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Notes Towards Day 15: "Doing Justice"

Notes Towards Day 15 of
Critical Feminist Studies
"Doing Justice"

I. Performing naming (="knowing"?)

II. English Majors' Tea Thurs. Oct. 30 @ 4 (w/ costumes!)
(help--a sheet of paper w/ 2 "descriptives" of my courses...?

III. Thursday's assignments:
switching to theory for a while

20 pp. essay by Martin and Mohanty. “Feminist Politics:
What’s Home Got to Do with It?”

Two essays/35 pp. from Asian American Sexualities:
"Home Bodies and the Body Politic" and "Maiden Voyage"

question on the forum this week has to do with "what
home has to do with" with feminist/identity politics

first essay is classic, lays out the issues;
second two are contemporary applications,
so focus on the first

not easy to read: an interpretation of a story you haven't read,
but models "feminist reading" in a very useful way

see how feminists write about literature:
a model for doing criticism/theory

Hilary anticipated this theme of "home," w/ her mention of the Baba-Levys in Persepolis: They are a Jewish family living in Iran, and while many other Iranians are fleeing the county, they stay because it is their home.

I want us to think more about the
intersection of 'home' and politics.

A story about this, from the Gender & Sexuality panel last week:
I didn't understand "heterflexible" (vs. "bisexual") and was told
"If you were in the community, this would make perfect sense."
(felt silenced/excluded from the conversation/which stopped...)

As you do this reading, be thinking about your second paper,
due in 2 1/2 weeks, on Friday November 14

Focusing on the Local:
what gender-related issues interest you most
in one particular site in the world?
How are they being represented?
How might those representations be altered?
What interventions are needed?

II. Speaking of which: the 4 news articles....
Alissa Rubin. "Despair Drives Suicide Attacks by Iraqi Women."

I’m completely bummed that we did not discuss the article about sexual reassignment in Iran....the article does not do give enough cultural background to the strict enforcement and division between those who are physically “male” and those who are “female”. In the Islamic faith, there is an important division of the sexes...based on the idea that Allah creates in...binary opposites. Therefore seen as dangerous....genders are divided by their sexual roles, the penetrator and the penetrated....This leads me to different religious and cultural standards have shaped our views and definitions of licit and illicit sex

kgbrown: Bryn Mawr is considering constructing a branch of BMC in the UAE...I was very excited about the idea of spreading Bryn Mawr to other parts of the world. But...I wonder whether ..a branch of Bryn Mawr in the UAE... will be just be a method for maintaining the traditional female roles of Muslim society....I would not support putting Bryn Mawr's name on an institutution that is not in support of breaking down the structure of gender roles and gender identity.

from an alum living in Syria, whose sister decided not to come to Bryn Mawr: "I did not want to go to an all-women's college. I just don't like the idea of separating people and living in an exclusively unisex atmosphere. I don't see the reason for it. It's like when you go to a Ramadan feast and all the women are on one side of the room and all the men on the other --- why can't they interact? Why can't they even pray side by side?"

NYTimes: "really victims of despair..."
cannot image the world beyond the village...cannot read:
"She is living a very traditional life. She has no rights...
her ideas are very small."

Chakraborty, "Wa(i) ving It All Away:
female suicide bomber...perceived as a traitor to the feminist causes, without any questioning of the Eurocentric stakes in 'international' feminist politics....

Discuss for a bit the analogies/where they break down:
between a woman's college and the sex-segregation
practices common in the Middle East?


II. All a context for Persepolis: The Story of a Return

I was struck immediately by the form and content of the introduction....Satrapi provides not only a history lesson but an autobiographical lesson....Satrapi’s language in this introduction suggests that...her project is in this graphic novel: to do justice.

Cf. Judith Butler, "Doing Justice to Someone...
Allegories of Transexuality":

how do justice to linguistic fragments of something called a person?
language already "going on," saturated with norms, predispositions
"one speaks a language that is already speaking":
see self through a set of expectations of a "norm"

does justice demand deferral?

on refusing to be reduced to/exceeding a body part
incommensurability between who he is/what he has:
derives his worth from the gap,
in the ways he is
not recognizable/categorizable:
self beyond discourse

I'd be interested in our thinking about this together:
How might (the reductive? black-and-white
form of the?) graphic novel "do justice"?
How might it fail to?

dhathaway: Now we are using the visual lens again...not only creating visuals from word meanings, we are able to see exactly what the author means

rchauhan: She talks about serious topics like war, religion, and Iraq's history, but by telling it through a comic like way, she makes these topics easier to read...humorous and almost relatable....I could see the ...character's feelings through the pictures. The reader gets the exact meaning.

ssherman: I think graphic novels are great, because the story is basically told twice at the same time....I love graphic novels because I understand how the dialogue is meant to be is so easy to feel a connection with Marjane, because the way she acts reminds me of any child. And its fun to watch her grow up.

skumar: I found the lack of words...a hinderance to my overall comprehension....there were too many images, too many illustrations of the setting and too little dialouge, too little descriptive and informative words....I could not translate what Satrapi [was] trying to tell me about feminism....I intrepreted the surplus of images and shortage of words in Persepolis to mean that there are several "pictures", or faces, of feminism....

mpottash: do illustrations allow for the better expression of our inner ideas?...perhaps it is this aspect that would allow us to call a graphic novel "feminist": perhaps it allows the author to express ideas that would otherwise not be expressed

ebock: we see in Persepolis what it would have been like to be a child throughout these events: to not fully understand what was going on, to see family members at risk, to see neighbors die....The images, in their starkness, seem to symbolize how she was seeing the world: good and evil, love and hate, etc....The words guide the images; they give them a fluidity and continuity.


not infrequently...I found myself hardly looking at the pictures at all...dependent on text, I did not give the images the time they deserved....When I...would go back to more-thoroughly examine the frames...I was intrigued by the use of only black and white....
Satrapi....chooses to illustrate people in the same color as their background. This has interesting implications for the understanding of people as separate individuals....


...examining the pictures...allows me to move forward in terms of interpretation and understanding....Perhaps this "uncomfortable" style of reading is part of what makes this a feminist text. I, the reader, realize that the status quo method of reading is insufficient...I must open my mind to new methods of reading and interpretation.... I am troubled by/interested in a few fundamental aspects of the artistic style...Is this reductionist?... Many of the people look alike...she does employ gender stereotypes...her pictures lack a gray this metaphoric...? Does she understand the world to be easily divisible into black and white?

...One thing that struck me was how much watching or gazing went on in the story....I interpreted this as a theme of control. I also think it is interesting to see that a person wasn't allowed to 'gaze' back

egleichm: Persepolis was immediately very jarring for me....we are lucky enough to gain access to the imagination of a kid [but] could murder, oppression, rape be shaped into a form that I am used to laughing at? And how is it feminist to present atrocities in a way that challenges conventions?...a juxtaposition of jest (the art) and tragedy (the words)...

So: what might it mean to "do justice"
In this particular form?
Is justice being done?
Think/write for 5 minutes,
then self-organize/
sign up for a small group
(no more than three people/per...)

Top-down questions re:
"doing justice"
bottom-up constructions about....

Work for 15 minutes;
prepare to report back to large group
illustrating your
general thinking with
one or two
specific pages of the text
(could be news articles as well as graphic novel).