a regular basis; most of the time. This produces your baseline measure of who you “are,” or what your CORSAAGE looks like regularly.
Now let’s add the second wheel back into the model (fill out another). This wheel represents the situation one finds themselves in, or perhaps represents the topic of research under investigation. Here we have a matrix of time (how you are most of the time) and space (what your CORSAAGE looks like in that situation) you may find that the salience of each characteristic shifts defending on the circumstance or topic. By measuring the difference between the two wheels (using statistics or face validity) one could, in theory, measure how much oppression is experienced in different situations. In other words, how much is the power in that situation causing you to change from your baseline self? This matrix/mechanism/model/heuristic, which I call “Ezekiel’s” CORSAAGE, could be used to address what power and oppression looks like in different situations/places and potentially create rupture in dominant systems of power. It could also be used to “check [one’s] privilege” (C.R.I.A.W, 2004, p. 12) or to be humble in certain situations. See Figure 7 to fill out your own personal baseline CORSAAGE measure. What does your CORSAAGE look like?
Bringing this all back to Crenshaw and the theoretical future of intersectionality, I hope this paper provided some practical ideas towards integrating the various projects on intersectionality. It is recognized that all projects, even though quite diverse, are still accepted as “like-minded approaches” (Cho, Crenshaw & McCall, 2013, p. 792). Cho, Crenshaw and McCall (2013), seem to say that they “do not understand intersectionality’s use or objectives to be realized…through a full-fledged grand theory or a standardized methodology” (p. 789), but I wonder then how it is possible integrate the centrifugal and centripetal processes without some sort of practical model/matrix/mechanism/metaphor/heuristic? I wanted to ease the frustration regarding how to conceptualize intersectionality and perhaps it can help judges, and policy/law makers understand its compounded, complex nature. Hopefully, the suggestion(s) proposed in this paper aid in the future integration of projects on intersectionality and can be used to help address or ‘call-out’ white supremacy and its power to oppress and discriminate.
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Prejudice: How Can We Stop It?
Psychology of Prejudice
Prejudice: How Can We Stop It?
Prejudice is defined as an attitude towards a group, often seen as having an affective quality based on the beliefs held about the group’s characteristics (G. Hodson, personal communication,
The modern view of prejudice is that it is socially unacceptable and unjust. This is quite different from traditional attitudes towards prejudice which was seen to be socially acceptable and was expressed overtly. Because prejudice is seen as socially unacceptable, a lot of research is oriented towards unpacking and understanding the phenomenon. However, little research in the area is geared towards finding a solution to reduce prejudice. This paper will focus on some of the research available discussing ways to reduce, eliminate or control prejudice tendencies. Correlates to prejudice such as categorization, stereotypes, intergroup anxiety, and the role of religion in prejudice will be examined. Limitations and future directions will be discussed in regard to this research, and lastly, Allport’s notion that “self-insight is a necessary but insufficient step toward overcoming prejudice” (as cited by Devine, 2005, p 329) will be challenged.
Our perceptual systems are designed to take in and organize information coming into our senses from the environment (Schiffman, 2001). These automatic processes store this information, allow room to process new, novel information and thus reduce the possibility of stress or overload (P. Tyson, personal communication,
The problem with this processing, and how it relates to prejudice is that when we look at people, we tend to exaggerate the differences between group members (Tajfel, 1969). Automatic processing leads us to categorize people into groups, this reduces the perceived variation of individual differences within the group and leads to inaccurate assumptions (Taylor, Sheatsley, & Greeley, 1978).
Recognizing and understanding that categorization is a process common and natural in humans can help reduce prejudiced tendencies because we could potentially use this knowledge to notice when we are assessing people in this manner. Categorization can be combated with a process called decategorization which could break up the pattern of seeing people as members of groups, and begin to see them more as individuals (Reik, Mania & Gaertner, 2006). The understanding of categorization and decategorization is important to reducing prejudice because according to Macrae and Bodenhausen (2000), it is categorization that leads to stereotyping.
Knowing how to detect when stereotypes are activated is useful for reducing prejudice (Devine, 2005). Stereotypes can be activated in many ways. Cues from the environment can activate stereotypes (Taylor et al, 1978). For example, just seeing someone of another race can activate pre-existing stereotypes of members of that group. What is unusual about stereotypes and their activation is that pre-existing stereotype categories are activated more by being in a positive, happy mood. Most people desire this state, but a happy mood can trigger automatic processing that is more simplistic or heuristic, thus activating the stereotype category (Forgas & Feidler, 1995). I hypothesis that this might be a confound because perhaps stereotypes are associated with jokes, which is also associated with laughter and thus a "happy" mood. <<<But, this paper is not about me and what I think lol>>>
People can also be motivated to activate stereotype categories by being exposed to negative feedback or comments (Sinclair & Kunda, 1999). So watch out for crowds. It has been shown that teen risk taking behaviour and poor cost-benefit analysis are moderated or impeded as the number of peers increase (Mrug & Windle, 2009).
It is important to know the various ways in which stereotypes can be activated because if one has the desire to reduce their prejudiced thoughts, they can learn to detect the activation of the stereotype and use it as a cue to reduce these tendencies (Devine, 2005). For example Allport discusses inner conflict which is a feeling of guilt that occurs when a person’s thoughts or actions go against their personal egalitarian beliefs (as cited in Devine, 2005). These feelings of guilt or conflict can be used as a cue for preventing future acts, thoughts or feelings of prejudice. These cues are referred to as Post Consciousness Cues for Control (Devine, 2005). Once the conflict triggers activation of stereotypical thoughts, it can allow the person to hesitate long enough to consider their actions and thus interrupt future automated responses that go against egalitarian ethics. This method of reducing prejudice however is successful only in those already low in prejudice (Devine, 2005). Therefore, in low prejudiced people recognizing biases produced by our perceptual system and noticing discrepancies between ideals and behaviour, prejudice can be reduced and eventually eradicated using these cues for control.
Intergroup Threat/ Intergroup Anxiety
Another important correlate with prejudice is intergroup threat or intergroup anxiety, which is when there are anxious, nervous feelings about future contact with groups (Reik et al, 2006). Stephan, Diaz-Loving and Duran (2000) have found this to be the strongest correlate between high in-group identification and negative attitudes towards a group. The degree of anxiety increases with decreased amount of contact with the group (Stephan & Stephan, 1985). So, the more contact we make with members of out groups, the less likely anxious feelings will arise.Therefore, the more you become educated or get to know a person, the more the walls of stereotyping and prejudice break down. This is why it is recommended for those who are kidnapped to tell the perpetrator their name and start conversation. If report is made and there is knowledge about each other, it makes it harder for the perpetrator to continue afflicting pain.
It is not just the amount of contact, but the type of contact experienced. Positive contact and cooperation between groups has also been found to reduce anxiety (Reik et al, 2006). For example, studies in transactive memory have shown that a jigsaw approach to learning brings people of the group together as a team, no matter the race of the individuals in the group (J. Mitterer, personal communication, March, 2007). If the group members are given a common superordinate goal, the individuals in the group remember talents of others, it evokes better memory and learning of the task and fewer errors are made. Perhaps businesses could use this approach to reduce jealousy and intergroup anxiety. It has also been suggested that intergroup threats can be reduced by introducing cultural diversity programs (Reik et al, 2006).
Evangelical Christians are a group found to oppose racial equality (Devine, 2005) which could be described as Modern Racism. It has been found that the Protestant Work Ethic is correlated with anti-black attitudes (Katz & Hass, 1988). This makes sense because the Protestant Work Ethic is an ideology that promotes working hard and if you work hard you will get the things you deserve, ultimately entry into heaven. Thus, those who do not work hard are seen as lazy “parasites” and are not worthy of rewards from society. This is seen to create prejudice because if a group is labeled or assumed to be lazy, those who endorse the Protestant Work Ethic will deny privileges and harbour negative attitudes towards the group. Capitalism was a by-product of this Ethic because if you did business with someone, you would check their credentials with the church they were afiliated with (hunt, 2003). One would be true to their word that if you pay, they would deliver. If they didn't the church would ex-communicate you. (Hunt, 2003). <<If you wish to know more about the Protestant work ethic and its role in modern society, see Science/Religion section>>
Factor analysis has found three major types of religiosity, religion as a means, religion as an end and religion as a quest (Batson & Stocks, 2005; Ryan, Rigby & King, 1993; Watson, Morris, Hood, Milliron & Stutz, 1998). It has been found that one type in particular can lead to prejudice, religion as a means (Batson & Stocks, 2005; MacLean,
Religion as a Quest is described as being a more open-minded approach to religion and is more of a quest for meaning (MacLean et al., 2004). Although this scale is not correlated to prejudice, it is however, correlated with extrinsic scales (Ryan et al., 1993). Religion is important to discuss because one should perhaps evaluate their reasons for being religious and choose their path carefully. If more people endorsed an intrinsic approach to religion and fully internalized its moral values, and/or treated the path to religion as an on-going quest, there would be less prejudice in the world because extrinsic scales not only correlate with low self esteem, depression and poor mental health (Ryan et al., 1993), but also to prejudice (Watson et al., 1998).
Discussion, Limitations and Future Directions
Categorization, stereotyping, intergroup anxiety, and the role of religion are ways in which only the individual can seize and learn to control. Self-insight should not be seen as an insufficient way to reduce prejudice because all of these influences begin within the individual. Reducing prejudice is truly an “intrapersonal journey” (Devine, 2005). If prejudice is to be eliminated we all must look within ourselves and fight the natural processes and social influences through forms of inner development. More indepth intrapersonal solutions to prejudice are as follows.
Decategorization could be likened to deautomatization as studied by Deikman (1966). Deautomatization is described as being a way to rid one’s self of the automated processes built into our perceptual systems. Meditation can help deautomatize (Deikman, 1966). Through meditation we can explore and discover the influences that affect us without our awareness. Once pin pointed, these automated categories can be inserted into the post conscious detection process discussed above and could eventually be eliminated.
Perhaps it is not only the low-prejudiced people that can decategorize. Devine (2005) mentioned a brain process associated with the anterior cingular cortex (ACC) and is involved in inhibiting unintended responses. The ACC is said to help in preconscious conflict detection (Devine, 2005). The only resource a person may need to utilize both post conscious detection and preconscious conflict detection is the desire to reduce prejudiced acts and thoughts and that is something only the individual can do and therefore includes high-prejudice scoring individuals if they posses a desire to change. Overt prejudiced acts could be inhibited and reduced in high prejudice-scoring people if individuals in their ingroup chose to disapprove of prejudice. The high-prejudiced person would therefore control their tendencies due to conformity (Crandall & Stangor, 2005).
Perhaps decategorization could also occur if all people could be placed into one big, generalized category of “humans.” Prejudice could be reduced if we teach our children that all people are equal but possess different talents. If broad categories that encompass all people could be instilled early on, the automatic category or heuristic thinking that people revert to in a happy mood would be the category that we are all humans instead of smaller categorical stereotypes. If these small categories could be eliminated, then it could reduce stereotypes. It is up to the self-insight of the individual parent to do this.
Stereotypes could also be reduced and eventually eliminated using the above method, paired with a method only briefly mentioned by Devine (1989) of replacing prejudiced thoughts with non-prejudiced thoughts. The author has tried this method with success. It works by counteracting a negative thought that comes to mind about a person, with a positive thought. For example if an overweight person walks by and a thought arises that she is “fat,” immediately look for something positive or beautiful about that person. Perhaps she is intelligent, has a pretty face, or a great personality. The brain begins to dissolve old pathways associated with old categories and negative thoughts and begins to form new pathways from reinvented categories to positive thoughts. The more this counteractivity is conducted, the stronger the new pathways become, until prejudiced thoughts are eliminated. This, of course is entirely up to the individual.
Intergroup Anxiety and Contact
Anxiety associated with contact of a group could be reduced by travel. This way more contact with different groups can be made. Also, when we are on vacation or travelling, it tends to increase mood because adrenalin increases in exciting situations. When adrenalin is involved in contact, it is generally interpreted as positive. For example a study done where a woman interviewed some participants on a regular bridge and some on a dangerous suspension bridge. Those interviewed on the suspension bridge were more likely to interpret the woman’s questions or actions as flirtatious and were more likely to call her afterward (J. O. Mitterer, personal communication, March, 2007). Only the individual can travel and experience contact effectively with other groups.
Contact is also important in reducing prejudice because the more we meet the individuals of an outgroup, the more we get to know them. Prototypes are examples of people we have in our head about the average or most typical person associated with that category. Exemplars are examples of that category or group drawn from actual experience. The more members of a group that we meet, the more exemplars we have to draw on. Getting to know a group in this fashion can reduce the tendency to view all of those group members the same, thus allowing us to see the true variance within the group (G. Hodson, personal communication,
Organized religion and Quest Dimension
In regard to the intrinsic/extrinsic religiosity dimensions, perhaps Allport is not so far off to say that these tendencies lie on a continuum, especially if intrinsic scales seem to be related to a desire to not appear prejudiced in front of others (Batson & Stocks, 2005). The desire to appear non-prejudiced is an aspect of the Justification-Suppression Model and correlates to those who are already have or know they have prejudice tendencies (Saucier, Miller & Doucet, 2005). Perhaps these people are “muddled-headed” as Allport would suggest (as cited by Batson & Stocks, 2005) or are not being honest on their intrinsic measures due to socially desirability. Adding a measure of low self-monitoring and/or honesty may help sort out this counter-intuitive finding.
High ingroup identification could be moderating the relationship between religion and prejudice. It has been found that those who identify highly with their ingroup are more likely to show discriminatory behaviour to outgroup members (Gagnon & Bourhis, 1996). Thus, prejudice stemming from religion could be avoided if one does not become a full member of a particular religion. It could also be avoided by reducing the importance of being a member of a group (Forgas & Fiedler, 1995). Endorsing, instead the religion as a quest path of spirituality may increase open-mindedness and create respect for other people and their beliefs. This could be an outcome because an open-minded approach to religion can allow one to see the kernels of truth in all religion.
The religion as a quest path could also lead to redefining organized religion altogether through “mysticism.” Mysticism is less influenced by politics and social influence and is more of an inward journey (H. Hunt personal communication,
It seems as though there are a lot of ways to reduce prejudice internally. No matter what you perceive from the outside, it all comes down to your interpretation or personal perception of the experience. Prejudice is therefore, possible to reduce, even eliminate. It seems as though a lot of research talks about intrapersonal ways of reduction so perhaps self-insight could be one of the most sufficient ways to reduce prejudice. In conclusion, reducing prejudice is a battle that must begin within, and each person must do their part if prejudice is to be eliminated.
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Evidence shows that the belief system of the patient is critical in the implementation of treatment. There was an experiment that delivered audio to the participant’s ear at the same time displaying video (there is not audio attached to the video feed). Through the audio feed was someone pronouncing the letter “d” and through the video feed was someone pronouncing the letter “p” (P.C, P. Tyson, 2003). The participant perceived the combined stimuli as the letter “b.” The participants believed this to be the correct interpretation and added it to their perceptual experience. If the researchers had never debriefed them of the experiment, they would have gone about reacting as if “buh” was the true stimulus perceived. This experiment shows that what the person perceives to be true is true for them, in their own perception of reality. Therefore, the belief system of a person is very important as it is how they perceive the world to be.
The Biopsychosocialmodel of health, according to Psychology suggests a type of medical treatment stressing the individual and their mind as well as their bodies. The body can affect the mind just as the mind can affect the body. For example, one afflicted with an injury that leaves them in a wheelchair can leave them depressed (if that is how they perceive the world) and severe depression can cause susceptibility to physical ailments and disease. The Biopsychosocial Model of health also stresses the importance of preventing illnesses and disease.
Here's an idea that might change the future of hospital care. Introducing the Dream Hospital:
The Dream Hospital would be more like a hotel. The front lobby would be inviting and there could be people at the door. You would come in and see the reception desk, and fill out a couple sheets of questions, much like the doctor would ask anyway. But it would also ask about your belief system and what you feel would best work for you. The Biopsychosocial model sees the patient as an active member in their treatment. If the person’s world view wishes Traditional health care services, then they would be directed to the Right Wing of the hospital where they would meet with a doctor and receive prescriptions for medications.
If the person desires more homeopathic remedies, then they would be sent to the Left Wing of the hospital where they would meet with Naturopaths, nutritionists, masseuses, acupuncturists and quantum touch specialists (among other options and of course they could also send them to these specialists if they own practices throughout the city). Since, it is the world view or the belief system of the patient that is important in treatment, it does not matter which therapy or route is chosen. If they believe that therapy will work for them, then it will work for them. There will be, of course exceptions where the one treatment does not work (whether it is medication or natural remedies). In this case, the other Wing of the hospital is always available to them.
The concept of the Dream Hospital does not end there. Around back, there will be a separate entrance that is part of the hospital, but detached at the same time that will be the Dream Spa. Patients of the hospital who have been prescribed physiotherapy, or massage treatment would receive a temporary free membership to the spa where they can enjoy the hot tubs, hot rock therapies, Reiki etc. as well as the weights, yoga, Thai Chi, cardio, Falun Gong or what have you. This way people off the streets can also join the spa and utilize the programs and therapies offered. Prevention is important when it comes to health and it is even more important to change the mindset in persons that a hospital shouldn’t be just a place to go when you’re sick, but a place to go to stay healthy.
Exploration into the Gnostic Gospels revealed insight into creation, or what happened in the beginning and also what may happen in the end. Through Gnosticism it was found that there are two different accounts of creation that tell a story about two forces that push and pull against one another. One force wants to scatter energy and perpetuate the imbalance between the two forces (Yaldabaoth) and the other force, wishes to gather the energy back together again (Sophia/Elohhim). Right now these forces work as adversaries. The two opposing forces were operationally defined or named: Male and Female Principles. Using comparative evidence and studying similar stories found mostly in primary sources such as the Gnostic Gospels, Zohar collection, the Bible, Apocrypha, Gospel of Q, Talmud of Jmmanuel, Bhagavad-gita, Greek Mythology and other ancient myths, it was found that there is a blockade or obstacle in the way of making these forces work as compliments. My hypothesis on how Yaldabaoth maintains his imbalance is that he does it through the separation of the male and female principles and the suppression of one principle, the Sacred Feminine. It was found that reconciliation of the two principles may be possible by making the Male and Female principles equal and implementing an egalitarian society. Time permitting, possible ways to balance the male and female principles are discussed.
For me, the cosmology and the teachings of the Gnostic Gospels revealed the meaning of life. Welcome to the meaning of life in 50 minutes through Gnosticism and the Sacred Feminine.
In the Philosophy Club, I am playfully nicknamed the heretic, but my intention is not to offend or discredit another’s opinion because I believe there is a kernel of truth behind every last one, including those that are Gnostic. There may be 6.6 billion different ways to get to the union or message that I intend to unveil today. My presentation will consist of four parts. First will be a walk-through of some of the creation stories told in the Gnostic Gospels, the second will look at similar stories or symbolism in other major religions. The third part will bring the presentation back to Gnosticism, and will take a closer look and solve some problems regarding the actual and symbolic relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Finally, the fourth part will discuss possible ways to reunite Male and Female principles on an intrapersonal level, interpersonal level and in society.
This is a flow chart, or model of my interpretation of what the Gnostic Gospels are trying to say. The ideas that the Gnostic Gospels have sparked so many ideas that I will need to explain this chart in two presentations. What you will hear today is the descent down from the upper world to the lower world. This explanation utilizes religious, spiritual and philosophical references. The other portion, the tree, or ascent back up from the lower world to the upper world requires more of a psychological, mathematical and conceptual physics angle.
According to the Gnostic Gospels such as the Apocryphon of John, in the beginning was only the Invisible Spirit or the Virgin Spirit, who is also referred to as the perfect mother-father (pg 163; 164), an androgynous being. From this entity came a feminine character called Barbelo. She was more of an emanation or mirror image, rather than a creation. Since her emanation the pronoun used for the invisible spirit became he. She is referred to in many of the Gospels as the mother, or holy mother and represents foreknowledge, incorruptibility and Truth. “She is the first thought, [or] the image of the spirit (Meyer, 2005). Here we already see a male and female relationship built on equality and respect.
The Invisible spirit and Barbelo conceived a child. From there The Great Invisible Spirit and Barbelo create many dimensions or “Luminaries” and these creations in turn also desired to create. In the fourth luminary Sophia is born. She represents wisdom and plays a big role in many of the Gnostic Gospels and in Greek mythology. It is said in the Apocryphon of John that she, without the consent of the Invisible Spirit created a child who was an abomination. When Sophia saw what she had created it changed into a snake figure with the face of a lion (Meyer, 2005, p. 159). She hid him where no immortal could find him and see what she had done. The offspring is a character known as Yaldabaoth also called the first ruler or world ruler (Discourse of Seth), who, in turn, wished to create realms and angels of his own. He did this and was unaware that he was really tapping into his mother’s power to do so. Upon creating his own angels he says to them “I am a jealous god and there is no other god beside me” (Meyer, 2005, p.162 & 256).
Sophia’s power diminished because of Yaldabaoth and she eventually repented to the Invisible spirit. She was forgiven, but was sent to a place above her son to remain until she had restored what she was lacking (p. 163). Make note of that because it will be important later. Just then, from the higher realms it was announced that humankind was born and its name was Adam. Traditionally in the Hebrew language Adam means humankind including both male and female.
Yaldabaoth was curious at the sound of this proclamation. Yaldabaoth then desired to create a human in his own image and also called it Adam. This I assume to be a single entity and not another creation of an entire other humanity. He and his angels each contributed a part of the body to create this Adam then used his mother’s power to breathe life into it. Upon its completion, Adam began to utter things they didn’t understand revealing more intellect and more power then its creators. Yaldaboath and his angels grew jealous of Adam. Due to their jealousy, they blinded all of humanity with the fog of forgetfulness. They may not have understood the spiritual part of humanity, but they understood the ways of the lower or material realm. Remember, Sophia hid Yaldabaoth where no IMMORTAL could find him. This forgetfulness is the materialistic distraction of the lower realm.
The part they were jealous of is called enlightened insight and it “hid herself inside Adam,” remaining more powerful, much to the frustration of Yaldabaoth. Seeing that enlightened insight was part that was more powerful, he therefore, wished to remove “her from Adam’s side” (pg.175). The Hebrew word OLO, meaning side, can also be translated as rib (Sassoon & Dale, 1978), the Gnostic John makes sure mention here that “side” is the correct translation. As Adam slept, Yaldabaoth created a female image of what he conceived enlightened insight to be. Here we see another example of emanation, whereas she is a mirror image or side and not just a creation. When Adam awoke, he recognized her and said the famous, “this is…bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh” (pg.176). Adam clung to her and detached himself from Yaldabaoth making him even angrier.
To put a stop to this, Yadaboath defiled or raped Eve and she bore two children; Yahweh and Elohim, it is said that one is just and the other unjust. Yahweh was given power over fire and Elohim over water. They are also called Cain and Abel (Meyer, 2005, p. 177) and we know how that story goes in the Bible: Cain rose up against Abel in jealousy and killed him. Seth, the third son, according to the Gnostics was actually a product of Adam and Eve, not of Yaldabaoth and Eve. This is what makes Seth special and worthy to carry on the lineage, and thus the true inheritance. The reflection of this story can also be found in the story of Abraham in the Bible as his first son came from Hagar the maidservant and not from his true love or wife Sarah. Sarah did eventually conceive through great improbability and bore a true first son. These brothers continue to fight over the inheritance to this day.
In this long complicated story, we do not see only a male God figure, but an androgynous mother-father that split into masculine and feminine aspects who are mirror images. This is also evident in the story of Adam and Eve, as she too was a mirror image. When Adam saw his counterpart he was in awe. There were definitely some sparks there. It could also be that the Invisible spirit and Barbelo also felt this way about each other. Therefore, both the Invisible Spirit and Barbelo and Adam and Eve were one entity until the separation or the splitting of the two (Matt, Sassoon & Dale, 1978; ed. Scholem, 1949). If you think about it, Yaldabaoth wanted to separate out the part or characteristic he was jealous of in order to suppress or destroy it. This part happened to be the Sacred Feminine and the separation or splitting of the Adam could be when the inequality between men and women began.
This is confirmed in the Bible, because after the eating of the fruit, which is a metaphor for sex according to the Zohar, they were punished and were given different roles. The woman was suppressed and made to suffer more than the man. This is why I hypothesis that Yaldabaoth separated of male and female to keep the power between them weaker in order for his power to be dominant. Since then women were subsequently not allowed to be educated. Not allowed to preach and were prevented from reaching their full spiritual potential: Thus securing Yaldabaoth’s position of control over humanity.
This story perpetuates itself throughout history and as briefly discussed earlier can be seen next in her sons Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel out of jealousy, perhaps because he is perpetuating the pattern Yaldabaoth set when he split the Adam due to his jealousy. We tend to be afraid of things we do not understand, and in regard to the true order of the universe, Yaldaboath was ignorant. Speaking of the next story of Cain and Able, the fact that Cain and Abel are nicknames for Yahweh and Elohim as mentioned in the Apocryphon of John sparked the interest to investigate these characters further.
Elohim and Eden
Upon closer investigation of Yahweh and Elohim, in the Book of Baruch there was found an interesting story of Elohim, but this time he is the creator of the earth. In this story there is no Invisible Spirit, Barbelo or Yaldabaoth, but rather there are two male figures and one female figure that all represent God. One male had foresight and could see into the future and other two entities could not. The two who could not see the future were Elohim and Eden. They were a male and female couple, just like the Invisible Spirit and Barbelo and Adam and Eve << soul mates, so to speak.>> They were so enthralled with each other that they fell madly in love. Out of this love they created the world and all things in it including humanity. Adam or humanity was meant to be a symbol of their love. According to this source Elohim donated the spirit to humankind and Eden donated the soul (Meyer, 2005). After they had finished creating the earth, Elohim wished to go back up to heaven to see if there was anything lacking in creation and when he arose, he saw a light brighter than his own and became curious. He thought he or they were the only Gods so he approached the light and demanded the presence to reveal itself. He entered into the light without his angels and there he met with the other male God, the God of foresight who showed him his creation. Elohim immediately wished to destroy the earth and humankind because he realized his spirit was trapped inside humanity and wished to gather it back. The God of foresight said he could do no evil while with him.
It was there that Elohim stayed and never returned to his bride Eden, with whom he made a loving contract. When she realized she had been abandoned, Eden, in anguish sought revenge so that Elohim would feel her pain. Thus, she began to torment the spirit within all humans to get back at him. This is how it stands today. The story in the Gospel ended with Elohim saying that if Eden known that he was with the Good, she would not have done that. But, with his abandonment, torment and evil began on earth. However, it does say that Elohim was restrained by the Good and could not come back down to her. So maybe there is more to the story that they are not telling.
Here we see a different account of what happened when the earth began, and it appears according to this source that both Eden and Elohim are at fault for the world as we know it today.Although these two stories of the creation are very different, there are similarities. For example, in the previous story, Sophia sits above her son in order to replenish or gather back what is lacking in her power or energy. In this story Elohim also wishes to gather back his energy or spirit as it is trapped within humankind. Another similarity of course, includes a love story between male and female Gods, this time their names are Elohim and Eden. This brings us to part 2 of the presentation.
The idea of God embodying or being made up of both male and female principles can be found in many different religions or symbols across the world. For example, the Yin Yang can represent a balance of male and female principles. The two sides in this symbol work as compliments rather than opposing forces.
Shiva and Shakti
According to Hinduism, the two major male and female characters of God or in this case Brahma are Shiva and Shakti respectively (Capra, 2000). Jung (1974) noticed that Shiva and Shakti are often depicted embracing at the centre of many Mandalas (p. 171). Many people believe that Hinduism is polytheist, but this is actually not the case. Each different god represents a different characteristic of the whole God or Brahma, but Brahma isn’t a person or God per se, but rather a common energy source. The idea is that the major characteristics of Brahma manifest themselves on earth in times of trouble or turmoil to teach and reveal. They then get gathered back and become one again with Brahma. So, eventually or every now and then aspects or characteristics of Brahma go out into the world and return to being one. Here we find another example of separation and the gathering back of power or energy.
Lila is another Hindu concept that states that the stories of these characteristics of Brahma are perpetuated and relived over and over again on earth (Capra, 2000), which is what the comparative evidence in this presentation will continue to reveal. Perhaps the story of Elohim and Eden and of Yaldabaoth has stamped itself so deeply into the world that it has been circling around and manifesting itself in the lives of people here on earth, starting with Cain and Abel. Perhaps the reason why there are so many divorces is because all of humanity itself has come from a broken home and we are thus repeating or living what we know. Much like what Cain did to Abel. Another example of this story repeating can be found in the story of Isis and Osiris.
Isis and Osiris
The idea that God is made up of both male and female characters can be traced back to Ancient Egypt. Here we find a similar story of a male and female ruler Gods, you know, the divine rite of kings type thing, whose names are Isis and Osiris. The story is that Osiris’ brother Set, in a jealous rage, rose up against him and killed him, sound familiar? This story follows the original pattern of jealousy and power. Set did not only kill Osiris, but scattered the pieces of his body across Egypt. Isis sought to gather back all the pieces in order to resurrect him, but could not find all the pieces. The ritual of mummification and the concept of resurrection were born with this story (Roland, 1995). Because she could not find all the pieces, she instead tried to resurrect him through her son Horus. Again we see the popular theme of a separation of parts and the need to gather them back together again. On an off note, these stories also seem to give meaning to the children’s fable of Humpty Dumpty, which previously made absolutely no sense!
Star of David
Speaking of ancient Egyptians, the ancient Egyptian symbol for the female the triangle. Pythagoras would describe the triangle as standing firmly on the earth and yearning for the wisdom of the heavens (Symbol Chart). The ancient Egyptian symbol for the male is the inverted triangle, and when these are positioned together in a certain way they create another religious symbol, the Star of David.
Tif’eret and Shekhinah
The idea that there are male and female aspects of God is not even new to Judaism. Within Judaism is a Mystical Sect called Kabbalah that goes into great detail of what is meant by each letter in the scriptures using numerology and even song. They have discovered that there are many puns hiding in the scriptures and seek to find new meaning behind what is believed by them to be word of God. Because Hebrew is written in such a way that there are no vowels, it is up to the reader to know, decide or interpret what the word actually means or how it reads. Sometimes there are dots above the word indicating a particular translation r pronunciation, but most of the time, there are no clues. For example, when the name of God is written in the various different translations of the Bible, these symbols appear.
These letters are more commonly translated by the Bible as YHVH. In the other translations the HVH part remains consistent but there are discrepancies in the citing of the first letter Yod. Yod is the 10th letter of the Hebrew alphabet and there is no standardized nomenclature of this letter into English. Therefore it is sometimes depicted as a Y, and these letters are interpreted to read Yahweh, the V being pronounced as a W in this particular translation. Sometimes the Y is written as an I and reads IHVH as in Kabbalistic texts like the Greater and Lesser Holy Assembly. Even Yaldabaoth’s name is spelled with a I instead of a Y in these sources. To make things even more confusing, sometimes the first letter is interpreted as a J, arriving at the pronunciation of Jehovah.
Therefore, there are many different interpretations or translations of the Hebrew texts because the vowels are left out. Therefore the true pronunciation of things, such as the name of God can be lost. This demonstration also shows how it is nearly impossible to take the Bible literally or follow it to the letter, no pun intended.
On a similar note, the way Hebrew is written points to a necessity in knowing the language and how it sounds in order to fill in the blanks. This suggests an oral tradition of the scriptures and ironically Kabbalah was an oral tradition of the scriptures, to be finally written down in the 13th century.The Kabbalists are not the only ones to try and find hidden messages or patterns in the Scripture. Leonardo da Vinci searched for skip sequence patterns, to find new meaning, whose endeavor was eventually continued by Michael Drosnin in his Bible Code (1997).
Tif'eret and Shekhinah
According to Kabbalah, and its sacred book the Zohar, Tif’eret and Shekhinah are the male and female sides of God. The story of these two characters is romantic in the sense that it is said that the world was created through their energy or as some say, their orgasm. Like how any cell eventually has too much energy to keep inside its shell, it goes through mitosis, these two, who were joined at one time, were separated much like a cell, and came into being in the same way Barbelo and Eve came out from the invisible Spirit and Adam.
The Tree of life, which is this symbol here, contains the ten different letters or characteristics of God that were separated at the beginning. The ten circles or characteristics represent a path of reunification back to the One God. This is referred to as the return to the Ogdoad (Hopper, 1969). So, here again we come across the idea of two sides of God being male and female and the idea of a separation of parts or characteristics that are destined to return into being One.
To quote Matt, (1997) an expert in the Zohar, “according to Kabbalah, every human action here on earth affects the divine realm, either promoting or hindering the union of Shekhinah and her partner” (Matt, 1997, p. 1). Jesus also says something similar to this in the Gospel of Q. He says “Whoever is not with me, and the one who does not gather with me scatters” (Mack, 1993, p. 91). Here again we see the trend of the need to gather back what has been scattered (like Sophia, Elohim, Isis, Brahma etc). Kabbalah would call this energy that Sophia wishes to gather back together sparks and wishes to help return the sparks that belong to her that were used by Yaldabaoth to create the realms we are dealing with now. So, perhaps there may be a general recall of all the sparks or energy that was used in this creation. This of course has been suggested in the symbolism of the reaping of crops or wheat.
Speaking of the some other characters that wish to gather back their sparks, Sophia is found in the tree of life and is called Hokhmah, still meaning wisdom. Elohim can also be found in the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life as representing Mercy, Grace or Love. Yahweh is here too, representing Judgment. It may be important to explore the idea that Elohim is Mercy and Yahewh is Judgment. According to the Lesser Holy Assembly the problem with the world seems to be that there is inequity between Mercy and Judgment and they need to come together into a balance.
Right now these forces or characteristics are not together, but split. Evidence for this idea can be found in the Kabbalistic text The Book of the Mystery as it states in regard to Enoch that [Enoch went] “with Elohim, and not IHVH …for Elohim took him;…” (Sassoon & Dale, 1978). In the Book of Enoch an Apocryphal text, it states specifically that Enoch was loyal to Elohim and not to Yahweh. In regard to how or why they are split can also be found in the Book of Enoch. In this story, giants, who are from the upper realm or heaven fall in love with the women of earth and come down to lay with them. These are soon called the fallen angels because they revealed the secrets of heaven to the children of earth (Charles, 1964). In the Book of the Mystery in regard to the giants it states that “They were above; they went down [&] inherited the earth. They lost the good part that was in them” (Sassoon & Dale, 1978, p. 206). In Mathers’ translation he states that “they rejected the good part, which in them was the crown of mercy” (Sassoon & Dale, 1978, p. 206), and mercy as we have come to realize is associated with Elohim. So their fall was caused by a separation or rejection of mercy or Elohim, who Enoch remained loyal to. This is similar to the Gnostic story as Eden suppressed or rejected the spirit that was from Elohim to get back at him. So, she too rejected Mercy or Elohim.
In regard to what caused the fall, in the Zohar, according to Matt, (2004) Adam’s sin caused him to be divorced from God like a “wife who has committed an indecent act.” This could point to the raping or defilement of Eve by Yaldabaoth, or to the act Yaldabaoth committed when he split the Adam. The true nature of Adam’s sin, as revealed in the Zohar was that he “drove out Et” (p. 19). According to this source Et can be interpreted as a code name for Shekhinah who is the female side of God (Matt, 1997). So, this source seems to say that the Fall happened because Adam or humankind drove out or divorced the feminine aspect of God. This is even what Elohim did to Eden when he abandoned his bride. Therefore, it could be that the fall or the original sin was actual splitting of the male and female sides.
In order rectify the fall, the reconciliation of two things may be necessary, the reconciliation of male and female principles and also of judgment and mercy. The reconciliation of judgment and mercy is discussed the Greater and Lesser Holy Assemblies. Judgment and Mercy are not called Yahweh and Elohim in this source, but rather Jerusalem and Zion and Jerusalem is not only judgment, but the male aspect and Zion according to this source does not only represent Mercy, but also the feminine aspect. So perhaps it is just the male and female aspects that need to come into balance, but in the Lesser Holy Assembly, the uniting of judgment and mercy is referred to as sweetening. It explains that this spot on the tree of life, the Foundation, represents the penis and this penis or Yesod is the “sweetening for the female, and all the desires of the male are for the female. It enters through this foundation’ into the female, into the place that is called the Zion. It is the place which most needs to be covered of the female, like the house of lower mercy.” (The Lesser Holy Assembly, p.187). This quote is teeming with male and female sexual energy, bringing us back to the idea that it is male and female principles that are split and need to be softened, sweetened or come together. Since the end is the beginning and the beginning is the end, it would stand to reason that if the world was created by a Great Orgasm, that the end of the world as we know it today would necessitate the same act, but this time in the lower world. And according to the Bible, as mentioned earlier, this end will lead to a new beginning, one ruled by God and the anointed one or the self conceived.
Another place where judgment and mercy are united is in the actual full name of God. The quote I just mentioned from Matt’s (2004) interpretation of the Zohar, in regard to Adam’s sin, the full name of God is used which is YHVH Elohim, this term or name also comes up in the Kabbalistic text The Greater Holy Assembly as IHVH ALHIM. According to this source, this is the true, full name of God and it is used when God is whole. God can be called by his full name, or is whole only when the sides of Judgment and Mercy are together. Therefore these texts seem to reveal that God is split into Judgment and Mercy, but there is a chance of reconciliation between these sides and this full name of God confirms this as it contains both IHVH, or Judgment and ALHIM which is Elohim who represents Mercy (Matt, 2004). Matt states in an earlier book (1997) that “If judgment is not softened by love [or mercy], it lashes out and threatens to destroy life” (Matt, 1997, p. 8).
Heaven and Earth
The major symbolism attached to Tif’eret and Shekhinah, is their representation of the heaven and the earth. This symbolism can also be found in the story of Elohim and Eden, as Elohim remains in heaven while Eden remains on earth. It is also reminiscent of the story in the Book of Enoch as the giants or fallen angles of heaven fell in love with the women of earth. Also, the ancient Egyptian symbol of the woman, the triangle, stands firmly on the earth and longs for heavens. The idea that heaven and earth are like a male and female couple can be found in the Bible.
In Revelations it states that the New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven prepared as a bride to her groom and goes on to say that in regard to the New Jerusalem, Revelations 22:17 says “The Spirit and the Bride say, come” NKJ Therefore, there is a wedding theme and usually a wedding is between a male and female couple, in this case heaven marries earth in the end of times.
The cross is another symbol that fits into the theme of heaven and earth because the horizontal line represents earth and the vertical line represents the path to heaven, thus making the cross another religious symbol depicting the union of male and female aspects, if the male is considered to be heaven and the female, earth.
Both the Star of David and the Cross are usually not considered to be a symbol of male and female unification, but are definitely considered to be associated with Judaism and Jesus, thus bringing us to the third part of the presentation that will look more in depth into Jesus’ role in Gnosticism.
Jesus and Elohim
The Gnostic Gospels such as the Secret Book or Apocalypse of James, and the Book of BaruchBible would confirm that the God Jesus is loyal to the God of Love, outright state that Elohim is the God that Jesus is loyal to and was not corrupted into worshipping Yahweh, just like the story of Enoch. Elohim is also known as Love (Matt, 1997) and the
Jesus also states that he is the Truth, and teaches a lot about truth. Jesus is heard stating in the Gospel of Philip the famous phrase “if you know the truth, the truth will make you free” (Meyer, 2006, p. 84), which can also be found in John 8:32 in the Bible. So, he taught a lot about the truth and truth is associated with the holy mother or Barbelo, again pointing to the Sacred Feminine. The Dictionary of Philosophy states Jesus was sent to help Sophia gather back her sparks.
Other than teaching about love and truth, the Gnostic Jesus speaks in parables and riddles and teaches egalitarianism. He spends most of his time with children, women, and lepers. As a part of his egalitarian teachings, he stresses the need for equality of the sexes or male and female principles. CHANGE SLIDE. In the Gospel of Thomas Jesus states that in order to reach the kingdom of heaven, one must make the inside the outside, and must make the male and female as one (Meyer, 2005, p.13).
Gospel of Thomas
Jesus, realizes that there are male and female aspects of God and knows that the Fall was created by the separation of the two CHANGE SLIDE because in the Gospel of Philip he states that if the male and female had not separated, they would not have died. “The separation of male and female was the beginning of death [and] Christ came to heal the separation that was from the beginning and reunite the two…” (Meyer, 2005, p. 70). Here we see the one definition of the original sin in that it was the separation of the male and female that created the fall or death.
The Lesser Holy Assembly states that the kingdom is called destroyed “because there is not equity” (p. 154). The kingdom, according to the Kabbalistic tree of life is Tiferet, the male side of God and if there is not equality, then perhaps it is because the female side is not together with him. The passage from the Lesser Holy Assembly also states that it is “because the male has been kept away from the female, and ‘equity’ has not come near to this ‘justice’” (Sassoon & Dale, 1978, p. 154). Here we see the theme of Justice or Judgment which at this time is not together with Mercy causing inequity or an imbalance.
Unfortunately, Jesus’ true message of egalitarianism and equality between men and women was suppressed and considered heresy against the beliefs of the Roman Empire. Which makes sense because the Romans are very patriarchal and were afraid of Jesus and his zelotous followers. Afraid that Jesus was going to lead them into a revolt, the Roman Empire had Jesus and his disciples killed. After the crucifixion there was a war, one that destroyed the Temple and spun the world into the dark ages and the burning of many books. This is why the Gospels were not written down during this time. Much later, the acts included the burning of women who showed any signs of spirituality. Anyway, that is another presentation altogether but if you have questions about that you can ask them at the end.
Jesus and Mary
Getting back to Jesus’ role in Gnosticism and the message he told there, Jesus had many female disciples as well as male disciples in the Gnostic Gospels and the disciple mentioned the most, other than Mary his mother is Mary Magdalene (Burstein, 2006).
In the Gnostic Gospels she is very close to Jesus. In the Gospel of Philip, it is said that he loved Mary more than all of the other disciples and is often seen kissing her on the M[outh].
The M remains in the text, but there is a convenient hole where the rest of the word should be, so it is assumed that the word is mouth. In this Gospel, Mary is called the companion of the saviour. The actual quote states that “there was Mary, Jesus’ mother, Mary, Jesus’ sister and Mary Jesus’ companion” (Meyer, 2005, p.). CHANGE SLIDE. Many scholars refuse to take this as meaning there was any sort of relationship and every time the Gospels intuitively say otherwise, they say the word kiss or companion means something else and the many mentions in these Gospels that say the Saviour loved her more than any of the other disciples there ignored. If there are three things that scholars agree with regarding Mary Magdalene is that 1. She was one of the female disciples that followed Jesus. 2. She was present at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ family during the crucifixion, and 3. That Mary was the first person Jesus appeared to after the resurrection (Burstein, 2006). This is when Jesus told Mary to administer to the other disciples his message.
This last point, did not go over well with the other disciples as they were already jealous of Jesus’ relationship with Mary. In the Gospel of Philip, “they say to him ‘why do you love her more than all of us?’ the savior answered and said to them, ‘why do I not love you like her?’” (Meyer, 2005, p.).
There is one disciple in particular who makes his misogynist views very clear and that is Peter. He is heard in the Gospel of Thomas saying “Mary should leave us, for females are not worthy of life” (Meyer, 2005, p. 25). Jesus replies saying that he will guide the female to be more male, as he states earlier in the Gospel that in order to reach the kingdom of heaven one must make the male and female one, pointing to androgyny.
There is more of Peter’s sexism found in the Gospel of Mary when Mary reveals to the other disciples teachings that Jesus had taught to her exclusively. <<Pillow talk perhaps>> In regard to this, Peter says, “Did he really speak with a woman in private, without our knowledge? Should we all turn and listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?’” (p. 40). Levi comes to her rescue and says “Peter, you always are angry. Now I see you arguing against this woman like an adversary. If the savior made her worthy, who are you to reject her? Surely the savior knows her well. That is why he has loved her more than us‘” (Meyer, 2005, p. 41).
In these accounts the theme of jealousy comes up again, much like in the story of Yaldabaoth, Cain and Abel and Isis and Osiris. What Peter did to Mary was similar because, he rose up against her in jealousy and basically wrote her out of the New Testament. He was jealous of her because Jesus loved her more and the biggest hit was when Jesus gave the rites to teach his message, to her, a mere woman and not to him. Peter was the one who denied Jesus three times for fear of his life because the Roman Empire wished to suppress Jesus and his message and all those who taught it. Considering Peter’s misogynous views, I don’t think he agreed with Jesus’ message of equality of the sexes and this is what compelled him to build a patriarchal Christian interpretation that was more easily accepted by the Romans.
Scholars are more likely to agree that if anything, they had a symbolic relationship rather than an actual physical relationship. But, I will talk about their possible physical relationship first then move to their symbolic relationship.
These Gnostic Gospels seem to reveal that the relationship between Jesus and Mary is more than just friendship and it may be parsimonious to theorize that they were married. Traditionally in the days of Jesus men were not allowed to be or be called a rabbi if he were not married and Jesus is called Rabbi or Rabbon several times in both the Gnostic and the Biblical Gospels. Also, in those days the only person to be asked to have anything to do with wine or food at a wedding was the groom. This could suggest that the wedding at Cana was his own wedding. Other clues that Jesus and Mary may have been married come from the Old Testament’s Song of Songs that talks about oil whose fragrance fills the wedding table. This oil is called spikenard or nard and is used in wedding rituals. This is the same oil that Mary wipes Jesus’ feet with. Another clue that hides in here is that in those days the only person allowed to see a woman with their hair down is the husband. Also, on top of this, the ritual of anointing the man with oil on their feet is known as an ancient Greek wedding ceremony called Hieros Gamos. What is very interesting here is that the Song of Songs is based on the Hieros Gamos ritual of Isis and Osiris (Burstein, 2006, p. 77), bringing us back to their story and back to Ancient Egypt. Perhaps in order to heal the wound that was in the beginning, Jesus needed to have a relationship of his own.
The Eucharist was known to Pagans as a wedding ritual where the bread represents the Goddess Demeter and the wine represents the Godman Dionysus thus revealing another love story of the Gods, this time through Greek Mythology. Early Christianity linked Mary Magdalene to the bread and Jesus to the wine (Burstein, 2006). This is where the symbolic relationship comes in.
According to the Eleusian Mysteries, there is a ritual that is reenacted in Greece that forbids the revealing of what happens in the inner sanctum of the Temple of Demeter. In this ritual the High Priest would enter into the secret or sacred chamber in the Temple and the High Priestess would play the role of Demeter. Most scholars postulate that they perform the ieros gamos ritual that is a form of a Sacred Marriage that culminates in the symbolic birth or rebirth of a son (the internet source). This ritual reflects the ritual Mary performed on Jesus when she anointed his feet with oil. In regard to the idea of the Temple and a sacred chamber, there are parallels to the Temple in Jerusalem.
Further research shows that Jesus and Mary symbolize the sacred bridegroom and the lost bride (Burstein, 2006). The Gnostic Gospels is rife with the symbolism of something called the Bridal chamber. The bridal chamber is symbolic of consummating the marriage between a bride and groom. In the Gnostic Gospels, the bridal chamber is said to be the Holy of the Holies which is the innermost part of the temple. This chamber in the temple is the most sacred. In regard to the birth of Jesus, it is said in the Gospel of Philip, that “On the day he came forth from the bridal chamber as one born of a bridegroom and a bride, so Jesus established all within it and it is fitting for each of the disciples to enter into his rest” (p. 71).
Also regarding the bridal chamber it is said that “The bridal chamber is within a realm superior to what we belong to, and you cannot find anything like it. These are the ones who worship in spirit and in truth, for they do not worship in Jerusalem (which as we have come to know as Judgment). There are people who do worship in Jerusalem, and they await the mysteries called the holy of holies, the curtain, which was torn. Our bridal chamber is the image of the bridal chamber above. That is why its curtain was torn from top to bottom, for some people from below had to go up” (p. 70).
The mystery of this curtain is revealed later as Jesus discusses what it will be like when the truth will be revealed. His parable is of a curtain that was not torn only at the top, otherwise the upper realm would be revealed and not torn only at the bottom because then only the lower realm would be revealed, instead the whole curtain is removed. He says the upper realm is revealed to us so that we can we can “enter the hidden realm of truth.” What is interesting about this parable is that there was a curtain that surrounded the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Jesus says when he entered into the hidden realm of truth, “The Holy of Holies was revealed and the bedchamber invited us in” (Meyer, 2005, p. 86). Sassoon’s (1978) interpretation of the Zohar mentions that it is almost uncomfortable to suggest that a sexual act is supposed to be carried out in the Holy of the Holies, or the innermost, most sacred chamber of the Temple. This brings us back to Dionysus and Demeter and the secret chamber within the temple where they carry out an eiros gamos ritual. Therefore, considering these parallel to Jesus and Mary and Dionysus and Demeter, there seems to have been some sort or wedding or sexual act. Whether it was an actual or symbolic act remains disputed, but there is no disputing that Mary did anoint Jesus with the spikenard oil.
Perhaps to say that Jesus and Mary had a loving relationship is a threat to Yaldaboath because love seems to over-ride the distraction of material things, which seems to be where Yaldabaoth’s power over humanity lies. It is love that stands in the way of Yaldabaoth’s plan to control humanity by making them forget, and blinding them with material distractions. Therefore, love is the answer and we must bring the male and female principles back into equality or balance in order to reach the upper realm. This is the way to thwart Yaldabaoth’s plan to dominate humankind. This is what is meant by the fog of forgetfulness.
In conclusion, there seems to be a pattern found in these various sources that starts with an androgynous entity, then a splitting or separation of that entity into male and female entities. There is also a theme of scattering and the need to gather back together into the one. Yaldabaoth seems to be standing in the way of this reunification by keeping people distracted by materialism or maintaining the idea that there is no upper realm. He also seems to keep the sexes separated by introducing social stereotypes or men’s clubs that exclude women and keep them in the dark.
Therefore, it seems as though the fall occurred because the male and female were split, therefore in order to heal the wound that was from the beginning, it may be necessary to bring male and female principles back into a perfect balance. Possible ways to balance these principles intrapersonally, interpersonally and on a societal level will have to be added to the You Tube video of this presentation as we are out of time.
Polarization of the Sexes
***References under construction***
Polarization of the Sexes
This workshop is about revealing the importance of balancing both male and female energies. Polarization can occur on 3 different levels, self or inner level, in relationships and on a social level. I’ll start with the importance of polarization in the self.
Inside us we have a male and a female aspect. Carl Jung has called them Anima (the feminine) and Animus (the masculine). It is important to stress the terms feminine and masculine here because there is a difference between what is known as “sex” and what is known as “gender.” In Psychology, sex represents the biological category or ‘what’s between your legs’ and gender represents a cognitive or social category, or ‘what’s between the ears.’ The recognition of the difference between these two aspects is very important in Psychology and has helped shed light on why people feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body and vice versa. It not only helps us understand homosexuals and lesbians, but helps us empathize with those who are transgendered or hermaphrodites.
The male and female aspects get confused because society has placed rules on how a male should act and how a female should act. The rules placed on women have become too limiting causing unhappiness in women who do not want to be at home and taking care of the house. Feminism has shed light on this and has forced a change in the rules of society. If it weren’t for feminism this wouldn’t have happened. However, this lecture is about the balance between the two so to me, feminism is too extreme or one-sided. This, of course is out of balance, but nature works in this way. For example after effects work like this if you stare for a long time at a blue piece of paper, you will start to see a yellow glow around it. These are the complimentary colours. Notice I said complimentary and not opposite or opposing and are set up in balance (so goes for black and white, and red and green. Also, staring at a waterfall for a long time and you look away you see an upward movement. Or when you stop the car after driving for a long time you see the pavement move.
Following this principle, the upsurge and freedom of women, men have bounced back and created a masculinism movement. But it brings up the point that some men aren’t happy with their social restrictions. For example, boys are taught not to cry and express emotion. This causes an imbalance in emotional control or unhealthy levels of neuroticism. What’s happened since men are raised to control their emotions is a condition called Male Normative Alexithymia: Lexi meaning without, and thymia meaning emotions. This is when emotions get pushed inside and can build up and come out in inappropriate ways and at inappropriate times. For example “Rubber band Syndrome” is when unrecognized emotions build up until they erupt in an explosion of anger, and excessive strength and aggression. This one is a concern for relationships, not only because the woman can be on the wrong end of the aggression, but women tend to see expressed aggression as a temporary loss of control and men see it as a way of establishing control.
“Tin Man Approach” is when unrecognized emotions are locked up so tightly that the man no longer feels anything. This has negative effects on health as a consequence. The Emotional Funnel System is the banning of all vulnerable emotions such as hurt, disappointment, fear and shame that are considered or programmed into the man that are unmanly and feminine. So, instead of identifying and expressing these emotions, they get funnelled into anger. As for gentle or tender emotions such as fondness, love, sensitivity and sexuality some men repress these because they are supposed to be for women. As a consequence, when these feelings rise up, they get interpreted incorrectly and experienced as unconnected lust. For example, if a guy has a feeling of fondness for his best friend, who is also a guy, this feeling gets interpreted as lust because all tender feelings must be sexual and he ends up thinking he’s having sexual feelings for his friend. These confused emotions get embedded and come out as homophobia. Due to the repression of these positive or tender emotions in men, men are unable to label and interpret there emotions properly, potentially creating these problems (Mitterer, 2007).
Another thing that happens is something that Wilhelm Reich discovered and calls body Armour. What happens in the case of body armour is that when boys are stifle crying, their muscles tense up and their lips purse shut. If this is repeated often enough, it tells or cues the body to react this way automatically. When the body acts this way automatically, it then gets encoded into the personality.
Now, a lady masseuse whose last name is Rolph discovered something very interesting while she was giving massages. As she loosened up these tight muscles, the clients began to cry for no reason. They were unable to attribute their crying to any particular cause. Our bodies want to keep a balance and when certain emotions are repressed, the body’s homeostasis become out of whack.
Therefore, due to the socialization of men and women in these gender categories has caused women to be miserable and rise up, and men to lack in emotional balance or intelligence. It must be known that there are no certain characteristics that are only for men and no particular characteristics only for women. It is up to our generation to raise our children without gender stereotypes and produce healthy well adjusted adults. If the emotions get released in a proper way, the body is relaxed and healthy and if the body is healthy, so is the mind. Emotional regulation produces good physical and mental health. The body affects the mind and the mind effects the body and emotions help regulate the balance. There are some questionnaires here that can tell you if you are classically feminine, masculine, or androgynous which is a healthy balance of both. So, that’s inner polarization. Let’s move on to healthy relationships.
Polarization in relationships
I highly recommend completing inner polarization before you enter into a relationship. If both parties in the relationship have polarized their inner anima and animus, then the chances the relationship will last increase. Many relationships fall apart because one person hasn’t gotten to know themselves properly and begin to go in a different direction spiritually or mentally or physically during the relationship as a consequence.
It must be known that the accepted definition of reality is that all matter and energy interact and everything affects everything else. Therefore, we live in a world that is in constant flux and nothing or no one is ever exactly the same twice. You can make up a marriage contract, but if you say in it that you want everything to stay the same you are setting yourself up for failure. Many couples who go in for counseling say “what happened to the man or woman I fell in love with, I want things to be like they were.” Well unfortunately things are never the same and it is impossible to keep anything the same, even from moment to moment. People will grow and change due to new experiences and knowledge learned. If a couple is smart, they will understand this flux and accept each other for who they are at any given moment. They must be able to continue their personal growth without chains and expectations. If the personal growth of the two people in the relationship is in relatively the same direction, the more successful the relationship will be.
Hinduism teaches that there are many roads to enlightenment and each person discovers it in their own way. So, one person’s path may not be good for another and even if the paths are different, the end goal should be the same. Therefore flexibility in belief and action should be respected in a relationship. My personal formula is each person needs alone time and together time and the guy needs the guys night out with friends and the girl needs the girls night out with her friends.
So, there also needs to be a balance between men and women to create a healthy relationship. Unfortunately the damage for adults and their socialization of gender stereotypes is already done. So, you will be with men who are aggressive and dominating or you will be with women who are emotional and irrational. To work with the current dilemma of those who are already damaged by gender stereotypes, the characteristics or strengths of women should be utilized when appropriate and the characteristics or strengths of men should be utilized when they are appropriate. Not only one person should be in charge of everything. The decision making should be delegated according to strengths. If he knows about fixing stuff around the house he can be in charge of getting that stuff done. If the woman knows more about cars she can be in charge of getting that done etc. What I have found to be the most important distinction between men and women is that men are rational and women are intuitive. It should be recognized that in some situations, it is better to be rational, and in some situations it’s best to listen to your gut.
The most important thing to know about relationships is the principle of habituation. It works very much like an aftereffect but it’s more like when you see or are exposed to a new thing you display what’s called an orientation response. Like a cat when it sees a mouse will freeze and become excited. But after the 27th time of being exposed to that same thing the response gets less and less until there is no response anymore. It is important to be aware of this principle when it comes to relationships because when you first meet the person everything is shiny and new, then after a while the excitement gets less and less until you see them everyday and you become habituated to that person. When this happens you tune them out or become bored with the relationship. This is a natural reaction and is built into us (Tyson, 2006/07). To avoid this situation, keep a never a dull moment rule. My boyfriend, who is now my fiancée asked an 80 year old man how he stayed married for 50 years. He said we never stopped dating; I never stopped bringing her flowers. The worst thing you can do in a relationship is come home and watch TV everyday or get into a routine, this quickly wears at the relationship. Keep a good balance between routine and spontaneity and remember that no characteristic or behaviour has to strictly belong to the man and no certain behaviour has to be only for women. This brings us to the polarization of the sexes within society.
As stated before, the socialization of gender stereotypes must not be perpetuated further. When one is unhappy in their stereotyped role, it creates something called gender role strain. If someone is unhappy with their role, they should be allowed to change it and pursue the things that make them happy. For example, have any of you heard of Malsow’s Hierarchy of Needs? It is the idea that once basic needs such as food and shelter are taken care of we are able to pursue higher needs such as recognition, emotional security and eventually at the top of the pyramid, Self Actualization. Self Actualization is defined as the right to unfold oneself and become the person they wish. Everyone should have the right to unfold themselves and achieve self actualization. Gender roles have in the past prohibited individuals of achieving or striving for this goal.
Why do gender roles persist in society and how did they get that way in the first place?
Well, there was a time when men and women lived together in peace and harmony. Around 14th and 15th centuries AD Folklore and Folk Culture reined in the small suburban towns. There were parades and rituals such as dances for the gods to bless the crops and in these festivals women wore bells on the shoes and danced in a parade. The Celtic Goddess Sulas and the Goddess Minerva of wisdom and good health were among them. Women were also the physicians so to speak and were in charge of the sick and gathered and produced medicines from plants and roots in the area. They were also involved in child birth and midwifery duties to ease the pain. They did all this among household duties and women were happy in these roles until around the 16th century when the Romans began to take over and forced all peoples to conform to their religion. The Romans did however, believe in an Earth Goddess, but began to propagandize the women’s role and power to be dark, evil and corrupt. The goal was to make people fear women’s power.
The advent or induction of the Roman Inquisition allowed the Romans to execute at will, the people who did not conform to their religion. The Romans, using Folklore to their advantage made the townspeople believe that the crops are scarce due to the presence of witches. A witch was any person practicing medicine and midwifery without an education. Because this was the women’s duty and women were denied education, 85% of the 9 million estimated to have died in the witch burnings were women. If there was ever genocide on women, this was it. Women’s role was diminished and men began to dance in the festivals and men were assured the position of physician and midwife.
The propaganda of the women’s power included demeaning and making anything to do with women’s power evil. For example, the medicine in which they made from gathering plants and berries became synonymous with the witches evil potions. The witch burnings began on October 31st, which has become known as Halloween, a ritual said to be evil, and one of the main costumes is an ugly witch. Women’s menstruation used to follow the 28 day cycle of the moon, and on the new moons women used to gather together and sing dance and chant. It was a time of fun and celebration. Due to the large number of women gathered, their power was strong and a stop was put on these gatherings. Venus is the planet represented by women and its cycle in the sky forms the 5 pointed star or pentagram, which also became synonymous with evil and devil worshiping and since the common interpretation is that women caused the fall, we should be punished and beaten out of the charity of our souls (according to the movie “the burning times). Also because childbirth is supposed to be painful, midwifery, which eases the pain of childbirth was frowned upon. The age of science also came out of this movement ensuring that anything to do with feeling or women’s intuition was taken out of the picture and deemed irrational and useless.
But why? Why would the Romans do such a thing? Why the slam on women? Well, this is the part that I have been researching for 7 years now and most people do not want to hear or believe. The truth may set one free, but offend many in the process. So if any of you are offended by any of this, feel free to leave and or research it yourself.
The dilemma can be traced back to the time of Jesus. The term Messiah is literally translated into “political revolutionary.” The duty of the Messiah was to free the Jews from the Roman rule. Jesus was actually a zealot and was to lead them into the revolution against the Romans. Of course this made the Romans and the Orthodox Jews who were profiting from the Roman structure very uneasy. Why else do you think it took a cohort, which is 50 men to take Jesus away!? The Orthodox Jews and the Romans already practised patriarchy and supported the idea that women were inferior, but Jesus set out to destroy that notion. He actually advocated for equality between men and women as well as the notion that the kingdom of heaven is inside us. Jesus actually coined the term “Know thyself” it is found throughout his teachings from the Gnostic Gospels found at Nag Hammadi in 1945. Both the ideas (finding God and enlightenment within the self and equality of the sexes) were very threatening because if the body is a temple and you could find God by knowing yourself, people did not need to go to the church and give money to the church. On an off note it may be interesting to know that the Catholics tell their followers that not attending church is a moral sin. The equality of men and women is also a threat because it was taught by Jesus that polarization of the sexes is how to enter the kingdom of heaven. This too leaves the institution of the church in the dust and renders it useless. Here are some quotes from the codices found at Nag Hammadi that show Jesus was an Egalitarian which is a political term for the equality of the sexes.
Gospel of Philip
"If the female had not separated from the male, the female and the male would not have died. The separation of male and female was the beginning of death. Christ came to heal the separation that was from the beginning and reunite the two, in order to give life to those who died through separation and unite them.
When Eve was in Adam, there was no death. When she was separated form him, death came. If she enters into him again and he embraces her, death will cease to be.
It is very important to understand this passage! This is the redemption of the fall and death that humanity has endured. The male and female energies have been separated and need to be brought back together. In order for them to be brought back together, the man has to embrace her. If we live in a culture that suppresses women and believes that women are flawed and inferior, we can never reach the kingdom of heaven.
This is the plan of those who want to control humanity. We can’t have people becoming free thinkers, and reaching the kingdom of heaven because they wouldn’t make any money! If the fall was the separation of the male and female aspects and is what the serpent has done to keep rule over the Earth and of human’s consciousness, then their reunion would end the cycle. So the serpent will continue to reign here on Earth as long as men and women don’t get along or unite properly. When man and wife unite in the Bridal Chamber, which is the symbol of this reunion, it is what threatens Satan the most.
Here is more evidence that Jesus advocated the union of male and female as part of our redemption. From the Gospel of Philip
“The father of all united with the virgin who came down, and fire shone on him. On that day that one revealed the great bridal chamber, and in this way his body came into being. On that day he came forth from the bridal chamber as one born of a bridegroom and a bride. So, Jesus established all within it, and it is fitting for each of the disciples to enter into his rest.”
Rest is our inheritance, the true treasure of heaven
Jesus knew the importance of the union of male and female energies and therefore established “all” in the idea of the bridal chamber. This is why he said one could not enter the kingdom but through him and his message.
Many disciples didn’t want to accept the idea of making women equals. Orthodox Judaism has established teaching that disallows women to know or read the scriptures. So, Jesus’ teachings were shocking to many and were disputed often. For example, in the Gospel of Thomas, Simon Peter says:
Mary should leave us, for females are not worthy of life. Jesus said “Look, I shall guide her to make her male, …every female who makes her self male will enter heavens kingdom.
What is meant here is androgyny and it works both ways because also in the Gospel of Thomas it says:
If we become like children, shall we enter the kingdom… when you make the two one and when you make the inside the outside, the outside the inside…and the upper the lower and when you make the male and the female into a single one, so that the male is no longer male and the female is no longer female…then you shall enter the kingdom.
The keys to heaven again appear to be through the Bridal Chamber which is the sacred marriage or union of male and female.
Even the Book of Mormon mentions something about this!
They constituted the male and female, and when brought together in the
Why did Jesus teach equality between male and female in the first place? Well it is not a new idea, that there is a sacred union of male and female. Every major religion in the world’s God or Diety is or was a male and female union.
Triangle = male
Inverted triangle = female
Together = the star of David
"On the day that God created Adam, in the likeness of God He created him, male and female He created them. He blessed them and called their name Adam...Genesis 5:1-2
Talmud "Any man who does not have a wife is without joy, without blessing, without goodness.
From the Zohar - Blessings are found only where male and female are found. A human being is only called Adam when male and female are as one."
In all Kabbalistic writings God" makes up both T'firet (male) and Shekkhinah (female) entities.
Koran (chapter XLII)
"And when He wisheth to separate them He causedth an ecstasy (or trance) to fall upon Microprosopus, and separateth the Woman from His back. And He conformeth all Her conformations, and hideth Her even unto Her day, on which She is ready to be brought before the Male.(1028-1029) And when they are associated together , then are They mutually mitigated in that day on which all things are mitigated. And therefore are the judgements mitigated mutually and restored to order... (v1039).
Taoism / Buddhism
The yin yang represents the male and female attributes fused into a unifying symbol
Lots of male/female union symbolism ;) if you know what I mean nudge nudge wink wink (see Kama Sutra). One way enlightenment is reached is through sexuality and orgasm, according to the Hindu tradition. Also, the male God = Shiva and the Female God or feminine energy of the universe = Shakti are husband and wife.
To tie it all together and reveal to you the real reason why the Romans feared the power of women, was not only because the union of the male and female would put them out of business and cause them to lose their control over humanity, but Jesus himself passed the right of continuing Christianity to Mary the Magdalene – a woman. Scholars all over the world cannot and do not deny this rite of passage to Mary. She was the first one that Jesus came to after the resurrection and it is to her that he said to minister to the other disciples giving her the title “ the Apostle to the Apostles.” This is the real reason why millions of women were killed and the power of women was suppressed. Thank you.
Pornography: To Be or Not To Be Harmful? Feb 17th 2011Characters of the Dialogue:
Scene – A Television Talk Show discussion on the issue of Pornography.
Sandra: Hello and welcome to “WeVibe.” Today we will be discussing the controversial topic of pornography. With me today are two respected guests: Margaret Atwood, famous novelist and poet and Ann Garry, a professor specializing in feminist philosophy and ethics: Thank-you for joining us today. In my understanding, if we are going to discuss the topic of pornography, we must first know what operational definition each person has in mind when discussing the topic.
Margaret: I agree that defining terms is very important. I learned that the hard way when “I was in Finland a few years ago for an international writers’ conference” (A 1). They were thinking pornography was merely “naked bodies and sex” (A 1) and I was referring to pornography as “women getting their nipples snipped off with garden shears [and] having meat hoo[k]s stuck into their vaginas” (A 1).
Sandra: Yikes, that definition was graphic and explicit!
Margaret: Pornography is graphic and explicit.
Ann: I will concede to the idea that contemporary pornography “sometimes violates the moral principle to respect persons” (G 314), but disagree that pornography is to be exclusively defined as violent and brutal. There are many different definitions of pornography including erotica, which appeals to both men and women.
Sandra: Yes, I agree that there are many ways to define pornography. In my opinion, Margaret’s definition more describes what is referred to as “Snuff” films rather than pornography. Snuff films are the minority and are already illegal in most countries because of its violent and brutal content. I agree that the type of pornography in which Margaret refers to, is not what most people have in mind when faced with the topic of pornography. What would be your definition Ann?
Ann: I would define pornography as “explicit sexual materials intended to arouse the reader or viewer sexually” (G 313). I would like to define it as mostly innocuous in that it is not entirely harmful in the way Margaret describes. The view that “sex is an evil to be controlled” (G 312) is a view I disagree with. What would be your definition then?
Sandra: (stammering and blushing). Well, I agree with your definition, but would have to broaden it to include anything that sexually arouses and/or initiates masturbation in a person.
Ann: So a picture of young boys playing soccer could be considered porn if you were a pedophile.
Sandra: I suppose.
Ann: This would make everything and anything subject to censorship. Are you going to tell a mother she cannot have photos of her son up on the internet?
Sandra: Margaret’s definition targets one particular fetish out of thousands of fetishes, or should I say 6.6 billion different fetishes, the kind that “get off” on death and mutilation (the crowd gasps and boos). Hey, (turning to the audience) people are weird, what can I say. This is why deciding on an objective definition of pornography and the issue of censorship is so difficult. It means something a little different to everyone. My husband likes pretty hands, but what makes a hand pretty? Pornography is in “the eye of the beholder” and more of a subjective outlook, rather than a specific objective definition (lect.).Whatever it is that turns you on becomes pornography to you.
Margaret: But, I believe it is important to find an objective definition of pornography in order to keep it from going too far or crossing the line. The definition of violence and brutality is absolutely necessary to prevent violence and brutality against women.
Ann: How so?
Margaret: Pornography is like an addiction. For the “hard core” users of pornography, they use it like a drug addict would use drugs. They soon build up a tolerance and thus require more and more. Not just more and more hours spent, but the content needs to get more and more kinky until nothing will satisfy the appetite of the user unless it involves harm, violence and brutality, like Marquis de Sade for example (A 4).
Sandra: Marquis de Sade was banned in many countries due to its graphic sex and violence and therefore, lack of censorship is not the issue here. It was recognized that the treatment of the characters in the book was dehumanizing. Mind you, the victims of the sex acts in 120 Days of Sodom, for example did not only target women, but also men. Why the focus on women over men?
Margaret: I do admit that sometimes men are the victims in the pornography I have defined (A 1). Women are the target here because pornography could be considered “hate literature” (A 3) to women as a group.
Ann: It is true that according to the Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, “41% of American males and 46% of the females believe that ‘sexual materials lead people to lose respect for women’” (as cited by G 312). But, that was in 1970 and contemporary research suggests it may not be true.
Margaret: What contemporary research? What are your sources?
Ann: Uh… (shrugs and changes topic). In my research I focus intently on three questions in my work Pornography and Censorship…
Sandra: (jokingly). Got to get that plug in! (She shows her work to the audience and the audience laughs). Hold on a second though, I wish to discuss this idea that pornography necessarily leads to violence against women.
Ann: (annoyed). Ok.
Sandra: Margaret, there is no evidence for your “slippery slope” argument that looking at breasts necessarily leads to violence and brutality (lect.). Pornography is not a “gateway drug for violence” (me). I have done extensive research in altered states of consciousness, including drugs, and evidence has shown that it is not the drug or the act that leads to an obsession, but rather the personality type of the user (Farthing 449-478). There is a certain personality type that makes that person more prone to addiction and obsession. It is this personality type that pushes through the gateway to other, more intense drugs or porn or what have you. What you are targeting is not pornography or men as a whole, but one specific fetish and one specific personality type (camera pans to Margaret).
Margaret: (she has a surprised look on her face. It looks like she wants to say something, but says nothing. The camera pans back to Sandra).
Sandra: Ok now, Ann, please tell us about your research.
Ann: In my work Pornography and Censorship I seek rather to study the content of pornography to find out if 1) pornography really does “degrade, exploit or dehumanize,” if so, “does it degrade women more so than men? and 3), if it possible for an “innocuous, non-sexist pornography’ to exist” (G 313).
Margaret: 1) Of course it dehumanizes people and 2) especially women. If the kinds of acts depicted were exclusively targeted at African Americans, pornography would be banned immediately (A 3). I agree with Brownmiller, that pornography is “anti-female propaganda” (G 312)
Ann: From my research, it does seem that yes, pornography is degrading, and yes, it degrades women more (lect.). The way women are viewed is that they are seen as “more pure and delicate” (G 315). There are two types of women, those put on a pedestal of respect, and those in the gutter (G 316; lect.). The problem is that even those placed on the pedestal are still less respected than men. There is still a caste system of respect when it comes to men and women, with men on top, then “good” women, then “bad” women at the bottom. The problem is that there is asymmetry when it comes to respect. It is easier to lose respect for a woman than to lose respect for a man. Since men take the active role and women, the passive (G 317), society is more likely to believe that then man will harm the women and not the other way around (A 317).
Margaret: Agreed, this “Double Standard” raises the concern of using pornography as an educational tool. The buck has been passed, so to speak from the parent, to the school and now is starting to be “phased out” of the schools (A 3). Therefore, young men are turning to pornography to answer their questions and their needs. The largest population viewing both hard core and soft core pornography has been found to be young men ages 16-21. Pornography is teaching these young men that rape is “normal” (A 3) or “cool” (lect.) and it is therefore a powerful “propaganda device” (A 3). It also creates conflicting expectations between men and women in regard to sex. In my opinion pornography is the culprit and should not be the role model or biggest influence of what young men expect when it comes to sex. They come to expect violence and brutality. It is a bad educational tool because people tend to follow a “monkey see, monkey do” mentality (see Figure 1: Atwood’s Illustration).
Ann: I agree that it is problematic to use pornography as an educational tool, but perhaps we can create a type of pornography that is not harmful. There are many different types of pornography and the male-oriented pornography would probably do the most damage.
Margaret: Yes, it portrays women as an “airhead” or “lollipop-licker” (A 2).
Sandra: Male-oriented pornography tends to put women in the sex object role and implies that the women’s duty in sex is the one who “services” the man, for his pleasure, and this is what in turn gives her pleasure (lect; G 320). For women as a whole that is not a good thing.
Ann: Exactly and nobody, not just women, wants to be treated or defined merely as a means to someone else’s end (lect.). For example “I would object to being treated only as a maker of chocolate chip cookies or only as a tennis partner, because only one of my talents is being valued” (g 317-318). “I would rather be a partner…than an object” (G 318).
Sandra: Nicely said! We all fulfill different roles at different times, but when it comes to sex; men and women have different perspectives. It reminds me of something my father said to me when I started high school. He said “men use love for sex and women use sex for love.” (They pause, reflect and nod in agreement). It is the love element that I believe is missing in male-oriented porn.
Ann: Agreed, this brings us to my third question, can “innocuous, non-sexist pornography’ exist” (G 313)? As I have said before, there are many different types of pornography and erotica does not seem as “bad” as male-oriented porn.
Margaret: “Is there a clear line between erotica and violent pornography, or are they on an escalating continuum?” (A 4).
Ann: Good question. I believe that there are variations on a continuum, and if there is no violence, brutality, or degrading acts against women in the content, then perhaps no harm can come from it and it would not teach young boys to expect male-domination in the bedroom.
Sandra: Do you have an example of non-harmful pornography?
Ann: Yes, as a matter of fact I do have some ideas. It would not be male dominated and could show “women and men in roles equally valued by society” (G 322). For example it could depict women in a role that men usually are associated with, such as a respected female doctor who fools around with all the other doctors. There would be no mention of harm and would also show her in her role, treating her patients with respect.
Margaret: It doesn’t matter what the content of the pornography is as the damage to the audience’s mindset has already been done.
Ann: Yes, this is true. It is hard to accept any pornography as being good, no matter the content, when the majority link sex to harm; what I call the “sex harm connection” (G 321). Perhaps the only way to make pornography innocuous is to change the mindset of the people. The link between “sex and harm” must be broken (G 321)! (See Figure 2: Garry’s Illustration).
Sandra: Ok, let’s say the causality is clear, and that people follow a “monkey see, monkey do” attitude. This means that the type and content of the pornography is important and therefore, if we introduced harmless, non-degrading porn to the population and they viewed it, it could eventually change the attitude and break the “sex-harm connection.”
Ann: Yes, but I think it is more complicated than that because, erotica is the minority in the pornography world and even if we showed innocuous porn to the world right now, it would be interpreted in the wrong way. The attitude is still there.
Margaret: This gets at one of the questions in my article. It is difficult to break the “sex-harm connection” mindset because it is unclear whether pornography is “an expression of the sexual confusion of this age or an active contributor to it” (A 4).
Ann: Hold on, let me wrap my brain around this. So, Sandra, you are saying that if pornography is an active contributor to the current mind set, then, if innocuous pornography became the majority, it could be used to change the mind-set of the audience. Ok, interesting, then I am on the right track. So, Margaret, if it were true that pornography is the expression of the sexual confusion of this day and age, then it is more important to change the mindset. Can people’s mindset or world views be changed directly? I do not think it is possible.
Sandra: The procedure for changing the mindset in a person involves the conscious will and effort of the person. They would have to watch for cues (Devine, 2005). For example while a person is watching pornography and they get the urge to bite, pull hair, hit or be violent, they need to recognize this feeling, counteract it, or stop it (or at least stop it from escalating to harm and violence). After a while of doing this new neural pathways are created that remember the boundaries of this compulsion. Much lik kinaesthetic memory? You throw basketballs at a hoop over and over again, your body remembers the motion and it gets stored in the cells. If you practice enough, you can eventually do it with your eyes closed: But, like I said, it takes a lot of time and effort and the person has to be willing to make the change.
Margaret: If the person is not making a conscious effort, I believe that seeing something affects the person subconsciously and does not necessarily entail conscious effort. It just happens.
Ann: Yes, this is the problem, when they view the pornography it triggers the “sex-harm connection.” But, who is going to try to consciously change their mindset?
Sandra: That’s the real question, but on the off chance that someone may want to do this, I have some more suggestions. There was a massage therapist that noticed that sometimes people broke out into tears when she messaged their shoulders. The research of Wilhelm Reich explains that we have pathways of energy (orgone) that go up and down the body, very much like the Qi or chi of Acupuncture, that get blocked when full of stress. For example, let’s take the old saying of “boys don’t cry.” What happens is, every time the boy starts to well up with tears, he clenches his fists or jaw to prevent it. After a while the tension builds up in the muscles creating knots in his shoulders (or protrusions in the jaw). He then, as an adult, goes to a massage therapist and bursts out into tears because he has been repressing it for so long. Reich believed, in his book, The Function of the Orgasm that in order to recalibrate the energy lines and relieve built up tension was to have an orgasm.
Ann: Perhaps this is a contributor to the sex-harm connection because the orgasm, which is associated with sex and thus vicariously associated with women, is being used as an outlet for misplaced rage. Since pornography is also associated with the orgasm it remains in the equation.
Sandra: If the outlet for the rage was not taken out in the bedroom, then perhaps the rage could be associated with something else instead. Like hitting pillows, playing drums, writing or communicating more about etc.
Margaret: All this is well and good, but it is still unclear which variable is causing what.
Sandra: Yes, this leaves one more option to debate. Let’s say, that this is now a correlational relationship and therefore the causation cannot be determined. Therefore, the interaction between the two is symbiotic and the one in turn affect the other. What would happen if we introduce innocuous pornography into this equation? Well, since the one affects the other and so forth, we could see a slow change in the mindset of the audience. It would probably be easier to change the pornography as opposed to the mindset.
Ann: So, if the relationship was correlational, adding innocuous pornography to the equation could be beneficial in changing the overall mindset.
Sandra: Well it couldn’t hurt to try. The change would be slow if it were to work. However, the problem is that the target of change is not just within the “sex-harm connection,” but rather in a deeper issue of inequality between men and women. This is where the true problem lies. In order to change this mindset, true balance between the sexes is needed. Pornography is not the culprit here, but the socialization of gender stereotypes. Let your boys play with dolls, let your girls play with cars, use gender neutral colours, and teach your children tolerance and egalitarianism. This is how to solve the problem. It is necessary to balance the male and female principles on an intrapersonal, interpersonal and societal level (see Figure 3: My Illustration).
Ann: Since the innocuous-type of pornography has not been completely ruled out by any of these definitions, it is therefore necessary to discuss how to make respectful pornography.
Margaret: Discussing this is quite uncomfortable for me, but I agree that a balance may be necessary. For instance, “[n]obody wants to go back to the age of official repression, when even piano legs were referred to as ‘limbs’ and had to wear pantaloons to be decent. Neither do we want to end up in George Orwell’s 1984…where sex itself is considered dirty and the approved practise it only for reproduction” (A 4).
Ann: Margaret. You believe that people replicate what they see in pornography right?
Ann: So then do you also believe that pornography is an accurate reflection of what happens in reality, or displays verisimilitude?
Margaret: No absolutely not. The problem is that it is moulding young minds to think it represents reality.
Davis: I do. I believe that pornography is very similar to reality and provides a non-distorted view of what happens behind closed doors (lect.).
Sandra: Where did you come from?
Davis: Sorry (walks off stage).
Ann: I disagree. From a phenomenological point of view sex does not unfold like male-oriented fantasy pornography. Perhaps more like erotica, but it too is exaggerated.
Sandra: What if that is the problem.
Ann: What do you mean?
Sandra: Well, what if we make pornography even more representative of real life.
Ann: This is exactly what my ideas suggest in my work, but you’re saying perhaps less like the sexy doctor, but more like the couple that skies together, sails together and watches “old romantic movies on TV” (G 320-321).
Sandra: Yes. The everyday reality meets the erotic reality (D 46). We could fade the everyday reality into the erotic reality to make it more representative.
Margaret: Sounds boring.
Sandra: Not if you do it right.
Ann: And how might that be?
Sandra: It is important for the couple to be on the same frequency or “try to harmonize his or her personal sexual rhythm with the partner’s” (D 15). Since the orgasmic rhythms pulsate at 0.08 seconds (lect.), we could bring them in and out of reality at whatever the equivalent to this would be. So, you would see the everyday reality, with flashes of the erotic interspersed. The delay between the two realities would start out longer, and then get closer and closer together until “pop” their sex scene is played out in full.
Ann: Sounds like an interesting idea. We would have to make sure that the characters are relatable if we want to create a porno that is more closely related to reality.
Davis: If you want the story to reflect reality, then writing it from a phenomenological approach would be best. I would also suggest using all the space, time, social, and physical cues discussed in my book Smut (he displays his book to the audience, the audience laughs).
Sandra: You again!?
Davis: Carry on. But, I’m not going to leave this time, this is too interesting.
Sandra: Yes Ann I agree that it is important that the characters are relatable and have average relatable conversation and are not impossibly gorgeous, but are not ugly either. They should be average looking. Their bodies not too fat, nor too thin, but each has their exquisite features. For example, she could have a pretty smile and he could have beautiful eyes, speaking to Davis’s “erons”, since he wants to join the conversation. Since the characters are supposed to be relatable, and the average penis size in North America is 6 inches (lect; MANswers), his penis should be a good solid 6 inches. Oh, and they have to have had acting lessons!
Ann: Definitely! The acting is always so horrible. Then what do we do for the ending?
Margaret: Yes, what about the “money shot” it is always portrayed as a sexist male fantasy. The reason men “get off” on it is because it is degrading to the woman. I still do not think it is possible to make pornography innocuous because of this.
Ann: Why not omit the “money shot” altogether or just a wide shot of the two of them and it is assumed that he has finished.
Sandra: No, if we take it out, (no pun intended) men will not watch it. We have to meet them in the middle, like the YouTube video “Boobies and Kittens” the boobies are for the men and the kittens are for the women. (Then, of course the men are pleased because they’ve just made their partner to look at “sweater kittens”). But, anyway, men enjoy watching the “money shot,” they enjoy it phenomenologically because they relate to that moment. They like to see that the man has finished. Women can get pleasure at all different times throughout, so perhaps we do not quite relate to this moment. They will already be not thrilled with the idea that there is a plot.
Ann: Then how do we the “money shot” non-degrading?
Sandra: Ever heard of “Cream Pies.”
Margaret: No, already sounds degrading.
Sandra: Uh (stammering, and very uncomfortable) I am not sure how appropriate it is to explain this. But, we are all adults here. If you must know it is a close up – but not to close up (looks at Davis. He smiles) shot of the genitals just as they are reaching the climax. He pulls out but you see it cream all over her vagina. He then lingers and does a little rubbing around, even puts it back in. We want it to look like he really loves her. Therefore, it could be possible to invent an innocuous porno at the same time providing a better educational tool. (She is looking down because the topic is so uncomfortable. She looks up to find Davis, Ann and Margaret all “making out” on the couch.
Sandra: (turning back to the audience) Ok, that was unexpected. That’s all we have time for today on WeVibe. Thanks for coming. Uh I mean. Thanks for coming out. Err until next time.
Figure 1: “This is not a pipe.” Retrieved February 8, 2011 from http://126.96.36.199/images?q=this+is+not+a+pipe&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=sOhRTaz7CI7GswaMtYDzBg&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=3&ved=0CEAQsAQwAg&biw=1271&bih=623
This picture by Michel Foucault (1968) was chosen as it speaks to the idea of verisimilitude and the issue of pornography being used as an educational tool. This indeed is not a pipe; it is merely an image of a pipe. Much like how pornography is merely an image of what sex is like. Most pornography, especially male-oriented pornography, does not even portray an accurate image of the true phenomenological experience of sex. Most women do not act like objectified sex slaves, there to only pleasure the man.
Using pornography as an educational tool is problematic because as Atwood believes, people follow a “monkey see monkey do” attitude and will thus portray the images seen. It will also perpetuate a mindset that women are merely sex objects and nothing more.
Pornography, as related to this picture, reminds me of Plato’s Analogy of the Cave because the image that they are seeing on the wall of the cave is only an image or reflection and not the true thing itself. Their shackles could represent the mindset that has been deeply seeded into their world view of what to expect from women. The reason they cannot turn their heads or move in any way is because they are only seeing pornography from one point of view (the male perspective). In this example, the fire lighting up the images on the cave wall represents lust as opposed to the real sun, which would represent love. Therefore, the reality that they think is the true reality is not the true reality at all. Therefore, I agree with Atwood that pornography should not be used as an educational tool and also disagree with Davis that pornography displays verisimilitude. Unfortunately, most men conform to the world view accepted by their own gender class and the mindset that women are inferior and should be treated as sex objects should be changed. Follow this link to hear a song inspired by Plato’s Analogy of the Cave. http://forum.bandamp.com/Audio_Review/2625.html
Figure 2: “The Garden of Eden” retrieved February 8, 2011 from http://universalheretic.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/modern-christian-mythology-the-garden-of-eden/ Also; see one of my personal sites https://theunifiedfield.webs.com
This illustration was chosen because it seems to depict Garry’s position in regard to sex and harm. The “sex-harm connection” (321) has been so deeply entrenched that I will argue goes back to “The Fall.” The fruit is actually an analogy for sex. Sex was the forbidden fruit and when they participated in the act, they were punished. Thus introducing the association of harm and violence with sex, much like how puking after eating hot dogs creates an aversion to hot dogs.
Another example of the sex-harm connection comes from a story in the Gnostic Gospels (the Book of Baruch) featuring Elohim and Eden, who represent the male and female sides of God respectively. They created the world with their love, He donated the spirit and she donated the soul (Meyer, 2005). After they had finished creating the earth, Elohim wished to go back up to heaven to see if there was anything lacking in creation and when he arose, he saw a light brighter than his own and became curious. He thought he was God so he approached the light. There he met with the God of foresight. Elohim then wished to destroy the earth because his spirit was trapped inside, but the God of foresight said he could do no evil while with hymn. It was there Elohim stayed and never returned to his bride, with whom he made a loving contract. When Eden realized she had been abandoned she sought revenge so that Elohim would feel her pain. She began to torment the spirit within all humans to get back at him. This is how it stands today. Elohim did realize if she knew that he was with the Good, she would not have sought revenge. His abandonment created a cycle of divorce and resentment between the sexes that repeats to this day. But, in this example it was the female perpetuated who displayed the violence. Perhaps the reason why there is a high divorce rate is because all of humanity itself has come from a broken home and we are thus repeating or following the cycle. Hence “monkey see monkey do” and why it is hard to break the link.
Figure 3: “Vesica Pisces” retrieved from whitehawkstudio.com February 8, 2011. Labels and outer
ring created by Sandra Kroeker. This symbol was picked not only for demonstrative
purposes, but because it looks like a naked women lying down. Also; see one of my personal sites https://theunifiedfield.webs.com/.
Changing the Sex-Harm Mindset: On an Inner, Personal Level
Each person has within themselves a male and female aspect or side (Jung termed them the Animus and the Anima respectively). Polarization of these two sides is important for changing the mindset that women are inferior. In order to polarize the inner self, one must recognize that each side is important in their own right, and in their own time. For the purposes of this exercise, a particular stereotype of the sexes will be used (and then should be ignored and not taken as truth). Male tendencies are assumed to be more rational, whereas female tendencies more emotional. These labels can be inserted into the Venn diagram above. Therefore, on a personal level, balance is achieved when one can recognize the importance of both rational (male) and emotional (female) tendencies and in what situations it is best to use more of one than the other or a balance of both. Sometimes it is best to listen more to your reason and sometimes it is best to listen more to your instinct or emotion, especially when it warns of a situation that might put you in danger. The balance of when to use which and how much can be learned by getting to know yourself and paying attention to the consequences of the actions you make.
There is a difference between what is known as “sex” and what is known as “gender.” In Psychology, sex represents the biological category and gender represents a cognitive or social category. Gender stereotypes are false because these characteristics will appear in many degrees in either sex and in all areas in between. Androgyny has been shown to be the healthiest for the individual. A condition called Male Normative Alexithymia has been seen in men who were raised to control their emotions (Levant, 2007). Lexi means without, and thymia means emotions. This is when emotions get pushed inside and can build up and come out in inappropriate ways and at inappropriate times. For example “Rubber Band Syndrome” is when unrecognized emotions build up until they erupt in an explosion of anger, and excessive strength and aggression. This creates concern for relationships, not only because the woman can be on the wrong end of the aggression, but women tend to see expressed aggression as a temporary loss of control whereas men see it as a way of establishing control. This is probably a large contributor to the “sex-harm connection” (G 321). If the emotional side was expressed more often, or felt it could be, then it would not build up and turn to anger and/or aggression. Other ways to correct mindsets and reduce gender stereotypes were already discussed in the main essay. If ways of changing the mindset in a relationship setting and on a societal level is of interest, let me know.
Interdisciplinarity and Women's Studies
December 14, 2011
The Advancement of Women’s Studies: Following the PhD Debate
There is controversy over the prospect of creating PhD programs in women’s studies. When confronted with creating doctorial programs in women’s studies, there are scholars that oppose the idea (Friedman 301; Brown 36) and those that believe it is an important step in which the future of women’s studies may depend (Allen and Kitch 292). Problems with creating doctoral programs in women’s studies include whether or not to define women’s studies as a discipline demanding its own departmental status, or to be defined as an interdisciplinary field (Boxer 387). Defining women’s studies within either of these definitions is important in determining whether or not “course work [should] be housed exclusively in traditional departments or in a separate administrative unit” (Boxer 387). Brown poses the same question when she asks if feminist courses should be conducted in “the context of a degree-granting program” or whether it should be ‘mainstreamed’ into “traditional curriculums” (Brown 35).
Moving away from the curricula residing exclusively in a freestanding department or within traditional disciplines, other scholars such as Pryse and Lykke, believe women’s studies doctoral curricula could reside in both a freestanding program and within traditional disciplines simultaneously. But in order for this fluctuation to occur, women’s studies need to be considered a freestanding discipline. This is where much of the debate lies because the boundaries of women’s studies, the core content it should teach and what core methodologies women’s studies can claim remain in dispute.
In regard to defining women’s studies as either a discipline or interdisciplinary, this is also a matter of dispute. There is an underlying assumption that women’s studies are interdisciplinary, yet much of the work lacks true integration of epistemology and methodologies across disciplines and thus cannot be considered truly interdisciplinary (Allen and Kitch 275). Therefore, arguments have been made that the work and research conducted in women’s studies is actually more multidisciplinary than interdisciplinary because there is more collaboration than integration (282).
Other scholars define women’s studies as transdisciplinary as it goes “beyond or above” disciplinary boundaries (Pryse 105) and epistemology and methodology “are articulated in ways that are not ‘owned’ by any specific disciplines” (Lykke 142). Lykke takes the definition of women’s studies to a whole new level by defining it as an emergent, postdisciplinary field, which not only goes beyond disciplinary boundaries, but becomes “modes of organising academic knowledge production [that ends up with the] removal of the traditional disciplinary structures” (Lykke 143).
Inserting women’s studies into one or any of these definitions is important for determining whether or not women’s studies should create PhD programs because if PhD programs should be created, Marilyn Boxer believes the decision of where doctoral curricula should reside depends on one’s definition of interdisciplinarity (390/391). “Depending on [professor’s] perspectives about discipline-based education and their definition of interdisciplinarity, they may envision a freestanding program or one that involves collaboration among departments” (Boxer 390/391). If women’s studies are defined as a discipline in itself, then the curricula can exist within a ‘freestanding program’ (ibid). Considering it as multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary, then the curricula may reside in traditional departments. If women’s studies is defined as transdisciplinary or postdisciplinary this implies women’s studies curricula may reside in a combination of the two, creating new epistemologies and methodologies and even becoming a new emergent entity that could radically reconfigure academia. This paper will follow the debates regarding the PhD program in women’s studies by exploring the various definitions assigned and will determine whether the curricula should reside in a ‘freestanding discipline,’ within traditional disciplines or a combination of the two. Suggestions of what the core curricula would be and how a fluctuation between freestanding and traditional disciplines would be possible will also be discussed.
WOMEN’S STUDIES AS A DISCIPLINE
If women’s studies are to create PhD programs, there is much concern over what core knowledge and what core methodologies should be taught (Brown 19; Friedman 313). Therefore, in order to be considered a stand-alone discipline, women’s studies needs to have core content and core methodologies to claim as their own. If this could be determined, then the curricula can reside within a freestanding discipline. My working definition of a discipline would be one in which has core epistemology and methodology. I will not be using Friedman’s definition “confining knowledge within certain sets of limiting boundaries” (Friedman 309) because women’s studies could never be defined in this way.
When asking what epistemology would be at the core of women’s studies, Brown mentions that by placing “The political” at the core of women’s studies is problematic (Brown 18), but believes placing gender at the core of women’s studies to be even more problematic (34). Gender at the core would define women’s studies as a Second Wave feminist pursuit that, in the end, is excusatory of women of colour; thus some professors would be hesitant or even opposed to teaching gender focused material (Brown 34). Gender cannot be considered the core concept of women’s studies because “the expansion of women’s studies [has moved] far beyond the boundaries of gender alone” by incorporating systems of intersectionality (Friedman 316).
Narrowing women’s studies down to one core concept creates a paradox because this would be like saying the human experience or identity can be narrowed down to only one aspect, such as gender (Brown 24). Brown states that powers “do not operate on and through us independently, or linearly, or cumulatively…[much like how intersectional] powers of subject formation are not separable in the subject itself” (24). Therefore, like how our identity formation is influenced by intersectionality, women’s studies are also influenced by interdisciplinarity, making finding one core concept extremely problematic.
In regard to finding core content in women’s studies, Brown asks the question “[i]s it possible to radically reconfigure women’s studies programs without sacrificing the feminism they promulgate…(35)? This is an important question because those who do not know what women’s studies teach generally assume gender and feminism to be at its core and if gender and feminism are not at the core, then what is? I would like to suggest a potential core for women’s studies as they revolve mostly around systems of oppression and power dynamics. Oppression and power, in my opinion, encompasses and better represents the true core of women’s studies. If this was accepted as the core concept, women’s studies may then be defined as a discipline and the curricula could reside within “a separate administrative unit” (Boxer 387). But, to accept power and oppression as the core, would it necessitate a name change from women’s studies to something else? Would departmentalizing ‘radically reconfigure’ women’s studies as we know it? Responding to this, Allen and Kitch make the point that “other fields, such as African American studies, religious studies, and criminal justice, departmentalized years ago without losing their identities…” (291).
To define women’s studies as a separate discipline, it demands that not only the core content or epistemology be considered, but also the methodology. There is much concern over what methodologies should be taught as core to women’s studies if a PhD program were to be created (Boxer 387; Friedman, 313; Brown 19). To suggest that women’s studies is a discipline in itself, is to imply that there is “something called method…that unifie[s] all feminist research and thinking” (Brown 19). The idea that there can be a core methodology is disputed because there are so many different ways in which to conduct research in women’s studies.
Women’s studies has embraced many non-traditional methodologies such as comparative research, which can be found in Munoz’s Cruising Utopia, Standpoint Theory that stresses the importance of intersectionality, context and background in research, Experiential aspects, using autobiographies as case studies, using poetry to piece together autobiographies, using art as activism, ethnography, interviews, surveys and using films and books as relevant research material. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and as varied as these methodologies seem, there is a common thread. They are all methods of qualitative research. I might even argue that the suggested core epistemology for women’s studies (oppression and power dynamics) remains consistent throughout these methodological approaches because when these methods are applied, concepts such as reflexivity, and ‘who has the power’ are taken into consideration with academic rigour.
It could be argued that in order to be a stand-alone discipline, said discipline need not pick only one particular method to be at its core, but perhaps one family of research methodologies, such as qualitative research. I am not saying women’s studies do not utilize quantitative methods, but I would not place quantitative methods at the core of women’s studies as a defining characteristic. Much like how psychology utilizes both quantitative and qualitative methods, I would not place qualitative methods at the core of psychology.
In conclusion, in order to consider women’s studies as a discipline, there needs to be core knowledge and core methodology uniting it as a cohesive whole. I propose that women’s studies could be considered a stand-alone discipline if the core content or epistemology was considered to be systems of oppression and power dynamics, and the core methodology qualitative measures. However, just because women’s studies could be considered a discipline in itself, does not mean its doctoral programs should reside exclusively within a ‘freestanding discipline.’
WOMEN’S STUDIES AS MULTIDISCIPLINARY
Many scholars maintain that making women’s studies a disciplined department with a contained PhD program is impossible (Friedman 301; Brown 36). Since women’s studies are so broad, and since PhD programs demand specialization, it would necessitate the collaboration with other disciplines. Students coming into graduate women’s studies programs are from many different backgrounds and Brown asks us to “consider how difficult it is to teach contemporary feminist theory to students who share none of the intellectual referents of the feminist theorists they are reading” (35). It might be suggested that upon entering graduate programs, students could be given a crash course in women’s studies basics. But, this too is problematic because a student, who has already acquired an undergraduate degree in women’s studies, would not be learning beyond their undergraduate work, as graduate work demands (Friedman 317). The fact that this problem exists, suggests women’s studies is to be defined as multidisciplinary, rather than a discipline and the curricula should perhaps be ‘mainstreamed’ into traditional disciplines.
Multidisciplinarity is defined here as “a collaboration between different disciplines around a shared research problem that maintains a strict division of labour between the disciplinary cannons and modes of working” (Lykke 142). For example, researcher from women’s studies, working with researchers in psychology can work together on a topic, but it would be likely that the women’s studies academic would approach the topic in a qualitative and reflexive manner and the psychology academic would most likely approach the topic using quantitative methods. This definition does seem to be an accurate description of research in women’s studies. Allen and Kitch believe women’s studies to be more multidisciplinary than interdisciplinary because work and research in women’s studies is more collaborative than integrative (277). Boxer also agrees that the term multidisciplinary is a “more accurate” definition for women’s studies (Boxer 389). Defining women’s studies as multidisciplinary may suggest that its doctorial curricula should reside outside a ‘freestanding discipline’ and be integrated into traditional disciplines.
Going back to the concern surrounding finding a core methodology, Friedman states that the potential methodologies conducted in women’s studies are so varied, that “they hardly share a common methodological language and can barely understand each other’s research” (315). This could support the idea that women’s studies are more collaborative than integrative. Although, Friedman used this as an argument against creating a freestanding doctoral program, this also poses a problem in collaborating with other departments while maintaining strict modes of thinking about and conducting research. According to my personal observation and research, all disciplines do study similar phenomena and topics, making collaboration a possible option, but they do seem to bring in their own language and terms when describing said phenomena. Therefore, I agree there may be a potential language barrier when in comes to multidisciplinarity.
There may be a potential solution for this language barrier and I propose a General Systems Theory “Part 2.” In 1968, Ludwig von Bertalanffy noticed that all the branches of science had similar theories, but were using different language. “Not only are general aspects and viewpoints alike in different sciences; frequently we find formally identical or isomorphic laws in different fields” (General Systems Theory). He desired to integrate the sciences, both natural and social and believed collaboration was needed for furthering all education (General Systems Theory). He developed a theory in which all branches of science could agree, while using their similar theories. I propose this idea could be applied to the disciplines within women’s studies, and be utilized especially between those collaborating on research. Perhaps interested representatives from each department collaborating on a topic or research could meet and discuss their similar concepts. This could aid in communication across various disciplines because when a concept is explained in layman’s terms, without using specialized jargon, you would be surprised how many disciplines would recognize that concept as a part of their own studies.
The prospect for curricula in doctorial women’s studies is promising if a multidisciplinary approach were to be implemented. Perhaps specialized jargon or ‘psychobabble’ should be kept to a minimum or defined really well when researching topics that could be utilized across disciplines. However, just because multidisciplinary work lends itself nicely to women’s studies research, it does not mean the potential doctoral curricula should remain exclusively within the traditional disciplines.
WOMEN’S STUDIES AS INTERDISCIPLINARY
Interdisciplinarity implies integration whereas multidisciplinarity implies disciplines work along side one another, while maintaining their boundaries. Lykke’s definition of interdisciplinarity allows “boundary work and boundary transgressions to take place between different disciplinary modes of working” (142). This means that the disciplines involved would understand and utilize each other’s epistemology and methodology and not keep strict boundaries. Upon reading this definition, it does seem women’s studies are more suited for multidisciplinary rather than interdisciplinary work. Friedman is highly sceptical of integration as she believes “methodological divides across the divisions are enormous, particularly between quantitative and qualitative approaches” (315).
This could be why it is suggested that students should get their degrees in traditional disciplines instead of women’s studies because degrees in women’s studies could “impoverish their education” (Brown 19). Friedman states that “interdisciplinarity is most successful when it emerges out of a firm grasp of the knowledge bases and methodologies of at least one of the existing disciplines” (312) and that it is “very difficult for people with interdisciplinary PhD’s in women’s studies to succeed on the academic market” (305).
This poses a problem in making PhD programs in women’s studies; the lack of jobs because “most hiring follows traditional categories for specialization” and women’s studies is too interdisciplinary to be considered a department (Friedman 304). In response to this, Allen and Kitch would disagree and say that creating PhD programs is essential to the furthering of the field and in turn creating jobs for those with interdisciplinary degrees (292). “[W]ithout departments into which interdisciplinary scholars can be hired, there will remain scant justification for interdisciplinary women’s studies PhD programs” (Allen and Kitch 292). I agree with this statement because the more women’s studies departments, the more jobs for those with interdisciplinary degrees. However, unfortunately, I also agree with Allen and Kitch’s concern regarding the field’s growth when they suggest that its growth is stunted because the “university has failed to take [women’s studies] seriously” (289). This could explain the lack of academic placements, more than the lack of interdisciplinary appointments.
I would like to pose a way in which women’s studies may gain more credibility within the university so it can be taken more seriously, by proposing a way to make women’s studies truly interdisciplinary. Perhaps if the vast amount of qualitative research conducted in women’s studies were to be standardized, it may help further the growth of the field. By standardization I mean that each researcher uses the same survey and/or interview questions. Each researcher could add their own personalized questions as long as some are standardized. Standardization allows parallels and comparisons to be made across research projects.
To initiate this idea, I suggest something similar to what psychology has done with questionnaires. A researcher develops a questionnaire (which can be compared to survey or interview questions), then tests the reliability of the measure mostly by publishing the questionnaire along with the article for other researchers to use. The more researchers using the questionnaire, the more the data can be pooled and compared. It happens often that researchers find flaws in the questions and improve upon the questionnaire, in which the next researcher takes and improves. The researcher could either replicate the study/experiment or use the same questionnaire for a completely different hypothesis.
I propose this method could be applied to surveys and interview questions in women’s studies. By publishing the questions (and even the transcripts of the answers) with the article, other scholars can replicate the research and/or find different interpretations of the transcripts to add to the overall knowledge of the topic. If the survey and interview questions are standardized, the information can be used to draw comparisons, contributing to the pool of knowledge on that topic, and thus gaining respect from the university. The larger the qualitative database, the better.
Once a database has been created, the research would not just help epistemology within women’s studies, but also contribute to other disciplines. For example, psychology could benefit from important missing qualitative information provided by women’s studies research. Research conducted in a laboratory setting produces results that are not representative. Ethnographic research from women’s studies makes up for the flaws in quantitative strategies. Integrating the qualitative research with the quantitative research on the same topic produces a more complete picture.
To have this work the other way around, and add quantitative research to qualitative is a little harder due to the language. To get around this issue, most quantitative research is written in APA format which breaks the paper into sections and the confusing information usually resides within the Methods and Results sections. When papers are formatted in this way, it allows the reader to skip these sections without missing out on relevant content. Another useful integration technique would be for those who use quantitative measures to use reflexivity when conducting their research and for those who use qualitative measures to adapt Harding’s ‘strong objectivity’ by “explor[ing] gaps in the research questions and representational techniques the traditional disciplines have adopted…” (Pryse 115).
Creating a qualitative database with standardized survey and interview questions, integrating each other’s research techniques, and if more attempts were made by both psychology and women’s studies to read each other’s research, this could integrate the two fields, producing true interdisciplinarity and closing the gap between quantitative and qualitative measures. Adding courses from departments like psychology would also allow for bolder course offerings and show the university that women’s studies can cover “more than marginal course content” (Pryse 113). By doing all this, it would therefore, demonstrate to the university how important qualitative research is and would see women’s studies as an asset to academia. Universities may then begin to take women’s studies more seriously, providing women’s studies with the credibility and recognition it has always deserved. This new interdisciplinarity would allow doctoral curricula in women’s studies to reside in both an established discipline and within traditional disciplines.
WOMEN’S STUDIES AS TRANSDISCIPLINARY
In regard to doctoral curricula in women’s studies fluctuating between a home base and traditional disciplines, Pryse believes “[the] challenge…graduate education raises for Women’s Studies concerns precisely the interrelation between disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity” (106). Friedman believes that when curricula are set up in this manner, it creates a too much, too little paradox because “[d]isciplinarity resides in potential overspecialization [and] the danger of interdisciplinarity rests in potential superficiality…[or] rootlessness” (312). I believe creating PhD programs would allow the best of both worlds because it could create a root or home base for students, while they go out into their cross-listed traditional courses as not to be overspecialized. To maintain the home base, the program could hire its own professors who are trained in women’s studies, thus also creating jobs for those who have interdisciplinary degrees.
Pryse develops a way to interact between both disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity by suggesting a “transversal politics” (109). She utilizes Yuval-Davis’ idea of “rooting” and “shifting” or the idea of “’shift’ and ‘pivot’ as an ongoing aspect of …methodological practice…while remaining grounded” (Pryse 110). By ‘rooting’ she suggests that “students as well as faculty [need] to ‘root’ themselves in a particular set of methods borrowed from or learned within the traditional disciplines” (Pryse 110). Even though I have a strong background rooted in quantitative psychology, I find that a strong background in qualitative methods utilized in women’s studies to be just as appropriate for this root and thus this ‘root’ does not necessarily have to be ‘borrowed from a traditional discipline’ because qualitative measures are just as valid as any other measure.
While interdisciplinarity implies integration and transgression of boundaries across disciplines, transdisciplinarity implies that the interaction can create new boundaries and methodologies that are not “‘owned’ by any specific discipline” (Lykke 142). Marjorie Pryse also utilizes the prefix “trans” to “offer new ways to think about interdisciplinarity in Women’s Studies” (105). Therefore, in my understanding, the ‘root’ is only temporary as it would be integrated with other ‘roots’ to create new and different methodologies. Lykke also defines transdisciplinarity as “an example of the development of new thinking technologies that takes place in a space beyond the existing disciplines” 142/143). Yet, neither Pryse nor Lykke provide an example of what this kind of ‘new thinking technology’ would look like.
Using the interdisciplinary idea above, which suggested a way to integrate quantitative and qualitative methods, I would like to suggest a potential example of this new “trans” collaboration and propose new technology or methodology. For example, in psychology, quantitative data is entered into a program called “SPSS” that performs various mathematical formulae, depending what test is suitable for the research topic. In women’s studies, surveys and interview data can be entered into a program called “Atlis.ti.” “This program allows researchers to manage large qualitative data sets through the coding of text and analytic memo writing” (Frisby et al. 20). In the spirit of transcending disciplinary boundaries to create new ‘thinking technologies,’ why not create a computer program that looks for patterns within both quantitative and qualitative data simultaneously? This may be a good example of a ‘new thinking technology’ that “no existing discipline can claim to ‘own’” (Lykke 143). Using this new technology would make women’s studies truly transdisciplinary and the doctoral curricula could fluctuate between disciplinarity and transdisciplinarity by ‘rooting’ and ‘shifting.’
WOMEN’S STUDIES AS POSTDISCIPLINARY
Lykke poses an interesting definition of women’s studies as a postdiscipline. She defines postdisciplinarity as “modes of organising academic knowledge production [that leads to] a removal of the traditional disciplinary structures” and argues for a “mode of organising that takes into account the needs for both transversal openness and stable sites for transdisciplinary reflections” (Lykke 143, emphasis in original). In regard to ‘rooting’ and ‘shifting,’ reflexive work in women’s studies could root in the stable sites and shift for transdisciplinary reflections.
When fluctuating between two variables in a dichotomy, finding a balance between extremes is important, especially when conducting research. Just like how one does not wish to be completely rootless, nor completely overspecialized, Lykke points out that when conducting research one needs to find a balance between objectivity and relativity (146). By defining women’s studies as postdisciplinary she says this conundrum can be avoided (146). To keep a balance and avoid the extremes between objectivity and relativity, she brings in the example of Niels Bohr and how light can exist as both a particle and a wave to show how, depending on the research methodology used, it could be viewed objectively (as a particle) or contextually (as a wave) (146).
Using quantum physics as an example of how to fluctuate or balance the two extremes of objectivity and relativism is helpful because according to relativity, the person looking at the stars becomes the focus or centre for that particular research or point of view. Someone at the other side of the world may have a different point of view of the stars, but it could be argued that locally, the view of the stars is somewhat similar and could be taken somewhat objectively in that local setting (146). This is also relevant for fluctuating between “both transversal openness and stable sites for transdisciplinary reflections” (Lykke 143, emphasis in original).
Rooting and shifting and particle-wave modes of organizing information may fall short when it comes to uniting or transcending the boundaries of many disciplines. To me, rooting and shifting and the prefix ‘trans’ implies interaction or dialogue between two points in a dichotomy, implying only two disciplines are involved. Postdisciplinarity, to me suggests going beyond two disciplines, to encompass all disciplines in the university, or at least to those that could be involved in the topic at hand. In order to encompass more than two disciplines, it may require a mode of organizing information that allows the rooting and shifting through all disciplines. Lykke asks how it is possible to “defy the stabilising foundationalism of canons, evade clear categorical distinctions, and retain space for a free and passionate flow of thoughts” (146).
To answer this question, I propose a twist on Sandoval’s theory that could be utilized to shift between different disciplines while remaining stabilized and free. Sandoval poses a theory to unify all feminist theories by setting up four oppositional, mutually exclusive categories that represent different types of feminism and suggests a fifth category that can weave “’between and among’ oppositional ideologies” (87/88). She calls this fifth category a “differential mode of consciousness [that] operates like the clutch of an automobile: the mechanism that permits the driver to select, engage and disengage gears” (Sandoval 88). See fig. 1 for Sandoval’s theory. To repurpose this theory for postdisciplinary work, I would insert different university disciplines into the four categories, replacing the different types of feminism. I would also make the categorical boundaries less ridged by drawing semi-permeable membranes to allow the ‘clutch’ to weave more freely through each discipline (see fig. 2). The fifth differential would be the “space for a free and passionate flow of thoughts” and the clutch mechanism would allow the evasion of “clear categorical distinctions” (Lykke 146) as it moves through the other disciplines. Therefore, suggesting a way to think both freely in interdisciplinarity, while maintaining a disciplined root.
If women’s studies were to be truly postdisciplinary however, this would imply that its new technologies would tear down the strict boundaries of other traditional disciplines, radically reconfiguring academia. Perhaps if the new technology discussed above (of combining SPSS and Atlis ti. programs) were to be created, it would get the attention of other disciplines such as mathematics and computer science. After all, who else would be qualified to create such a program! Therefore, if this technology were to be created, women’s studies may have the potential to radically reconfigure the face of academia and become truly postdisciplinary.
Overall, I believe women’s studies to be a discipline deserving its own department. This is important because if “women’s studies isn’t a department and it isn’t a discipline, then it isn’t a research entity (Allen and Kitch 291). But, I disagree that doctoral curricula should reside exclusively with in this freestanding department. I agree with Pryse that there is a way to be both a discipline and an interdisciplinary field and allow the curricula to fluctuate between a freestanding department and within traditional disciplines. This can be possible through particle-wave theory and by utilizing Sandoval’s clutch idea to shift between rooted disciplinary work and interdisciplinary work. But in order to root and shift, a root is needed, so I believe that women’s studies should continue to grow by creating more graduate and doctoral programs. Right now, women’s studies may be most aptly defined as multidisciplinary, but if women’s studies were to advance along the various definitions highlighted in this paper, then not only would it grow as a discipline and gain the credibility it deserves within the university, but could also radically reconfigure academia as we know it.
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Testing Plato's Hypothesis that Everything We've Been Taught is a Lie
Foucault & Gender Studies
Foucault and Gender Studies: Power and Sexuality
For this presentation I am going to ask one thing. FORGET EVERYTHING YOU’VE EVER BEEN TAUGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING!!! So far in the conference we have heard many different interpretations of Foucault’s work from the lens of different historical stages. My topic, Foucault and Postmodernism, presents a different outlook; one that can extrapolate Foucault’s ideas into the future. When taking Foucault’s work, we can apply it to the future to help instigate positive change. We can push beyond the limits once confined by patterns of thought enforced by the past. In order to do this, we may have to dismantle all previous notions, definitions, and stereotypes as we know them today. We need to start all over again from scratch; begin with a ‘tabula rassa’ if you will.
Since this is a Philosophy conference, I thought it might be interesting to try and test Plato’s assertion from his analogy of the cave that everything we’ve ever learned is based on a false premise. He believes that we have not been educated properly in a manner that leads us to the understanding of the “highest Good” (Johnson and Reath 58). I would like to attempt to make this my research question “What if everything we have been taught is wrong?” What if education is based on a false premise? In order to test this hypothesis, we need to forget everything we have ever been taught as it might be based on a false premise. There will be a lot of controversial topics discussed in this presentation and if I see discomfort or disgruntled faces, then I can conclude that you have not entirely started from scratch with an open mind or indulging me in the idea that Plato may have been right about education. Who says philosophical questions can’t be tested?! Believe it or not, there is a lot of evidence to back up this notion. Most of the evidence in this presentation is research or academic based, but I’m going to start with a couple religious examples.
Some evidence from Gospels that may support this idea comes from Gospel of Philip:
The rulers wanted to fool people, since they saw that people have
a kinship with what is truly good. They took the names of the good
and assigned them to what is not good; to fool people with names
and link the names to what is not good… For, they wished to take
free people and enslave them forever. (Meyer 52)
There is a similar passage in the Gospel of Thomas that states: “The Pharisees and the scholars have taken the keys of knowledge and have hidden them. They have not entered, nor have they allowed those who want to enter to do so” (Meyer 14). Therefore, there does seem to be some corroborating evidence that education may be based on a false premise. With a blank slate, we may be able to look at the evidence from Foucault and Gender Studies to reconstruct new definitions; ones that are more inclusive, representative; based on truth. I agree with Wendy Hamblet, that “we need to learn how to think differently, rather than legitimizing what is already known” (W. Hamblet, personal communication September 19, 2013). So, be prepared to have everything you think you once knew not just turned upside down, but destroyed.
Having being selected to discuss Foucault and post-modernity, I feel his work has influenced Gender Studies the most and researchers in this area continue to use Foucault’s ideas and methodology to this day. For those unfamiliar with Gender Studies, its major focus is to study how certain groups remain in power while others remain oppressed. This is why, in my humble opinion, it is more about Power and Oppression. It is NOT about butchy hairy Birkenstock-wearing lesbian man-haters trying to take power away from men. Nor is it about flipping the poles to put women in power; leaving men inferior. We must get away from seeing feminists as man-haters (Valenti 2) and seeing power as a limited or non-renewable resource (Tarrant 65). I assure you there is enough power and resources to go around!
This presentation will look more at Foucault’s pattern of thought and the questions he seeks to answer. Therefore, I can show how research conducted in Gender Studies directly reflects that of Foucault’s pattern of thinking and vice versa, demonstrating that Foucault was indeed a feminist. Whether he would identify with this term or not, (which he probably wouldn’t since he even rejected the term postmoderist), it could be said that his research is feminist.
The academic quest of Gender Studies seeks to
1. Locate the power/who benefits/ who has privilege?
2. What institutions are involved?
3. What discourses are being used
4. What tactics are involved in perpetuating dominant ideals?
5. How do they intersect?
6. What can be done about it?
In The History of Sexuality Volume 1, Foucault tackles the first four right in his hypothesis which “is to locate the forms of power, the channels it takes, and the discourses it permeates…and [how it] controls everyday pleasure” (11). He does address the last two, but I will discuss those later.
During the presentation, I will go through these questions and show how Foucault answers them in The History of Sexuality Part 1 and then look at the major research within Gender Studies that address similar issues (not necessarily in that order). Therefore, it could be argued that Foucault’s pattern of conducting research has been a major influence on how Gender Studies approaches its research and perhaps vice versa. Foucault’s theory highlighting how sex has been used as a tool to mould and perpetuate certain ideals and sustain existing power hierarchies is absolutely a feminist issue! Feminist thought, or Gender Studies ideology absolutely seeks to understand how discourse is used to keep certain groups in power while keeping others oppressed.
1. WHO HAS THE POWER/WHO BENEFITS?
First of all, Foucault accuses us of “support[ing] a Victorian regime” (3). This gives us a clue as to whom Foucault believes holds the power; pointing particularly to the Victorian bourgeoisie (3). “[T]he 17th century was the beginning of an age of repression emblematic of what we call the bourgeois societies, an age which perhaps we still have not completely left behind” (Foucault 17). Even though the upper class may hold the power it was this class in which Foucault says the mechanisms of oppression were first placed (126-127). Counter-intuitive as it may seem the dominant ideal could then ‘trickle down,’ so-to-speak, to the other classes, creating an “us/them” binary which quickly forms a dualism. By doing this, the elite benefit because in order to be on the top, there has to be a bottom. Using binaristic thinking, power can be exerted to control many groups of people.
In regard to ‘who holds the power’ it may be important to have a quick discussion about dualisms and binaries. Examples of binaries are up/down, right/left, male/female etc. Dualisms are different than binaries as they involve hierarchical, power structures that dictate one particular side should always be considered inferior and the other always dominant (Plumwood 47). It is generally assumed that dualisms are open to change, but instead, the dualism becomes so fixed that it pulls into it, other associated variables; much like a black hole (Plumwood 47). Thus, if society believes that reason is superior, all variables associated with its opposite, emotion are automatically inferior and become dragged into this oppressive dualism as the inferior party (Plumwood 5, 42, 43). Examples of the inferior party in dualsims are not only emotion but women, nature, those of lower class, the body as opposed to the mind, the private sphere as opposed to the public sphere, minorities, children, and non-human animals etc. (Plumwood 43). This is not an exhaustive list.
Foucault comments on disparities within knowledge and how rationality, to some degree, sustains “the establishment of scientific discourse in the West” (55). He also discusses “points of power, hierarchized and placed opposite to one another…” (Foucault 45). Some of his examples include the split between adults and children (46) and heterosexuality opposed to the differently oriented (my word). This is because the dominant classes had defined the “legitimate couple” as married and heterosexual who reproduce only for procreation (45).
Pleasure is also dichotomized into what is acceptable and what is discouraged (46). Once one side of the binary becomes acceptable, and the other not, the concept of power and judgement problematizes what pleasure is, who can have it, how and for what reason. For example, Foucault states that the “acceptable” form of sexuality became heterosexuality because it produces the next generation of “labor power” (47). This supports a very rational ideology focused around capitalism and demographics, making all other relationship possibilities the opposite which then “receive a pejorative designation” (Foucault 47).
This definition led to a prescription of the nuclear family which promotes heterosexuality and excludes those with alternative lifestyles; such as Foucault himself. The nuclear family also works to divide and conquer within families by splitting them up. Large, multigenerational families work together by having the older generation look after the younger generation while the able-bodied go out to work. If this family structure is taken away, then those who are not married, such as single mothers etc get sifted to the lower classes. Therefore, splitting things up into binaries is the first step in turning it into a power-laden dualism.
Foucault discusses relationships such as teacher/student, government and layperson, doctor/patient, clergy/masses etc. and how they can use their power dynamic and location to perpetuate the ideal, thus maintaining existing hierarchies. Harry pointed out yesterday that some of it is unintentional (H. Hunt, personal communication, September 20, 2013). But it is so subtle that no one questions the power dynamics between them. One of the most pervasive dualisms is that of reason over emotion. What Foucault is trying to say happened with sex and sexuality is that in order to control it it was necessary to “pronounce a discourse on sex that would not derive from morality alone but from rationality as well” (24). Or as Wendy so eloquently put it, “pleasure had to be harnessed to the realm of reason” (W. Hamblet, personal communication, September 19, 2013). This way, the more scientific or rational definition of sex and sexuality can dominate the side of sexuality based on emotion. Therefore, if sex and sexuality were made to be rational, the dominant ideology is more able to control and extract power from it because it is within the realm of reason, which has been defined as superior. This is one step Foucault says instigated control over the definitions of sex and sexuality.
Research in Gender Studies that jumps out at me that looks specifically at the attempt to control the definition and appropriation of sex and sexuality is the work of Davis. Murray S. Davis wrote a book called SMUT: Erotic Reality/Obscene Ideology which was used as the text for a course here in the Philosophy department at Brock University on Gender and Sexuality. According to Davis, there are three major ideological camps that try to control sex and sexuality. These he calls the Jehovanists, Gnostics and Naturalists. Jehovanists tend to be very conservative and wish to suppress sex and the influence it has on the self and society. This would represent the dominant ideal that uses religion and scripture to control how “appropriate” sex and sexuality is defined. Foucault says it is “legitimate to ask why sex was associated with sin for such a long time” (Davis 9).
In Davis’ theory the Gnostics take the opposing side in the sense that they desire to promote sexual freedom as a means to tear down the reality Jehovanists protect. So they are more likely to be proud of their sexual differences and/or fetishes. The Naturalists on the other hand are neutral or more scientific in regard to sex and believe it to be just another biological phenomenon. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see different periods of time when one of these camps had more sway over the population. I can see them all jockeying for position. Relating this to the idea that the approved definition of sex is the rational one, we can see the shift from the more religious influences over to science and biology. This leads us to number 2 WHAT INSTITUTIONS ARE INVOLVED?
The short answer is all of them. But, switching the power to reason, gave education sway because its foundations are based in reason. If reason is superior, so must education because it is the teacher of reason. Beginning with schools, and tracing the Age of Reason back to Plato’s Republic, the perfect city or polis has no room for art or creativity. Emotion was considered a distraction, which ironically Plato supported by defining reason as superior to emotion(Johnson and Reath). The notion that reason is the ‘highest good’ may be a false premise. Gender Studies challenges this notion and seeks to deconstruct and reconstruct education to better teach a balance of both: Which is what I hope we can also accomplish today by challenging the notion that reason is superior to all other human experience.
An example in Gender Studies of education based on a false premise is to look at sex education in schools. It seems as though the focus of sex education is to teach young girls how not to get raped, rather than teaching boys not to rape (Ikeda and Rosser 39). There isn’t even a proper definition of rape taught, nor is there proper education regarding the importance of consent (Sudderth et al. 57). This creates something called rape culture that believes rape is acceptable and produces rape myths such as ‘she asked for it by dressing like blank, walking alone at night or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ Statistically women are raped by someone they know, 90% of the time (Sudderth et al. 57). Therefore, it doesn’t have much to do with what she is wearing, where she is walking and at what time. This carries over into other institutions such as the court system that end up blaming the victim (Pietsch). The dominant ideal of white, male, middle-class etc also affects court decisions because white men, those who perform the majority of sexual assault, are more likely to get off scott-free, and victims who are women of colour are “less likely to secure the support of justice systems” (Pietsch 136).
Institutions of knowledge spread a false ideology to all other institutions as education is positively correlated with money and power. As Foucault himself states, “Power and knowledge are joined together” (100). He says “knowledge-power [is] an agent of transformation of human life (143). Therefore, it is a good means to distribute discourse that supports and maintains existing power heirarchies. “Discourse can be both an instrument and an effect of power” (Foucault 101). This brings us to number 3.
2. WHAT ARE THE DISCOURSES?
If one wishes to dominate and control a species, its reproduction is a logical place to start, therefore sex, discourses about sex and sexualities became a focus. If one could control the process of who procreates, how, and for what reason, a society could be moulded. Foucault presents an example of how discourse could be used to shape young minds into a particular ideology of sex when he discusses “the schoolmaster instructing the little villagers to mind their language and not talk about all these things aloud” (32). He goes on to say that “this was undoubtedly one of the conditions enabling the institutions of knowledge and power to overlay this everyday bit of theatre with their solemn discourse” (Foucault 32). This example addresses Foucault’s repressive hypothesis and leads us to number 4.
3. WHAT TACTICS ARE USED TO MAINTAIN HEIRARCHIES?
Repression is one tactic in exercising control over discourses about sex and sexuality. For example, you should not “talk about all these things aloud” (32). Foucault, however, is careful not to retain the repressive hypothesis entirely. He asks an important question “Are prohibition, censorship and denial truly the forms through which power is exercised in a general way..?” (10). Foucault reminds us that repression is not a “roadblock to a power mechanism that had operated unchallenged… [but is] in fact a part of the same historical network as the thing it denounces” (10). Therefore, the reason the dominant ideology is so powerful is that it operates from both ends. What is not successfully repressed is then used to categorize and label. Once antagonistic ideals are boxed and labelled, they become more easily controlled by the rational dominant ideology still taught in many institutions.
Labelling is therefore a good tactic to control how people define and see the world, thus helping maintain power structures. A label can severely disempower someone. According to Valenti, the worst thing for a man to be called is a girl (2). Girls and women get compared to things that are not human, such as pussies, bitches, birds, and chicks. And if they are not called animals, they are referred to body parts indicating that she is not a whole or complete person. She becomes reduced to her reproductive parts, reinforcing the virgin/whore dualism and an either/or mentality. Then, if she does not fit the “ideal” image of woman, she is referred to as objects such as dyke. See how just this labelling process imposes power. If you are not considered the ideal man, you get called a girl. Girls and women get called animals or reduced to parts, and if you are not the ideal woman, you get referred to as an object: Thus delineating a power hierarchy much like that of the food chain. This discourse is so subtle and insidious that people do not stop to think about it and therefore it goes unquestioned and unchallenged.
A tactic Foucault believes most influential in irking out and labelling discourse regarding sex is the act of confession. Religious institutions turned sex into something that needed to be confessed (Foucault 35). It “is not that they consigned sex to a shadow existence, but that they dedicated themselves to speaking of it ad infinitum, while exploiting it as the secret” (Foucault 35 italics in original).
Gender Studies also addresses the role of religious institutions as one the major ways to maintain a hierarchical split between men and women and different sexualities.
The dominant group of ruling class males constructed a world-view which set them
apart as normative humanity… and then fashioned in their own image a God of ultimate
value, power and rationality over against the disvalue, passivity and irrationality
of the opposite side of the duality. (Jantzen 292)
This quote speaks to the power lurking behind dualisms and normalization, which is another tactic used to maintain power hierarchies. Normalization is making ideology into something that is normal and natural. Most of the general populous sees the existing hierarchical split between men and women as normal and therefore fail to question it. (Most of the time anyway). Normalization is therefore another tactic to perpetuate existing power hierarchies.
Foucault discusses many other tactics besides making reason superior to emotion or and normalization and labelling. Other tactics include pathologicalization, medicalization, militarization and fear, systemic prejudice, and of course, bullying or behavioural regulation which Foucault terms biopower.
Pathologicalization is a process in which “biological differences between men and women are naturalized and justified” (Gustafon 278). The dominant ideal, which is the male experience, becomes the measuring tool for all other experience. Experience that is made to be the ‘other’ becomes unnaturally different or even aberrant, especially in the medical industry under a traditional bio-medical ideology. The biological differences between men and women became pathologized to the point that “with astounding regularity, [women’s different biology was] found to be ‘essentially and dangerously inferior to men’s’” (qtd in Gustafon 278). Foucault states that “sex gradually became an object of great suspicion” (69). Thus, sex too became pathologized. “[T]he nervous woman, the frigid wife, the indifferent mother…the impotent, sadistic perverse husband…the young homosexual who rejects marriage…were combined figures of an alliance gone bad and an abnormal sexuality (Foucault 110) Therefore, sexual acts that were not committed by married, heterosexual couples, for reproduction only, were deemed as not only abnormal, but neurotic. This way, if one were to behave outside of the dominant ideal, they were considered mentally ill. This combined with labelling, forms a very effective tactic to maintaining dominant ideology and hierarchies. This is how pathologicalization of women’s bodies made its way into other areas such as psychiatry where women were diagnosed with hysteria or what Freud termed ‘penis envy.’
Hysteria is an excellent example of pathologicalization because emotion was considered abnormal and viewed as erratic. Hysteria, coming from the same root as hysterectomy, was ‘scientifically’ seen as caused by a woman’s womb wandering. (Yes, how scientific). The parts of the woman were eventually seen as abnormal, causing pathological diseases. The cure for hysteria was the orgasm and the doctor would alleviate the symptoms by relieving her of her sexual tension (Lewis 2005). This instigated the mandatory pelvic exam on women who were about to be married. During the Cold War, it was considered a normal procedure because it would not be beneficial to the country if men were not satisfied while consummating their marriage. If men were not happy with their women or their first sexual experience with their woman, they might switch over to communism (Lewis). I am not making this up! It is from an article called Waking Sleeping Beauty: The Premarital Pelvis Exam and Heterosexuality During the Cold War. <<And I thought Harry had long titles!>> Foucault, however, agrees when he states that “through pedagogy, medicine and economics [or demography] it made sex not only a secular concern, but a concern of the state as well” (116). Woman eventually came to be seen as emotionally unstable and overly sexual. Pathologicalization also made its way into the traditional bio-medical model.
Similar to pathologicalization is medicalization, which is the same train of thought applied to women during medical diagnosis and treatment. Foucault states that “[t]he medicalization of the sexually peculiar was both the effect and the instrument…Imbedded in bodies, becoming deeply characteristic of individuals, the oddities of sex relied on a technology of health and pathology” (44). Gustofson states that “women’s bodies and minds that are structured or function differently are pathologized as defective, diseased, or burdensome rather than as reflecting part of the diverse human condition” (278). Foucault, however, reminds us that this pathologicalization and medicalization is extended from women to men whose sexual orientation is outside the dominant order. This is extremely important because not all men benefit from patriarchy.
Through medicalization a “norm of sexual development was defined and all the possible deviations were careful described; pedagogical controls and medical treatments were organized…for the benefit of a genitally centered sexuality” (Foucault 36). Therefore, women were reduced to their body parts, referred to in Gender Studies as “boobs and tubes” and certain bodies that did not fit into the ideal definition or the 68 percentile, were pathologized (Gustofson 278). <<A good example of medicalization comes from one of my students. In seminar she told us of her trip to the hospital. She was experiencing stomach pain and said it might have been something she had eaten. The first question was “are you pregnant?” She said “no” and they continued to run only tests to determine if she was pregnant. When they discovered she was not pregnant, they sent her home, stomach pain and all. They did not even consider the food poisoning hypothesis presented by this student.>> Because anything that differed from hetero-male experience was pathologized, differences were not examined or treated as normal (Gustofson 279). This, in turn, supported double standards.
Another tactic Foucault discusses that reinforces or perpetuates existing power hierarchies is fear. Foucault states that “under the guise of the medical norm [which] claim[s] to speak the truth, stirred up people’s fears” (53). “[S]trange pleasures” were therefore dangerous to society and it “warned, would eventually result in nothing short of death” (Foucault 54). This quote is interesting in light of the work of Davis because the Jehovanists believe immoral sex and sexuality degrades the fabric of existence and this is what Gnostics use to their advantage because they want the existing social structure to be dissolved (92). Jehovanists wish to keep in tact, “the boundary between certain social categories-especially between male and female” (Davis 92). This is the power Foucault brings to our attention in the History of Sexuality Part 1. Therefore, fear is a powerful tactic used to maintain hierarchical splits, especially between men and women. This is where militarization comes in.
Another tactic, militarization, is when men and women enter into the military and are taught to be cold and impersonal. Reason again reigns in this type of thinking; otherwise killing other human beings would be a lot harder (Foucault 137). If discourse tells us that we have to treat differences as something to fear, and that not doing this results in death of the entire species, going to war becomes easier and a formidable tactic to keep structures the way they are. Foucault states “[w]ars are no longer waged in the name of a sovereign; they are waged on behalf of the existence of everyone; entire populations are mobilized for the purpose of wholesale slaughter in the name of life necessity: massacres have become vital” (137).
This is also a good example of hegemony which is another effective tactic because if a population is moved to war to protect the existence of everyone, it is telling them that going to war is for their own good. Foucault comments on the atomic bomb situation and how it feeds into this hegemonic discourse.
The power to expose a whole population to death is the underside
of the power to guarantee an individual’s continued existence…If
genocide is indeed the dream of modern powers, this is not because
of a recent return of the ancient right to kill; it is because power is
situated and exercised at the level of life, the species, the race, and
the large-scale phenomena of population. (Foucault 137)
Therefore, if people are taught that the entire fabric of existence would dissolve if men and women were treated equally, militarization becomes an excellent way to maintain patriarchy and existing power hierarchies.
Foucault only mentions systemic prejudice in passing when he discusses “state-directed” or state commissioned racism (119). He discusses eugenics as a perversion of pathologicalization and medicalization. Gender Studies takes the topic of systemic prejudice and eugenics a lot further. The history of the birth control movement, for example, was rife with state approved prejudice against women of colour (Davis 354). Planned parenting, in its early formation targeted poor communities and minorities. If a white, middle-class woman wanted an abortion, she would be discouraged and even denied. But, if a woman of colour asked for one, there would be no hesitation (Davis).
In Alberta, not too long ago, medical institutions and hospitals were given permission by the government to sterilize those deemed unfit to bear children without their consent: Directly addressing Foucault’s comment on eugenics. Both men and women were forcefully sterilized. The film, The Sterilization of Leilani Muir is a good example (Whiting 1996). She was sterilized without her consent because her I.Q was around 60 (Whiting 1996). Since I.Q is arguably more influenced by nurture, rather than nature, her abusive upbringing resulted in a lower I.Q. After she was removed from her abusive situation, her I.Q went up 10-15 points. When she could not get pregnant, she later went to the doctor who told her that she had been sterilized. Legislation has since decreed forced sterilization illegal in Canada, but is still a valid example of systemic prejudice.
Examples of systemic prejudice that remain legal today are the Omnibus bill and policies regarding immigrant and migrant workers. For example, the Omnibus bill targets minorities, especially First Nations, whom are already over-represented in prisons (Dell). Governmental policies regarding immigration force our most qualified doctors in the country to serve us fast food or drive our taxis (Hojati). Of course differences are going to be maintained and hierarchized if the government itself is making and supporting prejudiced policies.
Continuing on with tactics and discourses involved in maintaining existing power hierarchies, bullying and behavioural regulation could be the most powerful tactic of all. The people closest to you are those who regulate your behaviour the most. Right from birth and even in the womb, people want to know the sex of your baby. If the baby is dressed in gender-neutral clothing, it makes people uncomfortable because they do not know how to treat the baby (Lorber 33-34). This I want you to take a moment to think about, because why should there be any differential treatment? Babies are essentially androgynous, no? At school, peers and teachers take over behavioural regulation towards conformity of the status quo (Cruz; Raby). For some, “doing gender” becomes also “doing heterosexuality” to avoid the teasing and bullying (Messner 185). Coaches are a major regulator of maintaining a split between the sexes (Messner). Afterall, who wants to be called a bunch of girls or accused of throwing like a girl, when you are a man? Remember, the worst thing for a man to be called is a girl (Valenti 2). This mentality then transfers over into everyday ideology, eventually affecting relationships.
Foucault states that “parents and children, adults and adolescents, educator and students…all have played this game of …confrontation and mutual reinforcement, exercising a power that questions, monitors, watches, spies, searches out, palpitates and brings to light” (45) behaviour that is different from the status quo. He also states that “[e]ducational or psychiatric institutions, with their large populations, their hierarchies, their spatial arrangements, their surveillance systems, constituted, alongside family, another way of distributing the interplay of powers and pleasures” (Foucault 46).
This need to control bodies and populations through various institutions led Foucault to coin the term biopower, “guaranteeing relations of domination” (141) that “was without question an indispensable element in the development of capitalism” (140-141), capitalism not being possible “without the controlled insertion of bodies into the machinery of production and…economic processes” (141). Remember, the ideal way to express sex and sexuality was between married, heterosexual couples because they were responsible for the next generation of the labour workers (sic). Therefore behavioural regulation, through reinforcement and punishment, which Foucault terms biopower could be considered a major tactic in reinforcing existing power hierarchies.
So far we have heard from Foucault and research in Gender Studies regarding discourse and tactics that help perpetuate dominant ideals. I would like to share with you some of the research I have put together revealing another tactic I like to call demonization. This is when symbols associated with women or paganism become stigmatized by dominant religious groups to instigate conformity. For example, in regard to maintaining the power hierarchy between men and women, Venus is associated with women and the path of Venus in the sky traces the five-pointed star, which was demonized by association with Satan worship and the dark arts. Another example of demonization is the number 13. Have we ever wondered why the number 13 is scary? This number in Judaism and/or Kabbalah is the numerical value of love and caring. Through the process of revering reason and suppressing emotion, love and caring take a fall, in this case to the point where there is genuine fear called ‘triskaidekaphobia.’ One more example of this type of demonization is in regard to music and resonance. In the early 19th century, musical tuning became standardized as it was discovered that when travelling the world, the tuning was different from one region to the next. The heart chakra resonates at 528 hz, which is represented by love. The modern standardized tuning suppresses the 528 frequency by making it the only frequency in the key that creates a discord in the scale. Chords that sounded discordant were demonized and thought to be evil. If the “A” on the guitar resonated 4 hertz higher, at 444 Hz, the “C” would ring out at a 528 frequency, allowing the heart chakra to be heard. One last example in regard to paganism is the demonizing of the ‘Greenman’ who was celebrated as helping to produce bumper crops. The Greenman’s horns became associated with Satan so when people are seeing a fearful image of Satan, they are actually seeing an exaggerated, supped up version of an ancient harvest god. Unfortunately, it is not just these examples or tactics on their own that have created such an impervious dominant ideology, but the combination of all discourses and tactics distributed through all institutions including marriage that help reinforce the existing power hierarchies. This brings us to number 4, Intersectionality.
The last two points are not explicit in Foucault’s hypothesis but he does address the issue of intersectionality and states that “pleasure and power do not cancel or turn back against one another; they seek out, overlap, and reinforce one another. They are linked together by complex mechanisms and devices of excitation and incitement” (Foucault 48). This statement follows exactly what intersectionality is about by recognizing that mechanisms are all linked or woven together; reinforcing one another, like a giant knot. In Gender Studies intersectionality refers to how characteristics such as sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, class, ability; to name a few, all work together to compound experience (Cruz 68). For example bullying increases with the number of characteristics that do not fit the dominant ideal of white, male, heterosexual, middle/upper class, young, thin and able-bodied. I think this is why Foucault again becomes a major influence in Gender Studies because his sexual orientation did not match the dominant heteronormative ideal.
Foucault maintains that discursive growth should be looked at as “a dispersion of centers from which discourses emanated a diversification of their forms which make the complex deployment of the network connecting them” (34). This means that from each different institution, the dominant discourse spreads forth ideology adapted to each situation or context it finds itself in. Therefore, its discourse is fluid and can change and adapt to each setting it which it is placed. The reinforcement of the dominant ideology is therefore projected from all sides and can mould itself to any situation to reinforce behaviour to conform. Therefore, intersectionality is important when assessing well being and life experience and tracing power relations because they are so interconnected that they reinforce one another and cannot be separated.
Hopefully by forgetting everything we have every been taught, we can better understand and follow the paths of power relations through different locations and recognize how sex and sexuality can be used as a means to maintain existing hierarchies and dominant ideals. All systems and institutions of power are involved in keeping certain groups superior to others. Many adaptive discourses and tactics are used to keep the existing power structure in place and they all reinforce one another to form a mega suprastructure of privilege and oppression. I hope I have successfully disrupted your previous interpretation of Foucault and Gender Studies and the existing power structures. Addressing Plato’s hypothesis: Is it completely far-fetched to say that education is based on a false premise? So……..
5. WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
We could challenge existing educational structures and come up with new ways that teach tolerance and accommodation for those who are outside the dominant ideology. This is beginning to show its effects as students are taught at younger ages about Gender Studies issues. At Brock there is an organization called OPIRG in which we can mobilize around important events that promote a more inclusive future. We could participate in activism and volunteer. We could focus on ideologies that are not the dominant ones in order to decentre the centre. This is not an exhaustive list!!! But Foucault does leave us with some advice. He suggests that “discourse can be both an instrument and an effect of power, but also a hindrance, a stumbling-block, a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy. Discourse transmits and produces power; it reinforces it, but also undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart” (101). Therefore, using this suggestion, we could also do what Foucault has done by writing his books, we can create awareness, provide people with the opportunity to open up dialogue about these issues and basically “queer things up.” For those unfamiliar with queering things up, it means to question and challenge dominant assumptions and practices that exclude certain groups. We don’t “question everything” anymore, we queer things up! Now go queer shit up!
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Challenges in Community-University Collaboration
April 16, 2012
Challenges in Community-University Collaboration
Throughout the winter term in 2012 the Gender Studies and Feminist Research program at McMaster University participated in community-university collaboration. We worked in teams of two or three and were placed with a community-based organization. My partner ____ and I were paired with ____and ______of the Status Women Committee of Hamilton to help them devise a survey to gather information regarding women who live or work in Hamilton. The goal was to assess what municipal issues are important to women in Hamilton in order to direct the work of the committee for the next four years. The committee wishes to use this information to advise city council in matters of municipal services that pertain most to women.
The original timeline included three stages, Development, Dissemination and Analysis and aimed to have the first draft of the survey emailed out by February 4th, have the survey up on line by the second week in February and begin analysis March 15. This original timeline was found to be far too ambitious because the first draft was not exactly what the committee wanted as it was not broad enough, so it had to be redeveloped. It was agreed that Patti, Ashley, and I were to create our own versions of the survey and email them to each other the morning of Wednesday February 15 and all three versions of the survey were going to be incorporated into the final version. Mine, being the only one submitted, was voted on and everyone agreed to use my version of the survey.
There was a lot of useful feedback from the committee in regard to grammar, wording and things that should be changed or added. Because the committee was able to add their own input, this was considered by the mentors to be a success as the committee felt more a part of the process. The process itself took a lot longer than initially expected as it took weeks to get the survey to what the committee wanted, weeks to get feedback from the committee and weeks to incorporate the changes. Therefore, it was beneficial to extend the deadline of the final product because the committee was more involved and it also allowed more time to get the survey to a higher standard as to gather more accurate and representative information.
The process of analysis was ultimately too ambitious for the timeline of the course so it was agreed that we would help with the development and the dissemination stages and leave the analysis to the committee. Calhoun, Wilson, and Whitmore would agree with this duty pruning as they state that “success is more likely when efforts are focused on only one or a few issues” (150). The survey went up on-line officially Monday March 19th and those who fill out the survey had a chance to be entered into a draw to win a $25 Grocery Gift Card.
There were many other challenges besides having a too ambitious a timeline such as ingrained biases and communication issues and I learned from this experience on many different levels. The levels I learned on were on a social/political level, a partnership level and a personal level. This paper will look at some of the challenges involved in my experience with community-university collaboration, discuss how I learned from this experience and provide a professional response to those who wish to participate in community-university collaboration in the future.
The format I will be using is the Integration of Theory and Praxis (ITP) model as described by Bogo and Vayda in their article “Theory of Field Instruction.” Their method of reporting experience with community-university collaboration utilizes four different stages of documentation which are Retrieval, Reflection, Linkage and Professional Response. The first stage is when the participant retrieves and documents an event or experience. The person then reflects on the experience, links it to specific research then suggests how the event or experience can be learned from or avoided in the future (2-5).
Social/Political Level. Going into further detail in regard to developing the survey, I did not want the questions to be leading or accidentally lead those filling out the survey to answer in a particular way. The committee wanted the questions broad enough to encompass all types of women that could span across all ages, races, classes and abilities. The first sample survey was too narrow as it focused on only the marginalized population.
In order to get the survey out to all types of women, I thought about those who did not own or have access to a computer. Some people do not even know how to use a computer. It was therefore discussed that hard copies of the survey should be utilized. However, if we were to use hard copies, this would require someone to distribute them, collect them, and someone to enter in and analyze the data separately from the on-line surveys. There was also a problem of how to enter those who filled out the hard copies into the draw to win a grocery gift card. The use of hard copies, to reach a more representative population, was ultimately too much work and came down to problems regarding time and money.
The concentration on those who do not have a computer or getting the survey out to those with a low social economic status led to assumptions and stereotypes that may have inadvertently reinforced dominant ideology. I may have been oversimplifying as computers are everywhere and even those on Welfare own computers. Therefore, the process of getting the survey out to as many people as possible may have reinforced problematic stereotypes. This led to a paradox and subsequent paralysis on how to move forward. It seems that every attempt to help can be turned around by making things worse. This begs the question “does advocacy work?” Being from the dominant, privileged population I began to doubt the effectiveness of my involvement in this project.
Advocacy work can have the opposite effect of the desired outcome. For example, George’s article on the “Girl Hawker Project” pointed out that, even though intentions can be good, they can have a devastating outcome. For example, the Girl Hawker Project was designed to protect young girl vendors on the street as they assumed they had a greater risk toward negative behaviours such as thievery and prostitution (135). This led to fines which thrust these families into further poverty (137-138). The final outcome ended up stripping the girl’s of their right to make money and right to support their families. The project started with an idea of protection for these girls on the street, but ended up perpetuating class distinctions (141). This is a good example of what may have happened while we were brainstorming about how to get the survey out to as many people as possible. Fortunately the survey did not reflect this initial stereotyping. But, I began to wonder how and why the process of recreating tropes occurs.
Linda Alcoff’s paper, “The Problem of Speaking for Others” stresses that it is problematic for those from the dominant culture, or those from privileged positions to ‘speak for’ or ‘speak about’ those who are marginalized (9). I found conducting community-university collaboration extremely difficult, because I am both from the dominant culture, and from a privileged position as a white, graduate student enrolled in a university.
Alcoff reminds us that influence on others can be embellished depending on the location in which the person is speaking. For example, those speaking from privileged positions in dominant locations such as universities can have an impact on those listening because the setting itself carries weight within the community. Speaking as a person enrolled in a university may be discursively coercive and could inadvertently reinforce the oppression of the group ‘spoken for’ (Alcoff 7). I come from a traditional, quantitative research background and have been biased by traditional educational discourse. Perhaps the inadvertent recreation of stereotypes occurred because I am used to prizing education and objectivity over context and subjectivity. I have learned a great deal about standpoint theory and context of the subaltern this year and still did not realize this stereotyping was happening. This where I thought my partner would help, however, she kept everything to herself. Since I was not able to see this myself, and my partner was not there to teach me or point this out to me, I missed out on an opportunity to learn and gain more knowledge. Sometime reflexivity does not work if you do not know where to look and therefore, may require help from others.
Due to the fact that I do not live in Hamilton, there were extra challenges for me in regard to diffusing the power dynamic between the community and the university. I was closer to the university than the community of Hamilton and thus had difficulty empathizing with and knowing the various services available in Hamilton. Therefore, if I had implicitly sided with the university, then there may have been an imbalance already assumed going into the community-university collaboration.
In regard to the paralysis and doubting my effectiveness in this project, when good intentions create further problems than solutions, it can lead to burn out and/or paralysis (Orr 43). Burn out and/or paralysis occurs because the poles involved in dualisms keep flip flopping back and forth to no end. The paralysis on my part came from a stand still in whether or not to ‘speak for’ others at all. However, if I gave up and avoided speaking for the other, ignoring their voice also perpetuates the “imperialist project” and reinforces the dominant culture (Alcoff 23).
To help find a solution to flip flopping between deciding on action or non-action and to end my paralysis, Alcoff (and George) suggest that ‘speaking with’ instead of ‘speaking for’ others as a better method for advocacy because it allows for a dialogue or chance for the marginalized to respond. This idea was appropriated into the survey by allowing space for open-ended questions at the end of each topic and we created a section at the end for personal comments, thus allowing for dialogue. It is best to leave room for the other to respond to what is said (Alcoff 23). This way the discursive role is transformed into a narrative, leaving room for the other to counteract or correct anything stated (23). While the idea of speaking with and dialogue was incorporated into the survey, it did not bleed through into the partnership level. Therefore, I began to wonder how to resolve problems in collaboration with those with differing opinions.
Sandra Harding’s article, “Feminist Standpoints” revealed some helpful information. In regard to the dominant person (or the insider) ‘speaking for’ or ‘speaking with’ the marginalized other (the outsider), both insider and outsider opinions were found to be helpful and valid. Outsider viewpoints “enable the detection of the dominant values, interests, and assumptions in existing knowledge claims” (Harding 56). Therefore, outsider perspectives are important for collaboration because the outsider is more likely to see when biases are being perpetuated thus contributing positively to research because it produces a more accurate, well rounded interpretation. While this is great in theory, it did not translate into praxis.
The outsider’s perspective is only half of the picture as the outsider’s opinion does not necessarily lead to the correct answers or interpretations of the data. Here, the insider’s perspective is useful. For example, in Davion’s article, the oppressed or marginalized group answered “no” to being raped even though their experience matched the criteria of what was considered to be ‘rape’. Thus, those who stand outside of the traumatic experience of rape were more able to see the contradictions and were subsequently more qualified to interpret the results. I have an extensive background in creating surveys and questionnaires and my objective opinion was not useless in the process of this project and should not be entirely discounted or discredited.
It can be seen from this example that the circumstance can dictate whether one is an insider or outsider, and these roles also flip flop back and forth depending on the situation. In this case, those who have experienced sexual pressure were the insiders and those who have not, the outsiders. Differing perspectives in interpreting research “may well be found in the values, interests, and assumptions that each group brings to its research” (Harding 56). Therefore, it is important to listen to everyone’s voice, whether they are an insider or an outsider.
Partnership Level. Throughout the project I did not feel my partner was communicating productively with me nor did she consider my opinion as important and valid (whether I was considered an insider or an outsider). There were some sticky situations and awkward moments that eventually divided the entire project team.
In the initial stages of the survey, Ashley was extremely helpful and utilized her knowledge with the community and the services available. When the committee found the first draft of the survey to not encompass a representative sample of the population and suggested it be revised, Ashley took offence. She also suggested that there should be questions directed to specific marginalized groups, which, in my opinion is important for reaching a representative population in Hamilton, but due to the format of the survey, this idea could not be implemented because these questions did not fit under any of the agreed upon categories and if we were to add new sections, the survey would be too long and time consuming.
The fact that Ashley’s input seemed to be constantly rejected (and to think that it was rejected entirely is a gross overestimation), perhaps led her to resent me and not want to work with me because the committee seemed to be more responsive to my suggestions. So, the more the committee thought my input was relevant and valid, the more Ashley thought my input as irrelevant and invalid. To relate this to Sandra Harding’s definition of the insider/outsider dualism, it could be seen that to the committee, I was the insider and she was the outsider. This deteriorated the relationship between Ashley and I and as a result her unwillingness to work together as a team increased.
I requested her assistance in developing the demographics section of the survey as I knew she had more experience and a better understanding of terms. I also wished to involve her as much as possible because the committee did not seem to be utilizing her talents. Instead of just answering my questions she had to first insult my intelligence by pointing out that I did not belong in this program at this level if I did not have a complete understanding of all these terms I was inquiring about. This happened on three different occasions when asking for her input and advice. Ultimately this led to complete communication breakdown and because she felt (despite my efforts) to feel that her voice was not incorporated in the survey, she ended up deferring the project to me. I then became a mediator between the committee and Ashley as I was not a full member of either side. It is not clear whether the lack of her voice on the final survey was due to the committee or a negative by-product of her lack of productive communication.
Reflecting on Ashley’s withdraw from the project, her distancing makes sense now that I had found out at the end of the course that she had given up and had deferred the entire project to me. Reflecting back on the entire situation, it could be seen that the committee was not utilizing her talents and Ashley was not utilizing mine. The committee tended not to consider her ‘outsider’ opinion and because I was seen as an ‘insider,’ I too became Ashley’s enemy. There would have been much less animosity between Ashley and I if she had just explained to me how she felt about the committee and the project and talked to me about her withdrawing from the project. Even though we were not working well as a team I had realized implicitly that she had deferred the project to me and therefore compromised by giving her the coursework while I did the work for the project.
I believe that communication is extremely important when working together as a team on a project as communication was considered by Calhoun, Wilson, and Whitmore as a key marker of success (146). I do not blame Ashley for taking offence when her ideas could not be incorporated into the survey because according to Calhoun et al. another key marker of success was found in “groups [that] both use and celebrate the individual talents and strengths of [its] members” (150). As the project ensued, she felt that my talents were more appreciated by the committee and felt her voice was not included in the survey at all. Unfortunately this sentiment was not communicated to me until after the final survey draft was completed.
This whole situation led to the dichotomy of insider/outsider relationships becoming power laden. Sometimes I was the insider (with the committee and survey development background) and sometimes I was the outsider (with Ashley and the department as they are more knowledgeable in activism). When Ashley and I worked together I was continuously made to feel inferior and worthless which led to me feeling self conscious about everything I said.
I do not believe Harding’s advice was taken into consideration throughout this project. There may have been open-ended questions on the survey to engage in a dialogue of ‘speaking with’, but I do not believe there was ‘speaking with’ involved in the partnership between Ashley and I. I reached out and approached her by text, email and in person to ask if everything was ‘cool’ between us and she diffused the situation by saying everything was fine, even though her behaviour and attitude said otherwise. Our attempts at ‘speaking with’ failed in part because texts and emails can only say so much and can be easily misinterpreted. Also, because I do not live in Hamilton, I had to resort to texting and emailing more often than I should have. This contributed to further miscommunication.
I do not believe Calhoun, Wilson, and Whitmore’s article “Activism That Works” was taken into consideration. The committee did not utilize Ashley’s talents and Ashley rejected mine. Going further into utilizing the talents of each member of the team, I felt that Ashley and I needed to follow the advice to “support each other” and utilize the strategy of “mutual support and validation” (148). If I was made aware of how Ashley felt, I could have given her more support and helped her stand up to the committee. There is a quote from Calhoun, Wilson, and Whitmore that states “[h]owever hard it is to be a marginalized person speaking up for themselves in this society, it’s worth doing” (148). Giving up, breaking communication and deferring the project to me could be seen as not taking this advice into consideration.
In regard to my reaction to Ashley’s deferral, Calhoun, Wilson, and Whitmore continue to offer good advice. When they asked activists what strategies worked for them, one responded “remember what is important, and don’t get caught up in personalities or egos…[y]ou just sort of take the blows and keep going” (150). I believe I took this advice and ‘took the blows’ because I eventually stopped letting Ashley’s attitude get to me, let her drop out of the project, and as a consequence did not have to deal as much with her ‘personality and ego.’ I then ‘kept going’ to produce a survey in which the Status of Women Committee was proud. After all, the project must go on!
There is also excellent advice in the article by Jones and Jenkins called “Rethinking Collaboration” that helped shed light on real life collaboration between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders.’ Jones and Jenkins represent what they refer to as“Indigene-Colonizer” collaboration (471); Jones is from the dominant culture whereas Jenkins is a native Maori from New Zealand. They respond to Alcoff’s advice regarding ‘speaking with’ in a dialogue by claiming the dialogic collaboration could “be an unwittingly imperialist demand” (Jones and Jenkins 471). Instead they suggest “a less dialogical and more uneasy, unsettled relationship, based on learning (about difference) from the Other, rather than learning about the Other” (471 italics in original).
What Ashley and I experienced in our collaboration was uneasy and unsettling and what both Jones and Jenkins and Stone-Mediatore teach us is that learning can come from contradiction and discomfort, and the discomfort can be used to produce knowledge. For example, regarding our oral presentation, Ashley and I turned our differing opinions regarding the project into an interesting debate, showing both sides of the story. Interplay of our differing opinions was helpful in understanding the complexity of community-university collaboration. Therefore, our collaboration was not a complete failure.
A dialogue of ‘speaking with’ could also be “disparaged on the grounds that it ‘only focuses on the positive’” (Calhoun et al. 152). A ‘speaking with’ dialogue of “mutual respect” may not be the only way to attain knowledge as it represents a “fantasy/model [that] often shapes the hyphen” which stands between the indigene and the colonizer (Jones and Jenkins 473). It is the development of this hyphen that produces power dynamics between two sides in a dualism because each side “discursively produces the other” (473).
Partnership level. I believe good communication to be more important and productive than uneasy communication and recommend finding research that provides suggestions on how to communication properly and productively as a team. Alcoff warns against the impulse to speak to “teach rather than listen” (24). She also points out that “speaking for others is often born of a desire for mastery, to privilege oneself as the one who more correctly understands the truth” (29). Perhaps if we approach discussion by leaving our ‘personalities and egos’ behind, more successful communication can result.
Social/Political level. In regard to the project as a whole, I believe the survey itself incorporated the advice of the authors mentioned in this paper and was a great success. Where things fell apart was on the partnership level. Marrulo and Edwards believe that the best advocacy or community-university collaboration targets the root causes of the issues involved. I believe the project has the potential to target root causes of social injustice because if governmental policies create stumbling blocks for social justice, then bringing the concerns of women in Hamilton to council may be productive. “Politics and governmental influence do not only have the power to corrupt and perpetuate social injustice, but can also serve as a place for change” (Kroeker 5).
Overall level. In regard to advocacy and whether or not it can work, many stumbling blocks were found along the way. Being a white, privileged person working on advocacy can inadvertently reinforce stereotypes. To counter act this, ‘speaking with’ in a dialogue is good advice in theory, but sometimes does not work in praxis, especially when there are ego and personality clashes. Therefore, when ‘speaking with’ is not working, Jones and Jenkins advice is helpful to discover that learning and knowledge can still occur through uncomfortable and uneasy communication. I believe in the end, advocacy can work because despite problems in collaboration and communication on the partnership level, the survey itself was still a great success on the social/political level.
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The Importance of Equal Validation of Rational and Intuitive Cognitive Styles
Rational and intuitive cognitive styles were investigated using paranormal belief as a dependant variable because paranormal believers may tap into both in differing ways. Previous research had suggested that paranormal believers possess deficient rationalization skills. It was hypothesized that perhaps paranormal belief is a function of high intuitive thinking rather than a deficit in rationalization. It was also hypothesized that one dominant cognitive style, could affect proper utilization of another. A rational prime, intuitive prime and control group were used to test these hypotheses. Female undergraduate participants (N = 164) filled out questionnaires and completed tasks measuring both rational and intuitive cognitive style. An ANOVA that measured the difference between the groups on the rational measure was significant, but in the opposite direction as predicted. Regression analyses supported the hypothesis that paranormal belief is a function of intuitive cognitive style and showed that high creative/intuitive scores did predict paranormal belief more efficiently than low rationalization scores. Paranormal believers may be high in intuitive cognitive style, rather than deficient in rational cognition. The interpretation that the cognitive styles may be antagonistically organized was discussed, along with issues of finding and creating a balance between rational and intuitive.
The Importance of Equal Validation of Rational and Intuitive Cognitive Styles
The relationship between rational and intuitive cognitive styles is the focus of this investigation. Research on these two major cognitive styles and the relationship between them was explored for a full understanding of the two and how they may work together. Paranormal belief was used as a dependant variable in this research because previous research has found that paranormal believers tap into both cognitive styles (Aarnio & Lindeman, 2005). Upon investigating the relationship between the cognitive styles, a bias called Left-Brain; Right-Brain Mania (Gazzaniga, 1985) was discovered. This is defined as a bias in Western culture towards rational cognition and the suppression of the intuitive or creative cognitive style (Farthing, 1992). This potential bias seems to be a stumbling block toward finding a more useful balance and validation of both the rational and intuitive cognitive styles. Therefore, this research explored the relationship between the two major cognitive styles and the importance of the balance between the two and of which cognitive style paranormal belief may be a function. In order to find and create a balance between the two cognitive styles it was necessary to also focus on a larger problem of breaking down the cultural bias toward one type of cognition over another.
The Two Major Cognitive Styles
Cognition has been reduced to two major components or cognitive styles by many different researchers (Barbey & Sloman, 2007; Epstein, Pacini, Denes-Raj & Heier, 1996; Gardner, 1985; Klinger, 1978-79; Hilgard, 1962; Langer, 1963; Freud, 1900/1965) and has been termed differently depending on the researcher. For example, Freud (1900/1965) distinguished between primary and secondary thought processes: Primary was considered to be more intuitive, imaginative, instinctual and full of vivid wish fulfillment. Secondary was considered to be more rational, controlled, verbal, and oriented toward reality. Suzanne Langer (1963) argued for a difference between presentational and representational intelligence. Presentational intelligence represented the artistic, introspective, and the emotional aspect. Representational intelligence was thus described as being related to language, math, linear learning where there is only one answer to a given question. Hilgard (1962) distinguished between a realistic versus impulsive thinking style. The two types of thinking have also been referred to as intuitive-experiential and analytical-rational (Epstein et al., 1996) and were thought to be tapped through associative judgement strategies and rule based systems respectively (Barbey & Sloman, 2007). Nisbett, Peng, Choi and Norenzayan (2001) referred to the two cognitive styles as analytic and holistic.
No matter the term used, the definition and the function of these two cognitions remain similar to the point that the researchers seem to be talking about the same two concepts. For the purpose of this research these cognitive styles will be referred to as rational and intuitive. Rational representing the primary, representational, realistic, analytic, verbal, mathematical, “left-brain” or slower processing, and intuitive being the secondary, presentational, impulsive, experiential, holistic, gut feeling, creativity, “right-brain” and emotional intelligence involved with quicker processing. But what exactly is the relationship between rational and intuitive cognitive styles? The previous research mentioned above did not look at the two cognitive styles as one functioning whole. They seemed to explore them as separate, opposite or two distinct aspects. The two major cognitive styles however are in fact parts of the same brain and perhaps should be studied in a more symbiotic manner. Each cognitive style perhaps needed for their individual talents, but both needed as partners working together to create the full human experience.
The Relationship between the Two Major Cognitive Styles
Klinger, (1978/79) suggested that people could lie on a continuum between the two major cognitive styles and argued that dichotomies were too simple to account for individual differences in thought and imagery. His theory suggested that there is no fine line between the two cognitive styles but some people may lie more to the rational end of the continuum and some may lie more on the intuitive side. Therefore there may not be a balanced decision between cognitive styles when it comes to day to day probabilistic interpretation of events and one cognitive style may prevail over another in certain situations and in certain individuals (King,
Another theory that investigated or helped aid in the understanding of how the two cognitive styles may work together was the Triune Brain. The Triune Brain theory postulated that the brain has layers that have evolved over time and the different parts or layers could be seen in other animals (MacLean, 1990). For example, the oldest part of the brain termed the reptilian brain is in charge of basic needs such as eating, sleeping, breathing and sex. The layer that develops on top of that is the paleomamailian or the limbic system, in charge of emotions. The final layer is the neomamalian brain or the neocortex in charge of intelligence and cognition. The theory stated that we have competing layers in our brain that all influence the way individuals think, feel and act.
The theory explained how individuals can get up to do something then forget what they were doing. The motivation and the emotional aspects of the brain remembered to do something while the cortex had not yet caught up to the idea. It can also potentially explain situational behaviour, why the same person may behave inconsistently from one situation to the next. Even though all these parts make up the brain, they do not always work together. Relating the Triune Brain to the current research, although not consistent with left brain verses right brain, the paleomamalian could represent the creative, emotional or intuitive style and the neomamalian could represent the rational.
From the research stated above it may seem that the types of consciousness can work as separate entities, and the relationship between them is black and white, left and right or formed by evolutionary steps. Although it is convenient for research sake, to break down the brain into its simplest components for study, this is not always the case. In psychology it is more commonly accepted that all parts of the brain are so integrated that they work as a “unified whole” and become emergent as the different layers of neural processes come together (Hunt, 1995). So the relationship between the cognitive styles is completely simultaneous and integrated. There are certain parts of the brain that show denser interconnections than other parts in the brain (Hunt, 1995) that are not consistent with hemispheric specialization or Triune Brain diagrams. Some researchers even say that the reptilian part of the brain is more advanced, rather than more primitive because of the many interconnections in that area and because damage to that area results in loss of consciousness or coma (Hunt, 1995). This view however, is consistent with the assumption that only humans have consciousness. If all living organisms have consciousness, then it would make sense that the reptilian brain would be involved in basic consciousness.
The research that focuses on these “zones of convergence” is interested in the localization of function in the brain and strives to find where exactly in the brain these functions occur. This would bring us more into neuropsychology per se and away from cognition and personality of which this paper is a focus. It does, however remind us that cognition is very complex and there are many different theories and definitions that try to explain its functioning and the relationship between cognitive styles. What one generation divides to label and understand, the next generation will unify and so on (Hunt, 1995). Now may be the time to unify the various parts of the brain into one simultaneous conglomeration and to appreciate all the talents the brain can offer. This can lead to the discovery of a balance between all cognitive styles which may be more important than treating them as separate entities.
Research on Balancing the Two Cognitive Styles
Research investigating the balance between the two cognitive styles had found an imbalance between the rational and emotional cognitive styles to be unhealthy and can lead to problematic conditions, such as Male Normative Alexithymia (Levant, Cook, Smalley, Good, O’Neil, Owen, & Richmond, 2006). Male Normative Alexithymia is when men have trouble understanding or communicating their emotions due to the socialization of gender stereotypes, i.e. “men don’t cry.” Symptoms include difficulty understanding and describing emotion, lack of imagination and extreme pursuit of status and achievement. The “Rubber-band” syndrome is when the emotion builds up from being suppressed and can come out as misdirected anger and violence. If emotion gets suppressed for too long, it may result in what is called the “tin man” symptom, resulting in a person who is no longer able to feel anything at all. The imbalance between rational and emotional can have dire consequences for relationships. Therefore, problematic conditions and loss of relationships can occur from an imbalance between rational and emotional cognitive styles and could provide support for the importance of the equal validation of both rational and intuitive cognitive styles.
Another view of the need for balance between the two cognitive styles came from Freud (1856-1939). He discussed a need for a balance between love and work. If we are too rational and are consumed by work, relationships begin to suffer. But, if we are too consumed by relationships and are always out partying with friends and family, work life suffers. The idea of a balanced relationship between love and work may also provide support for the importance of equal validation between rational and intuitive cognitive styles because the rational portion of our cognition aids in work and the intuitive style enables relationships to flourish, both of which are important for survival and good health. Therefore, the balance between the two cognitive styles is important not only on an individual level, it is important for relationships as well.
Are Rational and Emotional Cognitive Styles Considered Equal?
Upon researching the relationship between the cognitive styles, a bias termed Left-Brain; Right-Brain Mania was discovered. This is defined as a bias in Western culture toward the rational cognitive style and the suppression of the creative and emotional as reflected in education, and emphasis still found in public schools (Farthing, 1992). It has also been stated by Hunt and Popham (1987) that intuitive style of cognition is deemed as primitive only because culture believes it to be true. A bias in Western culture toward one cognitive style over another could act as a stumbling block toward a more objective equal validation of rational and intuitive cognitive styles.
Western culture is not the only culture to have bias toward a particular cognitive style. For example Shamanistic societies and First Nations cultures such as the Makiritare, Ojibwa and the Anishinabe revere and develop the intuitive cognitive style over the rational due to their emphasis on dreams and ritual (Tedlock, 2004; Guss, 1980). It is often assumed by psychology that all adults think in the same manner but it has been found that East Asians are more holistic in thinking and Westerners are more analytic (Nisbett, et al., 2001), thus showing that an imbalance between rational and intuitive cognitive styles is also on a cultural level.
Given there is a bias towards the rational in Western society, the present research aims to provide more evidence for the importance of equal validation between rational and intuitive cognitive styles and the need for their balance. In order to find and maintain a balance between rational and intuitive forces however, it may be necessary to attempt to shift the old mentality that one way of thinking is superior, to a more egalitarian approach. In order to provide support for the need for balance of the cognitive styles, and to study the relationship between them, it was necessary to find a form of cognition that might tap into both the rational and the intuitive.
Research on Paranormal Belief
Research on paranormal belief could be optimal in studying this relationship between the two cognitive styles. Paranormal belief is a high correlate of the intuitive cognitive style (Lindeman & Aarnio, 2007; Aarnio & Lindeman, 2005), and many researchers have also found poor probabilistic reasoning in paranormal believers (Lindeman & Aarnio, 2007; Wiseman & Watt, 2006; Aarnio & Lindeman, 2005; Roberts & Seager, 1999; Blackmore & Troscianko, 1985). Probabilistic reasoning is a correlate of rational cognitive style, thus paranormal belief was used as a dependant variable because according to previous research paranormal believers tap differentially into both cognitive styles (a positive correlate of intuitive style and a negative correlate of the rational style).
Much paranormal belief research is devoted to finding a specific characteristic or mechanism that best predicts paranormal belief, including which cognitive style it might pertain to. Blackmore and Troscianko (1985) were first to report a lack of probabilistic reasoning, taken as a general cognitive deficit. Subsequent research on probabilistic reasoning in paranormal believers often postulated paranormal belief as a function of poor rational cognitive abilities. Meanwhile, other research has focused more positively on paranormal belief as a function of high intuitive cognitive style (King, et al. 2007; Pacini & Epstein, 1999).
Paranormal belief as a function of poor rational cognitive style. Research by Blackmore & Troscianko (1985) began the debate about whether paranormal believers have a deficit in rational cognitive style, more specifically, probabilistic reasoning. In her research she found that those who believe in the paranormal were more likely to significantly underestimate the probabilities of multiple events. This effect she termed the “chance base-line shift.” The rationale was that paranormal believers may be misinterpreting chance events as something more than mere coincidence due to faulty reasoning ability. For example, errors in judgement which arose from not knowing the actual chance of events led believers to interpret these events as more extraordinary than they really are, and so as paranormal in nature.
Paranormal belief has been operationally defined as a belief in an anomalous communication without using any known communicative mechanism (Bem & Honorton, 1994; Roberts & Seager, 1999). Paranormal events include experiences variously termed clairvoyance, telepathy, telekinesis and synchronicity. Jung (1960) defined synchronicity as ostensible coincidences that are felt to have a deep personal meaning. The idea that paranormal believers were misinterpreting chance events as something more than mere coincidence is what led researchers to test probabilistic reasoning in those high in paranormal belief (Wiseman & Watt, 2006; Blackmore & Troscianko, 1985).
Wiseman and Watt (2006) termed this misinterpretation of the chance levels of normal events as paranormal the “misattribution hypothesis,” defined as “misattributed psychic causation to normal experiences” (p. 326). The misattribution is said to be attributed to four processes, but two are of interest to this research: probability misjudgments and a general cognitive deficit. Some research has shown that those who believe in the paranormal do show poor probabilistic reasoning skills (Lindeman & Aarnio, 2007; Wiseman & Watt, 2006; Aarnio & Lindeman, 2005; Roberts & Seager, 1999; Blackmore & Troscianko, 1985), but other studies have failed to replicate the findings and at least one study reported opposite findings (Wiseman & Watt, 2006).
Roberts and Seager (1999) tested probabilistic reasoning and also domain specific or conditional reasoning scores in high and low paranormal believers. Perhaps a tendency toward paranormal belief is situational or is used in particular circumstances. They found that the domain specific reasoning scores did correlate with paranormal belief, but the probabilistic reasoning scores did not. Therefore they concluded that there may be more to paranormal belief than just low probabilistic reasoning and there may be a specific situation or domain where paranormal belief is used more than another. This research intends to discover a particular cognitive style used in day to day situations that may instigate paranormal belief over a more rational, or probabilistic cognitive style.
Research on paranormal belief as a general cognitive deficit is even more inconclusive, and overall fails to support the general deficit hypothesis (Wiseman & Watt, 2006; Roberts & Seager, 1999). A possible explanation for this view of a general cognitive deficit could be the influence of the bias in Western culture towards the rational cognitive style. Many of these experiments used I.Q tests as a measure of a participant’s cognitive ability. This is problematic because I.Q tests only tap into the rational cognitive style and fail to measure intuitive or creative talents. The creative and intuitive talents thus go unnoticed and under appreciated. A measure that taps into only one side or aspect of cognition (the rational) cannot be used to determine a general cognitive deficit. This could be more support for a bias in Western culture that could be leaking though into the testing situation.
Paranormal belief as a function of intuitive cognitive style. Pacini and Epstein (1999) examined the relationship between rational and intuitive cognitive styles in regard to the ratio-bias effect. The ratio-bias effect is when individuals show poor probabilistic reasoning in low probability events. They found errors were more likely made when ratios became larger, or the numbers used in the ratios became higher. For example, the task involved trays of the same or varying ratio of jellybeans and the participant had to pick between the two trays to win a prize. One tray would contain ten jellybeans, one black and nine orange, and the other tray would have 100, ten black and 90 orange. It has been found that participants would more often choose the tray with the larger amount of winning jellybeans, even though the odds were the same. It was also found that participants were also more likely to choose the trays with the larger amount even when the odds were worse. In fact, the ratio-bias effect was independent of differences in paranormal belief.
Intuitive cognitive style may have been influencing the ratio-bias phenomenon based on general impressions of figure-ground relationships in the test (Pacini & Epstein, 1999), which would fit best with an intuitive cognitive style. When choosing between trays of varying ratios of jellybeans, participants also tended to misjudge when larger numbers were presented, which would also fit with a more holistic style compared to the greater precision encouraged by smaller numbers (Pacini & Epstein, 1999). Also, frequency information is more easily attended to and has been said to prevail over rational cognition (Pacini & Epstein, 1999).
The ratio-bias effect is accordingly more likely due to the holistic nature of intuitive cognitive processing, than a simple deficit in a rational cognitive style (King et al., 2007; Forgas & Fiedler, 1996; Epstein, et al., 1996). Experiments investigating the relationship between paranormal belief and incentive levels found that priming participants with videos evoking happiness led participants to interpret normal events as more paranormal in nature (King et al., 2007). This finding is in line with research investigating stereotype categories. For example, it was found by Forgas and Fiedler (1996) that when participants were primed to be in a happy mood, they were more likely to use stereotypes. These findings were both explained by the heuristic processing of the intuitive cognitive style. Research done by Epstein et al. (1996) found that those who are higher in intuitive thinking style tend to process information more heuristically than those who have a higher need for cognition.
Habit formation and automatic processing such as more global, stereotyped, and gestalt patterns are a function of the intuitive cognitive style and has been said to be a default mode that individuals may revert to when judging certain events (King et al., 2007). Intuitive thinking and processing is fast and automatic (King et al., 2007) explaining why in some situations the rational cognitive mode may be overridden by the faster, intuitive default mode. Thus, suggesting that paranormal interpretations are due to the holistic nature of intuitive cognitive style, rather than a deficit in the rational style.
Paranormal interpretations of events depend on the accumulation of personal experience (King et al., 2007), and individual differences in judgments of events occur according to the perspective that individual has adopted (Epstein et al., 1996), especially if the participant believes they have an emotional connection to paranormal events (King et al., 2007). Intuitive thinking was found by Lindeman and Aarnio (2007) to be one of the best predictors in differentiating between skeptics and paranormal believers.
In summing up the research on paranormal belief, it does appear that paranormal belief may be more of a function of high intuitive thinking rather than a deficit in rational thought or a general cognitive deficit. Paranormal beliefs are common and pervasive and persist in the face of rational, scientific research and could therefore represent a broad human tendency (King et al., 2007). Perhaps due to the bias in Western culture towards the rational, these paranormal interpretations of events have been dismissed and seen as a deficit or dysfunction in reasoning. Perhaps the paranormal interpretation of events is not a dysfunction, but a normal part of psychological functioning (King et al., 2007), especially if errors in judgment such as the ratio-bias effect occur in all participants regardless of their belief in the paranormal. If erroneous probabilistic judgment is due to a shift to a default mode which all people possess, then the tendency is so strong that everyone will experience it and it will not differentiate between paranormal believers and non-believers. Thus, a conclusion that paranormal belief is a function of a general cognitive deficit may be faulty because the deficit occurs in both rationally and intuitively dominant people (Pacini & Epstein, 1999).
The research in this paper provides evidence that paranormal belief is more a function of high intuitive thinking style, rather than a deficit in rational thought, and provides support for an ideal balance between the two cognitive styles. If happiness evoking videos can affect probability judgment, then perhaps priming one cognitive style could affect scores on tasks measuring the other cognitive style. Perhaps an individual’s dominant cognitive style could affect proper utilization of the other cognitive style. Therefore it was hypothesized that:
- If paranormal believers are higher in intuitive thinking, rather than deficient in rational cognition, then high scores on creative or intuitive measures would predict paranormal belief more efficiently than low scores in rational thinking or probabilistic reasoning tasks.
- If one dominant cognitive style can affect proper utilization of the other cognitive style if primed, then scores on tasks measuring the other cognitive style will be affected.
A sample of female
Questionnaires. There were five separate questionnaires: The shortened version of the Rational-Experiential Inventory (R.E.I) by Epstein, et al., (1996), consisted of ten items, five measuring rational cognitive style and five measuring intuitive cognitive style, were measured on a scale of one to five, with high scores indicating higher levels of cognitive style. The Paranormal Belief Scale (taken directly from Glicksohn, 1990, who adapted it from Irwin, 1985b; Neppe, 1983; Tobacyk & Milford, 1983), was used as a dependent variable, to measure the degree of openness to paranormal phenomena. There were ten items measured on a scale of one to five, with high scores indicating higher degree of belief. Imagination, absorption, a correlate of paranormal belief and intuitive states was measured with the Tellegen Absorption Scale (Tellegen & Atkinson, 1974). It contained 34 items, measured on a scale of one to five, with high scores indicating greater levels of absorption. The Individualistic vs. Collectivist World View Questionnaire (Triandis & Gelfand, 1998) was used as filler for the control group in lieu of an intuitive versus rational prime. It contained 16 items (eight measured individualistic world view and eight measured collectivistic world view). A new measure was introduced, developed by the authors; the Hunt-Kroeker Novelty Questionnaire, (2007) which measured surprise, interest and how subjectively improbable the participants perceived ordinary and non-ordinary events to be. The rationale behind the scale was to see if it would predict that people high in openness to paranormal activity would be less surprised by strange events and more surprised by normal events than those who are more rational. It was developed to see if a cognitive style oriented to novelty could be found when judging day to day events or if it could differentiate between the rational and intuitive cognitive styles. It was also developed to see if it would be a strong predictor of belief in the paranormal. The questionnaire contained 16 items and consisted of two types of events, normal and paranormal. Sample items included [“Someone tells you that their car is exactly the same colour as their house”] a) how surprising do you find this statement, b) how interesting do you find this statement c) how improbable do you find this statement, and [“Someone tells you that the night before, they saw a UFO”] a) how surprising do you find this statement, b) how interesting do you find this statement c) how improbable do you find this statement. Degree of surprise, interest and perceived improbability were measured on a 6-point scale from (0) “not at all surprising/interesting/improbable” to (5) “completely surprising/interesting/improbable”. The questionnaire has been appended as Part B. A 6-point scale was used to force the participant to one side of the scale or the other. Items 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 were normal events and items 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15 represented paranormal events.
There were three tasks involved in the experiment: The ratio-bias test was used as a prime in the rational prime group. A probabilistic reasoning task was used as a measure of the rational cognitive style, and a Tarot ratings task measured Jung’s tendency to synchronicity experience as an indicator of creativity or intuitive cognitive ability.
Ratio-bias test. The ratio bias test included six wooden boxes filled with varying ratios of jellybeans. Box one had a ratio of 1:10 and the participants had to choose between box one of 1:10 and box two, which changed from being either 10:100, 9:100, 7:100, 5:100, to 3:100. Black being the lesser value in each ratio, the participants were asked which box they would rather pick from if picking a black jellybean gave them a prize. This task was used as the prime in the rational prime group, and the participants were told after completion of the task that they would be surprised at how many people pick box two with 10:100 over box one of 1:10 even though the odds are the same. The researcher went on to say that they would be even more surprised at how many people pick the 9:100 and the 7:100 even though the odds are worse. This was thought to shift the participant’s cognitive style to favour rational thinking. This idea was based on Pacini and Epstein (1999) as they had found that the ratio-bias test produces a conflict between rational and intuitive thinking styles, and those who are more rationally minded tend to shift their judgment and behaviour in a more rational direction.
Probabilistic reasoning task. The probabilistic reasoning task involved the participants looking at two jars filled with jelly beans (Jar A and Jar B). In Jar A there were 85 orange jellybeans and 15 black jellybeans. In Jar B there was the same proportion, but reversed in colour (85 black jellybeans and 15 orange). The participants were told the experimenter had jars under the table containing the exact proportions of the jellybeans in the jars they see on top of the table. The participants were then told there was going to be two conditions, and in each condition a jar would be randomly chosen. After the jar selection was made, jellybeans were then randomly picked from that jar. The task was they had to guess which jar the jellybeans were picked from. For each selection the participants were to circle the jar they believed to be the one (Jar A or Jar B) and report how sure they were with their answer on the sheet provided (0%, 25%, 50%, 85%, 100%). The experimenter then picked out 20 jellybeans, leaving time after each jellybean selection for the participants to record their answers. However, the picking was not at random and there was only one jar under the experimenter’s table with enough jellybeans to complete a preordained order for each condition. The order for each condition was as follows:
A A A B A A A A A B B A A A A A A A A B
A A A B A A B A B A B B B B B B B B A B
This task was taken from an experiment done by Garety, Hemsley, and Wessly (1991) and the criteria of assessing the results were based as close as possible on the criteria specified in the article.
Scoring of the probabilistic reasoning task. The scores were classified by probabilistic reasoning skills using six categories of skill range. “Excellent skills” were judged by the point at which they switched their percentage of how sure they were to 100%. If they were 100% sure around the tenth or eleventh selection and if they continued to be 100% sure of their answer and guessed the correct jar in the end they showed excellent probability reasoning. If they were 100% sure of their decision before it was truly possible to know exactly which jar the jellybeans were coming from, they were placed in a lower category of “great skills” if the correct jar was also selected in the end. If the percentages never reached 100% at the end but they picked the correct jar, the participant was thought to be unsure and therefore not as rational minded as the other two groups and were placed in the “good skills” pile. Those whose percentages were all over the place and did not make much sense, but picked the correct jar were judged as have “fair skills”. Those who did not pick the correct jar showed “poor skills” and the last category was for those whose choices made no sense at all or maybe did not understand the task. Higher scores represented higher probabilistic reasoning skills. This was done for both conditions and averaged together for a total probabilistic reasoning score.
Tarot Representativeness Task. Presented after the intuitive, neutral, or rational primes, a deck of Tarot cards was shuffled three times for each group and spread across the table. Certain cards however were removed from the deck before the experiment took place. These cards included the tower, the hanged man, the devil and the death card as not to offend or make the participants uneasy. The participants were told to select two cards from the deck, one at a time. The person on the right was always selected to pick first to keep it consistent. The participants were told that they would not be told the standard meanings of the cards and it was up to them to use their own interpretation.
Once they had selected two cards each from the deck, knowing which card they had picked first, they returned to their stations and turned over the sheet that asked them to rate how representative the cards were to their experience or inner self at the time. They were to circle the appropriate rating of the card on a scale of one to five, (1) “nothing like my experience or self” to (5) “exactly like my experience or self”. The participants were then instructed to write a short paragraph about why and how the cards did or did not represent their experience or inner self at the time.
Scoring of the Tarot Task. Their ratings for each card were averaged as a quantitative Tarot score and the written paragraphs were qualitatively rated for creativity. Previous research has shown that the Tarot task is a valid measure of openness to experience, and metaphoric ability, both correlating highly with creativity, absorption and intuitive thinking style (Hunt & Popham, 1987). The qualitative scores were coded by Dr. Hunt, blind to experimental group primes. However, the quantitative measure was so strongly related to the qualitative ratings that it alone was used as the final Tarot score.
Each participant sat down in front of a folder. Inside the folder were consent forms, questionnaires and task sheets. After they read and signed the consent forms, the participants were then told to keep gestures, talking and other verbal reactions to themselves so as not to influence the others in the room. Their group assignments, the rational prime, intuitive prime or the control, were determined before they came to the room. The groups were selected by random assignment as much as possible, but in order to get an equal amount of participants in each group, sometimes the group was determined by the number of participants needed in that group.
Each group filled out the same questionnaires and participated in the same tasks, but the order in which the tasks were performed and the questionnaires were completed depended on the group they were in. For each group, the Tarot task was fifth item in the list of tasks and questionnaires, following the prime. Thus each group completed four activities (questionnaires and a task, or just questionnaires) before participating in the Tarot task. At the end of each session, the participants were thanked and given debriefing information. Each session lasted 30 minutes to an hour.
Rational Prime Procedure
The rational prime group first filled out the R.E.I, the Hunt-Kroeker Novelty Questionnaire, followed by the Paranormal Belief Scale, before participating in their prime, the ratio-bias test. The Tarot task followed, then the probabilistic reasoning task, the Tellegen Absorption Scale, ending with the World View Questionnaire.
Intuitive Prime Group Procedure
The intuitive prime group first filled out the R.E.I, the Hunt-Kroeker Novelty Questionnaire, followed by the Paranormal Belief Scale, before participating in their prime which was the Tellegen Absorption Scale. Their Tarot task was then followed by the probabilistic reasoning task, the ratio bias test and ending with the World View Questionnaire.
Control Group Procedure
The control group went through the same process, but in the following order: R.E.I, the Novelty Questionnaire, the Paranormal Belief Scale, World View Questionnaire, Tarot Activity, Probabilistic Reasoning Task, Tellegen Absorption Scale, and lastly the ratio-bias test.
All variables were normally distributed (the mean, median and mode were all quite equal) with the exception of the absorption scores (M = 19.65, median = 20.00, mode = 17, SD = 5.70). Therefore, analyses using the absorption variable should be interpreted with caution. Two ANOVAs were conducted to test the hypothesis that priming one cognitive style would affect scores on tasks measuring another cognitive style (Levene’s analysis of variance was non-significant for all variables). A two way ANOVA (group by condition) was conducted to determine if there was a difference among the means in the Tarot representativeness scores (quantitative average). The result of this ANOVA was non-significant. Therefore, there were no significant differences among the groups on the intuitive measure [F (2, 160 = .53, p = .482].
Another two way ANOVA (group by condition) was conducted to determine the if there were differences among means in the rational measure using the probabilistic reasoning scores. This analysis was significant [F (2,160) = 4.33, p = .015]. A post hoc analysis (Bonferroni) unexpectedly showed the intuitive prime group (M = 4.19, SD = 1.25) scoring significantly higher than the control group on the probabilistic reasoning task (M = 3.54, SD = 1.12).
A correlational analysis was conducted to determine the highest correlates of the dependant variable of paranormal belief (N = 164, M = 26.41, SD = 7.66) to test the hypothesis that paranormal belief is more of a function of high intuitive cognition rather than deficient rational cognition. There was a significant positive correlation between paranormal belief and the Tarot average [r (163) = .38, p < .0001] indicating that higher paranormal beliefs are associated with more positive responses on the Tarot task. There was also a significant positive correlation between paranormal belief and absorption [M = 19.65, SD = 5.70, r (162) = .30, p = .007]. So, in line with previous research the higher the paranormal belief, the more absorbed the participant becomes when watching movies, sunsets or reading books. A significant negative correlation was found between paranormal belief and the improbability average such that the more improbable the participant judged events to be, the less likely they were to believe in the paranormal [r (164) = -.26, p = .001]. A significant positive correlation was found between paranormal belief and the REI-Intuitive measure [r (164) = .22, p = .004]. Thus, the higher the paranormal belief, the higher the participant was in intuitive cognitive style. Upon further examination it was discovered that items on the novelty questionnaire that pertained to how improbable the participants perceived events to be were the paranormal events, significantly but inversely correlating with paranormal belief [r (164) = -.40, p < .0001]. The REI rational score did not correlate with the probability average [r (163) = -.01, p = .927] and the score measuring how improbable the participants judged events to be did not correlate significantly with their actual probabilistic reasoning scores [r (163) = .09, p = .280]. However, when the improbability items were broken down into normal and paranormal events, the perceived improbability of paranormal events did significantly correlate with the REI-rational scores [r (164) = -.16, p = .046]. So, the more rational the participant was, the more improbable he or she judged paranormal events to be. Age was also found to be a significant correlate of paranormal belief [r (163) = .17, p = .031], in that the older participants scored higher in paranormal belief than the younger participants. All other correlations were non-significant.
A hierarchical regression analysis was used to test the hypothesis that intuitive measures predict paranormal belief more efficiently than rational measures. The regression analysis was conducted in two steps to see how much variance in paranormal belief could be predicted by rational measures (step one) and how much additional variance could be accounted for by intuitive measures (step two). The criterion of paranormal belief in step one was regressed by two variables or predictors: Probabilistic reasoning scores and REI-rational scores. The criterion of paranormal belief in step 2 was regressed by three variables or predictors: Tarot average scores, absorption scores and REI-intuitive scores. All assumptions were met on all variables and the variables were independent because the Durbin Watson test was within acceptable range [DW (3,155) = 1.91, p < .0001]. See Table 1 for correlations regarding regression analysis and Table 2 for the regression analysis.
It was found that the rational measures accounted for 2% of the variance and were non-significant [F (2,158) = 1.56, p = .241]. However, the intuitive measures significantly predicted paranormal belief and accounted for 21% of the variance [F (5,155) = 8.97, p < .0001]. The regression analysis was conducted again using only the significant intuitive measures. The regression equation for predicting paranormal belief from intuitive measures such as tarot representativeness scores, absorption and REI-Intuitive scores is as follows:
Paranormal belief = 9.79 (2.00) Tarot average + 0.31 (absorption) + 0.27 (REI-intuitive).
Internal validity correlations for the Hunt-Kroeker Novelty Questionnaire showed that the paranormal and normal event items were significantly correlated [r (164) = .25, p = .001] suggesting that the normal and the paranormal event items were not truly measuring separate categories of events. However, the split half reliability correlations (Cronbach’s alpha) for the surprise, interest and improbability items were high enough to be acceptable (surprise, α = .74; interest, α = .73; and improbability, α = .69), thus the questionnaire showed good internal reliability.
Improbability scores did not correlate with REI rational [r (164) = -.08, p = .933] or REI intuitive scores [r (164) = -.09, p = .265]. Therefore, judging the probability of every day events was not related to either cognitive style using the Novelty questionnaire.
The participant’s subjective ratings of how surprising events were, significantly and positively correlated with normal [r (164) = .60, p < .0001] and paranormal [r (164) = .65, p < .0001] events suggesting that both the normal and the paranormal events were equally surprising to the individuals. Therefore, a particular cognitive style oriented towards novelty was not found by using this questionnaire. REI intuitive scores did not correlate with total surprise [r (164) = .07, p = .393], surprise to normal events [r (164) = .07, p = .393] or paranormal events [r (164) = .04, p = .596]. REI rational scores did not correlate with total surprise [r (164) = -.00, p = .968], surprise to normal [r (164) = .09, p = .267] or paranormal events [r (164) = -.09, p = .271]. Therefore, the Novelty questionnaire did not differentiate between the rational or intuitive cognitive styles.
Total surprise did not correlate with paranormal belief [r (164) = .11, p = .168] nor did surprise to normal events correlate with paranormal belief [r (164) = .12, p = .139] or to surprise toward paranormal events [r (164) = .06, p = .449]. Therefore, the new measure did not predict the dependent variable as well as traditional measures.
Results of all analyses showed that previous findings that paranormal believers do poorly on probabilistic reasoning tasks were not replicated, in fact this research can be placed in the category of research that has found opposite finds. Support was found for the hypothesis that paranormal belief is more of a function of high intuitive cognition rather than a deficit of rational cognition, because the multiple regression analysis showed that the intuitive measures significantly predicted paranormal belief and the rational measures did not. Low scores on rational measures such as poor probabilistic reasoning or high REI rational scores did not predict paranormal belief compared to the intuitive measures such as Tarot average, absorption and REI-intuitive scores. Therefore, support was found that paranormal belief is more of a function of high intuitive thinking rather than a function of poor rational or probabilistic reasoning skills. Poor probabilistic skills were not found in those high in paranormal belief and goes against previous interpretations of findings that those who are high in paranormal belief are deficient in rational thinking or probabilistic reasoning. There was also no evidence for a general cognitive deficit because the intuitively primed group did significantly better, rather than worse on the probabilistic reasoning task and the participants’ paranormal belief scores were not related to their probabilistic reasoning scores.
There did seem to be some support for the notion that domain specific cognition could be at work when judging the probability of day to day events, even though the improbability ratings did not correlate significantly to either cognitive style. It may be that individuals revert to their default mode and use their intuitive cognition in daily circumstances rather than their rational thought because the participant’s scores that measured how improbable events were, and their actual probability reasoning scores did not correlate. This could suggest that the improbability judgement may have been more of a function of intuitive cognitive style, rather than a dysfunction of the rational. However, there may be a different cognitive style influencing the judgement of day to day events altogether because the REI-rational and the REI-intuitive scores did not correlate with subjective improbability ratings. Thus, the Novelty questionnaire did not find a particular cognitive style towards novelty, every day events nor differentiate between rational and intuitive cognitive styles or predict the dependent variable as well as traditional measures. A more sensitive questionnaire is needed to parse out a particular cognitive style oriented to every day events in the future.
In regard to the hypothesis that one’s dominant cognitive style would affect proper utilization of the other cognitive style, support was mixed. Priming one cognitive style did affect scores on tasks measuring the other, but only in the intuitive group and only on the probabilistic reasoning measure and not in the direction hypothesized. It was believed that priming the participants to be in an intuitive cognitive style, would result in low scores on the probabilistic reasoning task, when in fact the intuitively primed participants scored significantly higher than the control group.
A possible explanation for this increase, rather than decrease in performance could be that perhaps the participants were bombarded by so much uncomfortable or unfamiliar stimuli that they boosted their rational cognition to compensate. This makes sense because if there is a bias in Western culture it would be to deny and suppress paranormal explanations and revere rational explanations. This could also be a plausible explanation because the intuitive prime group was exposed to the Novelty questionnaire, the paranormal belief scale, the absorption questionnaire, and then participated in the Tarot task, all of which contain stimuli pertaining to the paranormal.
Another possible explanation (post-hoc) for the opposite findings in hypothesis two is that the bombardment of the intuitive stimuli may have saturated the participant’s intuitive thinking so much that an after-effect of rational cognition resulted. An after-effect is a term used to describe visual phenomena produced in the receptors of the eye (after effects occur due to the antagonistic organization of the receptors in the eye). For example if a person stares at a waterfall for 30 seconds then looks away at a neutral surface, a movement in the opposite direction as the waterfall is perceived. Likewise for staring at a red piece of paper for 30 seconds, when the person looks away at a neutral or white surface, the opposite or complimentary colour of green is perceived.
Perhaps our cognitive styles could also be antagonistically organized so that the saturation of one is possible. It could explain why recess is needed at school, and breaks are needed at work. It could explain why one cannot sit and write a 30 page thesis all in one sitting, the rational cognitive style becomes saturated and the intuitive cognitive style overrides the rational by reverting back to a default mode.
The bias in Western society inhibits the idea that opposing forces can be compliments. If one cognitive style is considered superior, then the potential balance between the two may not be easily found. If problematic conditions such as Male Normative Alexithymia can result from an imbalance between the two cognitive styles, then it is important to understand the importance of equal validation between rational and intuitive cognitive styles and to find a balance between them. It is erroneous to believe one cognitive style is better than the other because there is no evidence to support the claim that rational thinking is superior to intuitive. The two styles work together and their talents can be utilized in different situations, the rational is more useful in a work or school setting, and the intuitive is more valuable for relationships and recreational settings. Thus both cognitive styles are necessary and should be developed as equals.
Limitations and Future directions
Using a sample of only university students has its limitations because it has been shown that university students tend to have lower levels of paranormal belief (Roberts & Seager, 1999). Women, however have been shown to report higher levels of paranormal belief than men (Wilson & French, 2006), therefore the sample in the current study was all female in hopes to counter-balance the findings of low paranormal belief among university students.
Another draw back in using university participants was that age was found to be a significant predictor in paranormal belief. The older participants were more likely to believe in the paranormal. A university sample implies a younger group of participants and the mean age in this study was 19; not old enough to predict paranormal belief through age. Also, younger participants have not experienced enough in their lifetimes to make decisions based on their own direct experience. Also, a young university sample may be too rational for optimal research on paranormal belief.
Previous research has also suggested that investigations of the relationship between paranormal belief and probabilistic reasoning should use more participants that are higher on paranormal belief (Roberts & Seager, 1999). Here, the mean level of paranormal belief was relatively low, as was the mean for absorption, suggesting that the criterion for more participants with higher paranormal belief was not met.
The prime for the intuitive group may not have been strong enough to properly shift participants into an intuitive frame of mind. There is no previous research indicating that the use of the absorption questionnaire alone would result in said shift. Perhaps the questionnaire had the opposite effect, shifting the participants into a more rational mode, rather than an intuitive mode. Perhaps a stem completion task with intuitive or even spiritual items would be a more effective prime.
Feedback from the experiment showed that some participants were aggravated by the ratio-bias test. Participants indicated that they did not enjoy having to choose between ratios of the same odds. Perhaps these participants felt that this test insulted their intelligence. Anger and annoyance were expressed as a result, and in the rational prime group, this test was presented early on in the session. It could be possible that the rational prime group’s performance was affected by the emotion evoked by the ratio-bias test. Emotions such as anger and annoyance may have overridden or hindered the shift to a rational mind set. Another potential problem with the ratio-bias test was that even though Pacini and Epstein (1999) found that the ratio-bias test produces a conflict between rational and intuitive thinking styles, and those who are more rationally minded tend to shift their judgment and behaviour in a more rational direction, it may not have had same effect on the intuitive thinkers.
The scoring of the probabilistic reasoning task was not as close to the criteria specified by Garety, Hemsley and Wessely (1991) as was hoped. The variables involved in deducing high or low probabilistic reasoning were more complex than anticipated. Whether the criteria proposed in this research are more or less accurate than previous criteria remains unknown. Replication of both probabilistic scoring measures and perhaps a more standardized procedure for determining probabilistic reasoning is needed for future research in this area.
Future direction in this area of research may require an older sample, a more standardized test for probabilistic reasoning skills, and the use of stronger primes for both rational and intuitive cognitive styles. More research is also needed to follow up the proposition that rational and intuitive cognitive styles may be antagonistically organized. Any research stressing the importance of the complimentary relationship between the cognitive styles is beneficial towards breaking down the bias towards one cognitive style over another.
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Situating and Positionality
October 7, 2019
Situating and Positionality
This paper will first discuss my sociodemographic positionality, then discuss my positionality in transdisciplinary studies (methodological biases). I will then look at my philosophical assumptions including my ontological, epistemological, and axiological biases that influence my research.
Sociodemographic Positionality and Biases
I am a white, middle-class, able-bodied, middle-aged, hetero but gender queer, Taoist-Kabbalist, Canadian who comes from a Mennonite background. Being a fan of Harding’s (2007) Standpoint Theory, I have come to understand the importance of stating one’s positionality in research to prevent inadvertent perpetuation of status quo and dominant ideologies. This can, in turn, perpetuate marginalization of certain groups. Because a lot of my sociodemographics are dominant (white, middle-class, able-bodied, hetero), I must do rigorous reflection (reflexivity) on how I am going to interpret and present my research. I also must ponder who is really benefiting from the research. Because children and youth are a vulnerable group, I must make sure I represent the voices of youth in an inclusive manner. I do not want to be another adult speaking for youth rather than speaking with them (Alcoff, 1991-1992).
My sociodemographics can bias my research because my privileged position can prevent me from truly putting myself in the shoes of others. For example, when working with the Status Women Committee through the Mentor Program at McMaster University for my first master’s degree in Gender Studies, I was tasked with developing an inclusivity survey. Their preferred method for developing the survey was through a program called Survey Monkey. This was around 2011-1212 and computers and computer technology were ubiquitous; or so I thought. When asked about the dissemination of the survey I thought to advertise the link to the survey and people could fill it out at home. This idea created some push back because my assumption that everyone owns a computer (or knows how to use one) was false. Not only was I wrong about the easy access to a computer, but the suggestion also problematized representative dissemination and participation from those who are blind. My assumption from my able-bodied, middle-class, privileged background subconsciously influenced a suggestion that ended up excluding certain groups without justification (those in lower SES and those with disabilities). We ended up with some focus groups for those who are blind (or illiterate) and had hardcopies of the survey for those who did not have access to a computer (see Kroeker, 2012).
What makes me different from the dominant society is that I conceptualize and produce work from liminal spaces of resistance. I particularly resist reductionism, mechanistic world views, positivism, so-called “Enlightened” modernistic conceptualizations of reason as superior, binaristic thinking/dualisms (including Cartesian Dualism), and individualism. I desire to push for change from a social justice perspective. The place where I live and learn is embedded in the aforementioned ideologies which I challenge, making me both an insider and an outsider when it comes to conducting research.
I wish to compile a case against precarious work to take to the Human Rights Tribunals because the negative effects associated with precarious work disproportionately affect some groups over others; youth being one group. I come to this research because of my negative, dehumanizing experiences with precarious work and my struggles as a single mother looking after my sick mother. Even though I am an insider when researching precarious work, there are varying degrees of precarity in which I am more fortunate than most because my employer provides some benefits. Just by saying how I arrived at researching precarious work, I can already see biases I have coming into the research. For example, because I have had negative experiences, I must make sure that I do not assume all experiences with precarious work are negative. I should not exaggerate the prevalence of negative experiences to support my agenda.
Positionality within Transdisciplinary Studies/Methodological Biases
My lived and learned experience and my beliefs about how research should be done can also bias my research, not just my sociodemographics. Remembering Lorde’s (2003) warning that we cannot use the master’s tools to bring down the master’s house, I attempt to try anyway by using multi and transdisciplinary methodologies to challenge traditional notions of positivism.
Traditional disciplines are fragmented and transdisciplinary is fluid and strives for unity. This is my stance. I am stubborn in my belief in unification and in transdiciplinarity to the point of postdisciplinarity, where I do not only want to transcend the boundaries of traditional disciplines, but also desire to reconstruct them into more inclusive disciplines with inclusive categories and frameworks for design. I am a mixed methods researcher who believes that qualitative and quantitative methods work together by balancing out each other’s weaknesses. I try to reduce my methodological biases by treating them as complements that answer different questions, rather than methods pitted against one another. Given my mixed methods background, however, it may cause me to get distracted and I tend to take on too much in one project.
My desire to dismantle hierarchies and fight for equal distribution of power and wealth troubles my position as a researcher in an institution that is based on dominant ideals. It also troubles my relationships with peers in my cohorts. For example, coming into a gender studies program straight out of a positivist background caused me to be an outsider. But, because I was coming to see the limitations of quantitative work, I was an outsider in the psychology program. Being an advocate for mixed methods has caused me to be an outsider everywhere, until transdiciplinarity became popular.
My ontological beliefs trouble the ontological perspectives of all five themes of knowledge (positivism, postpositivism, critical theory, constructivism, and participatory action/transformative) because they are different from every one of them; yet a combination of them all. I am a panpsychist who believes in a world of the infinite (pure energy) and the material world (temporal matter). These worlds are linked by what I call the Grand Transducer (see Kroeker, 2009) and are as one. The world of the infinite is therefore the most real because the world of pure energy can exist without the material world, but the material world cannot exist without energy. However, our experience in and manipulation of the material world is also real, just temporary. I therefore agree with positivist ontology that there is a “single identifiable reality,” (positivist) but disagree that we can “predict and control nature” (positivist) because I believe that “it can never be fully understood” (postpositivist) (Gruba & Lincoln as cited in Lincoln, Lynham, & Guba, 2011, p.102). I am grounded in critical theory because I agree that the material world is “based on a struggle for power” (Bernal as cited in Lincoln et al., 2011, p. 102) and constructed with “multiple realities [that] exist and are dependent on the individual” (constructivism) (Guba as cited in Lincoln et al., 2011, p. 102). Because my work attempts to overcome binaries such as reason/emotion (poststructuralism), I “do not assume that rationality is a means to better knowledge” (participatory action) (Kilgore as cited in Lincoln et al., 2011, p. 102). Therefore, my ontological assumptions transcend all themes of knowledge. Potential biases from my patchworked ontology may include coming into a situation assuming there is a struggle for power when there may not be. I also assume unification and compromise are best way to approach things when sometimes it just might not be possible.
While shackled to the material realm, I disagree with positivist notions of “total objectivity” (p. 103), but maybe we can “approximate nature” (postpositivism) the best we can given what we have to work with (our imperfect senses and biased perceptual systems). Because reality is co-constructed by multiple ‘realities,’ (constructivism), I believe that coproducing knowledge is a good way to approximate nature (participatory action). Grounded in critical theory, I believe that we can change “oppressive structures [and] remove oppression through empowerment” (Merriam as cited in Lincoln et al., 2011, p. 103). This is why I am compiling a case against precarious work to take to the Human Rights Tribunal of Canada, so I can try to create equal distribution of wealth and benefits of society (social justice). When going into the Tribunal I have to make sure I am not speaking for but speaking with and bring in representatives from each group affected. For example, precarious work violates human rights on the grounds of sex, family status, ethnicity, citizenship and age. I will find representatives from each group to come in and share their experiences. Because I believe that each person has their own reality and have their own collections of knowledge, I must be open to other opinions and member check my work to make sure I am doing an accurate job of presenting the voice of others. Sometimes I can project my epistemologies onto others, thinking they think the same way as I do and know what I know. This requires constant reflexivity.
Grounded in critical theory, I wish to “change existing education as well as other social institutions’ policies and practice” (Bernal as cited in Lincoln et al., 2011, p.111). For example, I conducted policy analysis on how to ameliorate the negative effects of precarious work and worked to create policy suggestions that protect worker’s rights. This would help create social emancipation for those shunted into precarious positions. This makes me a little bit constructivist too but because I “attempt to conduct research to improve social justice and remove barriers and other negative influences associated with social oppression” (Giroux as cited in Lincoln et al., 2011, p. 112) my values align mostly with critical theory. I suppose this makes me biased against ideologies of the status quo and the dominant culture. However, sometimes tools of the dominant culture such as categorization are useful for organizing research and keeping me on track. Generalizations can help inform where funding can go. Categorization as a tool is helpful as long as it does not lead to stereotypes. Stereotypes are dangerous because they can lead to prejudice, which can then lead to discrimination. This is why reflecting on how I categorize is crucial. I must make sure the categories are not (re)stereotyping. My research values overcoming binaristic thinking (reason/emotion, body/mind, male/female, quantitative/qualitative, secular/spiritual, and now love/work), but sometimes I find myself using and reproducing binaries in my explanations. Sometimes it is easier to explain concepts using binaries because concepts in the English language are founded on binaries. Binaries are dangerous because they are dualisms in disguise holding hidden hierarchies (Plumwood, 1993). Perpetuating binaries is against my values.
My values tend to assume that emancipation is wanted by groups that have less power in society, but maybe they do not want that. Maybe equal distribution of wealth and benefits of society would mean assimilation of the marginalized into the dominant society. If this is the case, dominant Western ideals will work to re-centre the centre (Plumwood, 1993). Even in saying that I want emancipation of the marginalized I have failed to overcome binaries. Not only does this thought produce a dominant vs marginalized binary, but I have also just homogenized many different groups into one group, ignoring their differences by calling them marginalized. This is an example of how and why I need to check my positionality and my philosophical assumptions!
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research. United Kingdom: SAGE Publications LTD.
Kroeker, S. (2009). The grand patchwork: A new unified field theory in the making...Retrieved
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and emerging confluences, revisited. In N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The
SAGE handbook of qualitative research (4th ed.) (pp. 97-128). Thousand Oaks: SAGE
Lorde, A. (2003). The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. In R. Lewis and S.
Mills (Eds.), Post Colonial Feminism: A Reader (pp. 190-206. New York: Routledge.
Plumwood, V. (1993). Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. London: Routledge.
MRP Social Justice 2019: Precarious Work, Unfairness and Policy Reform *Note: When copying and pasting, this website changes the formatting and takes away paragraphs and block quotations. I tried to fix them...
Precarious Work, Unfairness and Policy Reform
Dr. Jonah Butovsky
Dr. Mary-Beth Raddon
A major research
submitted in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
MA in Social Justice
and Equity Studies
St. Catharines, Ontario
© Sandra Kroeker, 2019
This work is dedicated to
all those engaged in precarious work and feel they cannot make ends meet and are frustrated with the experience. I also dedicate this work to my mother and son.
May they rest in peace.
I hereby express my sincere thanks to
Dr. Jonah Butovsky, of the Brock University Sociology Department for supervising me and for all his help on this project. I am thankful for the access to the PEPiN dataset and survey data. I also am grateful for his patience over the past two years while I struggled with exigent circumstances.
Dr. Mary-Beth Raddon, of the Brock University Sociology Department for her guidance and attention to detail. Her understanding and exceptional duties as acting Program Director of Social Justice and Equity Studies were greatly appreciated.
Dr. June Corman, of the Brock University Sociology Department for providing excellent academic advice and encouragement.
The Panel Discussion Group, January 9, 2019 at the St. Catharines Public Library, consisting of Jeff Boggs, Lori Kleinsmith and Karrie Porter for helping to provide direction in policy analysis towards a 15 & Fairness ideology.
My Friends and Family, for all their support.
Kim Stevens, my exceedingly patient partner who helped me through many meltdowns 😊
Research was conducted to compile a case against precarious work due to its contribution to negative health affects and its unfairness to workers, especially mothers and women of colour. Precarious work was found to violate the definition(s) of social justice because it contributes to the feminization of poverty and prevents the fair and equal distribution of wealth across all levels of society. Quantitative chi square tests of independence that were conducted found that women in the Niagara Region were significantly more affected by uncertainty in their work schedule, preventing time spent with friends and family (chi square). The qualitative survey data showed that precarious workers struggle most with making ends meet, surviving without health benefits or paid sick days, and engaging with family, friends and the community. They wished to see changes such as more work stability, scheduling stability, health benefits and paid sick days. A policy analysis was conducted to determine that there are currently no policies that sufficiently protect the rights of the worker. Policy recommendations were then made to help protect the worker and mitigate the negative affects associated with precarious work. Limitations and suggestions for future research were also discussed.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
DEDICATION ……………………………………………………………………………… 2
ACKOWLEDGEMENTS …………………………………………………………………. 3
TABLE OF CONTENTS…………………………………………………………………… 5
LIST OF FIGURES…………………………………………………………………………. 9
LIST OF TABLES ………………………………………………………………………….. 10
- Brief Background…………………………………………………………………………. 11
- Research Statement……………………………………………………………………….. 13
- Approach to the Research……….………………………………………………………… 14
1.3.1 Social Justice Perspective………………………………………………………… 14
1.3.2 Policy Analysis…………………………………………………………………… 15
LITERATURE REVIEW…………………………………………………………………… 17
2.1 Precarity…………………………………………………………………………………… 17
2.2 Precarious Work…………………………………………………………………………... 18
2.2.1 Standard Employment Relationship (SER)………………………………………. 18
2.3 Labour Market Flexibility………………………………………………………………… 20
2.3.1 Flexibility………………………………………………………………………… 20
2.3.2 Scheduling Flexibility……………………………………………………………. 21
2.3.3 Job/Work Strain………………………………………………………………….. 22
2.3.4 Employment Strain………………………………………………………………. 22
2.4 Negative Consequences of Precarious Work…………………………………………….. 23
2.4.1 Negative Health Effects………………………………………………………….. 23
2.4.2 General Health…………………………………………………………………… 23
2.4.3 Mental Health……………………………………………………………………. 24
2.4.4 Other Health Effects……………………………………………………………… 24
2.4.5 Relationships……………………………………………………………………. . 25
2.4.6 Precarity and Social Engagement………………………………………………… 25
2.4.7 Feminization of Poverty………………………………………………………….. 26
2.5 Precarity and Sex Discrimination…………………………………………………………. 27
2.5.1 Work Sphere………………………………………………………………………. 27
2.5.2 Domestic Sphere………………………………………………………………….. 29
2.5.3 Social Support…………………………………………………………………… 31
2.6 Precarity and Intersectionality…………………………………………………………… 32
2.6.1 Intersectionality………………………………………………………………….. 32
2.6.2 Intersectionality and Work………………………………………………………. 32
RESEARCH DESIGN & METHODOLOGY……………………………………………. 34
3.1 Description of PEPiN Project……………………………………………………………. 35
3.2 Participants for Phase One………………………………………………………………. 36
3.3 Phase Two Data Collection……………………………………………………………… 37
3.4 Methodology/Research Design in Current Project………………………………………. 37
3.4.1 Quantitative Analysis…………………………………………………………… 38
3.4.2 Qualitative Analysis……………………………………………………………. 38
RESULTS …………………………………………………………………………………. 40
4.1 Quantitative Results…………………………………………………………………….. 40
4.2 Qualitative Results……………………………………………………………………… 41
4.2.1 Question Eight…………………………………………………………………. 41
4.2.2 Question Nine…………………………………………………………………. 42
DISCUSSION ……………………………………………………………………………… 42
5.1 Policy Analysis………………………………………………………………………….. 44
5.1.1 Bill 148 vs Bill 47……………………………………………………………… 45
5.1.2 Minimum Wage/Living Wage…………………………………………………. 45
5.1.3 Paid Sick Days…………………………………………………………………. 50
5.1.4 Scheduling……………………………………………………………………… 52
5.3 Key Features of Creating Fair Policies…………………………………………………. 53
5.3.1 Ensuring Fairness Between Employer and Employee………………………….. 54
5.3.2 Ensuring Stability Between Jobs………………………………………………… 55
5.3.3 Addressing the Lack of Health Benefits…………………………………………. 57
5.4 Policy Recommendations and Their Viability…………………………………………….. 62
5.5 Suggested Policy Recommendations……………………………………………………… 74
5.5.1 Policy Recommendation One……………………………………………………. 74
5.5.2 Policy Recommendation Two…………………………………………………… 74
5.5.3 Policy Recommendation Three………………………………………………….. 74
5.5.4 Policy Recommendation Four………………………………………………… 75
OVERALL CONCLUSIONS…………………………………………………………… 76
6.1 Part One……………………………………………………………………………….. 76
6.2 Part Two………………………………………………………………………………. 76
LIMITATIONS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH………………. 77
7.1 Limitations…………………………………………………………………………….. 77
7.2 Suggestions for Future Research and Activism……..…………………………………. 79
Table 1………………………………………………………………………………….. 92
Table 2………………………………………………………………………………….. 93
Table 3………………………………………………………………………………….. 94
Table 4………………………………………………………………………………….. 95
APPENDIX ………………………………………………………………………………. 96
LIST OF FIGURES
- Job Insecurity in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area (Lewckuk et al., 2015). 91
LIST OF TABLES
- Crosstabulation of the Variables: What is your Gender Identity? * 92
How often does Uncertainty about your Work Schedule Prevent you
from Doing Things with your Family that are Fun?
- Chi Square Test of Independence: What is your Gender Identity? * 93
How often does Uncertainty about your Work Schedule Prevent you
from Doing Things with your Family that are Fun?
- Crosstabulation of the Variables: What is your Gender Identity * 94
Between April 1st of 2016 and March 31 of 2017, How often did
Uncertainty of your Work Schedule Prevent you Doing Things with
Friends or Family?
- Chi Square Test of Independence: What is your Gender Identity? * 95
Between April 1st of 2016 and March 31 of 2017, How often did
Uncertainty of your Work Schedule Prevent you Doing Things with
Friends or Family?
Precarious Work, Unfairness and Policy Reform
Precarious work is contract work that is part-time, has little-to-no benefits (Standing, 2016), and has little chance for advancement (Gazso, 2010). Precarious employment contains elements of “uncertainty, insecurity and lack of control” (Lewchuk et al., 2015, p. 14) and are jobs that do not fall under the “Standard Employment Relationship” (SER) which are jobs defined by security, provide a “full range of benefits and [have a] possible career path” (Lewchuk et al., 2015, p. 10). Precarious jobs are dead end and come with reduced job and life opportunities (Allan, Bamber, & Timo, 2004). They are also considered demeaning, alienating and “not big enough for the human spirit” (as cited by Allan et al., 2004, p. 405).
Precarious work is increasing on a global scale (Standing, 2016) and the unstable work environment has become the new norm in Canada (Canada without Poverty, 2017). A lot of research has been done on precarious work that has shown that it contributes to the feminization of poverty (Bose & Whalely, 2012; Burke, 2017; Gazso, 2010; Moyser, 2017; Shaw & Lee, 2012; Wallis & Kwok, 2008; Young, 2010), is correlated with negative health effects (Gasper, 2012; Lewchuk, Clarke, & deWolf, 2008; Lewchuk et al., 2015; Young, 2010) and has a negative effect on social engagement and relationships (Boggs et al., 2018; Lewchuk, 2015; LPRC, 2018). This paper aims to document the negative effects of precarious work in southern Ontario, discover what precarious workers wish to see improved and suggest policy that can help ameliorate the negative effects of precarious work.
In southern Ontario, precarious work is becoming more prevalent. In the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), including Hamilton, 40 percent of employees were engaged in precarious work in 2013 (Lewchuk, 2013). By 2015, the proportion of precarious workers rose to 50 percent (Lewchuk et al., 2015). In London Ontario, almost half of employees of working age are in jobs that could be described as vulnerable or precarious (LPRC, 2018). Similarly, in Peterborough, 62% of survey respondents were engaged in work that was considered either precarious or vulnerable (PERI, 2018) and in the Niagara Region, 27.1 % of respondents were in precarious and part-time employment (Boggs et al, 2018). According to the survey data of the Greater Toronto-Hamilton area, including Halton, Peel and York only half of workers were in full-time positions with benefits (Lewchuk et al., 2015, see Figure 1). It can be shown that a large portion of workers in Ontario are in jobs that could be considered precarious or vulnerable.
Much as there are different types of precarious jobs, there are differing degrees of precarity. For example, vulnerable and precarious index clusters both describe non-SER jobs, but those in the vulnerable category have a lot more full-time employees and a lot less short-term, contract work and self employment than precarious workers (Boggs et al., 2018). The Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario project (PEPSO), between McMaster University and United Way Toronto used a measure called the Employment Precarity Index (EPI), which loads participants onto a scale of 1-100, indicating the degree of precarity in their work. The index measures various elements of precarious employment such as number of paid sick days (if any), stability of hours worked, stability of weekly income, whether there are benefits or not, if the job is temporary etc. (LPRC, 2018).
For my Major Research Paper (MRP) in Social Justice and Equity Studies, I collaborated with the joint project between Brock University’s Social Justice Research Institute (SJRI) and the United Way Southern Niagara. The project is called Poverty and Employment Precarity in Niagara (PEPiN) and had the goal of looking at the variety and degree of precariousness of jobs in the Niagara Region. The PEPiN project aimed to replicate PEPSO. Using the same index and survey questions as PEPSO, the London Poverty Research centre (LPRC, 2018) and the Precarious Employment Research Initiative in Peterborough (PERI, 2018) also looked at the impact of precarious work on individual households in their communities. PEPSO, LPRC, PERI, and PEPiN all used the Employment Precarity Index (EPI) to measure the degree of precarity in their regions and used the same survey questions as the PEPSO project’s random digit dial telephone survey.
Since a growing trend in research on precarious work has discovered a correlation between precarious work and negative health effects (Gasper, 2012; Lewchuk, et al., 2008; Young, 2010), the survey asked about physical and mental health in order to examine associations between health and the degree of precarity in their work (among other questions) (PEPiN, 2017). These projects also discovered that precarious work negatively affected social engagement and social relationships (Boggs et al, 2018; Lewchuk et al, 2015; LPRC, 2018).
The PEPiN project “allows us to understand how widespread precarious employment is in Niagara, the various forms it takes and how this impacts those in precarious employment, and if it is different from precarious employment in Hamilton and Toronto” (PEPiN, 2017). There were two data collection phases to the PEPiN project. In the summer of 2017, a random digit dial phone survey was conducted and in 2018 an on-line survey that asked the overarching question “How has precarious employment impacted you?” was released. My MRP explores both the quantitative and qualitative PEPiN data.
The first part of my MRP looks at the major negative consequences of precarious work; that of negative health effects, the negative effects on social engagement including interpersonal relationships, and the feminization of poverty. Firstly, I determine the characteristics and consequences of precarious employment in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton area (PEPSO), Peterborough (PERI), and London (LPRC), then looked at the Niagara Region (PEPiN). I analyzed the available data regarding reports of physical health, mental health, and the negative influence of precarious work on relationships and social engagement. I then scrutinized the problem of feminization of poverty in the work sphere, at home and on a systemic level. One of my research objectives is to uncover the unfairness of precarious work by showing that precarious work is in violation of the many definitions of social justice including the fair and equal distribution of wealth (United Nations, 2006). I argue that precarious work is unfair to workers due to the negative effects associated with precarious work, such as income inequality and negative health effects that disproportionately burden women.
The second part of my MRP hypothesizes that the unfairness of precarious work could also be found on a local level by looking at the negative health effects of precarious work in the Niagara Region. More specifically, using the quantitative PEPiN (2017) survey dataset, I look to see if effects such as anxiety are reported more by women than men. Then, after an in-depth comparison of Bill 148 and Bill 47, I determine that there is no current policy that protects workers rights nor policy that fosters precarious work environments to be good places to work with public service values that fuel the public good. Analyzing previous policy suggestions by Lewchuk et al. (2015) and Boggs et al. (2018) combined with the PEPiN (2018) qualitative survey data, I discuss policy suggestions for mitigating the negative effects of precarious work on workers.
Approach to the Research
Social justice perspective. Although there is no agreed upon universal definition of social justice, one general definition emphasizes “[j]ustice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society” (Dictionary.com). Scholarly articles describe social justice as a moral imperative and demand that “[i]ndividuals and groups…receive fair treatment and an impartial share of the benefits of society” (Hemphill, 2015, p. 1). Social justice, as said the Edmund Rice Centre, can also be a global movement defined as “the way in which human rights are manifested in the everyday lives of people at every level of society” (as cited by Hemphill, 2015, p. 1). The United Nation’s (2006) definition is “the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth” (p. 16).
Income inequality has been increasing in the last 30 years and “[t]he unequal distribution of income contributes to the unequal distribution of wealth in Canada” (Lewchuk et.al., 2015, p.15). Since precarious work does not allow for the fair and equal distribution of wealth in Canada, it violates the definition(s) of social justice due to its contribution to the feminization of poverty. Therefore, one of the goals of this paper is to show that precarious work violates social justice by disrupting the fair and equal distribution of wealth in Canada. Policy changes that protect the rights of the worker are needed to remedy the situation.
Policy analysis. Public policy analysis can be defined as applying intellect to public matters, issues or problems (Pal, 2014). Or more specifically, “public policy analysis is a process of multidisciplinary inquiry designed to create, critically assess, and communicate information that is useful in understanding and improving policies” (Dunn, 2008, p. 1). Public policy analysis is not just a cognitive act, but also includes “experimentation, bargaining, and exchange” (Pal, 2014, p. 15). According to Pal (2014), the “overarching value in public policy [should be in] the public interest” (p. 3). However, the common interests of the majority are not taken into consideration when it comes to labour policy. This project aims to use the precarious worker’s voice by collecting data through multidisciplinary means that can be used to bargain for policies that protect worker’s rights. This paper ultimately suggests that there are no current policies that protect worker’s rights and that precarious work violates social justice by disrupting the fair and equal distribution of wealth.
Policy should aim to find a balance between the political community and the majority’s common interests (Pal, 2014), which I argue is tipped in favour of businesses, rather than the workers. Pal (2014) also states that policy should not be outside the realm of morals and values, making policy that allows for precarious work unethical and immoral. For example, Canada’s Values and Ethics Code, states
We will need to develop stronger and more transparent accountability regimes in
which leaders are evaluated not just for organizational performance, but for whether their
organizations are good places in which to work, whether they nourish sound
public service values and a spirit of dedication to the public good. (Canadian Centre for
Management Development, 2000, p. 20)
This goal was set in the year 2000, and its proper implementation has not been realized. If the definition of public service values is to be in line with the public good, then I propose that businesses that implement a precarious work model are not ‘good places in which to work’ and are not fostering ‘sound public service values’ and do not have a ‘spirit of dedication to the public good.’
The group(s) most affected by the negative effects of precarious work are women, particularly those with children and women of colour (Bose & Whaley, 2012; Clement, Mathieu, Prus & Uckardesler, 2009; Gazso, 2010; Premji, Shakya, Spasevski, Merolli, & Athar, 2014; Shaw & Lee, 2012; Young, 2010). The negative effects of precarious work seem to affect women more than men because precarious jobs are held disproportionately by women (Bose & Whaley, 2012; Shaw & Lee, 2012; Young, 2010). Women in Canada work “30 hours per week less than men” (Moyser, 2017). In the year 2000, 47% of Canadian women’s jobs were precarious compared to 27% of men’s jobs (Wallis & Kwok, 2008). In 2007, “almost half a million part-time temporary employees were women whereas just over a quarter of a million were men” (Vosko & Clark, 2009, p. 29). In 2015, 18.9% of Canadian women were engaged in part‑time work, compared to 5.5% of employed men (Moyser, 2017). The interests of women, especially mothers regarding the fair and equal distribution of wealth in Canada are not taken into consideration in businesses that employ a precarious work environment. Therefore, it is fair to say that precarious work is contrary to the common good.
Studying these trends and documenting the negative effects of precarious work is important because if precarious work continues to become more prevalent, the negative effects on health, social engagement, relationships, income inequality, and exploitation will intensify unless policy changes are made to support workers. Precarious work is in need of policy reform in the interest of social justice.
This section defines precarity and precarious work and outlines some of the characteristics involved. It also examines the consequences of precarious work that lead to negative health effects (physical/mental health, and relationship health) and how it contributes to the feminization of poverty through the socio-demographics such as sex, family status and ethnicity.
As with every definition, there are conflicting opinions regarding what is involved in the concept of precarity. Beginning in the 1970’s as a broadly used concept (Vosko, MacDonald & Campbell, 2009), it emerged from the French word precarité that was mostly used in family studies to “denote economically and socially vulnerable families, often in need of support from social workers” (Fagnani & Letablier, 2009, p. 143). At this time, it was largely used in discourses around social exclusion (Vosko et al., 2009). The term precarity has also been used to signify “social positionings of insecurity and hierarchization, which accompanies processes of Othering” (Puar et al., 2012, p. 165). In this way precarity is closely linked to vulnerability and insecurity as insecure work is what defines workers as being vulnerable (Vosko, 2010). Ultimately, there are many facets involved in the concept of precarity including dimensions of family life, work life and social support services (Burke, 2017).
Precarity then became embedded in discussions regarding employment, or a certain status of employment (Fagnani & Letablier, 2009), particularly those described by contract work, part-time work, and/or work with little-to-no benefits (Standing, 2016). Precarious jobs also provide little chance for advancement (CrimethInc. exWorkers’ Collective, 2011; Gazso, 2010) and create difficulty organizing with other workers (CrimethInc. exWorkers’ Collective, 2011). As mentioned previously, precarious employment contains elements of “uncertainty, insecurity and lack of control” (Lewchuk et al., 2015, p. 14). Most precarious workers complain of not having benefits (PEPiN, 2018) and employees feel they have a “weak voice at work” (LPRC, 2018).
Standard Employment Relationship. A key element missing from precarious work is these jobs do not fall under the “Standard Employment Relationship” (SER). Jobs defined by SER are secure, provide a “full range of benefits and [have a] possible career path” (Lewchuk et al., 2015, p. 10). Even though precarious work is defined by the absence of these aspects, there are a wide variety of jobs included under the umbrella of precarious work and should not be considered a homogenized group (Lewchuk et al., 2015). Nonetheless, there is a trend in the current employment climate to make more part-time positions with less and less access to benefits (Standing, 2016).
Companies tend to work on the model of increasing profit and lowering costs, thus finding it cheaper to employ part-time workers with hours that disqualify them from benefits. This trend has been pervasive and is unlikely to be reversed (Standing, 2016). In the Niagara Region, 98% of those with secure jobs receive some employer benefits compared to 29% of those in insecure employment (Boggs et al., 2018). Jobs that are not described as having a traditional standard employment relationship tend to predict negative health outcomes (Lewchuk et al., 2008; LPRC, 2018) and therefore cannot be in the interest of the public good.
Other characteristics of precarious work are unstable weekly income, unpredictable work hours, non-paid sick days, needing to be on-call for work at any time, and being paid in cash because employment is more likely to be temporary (Boggs et al, 2018; Lewchuk et al., 2015; LPRC, 2018). Regarding paid sick days, many of the workers reported unpaid sick days as being particularly disruptive (Boggs et al., 2018). Some said that they cannot afford to take off work sick because they need the money to make ends meet (LPRC, 2018).
In Ontario, both men and women are allowed up to 10 personal emergency-leave days (Employment Standards Act, SO 2000, c 41 s 50(1-2)) and as of January 2018, only two of these days are paid. On November 22, 2017, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act was introduced (Bill-148) which included a 21% increase of general minimum wage to $14 per hour, which was set to increase to $15 per hour on January 1, 2019 (Ontario, 2019). Bill-148 also included job-protected leaves for employees such as Personal Emergency Leaves of up to 10 days and the first 2 days must be paid (Ontario, 2019). These Personal Emergency Leaves also did not require the employees to provide doctor’s sick note (Ontario, 2019). As the act states, these elements would create a fairer workplace environment and therefore better jobs.
Since then, however, the Doug Ford Progressive Conservative government has replaced Bill-148 with Bill-47, which took away all paid sick days, allowing employers to ask for sick notes and froze the minimum wage at $14 (Kirkness & McMillan, 2018). Bill-47 is called the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, which ends up taking away fundamental rights from employees (Mojtehedzadeh, 2018), putting the power right back into the employer’s hands. When it comes to employment policy, it favours the employers over the workers. Paid sick days are something that precarious workers have asked for in the PEPiN (2018) survey, and LPRC (2018) claims this to be one of the most concerning aspects of precarious work. The issue of paid sick days is discussed further in part two of this paper where a deeper comparison is made between Bill 47 and Bill 148.
Labour Market Flexibility
Another characteristic associated with precarious neoliberal employment is “labour market flexibility” which allegedly promoted faster economic growth (Standing, 2016, p. 6), and subsequently added to the precariousness of jobs (Vosko, et al., 2009). If labour market flexibility was not implemented, it was thought that the cost of labour would rise, and corporations would move their investments to countries with cheaper labour pools (Standing, 2016).
Flexibility. Flexibility has many dimensions including wage flexibility, employment flexibility, job flexibility, and skill flexibility. Wage flexibility promotes quicker adaptation to changes in market demands (Standing, 2016). Flexibility lessens job security by imposing changes to rates of employment at no cost to the employer. When these new levels of employment are created, they come with important sounding titles, which draw in workers in search of bolstering their resumes (Standing, 2016). However, these titles are often meaningless and are created to mask the precarity of the jobs. Job flexibility refers to the ability “to move employees around inside the firm and to change job structures with minimal opposition or cost” (Standing, 2016, p. 7). Consequently, employees had to adjust their skills to match the different positions assigned at any given time creating skill flexibility (Standing, 2016). The addition of flexibility to jobs makes jobs more precarious and thus more stressful.
Scheduling flexibility. One in four precarious workers in the greater Toronto-Hamilton area report that their work schedule changes unexpectedly and “[n]early half of the workers in precarious employment report that they often do not know their work schedule in advance” (Lewchuk et al., 2015, p. 52). Uncertainty regarding scheduling has been shown to be correlated with poorer health (Lewchuk et. al., 2008) and is therefore a matter of public concern.
Scheduling flexibility should be a target for policy reform because is the type of flexibility that has been linked most with stress and anxiety (Jang, Kippay & Park, 2012) and interferes with engaging in activities with friends and family (Boggs et al., 2018; Lewchuk et al., 2015; LPRC, 2018). As stated by Boggs et al. (2018) “[t]hose who are in insecure employment are more likely to say that uncertainty about their work schedule negatively affects their family’s quality of life” (p. 45). Roughly 10% more respondents engaged in precarious work reported that schedule uncertainty negatively affected their family life (40-45%) compared to 50-55% of the respondents categorized in all three secure groups (Boggs et al., 2018). Flexible work schedules, or not knowing one’s work schedule far enough in advance creates “spillover of work strain onto family life” (Jang et al., 2012, p. 897). Jang et al. (2012) state that the negative spillover effects include not having enough time to meet family obligations which creates stress and tension at home. The negative work-family spillover has become a concern for both home and work life; therefore, I will provide recommendations regarding stable scheduling.
Job/work strain. Job strain can be described by a number of factors including jobs that create “stressful working conditions, such as repetitive work, assembly-line work, electronic monitoring or surveillance, involuntary overtime, piece-rate work, inflexible hours, arbitrary supervision, and deskilled work” (Schnall, 2011). Many of these characteristics describe precarious work. Low control (little-to-no control at one’s job, including little-to-no decision leeway) combined with high-pressure workload demands leads to the highest risk for stress and negative physical and mental health (Schnall, 2011). Low job control is related to stress (PERI, 2018) because “[h]igher levels of control combined with high levels of satisfaction result in lower levels of job strain” (PERI, 2018).
The above mention of negative work-family spillover is reportedly due to work or job strain (Jang, et al., 2012). However, Lewchuk et al. (2008) state that these negative health effects were not due to the nature of the jobs themselves, as the concept of job strain would support, but rather from the employment relationship or “employment strain” created from employment insecurity (Lewchuk et al., 2008, p. 390).
Employment strain. Similar to job strain, which examines how the dimensions of “control, workload and support…interact to affect health outcomes” (Lewchuk et al., 2008, p. 390), employment strain uses the same dimensions, but in relation to employment or control over future employment, the effort put into finding and maintaining jobs, and if there is support at the job as well as in the home. Even when controlling for job strain, the research still shows negative health effects that can only be explained as an artifact of the employment relationship or type of job, which are those that are precarious (Lewchuk et al., 2008). Therefore, it is the type of job, defined by its degree of precarity that is particularly cause for concern because precarious work is related to negative health effects.
Negative Consequences of Precarious Work
Negative health effects. Research has found that precarious employment has a negative effect on health (Lewchuk, et al., 2008; Lewchuk et.al, 2015; LPRC, 2018; PEPiN, 2018; PERI, 2018; Young, 2010) and can be responsible for multiple suicides (Lewchuk et al., 2015; Standing, 2016). Precarious workers are more likely to report poorer general health (Lewchuk et al., 2015) than those with secure jobs (LRPC, 2018). Secure jobs lead to higher job satisfaction and those who reported high levels of job satisfaction had significantly higher levels of self-reported health (LRPC, 2018).
General health. General health seems to improve as income increases (Lewchuk et al., 2015). However, according to Lewchuk et al. (2015), “workers in less secure/ middle- and high-income jobs are still more likely to report poorer general health than workers in more secure employment in the same income categories” (p. 76). Employment strain could be more of a factor in negative health reports than the income amount itself. Therefore, the type of job, that is secure jobs with benefits is important for better health.
In Peterborough, “78% of respondents who rated their health as less than good were in vulnerable or precarious employment as opposed to 22% who were in secure and stable employment” (PERI, 2018). In London, 31.3% of the respondents in secure employment reported their general health as excellent, compared to 12.4% of those engaged in precarious work (Michalski & Kerr, 2017). Regarding general health in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton area, 25.9 % of respondents in secure jobs reported their health as less than very good compared to 35.9 % in precarious jobs. Lewchuk et al. (2008) found that those who reported the lowest levels of overall health were those who were working through temporary agencies.
Mental health. The more employment security goes down, the more the workers report that their mental health is less than very good (Lewchuk et al., 2015). In the greater Toronto-Hamilton area, 36.7% of precariously employed workers reported their health as less than very good, compared to 19.9% in secure employment (Lewchuk et al., 2015). In Peterborough, the
highest percentage of respondents who rated their mental health as less than good
were in vulnerable and precarious employment and had low incomes (58%); a much
higher percentage than when compared to respondents in secure and stable employment
with low income (11%). (PERI, 2018)
In London “[m]ore than one in four respondents reported being depressed ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ as a result of their employment situation” (LRPC, 2018).
Other health effects. Precarious jobs contribute to heart disease, hypertension and gastric problems, (Gasper, 2012). Dissatisfaction of work can cause pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, frustration, tension, problems sleeping and headaches, whereas more permanent work led to less chronic illness and better overall health (Lewchuk et al., 2008). “Precariously employed individuals are more likely to experience depression, anger, and dissatisfaction with their jobs” (LPRC, 2018). One in four respondents to the London random digit telephone survey reported being depressed sometimes or often regarding their engagement with precarious work (LPRC, 2018). Nearly one-third of the workers in the greater Toronto-Hamilton area reported depression over work (Lewchuk, et al., 2015). Surprised by this finding, Lewchuk et al, (2015) stated that “there is a clear need to understand the role of work in mental well-being for all workers, and especially those in precarious employment” (p. 82).
The most commonly reported negative health effect of unsecure employment in the Niagara Region is anxiety. For example, in the Niagara Region 40% of low-income workers report “that they worry often” (Boggs et al, 2018, p. 44). Precarious workers also tend to report “more frequent pain and fatigue” related to job dissatisfaction (Lewchuk et al., 2008, p. 388). Using these data, it can be shown that the consequences of precarious work have detrimental effects on workers’ physical and mental health.
Relationships. Precarious employment can also decrease the quality of family or home life and intensify stress regarding financial decisions (Lewchuk et al., 2015). Precarious workers in low- and middle-income households are more likely to report that anxiety from their work experience negatively influences their family and personal life (Lewchuk et al., 2015).
Those engaged in precarious work report more likely to delay starting a family (Lewchuk et al., 2015) and even delay entering a long-term relationship (Boggs et al., 2018). In the Niagara Region, 19% of the respondents in low-income, insecure situations reported delaying forming a relationship with someone due to employment uncertainty (Boggs et al., 2018).
When income fluctuates, and work schedules are unpredictable, it can “impact the ability of workers to provide for themselves [and] their families” (PERI, 2018). Fluctuating income and schedules affect future planning (PERI, 2018) and scheduling flexibility tends to prevent precarious workers from engaging in social activities with friends and family (Boggs et al., 2018). Over 20% of precarious workers in the low-income bracket in the Niagara Region reported that due to their insecure employment, they were often prevented from engaging in social activities with friends and family (Boggs et al., 2018).
Precarity and social engagement. Due to the difficulties involved with precarious work, those engaged in precarious employment tend to see volunteer work as expendable (Boggs et al., 2018). If insecure workers are going to volunteer it is more likely to be for the purpose of job networking and are “always more likely to volunteer to benefit their children, family, or self than secure workers” (Boggs et al., 2018, p. 66). Similarly, in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton area, it was found that participation increases with higher income and increased employment security (Lewchuk et al., 2015). Using the same dataset, Maich (2018) found a significant relationship between precarity and school meeting attendance. She found that 46.8% of secure workers were able to attend their child’s school meetings compared to 34.4% of precarious workers (Maich, 2018). A local example from the Hamilton Spectator states that as rent increases, more people are juggling as many as three jobs to be able to make ends meet. Mike Wood is quoted saying “[w]here do you get a part of your life to spend with your family or whoever…?” (Paddon, July 19, 2019)
Voting behaviour is also affected by precarity. Maich (2018) found a moderate significant relationship in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton area between precarity and voting behaviour where 66.3% of precarious workers voted compared to 87.3% of secure workers. Precarious work thus, not only has negative effects on physical and mental health, but also impedes the forming of relationships, starting families and negatively affects community engagement including voting behaviour. Precarious workers are at a disadvantage compared to secure workers.
Feminization of poverty. Another major negative effect of precarious work is its contribution to the feminization of poverty. “Feminization of poverty” is widely attributed to Diana Pearce who coined the term in 1978 (Suo, 2018) to refer to the findings that women are significantly more susceptible to poverty compared to men (Uken, 2018) and this “highly gendered economic disparity goes largely unrecognized” (Suo, 2018, p. 1). Combining the two concepts of gender inequality and poverty, the feminization of poverty is a persistent and increasing trend where the majority of global poor consist of women-headed households (Suo, 2018; Uken, 2018). Suo (2018) states that “[w]omen not only suffer the disproportionate effects of poverty itself, but also from the mechanisms which govern poverty in society” (p. 1). Below are various ways in which precarious work contributes to the feminization of poverty and interrupts the fair and equal distribution of wealth.
Precarity and Sex Discrimination
Work sphere. Women are disproportionally streamed into jobs that are part-time, have little-to-no benefits, fewer pension plans (Bose & Whaley, 2012) and little chance for promotion (Gazso, 2010). Since precarious jobs have no “ladders of mobility to climb,” workers are often vulnerable to exploitation (Standing, 2016, p. 23). Since the majority of those in part-time work are women, women become the most vulnerable to exploitation in these types of jobs (Moyser, 2017; Standing, 2016; Bose & Whaley, 2012).
There are trends in the types of jobs in which men and women are streamed. Women are encouraged to get jobs that involve care work (Klein & Boris, 2012). The patriarchal assumption that women do care work out of love is used to justify the lower pay these jobs receive (Gazso, 2010; Klein & Boris, 2012; Shaw & Lee 2012). In the year 2000, 47% of Canadian women’s jobs were precarious compared to 27% of men’s jobs (Wallis & Kwok, 2008). In 2015, 18.9% of Canadian women were engaged in part‑time work, compared to 5.5% of employed men (Moyser, 2017).
The Standard Employment Relationship (SER) is said not to be the cause of gender inequality, but rather it absorbed and reinforced existing gender inequalities (Vosko, 2010). Jobs that are normalized by the SER are thus responsible for the perpetuation of gender inequality (Vosko, 2010). The streaming of women and men into particular jobs has led to a split in the labour market and a split between women and men. Shaw and Lee (2012) discuss the concept of a “dual labor market” (p. 400). The dual labor market consists of the primary market with jobs that fall under the Standard Employment Relationship and a “secondary market where workers receive lower wages, fewer benefits and less opportunity for advancement” (Shaw & Lee, 2012, p. 400).
Precarious jobs also lack “opportunities for promotion” (Gazso, 2010). Not only have the number of precarious jobs risen disproportionately to secure jobs (Standing, 2016; Young, 2010), but, as stated before, these jobs are held disproportionately by women (Shaw & Lee, 2012; Bose & Whaley, 2012; Young, 2010), especially women who are perceived as leaving their jobs at anytime to start a family. Therefore, women being streamed into precarious jobs is often referred to as being on the “mommy-track” (Gazso, 2010, p. 234).
Streaming women into sex-specific, precarious jobs influences differential treatment of men and women and enables the justification of discrimination against women (Bose & Whaley, 2012). Stereotypes and assumptions around women’s skills, experience and abilities are formed and used to devalue women in the workplace (Bose & Whaley, 2012). Due to these stereotypes, men have even sabotaged women’s contributions at work (Bose & Whaley, 2012). All these factors stated above disadvantage women and increase their degree of precarity.
The disproportionate streaming of women into precarious jobs also adds to the wage gap. Recent statistics from Statistics Canada said in 2015, women made $0.87 to every man’s dollar (Moyser, 2017), but this figure is based on hourly data rather than yearly data. The wage gap, however, varies depending on the age of the workers and the places in which they work (Moyser, 2017). For example, in 2006, Hamilton women made 62 cents to the man’s dollar (Shaw, 2006). This report also states that Canada has the fifth largest wage gap out of 29 developed countries (Shaw, 2006). Due to making less money and receiving fewer benefits, single mothers are affected the hardest due to limited resources for food, transportation and lack of childcare assistance (Wallis & Kwok, 2008).
Domestic Sphere. The most recent statistics in Canada state that the major reason for women taking part-time work was childcare responsibilities (Moyser, 2017). Vosko (2010) states that “[s]ince much ‘atypical’ work, especially part-time employment, is presented as the result of free choice, women’s job insecurity is often regarded as voluntary and hence unproblematic” (p. 145). Statistics Canada reveals that women “work less than 30 hours per week than men (67.2% vs. 53.0%)” (Moyser, 2017).
On top of all the ways women are disadvantaged by precarious work, women are disproportionately the ones who spend more time in domestic labour activities and caring for children (Gazso, 2010). Gender role assumptions lead to a juggling paid work and unpaid work called the “double day” which creates stress and leads to depression and other negative effects on health such as exhaustion and burn-out (Gazso, 2010). In Canada, women whose partners spent more time engaged in paid work than they did, felt more perceptions of a time crunch and experienced added stress from the inability to complete all tasks successfully (Gazso, 2010). Due to all these pressures, Gazso (2010) states that conflict on mothers is inevitable (Gazso, 2010).
The juggling of domestic labour and paid work responsibilities create the “family penalty” in which childcare affects the ability to engage in paid work (Gazso, 2010, p. 230). This ‘penalty’ can result in the increasing number of children staying at home for longer periods of time due to the inability to find jobs or jobs that pay enough to allow moving out of the house (Burke, 2017). The family penalty also applies to those described as the “sandwich generation” who are placed in dual care-giving roles of both younger and older aging generations (Burke, 2017, p. 3). Statistics Canada (2010) reported that “the sandwich generation included up to 30 percent of Canadians aged 45 to 64 who are simultaneously responsible for their still dependent children under 25 and their aging parents” (Burke, 2017, p. 4).
In the US two-thirds of these caregivers who are employed in both full and part-time positions need to make “work-related adjustments to undertake care” (Burke, 2017, p. 4). In a survey, two-thirds of Canadian parents said they were dipping into their savings to care for older children staying at home (Burke, 2017). Even though men are helping more now with caregiving, the burden still disproportionately falls onto women (Burke, 2017; Shaw & Lee, 2012; Gazso, 2010). Women experience more stress from juggling work responsibilities, the needs of their children, plus the needs of their parents (Burke, 2017).
Due to sandwich generation pressures, some women either engage less with paid work or quit their jobs altogether (Burke, 2017; Shaw & Lee, 2012). The ability to save money is hindered by caregiving responsibilities, having lower savings and retirement money than men and by the time women are ready to go back to work, they may have been deskilled in the process (Burke, 2017).
Along with childcare and care of parents come other domestic responsibilities, which are all covered under the umbrella term “reproductive work” (Shaw & Lee, 2012, p. 391). Reproductive work disproportionately lands on women and includes unpaid house-work and emotional work called “kin keeping” (Shaw & Lee, 2012, p. 395). Kin keeping involves activities such as keeping in touch with relatives, buying/sending cards/presents and remembering birthdays, organizing family outings, events and vacations and providing emotional “’spousal career support’ by entertaining, volunteering, and networking” (Shaw & Lee, 2012, p. 395). Juggling all these tasks is time consuming and adds to the negative health effects discussed above such as burn-out, exhaustion, and depression (Gazso, 2010). Burn-out, exhaustion and depression then lead to work absences and less pay (Bose & Whaley, 2012). Therefore, there is more involved in precarity than just work. Several factors from work life, domestic life, and social support services combine to create compounded hardships for women in precarious work (Burke, 2017).
Social Support. Since the major reason Canadian women work part-time is due to childcare (Moyser, 2017), the lack of quality, accessible and affordable ferally funded childcare has been said to be the main reason why women have difficulty balancing work and domestic responsibilities (Gazso, 2010). Canada has not established effective national childcare (Wallis & Kwok, 2012). As of 2006, the government has begun issuing cheques called the Universal Childcare Benefit, which is not the same thing as childcare, nor does it sufficiently cover the cost of childcare, nor does it offset lost income for those who stay at home with their children (Ferns & Friendly, 2014). This benefit also does nothing to address unlicensed childcare facilities that may be unclean and unregulated (Ferns & Friendly, 2014).
Wallis and Kwok (2008) state that “[s]tructural poverty is a violence” (p. 9). The consequences of policy changes around Employment Insurance (EI) and welfare assistance, have fed into the feminization of poverty in Canada through lack of social support (Gazso, 2010). In Canada, women are “being systematically made ineligible [for] Employment Insurance” (Wallis & Kwok, 2008, p. 9). Changes in EI, from what used to be called Unemployment Insurance (UI) disadvantaged women when eligibility for leave became determined by the number of hours worked, rather than weeks worked (Gazso, 2010). Not only were fewer women eligible, but maximum compensation for leave went from 60% of previous earnings to 55% (Gazso, 2010). Therefore, in Canada, there is a weak safety net for families requiring assistance (Gazso, 2010). All these factors have led to the feminization of poverty (Wallis & Kwok, 2008) and the feminization of precarity (Young, 2010).
Precarity and Intersectionality
Intersectionality. Coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1991), intersectionality, is an important tool for understanding how power intersects with certain traits such as sex, gender and race. Intersectionality is “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage” (dictionary.com).
Originally developed to understand how oppression can become compounded, intersectionality has been used to understand how law, policies and work jockey to further oppress and discriminate against minority groups, especially those who embody many minority characteristics at once. For example, an older, Black lesbian woman of low socio-economic status (SES), with a disability would be exposed to more (compounded) oppression than those with more dominant traits. Better comprehension of the compounded nature of social disadvantage would benefit persons of colour regarding court decisions and relationships with work (Crenshaw, 1991).
Intersectionality and work. In the workplace, even though it is illegal to discriminate based on ethnicity and sex, social disadvantage persists (Bose & Whaley, 2012). Racialized women, particularly immigrants, are triply disadvantaged by their ethnicity, gender and citizenship status (Gazso, 2010) and “experience the worst labour market conditions and outcomes” (Premji, Shakya, Spasevski, Merolli, & Athar, 2014, p. 123). Racialized women are also overly represented in precarious jobs that are high risk (Law Commission of Canada, 2012), non-standard and receive low pay (Gazso, 2010). Racialized women are also underrepresented in higher paying job including those with high status (Gazso, 2010). Therefore, racialized women experience more discrimination in hiring and employment opportunities due to their gender, ethnicity and class (Premji et al., 2014; Gazso, 2010; Clement, Mathieu, Prus & Uckardesler, 2009; Gupta, 2008) than white Canadian-born women (Gazso, 2010). Racialized women are disadvantaged the most due to the compounded nature of racism and sexism (Gupta, 2008). The (incorrect) attitude that women of colour are inferior is used to justify precarious and exploitive working conditions (Gupta, 2008). Non-whites and immigrants experience systemic discrimination due to the devaluing of their education, lack of access to professional training, language barriers and the demand for vaguely defined “Canadian experience” (Gupta, 2008, p. 147).
Intersectional data on precarious work is sparse because there are gaps in the research regarding ethnicity. Further research is needed to understand more fully how intersectionality influences the negative effects of precarious work. For example, Clement, Mathieu, Prus and Uckardesler (2009) have the words intersectional analysis in their title and discuss a “three-pronged definition” of intersectionality (p. 243) yet do not include data in their tables and research regarding ethnicity because there simply is no data. They state that “[c]ross-nationally comparable datasets simultaneously accounting for gender, class and ethnicity are rare” (Clement et al., 2008, p. 243). Furthermore, more research is needed regarding how other intersectional dimensions such as sexual orientation and ability fit into precarious work.
In conclusion, the research presented here makes clear that precarious work contributes to the unfair treatment and discrimination of workers by violating the definition of social justice. Precarious work does not provide “[j]ustice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society” (Dictionary.com), nor does it allow for “[i]ndividuals and groups…[to] receive fair treatment and an impartial share of the benefits of society” (Hemphill, 2015, p. 1).
Considering the negative effects of precarious work discussed above, it is fair to conclude that policy that allows for businesses to employ a precarious work model are contrary to the public good. Moreover, policy seems to favour businesses over the worker, creating tension between them. Due to the negative effects of precarious work such as the feminization of poverty, negative health effects, inability to engage with friends, family and the greater community, something must be done to ensure that precarious work does not become the ‘new norm in Canada.’
In the remainder of my MRP I examine the quantitative and qualitative data of the PEPiN project. I hypothesize that the negative effects of precarious work shown above can also be found in the Niagara Region. I then analyze previous policy suggestions by Lewchuk et al. (2015) and Boggs et al. (2018) to determine their viability for policy reform. Keeping the voices of the survey respondents in mind, I then provide suggestions for policies that help protect the rights of the worker and that ameliorate the negative effects of precarious work.
Research Design and Methodology
For my Major Research Paper (MRP), I used the data produced by the joint project between Brock University’s Social Justice Research Institute (SJRI) and the United Way Southern Niagara. The project is called Poverty and Employment Precarity in Niagara (PEPiN) and looks at the amount, variety and degree of precariousness in the Niagara Region. The purpose of the PEPiN project, in addition to analyzing precarity and its relationship to health and community engagement, is to determine the types of struggles or challenges precarious workers face. My project uses some of the PEPiN (2017, 2018) data to show that the negative effects of precarious work are pervasive and can be found locally in the Niagara Region. I investigate whether local statistics parallel those of other locations. This analysis therefore helps to strengthen a case for policy reform to address and mitigate the negative effects of precarious work in Canada, especially in Southern Ontario. Therefore, a key portion of my MRP evaluates public policy suggestions and approaches with the end goal of finding the most viable policies that can improve or mitigate the negative effects of precarity in work.
Here I provide a brief description of the PEPiN project (both data collection phases), and then outline the methods of this MRP. I provide information regarding the participants and materials as well as procedures of how I used the quantitative random digit dial phone survey dataset (PEPiN, 2017) and the qualitative on-line survey questionnaire (PEPiN, 2018).
Description of the PEPiN Project
As stated earlier, the PEPiN project in Niagara aimed to replicate the Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario project (PEPSO) between McMaster University and United Way Toronto. PEPSO looked at the impact of precarious work on individuals, households and communities in the greater Toronto-Hamilton area. Using the same Employment Precarity Index and the same survey questions (with a couple of minor adjustments), PEPiN aimed to study the degree and impact of precarious work in the Niagara Region. The PEPiN helps 1) understand how widespread precarious employment is in Niagara, 2) describe the various forms precarious work takes in the area, 3) determine how precarious work impacts workers.
There were two data collection phases for PEPiN. Phone surveys were taken in phase one and on-line surveys in phase two. In data collection phase one, the PEPiN (2017) project began with a 20-minute, random-digit dial telephone survey of precarious workers in the Niagara Region. Those who volunteered and provided consent took the survey (N = 713). The questions asked were about the “individual’s paid work, unpaid work, housing, education, stress and health” (PEPiN, 2017). Questions about physical and mental health were also asked (PEPiN, 2017).
Participants for Phase One
Demographics collected from the survey in phase one included age (M = 45.88; SD = 11.34), sex (male = 317, 44%; female = 395, 55%; missing = 1), ethnicity (white n = 639, 90%; non-white, n = 62, 9%, N = 713), and class/income, the majority reporting $40,000-49,000 (n = 69, 13%, N = 547) and $80,000-99,999 (n = 99, 18%, N = 550) as their household income. The majority of people were married (n = 479, 74%), with n = 135 (21%) being single, n = 7 (1%) having been separated and n = 26 (4%) widowed, (N = 647). Most participants do not live alone (n = 587, 83% vs. n = 123, 17%, N = 710). The number of participants with children were n = 391 (67%, N = 583), most children were under three years old (n = 230, 39%, N = 584). The majority of the participants were from St. Catharines (n = 216, 30%), with Niagara Falls coming in next (n = 136, 19%, N = 713). Those born in Canada were n = 628 (88%), and those not born in Canada were n = 85 (12%, N = 713). Of those, only nine (1.3%) were full-time students and the rest were not (98.7%, N = 704). The majority had completed High School (n = 594, 86% vs. n = 97, 14%, N = 691), and most did not have a college diploma (n = 372, 54% vs. n = 319, 46%, N = 691) with n = 630 (91% vs. n = 61, 9%, N = 691) having no university. The majority of the participants did not have time for volunteer work (n = 381, 62%), or to attend children’s meetings at school (n = 412, 67% vs. 200, 33%, N = 612). Further details of the findings regarding precarity and health, can be found in Boggs et al. (2018) report. The recently published PEPiN report “Uncertain Jobs, Certain Impacts: Employment Precarity in Niagara” (Boggs, et al., 2018).
Phase Two Data Collection
Data collection for phase two consisted of an on-line survey of poverty and employment precarity in Niagara, which asks the major question: How has precarious employment impacted you? The participants (N = 71, 60 = female, 8 = male, 1 = gender neutral, 1 = missing; Age range 19 – 66, average age = 38), were asked nine questions, asking further about the effects of engagement with precarious work and what they would like to see changed.
Methodology/Research Design in Current Project
I developed my analysis based on a mixed method approach with both the quantitative random-digit dial data set and the qualitative on-line survey. The respondent’s answers to the on-line survey is included to add depth to the flattening effect quantitative analysis can have on the data. For example, due to generalization, quantitative data presents a de-humanized quality that lumps individuals into a homogenized group, assuming they are all the same. Individual answers from the on-line survey can rehumanize these data by telling personal stories of challenges that precarious workers in the Niagara Region face.
Using a similar logic, one can extrapolate that when businesses quantify their profits, they are also using a dehumanized, generalized and neoliberal lens that sees their workers more as a dollar signs than individuals with needs. This paper therefore stresses the importance of viewing both qualitative and quantitative data as complements, rather than mutually exclusive, hierarchical methodologies. Quantitative data is important for describing phenomena in a generalized way for better focus on resources and qualitative data is better for getting at why rather than how many.
Quantitative analysis. I used the quantitative random-digit dial dataset to show how patterns of negative effects of precarious work, such as anxiety and prevention of social engagement, can be seen on a local level. I focused mainly on questions 34-38, which ask specifically about elements of precarious work such as not knowing a work schedule in advance, or uncertainty regarding their employment situation, to see if this produces anxiety and/or if it prevents social engagement inside and outside the home. Questions 34-38 are as follows:
Q 34: How often does uncertainty about your work schedule negatively affect your family's quality of life?
Q 35: How often does uncertainty about your work schedule prevent you from doing things with your family that are fun?
Q 36: In the first 3 months of 2017, how often did anxiety about your employment situation interfere with your personal or family life?
Q 37: Between April 1st of 2016 and March 31st of 2017, how often did uncertainty over your work schedule prevent you doing things with friends or family?
Q 38: Have you delayed forming a relationship with someone as a result of uncertainty regarding your employment situation? (PEPiN, 2017)
I hypothesized that the negative health effects of precarious work could also be found on
local level. A chi square test of independence was conducted on each question to determine if female participants reported more negative effects than men in the Niagara Region.
Qualitative analysis. I used the qualitative on-line survey data to augment the questions in the quantitative analysis and to inform suggestions for policy reform. For my MRP, I focused on questions eight and nine which are:
Q 8: What are the biggest challenges you/your family struggle with due to being employed precariously?
Q 9: What sort of changes would you like to see made to your current precarious condition?
Looking at the answers to these questions I noticed certain clusters or categories forming, revealing commonalities and/or patterns in their answers. I then tallied up how many people said what, formed them into clusters and broke a few categories down into subcategories. For example, many respondents said their biggest challenge due to precarious work was: “making ends meet,” “living paycheque to paycheque,” and “money.” But, under this larger category of “inability to make ends meet” were subcategories that provided more specific information such as “inability to plan for the future,” “inability to save/contribute to a pension/save for children’s future or other provisions.” Another subcategory was “I can’t afford to live alone/have to live with my parents.”
Another large cluster regarding challenges due to precarious work was “stress over not knowing how long I will be employed/or how many hours a week I will be working.” The third large cluster that I divided up into subcategories was difficulty due to “no health benefits” which I broke down into vision, dental and medication because some respondents were more specific than others regarding what benefits they would like the most. Therefore, each person that said something about benefits was tallied under the broad category of benefits, and then again under one of the specific type(s) of benefits if specified. There were other smaller separate categories found that will be mentioned further in the Results section.
For Question nine, regarding what respondents wanted to see changed to their current precarious position, I broke the answers into the categories of “would like to have a living wage,” “would like to have stability/regular hours/full-time/permanent positions” and “benefits.”
Keeping the voice of precarious workers in Niagara in mind regarding the difficulties/challenges faced and suggestions for change, in the discussion section, I then turned to other policy suggestions presented by Lewchuk et al. (2015), and from the final PEPiN report (Boggs et al., 2018) to determine their viability to be implemented in Ontario with the ultimate goal of ameliorating and perhaps reducing precarious work in Canada. Using the suggestions from Niagara respondents, I chose policy suggestions from the other research that addressed these issues. Therefore, my MRP also includes a key section on analyzing policy recommendations. Recommendations for policies that take the interests of both workers and businesses into account are considered the most important to implement will be addressed in the conclusions. Limitations and suggestions for future research will also be discussed.
Analyzing the PEPiN (2017) quantitative data, 57.1% women reported anxiety produced from the uncertainty of the work schedule interfering with socializing with both friends and family, compared to 42.9 % of men (n = 710, 3 = missing). Analyzing this further to determine if there was a significant difference, a chi square test of independence was conducted. A significant difference between men and women’s reported frustration with scheduling negatively affecting time spent with friends and family was found in both questions 35 and 37 X² (df = 4, n = 707, missing = 5) = 14.913, p = .005 and X² (df = 4, n = 710, missing = 3) = 15.077, p = .005 respectively. All other crosstabulations did not reach significance.
Using the PEPiN (2018) on-line survey, in particular questions eight and nine, certain clusters became clear in what the participants said were particular challenges and in what changes they wanted to see made regarding their precarious conditions.
Question eight. In tallying up question eight “What are the biggest challenges you/your family struggle with due to being employed precariously?” certain themes emerged. The largest cluster was “the inability to make ends meet,” which as said previously, also included statements such as “living paycheque to paycheque and “money” in general. Out the 70 respondents that answered this question (71, 1 missing = 70), 53/70 (76%) of them said money in some way was an issue. Out of those, 17/53 (32%) said specifically that they had trouble paying bills and/or rent. Not included in this count were those who said the biggest challenge was an inability to plan (13/70 = 19%). Also not included in this count were eight who said their biggest challenge was the “inability to save/save for children/feed children/start a family” (8/70 = 11%)
The second largest cluster (33/70 = 47%) included the respondents who said the biggest challenge was having no health benefits (30/70 = 43%). For those who were specific regarding what types of benefits were important, most respondents said prescription coverage was particularly challenging to live without (9/33 = 27%) with dental a close second (8/33 = 24%). Only one respondent said vision was important.
The third largest cluster (31/70 = 44%), were those who said that the biggest challenge was “stress over not knowing how long they will be employed/or how many hours they will work/stressed over seasonal work/no security.” Respondents not included in this count were those that said their biggest challenge was “little family/vacation time” (9/70 = 13%), those who said, “lack of childcare” (5/70 = 7%) and another five on top of this complained about “not having paid sick days” (5/70 = 7%).
Question nine. Regarding question nine, “What sort of changes would you like to see made to your current precarious condition,” 90% responded (64/71, 7 = missing). Three major clusters were found. The largest cluster (42/64 = 66%) were those who said they would like to have “job security/stability/full-time or permanent employment/regular hours or a stable schedule.” The second most common answer (32/64 = 50%) asked for benefits. Out of these, six respondents (6/32 = 19%) said a pension plan was particularly important.
The third largest cluster included those who asked, “for a living wage/more money” (17/64 = 27%). After this, there were a smaller number of respondents asking for a lowered cost of living (5/64 = 8%), including lower taxes (2/5 = 40%) and cheaper rentals (2/5 = 40%). Three respondents specifically addressed a need for paid sick days (3/64 = 5%). Some respondents also asked for better social support (11/64 = 17%), more specifically easier access to Employment Insurance (2/11 = 18%), including others that wanted better/cheaper transportation (1/11), housing help (1/11), on-line acceptance of job applications (1/11), a call centre (1/11) and more help for struggling businesses (1/11). Not included was one respondent who asked for better policies and another who mentioned a need for a better legal definition of employee.
Looking at these data, there is now more quantitative evidence that precarious work creates stress or anxiety, particularly in women due to instability in precarious work/hours. Using the qualitative survey data to corroborate this statement, one respondent said, “[i]n Niagara there is always this fear that we could potentially lose our job especially being a woman, so I try my best to put a smile on even though I am mentally and physically exhausted most days” (p. 60).
Instability in work and unpredictable hours were the third largest cluster in the survey, representing 44% of the respondents. Therefore, lack of stability in work is a major challenge for precarious workers as well as lack of benefits (47%) and lack of money (76%). Less mentioned, but not less important were “lack of family time, childcare and paid sick days.”
Many of the responses addressed many or all of these challenges in their answers to question eight. For example, one respondent said they were “[a]lways wondering if there will be enough money, not able to plan family time, appointments because of constantly changing schedule, irregular hours, shift changes” (p. 117). Another respondent said they had “[c]onstant anxiety over if [they] can afford living, [and had to] hold off starting a family” (p. 67). Another yet said their biggest challenges were
[l]iving paycheque to paycheque and being scared of getting sick of having anything
happen unexpectedly. Inconsistent hours. 25-30 a week in the summer but 10-15 in
winter. Random scheduling makes keeping a 2nd job hard.” (p. 123)
It appears that even in a partnered relationship it is difficult to make ends meet and single mothers have an even harder time. One respondent said
I recently had to move back to my dad's because I couldn't afford my apartment after my husband and I split. Even when we were together things were very tight. I have a daughter to care for and sometimes don't have the means to do that. The hours are too unpredictable…(PEPiN, 2018, p. 36)
Another said “30 hours a week, even though I am paid more than minimum wage, is simply not enough. We barely squeak by and I have constant anxiety about facing unexpected expenses (p. 63).
Aside from money and stress, respondents also complained about unpredictability of scheduling, inability to be with family and the lack of health benefits. For example, one respondent said “[s]cheduling time [a]nd balance of time work/home and [f]amily/children” (p. 55) were their biggest challenge due to precarious work. Another respondent said the biggest challenges were “[l]ack of health insurance, low income, no vacation unless its unpaid, unpredictable schedule, having to buy uniform out of pocket, working every day but just a few hours a day so we have no weekends and little family time” (PEPiN, 2018, p. 23).
These responses illustrate how precarious work not only contributes to the feminization of poverty and negative health but also interferes with family life, time spent with friends and in the community. I have shown that precarious work does not provide the fair and equal distribution of economic wealth, the question is, what can we do about it? The rest of the discussion section will answer this question in four parts. The first part is a policy analysis where Bills 47 and 148 will be compared to determine if current policy protects workers’ rights. The second part answers questions regarding what elements need to be considered when developing new policies. Part three analyzes some recent policy recommendations by Lewchuk et al. (2015) and Boggs et al. (2018). Finally, part four provides policy recommendations that protect workers’ rights and mitigate the negative effects of precarious work based on the concerns precarious workers have and the changes they want to see.
This section looks at the current policy in Ontario that addresses labour and worker rights. I will compare the recently implemented Bill 47 to Bill 148 to determine if the current policy sufficiently protects worker’s rights.
Bill 148 vs. Bill 47. When the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 (Bill 148) was passed under the Liberal government on November 22, 2017, its intention was to introduce changes to minimum wage, vacation entitlements, paid sick days, equal pay for equal work and fair scheduling rules (Ontario, 2019). Many of these items address issues discussed by Niagara respondents. For example, 76% of respondents to the Poverty and Precarious Employment on-line survey (2018) said that money or making ends meet was the biggest challenge faced regarding precarious employment and 27% said they wanted a living wage or to make more money. Bill 148 introduced increases to minimum wage. Many respondents (11.3%) said they wanted more paid sick days and Bill 148 also addressed this by providing two paid sick days. The largest cluster of respondents (42/64 = 66%) were those who said they would like to have “job security/stability/full-time or permanent employment/regular hours or a stable schedule” (PEPiN, 2018). Bill 148 introduced changes to scheduling. Since respondents reported that money and making ends meet was a major challenge as well as not having paid sick days or stable scheduling, I will go into each of these items in more detail through a discussion of what Bills 148 and 47 have to offer regarding these issues.
Minimum wage/living wage. The first item in Bill 148 was to raise minimum wage to $14.00 per hour in 2018, until January 1, 2019, when it was to increase to $15. Minimum wage is “the lowest wage rate an employer can pay an employee” (Ontario, 2019). This is different from a living wage which is, “the hourly wage a worker needs to earn to cover their basic expenses and participate in their community” (Ontario Living Wage Network). If evidence shows that those engaged in precarious work have a hard time making ends meet and paying for bills/rent, then earning more money may be an answer to the difficult challenges precarious workers face. According to the Ontario Living Wage Network, for workers in the Niagara Region to make ends meet and engage in their community, the wage workers need to earn is $17.99. A living wage would be the optimal goal, but the offer in Bill 148 to raise minimum wage to $15, was a good place to start toward a living wage.
The first item, however, on the recent Making Ontario Open for Business Act (Bill 47) was to eliminate the increase of minimum wage to $15 (Legislative Assembly of Ontario, 2018) and freeze minimum wage at $14 until October 2020, after which, increases would be tied to inflation (MathewsDinsdale, 2018). Doug Ford, the Progressive-Conservative Premier of Ontario as of 2018 explained to the Toronto Star that freezing minimum wage was done because raising minimum wage “discouraged companies from all over the world to come to Ontario.” He went on to say that Bill 148 was “the ‘worst job-killing’ labour legislation” (Mojtehedzadeh, 2018). The Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (Todd Smith) said that Bill 148 “didn’t understand the hopes and dreams that go into building a small business” (Mojtehedzadeh, 2018).
These accusations against Bill 148 are unfounded and there appears to be no research conducted to support the implementation of Bill 47 (Sheppard, 2018). Bill 148, in contrast, was based on two years of research by two independent experts. There were many “consultations with workers, employers, and labour advocates across the province, including public hearings in 13 cities, two rounds of public submissions from stakeholders, and 10 independent academic research reports” (Mojtehedzadeh, 2018).
The final report that influenced Bill 148 was called the Changing Workplaces Review (2017) and proposed to amend “Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 and Labour Relations Act, 1995, [and] contained 173 recommendations” (Ontario Ministry of Labour, 2018). Mitchell and Murry (2017) researched and compiled this report to address policy reform to create “better workplaces in Ontario” (p. 8). The report argued that the research was implemented, it would benefit society as a whole:
A society where decent labour standards are observed and respected in the vast majority of workplaces, and where rights to meaningful collective bargaining are acknowledged and not undermined, would ideally result in an economy based on a sound and ethical foundation and workplaces that are productive and fair. Overall, our society would be a better place and we would all benefit. (Mitchell & Murry, 2017, p.8)
The report went on to say that employers would benefit from a “happier, more productive workplace” (Mitchell & Murry, 2017). Therefore, policies that focus on creating a better work environment with the effect of happier, more productive workers may be a measuring stick for what a good policy would look like. The report provided evidence against Ford’s statement that Bill 148 is a ‘job-killing Bill.’
There is a lot of research supporting the idea that providing a happier, more productive workplace is better for jobs and businesses. For example, the Better Way Alliance is a website dedicated to showcasing businesses who are Living Wage employers who support the $15 and fairness ideology. The video states that “taking care of your staff the way that you take care of your family is a better way to do business” (Better Way Alliance). They maintain that becoming a Living Wage Employer is a better business model and urge more businesses to shift their perspective. Many of the employers say they can see a change in their staff. They say their staff are happier and stay around longer, addressing retention problems in business that have high turnover rates.
Continually training new employees is very costly for businesses (EdgePoint Learning, n.d). According to the 2017 Training industry report the cost of training employees has risen $200 from 2016-2017. This means that there has been a “33% increase in overall training expenditures,” landing the cost of training each employee at $1075 (Hansen, 2019). While some businesses may not think this cost is substantial, there are hidden costs not calculated into this figure.
Hidden costs of employee turnover can include factors like “lost productivity; lost engagement, as existing employees begin to question why turnover is so high and start to disengage; and others, such as lost institutional knowledge, reduced morale, and even gossip” (Psychometrics Canada, 2018). According to this source, the lack of chance for advancement is the leading cause of high employee turnover and “even a 1% improvement in the odds that an employee remains for their next role translates to hundreds of retained employees for a 10,000-person employer” (Psychometrics, 2018).
Other research supports the notion that lack of opportunities for advancement negatively effects the workforce (Lewchuk et al., 2015). Challenges increase when compounded with low SES status, racial and gender discrimination, creating systemic barriers (Lewchuk et al., 2015). Both lack of opportunity for advancement and high-turnover rates negatively affect both businesses and employees. Another contributor to high turnover is pay rate (Psychometrics, 2018). Raising minimum wage would therefore not only help workers make ends meet but save businesses extra expenditures associated with continuously training new employees.
Lewchuk et al. (2015) say that some employers may not understand how much extra cost high-turnover can be. According to Ton (2012), often employers focus on cutting costs to elements of business that are more in their control (like payroll) because the benefits are immediate and easy to measure, over those that are not (like sales), that are more of a long-term benefit. Unfortunately, “retailers see labor as a cost driver rather than a sales driver and therefore focus on minimizing its costs” by firing workers, reducing the payroll or making workers do work on their own time (Ton, 2012). Therefore, research shows that potentially more profit can be made by businesses who offer better-quality jobs (Lewchuk et al., 2015; Ton, 2012).
There are businesses that pay their employees $15 per hour even though the new Bill 47 states it is not a requirement. On the Better Way Alliance website, one employer said that people who work 40 hours a week should not be living in poverty, and that work should help you out of poverty, rather than keep you in poverty (Better Way Alliance). Another said that they want to make sure their staff is happy and that they have the time to be with their family and be able to engage in the community (Better Way Alliance). Happy employees are said to be good for clientele and make them more trustworthy (Better Way Alliance). If people are making a fair wage, this means that there is more money in the local economy to be potentially spent on local businesses (Better Way Alliance). They also have more time available for friends and family.
Businesses who are Living Wage employers on the Better Way Alliance website maintain that the “high turn over, low pay” business model is a myth and have sought to show other businesses that investing in their employees is a better business model. Therefore, “showing employers that they can improve their bottom line by providing more secure employment opportunities and training is an important step to reducing the depth and prevalence of precarious employment” Lewchuk et al., 2015, p. 145) and its negative effects.
The high turnover, low pay business model appears on the surface to be profitable because big businesses and wealthy companies can afford to continuously train employees. It is the small businesses that are hurt most by high turnover and have a hard time absorbing the cost. For example, a local small business owner Damin Starr is quoted in Niagara this Week saying that “paying his employees a living wage makes good business sense” (Ferguson, 2019, p. 15). The article tells the story of how one of his employees went from struggling with debt and having no extracurricular activities, to being debt free and having more spare time (Ferguson, 2019). Starr explains, however, that it is more than just paying employees more money, but also “creating an environment where people don’t want to leave” (Ferguson, 2019). Starr explains how dealing with constant employee turnover took time away from his family because he had to work longer hours.
There is a persuasive argument for a shift away from the low wage high turnover business model towards a $15 and fairness business model. Contrarily, it could be said that if the $15 and fairness model is so persuasive, then why have most businesses not changed their business model and become certified? The simple answer is that change is hard and slow. Businesses tend to stick with what they know, even if it is flawed and exploits workers. Businesses do not like to take risks and tradition is likely to be a major influence in business model decisions. Also, as the research shows, managers and CEOs tend to only focus on instant results and business elements in their control, like payroll, rather than sticking it out for long term benefits (Ton, 2012). Going beyond observational explanations, perhaps companies merely follow the dominant hegemonic ideas that masquerade as truths. The high turnover, low pay business model goes unquestioned and the ‘Neoliberal Myth’ goes unchallenged. Perhaps because the low pay, high turnover business model is such a dominant cultural force, whether right or wrong, people adopt it, absorb it and embody it.
Paid sick days. Bill 148 enforced two paid sick days, which were subsequently taken away by Bill 47. In the workplace, both men and women are allowed up to 10 personal emergency-leave days. According to Part XIV of the Employment Standards Act (2000), an employee is entitled to a leave of absence for
personal illness, injury or medical emergency, [t]he death, illness, injury or medical emergency of… [t]he employee’s spouse…[a] parent, step-parent or foster parent of the employee or the employee’s spouse…[or a] child, step-child or foster child of the employee or the employee’s spouse…[or a]n urgent matter that concerns a…grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or of the employee’s spouse…[t]he spouse of a child of the employee…[t]he employee’s brother or sister…[a] relative of the employee who is dependent on the employee for care or assistance. (Employment Standards Act, SO 2000, c 41 s 50(1-2))
Women tend to have a harder time navigating only 10 days delegated to caring for or assisting all these individuals and tend to use more of these days than men, creating unequal absences from work where women lose out on pay. In January of 2018, only two sick days became eligible for pay.
Since November 22, 2018 (Bill 47), none of these personal days are paid. Even though the PEPiN (2018) survey was polled before this date, respondents complained they did not receive paid sick days. One respondent demanded “[m]ore paid sick days and other paid leaves” (p. 82) and complained of “[n]ot being able to afford taking a vacation or even being entitled to time off [and having to go] to work for a month with tonsillitis because of no paid sick days” (p. 81). Some said they were afraid to get sick and could not afford to take sick days. For example, one respondent said it was “[h]ard to plan family time [and they were a]fraid to get sick or hurt (p. 108). Another said their major challenges were “[n]o health benefits. No paid sick days. Unreliable income. Difficulty with childcare” (p. 89). Therefore, it seems that even though employees can take 10 personal days according to the Employment Standards Act, not getting paid for any of these days is having a negative effect on employees.
Scheduling. The Niagara PEPiN respondents discussed unstable scheduling as being both a major challenge and something workers wished to see changed. Regarding scheduling, Bill 47 repealed
the right to request changes to scheduling after an employee has been employed for at least 3 months; minimum 3 hours of pay for being on-call; the right to refuse requests to work or be on-call where the employee was not scheduled with less than 96 hours’ notice; 3 hours of pay where a scheduled or on-call shift is canceled within 48 hours before the shift was to begin. (Kirkness & MacMillan, 2018)
These suggestions in Bill 148 were to help mitigate the negative effects of precarious work regarding stress and anxiety produced by uncertainty of hours worked and scheduling flexibility.
A stable work schedule is important to precarious workers. For example, one Niagara PEPiN (2018) survey respondent said
have you ever worked for 2 or 3 places and been threatened with losing your job
if you couldn't be in 2 or 3 different spots at the same time cause I have.... if employers can't give you full time hours they shouldn't be able to let you go or punish you for having to work another job. (PEPiN, 2018, p. 54)
Stability of hours and scheduling would ease the stress and anxiety produced by those who must hold down more than one job to make ends meet.
When presented with this research, it is clear that Bill 47 does not protect worker’s rights and is not based in research. The only resource I can find on it is Sheppard (2018) who says
As compared with the sustained, extensive consultations and expert research which preceded Bill 148, Bill 47 appears to be a hastily drafted piece of legislation that strips important protections from workers - particularly for the least well-off workers - for the benefit of wealthy business interests with close connections to the government. (p. 1). Therefore, Bill 47 is biased towards the interest of the business over the worker, whereas Bill 148 was important for protecting worker’s rights and more sufficiently addressed their needs.
Taking the voice of precarious workers in the Niagara Region into consideration, I would like to draw attention to the political cynicism of one respondent who said that we should have “a local regional government that actually wants to help its citizens as opposed to themselves” (PEPiN, 2018, p. 6). Another wished for a way to “somehow stop companies from using loopholes, [to have] better legislation, [and] basic income…[they go on to say]…I think corruption is a major issue in Niagara government as well” (p. 30). Therefore, upon reading these responses, precarious workers feel they are being exploited. I must conclude that Bill 47 is unfair to workers and serious consideration should be made to reinstate Bill 148 because there is no current policy that sufficiently protects the rights of the worker.
Key Features of Creating Fair Policies
In this section I will review and answer some questions regarding what elements need to be addressed in order to improve the work environment for precarious workers. Three questions from Lewchuk et al. (2015) will be addressed on how to ensure fairness and security in jobs.
Some questions asked regarding policy decisions include:
- How do we adapt regulations to ensure fairness in changing employment relationships?
- How do we ensure stability for individuals between jobs in an increasingly flexible workforce?
- How do we sustain employment benefits, such as health benefits and pensions, when these are less frequently available through employers? (Lewchuk et al., 2015, p. 138)
1). Ensuring fairness between employer and employee. There are ways to adopt better regulations to ensure fairness in the workplace. For example, as discussed in detail above, a business could become a “Living Wage Employer,” which involves a certification process where they will be publicly recognized for being “responsible employers who care about their employees and the community” (Ontario Living Wage Network). Businesses who become a Living Wage Employer understand the “long-term prosperity of the economy by fostering a dedicated, skilled and healthy workforce (Ontario Live Wage Network). Boggs et al. (2018) recommend adopting “business models that avoid dependence on employment precarity” (p. 76), so becoming a Living Wage Employer may help reduce the amount of precarious work and ensure fairness between employer and employee.
Boggs et al. (2018) provide suggestions regarding ensuring family-friendly working arrangements such as offering “telecommuting, part-time, and flex-time options for new parents” (p. 73). This could allow for more time spent with friends, family and within the community.
Creating a mentorship program was also suggested in Boggs et al. (2018) to provide “support in adopting practices that reduce the effects of employment precarity” (p. 73). This could involve holding regular meetings with staff to work with them “to map out their careers, expectations and goals” (p. 73). This could help adapt fair regulations between employer and employee because the voice of the worker will be taken into consideration. The workers could be encouraged to “apply for internal jobs and [employers could] grant them interviews” (Boggs et al., 2018, p. 73). Mentoring could increase worker participation and help with job retention because little chance for advancement in the workplace is a major reason why people quit their jobs (Lewchuk et al., 2015).
Boggs et al. (2018) also suggest to “standardize work to support efficiency but empower workers to make decisions to improve the work and customer satisfaction” (p. 73). This recommendation is good because the worker is given some power in decision making, helping to foster a positive relationship between the employer and employee.
2). Ensuring stability between jobs. In part one of this MRP, I discussed the many dimensions of labour market flexibility including wage flexibility, employment flexibility, job flexibility, and skill flexibility. In response to the growing flexibility and precarity of jobs, the European Union (EU) has reached consensus to implement a strategy called “flexicurity” which aims to increase secure contractual arrangements with contracts that benefit both the employer and employee and implement labour market policies and social support systems that provide adequate income support during job transitions (Lewchuk et al., 2015; Spidla & Larcher, 2008). Canada too, could implement a flexicurity strategy.
Flexicurity arrangements may sound like a good response to flexibility but the strategy ultimately supports the concept of workforce flexibility by providing assistance during ‘inevitable’ job changes and therefore, does nothing to change the nature of precarity inherent in these jobs. Therefore, flexicurity strategies may improve stability between jobs, but are ultimately a band-aid solution because jobs remain precarious.
Another element to consider regarding helping individuals make ends meet between jobs is easier access to EI. As stated in part one, ever since the requirements for qualification for Employment Insurance went from a weekly to an hourly quota, many women no longer qualified for this benefit (Gazso, 2010; Wallis & Kwok, 2008). EI is an important factor in income stability for those engaged in contract and seasonal work. Perhaps going back to a weekly quota for qualification could help. Bringing the compensated earnings back up to 60% (or greater) from the current 55% would also be helpful in providing income stability for workers in an increasingly flexible workforce.
As of Tuesday March 19, a new component has been added to the 2019 Canadian Budget called the Canadian Training Credit, which is a tax-free training package available for workers between the ages of 25-64 (Wall, 2019). Each year $250 is available to the individual to a lifetime maximum budget of $5000.00. This training package also includes up to four weeks of income support from EI (Wall, 2019). According to the Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, this will help workers because it “will give working Canadians greater confidence about their ability to provide for their families down the road [and will also help employers because] it will mean a workforce that has the skills and confidence needed to help grow the businesses, and our economy” (Wall, 2019). Lewchuk et al. (2015) state that “employers in all sectors could benefit from more skilled and engaged workers, resulting in increased competitiveness and profitability” (p. 139). Therefore, the Canadian Training Credit could be beneficial for helping individuals survive between jobs and for providing a skilled workforce.
The training package money offered in the budget, however, is linked to EI. Consequently, the individual may have to be working in order to access the money. When benefits are tied into EI, it poses more problems for women, who are, as said in part one, “being systematically made ineligible [for] Employment Insurance” (Wallis & Kwok, 2008, p. 9). This gendered pattern of eligibility could further contribute to the feminization of poverty and the deskilling of women because now they are not only ineligible for EI but cannot access money for training. Also, because strict EI eligibility requirements have disrupted the training system, [o]nly 20% of unemployed workers in Toronto, and 21% in Hamilton, had access to Employment Insurance benefits (in 2014) and the active training measures associated with Employment Insurance” (Lewchuk, et al., 2015, p. 142).
It is good to see that the federal government is adding a training benefit opportunity because it could help address the 40% decline in employer investment in training between 1993 to 2013 (Lewchuk, et al., 2015), but reconsideration of the qualifications for EI should be discussed. At the time I am writing this, the 2019 budget is still in the proposal stage and is therefore not official policy yet. The branches of government are still working out the details regarding how best to implement the training benefit and what the qualifications are going to be to access the money.
Another suggestion for helping workers between jobs is the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB), which is a “refundable tax credit that provides tax relief for eligible low-income individuals and families who are in the workforce” (Government of Canada). This is a helpful suggestion because over two-thirds (69%) of the precarious workers in Niagara are in low-income households (Boggs et al., 2018). However, the WITB does not help the precarious worker that represents over half (56%) of middle-class households nor does it help the one-third (35%) of the precarious workers in Niagara who come from high-income households (Boggs et al., 2018).
More research needs to be done on how to properly ensure stability for workers in between jobs. Until the qualifications for EI are made easier, especially for women, having Training Benefits attached to EI should be reconsidered.
3). Addressing the lack of health benefits. The lack of health benefits and pension plans contribute to anxiety and increases instability in precarious workers. Not only have benefits been requested by precarious and vulnerable workers in the Niagara Region, but also in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton area (Lewchuk et al., 2015), London (LPRC, 2018) and in Peterborough (PERI, 2018). In the PEPiN (2018) survey, one respondent asked for a “Canada-wide prescription drug plan, [m]ore employer-paid pensions and other financial contributions (e.g. RRSP)” (p. 82). Another asked for a “public benefit option” (PEPiN, 2018, p. 35).
Addressing the problem of lack of benefits supplied by employers, the Public Policy Forum of Canada have suggested a “nimble benefits and pension system that is tied to the worker rather than the employer and ensures ease of access, portability, coverage and generosity” (Johal & Cukier, 2019, p. 1). A cost-benefit analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of a portable benefits package has yet to be fully developed, but a lot of work has gone into researching its potential viability. According to the report by Johal and Cukier (2019), precarious employment accounts for “60% of job growth…since the mid-1990’s [and] these positions tend to have far less access to pensions and benefits” (p. 2). Three quarters of full-time employees in SER job relationships receive health benefits and over half have a pension plan, compared to less than a quarter (23%) of precarious workers receiving health benefits and 16.6% with a pension plan (Johal & Cukier, 2019).
Hanauer and Rolf (2017) discuss something called a Shared Security System, which is a portable benefits package option in the United States where workers accrue benefits on an hourly basis, whether part-time or full-time, and the employer pays a reasonable rate to the institution or bank of the worker’s choice. This way it is portable and more easily accessed by the individual. Hanauer and Rolf (2017) say that precarious work has created a disruption in the employer-employee relationship and decry that,
there was once an understanding that the benefits of growing labor productivity would be shared with the workers who created it. But while productivity has continued to rise, most of the profits over the past few decades have accrued to CEOs and their shareholders, while most of the disruption from the historic transformation of globalization, automation, and the financialization of the economy has been shouldered by workers and their families. And little has proven more disruptive than the transformation of the employment relationship between corporations and their workers—particularly low-wage workers.
A Shared Security System could help reduce exploitation and help balance out the power dynamics between employer and employee because the worker is given some peace of mind that benefits can still be available, even after layoffs. Taking the worker’s dependence on the employer for benefits can help foster a fair and respectful relationship between the worker and the business. Power dynamics between the employer and employee can also be reduced if more businesses become Living Wage Employers because then the labour productivity would be more adequately shared with the worker.
When developing a portable benefits plan, there are many things to consider including the scope and range of what kinds of benefits should be offered. For example, does it include a skill training fund, who manages the package, and what barriers would there be to its implementation (Johal & Cukier, 2019)?
Regarding who manages the package, if employers do not, this leaves the private sector and the government. I suggest that the worker, the private sector and the government could each play a role. For example, it would make more sense for the private sector, rather than the government to negotiate the relationship with the employees to manage the specifics of their portable benefits package. Perhaps insurance companies could be added to the list of a qualified financial institution that could manage portable benefits packages. Perhaps they can expand their repertoire to include coverage for medical prescriptions, dental, optical etc. These options could even be added to personalized life insurance plans where the individual can pick which benefits suit them best. Then the government could reimburse or provide tax deductions either to the individual or to the insurance companies to help compensate for the extra costs.
If the employer cannot be taken out of the equation, then perhaps a health benefits account to which both the employer and the worker contribute can be created. This could be housed in the institution or bank of the worker’s choice. It would be similar to a Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) but be for on-going use for the purpose of health benefits. If the worker is laid off, the money in this health benefits account can be managed by the individual. We could call it a Personal Portable Benefits Account (PPBA). Taxes on the money in a CPP account are paid when the money is taken out, but many people have a hard time accessing these funds (Retire Happy Canada). If the government could look at the newly suggested PPBA account less as a retirement package and more of an ‘in-use’ benefits plan, then this could allow for easier access to the funds and fewer penalties. The question of whether it is taxable when accessed is the next question to address.
Implementing a portable benefits package raises the question of how the government fits into the relationship. If the employer is involved, then it would be optimal for the government to reimburse the employer for managing the package. If the employer is not involved, it would be optimal for the government to provide some sort of compensation or tax benefit to ease the burden on the already burdened workers for managing the account. Perhaps when the individual accesses the funds in the PPBA, the government could offer it as tax free or at a reduced tax rate.
Boggs et al. (2018) review some important suggestions regarding benefits such as “having employers pay wages equivalent to wages plus worth of benefits generally paid for the position” (Boggs et al., 2018, p. 74). They also suggest expanding OHIP to include the coverage of health benefits and implementing tax measures or compensation for employers to make offering health benefits more advantageous. These are viable suggestions because if stable work improves general health, then in the long run, the extra money spent on providing benefits could be balanced out by money saved in the health care system. For example, the many factors involved in precarious work contribute to an array of negative health effects (Lewchuk et al., 2008; Young, 2010). Addressing factors such as lack of benefits that contribute to stress and anxiety, could ease the burden on the health care system because workers will be healthier and happier in their jobs and less likely to get ill. Therefore, if the general health of employees is improved from reduced stress, the PPBA account or the expansion of OHIP to include health benefits could eventually pay for itself, justifying the extra cost to the government for providing social services for precarious workers.
In conclusion, I will summarize the questions posed by Lewchuck et al. (2015) that discuss fairness between the employer and employee, the need for stability between jobs and health benefits. First, as I have argued, if companies and businesses can adopt regulations to ensure fairness in changing employment relationships by becoming a Living Wage Employer. There is a link to an instructional PDF on the website which can be accessed through this link provided http://www.livingwageforfamilies.ca/become_a_living_wage_employer which explains the process of certification. If businesses viewed employees as assets, this model can work towards community building between workers and employees. Businesses can also ensure fair business-worker relationships by committing to make improvements to family-friendly arrangements by “offering telecommuting, part-time, and flex-time options for new parents” (Boggs et al., 2018, p. 73), increasing the worker participation and voice at the workplace with regular group meetings, and mentorship programs (Boggs et al., 2018).
Regarding ensuring stability for individuals between jobs in an increasingly flexible workforce, we can implement a flexicurity program, and advocate for easier access to Employment Insurance for those who engage in contract or seasonal work. In the 2019 Budget, the government has added a Canadian Training Benefit package that includes EI assistance, which will also help individuals make ends meet and ensure stability between jobs. We can also sustain employment benefits, such as health benefits by creating a Portable Benefits package to which both the employer and worker contribute, which is managed by a financial institution where the individual has easy access, and which is therefore tied to the individual rather than the employer.
Policy Recommendations and Their Viability
The next section of this paper will look at some of the policy recommendations by Lewchuk et al. (2015) and Boggs et al. (2018). Reviewing these suggestions while keeping in mind the voice of the PEPiN (2018) survey respondents, I will look at some policy suggestions and consider their viability. Lewchuk et al. (2015) have provided 28 recommendations to help build a more “dynamic labour market that supports workers in precarious employment” (p. 140), which may help alleviate the burden of precarious work on the workers. I will not discuss all of them but will provide them in the Appendix for review. I will discuss recommendations one through six, eight, 12, 16, 18, 20, 21 and 22 but not necessarily in that order.
The first recommendation is that all levels of government work together more coherently to “implement comprehensive, coordinated and integrated workforce-development strategies” (Lewchuk et al., 2015, p.141) and the third recommendation discusses providing “training opportunities for those in insecure employment” (p. 142). Both recommendations are important to the newly proposed 2019 training benefits package because training and education are linked to provincial government and the federal government needs to consult the provincial governments to see if workers can take “re-education breaks without forfeiting their job” (Walkom, 2019). This may require changing provincial labour laws. Therefore, there seems to be a disconnect between federal and provincial governments, preventing the flow of funding to the workers. I support the recommendation for better co-ordination in creating workforce-development strategies and training packages but have doubts if these levels of government can collaborate amicably (no one likes to be told how to spend their money).
Recommendation four (Lewchuk et al., 2015) suggests that the government provides easier access to training funds for precarious workers. Before the 2019 budget, there were two funding agreements between the federal and provincial governments where the federal government provides training funds to Ontario (Lewchuk et al., 2015). For example, the Canada-Ontario Labour Market Development Agreement, provides funds for training, but only for those who are eligible for EI (Government of Canada, 2019). This brings us back to the problem of strict eligibility requirements which leaves many precarious workers out of funding support from EI and without access to training funds. Therefore, I met with the local federal MP Chris Bittle on April 19, 2019 to add my concerns about having training funds tied to EI, suggest easier eligibility requirements for EI and ask if they would consider providing subsidies to companies that employ a living wage business model. He said he will consider all these suggestions.
The Canada-Ontario Job Fund (COJF), renegotiated in 2014, was set up for marginalized or vulnerable persons so they can have funding for training (Lewchuk et al., 2015). However, there is not a lot of funding allotted to this program by the federal or provincial government and the precariousness of jobs endures even when policies of non-discrimination are implemented (Vosko et al., 2009). Lewchuk et al. (2015) state that there needs to be more support targeted at precarious workers “to capture the unique needs of those in short-term contract and temporary work” (p. 143). The lack of policy protecting the rights of workers and the increase of precarity in jobs creates the need for more funding and training programs. I might suggest that increasing the stability of jobs could result in money saved by the government on funding packages.
There is, however, provincial funding available for workers in Ontario who are between jobs for training and education purposes. For example, the Second Career Program can provide up to $28,000 for tuition and school supplies, including a maximum of $410 per week for living costs. This funding is not tied to EI, even though people who are on EI or have been in the past are still eligible for the Second Career Program (Ontario, 2019). This is one program available, but unfortunately the training programs have “limited reach” because according to the PEPSO survey “less than 5% of workers in precarious employment [from the Greater Toronto-Hamilton area] received government-funded training (Lewchuk, et al., 2015, p. 142). Therefore, even though there are training packages available, not many can access them and many more do not know they are even available to them.
Providing training opportunities is a good recommendation, but according to Boggs et al. (2018) “over one-fifth of Niagara Region’s precariously employed hold a university degree” (p. 70). On the PEPiN (2018) on-line survey, one respondent said, “I have numerous post secondary degrees, but they don’t matter there is (sic) no jobs” (p. 20). Another said “[b]enefits and/or high pay aren’t even necessary at this point but seem like an unachievable dream. I also have 2 university degrees” (p. 4). Therefore, policies that focus on post secondary education may not necessarily translate into upward mobility or guarantee jobs to those with university degrees and are therefore not addressing the problem of precarious work (Boggs et al, 2018).
The third recommendation also discusses the need for training programs to be linked to job placement opportunities or job openings for them to be effective (Lewchuk, et al., 2015). This recommendation may help address the problem that jobs are not commensurate with their education. Looking into this further, the Hospitality Workers Training Centre (HWTC) may be a good model for training because it works with both employers and workers to provide skills necessary for the hospitality industry. Focusing on Torontonians, the HWTC’s goal is to
provide free of cost training to new entrants and existing workers for employment and career development. Our goal is to strengthen the workforce of our city’s hospitality industry by connecting people in need of employment to job opportunities – through high-quality training and strong partnerships with the industry. (Hospitality Workers Training Centre)
The HWTC provides workers with job placements and businesses gain skilled employees.
Therefore, Training Centres like this can foster fair and respectful relationships between employers and employees.
The hospitality industry is growing in Toronto (Hospitality Workers Training Centre), but the largest employer in Canada is the retail and wholesale sector (Statistics Canada). Perhaps more training centres that work like HWTC could be established that collaborate with businesses involved in retail to target the sector that provides the most jobs.
Other than hospitality and retail, the most “in-demand” careers of the future will require skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) (Career Vision). This trend is recognized in the 2019 Budget through the Work Integrated Learning Program (WIL). The WIL program aims to create over “11,500 paid student work placements” by 2021 and works with Employer Delivery Partners who “are a group of recognized associations and organizations that represent the interests of employers in industries” (Government of Canada, 2019).
What is particularly impressive about this program is that it provides subsidies to businesses who provide students with good quality jobs (Government of Canada, 2019). This is important because youth are significantly more involved in precarious work (Allan et al., 2004; LPRC, 2018) and alongside women, youth are most likely to experience mental and physical stress through their engagement in precarious work (Cottrill, 2017; OFL, 2017). Moreover, youth and students are the most likely to be exploited in their precarious positions (Allan, et al., 2004). Therefore, offering subsides to businesses to offer decent jobs to students is important for addressing this issue. Knowing there is a better-quality job at the end of schooling is good motivation for the student.
In order to provide more Training Centres that provide job opportunities, Lewchuk et al. (2015) say that employers, labour representatives and stakeholders all need to work together to develop these programs to make sure everyone’s interests are considered. Whereas this may sound good on paper, creating more Training Centres and putting programs like this into practice could be costly and time consuming. Communicating across sectors runs the risk of communication breakdown. However, out of the 28 recommendations made by Lewchuk et al., 2015, providing more training opportunities and funding benefits seems like a viable suggestion. It could mitigate the precarity in work because if there are job placement opportunities linked to the training programs, the employers get a more skilled workforce and workers get more stable jobs, provided they are aware of the opportunities available to them.
Recommendation five reiterates the importance of collaboration in creating training programs (Lewchuk et al., 2015) and recommendation 20 states that “[t]he provincial government should use the opportunity provided by the Labour Relations Act review to assess how voice at work is enabled for those in precarious employment” (p. 154). Voice and collaboration are key to fostering a fair and respectful relationship between the employer and employee. Training Centres that work together with employers show collaboration and benefit all parties involved. However, when it comes to successful collaboration, I have some ethical concerns and some reservations.
When collaboration occurs, it is usually
between those who have power. The voice of the worker is often ignored or
missing from the program or policy development process, especially the
precarious worker. Policies and processes for accommodation are often made
without the collaboration of the members of group in question. For example,
procedures for accessing accommodations at universities for those with learning
disabilities negatively affect those seeking accommodation because the policies
are degrading, at the expense of the individual, and ignore obvious power
imbalances in the accommodation procedure (Hibbs & Pothier, 2006; Myers,
MacDonald, Jaquard, & McNeil, 2014). Bringing the point back to precarious
work, here is the full quote from one of the PEPiN (2018) respondents from
above: They wished for
somehow stopping companies from using loopholes, [have] better legislation, [and] basic income. There's (sic) so many people in precarious work that we would have the power to force change but we're all too busy working multiple jobs for little money that people feel powerless…We need to help the people of these communities, it's like those in power are so far separated and privileged they have no idea what most are going through. (PEPiN, 2018, p. 30)
I find this individual raises a valid point. Those in power most likely
come from well-off families and make policy decisions for those in other social
locations, not truly understanding their situation or what they are going
According to the field of Gender Studies, an iconic piece called “The Problem of Speaking for Others” stresses that it is problematic for those from the dominant culture, or those from privileged positions to ‘speak for’ or ‘speak about’ those who are marginalized (Alcoff, 1991-1992). She goes on to talk about the location in which those in prominent positions speak about the ‘other.’ This is important because places like parliament or even at the front of a lecture hall are laden with hidden and assumed power differentials (Alcoff, 1991-1992). It could be said that those in prominent positions are speaking for the ‘other’ when they are not incorporating the precarious worker’s voice into the policy making process. This is why in this paper I, intend to tell the stories of the precarious worker and focus on reporting the requests of the survey respondents the best I can.
As of April 1, 2019, there are 335 current members of parliament, or MPs who are employed by the federal government (House of Commons), 105 senators employed by the federal government (Senate of Canada), 124 MPPs (Members of Provincial Parliament) employed provincially by Ontario (Legislative Assembly of Ontario), and 125 regional and municipal councillors in the Niagara Region alone (Culic, 2016) who are paid by the regional and municipal governments respectively. This is not including any of the other provinces or the other regions and municipalities in Ontario. Leaving the math up to the reader, there are a lot of political representatives across four levels of government. The more politicians and the more levels of government, the harder it will be to collaborate effectively.
More funding for research is Lewchuk et al. (2015) recommendation two stating that: “The federal government should take the lead in helping all sectors better understand the trends that are impacting the labour market, especially in regards (sic) to precarious employment, by funding Statistics Canada to collect better-quality labour-market information” (p. 141). Boggs et al., suggest a similar recommendation to further research and use case studies to raise awareness of what programs are “successful alternatives to precarious employment-based human research management and business models in industrial sectors characterized by a strong incidence of precarious employment” (p. 75). Ignoring the years of research that went into Bill 148 was a mistake when hastily replacing it with Bill 47. Therefore, conducting representative research is critical in creating policy/Bills regarding work and labour. The research must survey the target population of precarious workers.
Representative research is important, but it is also necessary to think about how it is going to be taught. For example, the teaching of business models that are worker and family friendly at secondary and post-secondary institutions is critical for creating a paradigm shift in how we engage and understand work. Business classes should teach the importance of long-term benefits and how it is more beneficial in the long run to keep your employees happy, over instant easy fixes like cutting payroll. These business classes could also use business models that highlight the “financial benefits and government support for creating full-time as opposed to par-time positions” (Boggs et al., 2018, p. 77). Business models that care about the employee and want them to have time for friends, family and community may pave the way for better employee/employer relations.
There is also a need for research to focus on intersectionality as marginalized and racialized groups are more likely to be engaged in precarious work (Boggs et al., 2018; Clement, Mathieu, Prus & Uckardesler, 2009; Gazso, 2010; Gupta, 2008; Premji, Shakya, Spasevski, Merolli, & Athar, 2014, p. 123). Specific recommendations include
- Make such groups more accessible to ameliorative measures, or education and training;
- Identify possible instances of systemic discrimination that need to be addressed with awareness, education, and monitoring;
- Identify features that may relate to vicious cycles of poverty that can be broken. (Boggs et al., 2018, p. 75)
In line with Boggs et al. (2018), recommendation eight of PEPSO discusses discrimination which suggests there should be an “examination of systemic barriers—of race, gender and [family status] (Lewchuk et al., 2015, p. 147). This recommendation suggests that businesses should include these issues in their “employment and labour standards review, employment services and training review, and wage-gap strategy” (p.147). This would be important for learning where the problems lie in order to fix them.
I would not know, however, how to implement these recommendations of PEPSO and PEPiN. What would these suggestions entail? What would a report that included these elements look like? Would businesses look at the resumes of applicants that were of colour and note how many they failed to hire? Would this require an external consultant to be hired to aid in the reporting of intersectionality and systemic barriers? If systemic features of poverty and discrimination are identified by a worker, who do they tell? If a worker complains about discrimination and systemic barriers to their place of work, there are certain power relations at play that disadvantage the worker. Also, if there is the problem regarding racialized women experiencing more discrimination in hiring and employment opportunities due to their gender, ethnicity and class (Premji et al., 2014; Gazso, 2010; Clement, Mathieu, Prus & Uckardesler, 2009; Gupta, 2008), then there may be fewer persons of colour represented in the workplace and finding meaningful data on race/ethnicity and precarious work may be hard to attain.
I support the need for more funding for training programs and agree that more research should be funded that incorporates the voice and face of precarious workers. However, I cannot resist pointing out that so far, the recommendations have been coming from well-off, educated and secure workers and in the end, the funding for better research would go to those in the well-off, secure, researching jobs.
Getting back to the major concerns raised by the PEPiN (2018) survey respondents, Lewchuk et al. (2015) recommendations 12, 21, 22, 16, and 18 become particularly relevant. For example, recommendation 12 states that “[t]he provincial government and employers are urged to consider the amount of notice given to workers regarding their shifts” (p. 149). This directly addresses the need for schedule stability expressed by Niagara women in the PEPiN (2018) survey who reported significantly more disrupted time with friends and family due to scheduling uncertainty.
Social engagement is important to women involved in precarious work and therefore recommendations 21 and 22 are also very important. Recommendation 21 states that “[t]he federal government could address the needs of parents in precarious employment by exploring parental-leave options that better align Employment Insurance with today’s labour market” (p. 156). Knowing that the qualifications for EI are strict and prevent many women from accessing its funds, I support this recommendation. We shall see if Chris Bittle looks into easier access.
Recommendation 22 states that “Governments are encouraged to develop a flexible, accessible, affordable, licensed, safe and high-quality childcare system—set up and funded as to enable precariously employed parents and their partners to work” (Lewchuk et al., 2015, p. 157). This has been a suggestion made before and the government has yet to provide federally funded childcare. If there was easy, affordable, safe childcare we would see a dramatic increase of women engaging in the workforce and perhaps a decrease in the wage gap. Along these lines, when a child falls ill, it is more likely the mother that sacrifices work hours for her family. This is why I also support recommendation 18 which states that “[e]mployers in all sectors and the provincial government should consider taking steps to better support workers’ needs relating to unexpected absences” (Lewchuk et al., 2015, p. 153). Providing paid sick days is important to precarious workers.
Recommendation 16 states that “[t]he provincial government should accelerate implementation of its commitment to expand access to prescription drug benefits for low-income Ontarians” (p. 152). This recommendation addresses the expressed need for more health benefits in the PEPiN (2018) survey. If employers no longer offer benefit packages, the provincial government should look into filling in this gap. This recommendation may be viable but getting banks and/or insurance companies involved along with government subsidies for portable benefits packages would take a lot of time and planning to actualize.
The problem, therefore, remains of how to implement these strategies and recommendations. There is doubt whether those who oversee creating and enforcing policies will consider and implement policies that protect the rights of the worker. For example, according to the Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) article IIA entitled Identifying Vulnerable Workers and Precarious Work, there are certain themes that reinforce vulnerability of those engaged in precarious work (LCO). One of these themes may have to do with the regulatory body in charge of developing policies. Themes found are:
i) a lack of knowledge by both employers and employees of employee rights and employer responsibilities; ii) the lack of an expeditious method of complaint resolution; iii) barriers to the enforcement of workers’ rights; and iv) the need for more broadly applicable basic minimum employment rights. There is significant concern, in particular, about the lack of representation for workers or workers’ “voice” among those in precarious work. There is awareness of the changing nature of work, but some question as to whether the existing regulatory regime is responsive to this change. (LCO, IIA)
Therefore, there needs to be more awareness about worker rights, more representative research and more responsiveness from those in charge of policy to create and implement policies that mitigate the negative effects of precarious work.
I am hesitant to recommend sending these issues of precarious work to an advisory council because, in my opinion, they do not always produce successful results, especially if committees and/or advisory councils do not include those who are engaged in precarious work and if there are too many recommendations. For example, in 2018 Canadian advisory council’s final report called the Charlevoix report, included 60 recommendations for the G7 (Wright, 2019). When reviewing the report, France’s ambassador to Canada, Kareen Rispal was impressed that it addressed “everything,” but suggested that “maybe there were too many recommendations…[which would be] very difficult to keep track of all of those many recommendations [and would be] a huge amount of work” (Wright, 2019). France has announced that the council has narrowed the focus to three areas. I am surprised that one of these recommendations is not to examine the nature of precarious work and how it creates gender inequality and violates social justice BUT I appreciate the idea of narrowing down recommendations. When reviewing the research and recommendations, I have noticed that there is a theme regarding the inclusion of the precarious worker’s voice and will therefore turn to what the Niagara survey respondents said they wished to see changed for my final section on policy recommendations.
Suggested Policy Recommendations
All recommendations suggested here are valid and some more viable than others but the ones I advocate most for I will narrow down to four. I will focus on the requests of the PEPiN survey respondents regarding work/scheduling stability, benefits and paid sick days in my policy recommendations.
Policy recommendation 1). Lewchuk et al. (2015) suggest that training opportunities linked to job placements is a good place to start toward job stability and has the bonus of creating a more skilled workforce. Training funds should be dependent on EI qualifications, and should be made available to workers both between jobs and while employed without the threat of losing their position.
Policy recommendation 2). Considering remedies regarding the gender inequality inherent in precarious work, in order to address the feminization of poverty and minimize the wage gap, there needs to be more consideration and understanding regarding unexpected absences (Lewchuk et al., 2015, recommendation 21) and affordable, federally funded, safe childcare should be provided (recommendation 22).
Policy recommendation 3). Both Lewchuk et al (2015) and Boggs et al. (2018) suggest looking into health benefits that seem to be provided less and less by employers, which is another area in which precarious workers wish to see changes. Serious consideration and research should be done to provide Portable Benefits Packages.
Policy recommendation 4). Boggs et al. (2018) recommend looking at scheduling and how to make schedules and hours more consistent and Lewchuk et al. (2015) suggest consideration of notice given to employees regarding their shifts. This recommendation can help address the lack of family and community engagement experienced by precarious workers, especially women in the Niagara Region. It appears there are no existing policies that sufficiently protect workers’ rights or protect them from the negative effects of precarious work. Bill 148 was on the right track in providing many of the key elements precarious workers ask for, such as more stability of hours, more stable scheduling, more pay and more paid sick days. Therefore, my fourth recommendation is to seriously reconsider Bill 148, in particular the first item of raising minimum wage to $14.00 per hour in 2018, until January 1, 2019, when it was to increase to $15, the right to two paid sick days (and perhaps more) and
the right to request changes to scheduling after an employee has been employed for at least 3 months; minimum 3 hours of pay for being on-call; the right to refuse requests to work or be on-call where the employee was not scheduled with less than 96 hours’ notice; 3 hours of pay where a scheduled or on-call shift is canceled within 48 hours before the shift was to begin. (Kirkness & MacMillan, 2018)
When looking at policy recommendations, those that protect the rights of the worker, those that have the potential to ameliorate the negative effects of precarious work, and those that were requested directly from the workers were those considered most important. Not only should more training opportunities be created that lead to job opportunities, but we need to look into how to implement portable benefits packages and revisit the research behind Bill 148 that allowed for stable scheduling and paid sick days. With the implementation of these policy recommendations, we could mitigate the negative effects of precarious work.
Part One. In the first part of my MRP project, I made the case that policy changes are needed to protect the rights of the worker because precarious work creates undue hardship to specific groups such as women, mothers (especially single mothers and women of colour). Precarious workers delay forming relationships and families, it prevents attendance of social activities with family and friends, contributes to the feminization of poverty and is correlated with a variety of negative health effects (Boggs, et al, 2018; Bose & Whalely, 2012; Burke, 2017; Gasper, 2012; Gazso, 2010; Lewchuk et al, 2015; LPRC, 2018; Lewchuk et al., 2008; Moyser, 2017; PERI, 2018; Shaw & Lee, 2012; Wallis & Kwok, 2008; Young, 2010). Significantly more women in Niagara complain of unstable work scheduling affecting their ability to spend time with friends and family. Since the distribution of wealth is not fair and compassionate to everyone at all levels of society, precarious work violates the definitions of social justice.
Part Two. Businesses that follow a low pay, high turnover business model are not in the public interest, nor do they foster fair and respectful relationships between employers and employees. Bills and policies are unbalanced and favour the political/business interests over the interests of the worker and there is currently no policy that sufficiently protects the rights of the worker. This can be seen through changes made on Bill 148 resulting in Bill 47 where minimum wage was stalled at $14, scheduling remains flexible and all paid sick days were revoked. This is not in line with what precarious workers say they want to see changed, which is more pay, more stability in work, more stable schedules and more paid sick days (Boggs et al., 2018; Lewchuk et al., 2015; LRPC, 2018; PERI, 2018).
The two years of research that resulted in the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 (Bill 148) was ignored and Bill 47 was made in haste, without conducting research (Sheppard, 2018). This addresses recommendation two by Lewchuk et al. (2015) that suggests there be “better-quality labour-market information” and research funding for Statistics Canada (p. 141) for research that takes the voice of the precarious worker into consideration. Representative research and voice are of the utmost importance in creating policies that protect the rights of the worker.
Other policy recommendations were made for mitigating the negative effects of precarious work such as the development of Training Benefits and packages as a way to provide security in jobs, and for the development of Training Centres that provide job opportunities, how to implement Portable Benefits Packages that are tied to the worker, rather than the employer to provide needed health benefits for those engaged in precarious work, federally funded childcare, easier access to EI, and recommendations for policy to offer stable scheduling, notice and paid sick days. With the implementation of these policy recommendations, we may see work become more stable, resulting in more time available for friends, family and community engagement, more fair and equal distribution of wealth and an overall improvement in physical and mental health.
Limitations and Suggestions for Future Research
Limitations. Precarious work is unfair, not only to women and mothers, but also to women of colour, but unfortunately in the local Niagara dataset, there were only three participants that identified as a person of colour. Therefore, I could not generate meaningful inferences from the statistics regarding race or ethnicity. Future research should be conducted in more diverse locations and should make the effort of getting representative data on ethnicity and precarious work. Perhaps more incentives could be offered so more persons of colour would participate in research. Research continues to be focused on the experiences of whiteness and heterosexuality and should consist more of studies and experiments that look at intersectionality.
Looking at other ways in which precarious work is unfair by discussing how precarious work discriminates on the grounds of age and citizenship were not included in this MRP. Immigrants and migrant workers are likely to be engaged in precarious work and immigrants are the least likely to be hired due to the devaluing of their education, lack of access to professional training, language barriers and the lack of poorly defined “Canadian experience” (Gupta, 2008, p. 147). Precarious work discriminates on the grounds of age because children and youth are also affected. Children are affected vicariously through their parents or mothers, especially if they are single parents. Teens are over-represented in precarious work and are the most likely to be exploited in their jobs (Allan et al., 2004; LPRC, 2018; PERI, 2018).
This paper is also limited because attitudinal barriers to why precarious work exists and why it persists were not included. Fortunately, in my PhD I will be looking at how children and youth are affected by precarious work and will be deconstructing and reconstructing some attitudinal barriers that hinder a positive relationship between love and work.
Some other areas that this paper did not look into that could use more research are ideas such as daycare facilities in workplaces, shift sharing, telecommuting and flex-time. A new understanding of when, where and how work can be done could allow more women to work at night and/or from home, potentially easing the burden on new parents. Going further with this, I did not investigate ideologies, structures and discourses that affect those involved in precarious work such as patriarchy, neoliberalism and individualism. This MRP is ultimately limited because the assumption that neoliberal capitalism is the most appropriate system in which to do business was not overtly challenged.
Suggestions for future research and activism. Some suggestions for future research are to seek to fill in the gaps mentioned above, especially regarding intersectionality. Once these gaps are filled, perhaps there will be enough clout to take action against precarious work. For example, a case could be compiled against precarious work at the Canadian Tribunal of Human Rights to ask for remedies such as more social services to help those in precarious work and those between jobs, federally-funded universal childcare, easier access to Employment Insurance, easier access to welfare, easier access to professional training, easier access to language classes, and a more detailed definition of ‘Canadian experience.’
A case could also be filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to ask for
remedies such as more paid sick days, more predictable schedules, schedules available earlier, more stable work hours, more notice for layoffs, more full-time jobs with benefits, and fair pay. Taking the case of precarious work to the Human Rights Tribunals would be activism in the form of social justice to advocate for social and policy reform.
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Figure 1: Job insecurity in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton area (Lewchuk et al., 2015).
What is your gender identity? * How often does uncertainty over your work schedule prevent you from doing things with friends and family that are fun?
Never rarely sometimes often always Total
What is your gender male 99 82 94 35 5 315
female 173 83 90 34 12 392
Total 272 165 184 69 17 707
What is your gender identity? * How often does uncertainty over your work schedule prevent you from doing things with friends and family that are fun?
Chi Square Tests
Value df (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 14.913ª 4 0.005
Likelihood Ratio 15.063 4 0.005
Linear-by-Linear 5.688 1 0.017
N of Valid Cases 707
ª 0 cells (0.0%) have expected count less than 5. The minimum expected count is 7.57.
What is your gender identity * Between April 1st of 2016 and March 31 of 2017, how often did uncertainty of your work schedule prevent you doing things with friends or family?
Never rarely sometimes often always Total
What is your gender male 107 99 80 29 1 316
female 179 90 85 33 7 394
Total 286 189 165 62 8 710
What is your gender identity * Between April 1st of 2016 and March 31 of 2017, how often did uncertainty of your work schedule prevent you doing things with friends or family?
Chi Square Tests
Value df (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 15.077ª 4 0.005
Likelihood Ratio 15.637 4 0.004
Linear-by-Linear 2.538 1 0.111
N of Valid Cases 710
ª 2 cells (20.0%) have expected count less than 5. The minimum expected count is 3.56.
List of 28 Recommendations (Lewchuk et al., 2015, p. 138-147)
Recommendation 1: All levels of government need to take further steps to develop and implement comprehensive, coordinated and integrated workforce-development strategies that are sector-specific and that address the unique needs of workers in precarious employment…
Recommendation 2: The federal government should take the lead in helping all sectors better understand the trends that are impacting the labour market, especially in regards (sic) to precarious employment, by funding Statistics Canada to collect better-quality labour-market information...
Recommendation 3: All sectors need to prioritize training and ensure that training is embedded within a workforce-development strategy that connects with real employment opportunities and that meets the unique needs of workers in precarious employment...
Recommendation 4: Governments should explore how to improve access to government-provided training and how to better support access to employer-provided training for those in insecure employment…
Recommendation 5: All sectors need to give more consideration to career-laddering opportunities for workers in precarious employment, as part of new workforce-development strategies that include attention to skills accreditation...
Recommendation 6: All sectors are encouraged to develop a Canadian-based business case on how more secure employment can benefit their business objectives. Business cases could showcase promising practices that employers from all sectors can utilize to reduce or mitigate precarious employment…
Recommendation 7: All sectors should assess how they can contribute in the effort to build awareness of discrimination within the labour market—not only in hiring, but also in retaining and advancing qualified workers who are racialized, women and/or immigrants...
Recommendation 8: The provincial government should include the examination of systemic barriers—of race, gender and immigration discrimination—in their employment and labour standards review, employment services and training review, and wage-gap strategy…
Recommendation 9: The federal and provincial governments and employers must continue to improve credential recognition for newcomers and immigrants…
Recommendation 10: The provincial government’s review of employment and labour standards needs to assess how the system of employment standards enforcement can keep pace with the changing labour market…
Recommendation 11: The provincial government’s review of employment and labour standards needs to explore how coverage for employment standards can be expanded to more workers…
Recommendation 12: The provincial government and employers are urged to consider the amount of notice given to workers regarding their shifts…
Recommendation 13: The federal and provincial governments need to continue to improve our existing income-security programs to better serve those who are experiencing both income and employment insecurity…
Recommendation 14: All stakeholders should consider using a total-compensation lens to address the issue of income insecurity for workers in precarious employment…
Recommendation 15: The federal government needs to take the lead on developing systems that support workers with variable earnings…
Recommendation 16: The provincial government should accelerate implementation of its commitment to expand access to prescription drug benefits for low-income Ontarians…
Recommendation 17: The provincial and federal governments are encouraged to lead on pension reform to ensure that the needs of those in precarious employment are supported…
Recommendation 18: Employers in all sectors and the provincial government should consider taking steps to better support workers’ needs relating to unexpected absences…
Recommendation 19: Unions and labour groups need to continue their efforts to best serve workers who are currently being excluded from unions…
Recommendation 20: The provincial government should use the opportunity provided by the Labour Relations Act review to assess how voice at work is enabled for those in precarious employment…
Recommendation 21: The federal government could address the needs of parents in precarious employment by exploring parental-leave options that better align Employment Insurance with today’s labour market…
Recommendation 22: Governments are encouraged to develop a flexible, accessible, affordable, licensed, safe and high-quality childcare system—set up and funded as to enable precariously employed parents and their partners to work…
Recommendation 23: All levels of government can strengthen the community-services sector by providing a mix of funding supports, including core funding, to enable the community-services sector to better serve those in insecure employment…
Recommendation 24: Community-sector organizations are encouraged to adapt practices to meet the distinct needs of workers in precarious jobs…
Recommendation 25: Governments are encouraged to consider how precarious employment creates barriers to program access when developing programming in order to better tailor supports to those in precarious employment…
Recommendation 26: The voluntary sector should continue to build volunteer experiences that will advance job-related development and/or link to employment…
Recommendation 27: Educational institutions and employers are encouraged to recognize the experience gained through volunteering…
Recommendation 28: The provincial government is encouraged to consider the unique needs of volunteers who work in precarious jobs within the Ontario Volunteerism Strategy. (Lewchuck et al., 2015, pp. 138-161)