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Notes Towards Day 21: "Secrecy is a safeguard to freedom."

Anne Dalke's picture

I. 2:25-2:30 coursekeeping

* sign-in sheet

* Beyond Consent: How Reclaiming Sexuality Combats Sexual Violence:
A Conversation with Jaclyn Friedman, in Stokes Auditorium @ HC,
7:30-9:30 this Friday, November 2 (Friedman wrote When Yes Means Yes--
a very good book about sexual assault and rape culture, highly recommended
by Julia Hunter)

* homework: read a second essay by Wendy Brown, "Feminism Unbound," for Thursday's class,
that asks what feminism looks like "after sex and gender"--after the categories have been

II. 2:30-2:45: last Thursday, we had a pretty lively conversation,
seeded by bell hooks' claim that Feminism is for Everybody-->
but, she argues, only a certain kind of feminism:
feminism, not power feminism...

* your postings picked up directly on these themes...
Celest pushed back on hooks' dismissal of anti-abortionism,
reminding us that abortion is difficult, that it means the end of a possible life,
is not a decision to be taken lightly--and that to say so doesn't mean you aren't
a feminist (see Feminists for Life--on protecting the most vulnerable).

hooks is interesting to me in that she both says that feminism is for everybody
(ari said, quoting sam, that "feminism should be accessible to everyone"), and
she scripts what feminism is--her kind of feminism:
as pialamode314 reports, hooks' definition of feminism is "the movement to end sexism"
(discrimination based on sexual difference)--and this includes benevolent sexism"
(a positive orientation of protection, idealization, and affection, underpinned by
traditional stereotyping of the man as the provider and woman as his dependent).

A number of you are still seeking a common denominator for all feminism:
Fdaniel asked, "what's the common theme among all feminisms?"
Taylor11 asked, similarly, "how one would go about making one
over reaching theme of feminism that connects all the different groups?"
nia.pike: "Is feminism really about individauls--or is it a collective movement?"

Where most of you went here was the concept of "power feminism,"
and to writing it out of "the movement."

ari, Fdaniel, piper, shaina all had pointed questions to ask about Lilly Allen’s music video,
Hard Out Here
(hard for whom? and why objectify black women to say so?).

Cat, ccassidy, iskierka, sschurtz, EP, EmmaBE, Ann Lemieux,
MargaretRachelRose all reflected on how
“power feminism” fails to embody “sisterhood,”
puts other women down in the race the top,
& leaves hierarchical structures of power in place;
they asked whether “power” should be the goal @ all,
whether it could be used to empower the self w/out putting down others.
Amoylan said that “power feminism takes a negative spin on what feminism boils down to”;
Polly said, similarly, “I don't think that a feminism whose end goal is domination
rather than equality is a positive thing for other women."

This sounds like you all are waving first wave feminism behind,
arguing for a 2nd wave intervention in and redistribution of structures of power,
rather than advocating our getting more of it. So I'll be interested to see
what sense you make of...

III. 2:45-3:00: ...the two theorists whose work we are discussing
today, who complicate these questions further.
Both Doris Sommer and Wendy Brown are postmodernist,
in that they pay a lot of attention to the nuances of rhetoric:
 problematizing how we say things, how much is understood of what we say,
and how it gets picked up and used (and used against us?).  Maybe by the
end of class we'll get back to what that has to do with "power" feminism or
"choice" feminism or "difference" feminism or Fdaniel/Taylor11's ideal of a
"common theme among all feminisms."

Both Sommer and Brown take direct issue w/ Audre Lorde's famous statement,
"your silence will not protect you"--which was picked up on the Everyday Feminism blog,
and picked up again by nia.pike, who said, "we must be held accountable for our silence….
we must accept the consequences…if we choose to be silent."

Both Sommer and Brown actually advocate choosing silence;
in Sommer's words, "Secrecy is a safeguard to freedom."
let's spend some time with their arguments; neither is immediately
apprehendable (makes sense, given their positions on accessibility....!)

Count by 8's into groups of 3: even #s are Sommer, odd #s are Brown.
Write her/your "mantrafesto," or haiku--a summary of her position.
Put it on the board.

V. 3:00-3:45: Sit in rows: Sommer vs. Brown. Speak in her voice.
I will be Audre Lorde...

Sommer, "Proceed with Caution":
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. "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."

5. "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."

Wendy Brown, "Freedom's Silences":
1. breaking silence, this ostensible tool of emancipation, carries techniques of subjugation;
silence has a political value, is a means of preserving existence from the regulatory power of public exposure

2. compulsory discursivity: recognition seen as unproblematic, powerful and pleasurable,
but speaking has regulatory potential, capacity to bind

3. silence signifies a possible niche for practice of freedom --
the scene of practices that escape regulation, source of protection and power
practicing freedom in interstices of discourse and in resistance to it
Foucault: why do people have to speak? (petit bourgeouis normalizing)

4. confessions become norms by which we are regulated
confessing injury can attach us to it, paralyze us within it,
prevent us from seeking status other than injured
confessional discourse can constitute a regulatory truth about an identity group
to speak repeatedly of trauma: encoding it as identity, fixed in stereotype

Audre Lorde, "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action" (1984)
"I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect."

"Death is the final silence....I was going to die...whether or not I had ever spoken. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you."

"For every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak...I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences."

[her daughter said,] "You're never really a whole peson if you remaind silent, because there' s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter and hotter, and if you don't speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside."

"...most of all, we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live...visibility renders us vulnerable...we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid."

"we rob ourselves of ourselves and each other....For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs...and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us."


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