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Reading Defensively

Hummingbird's picture

Reading bridgetmartha's post sparked a desire in me to return to Nnaemeka's section on western feminism compared to nego-feminism. Re-reading this section highlighted for me some of my own presumptions, which came from approaching her work with a western feminist eye. Nnaemeka quotes a theorist (Steady 1987) who writes, "Neither sex is totally complete in itself. Each has and needs a complement, despite the possession of unique features of its own." This phrasing of "incompleteness" made me assume that Nnaemeka and Steady were assuming heterosexual relationships and the need for a man and woman to be partnered together. This is something I felt resistance to immediately. After reading through this section several more times, however, I caught myself. Why was I reading sexuality or partnership into this section at all? I stepped back and tried to reframe. If I read this as acknowledging the spectrum of gender -- as I believe exists -- then Steady's writing is asserting that a range and diversity of people are necessary in the world. And this reinforces Nnaemeka's assertion that there should be diversity of genders within women's studies and feminist classrooms. Which is ultimately something I agree with. Of course a diversity of people should have access to and should practice feminist thinking! There's no question!
From here, I felt embarrassed to have been reading so strongly on the defensive. What did I have to lose by accepting a nego-feminist's critique?

On an unrelated note, Nnaemeka's description of how to "walk like a chameleon" reminded me deeply of Marjane Satrapi and her friends' forms of feminism within Iran in Persepolis. This is something I'd like to discuss further in class.