15 September 2022

social mobility

• More on the topic of science and morality, and how getting them muddled can have bad results: a follow-up to my previous article on social mobility.

Social mobility ‘research’:
science vs normativity

• I consume a fair amount of Kindle Unlimited fiction and like to give a plug to anything particularly noteworthy. Harriet Smart's Northminster mysteries are set in Northern England during the first years of Victoria's reign, and feature a police officer and a young surgeon, both male, as the main protagonists. Some of the books could do with additional proofing and I occasionally find them a bit grisly for my taste, but there is a touch of genius in the portrayal of early-Victorian society and of the psychology of the characters, as well as in the complexity of the plots.
   Speaking of male protagonists, I recently read a contemporary sci-fi novel in which all the spaceship team were male (though from diverse alien races). Highly unusual but also highly refreshing. I used to find novels refreshing in which plucky heroines proved they were better than their stuffy male counterparts, but it has now become so monotonously regular a feature that it's getting tedious. I came to realise, in reading this unfashionably androcentric sci-fi book, the possible advantage of leaving female characters out altogether. For most contemporary writers, the moment a female principal character is introduced, there appears to be a need on the part of the writer to demonstrate that she is at least as 'good' as the males, in whatever department. (A type of virtue signalling?) She cannot be allocated a merely supportive role, since this might be taken to imply something about being female, and we cannot have that, even if the something is merely statistical. Thus in practice women in fiction are now largely confined to certain predictable roles — just as they were in the past, except that the predictable roles are now different ones. We see this in Amazon's Rings of Power, for example, where (a) it's fairly inconceivable that the position of lead character could have been assigned other than to a female character, and yet (b) a little digital tweaking of the appearance and voice of Galadriel (ably played by Morfydd Clark), and many viewers could surely be fooled into assuming, from the action and dialogue, that it was a male elf that was being represented.

     Queen Elizabeth II (1926 - 2022)