Just how do I manage to make a connection between Masterchef and my CV?
Recently I have been re writing my CV after leaving Spain and returning to the home lands of Ilfracombe, North Devon, and submitting it left right and centre to no avail. Given my success rate at the moment, I have been carefully reviewing my CV for errors, to try to make any tweaks that may give me more of an edge. A standard addition to any CV is the hobbies & interests section which always seems the easiest to spice up a little, after all what is it there for really? According to totaljobs.com, “when you tell your employers about what you do in your own time, it says a lot about your natural motivation.” Perhaps this is why I am getting no calls back.
What are my natural motivations? What do I actually do to pass the time? It is such a loaded question because at the moment being unemployed I have more time, and while that may mean I have this time to dedicate myself to my hobbies, I lack the financial means to do so because I don´t have a job. So what do I actually do to pass the time, especially now I have more of it? Well I read a lot and obviously I do a bit of writing now and then. I would like to think I run but I haven´t been since before Christmas (although this is like to change as I have signed myself up for another half marathon in June – I need to get back in shape least I look like the last rhino in Jumanji. ). I watch the TV, I listen to podcasts, I play computer games, and I stare at my phone – and yet apart from reading (and running) – none of that appears on my CV. I listed photography; hiking, snowboarding, travelling, and culture. Don´t get me wrong all these things I do have an interest in, I make little cards to sell my photos, I like to go hiking when the weather is nice, I love to go snowboarding whenever I can, I enjoy travelling and learning new things about culture, but do I do any of these things enough to list them as real hobby, if a hobby is how you pass the time? Should I really be thinking about what I do to pass the time and making it more productive, as no wonder I have such feelings of being unfulfilled if I spend hours staring at a mobile phone.
So how authentic am I being on my CV? On the one hand very authentic, they are things I do, or like doing and get enjoyment out of them, and they are genuine hobbies. I would not list the things I do to pass the time as hobbies, and as the CV does not allow for a section dedicated to distractions, I can´t accept that I am being deceitful. What is the point of a CV after all, but to dress yourself up like a product and describe yourself in the best way as possible? This is what I am and if you invest in me this is the experience & qualifications I can bring to your work place. Obviously it is not about just work, experience, or demographics because why should it matter what I like to do in my free time? That time is mine, it will always be outside of work and in a way I do resent having to include it. I need to careful express my hobbies in a way that may give me an edge over another candidate when in fact it shouldn´t really have an impact. Granted if I applied for a job at the library then listing reading as a hobby would suggest that I have a strong motivation or empathy for the role, likewise if I was applying for a job in a particularly creative area, then creative hobbies may show that I have transferable skills again desirable. When there is no direct relation why do we need to include it? As I am writing this more things are popping into my mind, like for example team sports and being a team player, or volunteering with old people, as an indicator of empathetic qualities, but I still feel like it is a little cheap to include them, especially when there is not a direct relation with your hobbies. Apart from deconstructing the role of a CV in society let´s look at this through the paradigm of taste.
Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist who was prominent in the 20th century, notoriously paranoid he led a distinctly secretive life. In 1984 he published a book called Distinction – Critique of the Judgment of Taste in which he elaborated on the role of taste in society. He defined taste as “an individual’s patterns of choice and preferences and said that it is heavily dependent on social class. In one of his studies he stood outside an art gallery and asked people who were leaving whether they enjoyed it. He then asked for their household income, and how long they spent in the museum. He found that people who had higher household incomes enjoyed the museum more and spent longer in there than people who had lower incomes. A second experiment he conducted outside a movie theatre and he asked people who were leaving questions about film, like who directed it, whether they liked it etc. He found that people who would identify as a higher class remembered facts about the movie, like production details that people who were from lower-income backgrounds did not know, even though both groups had been to see the exact film. Bourdieu set out to explain why this was. In his view you could accurately guess someone´s class by examining their tastes or preferences over a wide range of cultural practises. Let´s give it a try;
I like running, and I enjoy watching the Olympics, if I had to watch a sport regularly I would pick rugby over football, and tennis over boxing, but I follow nothing religiously. I am a vegetarian and I like cooking, but I´m no expert. Pizza is my favourite food, but I have a strong aversion to tomato ketchup. I like reading fiction and do enjoy reading non-fiction, but I struggle to finish these ones. I like going to museums, but I don´t understand modern art. I keep up to date with the news, and am slightly obsessed with British soap opera, Emmerdale. Based on this information, to what extent do you think you could accurately guess my social class?
Bourdieu would say with relative ease because taste is not natural but instead a learnt behaviour, that we can amend, learn new behaviours or adjust. It is a behaviour that has lots of variables like where and when you are born, who your family are, how you were raised, who your friends are, what your town is like, what level of education is and more. Taste functions in society as an indicator of class and as class is the basis of social order and the distribution of power, taste can be viewed of as an expression of power. Imagine that when you are saying what you like you are in fact potentially exerting power as long as what you are expressing is the “right” thing. Karl Marx suggested that the ideas of the ruling class in a society are dominant and Bourdieu expanded upon this suggesting that taste forms a hierarchy, a sort of pyramid of what we should and shouldn´t like. Take my example of ketchup and my strong dislike of it. I would say it goes far beyond the negative attitude I have of the sensation of the flavour, because the sight, smell, or texture of it is enough to make me feel sick. Yet, my favourite food is pizza, and one of the main ingredients is tomato sauce, how do these two conflicting points add up. Apart from the fact that ketchup is different to sauce which I accept, Bourdieu would argue that class is playing a part in this; that within my dislike of the concept of tomato ketchup I am expressing a class distinction, I am separating myself, from the people who do like the vile stuff.
There is an excellent Mickey Flanagan sketch upon which I will elaborate, he is having a romantic evening with his girlfriend and they head to a particularly fancy restaurant. While he is eating his meal he asks for a bottle of ketchup and to his surprise the waiter arrives with a small pot of the condiment. He has a little taste, and then suggests that it is good ketchup and he would like the bottle. It is humorous (although it won’t be when I explain it) because of the class confusion that is going on here. Mickey Flanagan is portraying himself as a member of the working class, who is obviously aware of the idea of wine tasting. The humour stems from his miss-interpreting the situation as when he orders the bottle of ketchup he is conforming to the best of his knowledge to the cultural norm of wine tasting and because his experience does not allow him to decode the situation which would suggest that ketchup is not really the thing to be asking for, he cannot understand why he isn´t given it in larger quantities, therefore he adopts the middle class wine tasting practise to assume, that he tried a little, and to his taste, he asks for the bottle. Even though this situation is an exaggeration the idea that our tastes seem natural to us is essential to Bourdieu´s work. Why did Mickey miss-understand the situation like that? He was obviously aware of the concept of wine tasting, but it is how he interpreted the situation that can be expressed by Bourdieu´s work. The concept of capital is something that Bourdieu went to great lengths to explain and he defined it within three (or potentially four) different areas. The most obvious is economic capital, the money and the means to create wealth, and the ownership of things (this is where he differs from Karl Marx who believed that this was the most important), the second is social capital – who you know who you network with and what access they have to certain areas of knowledge and you by association have with them. The (potential) third is prestige capital, something reserved for the nobility I suppose, why would we show deference towards a member of the royal family, it is not for any particular trait of theirs, but the prestige or honour they embody within our society. The fourth and final is cultural capital and this I think is the most important.
The idea of cultural capital suggests that sometimes the way you were raised and the experiences you have will give you an insight into certain situations which others with different experiences may not understand. For example, I would have no idea how to conduct a business meeting on a golf course, so I would lack cultural capital in that, but given my experience of living abroad and teaching English as a second language, I think I have the cultural knowledge to communicate easily with people who are not native English speakers. The idea of cultural capital is that it can be converted into something else to make economic capital. For example, when we watch The Antiques Roadshow on BBC, the people who are bringing the artefacts do not know anything about the items they are selling; they only suspect it may be worth something. Bring in the expert who has the cultural capital, the knowledge and the experience to decode the artefacts and give a price to the guests. The person who is telling them the value isn´t necessarily making profit out of it, but someone is making economic capital out of their knowledge.
I mentioned earlier that I have problems understanding modern art. Marcel´s Duchamp´s porcelain urinal is at once confusing to me and ugly, I cannot understand what it is meant to mean. Bourdieu would say that this is because I lack the particular type of cultural capital needed to decode it´s meaning. That the very fact that I can´t understand is what gives it it´s worth, because it is meant to serve as a filter for keeping out certain layers of social strata. I would look at it the same way I would look at any painting, what is it? Do the colours please me? What is going on here? Can I understand what the artist is trying to say? Yet, I arrive at the same place. This must be a joke, the artist is making fun of people, I mean how many memes exist of people taking pictures of things left in art galleries assuming it was part of an exhibition. On a different level, I understand the reasoning behind it, at least I think I do, that art is something you piss on, the urinal was not unique it was something mass-produced, but raised and elevated to something you can observe and question. This however does not mean I have the ability to enjoy it, or appreciate it as art. Referring back to my post about what and why I post in Instagram I think it would be relevant to discuss my pictures in reference to Bourdieu´s work on taste. Before I started to take an interest in my photos, when my interest was what I called more authentic, I was only looking at the photos from one level, a kind of animal level. Does that picture bring out an instant emotion from me, happiness, sadness, humour, memories whatever it may be? Then I started to look on it as more of a practise, the idea that I needed to look at my pictures with a second level of meaning, a taste filter, and start to consider other factors. What does it mean? Why does it work? How have I constructed it, is the lighting OK? Have I adhered to the rule of thirds? Does this picture fall into a ritual holiday snap, which in my desire to separate from the herd makes me resent looking the same, even though but trying to be different I am doing the same as everyone else. Why would I be embarrassed if I were to go to Pisa in Italy to have that picture taken holding up the tower? I would never post it either because it is in poor taste. I guess what I am trying to say is, that taste can change over time, and you as an agent actively change your tastes, as your cultural capital changes with your experience.
Bourdieu said that a lot of the time pleasure in a particular cultural practise doesn´t exist, in fact we are either justifying why we like something that is frowned upon (I have this experience with the TV soap opera I like – why is there so much hate, so I almost have to like it more, to justify the pleasure it gives me) or aspiring to like something, basically pretending we like something because our peers do and you feel you should too. Damien Hirst donated a statue to my town of Ilfracombe called Verity. I think she is beautiful despite being controversial; she is a half skinned pregnant woman with a sword after all.
Why do I like it? I think it looks like something from Greek mythology, like the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria welcoming returning sailors to the safety of the harbour. I have an active imagination and I like Greek mythology – so perhaps if you didn´t have these things you would think it is an eyesore. I think a better example would be clothing in this context, why do we wear what we wear? For the longest time growing up I wanted big branded clothing to be a walking billboard for all the best brands. Why did I want that, was it because I liked them the best, or was it to buy into a particular brand or life style? Perhaps a bit of both, but if it is the latter surely I would not admit to it because it would not be operating on a conscious level, I guess that is the art of advertising, and branding specifically. Another example would be food. Not just what you eat, although that is also very telling, but how you eat it. Do you not think it is funny that there exist jokes about fish fingers and bad moms, or the general consensus that microwave meals are bad for you if you buy them from Iceland (the supermarket – not the country) However if you buy them from Waitrose or Sainsbury´s they are not as bad, it´s not necessarily just the practise of microwaving a meal, but it is the social use of it. When I watch Masterchef I literally look at all the foods and think to myself “No way, I´d still be well hungry after that, she only tried a small bit” but that is because I don´t have the experience or the cultural capital to understand that the show is representing food as an art almost, the elegance of its presentation is more important than taste. When I see pictures of meals my friends on Facebook upload, I think, “Gross it looks like someone has vomited” and yet that is what I would make at home as well. It is almost like I think it is OK in front of me, if I have the other sensory inputs but bad taste when put on my news feed. Why?
This leads me to question some of the assumptions I have, some of the tastes that feel natural to me, but perhaps are not natural, in fact maybe everything I like or dislike is just an attempt to identify or separate myself from certain social groups. It just generates questions though, like who decides? Why is Big Brother frowned upon, but the aforementioned Antiques Roadshow is high culture? I think it is interesting especially within my example of my CV, that the hobbies I put may well be telling someone who is reading into it a lot more than what I meant them too, and if we attach even without meaning to class distinctions to certain activities over others then perhaps I am letting my class show on my CV, and people are not liking what they have seen.
Of course, I could always be over thinking it…