Remembering My Hat

25th November 2016

Reproduction, Sexuality and Sexual Health research group symposium

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The Open University, Camden, London

My usual partial and incomplete liveblog from a seminar, focusing only on things I was particularly interested in, rather than a representation of what people actually said. Also, I forgot my laptop charger, so I’ve only got two hours of battery so I’ll probably not get to the afternoon sessions at all. You can see the whole programme here. [My own thoughts in square brackets like this].

Introduction to the conference: Alison Hadley, Univ of Bedfordshire

Entitlement to sexual health services services, although paid lip-service, isn’t enough to get services funded and commissioned – you have to demonstrate that there is a problem. And this then leads to services focussing on negative outcomes (avoiding teenage pregnancy, reducing STIs) and the only things that get counted are negative outcomes. Services don’t usually count positive outcomes (increased knowledge about sexual health, increased pleasure). We need measures and metrics for positive outcomes too.

Having the right targets is key – you should never have a target of X% uptake of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) because that runs counter to the principle of choice.

Safeguarding has become the over-arching lens through which everything to do with young people’s sexuality is read. This distorts other important issues (pleasure, development, intimacy).

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(cc) velo_city

Panel 1: Pleasure and intimacy

Ann Furedi, CEO of BPAS

Birth control, pleasure and intimacy: a matter of personal choice or public health?

Gone back to using the old-fashioned term ‘birth control’ because it covers both contraception and abortion and her sense is that young people increasingly see them as ends of a continuum. A less-effective contraception method with abortion as a back-up plan may be what people want, rather than LARCs.

If you frame it as women’s choice to have as few children as they want, or even, increasingly to have no children at all, you generally get quite a sympathetic response in the UK these days. But if you start talking about women’s choice to have as many children as they want, people start judging you – environmenal reasons about over-population are increasingly invoked for everyone [as well as older classist/racist ones] Marie Stopes racism and classism

Free contraception on the NHS is bound up on it being seen as a health issue. If you make it about women’s autonomy, does this become about risk?

Family ‘planning’ – but of course ‘unplanned’ doesn’t equate to ‘unwanted’.

Every service they have has an imposed target for LARC uptake from women who have had an abortion. What women want is entirely different. They are concerned about effectiveness but they are equally concerned about lack of side-effects (‘your erratic bleeding will settle down after about a year’ is not acceptable, especially to young people).

Me: Positive visions of queer ageing and sexual relationships

[A talk about my Imagining Bi Futures project, focusing on the positive visions].

Peter Keogh, Open University: Pleasure and intimacy in HIV research

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(cc) Jo

First job in sexual health 25 years ago was ethnographic project on gay men and public sex – mostly about cottaging and cruising. Project was framed as ‘what is this weird behaviour, how can we stop it?’ No consideration that it might be fun. Pathologising framing of it as about sexual compulsivity and the ‘bisexual bridge’.

Trying to find out ‘who are the people who are really driving this epidemic’. Over the years, the groups that are thought to be driving the epidemic have changed, but the focus on identifying the problematic group has remained the same.

Folk devil 1 was cottagers

Folk devil 2: By about 1994 Backroom and super-saunas (as they opened up in London, especially). Focus on venues for sex, and whether some were more risky than others.

Folk devil 3: Internet users! For hook-ups.’Meaningless virtual sex’. Would lead to huge increase in number of sexual partners and somehow not ‘real’ sex – re-emergence of compulsivity and addiction framing.

Folk devil 4: Early 2000s onwards. Barebackers, bugchasers, seeders etc. Barebacking becoming an identity.

Folk devil 5: Sero-sorters (having sex only with people of the same HIV-status as yourself). This one comes from researchers – as an explanation of barebacking – it’s not reckless after all. But also taken up by communities as well as a way of promoting safer sex. But researcher’s then got worried about people acting on less than full knowledge ‘sero-guessing’ as a risk.

Folk devil 6: Now. Truvada whores – pre-exposure prophylactics –

Folk devil 7: Now. Chem sex

Two overall tendencies in all these stages

Pathologising – reckless, compulsive, in deinal, deluded, promiscuous

v. Rationalising – risk-taking, inventive, calculating, liberal, transcending social differences, sexually open

Can we move away from the latest hot topic and think more widely about the ways HIV has transformed sex for men, now that we are late in this epidemic?

Claire de Than, City University: Supporting the human right to have fun

Disabled people’s right to sex is being routinely denied by families and care homes [see the OU’s Sexuality Alliance for lots more resources on this especially in relation to people with life-limiting conditions].

Current plans for compulsory sex education for children explicitly exclude disabled people.

Cannot legally give sex education to deafblind adults (although can to deafblind children!)

Her summary:

Adult? Non-carer (of anyone in the room)? Can communicate (in whatever way)? Consenting? Has capacity? Private? All these present, it’s a human right to have sex. Anything missing? Possibly criminal, so check and work through the guidance.

Helping or supporting someone to do something that is their own choice (if they have capacity) is not a crime.

Biggest reasons needed changes haven’t  gone through in care services is the Daily Mail fear factor.

People think they have duty to protect vulnerable people from risk. But they don’t, they have a duty to protect them from known, real and immediate risk to life or safety. Most consensual sex doesn’t have these kinds of risks.

[Battery perilously low at the end of the morning, so no more from this].

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30th October 2015

CABS/CPA seminar on Social Media & Research in Ageing: Part 3

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Ian Watson, Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services

Research unbound: Finch, open access and social media

Examples of ways new technologies always disrupt existing social norms and business models (telephone: people bothering you right in your house! Uber and taxis. Air B&B. High street travel agents. Napster and now Spotify)

Academic publishing is no exception. Except possibly more stuck in the past to start with.

Dame Janet Finch – Finch Report 2012. How to make publically funded research free to the public who funded it. Promise was all available by 2014. Has it happened?

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(cc Mark Colllton)

New scheme ‘Access to Research’ from Feb 2014 for 10 million academic articles. But you can only see abstracts online, have to go to a physical library which is part of the scheme to actually download the article. Old fashioned business model.

Adding ‘google juice’ – blogging about your research increases impact [indeed]. But doesn’t help if people then can’t get the article. Institutional repositories are not easy to search [I think the OU’s is okay, but I’m very familiar with it, of course] [Also, I think another problem is that the form of many academic articles is so unfriendly to non-academics]

Their project ‘Research Unbound’ – blogging platform using WordPress. Peer support, improving quality from feedback en route.

Who? What? What? = Who are you communicating with? What do you want them to hear? Then what you do you want them to do about it?

Brevity is really important. The Economist magazine has really useful style guides.

Will be written up later today here with links: blogs.iriss.org.uk/socialmedia

[This is all getting very meta]

CABS/CPA seminar on Social Media and Research in Ageing: Part 2

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Prof Shailey Minocha, OU

A case study-based investigation of experiences of people aged 65 years and over with online social interactions

What she has learned about conducting research with older people, as a relative newcomer to the field. Three projects:

  1. 2012 project online social interactions of people over 65
  2. Social isolation and loneliness in MK for people 55+  (not just digital inclusion but including that) -funding from MK council. There’s a link between digital inclusion and social inclusion.
  3. Intergenerational photo-journal site – Blipfoto

Has learned not to use term ‘older people’ but to specify ‘over 55’ or ‘over 65’

Has also learned how important and hard it is to create an authentic researcher identity by email, as people are very suspicious.

People don’t always want sensitive things recorded – two researchers means can do fieldnotes together afterwards.

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(cc) Robin Hutton

Case study of 90 yr old suddenly on line via tablet – says has changed her life, enabled her to keep learning, which she values highly.

ONS stats show older people are going online more, but not necessarily staying online – lapsed users about 6% v. 0.9% younger people.

One-off training not enough – needs continuing support – drop-in groups very useful. Training on specific programmes is not useful if that’s not what people want to do. Training needs to be personalised to what people actually want to do online [hot news!]

‘Digital by default’ is problematic because older people more likely to find captcha etc. authentication difficult to see and may not know how to enlarge screen. Screenreaders don’t always work well.

Increasingly people are using tablets rather than pcs

People preferring content within the email, not as an attachment, because people worry about viruses in attachments – not behind university firewalls!

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(cc) Thomas Hawke

Blipfoto research – one photo per day (no more) + quite extensive commentary on their day often. Lots of people using them to stay in touch with faraway family. Reciprocal commenting on each others photos. Some technical advice, some comments on content of photos.

19 age 55+ users comments on what it means to them:

  • keeping brain active (about half said this) Quite hard to take a good and interesting photo everyday
  • Encourages you to go out, gives structure to day, makes you notice things more

People have fears about loss of anonymity, trolling, addiction, reducing motivation to get out of the house – making them more isolated. But also value very highly for social connections

Excellent story about older woman with motion sensors in sofa – realised family and carers weren’t visiting her so much, because sofa was telling them she was moving around = fine. So she sat still a lot, until they called! They adjusted their arrangements.

Blipfoto older people users using facebook, but quite passively to see what family members are doing. Using Flikr more, to post photos in excess of the daily limit of one on Blipfoto.

[Audience discussion of dangers of online]

Comment from Jonathan Hughes: Dangers of talking about other people, but this is us! Lots of us in this room are aged over 55, we use these kinds of websites.

Question from Geraldine Boyle: demographics? Middle class?

Answer: was international. Don’t know – was an opportunistic sample. Only asked about age, country and length of years using site.

Comment from Joyce Cavaye: Problems with care homes not having wifi or not having staff time to support residents with online use, even when they have run training for residents on using tablets etc.

CABS/CPA seminar on Social Media and Research in Ageing

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30th October 2015, The OU Camden, London

My usual partial and incomplete liveblog notes from a seminar. Not necessarily a representation of what speakers said or meant, just the things that interested me. [My own thoughts in square brackets like this]

 

Lara Crisp, Editor, Gransnet

Older people and the internet: Challenging misconceptions

Gransnet started 2011, as spin off from Mumsnet

Busiest social networking site for over 50s, especially forums [reflecting and perpetuating association of older women and grandparenting]

Content is user-generated – editors mostly just tweak what people are saying in forums

 

 

(I chose this picture over the more obvious logo because of the genderqueering, obviously)

940,000 page impressions per month last month

120,000 unique users

10 mins dwell time (about double the average for this kind of site) [but is this just because it takes

9 pages per visit

12.6k followers on Facebook, 17.4 on Twitter, 16.2 on Pinterest, 36.5K on Google Plus. Twitter and Facebook are especially lively

On forums, people mostly don’t like terms ‘older person’ or ‘silver surfer’. Old age is roughly 10 yrs older than they are. Discussion of meanings of ageing. Don’t want to be talked to as an older person (stairlifts, pensions, funeral plans) If they want info on those kind of things, they will go and find it, they don’t want it pushed at them. Did a page recently on how not to advertise to older people

  • 95% female
  • average age 61
  • 55% retired
  • 56% look after grandchildren at least once a month
  • 50% shop online monthly or more.
  • Predominantly middle classs but ‘thrifty’ in terms of shopping – generational effect?

Did have a ‘Grandad’s shed’ forum but got rid of it because decided was too segregating [ha! Classic dilemma]

Reasons for visiting in popularity order:

  1. Competitions
  2. Information
  3. Forums
  4. Books
  5. Advice
  6. Health
  7. Humour
  8. Recipes

Her sense is that Gransnet helps people to manage the transition into retirement, when previously working women loose the day-to-day contact with colleagues. Dealing with menopause is another lifestage big issue that generates a lot of talk.

How gransnetters access the site has changed – now much more likely to access on Tablets and phones, to detriment of desk top. Although desktop still most common, just.

Other social media that Gransnetters use:

  1. Facebook 76%
  2. Twitter 38%
  3. Pinterest 23%
  4. LinkedIn 22% (not surprising when think that many are not retired)
  5. Google+ 13%

Long-distance grandparenting is a bit of a catch phrase on the forums. Lots of people with children and grandchildren elsewhere in the world or not nearby.

Did some work via a London borough library about helping older people get online.

How things have changed:

  • Forums are busier but also more animated – more debate, less tiptoing around
  • More are using other social media platforms – peer-to-peer recommendations and mediations helping this
  • Much more online shopping – click thrus from site + talk on forums about offers
  • Exploring other platforms – starting to do more on YouTube
  • Core users still with them. 30 or 40 people who are online most days.

[Interesting discussion of the name excluding older people without children, when content isn’t mostly specific to grandparents or even grandmothers. But it’s a really strong brand, so don’t want to lose it]

My Q: Why do you think the tone of the forums is more supportive and less combative than much social media (including Mumsnet)? Is it a generational effect or is it about being relatively novice users of social media, so still being relatively polite?

Joyce Cavaye: It might be about how the tone is set initially by the first users of the site, continues afterwards

Lara: Might also be about smaller size then Mumsnet – any bust ups get spotted and moderated or mediated by other users more quickly?

12th March 2015

Beyond Male Role Models? Gender identities and work with young men. End-of-award conference

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My usual partial and incomplete liveblog from a conference. My own reaction in square brackets.

Kate Mulley

Director of Policy and Campaigns, Action for Children (Joint project between AfC and OU)

This group of young men is invisible to policy, except as villains.

What sold the project to them:

  • Understanding better something that is usually thought about in a stereotypical way
  • making unheard voices heard
  • fitted their strength-based approach – avoiding deficit models (e.g. support that lone dads give their kids)
  • chance to use research in inform policy and practice

Martin Robb – PI

Relationship with Action for Children has been vital – involved in drawing up the bid as well as once fieldwork. Also ‘Working with Men’ group.

Background rationale for project:

‘Male role model’ discourse has become a kind of taken-for-granted explanation and solution to the ‘problem’ of boys and young men. Problem boys lack good male role models (absent dads) and the solution is supplying alternative good male role models

  • Little evidence to support this. Some on education – does the gender of the teacher matter? Answer: can’t tell – too complex an issue.
  • What about the role of women in young men and boys’ lives?
  • Isn’t that a bit reified about gender?
  • What do these young men and boys think about these issues?

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(cc) Frank M. Raflk

Mike Ward – Researcher

Individual and group interviews with 93 people at Action for Children and Working with Men projects, UK-wide, range of locations, rural and urban

  • 50 young men
  • 14 young women
  • 12 male staff
  • 17 female staff

Projects recruited from:

  • Young offenders
  • care leavers
  • YP with additional needs
  • young carers
  • care council (young Insepctors)
  • respite centres
  • young fathers mentor scheme

Findings:

  • Family both a source of support and trouble
  • Many have strong relationship with mothers and grandmothers but ambivalent ones with fathers and step-dads
  • Becoming a father often a catalyst for transition to a more ‘responsible’ masculine identity [supports strength-based approach, not deficit in relation to yound dads].
  • Locality plays a huge role in shaping masculine identities for young man
  • ‘at risk’ young men often involved in hypermasculine cultures
  • Routes to ‘safer’ masculine identities varied by location – west of Scotland often fatherhood and work (traditional working-class masculine jobs) whereas in London it was much more through education.

Sandy Ruxton – Consultant on project

Support services provide safe spaces to help make the transition to a less risky masculine identity. Avoids being on the street, being stopped by the police or engaging with other young men they wanted to avoid. Many of the young men were actually very underconfident about engaging with the outside world.

Practical activities were helpful to building relationships (round the Pool table) or walking and talking.

Qs didn’t mention ‘male role models’ but some young men and staff did use the term but they weren’t clear as what it meant – people close to them but also people they looked up to and didn’t know.

They didn’t look up to ‘celebrity’ role models

The people they meant by role models were more like mentor or guides – people who helped them negotiate and co-construct new identities and futures. Not a passive transmission of values/masculinity (as ‘role model’ implies) something much more active and dynamic. Women were really important in this.

Sense of shared experience and social background between young men and staff was very valuable for some (especially in the west of Scotland projects). Class and race especially (although not named by participants as this).

Brigid Featherstone – Co-I

The young men valued personal qualities and commitment of staff above gender or other social identities.

Had a keen sense of genuine care from workers (and other workers who were just ‘doing it for the money’). Valued respect, trust, consistency, and commitment highly too.

Really clearly that authoritarian masculinity doesn’t work. Hate being told what to do. That’s a really hard task for workers because you have to not be authoritarian but also help them not do really stupid things! ‘Troops for teachers’ initiative not liked – ‘that won’t work with us’.

Lives very precarious – very easily pushed off their trajectory of building the life they wanted. Very poor, very low chance of getting work, benefits cut etc.

(We used to talk about race, ethnicity and class, now we talk about ‘stories’!)

‘Boys need positive male role models’ is lazy thinking

When young men come to services, it is often because they are seeking to make the transition to safer adult masculine idendities and their asprirations (job, home, family) are similar to other young people.

Services don’t need to have male workers to be able to work with young men (or young women). Gender is not as important as care, trust and consistency.

Gender is still hugely important to young men’s lives and being able to identify with staff along lines of gender, ethnicity and class is also often helpful.

Steve Hicks, Uni of Manchester – Steering Group member

Responding to the project findings.

Gender role models can be a smoke-screen – allows you to justify cutting back the Welfare State. Relationships with fathers is what really matter, so we don’t need all these expensive support services.

Good mums, bad dads dichotomy. What’s that doing and where’s it going? What about extended family and friends too?

Irony of being perceived as too authoritarian as a social worker when SWers currently being criticised for being insufficiently authoritative

Hypermasculinity in other arenas of life too, like the House of Commons! It’s not just a working-class phenomenon.

Black young men in this study described a lot of everyday harassment which limited their options very profoundly. Restricted the subject-positions they could access. Doesn’t determine – they had some very creative strategies for resisting racism and questioning racial identities.

Some young women also drawing on masculine identities – trans, genderqueer and questioning [+ tomboy identities or butch?]

Methodological Qs:

  • How do we know when gender is going on in a situation or a piece of talk? Lots of answers to this are possible! Big can of worms. [I want to know more about how the team are going to handle that].
  • Why is gender only invoked as a problem in relation to these young men? Gender doesn’t cause things. ‘It was gender wot done it’ is not an adequate answer.

28th January 2015

Older LGB&T people: Minding the Knowledge Gaps. Final conference.

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My usual partial and erratic liveblog-ish notes from a seminar. Not a complete record of what’s going on – just the things that interest me [and my own responses in brackets].

Liz Barker: How far we’ve come: Older LGBT rights movement[s?]

Greengross & Greengross (1989)  ‘Living, Loving and Ageing’ called by Daily Mirror a ‘raunchy sex guide for older people’ [Fantastic! It’s just not! I’ve got half a paper written comparing LL&A with modern sex guides for older people. Maybe I should revisit that…] A really important start to awareness about older people’s sexuality in the UK [although academically the interest in older people and sexuality starts earlier with (I think) the Starr-Weiner report]

HIV&AIDS as a catalyst for work around OP’s sexual health, and older LGBT people [as so often – such a mixed blessing – raises awareness of the existence of a group, but in a context where it’s a problem. Like the history of public awareness of bisexuality]

Polari did first research  on LGBT older people (initially on housing options) [again, not sure this is true if you include academic research. When was ‘Gay and Grey’?]

Spark to (then) Age Concern Opening Doors programme was an older gay man who was a carer who was told council couldn’t help him with his partner because his set up wasn’t ‘normal’.

Opening Door report and first seminar in 2001 [I was there. It was great].

Opening Doors didn’t originally include T because they didn’t want to assume issues were the same and their sample was very small and opportunistic [no explanation given for why they didn’t include B. I’m pretty sure the first report was originally called ‘Working with older lesbians and gay men’ which does not include older bi people. I think it later got rebadged as ‘l, g and b’].

Round up of past seminars (various speakers)

1st seminar on bi ageing – made a nice change to be first seminar in a series, given usual erasure of bisexuality within LGBT acronym.

Being told you are too old to be bisexual – that you ought to have made up your mind by now

Intergenerational work with LGBT really adds to diversity and complexity of labels and experiences people have.

Being BME and LGBT can increase visiblity in unhelpful ways (with migration status sometimes as another intersection) – research on Irish Gay men working in England.

Venn diagram – three overlapping circles, older, LGBTQ and BME – that gives you overlaps of older and LGBTQ, LGBTQ and BME and older and BME, with the overlap in the middle of older, BME and LGBTQ. Middle group is relatively small and but can extrapolate from other overlaps (e.g research on LGBT and BME experiences or on older BME people’s experiences). Lack of visible older BME LGBT people is also a problem for younger people who need elders and role models. [Importance of being able to imagine your own ageing].

How and in what circumstances do older LGBT people wish to be visible to H&SC services? [Not always].

Need for staff to know about LGBT history, so they can understand possible fears and reticences.

Shd the focus be on specialist provision or enhancing pracice across the sector? [Both! But if I had to pick one, I think it would be the second]

22nd October 2013

(a)Dressing the Ageing Demographic seminar: Part 1

Last Friday I went to a seminar at the Royal College of Art about clothes and growing older. It was fantastic. Really stimulating and interesting, and even more fun that usual in the coffee breaks noticing what everyone was wearing! I met up with some people I already knew and am always glad to see and also got to know some new ones, including the journalist who writes the Guardian’s Invisible Woman blog about clothing, body image and getting older. I also admired a very beautiful and stylish older women and said to someone else that I aspired to look like her in 40 years time. Then I discovered she was, in fact, a model (and still working as such, I think) and decided that was probably an unrealistic hope.

What follows is my usual idiosyncratic and incomplete notes from the day, with my own additional thoughts in square brackets.

(cc) Brian J Matis

Julia Twigg

Fashion and Age: Dres, the Body and Later Life

There’s a persistent normative age ordering of clothes, especially for women. Largely expressed negatively – what is not suitable for someone as they grow older

–        More covered up, higher necks, longer skirts, looser cut

–        Darker, duller colours

–        Sober self-effacing, avoiding claims to sexual attention

Can see this in those Scandinavian life stage pictures, as well as nowadays.

But these cultural factors are also in interplay with changes in the body

SizeUK did a literal ‘shape of the nation’ survey. New shape much more realistic for older women. Used by some retailers.

JT drawing on Barnard on ways gender and class are seen as natural but actually ideological, to theorise dress as also ideological.

There’s a dominant cultural narrative that this age ordering is gone or is going or has lessened. ‘60 is the new 40’. In academia sometimes called the reconstitution of ageing thesis. Older people argued to now be nearer the mainstream than they used to be. New pattern of the life course – extended mid-life up to 4th Age. More undifferentiated middle years.

Showed that Posy Simmons cartoon of ‘A lifetime of babywear: The Seven Ages of Man’ – wearing teeshirt and shorts at all life stages.

Making the point that men’s clothes don’t change across the lifecourse. But you can also see in the cartoon the way that clothes are tweaked by clothes designers to make the same garment age-appropriate – elasticated waists at youngest and oldest ages, not in mid-life

So does age ordering still operate?

Women in JT’s study were aware of age ordering and largely obeyed it – stressed need for caution, avoiding exposing body, over young or girly styles, frilly clothes, anything eye-catching.

‘The wardrobe moment’ when women feel they can no longer wear a particular thing [I had one of those when I was coming up to 40. Not so much since but that could be because I’ve adapted my wardrobe in accordance with age orderings?]

Sense of exile from cultural practices of feminity, or feminity itself

But also evidence of change. Felt wore very different clothes from their mothers. Keen to avoid drab, chintz and crimplene especially!

Clothing retailers also believe things have changed. Asda – 30 yrs ago people would switch to ‘classic’ clothing at a life point, no more. Older women now wear brighter, fresher colours. Ranges for older women marked by use of strong clear colours. E.g. celebs like Mary Berry

Larger retail context to this – arrival of cheap Fast Fashion – late 20th and 21st C. True democratisation of fashion – greater than 19th C or mid 20th C one, arguably. People shop more often – over 75s now shop for clothes as often as teens and twenties in e. 1960s. Clothes are cheaper, still remain accessible if on lowish income in later life.

‘Moving Younger’. Clothes as aspirational – dream of idealised self, younger, thinner, richer, smarter. Consumption of clothes allows this. So retailers persistently portray their clothes as aimed at a younger market than they know their customers actually are.

Style diffusion. Youth has replaced class as the engine for style diffusion. No longer introduced by elites and then abandoned by them as taken up by lower classes. Not so much that older people are dressing younger, but that styles are diffusing older – centre of fashionability is youth, edges is older.

Age norms and age ordering still exist. Continue to encode ageist meanings

But also clear evidence for change – norms are shifting. Fashion industry is playing a part in this shift.

Discussion:

These covered up styles for older women is because of stigmatisation and fear of older bodies

Rise of ‘shapewear’ – new forms of corsetry. Can now get it extending to arms!

JT: one respondent felt could do longer wear girly styles she liked, but always wore coloured, girly underwear as form of secret resistance.

8th May 2012

CfP: Ethnicity, mental health and learning disability in an age of austerity

A really interesting-looking conference, which is being organised by one of our PhD students:

LIVING WITH SOCIAL CATEGORIES: ETHNICITY, MENTAL HEALTH, AND LEARNING DISABILITY IN AN AGE OF AUSTERITY

18 JUNE 2012 THE OPEN UNIVERSITY, MILTON KEYNES

KEY NOTE SPEAKER: PROFESSOR JAMES NAZROO (MANCHESTER)

CHAIR: PROFESSOR RICHARD JENKINS (SHEFFIELD)

This one day interdisciplinary conference seeks to re-ignite debates about the lived consequences of the category of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) in statutory services. Using mental health (MH) and Learning Disability (LD) as reference points the conference will explore fresh understandings and theorisations for how BME plays out within the care/control function of the state. Conference organisers acknowledge that ‘Learning Disability’ is contested by advocacy groups; however it is employed here to reflect its use in statutory services.

The conference is hosted by the Faculty of Health and Social Care (The Open University) and the Race and Ethnicity Study Group (British Sociological Association).

Background

Notwithstanding recent advancements, there remains a disjuncture between theory and praxis in the sociology literature on ethnicity. While it is now accepted that ethnicity is an ontologically unstable category (Alexander 2006), writers arguably over-emphasise ethnicity qua ethnicity at the expense of material and psychic consequences of ethnic categorisations (Carter and Fenton, 2011). However there is long-standing evidence that the category BME has consequences for lived experience in statutory services where the state’s care/control function is thrown into sharp focus. Consequently although less likely to receive welfare services, BMEs are over-represented in the coercive aspects of ‘caring’ services. In MH and LD for instance, some BME groups are less likely to access preventative services but more likely to be detained for involuntary treatment (Mir et al, 2001; Care Quality Commission and National Mental Health Development Unit, 2011). Thus ‘[p]aradoxically, they receive the MH services they don’t want, but not the ones they do or might want’ (Keating and Robertson, 2004, p446). While the applied literature has helpfully evidenced these inequalities, it struggles to satisfactorily operationalise ethnicity to reflect current substantive understandings of fluidity (Nazroo, 2011; Salway et al 2009, 2011). The present age of austerity is likely to exacerbate longstanding inequalities, hence the timely need to refocus on the sociological processes which lead to embodiment of social categories such as BME, MH, and LD.

We welcome papers that address the following themes:

• What sociological theories are useful in explaining/could explain the disproportionate representation of BME in MH and LD services?

• What are the possibilities, limitations and challenges of using ethnic categorisations to describe and explain inequalities in the provision of statutory services? Is an integrative (or intersectional) approach more useful?

• Interrogating the category of BME: Although widely used in applied studies, BME is rarely explored critically. What is the history of the category; whose interests does it serve?

• Spaces of care/control: ‘Space’ could be geographical, virtual, material, and mental – how is care/control operationalised; what are the mechanisms?

• How can the gap between theory and practice be reduced? Is it an issue of dissemination? If so, how can this be bridged?

Godfred Boahen

PhD student

Faculty of Health and Social Care

The Open University

Walton Hall

Milton Keynes

MK7 6AA

Contact: g.f.boahen@open.ac.uk

11th October 2011

End of life care for LGBT people

I’ve been at a seminar on End of Life Care for LGBT people today, mostly focusing on older people, although with briefer mention of younger people who are also coming to the end of their lives.

I’m no specialist in end of life issues, although I know a bit because of knowing about later life, which is when end of life issues come up for most people. I went along partly out of guilt because one of the organisers had asked me for help with recruiting older bi people to attend and I had tried but (as far as I know) failed.

(cc 19melissa68)

We started by going round the table, saying what our particular interests were in later life and why we were there. At the beginning of that process someone said ‘same sex partners’ as if that was a common experience to all of us and I prepared to start banging the bi and trans drum of ‘same sex partners does not cover us all, all of the time’. But then someone said how important it was to include trans issues in our discussions and gave some examples of how and why. And then someone else said that they particularly wanted to include bi issues because they are bi. And then someone else mentioned bi stuff again, and someone else trans and, really, by the time it came round to me, I felt almost redundant. Which was very nice indeed, and very encouraging. We also had some good discussion of particular issues for LGBT people of colour and people who have been living with HIV for decades.

Someone other than me was talking about the importance of separating out data from bi people from data from lesbians and gay men, which was very encouraging in terms of the likely reception of BiUK (and friends)’s forthcoming The Bisexuality Report (watch this space) which is going to argue just that.

I was delighted to hear that Age of Diversity, which is the successor organisation to Polari, are going to launch their website next month (it’s still in construction at the moment, but you can find it by googling).

There was quite a lot of discussion of the issue of people using a different name than their official name and the difficulties and distress this creates when someone is not fully compos mentis, or when their friends ring the hospital to ask after them but don’t know their legal name. I don’t know whether using a name other than your legal one is particularly common in the LGB community (I know it is in the trans community). I can imagine that it might be, but to me it feels an entirely standard issue in later life because, I now realise, 3 out of my 4 grandparents/pseudo-grandparents went by a middle name, so it’s an old chestnut to me (but none the less important).

People also talked about the importance of debunking the notion and scrapping the phrase ‘next-of-kin’. It has no legal meaning when someone is alive, only once they are dead, and it’s one of the main routes by which LGBT people do not get to have their nearest and dearest involved in their care. Lots of (sadly familiar to me) stories of estranged family turning up and making decisions for someone they had not seen for twenty years, while their partner or close friend is shut out.

I loved a passing comment made by a hospice chaplain when introducing himself and his organisation ‘we’re lovely. In fact, like most hospice people, you could say we’re terminally nice’.

One of the outcomes of the meeting was that the organisers are going to collect together useful resources on this topic. I’ll post the link for that once I know it. But for now, a few resources that I managed to jot down:

  • REGARD (organisation for LGBT disabled people) and their campaign for ‘Sue’s Law’ (if you just search for ‘Regard and Sue’s Law you should find it)
  • Kathy Allmack published a lit review on End of Life Care for LGBT people about three years ago
  • NHS (don’t know which bit) has apparently just produced a guide on bereavement for (re?) trans people.
  • Report on palliative care for LGBT people: National Council for Palliative Care (2011) Open to all?, NCPC and Consortium of LGBT voluntary and community organisations, London ISBN 978-1-898915-89-8
  • Opening Doors Camden (part of Age UK) is launching a checklist for care homes and care providers on practical ways to be LGBT friendly. Out next week, should be available as a pdf on their website.

14th February 2011

20th Century Bi

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 00:22
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On Saturday I went to a seminar at Conway Hall in London as part of LGBT History Month. It was about the history of bisexuality in the 20th century (clue’s in the name).

(cc) LGBT History Month UK

What follows is, as ever, in no sense a representative account of what was said, just some of the things that interested me.

First off, Sue George talked about bisexuality before the 1960s, nicely overviewing the familiar terrain of androgyny, the impact of the Well of Loneliness, the bohemian freedoms for a few in the 20s and 30s and in the Second World War, followed by the social clamp down of the late 40s and 50s. One thing she said that I hadn’t thought about before was that the fashions of the 20s were actually remarkable androgynous, at least from the waist up. Did the fallout from the Well of Loneliness contribute to the more gender-marked fashions of the 1930s?

She also suggested that in the 1930s and beyond there was less discursive space for women to be bisexual (or ‘ambisextrous’ as one contemporary apparently, possibly jokingly, termed it), since a woman who had sex with women became seen as a lesbian.

I also liked a quote from Tallulah Bankhead:

“My father warned me about men and booze, but he never mentioned a word about women and cocaine.”

The next speaker was Christian Klesse on the connections between bisexuality and polyamory. This talk was, to my mind, the odd-one-out of the seminar, being both much more academic and less historical than the others, but it was still interesting. I was most interested in some of the things his interviewees had said about poly. One apparently said something along the lines of ‘poly is about love, non-monogamy is about sex’. I understand the rhetorical point they were presumably making, but I don’t think I use the terms like that – I think of non-monogamy as the umbrella term and poly as a particular type of non-monogamy, alongside practices like swinging and open relationships. (My own favourite definition is still a friend’s: ‘adultery by committee’.)

(cc) tworm

He also cited someone talking about the invention of the word ‘polyamory’ (in the early 1990s) and saying that although it mixes greek and latin, the alternative ‘polyphilia’ sounded like paedophilia (it just makes me imagine a fetish for decorator’s filler). Christian pointed out the way this suggests that, even from its inception, being poly was a defensive position, highly attuned to the wider context of sexual politics.

The next speaker was supposed to be Lindsay River but unfortunately she was ill, so Sue George stood in, speaking about bi in the 1970s, mainly autobiographically, which I always like.

She talked about the way that for her David Bowie connected bisexuality with creativity, androgyny and glam rock. She said that in the early and mid 70s polymorphous perversion was cool, but by the late 70s sexual politics had become much more polarised into lesbian, gay and straight. She said that when she first went to university in 1978 it was unremarkable and fine in her friendship circles to be bi, but that by the time she left in 1981 it was pretty much impossible to have a girlfriend without being a lesbian. That reminded me of my own experiences of sexual politics at university in the late 80s and early 90s.

The final speaker was Ian Watters who gave what I’m sure he won’t mind me describing as a bitchy, partial and highly amusing account of the history of bi involvement in London Pride. He also had photographs, which I’d have loved to have been able to see better, for the fun of people-spotting.

Then there was a general discussion session, where some of the familiar topics were hashed out again. Do people need organised bi communities anymore, if sexuality has become so fluid and variable and permissive, and you can meet people and get information on the internet? Is it only middle-aged dinosaurs and politicos (I count myself as both) who still do identity politics?

Sue George said that she had noticed a change from people saying ‘I have (or want to have) poly relationships’ to making an identity statement ‘I am poly (even if currently single)’. So poly becoming something that pertains to the person rather than to a particular relationship.

Then the seminar finished and most people went to a pub with a fabulous Victorian interior (the Princess Louise) which made me feel like a character in a Sarah Waters novel.

Many thanks to Lisa Colledge and Sue George for organising the seminar.

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