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"She writes in white ink..." -Cixous

llauher's picture

Weezie Lauher

September 28, 2007

Intro. to Critical Feminist Theory

Professor Dalke



When I entered Professor Dalke’s class on September 11th, I was apprehensive for more than one reason. I had missed the first two days of class due to registration and class-shopping issues, yes, but perhaps what I was most nervous about was my lack of understanding when it came to feminism and feminist theory. I came into this course as a person with a background of non-definition. The closest I came to feminism was the basic equality of the sexes view, but I never styled myself as a feminist. The self-proclaimed feminists that I was aware of from my hometown or my high school were bitter, quick-witted hyenas who could latch onto any slip of the tongue and turn a minor mistake into a racist, sexist, or homophobic remark meant to scapegoat the entirety of womankind. I was afraid of them, worried that I would offend them, either in something I said accidentally, or by something they took the wrong way. These women shaped my early comprehension of feminism, and I was hesitant to align myself with their ranks. Now, with a month spent in a class with heavy theoretical reading and lively class discussions, not to mention a forum teeming with the opinions and analyses of many generations, I have come to define feminism for myself and acknowledge the repression I allowed the hometown feminists to place over me.

I sometimes still struggle, inside and outside of class, with the construction of the patriarchy and male hegemony. It often makes me feel as if I’m in the Matrix; that there is an entire social structure or power that rules the world, and I have been trained to ignore the glitches for most of my life. Having decided to take this course, I feel myself standing outside the patriarchal world (if only for brief moments), my mind sparking with questions; “How could we have let this happen? Doesn’t anyone see how powerful, how brilliant, how strong and independent women are?” There are readings that have brought me to this point, surely. Perhaps the two that have been the most influential are Linda Kauffman’s "The Long Goodbye” and Helene Cixous’ “Laugh of the Medusa.” I felt Kauffman calling feminists to unite, to strip ourselves of our individuality for the sake of fighting for justice. I picture this as a sort of robotic revolt, and I hesitated at her suggestions to retire personal testimony. Cixous has brought me to calmer ground. Her poetic call-to-arms, for me, was the perfect combination of metaphor and message. I identify with Cixous and her piece, I realize its flaws, I put it into context, and I embrace her efforts and her meaning.

I find that the cross-section of feminism and culture is the facet of feminism that I find most interesting. I feel the need to explore the differences and nuances in feminist theory that occur across the lines of culture. To what extent is feminism reigned in by women of a certain geographical or racial background for the sake of safety, society, or custom? Does one’s skin color change one’s definition of feminism? Is there a lesbian feminist discourse? Better yet, is there a transgender feminist discourse? This may simply be the result of a deep-seated interest, both personal and academic, but it is a point I feel deserves further exploration. As Yoo Jim said in class, can one even bother with feminism with something as daunting as race or sexuality or gender identity already looming in one’s mind? I feel the best way to address this is to research as much as I can; return to Patricia Zavella, Gloria Anzaldúa, Paula Gunn Allen, Susan Stryker, Sojourner Truth. To read the analyses and explorations of these strong and opinionated people can only do me well, even if it fails to answer my questions.


Anne Dalke's picture

Welcome into the matrix

Welcome into the Matrix, llauher: what a vivid image you chose, to represent your sense that you've "been trained to ignore the glitches for most of your life," and are just now looking around and recognizing the way structures work, and work upon us all.

Your contrast of the "robotic revolt" of Kauffman, who asks us to strip ourselves of individuality, with Cixous's call to arms, is also striking, but/and I'd like to hear more of why-and-how you find yourself identifying with Cixous. What do you see in "her efforts," what do you understand of "her meaning"? That is: what does her work mean to you?

You end by saying you want to go on reading the analysis of "strong and opinionated people"--but make no gesture there towards occupying such a position yourself, being one of those who speaks, and writes your own analysis.

Your suggestion for further reading and thinking and writing has to do with the intersection of feminism and culture; you might start with Vicki L. Ruiz and Ellen Carol DuBois' s 2000 collection, Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History. You also ask in particular about the possibility of a transgender feminist discourse. We'll be talking about transgender with Susan Stryker when she visits our class on October 11th (and you'll see from the readings she's provided that she thinks quite strikingly about Frankenstein as a transgendered text). Perhaps that session will give you directions for further exploration--

out of the matrix, and beyond?