GSS 2019 Executive Committee Recruitment
Are you passionate about addressing some of the great challenges of our global society? Would you like to work in a team that seeks to secure speakers such as Nadia Murad, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Yuval Harari for a three-day symposium at the University of Cambridge? Join our team and help us shape and organise the Global Scholars Symposium 2019!
The Global Scholars Symposium (GSS) is an annual three-day event that seeks to connect, inspire, and challenge postgraduate students in the UK. Founded in 2008, GSS brings together some of the world’s most accomplished and promising scholars to connect with remarkable global leaders in a focused setting.
Being part of the GSS Executive is an opportunity to shape and facilitate the dialogue and debate between emerging scholars and world leaders about how to meet the great challenges of global society.
We are looking to recruit five postgraduate students from any UK university to lead the 2019 Global Scholars Symposium, which will be held at the University of Cambridge.
Responsibilities of the GSS Executive
Once selected, the GSS Executive will allocate responsibilities amongst themselves and work together to deliver GSS 2019. Responsibilities include:
- Selecting the theme for GSS 2019 and shaping the structure of the event
- Securing keynote speakers, panellists, small group facilitators and workshop facilitators
- Developing and managing the budget for GSS 2019
- Selecting a GSS organising team and working with the committees to implement communications, speaker logistics, conference logistics, delegate selection and social events for the 2019 Symposium
To apply, please send your CV and a one-page statement of intent outlining why you would like to be involved and any ideas you have for the vision of GSS 2019 to email@example.com by 30th November 2018.
Difference of opinion must necessitate debate and dialogue but in today’s time it compartmentalizes individuals in environments unsuitable for any discussion. This has led to gaps in societies world over and therefore, the choice of “Mind the gap” as the central theme for the three day long Global Scholars Symposium (GSS) was in sync with contemporary times. The GSS comprised 100 students from all over the World pursuing different post-graduate courses on various scholarships studying in the United Kingdom. Our generation of academicians and change-makers carries the responsibility of not only being mindful of these gaps but also of bridging them well. We spent many hours at the Cambridge Union brainstorming about many of these gaps and ways in which we could bridge them.
We started with Lord John Bird’s passionate keynote address, where he shared with scholars his first-hand experience with poverty. He implored his young audience to aim and strive towards poverty prevention and not gloat over poverty alleviation techniques, arguing that they are designed to inculcate dependence and perpetuate poverty. He explained how charity reinforces procrastination as he shared how he started the “Big Issue”- a news magazine sold by homeless individuals, that gave them a channel to redeem living with pride and dignity.
From minding the gap between poverty management and poverty prevention we then moved on to our first panel on “Deconstructing the Ivory Tower”, where each panelist outlined what they meant by an “Ivory Tower”. The panel offered competing and yet insightful narratives to justify their interpretation, that ranged from the need to preserve Ivory Towers to incubate reasoned academic opinion to the need to completely eliminate them and replace them with safe spaces for free speech. The panel also grappled with the act of balancing quality of academic opinion with enhanced access to all sections. Each panelist underscored the importance of reaching out to public opinion and help shaping it with reasoned commentary to bridge its gap from the “Ivory Tower”.
What followed next was an intriguing presentation by Dr. Samantha Nutt, who showed how most places of conflict are located in weapon importing global south and most weapon exporters are developed countries. Pointing out how even the permanent members of the UN Security Council gain from the economy of conflict, she appealed to global scholars to do their bit to pressurize their Governments to have arms trade regulations in place.
From one difficult gap we navigated to an even more pressing gap- that of climate justice. The panel discussed the Paris Accord, the silver lining in India and China over-achieving their stated targets and the dark cloud in the form of the new US administration dilly-dallying on its commitment to the accord.
The concluding keynote address of Day 1 by celebrated transgender woman activist Precious Davis gave the GSS -2017 its own mantra that reverberated on all three days, “We are the ones we have been waiting for!” She called upon her audience to appreciate diversity, overcome our deepest fears, rebel against oppressive conformity and to live in our own skin. Her session made each one of us suddenly think about the gaps in our own lives and struggles and gave us the confidence to overcome them.
The second day of the conference started with an inspiring talk by Nobel prize winner and Taliban conqueror Malala Yousufzai’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai. Now known for being Malala’s proud father, Zia, who has been a career diplomat had the courage to keep his school in Swat Valley open even during Taliban occupancy. Malala’s mother accompanied him and both of them identified “education” (not indoctrination) as the best strategy to mind the most divisive gaps in society.
The panel discussion that followed deliberated upon the important trends and learning from current movements world-over. Noting that there was enough fodder to cheer as well as deplore in the mixed bag of global undercurrents, the panel discussed how one could identify correct sources of information and learn the right lessons.
We then discussed the gaps between the uses and limitations of the concept of “allyship” in the next session, where we mooted on the most effective model of allyship, one that provides a push towards self-management of affairs rather than usurping of decision-taking authority. In minding these gaps of differing genres, by now one could inter-connect some of them- such as Lord Bird’s advocacy of constructive intervention to eliminate poverty was in sync with the general agreement in this session on allyship.
In the concluding keynote address of the day, Professor Paul Davies left us spell bound by his presentation on how prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination impact our daily living. Not only did he present extensive statistics and data out of his own fieldwork, he conducted an impromptu test on his audience that involved identifying the perpetrator of a crime, which we failed miserably. This indicated to us that there might be gaps so built into our lives that it might take special efforts in merely finding out about them.
Our final day at the Cambridge Union started with Tarell Alvin’s keynote on how he used his platform as an effective writer to share stories left out of the mainstream. What followed was an engaging panel discussion on representation in popular culture, in which each panelist identified the “gaps”- that of objectification, entrenched stereotypes and pursuit not of quality but of audience eyeballs- the two often contradicting one another.
The penultimate session of the GSS touched a raw nerve of many scholars, as the panel offered competing chronicles on “authentic peace building”. From Rwanda, to Venezuela, the panel dealt with the need of community participation, allyship that was not an unwelcome imposition and strategies that scholars can take back with them to combat threats to peace.
As the symposium was drawing to a close, the proof of its success was in the somber discussions among scholars- we had identified so many difficult gaps that some of us were wondering whether any were even surmountable? All we needed was a concluding address by Simona Miculescu, (who had served as Romania’s ambassador to the United Nations) that was laced with an overdose of positive spirit. She shared with us in detail how the United Nations had not been an overall failure and identified specific noteworthy achievements to its credit. Her own life story of being a career diplomat (Romania’s first woman in many fields) from wanting to be an actor was one that we all heard in upbeat spirit. As she counted her achievements, Simona was equally candid about her challenges, especially in Baghdad. She asked us to never hesitate in following our hearts and told us how she started a rock band comprising different ambassadors to the UN and combined her hobby with UN’s message for peace.
Apart from these sessions and keynotes, GSS 2017 also convened breakout groups simultaneously every day, which discussed various gaps in society in an informal setting in smaller groups. The formal dinner at Downing College, the silent disco and the open mic night also gave scholars from world over an opportunity to interact with one another. We learnt about each other’s work, ambition, passion, motivation and scholarship programs. I returned to Oxford having made good friends from the Gates and Chevening scholarship communities and having interacted with students from almost all of UK’s reputed scholarships.
“Minding the gap” was a formidable task made enjoyable thanks to the warm hospitality scholars received at the University of Cambridge and the sheer quality of participation in the symposium. The global scholars network has agreed to an action roadmap to follow up from where the symposium ended. Each participant returns to their host University and chosen course after being exposed to both, the gaps and the strength to make individual as well as collective efforts to fill them.
Written by Abhijay Negi
The author is a Louis Dreyfus Weidenfeld Hoffmann Scholar pursuing International Law and Comparative Law at the University of Oxford.
1) The Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Cambridge University’s beautiful botanic garden is home to more than 8,000 different species situated on 40 acres of land.
For those keen on the outdoors, the Botanic Gardens are a great way to enjoy the fresh air without having to leave the city centre.
2) The Fitzwilliam Museum
Just a fifteen minute walk from the Cambridge Union where GSS 2017 will take place, the Fitzwilliam Museum is the arts and antiquities museum of the university.
The museum houses over half a million paintings, sculptures and artifacts. Best of all, admission is free!
3) Punting on the river Cam
There may be no better way to enjoy the summer weather in Cambridge than taking a punt down the river Cam. Taking the flat-bottomed, gondola-like punt boat down the river has been a favorite recreation activity in Cambridge since Edwardian times.
The GSS 2017 conference will take place May 26-28, which is peak punting season!
4) Peterhouse College
Founded in 1284, Peterhouse College is the oldest constituent college in Cambridge! Peterhouse College, which is south of the central Cambridge campus, has been home to five Nobel Laureates.
5) Christ’s Pieces Park
Christ’s Pieces is a Victorian park in central Cambridge. Christ’s Pieces is popular with students and tourists, particularly in the spring and summer months. The park is home to Milton’s Walk, named for former Christ’s College resident and poet John Milton.
FrameWorks’ Interdisciplinary Team of Social Scientists
Takes Guesswork out of Communications Practice
When advocates at nonprofit or non-governmental organizations want to change public opinions about social issues, they often look to experts in marketing and public relations. These communications professionals carry out a range of valuable activities that aim to raise awareness about issues, change attitudes, and build support for change. They generate news coverage, produce advertisements and marketing materials, cultivate social media audiences, and more. These professionals focus on and specialize in getting messages out.
But this work frequently skips a vital first step: getting messages right. Social science research across many disciplines—from social psychology to linguistics and sociology to political science—has found that frames shape the effects that messages have. Through elements like images, values, messengers, facts and figures, and metaphors, frames communicate who is responsible for a problem and what kinds of solutions are needed to address it. They affect whether the public considers an issue an important problem that needs systemic solutions.
Even when communications professionals do consider how to frame an issue, they either go by instinct or commission a poll or focus groups that gauge reaction to messages. But these methods tend to be poor measures of the outcomes that advocates are pursuing—moving opinion, increasing support and creating engagement in a social issue. Instead, typical message testing simply measures the “likeability” of alternative wordings. Using “likeability” as a benchmark may do more harm than good, as it is likely to yield recommendations that merely reinforce existing understanding. Using these methods, it’s nearly impossible to arrive at communications that open up new perspectives.
As a result, social issue advocates have no way of knowing whether their (often costly) communications activities will have meaningful, long-term impacts. They don’t know whether the way they are communicating about an issue is in fact changing people’s attitudes and behaviours in the directions they desire. And, worse yet, they don’t know if their tactics might actually be undermining their cause.
At the FrameWorks Institute we believe that there is a better way of creating framing strategies that consistently move understanding and support in desired directions. We believe that communications research is a worthy investment and that communications questions are empirical questions.
A Multi-Disciplinary Approach
We are a multi-disciplinary team of social scientists working to help experts and advocates communicate in ways that are empirically proven to be effective. As social scientists, we understand that public attitudes about social issues are deeply entrenched as the pictures and thoughts in people’s heads that together add up to “culture.” We know that changing cultural norms involves more than catchy slogans, well-placed op-eds, elegant logos, and viral tweets. We know that long-term social change depends, first and foremost, on how ongoing frame contests play out. And we know that developing effective frames requires input from disciplines beyond marketing and public relations.
That’s why we developed Strategic Frame Analysis®, an interdisciplinary approach to communications that applies social science methods to communications on scientific and social issues. While framing has been called a “fractured paradigm” within the academy, our approach integrates methods and findings from across disciplines, designing studies and experiments that operationalize the extensive scholarly literature on frame effects. Our team includes:
• Anthropologists like myself, who analyze and catalogue the widely shared cultural assumptions that lie under and shape public opinion about social issues;
• Linguists, who develop metaphors that help people understand complex, abstract issues through concrete, familiar analogies;
• Sociologists, who ensure that framing strategies help people think about systemic, structural changes rather than individual behaviors; and
• Political scientists, who design experiments that test different framing strategies for their ability to move support for public policies.
We work together, across disciplines, and the results are clear. Over the past 16 years, we have worked on social issues all over the world to good effect. In the United Kingdom, we are working with advocates and experts to reframe public opinion about child development and maltreatment, criminal justice, the economy and poverty. This work has been used to guide campaigns, drive professional development programs and shift the strategy of leading charities and third-sector organizations.
At FrameWorks, we go beyond guesswork. We weave our interdisciplinary skills together to come up with evidence-based strategies to make change and strengthen society.
About this blog contributor | Nat Kendall-Taylor, Ph.D | Twitter: @frameworksinst
Nat Kendall-Taylor is Chief Executive Officer of the FrameWorks Institute, a think tank that designs empirical communications strategies to help nonprofit organizations drive social change. In this role, Nat leads a multi-disciplinary team of social scientists in studying public understanding and exploring ways to reframe such pressing issues as criminal justice reform, immigration, taxation, early childhood development, addiction, environmental health, education, public health and climate change.
Highlights from May 14, day two.
Our opening keynote on Day Two was from Professor Margaret MacMillan, on “Learning from the past: history in the present”.
Professor MacMillan encouraged everyone, regardless of their background, to learn history, and not just the facts, but how it’s made as well. History changes over time; Professor MacMillan explained how genetics and archaeology have revised understandings of human migration over time. History cannot predict the future, but it can help formulate questions. For example, in the first age of globalisation, before World War I, radical politics emerged in response to large economic shifts. Perhaps most important, Professor MacMillan told the delegates that history helps us realize humility.
Next, GSS Executive member Amba Kak introduced Rhodes Scholar Seham Areff in conversation with Panashe Chigumadzi, titled “Sweet medicine, Coconuts and Kool-Aid”.
Panache shared a passage from her debut novel, Sweet Medicine, then spoke with Seham and delegates about the Rhodes Must Fall as well as Fees Must Fall movements in South Africa. Panache emphasized how the movement confronted issues of access and belonging in higher education at the intersection of race, gender, and economic status.
Isabel Hilton’s keynote broadened nomadic peoples, about the ‘low-intensity’ proxy wars fought in Central America and thought of as marginal by elites from hegemonic countries. She spoke about the consequences of siloed knowledge in disciplines, noting that ‘managing mangroves isn’t on any engineering syllabus,’ and the disastrous environmental consequences that has produced.
After lunch, GSS Executive member Anne introduced Sir Paul Collier. Sir Collier carefully explained a novel economic model he constructed to understand corruption among tax collectors. His advice for non-economist delegates: read outside your field. Sir Collier gleaned a key part of his theory from perusing the quantum mechanics literature.
Throughout the day, delegates met for breakout sessions.
After breakouts, GSS Executive member Michael Mackley introduced MIT President Professor Susan Hockfield, who delivered a rousing talk on “The 21st Century’s Technology Story: The Convergence of Biology with Engineering.” In her talk, Professor Hockfield highlighted the fascinating work happening at MIT to improve renewable energy and medicine. She implored delegates to remember the critical role of government Research and Development funding.
GSS Executive member Carlos Gonzalez then introduced Ambassador Michelle Gavin in conversation with Master of Public Policy Student Mastewal Terefe about International diplomacy in Africa.
Ambassador Gavin, who became pregnant while serving, explained that being a mother both limited her work and allowed her access to communities and topics that would have otherwise been closed. ‘A conversation about kids turns into a conversation about the future real quick,’ she opined.
In a separate interview with Media and Communications, Ambassador Gavin, a Rhodes Scholar, reflected on the Rhodes Must Fall movement. ‘Very few people…who end up with a Rhodes association haven’t wrestled with these responsibilities.’ She currently directs the Africa Center in New York, which aims to address negative misperceptions and stereotypes of Africa by supporting artistic and intellectual collaborations.
Delegates and speakers then headed out for an elegant formal Dinner at Wadham College, followed by a “Meet and Mingle” drinks reception at Rhodes House.
The 2016 Global Scholars Symposium kicked off on the morning of Friday, 13 May. After registration, we all sat down to listen to the Symposium start. The afternoon began with an opening discussion on the theme from GSS Executive member, Rebecca Peters. Rebecca discussed the origins on the 2016 Symposium theme Spaces in Between.
She then introduced the Warden of Rhodes House, Mr. Charles Conn. Mr. Conn told delegates that almost ‘everything in today’s world will be found in intersections, not the disciplines.’ He emphasized the space between finding technical solutions to problems and implementing them, the space between the humanities and the sciences, and in reference to his time as an environmental advocate, the space between the human and non-human.
Executive member Michael Mackley then gave delegates an overview of how sessions would run and the rules of Rhodes House in the fun format of #DelegateTips.
Michael then introduced the first panel of the day, featuring Baroness Helena Kennedy and Sir John Bell in a session titled ‘From the clinic to the courtroom: the future of genomic medicine.’ Sir Bell explained the reasoning behind the UK’s current effort to sequence not one, not two, but 100,000 genomes over four years. Baroness Kennedy told us delightful stories of papparazi snooping in celebrities’ rubbish to find used dental floss for paternity testing, as well as other ethical pitfalls of sophisticated genetic technologies.
Executive member Anne State introduced Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government, Ngaire Woods. Dean Woods talk, ‘The revolt against globalisation,’ aimed to find the space between concerns over inequality and globalization. Her answer: people feel like economic system’s are rigged. To fix this, Dean Woods emphasized the need for transparency in global trade. She called for politicians to take responsibility for economic problems, instead of sending central banks to ‘the frontline’ with risky monetary policy.
Next, Dean Woods introduced our panel speakers, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Israel Dr Nadine Baudot-Trajtenberg and Cambridge Professor Bill Janeway around the topic the “Economics of innovation”. Dr. Baudot-Trajtenberg explained the recipe and ingredients of Israel’s prolific start-up culture: investment in higher education, state support of venture capital, and the bitter pill, mandatory military service. Professor Janeway warned delegates about the limits of prospective cost-benefit analysis for infrastructure: the costs are always easier to calculate than the benefits.
The first breakout session featured nine simultaneous hour long facilitated sessions. Here are a few highlights.
We then returned for our afternoon panel, introduced by Executive member Amba Kak. This panel titled “Can ‘effective altruism’ change the world?” featured Max Harris, Salil Tripathi and Sam Deere. The conversation generated heated discussion, but everything cooled off following in the Rhodes garden to enjoy the sunshine and drinks.
Our dinner in the marquee further fostered the ongoing conversation. Following dinner, delegates enjoyed our evening entertainment. First, the Oxford Imps, an improvised comedy group, gave us some laughs with their informal antics. Next, EquinOx showcased their dance talent. Lastly, the men’s acapella group the Oxford Commas At the end of the night as delegates left Rhodes House, some broke off for the Jericho Tavern and others to G&Ds for ice cream. Check back soon for a review of day 2 for our 2016 GSS Delegates!
Resisting Systemic Oppression through Critical Peace Education
“I live inside the belly of the rough, Compton USA made me an Angel on Angel Dust”- Kendrick Lamar, m.A.A.D City (2012)
Across the US, socioeconomically disadvantaged young men of color are increasingly vulnerable to negative or violent experiences that range from witnessing or being a victim of homicide or crime to being followed by police officers for no apparent reason or receiving ‘fear’ or ‘suspicion’ stares as they walk down the street. In particular, children who are immigrants are increasingly susceptible to experiencing trauma as a result of living the immigrant experience which includes being under constant threat of deportation. Nationally, the Flint Michigan water crisis or the environmental injustice in Los Angeles due to oil drilling are recent examples of institutional oppression that continue to be the reality for people in marginalized communities. While these sources of violence stem from historical systemic inequalities, they have a real effect in the classroom as educators and health officials are increasingly documenting children with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For example, a 2015 survey found that about half of sixth and ninth graders in Los Angeles showed signs of mild to severe PTSD.
Across California, young men of color are 2.5 and 4.1 more likely to have PTSD than their white peers. It is not surprising that these young men experience serious health and educational disparities such as increased suspension rates, low academic achievements, and increased obesity and asthma rates.
In partnership with Improve Your Tomorrow (IYT) and Valley High School, my graduate work has centered around developing a ten week summer program called I am Me: Strong, Capable, & Peaceful that seeks to break poverty’s psychological trap on a child’s sense of self-identity and –efficacy through critical discourse and interdisciplinary approaches.
The IYT program has noted that some of its students exhibit PTSD-like symptoms as a result of the violence they have encountered. In general, children with PTSD may exhibit hyperactivity, aggression, antisocial behavior, or abuse drugs as ways of coping with stress. Additionally, some may feel sad, anxious, fearful, or depressed which makes them reluctant to participate in activities or disrupt class time or be chronically truant/absent. More seriously, students who feel angry or frustrated fantasize about revenge to resolve their feelings of guilt by physically or verbally fighting or defying others. While California schools may have discretionary resources to address PTSD, the need is often unmet as is currently the case in Compton Unified School District.
Instead, I am Me proposes to use low-resource methods to help begin to heal the wounds. I am Me uses critical peace education to empower young men of color to use their voice and actions to peacefully address these negative experiences. The critical pedagogy analyzes the historical power structures that produce violence and oppression for a person depending on their identity (e.g. gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, immigration status) and seeks to mobilize groups to remedy or address the violence they experience through peaceful or nonviolent transformative actions. Moreover, the program uses elements of cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness strategies, musicology and anthropology, and political education to compliment the critical discourse. For example, we have created a workshop that critically examines hip-hop culture and music to deconstruct its history and how it serves as a source of empowerment and therapy but also how capitalistic institutions have hijacked the art form to marginalize others, notably womyn, for a profit.
Most of all, I am Me is a celebration of the students’ cultural experiences and perspectives which are often ignored or devalued in traditional school curricula. Also, the program seeks to build positive relationships among students to mend ongoing conflicts. For example, students have asked for workshops on the “N word” and on “What it means to be White” to not only deconstruct their meaning but to heal wounds caused by the internalization and projection of oppression among and between students. Other workshops will critically discuss various forms of discrimination including homophobia, sexism, and ableism within their contexts as well as examine current campaigns for change such as Black Lives Matter, Fight for 15, and #Not1More. The aim is for the participants to develop micro/individual campaigns over a 10 week period to address sources or effects of institutional oppression in their lives.
I am Me is rooted in the belief that critical discourse should not be reserved for intellectuals in the Ivory tower or university lecture halls but that it must be a key element across K-12 curricula. To deconstruct or abolish the oppressive institutions and process that continue to marginalize so many, we must heal from within: decolonize the mind and the soul of a child to empower them to recognize and pave their path towards their freedom.
The ultimate aim of the intervention is to restore humanity and critical consciousness to the learning process. The hypothesis is that via a culturally tailored curriculum students may strengthen ethnic and social self-esteem and self-efficacy to help buffer against the effects of negative experiences. I am Me adds critical discourse as a key element for empowerment but also borrows from various education programs, such as Becoming a Man (B.A.M), Urban Warriors, Manhood Development Program, and HLF Inc.
As historically marginalized communities continue to experience income and ethnic re-segregation, political marginalization, and increasing instances of overt racism, violence, and discrimination, I am Me seeks to empower those most affect to resist and eventually reform these sources of violence and marginalization.
About the blog contributor:
Felipe Hernandez is a first-generation Mexican-American from Los Angeles, California. He graduated with honors in political science and music performance from UC Irvine. During his Fulbright Fellowship in Colombia he taught English & political science and established an after-school leadership program for children affected by the ongoing civil war. Felipe is also a 2012 Truman CA scholar and is currently a Marshall scholar pursuing an MSc in Education, Policy and International Development at the University of Bristol.
An Affront against All Women
Laws passed for the protection of women are rarely made in the interest of women.
Over the past three weeks, the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) has come under attack by national corporations and local activists alike for passing House Bill 2, a bill that, among many other provisions, prohibits transgender people from using the bathroom based on the gender with which they identify. The law was passed in response to a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance that ensured that all transgender and gender nonconforming people were allowed to use public facilities that feel safest for them, free from discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
As a transgender North Carolinian, I kept asking myself why the NCGA would go out of their way to pass a law like this in the first place. Why were conservative lawmakers so worried about which restrooms people like me use? Why did the senators and representatives of the NCGA spend $42,000 of taxpayer money convening an “emergency session” just to keep people like me from peeing in the bathroom that feels most comfortable?
According to North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, the bill was necessary because transgender nondiscrimination ordinances make (cisgender) women vulnerable to sexual assault by “allowing men to use women’s bathroom[s].” Or, as House Speaker Tim Moore explained, transgender nondiscrimination ordinances like Charlotte’s lead to “the security risk of a sexual predator (in public restrooms).”
By the logic of conservative NC politicians, it was simple. They were sanctioning discrimination against the transgender community in order to “protect women.”
This logic is nothing new, nor is it unique to North Carolina. For centuries, conservative Southern legislatures have been using the guise of ‘protecting women’ not to substantively improve the lives of women—i.e. by passing more robust domestic violence protections or ensuring that women are paid an equal wage to men—but to oppress other minority groups and to deny all women equal standing in society.
Look at the example set by Jim Crow. In the debate about segregation in North Carolina, one of the most common tropes used to defend centuries of racist laws was the erroneous imperative to ‘protect’ white women from black men. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, black men in political cartoons across North Carolina were painted as monsters, rapists, and beasts who preyed on white women, and the fear that these cartoons fostered was used to enforce racial segregation.
Jim Crow laws led to incredible violence against black communities, decades of political marginalization, and a history of racist brutality in the state that continues to this day. The racist white men who crafted Jim Crow laws in North Carolina most likely weren’t interested in protecting (white) women, they were interested in protecting their own power, economic control, and ability to oppress communities of color.
The same logic was applied against women themselves in the early 1900s, when the nation was debating whether women should have the right to vote. Men who held power at the time tried to convince women that they didn’t want the right to vote by appealing to benevolent sexism and a need for protection. Men argued that, by taking on the duties of civic life on women’s behalf, they were protecting women whose fragile constitutions couldn’t tolerate the stress induced by governing society. The men who sought to deny women the right to vote most likely weren’t interested in protecting women, they were interested in protecting their own control of the political system.
This logic has even been carried through into contemporary debates about reproductive health. In conversations about comprehensive sex education, men in legislatures across the country argue that abstinence-only sex education is necessary to protect the virtue and morality of young women. In effect, abstinence-only education ensures that women have less knowledge of and control over their bodies and thus less ability to determine their futures. The men who seek to obstruct young women from having access to information about sexual health most likely aren’t interested in protecting women, they’re interested in maintaining their control of how women think about their own bodies.
In every case, the imperative to protect women was not—and has never been—about protecting women. Women did not need protection from black North Carolinians; black North Carolinians needed protection from discrimination and violence. Women did not need protection from the responsibilities of voting; women needed protection from discrimination and political powerlessness. Women did not need protection from the spectre of sexual impropriety; women needed protection from men who would deny them knowledge about their own bodies.
House Bill 2 is no different than these other historical examples. The logic that the NCGA uses to defend House Bill 2 relies on the same kind of benevolent sexism that’s been used to oppress women, people of color, and other minorities for centuries.
Bathroom bills do not protect women from sexual predators in public restrooms—they do the exact opposite. By forcing people to use the restroom that matches their assigned sex at birth, bathroom bills facilitate violence against women by placing transgender and gender nonconforming people at serious risk of sexual assault and hate crimes. Furthermore, by reinforcing benevolent sexism in government, legislation like House Bill 2 further entrenches the paternalistic idea that women are not capable of making decisions about what is best for themselves.
Women in North Carolina do not need the General Assembly to protect them from transgender people. Transgender people in North Carolina need protection from the General Assembly and from people in positions of power who seek to deny us bodily autonomy, equality, and the opportunity for self-determination. And all women—transgender and cisgender alike—need protection from men like Pat McCrory and Tim Moore who feign concern for their safety while allowing transgender women to be brutalized.
About the blog contributor
Jacob Tobia (who uses the gender-neutral pronoun “they” in place of “he” or “she”) is a leading voice for genderqueer, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people. In 2014, Jacob made their debut on the national stage when they were interviewed by Laverne Cox as part of MTV’s The T Word, and in 2015, Jacob was profiled by MTV in an hour-long episode of True Life: I’m Genderqueer. A Point Foundation Scholar, Harry S. Truman Scholar, and recipient of the Campus Pride National Voice and Action Award, Jacob has captivated audiences at college campuses, national conferences, and corporate events across the country with their message of gender empowerment and social change. Their writing and advocacy have been featured on MSNBC, MTV, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, and Jezebel, among others. Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Jacob graduated Summa Cum Laude from Duke University with a degree in Human Rights Advocacy, and has worked at the United Nations Foundation, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. Jacob currently lives in Brooklyn and has worn high heels in the White House twice.
Why geography is better without a map
Since my earliest days in mom-imposed gingham and saddle shoes, I approached each school year with no small amount of energy and romance. I lined up office supplies and color-coded file folders, as if an organized desk ensured an organized mind. Coming up to Oxford, the start of a shiny, new academic adventure already brimmed with the potential; the prospect of learning amidst the dreaming spires was more than this Pittsburgh girl ever anticipated. The only thing missing was a bouquet of freshly sharpened Dixon-Ticonderoga #2s.
To date, my American educational experience had been wholly linear, with expectations clearly defined via syllabi, textbooks, and assigned problem sets. Even when exploring new terrain, I could chart performance via quiz and midterm scores. If I worked hard, all would be well. Like aspiring postgrads who came before me, I arrived amped to learn from a rockstar supervisor, research questions burning a fire in the belly. Answers would be found by wrestling a database into statistical submission via Q and R.
Little did I know that reading a DPhil would be entirely different from anything I had encountered Stateside. Within weeks of matriculation, I discovered my linear assumptions were wholly wrong, and my learning curve was steep. At no point could I solve for x to find a tidy answer, but what I found was even better: there was an appetite for asking questions, and challenging assumptions.
Oxford became an exercise in being intellectually uncomfortable and discovering that the most interesting questions are often the ones that refuse to fit neatly into disciplinary silos. There is no singular roadmap for navigating new intellectual territory, and yet, wrong turns are possible, even probable.
While I made my home within a single department, I quickly learned what a “big tent” applied geography offered, with colleagues tackling the thorniest challenges facing society today: geopolitics, climate change, globalization, international migration, and beyond. My research was informed by questions from both human and physical geography, and required me to bring insights from a host of literatures – the economics of technological change, behavioral psychology, and public policy, to name just a few – to bear on questions of stimulating innovation and economic development. Find information more on wesbite cheese slicer reviews.
While conducting research at Oxford to consider lessons learned from the frothy dot-com era, I discovered that our most influential innovators – be they in engineering, finance, business, law, or government – were the individuals whose experiences allowed them to develop fluency across otherwise stove-piped communities. A brief glance at global research agendas reveals that today’s thought leaders are, in fact, stimulating cutting-edge work at the very intersection of disciplines.
As a policy wonk interested in how best to improve social, economic, and environmental outcomes, it made sense that studying the earth’s peoples and places, its physical and social processes, tensions, dynamics, and differences across cultures and terrains would offer an appropriately wide berth for asking questions not constrained by linear models but sensitive to the realities of contemporary problem-solving. And I could not have guessed where it would take me.
After defending in autumn of 2004, my findings offered the launching point for the consultancy I would found as a certified minority and women-owned enterprise to help philanthropists, government, and other institutional investors make better decisions across borders and boundaries, from local to global. Since 2005, Islay has been successful only because of our ability to work across sectors and disciplines to inform high-dollar, high-risk challenges at the intersection of science, technology, and society.
Year on year, we see the benefits of technologies allowing us to communicate more readily or to travel more freely, to wrestle infectious diseases into submission, or to better link smallholder farmers to markets, thereby lifting people from poverty. Often the most interesting developments in our increasingly interconnected, fast-paced world are those that beget more questions, ones that require a creativity and resourcefulness at the leading edge of innovation. Further, such developments regularly introduce societal and ethical questions for which there are no simple answers.
Separate from my own nonlinear path, we have advanced beyond the William Whyte “organization man” era, in which employees work an entire career in a single firm. Today’s economy and society require boundary spanners, versatile thinkers who can communicate across disciplines, sectors, and, yes, party lines. When considering the most intractable challenges, there is no “silver bullet” solution to be found within a disciplinary silo. If we throw a narrow solution at the world’s most challenging problems, we are quickly setting ourselves up for failure.
While some recoil at the societal challenges facing our generation, I take solace in knowing there exists a cadre of out-of-the-box thinkers who seek solutions in out-of-the-way spaces and places – and I remain thankful for the opportunity to learn both from and with them amidst those dreaming spires.
About this blog contributor | Terry Babcock-Lumish, founder of Islay Consulting LLC | Twitter: @TerryBL
Islay founder Dr. Terry Babcock-Lumish has worked in local, state, and federal government in the United States. Upon leaving the White House in 2001, she served as a researcher for two books by former Vice President Al Gore. More recently, she built the public policy program at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute in the former New York City home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and taught economics at the United States Military Academy at West Point. She read her DPhil (St. John’s College) as a Clarendon and Truman Scholar.