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Notes Towards Day 20: Is Feminism for Everybody?

Anne Dalke's picture

I. 2:25-2:45 coursekeeping

* sign-in sheet

* homework: comment on the web-events written by two of your classmates (if you haven't already)

* also, by 5 p.m. on Sunday, as usual: post a comment
about our class discussion on our Course Forum 

* Monday night, Cynthia Wu will speak on "The Ungrateful Refugee's Queer Desires:
Where is the Vietnam War in Monique Truong's The Book of Salt?" (Carpenter 21 @ 7 p.m.)

* for Tuesday: read Wendy Brown's essay, "Freedom's Silences
from which I excerpted quite heavily last week,
when we were "talking," silently on the walls, about Eva's Man;
we'll read another essay of hers, "Feminism Unbound," for Thursday's class
(she's a political scientist, public intellectual, w/ an undergrad degree in economics,
who is also affiliated with the Dept. of Rhetoric @ Berkeley)

* so! speaking of economics....
what did we learn from talking with Heidi Hartmann?

what didn't we learn/ask/why not?
what to say about the dynamics of that "conversation"?
what was her contribution to our discussion/her role in our course?

* my moments:
--What drew you to economics? "Being poor: I wanted to know why some people were and some weren't."
--"We could work on women's issues, if we knew what a woman was," vs.
"What a woman is, is not problematic. It's earning 77 cents on the dollar."
--"I consider myself a radical...[doing liberal work]...this is not about changing the world."
[cf. David Karen, who *still* teaches her 1976 socialist essay,
"Capitalism, Patriarchy, and Job Segregation by Sex," asking
" how would you articulate that argument, to reflect this [more current] data?"
" I’ve become a Washington creature, coaching arguments differently":
--cf. "The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism" (1981) w/ her current focus on capitalism:
"I underestimated then that new economic incentives could challenge the patriarchy;
there are more women working now, and it's easier to get change in the labor market"
(then things will change domestically?)
ask yourself: where do you expect the direction of change to come from?
how do you want to focus your time and energy?"
--"women can have it all...if we arrange social instutitions to get what we want"
[but this does not get us an ecoloigcally sustainable growth rate...]

* Carolyn Jacoby,
poli sci major who is doing a Praxis III w/ me @ Women's Way,
and joined us for dinner Tuesday night, found/shared another short, very readable 2004 essay
by Heidi Hartmann, which I've added to our password-protected reading file,
and which I'd recommend very highly: "Policy Alternatives for Solving Work-Family Conflict,"
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 596:
Mommies and Daddies on the Fast Track:
Success of Parents in Demanding Professions
(Nov., 2004), pp. 226-231.

I read from it during our conversation on Tuesday--
it looks the "wasted societal investment" of highly educated women
stepping out of the labor market:
because of huge work demands/workplace inflexibility,
their perception that older children needed them more/commitment to trad'l family values; and
"husband career spillover," alternatively labeled
"husband exemption, husband inflexibility, husband power, male power, patriarchy" (!)
--most interesting to me here is Heidi's focus on/attempt to intervene in the
"increased cultural support for ever rising standards of ever more intensive parenting,"
by campaigning against the double standard in parenting, supporting sharing caring labor

* what would happen to your papers, if I asked you to
re-write them incorporating an economic framework...?
(vhiggins, EP, EmmaBE all wrote on class issues, but the rest of you....?!?)

II. 2:45-3:00 get into your writing groups to compare notes about what you learned
from one another/where your arguments push against one another
[and then, before you break up, talk about an economic "revision"...
where might that take you? what relevance does an economic orientation have to your projects?]

Celeste, Erin McD and Samuel.terry
issues of class: EP, vhiggins, EmmaBE
diversifying bmc: Fdaniel, nia.pike, kwilkinson
language use: iskierka, juliah, Shaina
queer kids: Maya, ccassidy, pialamode
disability: taylor11, Amoylan, Ann Lemieux
accommodations: sschurtz, Cat, Maggie
intolerance (most random!): ari, piper, Polly

* reporting back: where might you go, economically....?

* what did you learn, from talking w/ one another...?

* go back and tag both of your own web events as "web events"

* also post comments on the essays by your writing partners

IV. 3:00-3:45: on Tuesday, I asked you to read the work of two feminist economists,
Heidi Hartmann and Marilyn Waring; and today I asked you to read
the work of two feminist literary theorists: bell hooks and Doris Sommer
I set up Hartmann and Waring as a contrast between liberal and radical:
the first working within the political system, to get a larger share for women;
the other critiquing it, asking what the "cost" is of visibility,
in a patently pathological value system:
do we want all life commodified in economic model?
[like Halberstam's critique of capitalist production]

I also set up the 2 literary critics in as simple a binary, saying that
hooks is universalist  ("for everybody"), and Sommer is particularist ("proceed with caution....")-->
hooks refuses to problematize the differences among us; Sommers insists on doing so.
hooks' lens is very broad; Sommers is very focused.

bell hooks' work has always been centrally about access
--she left rural south, graduated from Stanford and USC,
taught @ Yale, Oberlin and City College of New York,
and has now returned to Kentucky, where she is teaching @ Berea
--all the while, she published prolifically, over 30 books,
without footnotes (nothing her family could not read/understand),
and advised students to take what was useful, let the rest go
[I shared w/ you--when you were all so fed up w/ The Gender Workbook--
her notion of "third world" reading practices, letting the dirty water go-->
her feminist critique of Freire: flawed, powerful gift =
water that contains some dirt (to extract, and be nourished);
cf. luxurious 1st world waste of the impure]

Doris Sommers (who is Prof. of Romance Languages @ Harvard) 
has a somewhat different geographical and intellectual orientation:

"My favorite pastime during a New York childhood that began after our small refugee family arrived from the displaced persons camp in Germany was to try out different languages and foreign accents in English, playing at "passing" for a range of Americans. The country that hailed me was a cluster of accents, not a single soundscape. In Brooklyn, where I grew up, only children spoke English with an American accent, so the occasional adult who spoke that way (say, a teacher) seemed to lack the historico-cultural density that made our Italian, Hispanic, Chinese, Jewish parents so admirably adult - and so embarrassingly out of place.

Mistakes and feeling misplaced are common among bilinguals. But those very difficulties can be advantages - cognitive, aesthetic, philosophical, and political. Now that mass migrations take home languages to host settings, the sound of alternative languages interrupts the single standard, even in countries where that existed. Today, the risk and thrill of speaking or writing anything can sting, every time language fails us. But knowing how language can fail makes communication a small miracle. Over the years, I've become a risk-taker and a believer in miracles."

V. Let's work our way through this variety of work using a stretched-out carousel
(remember from day 1? 12 of you get into the center of the circle, 12 others on the outside),
and discuss...this time, line up...

from bell hooks:
1. There can be no such thing as "power feminism."

2. The only genuine hope of feminist liberation…challenges class elitism…
When women with class power opportunistically use a feminist platform…they betray themselves.

3. women are not nonviolent…children...often are the objects of female violence….lots of women believe that a person in authority has the right to use force…as an acceptable means of social control…

4. A genuine feminist politics always brings us…to loving…mutual partnership….there can be no love without justice. To choose feminist politics…is a choice to love.

5. Advancing the notion that there can be many "feminisms" has served the conservative and liberal political interest of women seeking status and priviledged class power suggest that one could be feminist and be another misguided is a feminist principle that women should have the right to choose.

6. Feminism is for everybody.

Discuss as a whole, turning these claims into questions:
IS feminism for everyone? (does hooks think so?)
CAN there be such a thing as "power feminism"? (do you think so?)
CAN there be love without justice?
IS chosing feminist politics a choice to love?
DOES class elitism shape the direction of feminist thought?
IS it misguided to believe that we could be feminist and anti-abortion?

from Doris Sommer:

1. "sentimental readers ...prefer the illusion of immediacy....Sympathetic readers...are question their own motives for requiring intimacy."

2. "Empathy is hardly an ethical feeling...readers' projections of intimacy...disregard the text's...performance of keeping us at a politically safe distance."

3. "Why should we assume that our interest in the 'Other' is reciprocated?...Could we consider that sympathy is not bilateral in an asymmetrical world?"

4. "Secrecy is a safeguard to freedom."

5. "So simple a lesson and so fundamental: it is to acknowledge modestly that difference exists...this defends us from harboring any illusions of complete or stable knowledge."

6. "distance can be read as the condition for success of coalitional politics....It is similar to learning that respect is the condition for lasting love."

[Discuss as a whole...]