Something Dystopian: dropping off my son at Nursery

Many parents have been there and many have winced and crumbled at the sight of their child wailing as they are carried away from your arms by their wonderful nursery carer. My experience this morning was visceral in every sense. As I handed my son over to his key carer I watched the calmness crash out of his face to be replaced by anguish and an imploring soul sapping cry as he stared at me. I felt the invisible heartstrings straining between us as he was carried away from me and I stumbled further into the room to follow his innocent, vulnerable cries. Reassured by the calm, collected carer, I steeled myself and turned for the door while being bombarded by the continuing sounds of my son’s cries. The lurching, sinking weight in my stomach continued to pull me down as I headed out of the main building and into the courtyard. Few psychological torture techniques could have the emotional power of this experience.

I used the title ‘something dystopian’ to equate the oppressive, crushing experience of my first official nursery drop-off for my son with those often described in dystopian fiction. Of course, I know that my son is being very well looked after as I type these words. I know that I will be picking him up in around 90 minutes time. I know that he will get more familiar with this routine as time passes and he learns to expect our routine every week. In contrast, dystopian fictions often outline the despair and seeming hopelessness of such experiences. Where dystopian fiction does align with my own experiences is the coping strategies that protagonists employ to cope. For me, this blog post is a means of processing and reflecting on my experience. My phone call to my wife was another, and my text to my mum was another. It is the act of sharing and mutual reassurance that subverts the oppressive forces that act upon us. If we suffer in silence, or allow our emotions to be silenced, we become the embodiment of dystopian oppression.

My re-embodied masculinity journey took a step forward today because of this bodily caring experience. I handed over my son in a symbolic act of mutual trust and abandonment of my parental responsibilities as a carer in lieu of my other responsibilities as a provider. This juxtaposition of care and abandonment is an element of masculinity that was previously relatively unfamiliar to me. I have gained a greater sense of the inner conflict that I presume other parents feel when doing the drop off. I have certainly heard about it through general discourse in media discussions, but the real experience brings the emotions into clear focus. I do not presume to suggest that I have somehow had an epiphany today, but I do believe the physical aspect of parenting involves a spectrum of emotions. If you don’t engage in all aspects of physical care, you nullify your sense of self and limiting your growth beyond the hegemonic masculine model. Parenting is not just reading, play and bath time, it is tears, nappies and rocking to sleep too.

Re-embodiment requires that you embrace this collage of emotion and internalise these feelings as a part of who you are. Only through reflection and discourse can men take steps towards a caring masculinity that benefits them, their children and society as a whole.

Ideology

Why I am writing here again

I have not written here for a few months, for which I can only apologise to myself and my avid readership… I have always enjoyed writing and I think my avoidance of the blog has been partly due to distraction with the PhD and also Holly being pregnant, but also a sense of it feeling unnecessary or an indulgence compared to other commitments. This week, I spoke with my dad who was suffering from a relapse of a preexisting back problem. During our conversation, he mentioned that he wanted to stave off boredom the next day, having limited movement and being stuck in the house. I encouraged him to write a story as he has produced some really heartfelt and also innovative pieces in the past. To my delight, I received an email from him the next day with a beautiful reflective piece attached. Reading this piece on my train journey from Newcastle to Carlisle, I was transported back to hill walking on green and rocky scenery warm sunshine with my dad, specifically our walks on Blencathra. My dad’s writing was honest, heartfelt and highly personal. I cried as I read it, swam in my happy memories, and felt the raw emotions of the love between a father and child burst forth. Having sufficiently recovered from this experience and staring at the rolling Northumberland hills as they cascaded into Cumbria, I was immediately reminded of the vital importance of writing in my life, and its pivotal role as a lifeline and catharsis to my own research journey. I immediately resolved to resume my writing commitment and always remember its impact on my own emotional and cognitive focus. Writing will always be the place where I feel most free to express myself. This form of reflective writing is particularly helpful as an ally to the constant whirring of PhD concepts and theories that occupy my conscious and subconscious mind. I have agreed with myself that this is a very worthwhile process and something I must continue. I will start this post with a general update before briefly outlining my thoughts on lies, revisionism and ideology which are some areas of theory and dystopia I am fascinated with.

General Update

I have spent much of the last few months reading about gender theory through Connell’s work, the ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’ by Freire, and latterly, Ideology through Althusser. I have also continued to read dystopian fiction including the recently published ‘Red Clocks’ by Leni Zumas, which I can highly recommend. In recent months, I have also moved away from a focus on leadership and towards resistant movements of change as depicted in the subversions in dystopian literature.

The Equity Challenge project has been progressing over the summer and I have been really pleased to build a partnership with the Student’s Union on our student audit. I have met new team members and been really pleased to find continuing enthusiasm for this important action. Working for cultural change is as difficult as I expected. Speaking to groups of students in lecture hall about this is a really odd experience. I have found myself pivoting the ‘pitch’ to appeal to the individual gains that students may pull from getting involved. I am happy to report some genuine interest from students so far and feel hopeful for more to come. I think student involvement is an acid test for the viability of sustainable cultural change. I my mind, this will happen far more effectively with a strong and unified staff and student collaboration, but without the students it will be a far more challenging and lengthy journey.

I have also been writing about fertility in the workplace as a trope of dystopian literature through a range of organisation based research into the negative impacts of fertility. This has been through a few drafts already and,  thanks to my supervisors, I have been learning how to craft my writing into an organised and cogent academic essay. I must admit I have fallen into some bad habits since completing my Masters, so their feedback has been vital. Since working on this essay, which I hope to submit to a conference next year, I have started to narrow down my theoretical framework and the theory of ideology has become prominent in my thinking.

Ideology

My second supervisor suggested that I read Luis Althusser’s work on ideology as a potential theoretical framework that can work in concert with my ideas of dystopia. One of the underpinning ontological assumptions that drives my research is my perception and assumption that people internalise the values, structures and ideology of an organisation, which is often an arm of a larger state/global structure. In the case of Universities, Althusser would define them as Ideological State Apparatuses. Althusser, a prominent, Marxist theorist and philosopher from the mid and late twentieth century, wrote his essay on ideology, outlining state structures underpinned by dominant, bourgeois ideology which reproduced its dominance over the masses through two arms of state apparatuses:

  1. (Repressive) State Apparatuses – acting with the overt, though usually subdued threat of violence as a primary motivating factor.
    • Government, Administration; Army; Police; Courts; Prisons
  2. Ideological State Apparatuses primarily acting through ideological means to inculcate and coerce the masses into a unified social purpose
    • Religion, Education, Family, Legal, Political, Trade unions, Communication media, Cultural – literature, art, sports

These two arms of the state apparatuses work together with various elements acting more prominently or less so depending on the context. Religion in the UK plays a less prominent role in ideological influence than it once did, while communication media relentlessly influences us on a minute by minute basis. The repressive state apparatus form the legitimate, yet often unrequired threat of violence and physical suppression that inculcates a sense of apprehension, self regulation and fear, all experiences of fear. Why do we choose not to rise up and overthrow seemingly incompetent governments? Historical events such as the civil rights backlash of police, imprisoned suffragettes and internationally hounded and outcast whistle-blowers provide clear examples of the consequences of any efforts to rise up against state and ideological power.  We internalise this knowledge and I believe it permeates our daily choices to act or not act. Of course we do internalise different ideologies based on politics, values (religious or other) and family environments etc.

Ideological differences are always present at a personal or group level, but the ideology that is often depicted in dystopia is that of state ideology and dominant elites with one purpose, to retain domination over the masses. Capitalist society, especially neo-liberal society, functions through an ideology of self preservation, individual self-interest and  domination of one group over another. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, contemporary society’s dominant dominant group is the super-rich, white men; often descending from a dynasty of family wealth and power (inherited and accumulated in various ways). If we accept that this group of elite and super-wealthy people have achieved their success by a mixture of individual achievement, inheritance and a societal system that rewards efforts to reinforce the domination of this group, we can begin to conceive of the possibility that the dominant group of white men may not be very receptive to alternative approaches to societal structure. These alternatives include theories and concepts of gender inequity.

Ideology and gender 

Ideology intersects with gender in the disputed concept of patriarchy which runs through western society in much of its ideological and repressive state apparatuses. For the repressive state we have the Government (historically dominated by men, particularly in the US) and the army (a bastion of masculine, aggressive power and tradition), the police (a long time boys club).

Topical this month, the law is a major actor in the repression of women, I don’t think I need to go into the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings other than to ask how a non-conservative woman judge would have been received by the senate if faced with similar allegations. Kavanaugh’s imminent confirmation (barring an unlikely Senate rejection) will encapsulates the ideological challenge for women in western society. He is a wealthy, white man from a privileged upbringing who represents conservative values and has previously talked about Roe Vs Wade as precedent on precedent. This means a ruling that has been reaffirmed in the supreme court after its original ruling. His view is accurate, but does leave the door ajar for alternate rulings as it does not describe the ruling as ‘settled law’. Kavanaugh, if confirmed, will join 5 other men and 3 women on the US supreme court. The events of the Blassey Ford hearings have highlighted the high stakes involved in legal state power. If confirmed, a man accused of sexual assault by multiple women will serve for the rest of his life in a highly influential position as the embodiment of the ideology of the current US administration under Trump. Trump, who this week was exposed in the New York Times as the recipient of a huge inheritance from his family’s real estate business through tax dodging and suspect schemes to siphon millions of dollars into his own coffers for posterity without paying appropriate inheritance tax. Trump, a man who campaigned with Mike Pence, both rich and powerful white men, on an ideology of conservative values and pro-life legislation. The repressive state apparatus really do matter, particularly when working in concert with ideology.

The ideological apparatuses of education, as I have stated before, are dominated by men in positions of power in Professor and Executive roles. The media also repeats the domination with only 20% of national newspaper editors being women. Religion has only very recently even contemplated women in positions of power and this is limited to the Church of England, not Catholicism, Islam or the Judaism.

If I add the recent rise of social media and online tech giants into the mix, we have Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Alphabet Inc (google parent company) Larry Page and Sergey Brin. These three giant companies dominate and influence our lives on a minute by minute basis and all three have dominant, super-rich men as their founders. This is omitting the enduringly influential Steve Jobs and Bill Gates as titans of computer technology.

If we can accept that there is a dominant ideology running through the state apparatuses, it is not a great leap to also accept that this ideology will protect its dominant and powerful players, the white men. How do the dominant protect their dominant position in the face of calls for change?

Piecemeal Ideological Responses

When faced with rising calls for change and progress from groups in society, the dominant group protects its position by offering piecemeal amendments, restoring order through concessions which may fall short of the full demand but pacify the rising anger of the masses. When feminist movements rose in the 1960s and 70s, one of the state’s responses was the abortion rights legislation in UK (1967) and US (1973). Such offerings can serve to reduce tensions and give new freedoms, but they do not displace the dominant groups at the top. They do not reduce their power, in fact their domination is secured for a generation by this negotiated offering. As we are seeing in the US, such offerings can be placed at risk in backlash movements underpinned by another state ideological apparatus, the conservative religious apparatus. The dominant elite will respond to this powerful group in the US because they have infiltrated the government as an arm of the repressive state apparatus and we are seeing reduced abortion clinic availability in a number of states across the US. State Apparatuses are already mobilising to offer piecemeal limits on abortion rights. This erosion leads to speculation of the abortion law being repealed in the US.

Dystopian ideology

I will conclude with a brief overview of the book I have recently read ‘Red Clocks’ by Leni Zumas. This highly relevant dystopia depicts an all too plausible future society in America with abortion rights overturned, an ominous ‘pink wall’ border for Canada and a new law to prohibit single mothers from adopting children. This novel may well be read for years to come as a prophetic example of state ideology fuelled by the fear, oppression and control experienced by women in oppressive societies. The US of ‘Red Clocks’ is very recognisable to our contemporary western society, with one difference, the erosion of women’s right to choose. Losing this right devalues women’s autonomy and reduces them to secondary subjects relative to dominant men. The ideology depicted here is likely derived from contemporary religious ideology in the US and the pro-life movement. The consequences for women in this novel are sometimes subtle, sometimes terrifying, often heartbreaking and always unfair. Here, the dominant state ideology has shifted and the repressive state apparatuses move to reinforce them. Once the ideological battle is lost, the struggle changes from progress to clawing back lost ground.

We must be forever vigilant of this constant, distopian threat. If we fall into the trap of internalising the dominant ideology, we can easily become complicit in the creation of dystopia. Ideology is everywhere in many guises, but the dominant state ideology is the most important and powerful, yet representative of the smallest group. Those at the top will ruthlessly protect themselves and we must also protect our own interests as fiercely. In Red Clocks, each protagonist has their own resistant act and shows the fire of subversion within them. We must all keep the fire burning to resist any erosion of progress and recognise the power of ideology as a weapon of dystopian societies.

Gender Pay Gap and the stories organisations tell – week 3 – 24/03/18

This week more gender pay gap reports were released, including at Northumbria University as the deadline for publication looms large. The process of reporting gender pay gaps is revealing some expected outcomes and also some results that invert the traditional narrative. The mean and median pay gap reporting across all submitted reports to date (24/03/18) shows a mean pay gap of 13.3% and a median pay gap at 11.7%. This presents us with a familiar story and one that is not surprising. As a general rule, men are occupied in higher paid positions across the country than women (74% of companies). This is not the story in every organisation and there are clear examples of large pay gaps in favour of women (15% of companies).

One story this begins to tell us is that some sectors may favour women in the same way the majority favour men. In an ideal world, it could be argued that all professions should be gender neutral or within an acceptable range of difference (what this acceptable range could be depends on the pay scales and remuneration differentials in place at an organisation). I believe that a structure of consistent, equal representation at all levels of an organisation, both power and pay, would breed a  culture of mutual respect between people and appreciation of our differences. There is also a strong economic argument as forecasts based on coordinated gender equality measures suggest GDP per capita is estimated to increase by 6-10% relative to the baseline by 2050 (European Institute for Gender Equality, 2017). We are all familiar with the risks of forecasting, but many investors trust economic models for company growth so it stands to reason that this narrative should also bear serious consideration.

From my perspective there should be no reason for any vocation, or profession to favour one gender over another. In Higher Education, the leaky pipeline phenomenon clearly points to a sector problem and one which we should be able to affect. Men currently  dominate the upper echelons of university academia and it is difficult to imagine this changing radically any time soon without radical action. The pinch point of the pipeline occurs between undergraduate and post graduate study, but the clear point of divergence is between Faculty Academic (Lecturer) and Professor. Here is where volume skews and the narrative shifts. Here is where the story of leadership ends for many women, yet continues with increasing success for men. Here is where the dystopic meets reality.

Leaky pipeline

Considering the dystopic reality, my reading this week continued on the theme of method with Kuhn and Popper as competing methodological muses. I have become more convinced of my preference for Popper’s revolutionary argument that ‘…we approach everything in the light of a preconceived theory.’ (Popper, 1970 p52) Set against the framework of masculine privilege, I have started to frame our preconceived theory of organisational normality as a similar restrictive framework to the prevailing scientific theories that scientists work within as per Kuhn’s ‘Normal Science‘.  My question has become centred around the mechanisms and pathways to enable the oppressed to break free from this reality.

With the concept of change and collective movements in mind, my reading of Paulo Freire’s ‘The Pedagogy of Hope’ has directed my thinking towards a clearer appreciation of contextual factors which may influence women in their careers. Freire states that ‘hope, as an ontological need, demands an anchoring in practice’ (Freire, 2014 p2) it is this dependent relationship between hope and reality that interests me when applying dystopian models of subversion to organisational reality. Freire’s describes a seminal moment in his formative years as an educator in Brazil and Chile which stayed with him and informed his later actions. He was touring series of talks to local communities with the intention of sharing his findings concerning corporal punishment between parents and children. His external analysis had found that parents in some inland communities were more inclined to punish their children more severely than parents in coastal communities. Sharing his findings with the intent of educating and raising awareness, he speculated as to the cause and welcomed questions from the audience. The response of a parent from the audience shifted his thinking on the subject of pedagogy and change initiatives.

The parent started by describing the house and environment he envisaged that Freire inhabited, one of relative privilege, but not ludicrously wealthy. They then described their own living conditions of abject poverty with chaos, hunger and exhaustion at the end of the working day. This was a reality of despair in the absence of hope, yet still this parent attended the talk. The message concerning overly harsh punishment of children was necessarily sidelined in the mind of Freire in the context of the oppressive forces that impacted on these communities every day. Sheer survival was the abiding motivation and any means of achieving this were deemed acceptable. This message has resonated with me and I believe it is absolutely vital to consider and adapt to the influences of context when evaluating the actions and outcomes of people in society.

What I have taken from this example is that my privileged position as the academic investigator of gender inequity in leadership is one I cannot dream to effectively articulate without appreciation of the reality for the women I am identifying as oppressed. Their oppression in my framing relates to the barriers evidenced in University contexts to senior leadership, or ‘what we are doing to them’. One factor I continually return to is fertility, with pregnancy and career transitions forming a primary pathway for many mothers. I feel this strikes to the heart of female oppression within the current paradigm and colours the reality of many women as their career progression stalls on the brink of senior leadership. I cannot prove this yet and it is beginning to form part of my ontological assumption on this area. The multitude of variables affecting this ‘leaky pipeline’ phenomenon is something I need to understand to be able to apply my dystopian method. As the next week progresses, I will continue to read about pedagogy and how we can support meaningful change in higher education and I will retain a healthy critical mind when restraining myself from academic indulgences in

References

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43470827

http://eige.europa.eu/rdc/eige-publications/economic-benefits-gender-equality-european-union-report-empirical-application-model

Freire, P. (2014). Pedagogy of hope: Reliving pedagogy of the oppressed. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Kuhn, T. S., Lakatos, I., & Musgrave, A. (1970). Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge. Criticism and the growth of knowledge.

https://gender-pay-gap.service.gov.uk/Viewing/download

Legally Blonde paradigms and dystopian inspirations: Resilience and identity in Gendered Leadership: – Week two

My eye was drawn to the BBC article this week relaying an encounter between a film journalist and Legally Blonde star, Reese Witherspoon. On the surface, this encounter described a wonderful opportunity for a fan to share something meaningful and inspirational with an iconic female star who inspired her. The fact that her dissertation was enthusiastically received is also a positive angle that we can all appreciate and dream for with our icons. Looking deeper, the themes of female identity and resilience are admired qualities present in the film and its lead and these qualities appear frequently in dystopia.

Theoretical readings of Dystopia and Young Adult Dystopia have often returned to the idea of resilience and the ability to take action (Mallan, 2017) as a critical contributor to success. We can look to the example of Katniss Everdene in ‘The Hunger Games’ (Collins, 2013) and countless others who transcend their reality to walk a new path. The idea of resilience conjures up thoughts of strong characters who ‘bounce back’ despite a series of potentially detrimental circumstances. It is sometimes predicated on a context whereby oppressed actors are unable to express themselves fully and must therefore exhibit resilience to cope with the challenges of these negative forces to retain their purpose and identity. In the case of Elle Woods, her resilience is founded in an unerring desire to practice law in her way in spite of a tirade of judgemental and conservative principles which exclude her ‘type’ from participation in such noble professions. It is her personalised approach, coupled with some required conformity to the learning practices of her Law school, that enables her to achieve the respect and admiration of her peers in academic and legal practice. In organisations, two of the phenomena I am interested in are conformity and resilience for female leaders. One of the questions I want to explore is how do women succeed in this masculine paradigm with rules created by and for masculine leaders?

It could be argued that they succeed through conformity to this paradigm, compromising their own identity to align with the expectations of the organisation and the broader perceptions of what a leader is.  Alternatively, it could be said that women channel remarkable reserves of resilience against wave after wave of mansplaining, hepeating and unequal reward. What we need to consider is how we channel this powerful resilience to harness the power of the repressed and take responsibility for change as per the young adult protagonists combating the adult power of their dystopias (Mallan, 2017). Certainly ‘collective unity’ (thanks to John Mabillard) and solidarity in pursuit of our cause are vital. My supervisor promotes the role of the ally in providing support for female (or minority) ideas that may otherwise be marginalised or re-framed by a dominant actor in the room without recognition for the originator. We can all become allies in our workplaces and lives by standing together on issues that we agree are important.

One damaging influence upon the goal of collective unity is trust. In our increasingly individualistic and fearful society, the circle of trust we can draw upon becomes smaller and smaller. If we are unable to open ourselves to the benefits of a wider network of trust, we may be fatally flawed in our journey towards equity. Power, in dystopia and reality, seeks to disrupt collective movements and dismantle collective unity. Beware the spectre of fear that drives a chasm into the collective visions we aspire to; it breeds distrust, betrayal and individualism – the enemies of collective unity.

Finally, I have been considering my philosophical approach in addressing my research question. One of the primary problems I face concerns the dominant paradigm of masculine power which has defined the business world and therefore the gender dynamics, rules and behaviour norms of organisations. As I have engaged with the scientific methodological approaches of Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper, I have begun to consider the problem of trying to answer a problem when the rules of the world you are trying to understand are stacked significantly in favour of the men who predominantly receive the lion’s share of the benefits.

It is human nature to protect what we have and to maintain our position of power when we achieve it. I am beginning to consider the falsification principle of Popper’s ‘refutation’, the subjectivity of knowledge and the absence of certainties in science as more philosophically aligned to my radical approach of disrupting the gendered organisational paradigm via dystopian trope analysis.  This challenges the Kuhnian approach of working within the paradigms to confirm and expand existing theories. I conceptualise the gender movement, at present, as constricted within the prevailing paradigm of masculinity. To achieve equity and parity for women and minority groups based on current rules, it is necessary to work within the system, not create a new system outside the existing parameters. If we live as hermits, we only impact our own lives, we don’t things for the better.

I am not dismissing Kuhn’s conceptualisation of scientific method as he also points to new paradigms as historical realities within scientific reasoning and methodology. I  argue that my research goals are centred on demonstrating a critical and robust argument against the current system and showing the ways to a new paradigm inspired by the lessons of dystopia. Popper’s insistence on validity of scientific theories only if they are refutable by testing to the degree of falsification may present a challenge to my approach. To build falsification measures into my paradigm for progressive action may weaken my argument for the inspirational influence of subjective hope which drives collective agency and is found in the Dystopian subversions of power.

I am concerned with highlighting the inherent flaws of the system and ‘breaking the box’ to create a space and opportunity to explore a new paradigm where the rules and principles are based in equitable shares in prosperity. If we can take inspiration from Elle Woods and her journey to ‘break the box’, we can see her resilience, identity and integrity never wavered. A character who has inspired millions should be taken seriously. She is an icon of female empowerment and someone whose approach subverted the dominant paradigm and redefined the rules of success. Progressive gender movements must draw strength and inspiration from these icons and remember their identity, resilience and power.

References

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-43399961

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/ab1eaf4a-c794-420a-929f-253695ede704

Collins, S. (2013). The Hunger Games Complete Trilogy. Scholastic UK.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/mar/15/hsbc-pay-gap-reveals-men-being-paid-twice-as-much-as-women

Kuhn, T. S. (2012). The structure of scientific revolutions. University of Chicago press.

Mallan, K. (2017). Dystopian fiction for young people: Instructive tales of resilience. Psychoanalytic Inquiry37(1), 16-24.

Popper, K. (2014). Conjectures and refutations: The growth of scientific knowledge. routledge.

Utopian Visions, Dystopian Nightmares and Inclusion Riders – Week 1 – March 5th 2018

We start this blog together at a time of exciting possibilities with #metoo (Tarana Burke, 2006), #timesup (https://www.timesupnow.com/) and ‘inclusion riders‘ (Stacey Smith, 2016), yet I will be exploring the dystopic underbelly of our experiences. Let’s start with reality. Based on current statistics, only 6% of UK FTSE 100 CEOs, 22% of MPs and 24% of UK University Professors are women. These are stark figures that point to a fundamental imbalance in the seats of power and influence within our society. We may be told that things are changing and progress takes time, but when you review those figures and consider your workplace reality, you may begin to reevaluate the positivist narrative you are being fed. The question becomes, who is feeding me this narrative and why are they doing it?

Why is this dystopian exploration important and why does it matter?

Dystopia explores the worst in us, the nightmarish possibilities inspired by our contemporary experiences. To understand what we are capable of gives us insights into what we may be perpetrating today, perhaps less conspicuously than in famous dystopian canon, but often just as devastatingly effective in its oppressive and controlling influence on our lives. This blog will explore the question of what we can learn from fictional dystopian examples and apply these lessons to our reality. The purpose is to shock you and raise your awareness of what is happening under our very noses. In our hypernormalised reality (Alexei Yurchak, 2006; Adam Curtis, 2016) we conform to the gender normative systems that provide stability, traditions and purpose to our lives. We conform, mostly willingly, and often in the unconscious or conscious knowledge that what we experience is not fair or just or right, yet the scale of the problem is so vast and pervasive we struggle to conceive of a way out. We are waiting for the solution, the leader to show us the way, but perhaps the solution is within us.

The second area of exploration in this blog will consider and promote examples of dissidence, subversion and rebellion in Dystopia and contemporary working life. We see pockets of activism across all walks of society, but what can we learn from dystopian protagonists and their struggles against oppressive systems? How does subversion succeed and how does it fail? To start with, using #timesup as an example, we see that high-level buy-in of powerful voices in Hollywood has lended credence and power to this critical movement. You may have noticed that the ‘Inclusion Rider’ concept was coined in 2016, yet only gains wide recognition this week. Such a terrific concept deserved to be shared as soon as it was conceived, yet we rely so much on the voices of those with platforms. Here is the battle ground, the first allies have spoken, what we need now is momentum. Just look at the remarkable transformation in Jeremy Corbyn’s fortunes, from the brink of political extinction, derided and dismissed, to the spokesperson for the many, not the few. How was this possible, well Momentum (excuse the pun) and the collective power of thousands of people pulling in one direction was a vital ingredient. That story is not over yet and neither is ours, not by a long way.

I conclude this opening blog, which has been meant as an introduction and taster, with the horrific, iconic image created by George Orwell, ‘If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever’ (1984). To avoid this fate, we must fight for what we believe in and resist the tyranny of concentrated power.