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Notes Towards Day 11: Engendering our Institutions

samuel.terry's picture

I. various coursekeeping items-->
end of the name tests: ErinMcD, iskierka, & sam

missing some papers/several were late, only one w/ a warning:
convention/polite to let your prof know if the paper will be late, and when to expect it;
with me, missed deadlines aren't punitive, but pragmatic (so we can read/respond...)

have clustered you in groups of 3, by topic:
by classtime on Thursday, read essays by your two writing partners;
and comment on-line about how they intersect/overlap/diverge w/ your own;
also bring copies of all 3 to class, and come ready to talk about them w/ one another
[groups: Maya, MargaretRachelRose, shainarobin;
Taylor11, vhiggins, Ann Lemieux;
EP, ccassidy, Amoylan;
iskierka, pialamode314, ari-hall;
nia.pike, Cat, samuel.terry;
Celeste, EmmaBE, Polly;
sschurtz, juliah, Fdaniel;
Erin McDermott, pipermartz, kwilkinson]

Neil Gaiman has just issued a prequel: Overture #1 chronicles the events
leading up to Morpheus's capture at the start of Sandman.

free conference, open to the public, on Queer Method @ Penn, Oct 31-Nov 1, 2013

II. take some time to talk about last week:
Laura Swanson's visit & the creation of our anti-self-portraits
pialamode on her happy self-portrait, nia.pike on her general, not-in-depth one,
maya on using it to figure out herself, rather than explain herself to others...
(nia and maya both spoke about feeling restrained by our HC guests...)
what else to report back about this experience? useful? how? how more useful?

not unrelated: two of you changed your user names
over the weekend--
welcome to nia.pike and Cat!

a form of anti-self portraits: "a response to the problematic images that gawk at otherness"/
a tension between concealing & revealing

question about relation between gender and disability studies-->
doubling (or addition--doubly oppressed/doubly cool)/
hierarchy (disability more "other"--okay to select against a disabled child, not a gendered one)/
interaction = intersectionality

Eli Clare, Exile and Pride: "gender reaches into disability; disability wraps around class; class strains against abuse; abuse snarls into sexuality; sexuality folds on top of race. . . everything finally piling into a single human body"

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson: "Integrating disability [into feminist theory] does not obscure our critical focus on the registers of race, sexuality, ethnicity, or gender, nor is it additive.  Rather, considering disability shifts the conceptual framework to strengthen our understanding of how these multiple systems intertwine, redefine, and mutually constitute one another. . . the cultural function of the disabled figure is to act as a synecdoche for all forms that culture deems nonnormative." 

related to questions about ecofeminism, which several of you raised on your postings last week:
Fdaniel: I didn't quite understand...If we are not vegetarian then are we excluded from ecofeminism? It seems...quite exclusive....I believe that feminism is women excelling and eliminating the things that prevent her from reaching her full potential.

Polly: I found myself immediately rejecting and judging those ideas [about ecofeminism and speciesism]. I couldn't accept that the next step in equality and inclusion was animals....[But then] I remembered the waves of feminism...every new going to have a counter argument....the idea of there being new groups still forming confuses me.

imagine a circle of rights of increasing size:
men--> women
white women--> women of color
American women--> women globally
global women-->queer-identified folks/transwomen and transmen
the categories of "woman" and "human" kept getting redefined...

mightn't ecofeminism just be the next step in this process?
including all varieties of humans--> including all species, multiple ways of being "persons"
(based on cognitive ability, ability to suffer, to feel....?);
also questioning the general habits of domination that have put down women,
& allowed for abuse of animals, the environment more generally:
animals, like women, have been consumed as objects of pleasure/in a cycle of objectification
conceptually, feminism may be linked with naturism,
through an oppressive framework/logic of domination
if nature is exhaustible, & we must learn to conserve it, then we may have outgrown the
ideal of women's "excelling" (as in first-wave feminism):
for each one to have enough, not one can "have it all"
[see juliah's web event for more on this!]

related to proposals about name changes @ plenary:
Piper wants to change the Recycling Committee to the Green Ambassadors Committee
Cat wants More Gender Neutral Language in the Constitution
(these are both feminist interventions!)

and related to comment sschurtz received from the outside world
(just in case you needed to be reminded that you have a larger audience!):
"I’m not sure if I agree that feminist literature should be less accessible."
What a very interesting statement, one I think worth examining.
Some feminisms seem to agree strongly that less accessibility is somehow an asset or evidence of value or deepness. But isn't this essentially just rationalization for elitism? Doesn't that lead to a vision or practice of a feminist elite somehow empower to discern and make choices for the non-enlightened? Does that essentially negate choice and self direction for the non-elite?
Other feminisms refuse to adopt elitism, seeing in it the patronizing and essential patriarchal social control patterns which they reject.
Thank you for provoking my thoughts, hope this inspires some worthwhile questions for you.

III. shifting now to second module of the course:
from questions of self-representation, to creation of

institutional structures that attend to gender difference/variety

not to put too fine a point upon it: what pressure do trans-identities put on women's colleges?
for today, I asked you to read a short history of Bryn Mawr (two chapters from
H Horowitz's book about the establishment of the seven sisters in the 19th century),
and also a NYTimes Magazine article about transmen at women's college

for Thursday, we'll continue w/ this focus: besides reading/responding to two essays by your classmates,
read three essays written by women who took gender studies courses with me:
Cat Durante, Challenging the Existence of Women's College Through Transgender. May 2009.
Amophrast, Women's Colleges That Exclude Women, Feminist Colleges, Queer Colleges. Serendip. January 29, 2012 aybala50, The Inside: History of Women at Bryn Mawr College. Serendip. February 3, 2012,
as well as a Tumblr posting about Title IX Implications of Trans-Inclusion in Women's Colleges

@ the Heritage and Hope Conference in Fall 2010,
Helen Horowitz delivered a keynote address
(which focused on the "history," not the "hope"): she said that,
when Bryn Mawr was getting established, M. Carey Thomas had to
fight against current evolutionary science, which highlighted
the distinctiveness of male and female bodies:

women had adapted to bear and feed young,
which meant they needed a distinct education:
"could not study and menstruate @ the same time";
"the miseducation of women was a primary
cause of their 'hysteria'" (nervous disease)

MCT countered the belief in the biological WRONGNESS of
women's education with new scientific studies on inheritance:
shown to inherit intellectual capacities equally from mothers and fathers,
girls were "crushed by the American environment,"
not "enabled by circumstances to use their powers"

Horowitz told this as a story about the force of social convention: the
consequences of being "cut off from essential association with other scholars";
also as a story about the misuse of the story of evolution to explain social patterns

[as per Kelly's anti-self-portrait, and information on Serendip about diversity @ BMC,
MCThomas was visionary in terms of  gender difference, absolutely NOT
in terms of racial difference: she was a eugenicist; see her letters--
“If the supremacy of the white race is maintained, as I hope it will be. . . .”
“it is the only race to educate women. . . . certain races have not intellect, government.”
“If the laws of heredity mean anything, we're jeopardizing . . . by [a] headlong intermixture of the races.”

her race prejudice was akin to the class-prejudice of the founders of the college:
Joseph Taylor “directed in his will that his money be used to erect buildings
‘for the comfort and advanced education and care of young women,
or girls of the higher classes of society.'”]

In the history of Bryn Mawr, according to Horowitz, the
category "woman" was re-defined in the founding of the College.
According to a time line you'll look @ for Thursday, it was altered again
(in terms of women's class, race, and ethnicity) @ several points...

Our topic today is girls who were not born girls,
or girls who are in does this alter the
category "woman," and how does it affect what constitutes a woman's college?

According to the NYTimes Magazine,
"transgender and genderqueer students could be said merely to be holding
women’s colleges to their word: to fully support women’s exploration of
gender, even if that exploration ends with students no longer being

But...The presence of trans students at women’s colleges can’t help
raising the question of whether — or to what degree — these colleges can
serve students who no longer see themselves as women....

...the position women’s colleges now find themselves in: caught between
wanting to embrace a campus minority that their own interrogation of
gender roles has helped to shape and defending the value of institutions
centered on the distinct experience of being female."

asking a member of our class who has some experience in this arena to respond first...