Sunday, July 12, 2015

Getting the concept of Structure and Agency is a good way of understanding people better

Recently I read Emer O’Toole’s Girls will be Girls and one aspect of the book that made me think was the concept of structure and agency.

Understanding structure and agency are a good way of appreciating how people make choices and navigate the society in which they live. Individuals are said to have agency and structure refers to the society or culture in which they operate.  

What makes structure and agency so interesting is that there is a conflict in how much power structure has in a person’s ability to make decisions.

As Emer O’Toole argues, ‘the first thing to know about structure and agency debate is that it is always political. If you believe evangelically in agency that – that the individual is entirely free to choose whatever she [sic] wants to do –then you’re unlikely to see the social factors that influence a person’s action…On the other hand, if you believe devoutly in structure – that an individual’s actions are always the product her [sic] social situations – you can fail to recognise and honour people’s achievements’.

I had obviously been vaguely been aware of it as a concept but it wasn’t until I read Girls will be Girls that I understood it better. As with every new concept I discover, I go around analysing everything around me through the prism of structure and agency.

So when I started reading Freedom Fallacy – The limits of Liberal Feminism, I couldn’t help but think about structure and agency. This is quite dense collection of essays that questions the notion that gender equality has been achieved and women are solely reasonable to connect with the opportunities.  As Miranda Kiraly and Meagan Tyler argue, ‘This collection aims to challenge the limits of key liberal feminist concepts and to critique the idea that it is possible to find freedom simply by exercising ‘choice’ in a world in which women, as a class, are still not considered to be  of fully human worth to men’.
Put simply, society’s structure prevents women to have an equal choice as they are not considered to have comparable worth to men.
Structure vs. agency in a critique of Naomi Wolf ‘The Beauty Myth’

Most feminists have heard of this seminal work and while I won’t go into the details I will note that Wolf argued that women are expected to adhere to strict rules in regards to their appearance. These rules disempower women rather than liberate them. She argues that the structure is the problem and it is up to women to use their agency to challenge this myth.  

In her essay, Natalie Jovanovski takes the view that ‘when it comes to providing solutions and potential ways forward, Wolf’s work, disappointingly, falls back on a kind of unhelpful, individualism that verges on blaming women for their own situation…. It also represents a missed opportunity, as it ignores the possibility of collective action, agitating for women’s liberation, and an end to the patriarchy, as ways forward for helping women to develop healthier relationships with their bodies’.

It show how complex the relationship between structure and agency. In many ways culture is pervasive and doesn’t provide individuals with many authentic choices.

What Wolf’s book does as well as those of other writers is that they acknowledge the limited agency of individuals but fail often unite them to challenge the structure in order to increase their own agency. It is often easier to acknowledge a problem than to create a new path.                     

Do Mail Order Brides have a choice?

In the Freedom Fallacy, Kaye Quek writes a very interesting essay that looks at how agency Mail Order Brides possess.

We have all hard about Mail Order Brides and there is a debate regarding how much choice these ladies have in deciding to move to another country to marry an unknown man. Is it something that they genuinely want or are they making the decision for other reasons?

Kaye Quek argues that ‘far from being based on equal partnership or reciprocity of care, the Mail Order Bride Industry promotes and facilitates a particular kind of marriage that is characterised by sexual, racial and class inequalities between the men and women it involves’.

Some people argue that they are in complete control and the choice to enter into such an arrangement is done so with their eyes wide open and their complete consent.

However, Quek doesn’t agree with that attitude and believes that ‘far from being based on an equal partnership or reciprocity of care, the Mail Order Bride industry promotes and facilitates a particular kind of marriage that is characterised by sexual, racial and class inequalities between the men and women’.

I can see her point, since these marriages are organised by companies that operate on a basis that men pay to be linked up with a lady (that they have chosen often from a website, catalogue or speed dating event) who lives in a developing country.

Coming from a position of economic hardship and to be almost purchased, it is easy to see how such a marriage that could be what Quek considers unequal and which ‘seeks to advance the interests of men while actively minimising women’s ability to exercise agency and resistance’. I    

Why read this book?                

I will always find structure and agency riveting and this book continued to fuel my interest.

While it is super academic and very dense, it is very interesting and has opened my eyes to a lot of things. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Precinct’s a good place to do Sunday Brunch

The Precinct is a famous Victoria Park restaurant. It is funky cafe that does breakfast as well as doubles up as a wine bar. It has an extensive wine list and lunch/dinner menu but that’s not why we were there.  

I’ve been there several times and have always loved their food. I have always found their staff to be keen, attentive and knowledgeable.

Today, we went for breakfast. It was busy but not overly so and we were shown to a table straight away.    

We ordered drinks while we chose what we were going to eat. My friend picked the Avocado Smash which had a generous serving of avo. The bacon was very smoky, tasty and I would highly recommend it.

I chose the slow cooked eggs on sourdough bread with an Italian sausage. It was beautifully presented and sausage was nice. The locally sourced eggs (from Baldivis) were a bonus as too was the in-house produced sausage.

My Long Mac (topped up) was lovely.

The Precinct is a great place to visit regardless of the time of day. 

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lunch with Felix

Felix and Co is one of my favourites on the Hampton Road strip.

I have been here several times and have always found the coffee to be excellent. They have several different roasts on offer which they rotate. Felix and Co also sell beans for you to take home which is a great way of enjoying good coffee at home as well as continuing to support local businesses.

Today I had an appointment that I really wasn’t looking forward to so I decided to do lunch at Felix to ease the pain.

I chose “The Vego” toastie from their rather limited menu (which I assume is because of their small kitchen) and I added some ham to my sandwich. Since I have some Swiss heritage I was very excited about the Gruyere cheese that was going to be alongside the Antipesto mix, Siracho sauce and BBQ mushrooms.

I wasn’t disappointed(although the sourdough would have added a little extra quality)and none of the flavours were too overpowering.

While the menu isn’t extensive, the pastries at Felix’s are lovely. The Friand was beautiful, it was moist and fluffy.

I look forward to many more great cups of coffee from Felix and Co.

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