Post-colonialism, decoloniality and Trinity’s troubled past

Post-colonialism, decoloniality and Trinity’s troubled past

 

OPINION

Post-colonialism, decoloniality and Trinity’s troubled past
Trinity College Dublin
Ciaran Boyle
12th April 2021

 

It doesn’t really come as a surprise that Trinity College was involved in some shady business back in the days of British imperialism. As a result, Trinity recently launched a two-yearlong investigation into the historic links the University possesses to slavery and colonialism, with former president Mary McAleese on the board of directors for the project. For example, one of Trinity’s most celebrated alumni, George Berkely, an Anglo-Irish philosopher is known to have participated in the slave trade. The motivation to this, according to Provost Patrick Prendergast, has been the current Black Lives Matter debates, and the public recognition for Trinity’s role in exporting colonial ideologies and the slave trade. While this is a step in the right direction and should be applauded for that, a simple tip of the hat to your colonial past is not good enough. Universities across the world are actively decolonising their curriculums and Trinity should follow suit.  

 

You might be asking yourself the fairly justifiable question,hang on a second, why are we still harping on about colonialism and slavery, they ended ages ago? The ideas that underpin a lot of the statuetoppling and decolonising this or that we’re witnessing around the world comes from post-colonial theory. For the sake of brevity, we can broadly understand post-colonial theory to be critical of the coercive and oppressive power structures that remain in place even after the physical presence of colonial powers had gone. Power, understood through this lens, goes beyond any ideas of military, political, economic and the material; a focus is largely placed on culture and knowledge, or, more specifically in the case of Trinity, the production of knowledge. Widely popularised by sub-altern scholars like Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, and Gayatri Spivak, it is important to get to grips with the ideas put forward if Trinity are actually going to decolonise the University 

 

The ideas and assumptions that ground most modernday, mainstream, political, economic, scientific, and social theories have their roots in the historical period of colonialism.

 

“Edward Said argues that ideas cannot be understood without their configurations to power also being understood; basically, people are never really entirely removed from the influences of the cultural, political and social practices of their time.”

The ideas that were generated during the time of colonialism do retain their traces to it, explicitly or otherwise. So, whether we’re looking at neoliberal microeconomics, liberal feminism, or even biology, the power structures in place at the time that these ideas were developed are influenced by colonial relations. On top of that, the production of knowledge primarily happened within institutions that were either directly or indirectly linked to systems of colonial oppression a là Trinity College 

 

I’ve been studying in the UK the past year, any conversations with people from the UK I’ve had about colonialism in Ireland are usually embellished by statements like “I never knew it was that bad” or “We never learned about this in school”. Whether intentional or not, the history curriculum of former colonizers melts into this blissful ignorance and perceived cultural and scholarly supremacy. This is also the case with what we might call a colonial amnesia that is inherent in a lot of the social sciences. The underdevelopment caused by colonial expansion is, by and large, ignored in orthodox development theory. For example, the three dominant theories of the cause of poverty today institutional economics, geographic causes, and global market integration all skim over the impact of colonialism on developing countries.  

 

Another vital aspect of post-colonial theory is that power is also derived from the ability of the colonizer to represent or know the colonial subject. Said and Spivak argue that the production of knowledge of the colonial subject was carried out by agents of colonialism and their institutions. This removes the agency of colonised peoples to represent themselves, and instead we see a false binary created between the civilised colonisers and the savages that were colonised. This served as the ideological justification for the liberal period of colonialism under the guise of the White Man’s Burden. Alberto Quijano calls this the hegemonic mind, a form of Eurocentric racism that developed during colonialism and still persists today.  

 

This theory does not exist in abstract isolation. The ideological remnants and power structures of the colonial period are pervasive in affecting the material conditions of billions of the most marginalised and oppressed people. Discourse and social practice are co-constitutive. What we learn, read, chat about or binge on Netflix shapes our understanding of the world and what we perceive to be true. This truth shapes and is shaped by our actions. The freedom to produce knowledge and culture allows people to define themselves. Irish liberation from colonial oppression was both violent and political but many would argue that the success of this would not have happened without the cultural revival that occurred simultaneously.

 

“If a people only see their identity as a subjugated sub-class, how can they imagine themselves free of tyranny and oppression.”

If in academia, Western knowledge has hegemony, cognitively or not, we infer a truth that Western thinking and/or people are somehow superior to those in the Global South. This process actively erodes the agency, legitimacy and autonomy of culture and the production of knowledge in the Global South. The process of decolonisation is to unlearn the social constructs and essentialised racism that were imposed during the colonial period. The result of this process is the relative autonomy of former colonies to produce their own knowledge and represent themselves – a reinstatement of their agency, right to self-determination and their intrinsic value as human beings.  

 

With this in mind, Trinity’s new research programme is laudable but ultimately it falls short of the mark. The BLM debates are about more than just an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, active dismantling of colonial power structures is needed – including critical analysis of the ideas that we take for granted. You might turn around and say that it is simply daft to completely dismiss any ideas that were generated during this time, but that’s not what the decolonising movement wants. We don’t need to throw out the babies with the bathwater. In my opinion, it’s far more beneficial to supplement students understanding with sources that come from outside of the colonial legacy, and empowering those in former colonies to produce their own knowledge and represent themselves. It also generates a deeper understanding of the practices of imperialism that still exist today, and offers viable alternatives that can be generated in the Global North and the Global South to counter it 

 

 

 

Featured photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

 

Coláiste Dhúlaigh Series: How VAR affects football

Coláiste Dhúlaigh Series: How VAR affects football

 

OPINION

Coláiste Dhúlaigh Series: How VAR affects football

bring back our girls protest in nyc
Elizabeth Quinn

9th April 2021

This series is in collaboration with first-year Investigate Journalism students in Coláiste Dhúlaigh CFE

 

Champions League

In April 2019 Man City vs Tottenham Hotspur at Etihad Stadium. Semi-final of the Champions League. Raheem Sterling scores a goal in 94th minute. The goal went to VAR. It took four minutes for the goal to be reviewed. The goal was disallowed. I contacted Owen Cowzer football correspondent with Irish Sun told me “I think the decisions are a greater problem than the delays.” Ex-Referee Dermot Gallagher explained on skysports that the disallowed goal was the right decision. It’s getting to the stage now that you can’t celebrate a goal.

 

Technology

VAR stands for Video Assistant Referee. According to premier league VAR was trialled in an FA Cup match between Brighton vs Crystal Palace in January 2018 before coming into effect at 2018 World Cup. According to telegraph VAR was introduced into football which would help change controversial decisions. I contacted Miguel Delaney chief football writer with the Independent he said ”I think it is better that teams don’t suffer an injustice.” When I watched VAR in 2018 at Russia’s World Cup I thought it would be a great idea for referees. From 2015 until 2018 there were plenty of controversial decisions in football. I felt something had to be done to improve how referees control a football match.

 

Fans

Many football fans go mad when a goal gets reviewed. A survey on yougby stated 63% of fans believe football is less enjoyable with Var involved. A poll on 90min revealed that 2,000 supporters were interviewed and 80% of them said they wished to see VAR implemented in full quickly. I contacted Stephen Doyle sports commentator he said “as a fan it slows the game with delays for reviews.” I also contacted Vincent Hogan sports writer with Irish Independent he told me “a source of huge frustration because of the human decision-making behind it.” I believe it makes football less enjoyable with plenty of stoppages for each game.

 

Controversial

You could score the best goal of your life and it could be disallowed. An article on espn reported that 109 goals were affected by VAR in the Premier League last season. The article also says 42 goals were affected by VAR in the Premier League this season. Hogan also said “every decision takes at least two minutes to look at even if it’s an obvious decision.” I contacted Paul O’ Flynn sports reporter with RTE told me “the problem is that decisions change from game to game with inconsistency of video referee.” One of the problems with VAR is they’re disallowing goals for small things like your hand is offside. The video referee should benefit attacker more when allowing goals.

 

Positives

Most times VAR gives the right decision. According to thestatszone a study in 2018 showed only 57% of penalty decisions and goals scored went to VAR plus 69% of matches didn’t need a VAR replay. Paul O’ Flynn also said “it is great for highlighting clear and obvious mistakes.” I contacted Malachy Clerkin a sports journalist with Irish Independent he said “it reduces the amount of mistakes and leads to more fair play.” I think there are more positives to VAR than negatives but are forgotten about because football pundits like Alan Shearer, Matt LeTissier, Ian Wright and Peter Crouch constantly moan about it.

 

Opinions

A lot of football journalists have an opinion on VAR. Roberto Firmino scores a goal against Leicester. VAR were able to show that the ball didn’t cross the line by 10 millimetres. According to an independent survey it revealed that 2,000 supporters said goal line technology is best innovation in football over the last 30 years. Stephen Doyle also told me “a positive example of technology is goal-line technology in soccer.” Vincent Hogan also told me “goal-line technology has been great in football.” I contacted Daniel McDonnell a football correspondent with Irish Independent he said “goal-line technology is brilliant in most sports including football.” I think VAR has helped in improving goal-line technology because they have ability to show it straight away. I wish that goal-line technology would have been brought in early because Frank Lampard’s goal for England vs Germany wouldn’t have been disallowed in 2010.

 

Technology

According to theguardian first technology came into effect 8 years ago. Other sports technology like hawkeye in tennis was introduced in 2006 and has made tennis better. Stephen Doyle also said “hawkeye in gaelic and tennis has eliminated the possibility of human error.” Owen Cowzer also said “TMO in rugby works well it gives a good understanding for people watching it at home.” Paul O’ Flynn said “video referee in rugby has positive benefits especially when looking for serious foul play.” John Kenny commentator with RTE Sport said “DRS in cricket takes bad decisions out of umpires hands.” VAR and goal-line technology can learn from other sports that I mentioned above and use this to improve technology as well keeping it enjoyable.

 

Coláiste Dhúlaigh Series: Covid’s unspoken recession, it could be worse.

Coláiste Dhúlaigh Series: Covid’s unspoken recession, it could be worse.

 

OPINION

Coláiste Dhúlaigh Series: Covid’s unspoken recession, it could be worse.

bring back our girls protest in nyc
Elizabeth Quinn

2nd April 2021

 

This series is in collaboration with first-year Investigate Journalism students in Coláiste Dhúlaigh CFE

 

Despite being in Dublin, the town of Rush has all the qualities of a typical Irish country village. Traffic jams are caused mainly by the fleet of tractors running in between fields and dropping slabs of mud in treasure trail fashion up and down the main street. Residents are spoiled for choice when it comes to where to pop in for a pint and what take away will fuel the walk home after a night full of ‘just the one”, after all, taxi’s in rush are rare. Old buildings lining the street lay dilapidated hidden behind kitschy stickers that make the boarded up windows and doors look just as convincingly authentic as Carrigstown. Despite its dreary small town quirks, occasionally Rush gets a rare dose of excitement in the form of a ‘Coming Soon’ sign.

 

March 2020 saw the arrival of Café Verde on Rush main street. Renovations began on one of the towns oldest and most central buildings for the Polish owned coffee shop. For owner Aneta Laska the grand opening couldn’t come quick enough so she decided to open the coffee shop on St. Patricks day for 2 hours to hand out free coffee to the town. The freebies went down a treat, heightening the anticipation for opening day. Nobody could have predicted what would come next for Aneta, Café Verde and the entire country.

 

The grand opening was March 23rd, and just two days later the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addressed the nation from a podium outside Leinster House to announce the official lockdown beginning midnight that night. For new business owners like Aneta this was particularly devastating. “I remember just sitting here staring at the wall, not knowing what was going to happen, the shutters were still half way down and people were still knocking and looking for coffee but I didn’t know what I could do.” Aneta was not alone.

 

Unwelcome return

Businesses all over the country were forced to close. The worrying sight of streets lined with closed shutters was reminiscent of 2008. The most concerning thing at that point was health. Our health, our family’s health, the neighbours and for some reason celebrities (Tom Hanks and Idris Elba taking prominence in my thoughts.) We had our priorities laid out clearly for us to follow without opportunity for misinterpretation, “WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER!” We are, but for a lot longer than we think.

 

Our economy contracted by 6.1% in the second quarter, breaking the record of 4.7% in 2008 signalling the arrival of the recession. The revelation of the impending recession didn’t take long to manifest itself in daily conversation, however the assumption that the recession wouldn’t hit until the aftermath of the pandemic was naive. Ireland is doing better than most, Britain for example has seen a collapse of 20.4% so far. With numbers like these you would think they would be all over the news, not taking priority over the Covid headlines, but somewhere in there surely?

 

Forecast

One of the first people to look at the pandemic from an economic standpoint was financial advisor Eddie Hobbs. Looking not only nationally, but globally, Hobbs said “Throughout the world we are seeing the same effect, a very substantial fall in economic activity in quarters two and three with some recovery going on now. We know now from the current data that by the end 2021 the United States should be back roughly to where it was at the end of 2019, that being its most optimistic outcome.” He then went on to say “Europe will be slower, I think it will have lost 5% of its economic activity, it will take till nearly 2023 or 2024 to recover”

 

Recessions are self fulfilling prophecies. A looming recession causes panic, panic that motivates us pull back on our spending and investments. This is devastating considering how close it falls in respect to 2008. Society learns from every recession and carries that knowledge forward helping us better cope, unfortunately this is useless to us this time. This time we don’t have the banks or the builders to blame, this is simply a force majeure, an unforeseen, uncontrollable and overpowering event.

 

“Unemployment rates during the pandemic have been rising at a very steady rate”

 

Comparison

The biggest difference is in its most affected industries. From 2008 onwards our economy was in a sorry state, but at least we had the hospitality industry. The majority of the hospitalities workforce is comprised by 15-24 year olds. What effect is this going to have on this generation, the second generation in a row to go through an economic crash during their teens and early twenties? Having a few pints with friends playing pool and talking about who was next on the long haul flight to Australia was the standard for the night down the local back in ’08. We aren’t used to this isolation, and for the first time in history we can’t mass emigrate. We are all here, at home in our country, closer than ever, yet never so alone.

 

Unemployment rates during the pandemic have been rising at a very steady rate, definitely nothing compared to what we expected them to be. During my own investigation however, I discovered that all citizens receiving the PUP are still classed as employed. The logic behind that makes sense but at the same time seems questionable. Without support from the government, a lot of businesses who have closed their doors will never reopen. The PUP is useless if there is no job to go back to, and we are sure to see a migration of PUP recipients over to the Jobseekers within the year.

 

Brightside

In small rural towns we are seeing a rejuvenation of commerce. Footfall has landed in local businesses due in no small part to residents working from home. I spoke to Sinn Fein’s Louise O’Reilly about the future of working from home and what benefits it could have for towns. “One thing that I am pushing for at the moment is to establish [digital] hubs in the main streets. Not everybody wants to work at home but they also don’t want to go into [Dublin] Town” The prospect of not having to commute into the city centre is exciting to say the least. Not only is it beneficial to workers who have up to this point spent three or more hours commuting per day, but for local enterprises too.

 

“People may not be able to work from home, if you are living in a shared accommodation or somewhere with bad wifi or where there’s simply no space, you can’t work from home. You need somewhere to go but you don’t want to go back into the office full time.” This is where local hubs come in. Having a workforce operating remotely rejuvenates the locality and is the driving force for economic development. In a world where amazon prime takes the hassle out of shopping because there’s no time to run to the shops, it also takes the business from SME’s that are crucial to our economy.

 

Shopping local has never been so important. In recent years we have seen non Irish online stores heighten their operations in Ireland offering cheap deliveries and high discounts. Amazon in particular is operating at a high rate despite the closest distribution centre being in the UK. SME’s in particular are in danger of closure, where a number of them can operate through online sales not all of them can. In these uncertain times with our economy hanging in the balance it is paramount that we do our best to pump our money into our own economy and shop Irish where possible. Waving the green jersey and posting “SHOP LOCAL, SHOP IRISH” online while importing goods from overseas will only do damage in the long run.

 

Escape plan

The European Central Bank had initially forecasted that the economy would bounce back by the end of 2021, however they are now predicting that it will be closer to 2023. In the second ECB biannual financial stability review of the year they state “Professional forecasters now expect that the euro area economy will not exceed pre-pandemic GDP levels until 2023.” This is due largely in part to the second wave of covid. The easing of restrictions at the beginning of the summer period seen a rebound in economic activity which made us feel a little more comfortable. The second wave however put an abrupt end to that possibility.

 

With the rollout of the vaccine making its move, it looks like the end of this nightmare is in sight. We will be moving forward in life with the new normal and that’s not be a bad thing. And although the circumstances behind this recession are entirely different, there is still a lot that we learned in 2008 that we can carry forward into today. We have survived before, we can survive again.

 

When I spoke with Aneta I asked her what her plans were for the future and if she had any worries about moving forward, to which she responded with a light hearted “Whatever happens, happens. When I was opening this place I had big plans for it, but maybe for right now it’s just not meant to be.” Let me clarify, Aneta didn’t mean that her plans would never happen, just that they are on pause for a while. It’s important that we go into the future with that same attitude, it’s not forever, just for now.

 

Buying online DNA Ancestry Tests: You are the real product

Buying online DNA Ancestry Tests: You are the real product

 

OPINION

Buying online DNA Ancestry Tests: You are the real product

dna testing machine
Elizabeth Quinn

28th March 2021

 

Genetic information is a highly valuable commodity -This should be apparent though I feel it needs to be emphasised. Your DNA is a prized asset, teeming with information that marketers and pharmaceutical companies, to name only two, are very keen on gaining access to. Access to this asset has been limited in the past, but the development of at-home DNA ancestry testing kits has caused a surge in DNA availability, but privacy laws regarding genetic information have not been developed at the same pace.

 

DNA ancestry testing is a market that, although a few decades old, has grown at an accelerated pace in the last number of years. In 2018 alone, there were more DNA ancestry tests taken, compared to the cumulative total of all previous years US National Library of Medicine reports suggest that over 26 million people worldwide have purchased use-at-home DNA ancestry testing kits, as of early 2019.

 

The most startling part of this entire phenomenon is the idea that people are paying for the analysis and storage of their genetic information. DNA ancestry testing companies, such as AncestryDNA or 23andMe, earn two sources of income from these tests – firstly from the consumers themselves, and secondly from the sale of the consumers’ information (with the consent of the consumer) to other companies for commercial use. Our most intimate form of data – literally making up who we are as individuals – is being stored and harvested, and may be used in ways that we are not aware of, and are not in control of. Although the consumers pay for the service provided by these DNA testing companies, they soon become the product sold to third-parties.

 

The industry leaders, AncestryDNA, 23andMe and MyHeritage DNA, have satisfied the public curiosity for potential family scandal in finding long-lost relatives or filling gaps in a family tree; discovering who they are and where they come from; and discovering the role that genetics play in their traits and their potential predisposition to disease.

 

For some of these direct-to-consumer at-home DNA ancestry testing companies, a majority of their income would come from the sale of customer data to other companies for commercial use. The more transparent of these companies show consumers exactly how their data could be used, given their consent, but a 2016 survey showed that only one third of the 86 companies offering genetic testing did this. Even with this lack of communication, 23andMe reported that 80% of their customers consent to this use of data.

 

“Our most intimate form of data – literally making up who we are as individuals – is being stored and harvested, and may be used in ways that we are not aware of”

 

23andMe allows customers to select exactly what this data is used for, be it academic research, non-profit research, industry organisations and/or specific disease studies. If consent is given initially, but retracted at a future date, there is no guarantee that your data will be fully erased from the research project. An Ancestry spokeswomen insisted that the permission to share DNA can be revoked at any time, but Jennifer King, director of consumer privacy at Stanford Law School’s Centre for Internet and Society, is not convinced, saying that “Quitting one of these services isn’t as simple as just clicking Delete. How do you verify that they’ve actually deleted your genetic profile or destroyed a physical sample?

 

Like every online industry, the genetic-testing industry is also at high risk of hacking. The consequences of a hack of this magnitude are amplified given the personal nature of the information being breached. This is not just a hypothetical worry, but one that has happened in the past and there is a risk of happening again in the future. In October 2017, more than 92 million MyHeritage accounts were breached. The company released that email account details were leaked, but ensured that more sensitive information, such as DNA and family data, or credit card information, was stored separately and was not accessed. Although DNA data records were not breached, it should still be a concern to those involved.

 

If this genetic information falls into the wrong hands, it could be detrimental to society. The leaking of genetic information could compromise ability to get insurance, or life assurance, as people may not be covered for pre-disposed illnesses or ailments. For example, someone who has a family history of breast cancer, and is a carrier of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, may be forced to pay exorbitant insurance premiums or may be denied insurance altogether.

 

The biggest issue with all of this is surrounding the idea that these are commercial businesses that can offer a health-related service, but are not healthcare workers. None of these companies have taken their Hippocratic Oath. These companies are not bound by a promise to care for the wellbeing of their customers. By sharing your DNA with companies like this, you are placing a huge amount of trust in the hands of these CEOs, who are solely motivated by their potential to generate profits from their assets.

 

As tedious as Terms & Conditions may be, users of these services should be fully aware of what they are signing up for, and the potential risks involved if data is breached or misused outside of what they consent to. A balance should be struck between the desire to learn about yourself and your family, and the implications for you, and your family members, if the data falls into the wrong hands.

 

 

 

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

 

Credibility, continuity and change – Biden’s air-strikes in Syria

Credibility, continuity and change – Biden’s air-strikes in Syria

 

OPINION

Credibility, continuity and change – Biden’s air-strikes in Syria

Joe Biden
Elizabeth Quinn

27th March 2021

 

On 26th February 2021, one month after his inauguration as President, Joe Biden authorised air-strikes targeting Iranian backed fighters in Syria. 22 people were killed in the strikes launched in retaliation for rocket attacks in neighbouring Iraq, in which an American contractor was killed and a number of coalition troops, and one US service member, were injured. The timing here is significant. Occurring a fortnight after Biden, in what has been described as historic policy shift, ended US support for Saudi Arabia’s protracted six-year intervention in Yemen, the cause of one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. It was also just nine days after Biden and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in their first phone call, reaffirmed close cooperation in matters of security while pledging to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians and in the broader region.

The decision-making behind the strikes, then, is simple. First, it sends a calculated message that the US remains willing to assert itself with force on the world stage. Second, it signals continuity in a long-standing policy direction to employ air-strikes as a means of risk averse, limited intervention and method of message sending. Third, it seeks to reinforce trust with US regional allies. Lastly, it signals a carrot-and-stick approach to US-Iran relations. Biden is attempting to project a no-nonsense approach to Iranian regional ambitions while seeking also to find a path, albeit a long one, toward diplomatic re-engagement. The ultimate aim of which is the US re-entering the JCPOA, reversing the previous administration’s decision to abandon Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement.

It is clear, then, that there is a significant degree of continuity here from previous Democratic administrations where a mixture of coercive diplomacy, deterrence and engagement were the modus operandi for US international relations. Biden’s cabinet picks, particularly, National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan; Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken; and Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, are indicative of this. Having all served in the Obama administration in more junior positions but, nonetheless, shaping a foreign policy where limited application of American military might go hand-in-glove with diplomatic engagement. Nonetheless, the Biden foreign policy is one that will be shaped by conditions created in the last four years and not a return to those of 2008. The US cannot be seen to roll back to a dove-ish standpoint on Iran; rather, it is the opposite. While Biden will undoubtedly move away from the failed “maximum pressure” policy of the Trump administration, he cannot be seen to retreat from this position entirely. For instance, the US is demanding Iran make the first steps towards re-compliance with the conditions of the JCPOA before any sanctions will be lifted, a move which will more than likely not work and may cause concern amongst the agreement’s European signatories.

 

“It is clear, then, that there is a significant degree of continuity here from previous Democratic administrations where a mixture of coercive diplomacy, deterrence and engagement were the modus operandi for US international relations.”

 

Biden, in his first major foreign policy address, stated that “Diplomacy is back”, the Obama administration’s foreign policy created many of the conditions that alienated significant portions of the electorate and fuelled isolationist sentiment. Factors which helped create the conditions for the Trump presidency. For instance, in trade, the abandoned Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement was perceived to endanger US workers. In Defence, the disastrous intervention in Libya and the continuation of endless war in the Middle East, particularly, Afghanistan. Biden, in the same address, alluded to this, stating, “There’s no longer a bright line between foreign and domestic policy. Every action we take in our conduct abroad, we must take with American working families in mind.”

The air-strikes, then, must not be seen in isolation. Rather, along with US efforts to re-engage with allies alienated under the previous administration and re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement. Moves which reaffirm the importance of multilateralism return the US to the fore of the “rules based international order” while safeguarding domestic interests. They are, then, the first steps towards Biden treading a fine line between broad diplomatic reengagement undergirded by coercive credibility and, in a much-altered global landscape, seeking to create a sense of continuity, stability as well as change. Lastly, with the US riven by internal crises and in the midst of deadly pandemic, Biden’s first foreign policy actions reflect the easy decisions of an executive with more pressing issues at home than abroad.

 

 

 

Photo by Jlhervas on Flickr

 

What happened to Britney Spears can’t happen again

What happened to Britney Spears can’t happen again

 

OPINION

What happened to Britney Spears can’t happen again.

Britney Spears in concert
Elizabeth Quinn

26th March 2021

 

As the most iconic trends of the 2000s find their way back into the mainstream, we reflect with nostalgia on the era that brought us Mean Girls, Tamagotchi’s, and arguably the best pop hits of all time. However, this glamorous decade also comes with a much darker past that is too often overlooked. The explosive new documentary Framing Britney Spears has confronted us with the shameful past of tabloid culture and blatant misogyny that characterised the early 2000s.

Although we remember Britney Spears’s reign as queen of pop fondly, we seem to forget the incessant abuse she faced from the media and the part we played in it. The documentary details the relentless bullying Spears endured by tabloids that followed her every move. They published stories criticising her sex life, parenting capabilities, and mental health. She lost all sense of privacy as the demand for these stories skyrocketed, along with the price tag of a candid photo of her. The paparazzi stopped at nothing to get “money shots” of the star, stalking her and intentionally provoking her until she finally broke. We all watched Britney Spears’s downfall as if it was an entertaining performance. So why were we so shocked at the revelations in this documentary?

The media has torn women apart for public amusement since its conception. From Marilyn Monroe to, Lindsay Lohan we have become accustomed to the degradation of women in the tabloids. This abuse from the press is planned and intentional, as if they are setting up for a climactic scene in a movie. First, they idolise these celebrities, building them up on a pedestal, before viciously knocking them down – all in the name of entertainment.

There is no topic off-limits when it comes to criticising these women. It has simply become the norm to see images and stories which objectify and humiliate them splashed across front pages. Publications like Star Magazine even had entire issues dedicated to body shaming women for their “fight with cellulite”. This sexist pressure not only had an enormous effect on the stars they berated, but also on the slew of young women, men, and children who read these magazines. Although we enjoyed the colourful gossip of 2000s tabloids, they convinced us that it was normal to treat women this way.

 

“The media has torn women apart for public amusement since its conception. From Marilyn Monroe to, Lindsay Lohan we have become accustomed to the degradation of women in the tabloids.”

 

Judged by a set of unattainable standards, these stars would never fit the mould of what the public deemed to be the “perfect” woman. Britney Spears was reduced to a sexual object at the mere age of 17, but she was also expected to be an innocent role model for the fans who worshipped her. Rather than attacking the articles that sexually objectified her as a teenager, mothers began to attack Britney for being a ‘bad influence’ on their daughters. She was expected to be desirable to the male gaze whilst also presenting as a perfect matriarchal example for children. An impossible feat.

There is no doubt that our cruel criticism of the star led to a mental breakdown that forced her into a court-sanctioned conservatorship in 2008. Despite Britney’s pleas to have an impartial conservator, the court gave her father complete control over her life. The documentary has sparked an upsurge in supporters of the #FreeBritney movement that is advocating for the star to be liberated from the agreement. It has also opened the eyes of many to how shameful our treatment of her really was.

This has held up an unflattering mirror to a society that relished in the downfall of countless women. We funded the tabloids that abused celebrities and egged them on till they pushed women like Britney to the edge. However, this is not some shameful practice that was left in the 2000s. We still feed into the misogynistic portrayal of women like Meghan Markle and Megan Thee Stallion whose abuse is exacerbated because of deep-seated racism in the media.

If we are to stop repeating mistakes from the past and learn from them instead, we must stand up against the public degradation of women. Sexism is still the “stock in trade” of the press and continues to uphold power structures that perpetuate sexist, racist, and classist myths. As many studies have found, the harassment of celebrities can be a major cultural risk factor that encourages violence against women. We must all stop accepting misogynistic attacks on women that have become so normalised and entrenched in our everyday lives. We owe it to the many women whose lives have been torn apart by the media. We owe it to Britney.

 

 

 

Photo by Gabriel Weinstein on Flickr