Weekend Reading

Here’s another edition of weekend reading for you:

What’s nice about hypocrisy is that it at least maintains some point of connection with morality. It keeps moral principles — like “you don’t torture people” or “you don’t send killer robots to murder people on your sole say-so” — enshrined as norms, meaning that there’s some kind of leverage for change. Actually committing the crimes is bad enough, but publicly proclaiming them to be the right thing to do is an even more horrific crime, because it closes down the possibility that the crimes may end in the future.

Producing identification with the bosses; smashing labor; and making solidarity difficult through contract labor, precarity, and remote working are key features of neoliberal workplace organization. But central to this vision, too, is workplace surveillance. Jay Gould, ninth richest man in American history, railroad speculator, and widely despised robber baron, famously remarked upon the hiring of strikebreakers, “I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half.” Neoliberalism allows for the return of the robber barons by producing the technologies and techniques to replace Gould’s “kill” with “watch.” Heightened workplace surveillance helps build a workplace where no time is wasted, where all effort is put directly into the production of the bosses’ product. But it transforms more than just the bottom line.

The threat of the ever-present spy, the fear that the woman who forgot her ID in the car but swears she’s 18 is actually a scab employed by your boss, means you trust no one, expecting them all to be against you, out to catch you breaking management’s rules, which you now enforce with paranoiac efficiency. Surveillance, ultimately, isn’t about stopping crime. It’s about making police.

So my feeling, as a lady-writer, is LET THE LADIES HAVE OUR FUCKING PRIZE. Women can be successful novelists, but we don’t win shit. And until we fix that, cultural institutions like the Orange Prize aren’t “ghettoizing” women, they’re bringing women INTO the fold of award-winning novelists. It’s inclusive, not exclusive. The alternative is…what? Sitting and waiting for systemic inequalities to magically evaporate? As long as the prize is judged in a serious, non-gendered way—as long as it’s not like, “This book wins because it has the most shopping in it! Weeeeeee!”—it’s merely drawing attention to the underappreciated. Pushing back against inequality does not create inequality, and to say so is to ignore that there’s a problem. Suggesting that a prize for female novelists creates a barrier between the sexes overlooks the fact thatwomen are already segregated.

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