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A Response to ‘Women Against Feminism.’

Originally posted on iwantedwings:

Imagine this:

The year is 2014. You are a white Western woman. You wake up in the morning in a comfortably sized house or flat. You have a full or part-time job that enables you to pay your rent or mortgage. You have been to school and maybe even college or university as well. You can read and write and count. You own a car or have a driver’s licence. You have enough money in your own bank account to feed and clothe yourself. You have access to the Internet. You can vote. You have a boyfriend or girlfriend of your choosing, who you can also marry if you want to, and raise a family with. You walk down the street wearing whatever you feel like wearing. You can go to bars and clubs and sleep with whomever you want.

Your world is full of freedom and possibility.

Then you…

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Comment, Feminism, Pop Culture, The Vagenda Articles

One Direction’s One Erection (for Insecure Girls)

Written for The Vagenda, who kindly gave me permission to reproduce the article here

 

On a recent sojourn with my significant other in Italy, we decided the only reasonable thing to do to pass the many hours spent in each others’ company was to watch the One Direction film: One Direction: This is Us. I think, maybe, ironically. Neither of us listen to their music, but for some reason, eating a mozzarella ball whilst watching One Direction with their tops off seemed like a good decision.

We tried to find some legitimate justification for it (Morgan Spurlock directed it/watching a film will mean that we don’t have to talk) that has nothing to do with One Direction, but in the end we watched it with probably only about 8 seconds of deliberating.

Here’s a summary: One Direction would like you to know that they’re just normal lads like, and it’s mad [cut to Harry Styles with his top off in a wheelie bin] that like they’re lives have changed so much because they’re just normal lads havin a laugh [cut to the other one that isn’t Harry with his top off]. Then there’s a decent amount of cultural appropriation, and then Harry pretends like he used to work in a bakery. Fin.

There was, unsurprisingly, a lot of air time given to ‘the fans’, a writhing collective of mostly teenage girls weeping at the mere prospect of their vagina being in the same vicinity of Harry Styles’ penis or the other ones’ penises. “I know they love me. Even though they don’t know me,” says one fan, while her friend looks down with equal parts shame and jealously, jealously that she can’t quite possess the delusion to believe a person who has never met her can love her.

These poor girls. Their parents are probably glad that they’re not shotting vodka through their eyeballs or doing recreational drugs, but the reality is much worse. They’re driven to insane delusions for a boy band. A boy band, with an incredibly sexist message.

Throughout the film you get extended ‘snippets’ of them performing; mere flirtations of the joy that could be attending a One Direction concert. In these performances, they do some singing, belting out words like ‘you don’t know you’re beautiful and so I think you’re beautiful but just make sure you don’t know it because then you’d be ugly’ and other weirdly coercive messages.

 

You’re insecure,
Don’t know what for,
You’re turning heads when you walk through the door,
Don’t need makeup,
To cover up,
Being the way that you are is enough

(That’s what makes you beautiful)

 

At first, it seems like quite a sweet intention. Don’t worry about being insecure, you’ll still have Harry or the other one fancying you. Except, you shouldn’t wear makeup, because they say so, and male appreciation is the most important thing. Oh and if you do quite like yourself, you’re a stuck up bitch and only that Irish one will have sex with you.

 

I don’t know why,
You’re being shy,
And turn away when I look into your eye eye eyes

 

If you’re confident, that’s also probably not a good thing. Be a sweet, quiet, humble, self-hating shy little thing, and you’re in.

The allure of One Direction seems to be that they could fancy you at any given moment. Their songs are sold on this hope, songs with messages like ‘if you have self-esteem, you’re not the kind of girl One Direction are into’. They do this to girls who aren’t old enough to understand that wearing makeup or not wearing makeup is about choice, not about being pretty or not pretty. Girls who are too young to know that men dictating how you should act and feel is not okay. It’s just another production by men, sung by men, about how women should act.

….Admittedly, I had some trouble analyzing all their song, mostly because the majority have 15 words, just used it different orders.

 

No nothing can come between
You and I
Oh, you and I
Ooooh You and I
We could make it if we try
Oh, you and I
You and I

 

Move over, Leonard Cohen (amirite?). Other songs, however continue to work on this horrible, deceptive premise that if you want to be with One Direction (which, all fans do) then you better start hating yourself.

 

I know you’ve never loved
The crinkles by your eyes
[how old is this girl? 47?]
When you smile
You’ve never loved
Your stomach or your thighs
The dimples in your back

At the bottom of your spine

(Little Things)
And then there’s the idea that it’s probably quite shameful if one of them feels dependent on a girl.

 

“I’m sorry if I say, “I need you.”
But I don’t care,
I’m not scared of love.
‘Cause when I’m not with you I’m weaker.
Is that so wrong?
Is it so wrong?

(Strong)

 

I don’t know? Is it? No, obviously it’s not. Then why are you singing about it then? Well done them for being good, upstanding lads and admitting the shameful disgusting prospect that you don’t always have power over your wrinkly-eyed woman.

I am very aware that not all music needs to be feminist for you to enjoy it on an aesthetic level. I quite like Kanye West, and he sings about making women suck his dick every four lines. The difference is, though, that I’m not 13. I’m old enough to have read about feminism. I know that, just because Kanye would like to subordinate women with his massive cock, doesn’t mean that that’s how I have to act with my significant other, because a) My appreciation of Kanye’s music is not created out of some desire to please him and b) I’m old enough to see through the bullshit.

One Direction are not as harmless as you think, especially to impressionable young minds. Minds that are already told a million times a day to be skinny/hairless/pretty/sweet/nice/fragrant etc., and are fighting against a strong current of normalized sexism. It pisses me off that these bands get millions of pounds to just add to this tsunami, one shit lyric at a time. Thank god for women like Beyonce or Lily Allen, flooding popular music with a counter-message of female autonomy and power. I like the way I look, One Direction, irrespective of what you say, and I wouldn’t get with any of you. Not even you, Harry.

 

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

Written March 2014 for The Vagenda

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Comment, Money

The Price You Pay for Not Paying

Money (Money Money). Everyone likes it, but no one will admit that they’ve got it.

Oh no I mean, the little place we have in Nice is only a flat, not a house. We don’t have nearly as much money as the Leestons. We bought the house when it was tuppence!  

Or indeed, where they’ve got it from.

It’s a shitty time to be a young person today. EMA got cut, Uni fees got hiked and the baby boomers have screwed our chances to get housing (cheers m & d). But for those who can afford it, for the middle-class young, the prevalence of getting shit for free is high. At that stage in life, where university is slowly becoming the past, yet real life not the present, money, and where to get it from, becomes the pressing question.

Well, remember to say goodbye to your freshly-formed independence when you open up that swanky new (free) Macbook Air. Farewell to being treated like an adult. So long, adieu, etc.

Not receiving much support from my parents (albeit, not always of my own choice) has resulted in an unexpected freedom, a liberation on par with overcoming the fear of blowing one’s nose in busy rooms. Let me be clear – I still receive some help. My mother still pays for my phone bill (something I remembered when writing this article – probs should change that) and when I go home for the summer, I live at home. Although this year all I got for Christmas from my dad was a t-shirt saying ‘LIFE IS MEANINGLESS AND EVERYTHING DIES’ I have received iPods, clothes, cheese, books, and posh radios for a number of years every birthday and Christmas. I am very privileged. No buts, it is indisputable. I am lucky.

For a number of reasons to do with being a child of divorce, asking for money has always been a fearful experience, and as a result jolted my sense of entitlement rather violently. It was the point where I realised my parents were real people, who didn’t love me unconditionally, and actually, found it quite annoying looking after me. It became a tool for either of them to get back at the other, one £20 school trip at a time. If I wanted money (which I often did, young, naive and full of entitlement) I’d be required to get involved in a unsolvable dispute. “Get your mum to pay for it, I give her child maintenance” / “If your mother hadn’t taken me to court she would have gotten a lot more” / “I pay for everything can’t your father pay for something” / “Your father never has to look after you, get him to pay”.

And thus, at the ripe age of 8 or 9, I was painfully aware of how little my parents wanted me around. And, as time passed, and competing with a new spouse and siblings appeared a necessity, money became the language of love. How can you not feel unloved when your father takes his two younger children and their mother on holiday to America to visit your family, and you don’t get invited? The spoiled nature of the expectation is obvious, yet the sting is still there. If there’s one way to resist your children becoming too sheltered, make sure you hurt them early. They won’t forget after that.

It was clear to me as I got older that all I wanted was to be treated equally, not the money or the holiday, but delineating that at a young age when your parents show their love and support through money is near impossible. So I stopped expecting it. If I was denied something that my two, younger (half) sisters received, or my father’s new wife, then the way to deal with that was not to want it.

I wasn’t going to be given the lessons, technology, holidays, that my middle class-ness left me desiring, I was prompted to reflection on how lucky I was to live the well-off existence I have been living. Although there was more to my denied expenses than just economic frugality on my parents’ part, I was still exceptionally lucky to have received what I had when I was younger. Now, even when offered money, I don’t accept.

To a certain extent, this is stubbornness and resentment. But with it has a come a freedom that I hadn’t noticed I’d possessed. Friends of mine who are given money for rent, holidays, £300 ski boots, are still at the beck and call of their elders. They lose any sense of independence, any legitimate argument that they might know better than their parents, or that their parents are fallible. It’s hard to stand your ground when a week later, you need that £100 you get to keep on living the way you do. The leverage these parents wield is dominating, and no matter how old they are, if they’re still receiving money from them, then they’re going to be treated like a child. My parents haven’t told me what to do in years. They have few things to deny me, and so their power is diminished.

Not taking money not only gives you the liberties of an adult, but one might even develop a moral conscience. To those in this situation: Don’t be one of the elite who perpetuate the wealth disparity by leeching off their parents. Being born into the family you were gives you no entitlement to the money your parents are lucky enough to have – you are no better, no cleverer, no more interesting than those with less money than you. It is morally unjustifiable for you to take that money when other struggle with new-found poverty after we have spending cuts that disproportionately affect the poorest. I can’t define where parental support ends and being spoiled begins, but endeavouring to take as little as possible seems the best solution. See Peter Singer for further reference.

It can be hard bursting the coddled bubble of privilege, to realise what you may get is not actually normal and not actually expected. The earlier those people realise it, though, the happier they’ll be in the future, when inevitably, unless they’re totally minted, it will be taken away from them anyway. To be respected, independent, supporting a fair society and free to do what you want is better than anything money can buy.

 

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

Written May 2014

 

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Comment, Feminism

Dear Big Companies, Stop Prostituting Feminism

A shot of a cab. A male voice over. We are assured that mark may have liked “Bex” the way she was, but now she’s not fat anymore, he likes her even better. Cut to London street. He really wants to let us know that he didn’t mind when she was fat. Honest. It was totally Bex’s decision to lose weight. But he definitely likes her better this way.

Weight Watchers adverts, amongst many on our television recently, have turned to crowbarring feminism into their marketing campaign, there in dressing up their true message (hate yourself; lose weight). Other big brands appear to be doing this with varying degrees of sincerity – Marks and Spencer have announced that from 2014 they will make all their toy packaging gender neutral, whilst Pantene, the shampoo brand, have recently released an advert identifying the hypocrisy in the way we perceive men and women.


The Pantene ad depicts a woman and a man in equal situations being labelled differently. Where the man is “persuasive”, the woman is “pushy”. If the man stays up late to work, he’s “dedicated”, and if the woman does it, she’s “selfish”. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, tweeted, “This is one of the most powerful videos I have ever seen illustrating how when women and men do the same things, they are seen in completely different ways.” It’s a bold advert with an explicit message, especially considering shampoo has literally nothing to do with anything in the advert. The actors have hair, but that’s about it.

Do you think men are seen differently to women in terms of power and ambition? Pantene thinks so too. Their new range of shampoos (£3.69, Boots) will help show the world this gender bias, whilst giving you a soft, healthy shine.

Sandberg is perhaps not the best arbiter of what is and isn’t feminist. Last year, she published a book called Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Ostensibly, the novel was to be doing the right thing – encouraging women to aspire in the workplace, and succeed in the business world as it exists today. This superficial understanding of equality and meritocracy, however, totally overlooked the structures that disadvantaged women currently in the their work, as well as ignoring the privileged position that she and other white, rich, middle class American women were in. She encouraged women to “lean in”, when really they needed to be stepping out and creating a new world devoid of oppressive structures.

When feminism becomes fashionable, PR companies will jump on the opportunity to use it to sell their product, even if it’s clearly incompatible. The weight watchers adverts are a prime example. For a company that really really hopes you dislike yourself enough to eat an eight calorie “chocolate” mousse for two months, trying to pretend like you want women to feel comfortable in themselves is just obviously false. Dove attempted to endorse the idea of non-homogenous beauty in their “Real Beauty” campaign, promoting the idea of varied body size with lots of women in pants rubbing anti-cellulite cream on themselves. For another product that sold on women feeling physically inadequate, it failed. In the 1960s, Virginia Slim used the new revolution of female emancipation to sell cigarettes, with campaign slogans like “you’ve come a long way, baby.” It contributed to a boost in sales for Virginia Slim, selling cigarettes to a marginalised female market. A marketing niche, ironically, that existed because of archetypal 60s sexism. It proved that when the time is right, feminism can be profitable.

There is an inherent problem with this prostituting out of feminism – so to speak – to sell products. Not only is feminism in many ways diametrically opposed to capitalism, but to use an ideology premised on liberating women from societal expectations of beauty (amongst others), to sell products that are designed to make you buy into those exact expectations, is flawed.

The difficulty is that it’s also not always easy to see through the façade, especially when many of the ways we define social norms come from places like advertisement. Using feminism to trick women into purchasing products or dieting means that their fundamental self-worth becomes displaced into a mentality of self-hatred. It’s deceptive and cruel, giving the impression that the advert is “on your side” and “hates that damn patriarchy just like you, sister”, when really it’s just spewing more sexist crap, hidden so that unsuspecting women don’t see it as a threat. This is most harmful because it goes unnoticed, so is just accepted without any real criticism. Like ingesting a tablet of crack, rat poison and Richard Littlejohn’s soul, disguised as a paracetamol.

To use advertising to promote or encourage feminism can be useful. If done sincerely, the means can outweigh the corporate ends. It’s when we’re deceived into believing that the company is being sincere, that the real danger comes in. Hazard: Products may contain sexism.

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

Written January 2014

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FILE: Rebecca Adlington Announces Retirement
Comment, Feminism

A ‘Fuck You’ to the Mainstream Press

Recently, Laurie Penny, a journalist I respect for her unwavering commitment to making women feel less shit, published a piece on Rebecca Adlington entitled ‘Dear Rebecca Adlington, they’re the ugly ones’. It was an open letter to Adlington, in light of the media coverage she was having for supposedly getting plastic surgery on her nose.

It was spot on, but as any masochistic Guardian-reading feminist must do, I turned to the comments. Obviously, OBVIOUSLY a mistake, but there’s something about Adlington’s public attacks that I find deeply upsetting, so I was kinda hoping for a reflection of my own feelings. Have a little read, fist pump the air, feel weird about fist pumping the air because I’m in a public library, then go back to writing my Victorian essay.

What a shocker, but lo and behold, ignorance reigned high in the world of the comments. ‘Perhaps it’s her decision as to whether or not she has cosmetic surgery on her nose and not anyone else’s business at all?’ was the top comment, with other insightful notions such as ‘If she did it just because she thinks it makes her look better, what exactly is wrong with that?’

Yeah, how totally non-problematic that an OBE, world-record holding Olympiad feels the need to have a medical procedure to relieve the pressure from the mainstream press. How absolutely normal to willingly subject oneself to physical pain to achieve some sense of self-worth. It’s not like she’s a fucking gold medalist or anything.

Well, ‘pollystyrene’, who ever you are, the reason it’s other people’s business is because Rebecca Adlington’s totally justified decision to subject herself to something like this is just the biggest example of the way women are hated. Of the expectations that exist. Sometimes, I feel shit about my body. But then, I read pieces like Laurie Penny’s, I think about Adlington, and I remember, oh yeah, it’s all bullshit. It’s bullshit because no matter how successful you are, no matter how unbelievably talented, or impressive, or unique you are, you can still hate yourself because of the media. You can be the first British person in nineteen years to win a gold in swimming for Britain, and you can still end up disliking yourself.

Watching Adlington in ‘I’m a celebrity’ makes me teary. No matter how successful you are, our society still will not let you be happy because you don’t look like Amy Willerton– a girl so vacuous she seemed to be genuinely interested in explaining hair flicking to her fellow celebrities. I shouldn’t give her a hard time, though, because Amy is just another person under these pressures, except she’s on the other end. She conforms to the expectations, and is told she’s beautiful, and that’s what’s important. Don’t bother having a good old chat about the issues of perpetuating a homogenous and almost unachievable body image, just enjoy your soft silky hair as it flicks across your neck. Amy hasn’t won an Olympic gold, but she probably knows what Rebecca knows: you better be good looking, because even sporting success isn’t going to save you from self-hate.

 Adlington’s difficulty with her body image is one of the most crushing things to watch. To think that you could be so objectively amazing, to be able to literally quantify yourself in gold, and still think yourself not worth anything because of people on twitter or publications like the Daily Mail is horrifying. It’s no doubt that this kind of publicity makes it hard, but I’m glad that dissenting voices exist. I’m glad that I found out about this because it reawakens my passionate hatred toward any niggling thoughts that I’m not worth enough because I have thigh fat. Rebecca Adlington shouldn’t have to subject herself to public scrutiny to make other women feel better, but she should know that there’s actually some good in the shit she gets. It reminds me that even the most impressive women of our age still get doubts.

I’m glad that this is my business. I’m glad that I’ve been reminded how women are nothing but a body to the media. Fuck you, mainstream press, for making women like Adlington feel body conscious, but fuck you also for making women who aren’t as talented, who don’t have numerous medals, feeling like their only achievement can be measure in the number of calories they’re not eating.

People need to stop pretending the sexism today is subtle and unimportant. There’s no ‘undercurrent’ of misogyny in our society – it’s right there, unashamedly, and as clear as Adlington’s talent.

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

Written February 2014

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Comment, Feminism

It’s Hard Out Here for a Feminist: The Trouble with Public Feminist Discourse

The world of feminism is a hostile place. Paying attention to any public feminist statements will show you this: slip up and be prepared to pay for it.

It makes sense that this kind of thinking exists with feminism. It’s an ideology which requires you to be hypersensitive to a world that has been distorted and skewed, which inevitably results in the same critical inclination permeating everything, including feminist thought. A New Statesman event I attended at Easter this year was my first introduction to this crushingly harsh world. The event was great; thought provoking, affordable. Interesting issues were discussed, and there was a tacit smugness when the word ‘cis’ was mentioned and no one had to explain its meaning. However, immediately after the event, an influx of criticism appeared about it on Twitter for not being inclusive enough.

If you’re going to get tokenistic about it, I think the NS were clear in the attempts they made to be inclusive; they had a trans writer, a black writer and someone on the panel who was over 30, as well as a few other mainstream feminist voices. It sounds so painfully reductive to list people based on which ‘category of oppression’ they fulfill, but this is what the criticism of the debate provoked – justifying oneself by being reductive. ‘Why wasn’t there a man?’ ‘Why wasn’t there a disabled person?’ came resounding out of Twitter, biting back at any positive reaction to a debate.

To actively endorse the argument I am currently making, I will now be diplomatic and cover my own back. No, we shouldn’t just settle, because no, we’re not post-ableism and we’re not post-feminism and we’re not post- many things really, and there are still a lot of issues to overcome. Yet when the discourse of criticism overshadows the message of feminism, are we reducing the space for any constructive consequences? Criticism should be used for improvement, not to silence ideas.

Lily Allen’s video ‘Hard Out Here’ is a great example of this, both in the way it works well to draw our attention to issues in feminism, but also how it garnered vitriolic, unhelpful criticism in a way that overshadowed some pretty successful elements. To sum up basically the last 3 week’s work of every feminist writer ever: Yay! A Feminist Music Video. Boo! It’s racist.

On the one hand, the video functions as a great example of how feminism has worked historically for white, middle class women. I, as a one of those white middle class feminists, don’t immediately see why the video is racist. Considering when I watch the video I don’t spot the issues, because I’m not as hyper-sensitive to racial issues in the way I am to feminist issues, I just get the positive messages. This, if anything, is just testament to how white feminists are a bit shit at spotting racial issues. Susanne Moore makes this statement much more concisely in an article she wrote for The Guardian:

‘Racism works precisely by denying the presence of race. The privilege is to not notice it.’

Lily Allen’s twitter response made it clear that she personally believes it had nothing to do with race, but to quote another relatively reliable feminist source, Jezebel,  ‘Lily Allen doesn’t get to decided if her video has a race problem’. If I’ve learned anything about trying to endorse intersectional feminism, neither do I.

However, one thing I do think is legitimate to comment on is how we

look at feminism in light of this. I’ve read so many pieces recently that have now decided to write off feminism as some collection of closed-minded privileged white girls celebrating how they went a week without shaving their armpits whilst eating macaroons off their battered copies of The Second Sex. Feminism doesn’t just end when it trips up, but gosh do people love to attack anyone who makes a committed feminist statement.

To quote one -

‘That Lily Allen video is a hot mess and I can already hear the resounding clatter of the liberal white feminists as they fall over themselves to talk about how incisive and right-on it is’

Criticism like this is prevalent and unhelpful. The dismissive attitude to any ‘white’ voice contributing to a debate would be as bad a delegitimising a male voice in a debate about feminism. Check your privilege – sure – but also don’t shut voices out because of a physical attribute like the colour of your skin. If someone is blatantly wrong, let them express that view and then understand why it’s wrong, as opposed to internalise it and allow it to go uncriticised, because an environment has been created where they are silenced.

Perhaps this opinion is rooted in the fact that I am basically the main demographic for contemporary feminist writing, but I do feel feminism can adapt to be more inclusive, improve itself and overcome mistakes made in the past. Lily Allen or the NS feminists aren’t the be all and end all of feminist discourse, and mistakes made shouldn’t cause the movement to be written off as some racist ignorant collective. If a video is created that only allows us to draw attention to our own prejudices, we should use it as a constructive tool to overcome those issues, and not to dismissively mischaracterise a movement that has done a lot of good for a lot of people.

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

Originally Published for The Moose in November 2013

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Comment, Education, Politics

Norwegian Egalitarianism is a Detriment to the Education System

Norway’s egalitarian attitude to most things has rarely been viewed in a negative light. The national insistence upon democracy and equality (although at times irritatingly self-congratulatory) is an inspiring sentiment for a country. Especially, for a rich one – the Norwegians could have just hoarded all the oil money and run off into the Norwegian woods eating pølse and vaffler, whilst refusing to help any struggling minorities. Yet they didn’t, and although the new government may be posing a threat to this attitude, Norway has created one of the largest welfare systems in the world. Even as someone coming from a relatively liberal place like England, the rhetoric around welfare is refreshing.

Inevitably, this attitude manifests itself within other social areas of Norway, particularly its education system. Whilst the Norwegian government has plenty to spend on creating the best education system possible (if the marble pillars outside the library are testament to anything), the University of Oslo, the biggest university in Norway, is only rated 185th in the world by The Times Higher Education. Norway has the tools, not to mention the money, to become one of the best in the world, but it’s not. If employing the best academics and offering research grants is doable, then where exactly is Norway going wrong?

The attitude to learning, particularly when it comes to the humanities, is a problem. In a society set up to benefit the largest number of people rather than the privileged few, entry into university is undemanding. Although this system may be best for a society with education inequality lower down (see England’s unforgivable perpetualisation of the private school system), Norway’s school system is equal enough to allow it to be more selective when it comes to university education.

At the risk of making even more generalising statements about the Norwegian community, their total lack of competitiveness bodes badly for an education system that needs people to aspire and fight for the best they can achieve. Students are reticent to argue in order to avoid conflicting in their views. Unfortunately for a subject like English Literature or History that requires frequent critical analyses, often at the expense of fellow students, this attitude creates a fruitless environment for work.

Indeed, the University of Oslo even struggles to find teachers for its humanities department. A conversation with a masters student exposed the sheer desperation of the Norwegian system, after he has been employed to teach irrespective of his perhaps inexperience in the subject. After all, he has only been studying English for 4 years, only one year more than some of the students in the class. The informal nature of employing staff who are not quite up to scratch, and the desperation that has lead UiO to be put in this position must say something about the education system. What exactly is to blame for the dire lack of teaching staff in certain departments?

It is truth universally acknowledged that teaching can be irrevocably dull if the students aren’t interested. Teaching is a fulfilling career, but only if you are around students who want to learn, and with this fact we have highlighted one of the painful truths about the Norwegian education system: whilst more demanding subjects like medicine or law may draw more ambitions students (as they are more difficult to gain entry to at UiO), subjects like English or History are full of clever Norwegian who aren’t fulfilling their potential, because of a cultural reluctance to challenge and engage. So academics don’t want to come and teach. Compared to the English University system, the system it is less demanding, with fewer students willing to take risks and contribute in class.

Norway’s total defiance towards creating a combative environment in all areas of Norwegian culture is admirable but flawed. This egalitarian attitude to learning means although many are able to have a higher education, the standard is low. Students need to fight the Nordic urge for everyone to be equal when it comes to education, as the classroom is a place of critical thinking, not ignorant equality.

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

Originally published for The Moose in October 2013

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