social deconstruction 

Dismantle the social constructs
And destroy the definitions
Outdated dictionaries
That haven’t seen a proper change
For decades

So easily modified to add new words
Of millennial society
It’s all swag
And planking

But don’t you dare update the fundaments
The terms from years ago
Where marriage is still defined by gender
And how much sex you have
Whereas in family it is all about offsprings
Biological, as adoptive don’t count

Change the vocabularies
To improve the mindsets
Adapt the laws and legislations
To fit the societal changes
The upgrades and the progress

Because family is still a family without a child
And love is love without any sex
What once was unimaginable is now reality
And what may be weird now shall become a norm
Just you wait…

moral-licensing and the case of Lithuania

During the weekend I got acquainted with one very interesting sociological concept that has left me thinking and analysing my own culture for a while. It is called moral-licensing or self-licensing.

Wikipedia gives a suitable  definition:

“a term used in social psychology and marketing to describe the subconscious phenomenon whereby increased confidence and security in one’s self-image or self-concept tends to make that individual worry less about the consequences of subsequent immoral behaviour and, therefore, more likely to make immoral choices and act immorally.”

I easier words it occurs when a person does something positive, for example, jogging for 30 minutes, and then goes on to eat a whole pizza with a huge glass of soda as a compensation. In the person’s mind the exercise discounts the negative action. In other way it may be the “black token friend syndrome”, where a generally racist person hides behind the fact that he/she has one black friend to justify the racist comments (I cannot be racist, my best friend is black…).

I found out about the name of this phenomenon that I am very familiar with while surfing through channels on the TV and accidentally stopping at CNN where Malcolm Gladwell was speaking about the concept. Soon I found his podcast “Revisionist History” (highly recommended!) where he further explained the matter and gave some examples. Those included the former Australian PM Gillard and a famous 19th British painter Elizabeth Thompson Butler.

Now I want to give my own examples from Lithuania, as it is the situation I know best (or I think that I do). Lithuania for me is very well known for its two main problems – racism and homo/transphobia. However, behind both these cases there is moral-licensing.

Lithuanians in general (obviously not speaking for the whole nation) are not the friendliest people towards foreigners, be it Polish neighbours or Syrian refugees. I mean the first mentioning of our country’s name in 1009 is marked by Lithuanian men almost killing a German… Nevertheless, in Lithuania there are some foreigners living peacefully. I may call them “golden-star token foreigners”. They are fully integrated, most of them fluent in Lithuanian, with full-time jobs and a clean porch. Lithuanians love these people! Greet them on the street, write positive stories on the newspapers, and overall are happy with their presence. Yet, this seems to give way to the flood of racist and hateful comments towards foreigners that do not fit the “example” – refugees, because they are Muslim; blacks, simply because their black, and so on… I have read many articles and comments about the unwillingness to let anyone that is not Christian or white into our country, but look “we are not bad, my good neighbour is from Pakistan”.

And, of course, my favourite topic of LGBT+ community. The general hate towards these beautiful people in my country is something that truly breaks my heart and bring shame upon me. Yet, we also have some “golden-star token gays and transgenders”. There are several celebrities – singers, actors, designers, models – that happen to be homosexual or transgender. They are open about their identity, they are not afraid to speak out and people listen to them, people seem to accept their identity without saying it’s only a “lifestyle” or something “immoral”. And having these people on the TV seems to give way to numerous restrictions on liberties, rights of assembly and association. I am not even talking about someone who is even further away from the gender-binary than a transgender person. They are criticised even by the token gold-stars, who in those cases hide behind their identities to justify the hate.

Moral-licensing is a very dangerous matter. The society may seem to be opening up to new ideas and identities through the acceptance of these few individuals, but more often than not after accepting a few the remaining group is forgotten and discriminated even more. Malcom Gladwell said in an interview that is very difficult to know whether the person is a pioneer or a token.

I believe that those “token” people can help others to get into the system from within. As they already have the “golden ticket” they can in a way be the voice and the game changer who brings more representation and more understanding. I would love to see more of that.

tired of sexist music…

I’m independent and worthwhile
I’m complete and in control of my body
No need of approval or assessment

Why would I be better with you?
I am not in need of a saviour, who’d take me in
You do not know my life – personal or love
And if you think you do, that’s just plain creepy
So don’t dare saying I’d be better with you
I’m better happy, alone or not

Stop calling me your little cheerleader
That has to support any action you make
I am not your decoration
Who laughs at every joke you make
Will not be an asset in need of you
And will cheer on my own success from now on

All the songs of making women smaller
Decorations of men
In need of saviours
Decreasing their beauty and power
Will not control me
Shall not control anyone

redefining the concept of “family”

After some on and off discussions about the concepts of family and family values, I decided to delve into the wide web and find out what is traditionally considered a family, how family values are defined and make an argument as to why those definitions are outdated. I mean, an online dictionary claims that the most widely used explanation of “family” is from the 19th century. It’s been 200 years, maybe it’s time to make the “non-traditional” the new “traditional”, especially when it is already dominating our society.

To begin with, it is more difficult to find one clear definition for the social concept of a family, as there are plenty definitions from various times and disciplines. Thus, several descriptions shall be offered. According to “a family” may be regarded as

  1. “a primary social group consisting of parents and their offsprings, the principal function of which is provision for its members”
  2. “ a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for”
  3. “any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins”

Some points seem to emerge – two or more adults, offsprings, shared household, blood relations. However, these are clearly old definitions and do not include many variations. For example, same gender families, couples who do not want to or cannot have offsprings, families living separately. The family of a man, woman, and children is an old concept which is still being pushed forward by media and politicians, who supposedly stand for traditional family.

The problem is that the so-called traditional definitions have been changing for ages and what was once considered a family may be a strange sight nowadays. For example, according to the Biblical texts a man who has raped a woman must marry her. The result – a man, a woman, and a child. Should be a traditional family, right? Not sure if such an idea would be widely accepted nowadays. Just as several wives, child abuse or slaves as part of the family.

I do not go against the states or society trying to protect the family, as the core social group, as everyone on this Earth is a part of some family – blood related or not, good and healthy relationships or not. However, when it is getting more and more difficult to define what a modern family is, the traditional definition unsurprisingly wins in both the public discourse and law-making.

Also, disclaimer! I do not have a legal solution or suggestion to the states, as that is not my goal. I believe that everyone’s rights should be protected, in a family or not. I can only offer my humble opinion.

The “family” is a social construct created by people, thus the same people should have the right to decide what family is to them and what it means. The “society” cannot tell that two men who have an adopted child or two people living together with three cats are not legit families.  If there is trust, consent, and strong emotional bonds between these people they are a family. They have mutually decided on this.

In my honest opinion

  • Family is not a career and does not have a goal – for example, bearing a child;
  • Family does not have to live under one roof;
  • Children are not a necessity to make a family;
  • Gender, religion, race should not be determinants of a family;
  • Family is a partnership between people.

Thus again, the state should not merely raise the importance of so-called traditional family values, but talk about the individuals, their human rights and moral values, as a whole in order not to “non-traditional” families that now are a majority and not an alternative or immorality.

As I am on the topic of the family values, it was the next definition I was somewhat conflicted about. Dictionary gave me this explanation:

  • “the moral and ethical principles traditionally upheld and transmitted within a family, as honesty, loyalty, industry, and faith”

Once again, some issues arise. What if the family is abusive and harassing towards each other? What is some members of family are extremely homophobic or racist and their values are filled with hateful notions?

Shouldn’t we talk about moral values instead of family values, as not in every family those ideals may be apparent? Families, even though from the outside looking traditional, may be harassing and discriminating.

Moral values of honesty, respect, humanness, equality should be taught by media, society, educational institutions, not only families. Family values are not personally defined, moral values and human rights, on the other hand are and should be universal.

I am sure that this thought piece will not change opinions of most of the people, but at least I wish for some discussion to happen.

I think it is the time to break the outdated concept of a “traditional family” and think about having lasting and healthy relationships with everyone around, blood related or not, legally-confined or not.

in search of work experience

This September I will start my second and last year as a graduate student. Which means I should start looking forward to my future prospects as an employed human-being. And search I do. And it turns out to be one impossible journey, even in the land of opportunities and growing economy – China. I would like to point out one huge huge annoyance that I bump into everyday on my searching spree. 

While looking for job or any kind of position I had to first give up one the so-called starting positions, which usually ask for 2-3 years of work experience. Therefore I turned to the land of internships. Turns out that nowadays the requirements and application process for simple internships is getting more and more absurd. Some ask for 40 to 50 hours a week, while not giving an money whatsoever. Some ask for several years of experience, which is what the internship is ought to give. And some have interviews upon interviews. Is this the new form where you need to be experienced before getting further experience? And when will I have time to finish my studies with the 40 hour week. Don’t forget, you need to get the money for food, accommodation, and transportation, too.

Is volunteering the new internship? Seems so. A lot of organisations have offers for both internships, which are basically full-time jobs without contracts, salary, or benefits, and volunteering positions. These seem to resemble part-time internships, more focused on project work, and easier to apply, as they do not ask for three recommendation letters. 20 hours per week for basically the same management, administration, marketing, or any kind of experience definitely works for me. 

But wait, volunteering does not equal volunteering, as one major international dream organisation has show me. It has internship position, yes, unpaid, in extremely extensive cities, without benefits. It has proper job positions, of, course, but you need minimum of 5 years of specific experience for them. And then they have volunteering. With special requirements. It asks for experience of 2-3 years and minimum of 25 years of age. Oh, damn this.. Now to voluntarily help people I need to be specialised in it? Payment? Forget about it.. 

These results of the searching for a position have truly disappointed me. I question whether it is the career type that I have ever chosen guilty for this. Whether the job market is going insane. Or many organisations have noticed that by calling a simple  “assistant” position an “internship” you can save a whole lot of money by simply not paying, because the new currency and salary for us graduates is experience and recommendation letters.