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One woman's freedom is another woman's imprisonment

Dan's picture

          The description of the Visions community in chapter 5 is reminding me in ways of the Delpit article because it displays the ways in which a liberal, middle class, white agenda about personal growth and well-being can actually be incredibly harmful due to the ways it clashes with the realities of systematic oppression. The ways that the staff people thought of themselves as “liberating” the women, by telling them they couldn’t wear makeup or sexually revealing clothing, when in fact, that is one perception of freedom oppressing these women’s ability to control the external expression of their identities.

         This also makes me think about intentional communities in general -- and when and why they work and fail. This seems to produce evidence that, if an intentional community is established, and you bring in and subject others to the intentions of that community who are not devoted to the ideals, but rather are prisoners of those ideals, it becomes another form of incarceration, even if it’s more “humane” according to middle class standards.

      “I looked at her and realized that she wasn’t the same woman who entered [Visions]  a year ago. This time she couldn’t make it but maybe next time she will… My job is to make the women aware of their psychological pain. She’s aware of it now. So in some way, it was a kind of victory” (176).

       The staff wants the women to acknowledge their pain and hardship, and to stop wearing masks. This feels so problematic and coming from a place of privilege, because maybe these women NEED masks to survive the institutional and systematic oppression they are subjected to. What is stripping them of their armor will actually make them more vulnerable (it would seem that way…). So, why do these women think it will help them overcome what they are up against?



Owl's picture

One's vision is another's silence. ..

I definitely agree with you Dan.  It is overwhelming clear to me in both Alliance and Visions that intentional communities can become yet another form of incarceration. When one group's standards are imposed on another, instead of making things better, we reinforce the multi-layered superiority and inferiority complex that exists at the intersection of race, class, and gender. The disconnect between the lack of voice on behalf of women who are incarcerated and the desire of the staff at these intentional communities to illicit voice in the very same women by subjecting them to their standards of beauty/life in general reminds of Finke's article on student voice. I think that the staff at these alternative institutions, in trying to subject the women to different views on beauty, are in actuality constructing yet another code that these women need to learn in order to survive institutional and systematic oppression. Finke tried to separate her students from the social context that riddled their understanding of education and the teacher/student interaction, but what she failed to realize was that social context, in my opinion, constitutes voice. I think that maybe a better way that Visions could have phrased their goal, was to have women become aware of their pain and hardship, so that they could better cope with their pain in the midst of oppression.