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Towards Day 14 (Th, 10/23): "We should all be feminists"

Anne Dalke's picture

I. course keeping
tell me about Anne Balay's talk?
cf. to Eli Clare: "working-class America still exists outside the current narratives of gay liberation"?
"We need to bring our bodies to work and into our classrooms"?

we'll see a lot of each other over the weekend:
tomorrow night's performance, then Saturday's workshop, starting @ 10 a.m. in Dalton basement

By 5 p.m. Mon, 10/27: Post a proposal for the "listening conversation" you will conduct at Bryn Mawr.
What constructive role might Monsoon and Benaifer's “listening” method play at Bryn Mawr? 
Who (do you think) needs to practice listening to-and-with one another?
How can-and-will you follow-up/put this practice into action on our campus?
I will expect you to actually complete this assignment, and write up a report on what happened, by Nov. 9;
by Mon evening, I want to review your plans; we'll discuss them in class on Tuesday.

also keep on reading Americanah, aiming to get 3/4 the way through ( to p. 348) by classtime;
if you haven't yet posted your initial reaction to the novel
(so far, have heard only from bridgetmartha, Hummingbird, Sunshine, smalina, ndifrank...)
you still owe us that (so: two postings this weekend)....

7 p.m. next Wednesday, Oct. 29, an abortion rights conscious raising event @ Stokes Auditorium @ Haverford--
Abortion Out Loud: Lifting the Scarlet A--a speech and discussion by Louise Melling, longtime reproductive rights advocate
and deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, which will
aim to recuperate the current abortion debate
and get rid of the judgment when it comes to women's reproductive options.

II. not unrelatedly: today's topic, as requested by Abby, is feminism (and maybe women's relationship with men in the novel?)
I asked you to read to the mid-point of the novel, p. 237, for today, and
I attempted to kick start this w/ Beyonce and Niki Minaj's remix of Adichie's TED talk, "We should all be feminists"--
as well as Obioma Nnaemeka's essay, "Nego-feminism: Theorising, Practicing, and Pruning Africa's way," Signs 29, 2 (Winter 2004):
"First, nego‐feminism is the feminism of negotiation; second,nego‐feminism stands for 'no ego' feminism.
In the foundation of shared values in many African cultures are the principles of negotiation,
give and take, compromise, and balance. Here, negotiation has the double meaning of
'give and take/exchange' and 'cope with successfully/go around'...
feminism as I have seen it practiced in Africa challenges through negotiations and compromise.
It knows when, where, and how to detonate patriarchal land mines; it also knows
when, where, and how to go around patriarchal land mines."

strikingly different orientation from what Beyonce/Niki Minaj did with Adichie's TED talk:
I got bored w/ feminist classics…so much baggage
we have evolved, but our ideas of gender have not
masculinity a small hard cage we puts boys inside: teach them to be afraid of vulnerability,
leave them w/ very fragile egos, and then teach girls to shrink themselves, so not to threaten them…
question the premise: why women’s success a threat to a man?
“I would have no interest in the kind of man intimidated by me”
problem w/ gender: prescribes how we should be, rather than describing how we are
could be ourselves, w/out the weight of gender expectation
trying to unlearn gender expectations
gender and class are different systems of oppression, blind to one another
feminist: “a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes”
my own definition: “a man or a woman who says,
‘yes, there’s a problem w/ gender, and we must fix it; we must do better’”
what do Beyonce and Niki Minaj do with these ideas?

consider each of the women who appear in Americanah: who's "feminist" and how?
considering their relationship with men...

ndifrank on "pretending race doesn't exist":
One thing that has interested me throughout Americanah is how Ifemelu notices the nuances within American culture that I forget.
Such as how so often Americans are uncomfortable talking about or addressing someone's race. I mentioned in class how during one of my
volunteer experiences at Bryn Mawr a student said the phrase "I don't see color". It made uncomfortable and in some ways made me think
she was different, forgetting that in America and in my schooling I was taught that it was better to not use terms such as "black" or
"people of color" because it was depicted as offensive. I wonder how much this has hindered our knowledge of other races?
It also makes me question how , what is sometimes deemed as, "political correctness" has actually aided in the ignorance of other cultures.
The character Kelsey who appears in the salon as the liberal white woman who has no idea what shes talking about also made me question
on liberalism has hindered knowledge of cultures and races as well as empathy? I will admit that I saw some aspects of myself within Kelsey
which made me feel uncomfortable but at the same time relieved that it was being mentioned.

IV. in closing: reflections on how we have been talking w/, granting access, listening to each other?
topics you want to discuss on Tuesday?

if needed, mini-lecture on kinds of feminism

  • Three Waves of Feminism:
    • male-identified ("get what they got"--BMC)
    • female-identified ("celebrate what we've got--w/ an emphasis on embodiment, sexuality, motherhood)
    • postmodern (unidentifying/unessentializing)

      Mridula Nath Chakraborty, "Wa(i)ving It All Away: Producing Subject and Knowledge in Feminisms of Colour," Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration. Ed. Stacy Gillis, Gillian Howie and Rebecca Munford. Palgrave, 2007: Feminists of colour argue that the very idea of a phase/stage/wave-based consciousness is an ideological construct...that seeks to subsume and consume the challenges posed to it through notions of 'inclusion' and 'solidarity'....Feminism must stop conceiving itself as a nation, a 'natural' political destination for all will have to develop a self-conscious politics of partiality, and imagine itself as a limited political home, which does not absorb difference within pre-given and predefined space...

      global feminist models take into account the political economy of their socio-cultural milieu and are contingent upon broad-based approaches to questions of equity rather than a simple gender divide...a new typology...engages with multiculturalism, racialised class formations, immigration and naturalisation laws..

      from Rosemarie Tong's 2009 edition of Feminist Thought:
      A Comprehensive Introduction
      , on the diversity of feminist thinking:

      • liberal feminists (suffrage; equal rights; equality of education: Bryn Mawr!)
      • radical feminists (libertarian and cultural: ripping out the patriarchal system)
      • Marxist-Socialist feminists (critique of the class system: oppression located in private property--means of production should belong to all)
      • psychoanalytic feminists (shift focus from macrocosm to microcosm of the individual: psychic trap of the Oedipal complex;
        explore prelinguistic, pre-Oedipal domain of the Imaginary, before children enter the Symbolic order)
      • care-focused feminists (why are women associated w/ emotions and the body, men w/ reason and the mind;
        women w/ interdependence, community, connection, and men w/ independence, selfhood, autonomy?)
      • multicultural, global, postcolonial feminists (highlighting differences among women--
        in race, ethnicity, sexual identity, gender identity, age, religion, level of education, occupation/
        profession, marital status, health conditions--challenge female essentialism, chauvinism, "sisterhood")
      • ecofeminists (focus on strengthening humans' relation to the nonhuman world:
        broadest, most demanding definition of self's relation to the other;
        see Donna Harraway, of "Cyborg Manifesto" fame:
        "I am fascinated with the molecular architecture that plants and animals like a leaf I am"
      • postmodern and third-wave feminists (highlight plurality, multiplicity, difference to re-think the category "woman")

      most expanded (and most relevant-to-Americanah) chapter:
      "Multicultural, Global, and Postcolonial Feminism"
      looks @ the tendency of privileged women to speak on behalf of all;
      reminds us that all women not created/constructed equal
      affected by (among other things) national membership,
      esp. differences between Northern/Southern Hemispheres;
      interlocking sources of economic, political oppression
      Two-Thirds World feminists may reject label "feminist":
      economic greater than gender oppression; may reject "rights language" for valuing
      personal autonomy and mobility over communal ties, @ the neglect of social responsibilities)