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Towards Day 9 (Tues, 9/30): Evolving Bryn Mawr

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping:
what have you decided about the "two women talking" workshop?
have you organized in pairs? do you have an idea about topics? (send around a sign up sheet?)

confirmation that we all have places in the writing workshop offered by two of Achebe's "descendents,"
1-3:30 on Thurs, Oct. 9, on the first floor of Canaday (so request off from work!):
"Ir/reverence: Writing Against the Grain," with Niq Mhlongo and Chika Unigwe

Anne Balay's talk on "Steel Closets: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Steelworkers"
has been scheduled @ HC, 2:30-4 on Wed, Oct. 22 (talking w/ Kristin about the possibility
of your attending during her classtime....)

for Thursday, please read Minnie Bruce Pratt's 1984 memoir, “Identity: Skin, Blood, Heart" (50 pp) and
spend some time exploring Alex Juhasz's Feminist Online Media Mantrafesto--
one is a 30-year old account of the difficulty of building coalitions, the other a contemporary on-line attempt to do so:
I hope, taken together, that they will get you thinking about how to bring together folks who see the world differently.
How to build inclusive community (@ Bryn Mawr, for starters)? What are its edges? Where is it bounded?
How to get beyond (do you want/think we should try) to "get beyond"?
Today is a warm-up for addressing these questions.

II. last Thursday
, we used Halberstam's “Queer Temporality and Postmodern Geographies"
and Clare's and my essay On Being Transminded, to help us "query"
the institution that is Bryn Mawr, its normative temporality, space, reproductive logics...
this considerably enlarged our discussion of "accomodating" trans folk here, as
Jack asked us to think about the ways in which unpredictable gender identities and practices
might be used to queer the institutions in which we live and work; Rhett countered that institutions,
definitionally, cannot be queer; they establish the norm against which queering operates.

for today, to help us go on thinking about query-ing institutional structures, I asked you to read
Helen Horowitz,  “A Certain Style of  ‘Quaker Lady’ Dress” and “Behold They Are Women!”  and
Florence Goff and Karen Tidmarsh. Examining Our History: Inclusion/Exclusion at Bryn Mawr.

start this as a silent discussion:
pull out a quote from this material,
and write a comment about it: a question, a challenge, a commentary.
put these on the walls...
take 10-15 minutes to work w/ these--
write up a response to the quotes and/or each other.
Write down one quote you see here--something you or another wrote,
to bring back into our circle.

The definition of "woman" has changed considerably since the founding of Bryn Mawr,
slowly expanding to include various nationalities, races, religions, classes and experiences.
[It continues: plenary resolutions to increase faculty of color, and add content warnings to syllabi...]
What difference does knowing (this) history make?
How does it inform what happens today?

Issues of the past few weeks make it clear that admission is only the beginning;
how to build trust (or re-build it, once it is broken)
among women of different nationalities, races, religious and classes,
where we do not bring a shared culture, a shared code about what constitutes respect, into the making of community?
Are there grounds for exclusion? Or (once a student is admitted) always grounds for inclusion?

Kim's letter this morning:
To move us forward, I believe that we need to examine the intersection of our honor code and our protocols and procedures for handling incidents that violate our community standards, particularly situations that may involve elements of bias.  While there are many virtues of our current practices, we recognize the importance of identifying the limitations of these systems to support individuals’ and the community’s response to bias-related concerns.  This work will be carried out by a subgroup of the Diversity Leadership Group and the newly re-instated Diversity Council (a group comprised of students, faculty and staff), which will meet and consult carefully with members of the community. 

What questions-and-advice do we have for the DLG subgroup?
[attention is also being paid to faculty and curriculum, community education, and resources...]

Reading Notes
@ the Heritage and Hope Conference in Fall 2010

Helen Horowitz delivered a keynote address
(which focused on the "history," not the "hope"): she said that,
when Bryn Mawr was getting established, M. Carey Thomas had to
fight against current evolutionary science, which highlighted
the distinctiveness of male and female bodies:

women had adapted to bear and feed young,
which meant they needed a distinct education:
"could not study and menstruate @ the same time";
the miseducation of women was a primary
cause of their 'hysteria'" (nervous disease)

MCT countered the belief in the biological WRONGNESS of
women's education with new scientific studies on inheritance:
shown to inherit intellectual capacities equally from mothers and fathers,
girls were "crushed by the American environment,"
not "enabled by circumstances to use their powers"

Horowitz told this as a story about the force of social convention: the
consequences of being "cut off from essential association with other scholars";
also as a story about the misuse of the story of evolution to explain social patterns

this exclusion had religious force for M. Carey Thomas,
who gave the following account of these pressures on her early life:
"I can remember weeping over the account of Adam and Eve because
it seemed to me that the curse pronounced on Eve might imperil girls’ going to college."

Goff and Tidmarsh:
Joseph Taylor “directed in his will that his money be used to erect buildings
"for the comfort and advanced education and care of young women,
or girls of the higher classes of society.'” These women were to be “of high morals and good attainment.”
M. Carey Thomas believed in the "supremacy of the white race"

Lennard Davis, The End of Normal: Identity in a Biocultural Era. UMichigan, 2013.
3: the concept of an intellectual idea..does not have much to offer....What is suppressed from the imaginary of diversity...
are various forms of inequality, notably economic inequality, as well as the question of power...difference must be suppressed to maintain diversity (which ultimately seeks sameness).

48: Our happiness and depression are very much contributed to by our relations to others...we should...properly say that it takes a village to make someone depressed. First, you have to have a community define standards of what an individual should experience as normal....depression [is] a complex social phenomenon that defines standards and deviations from normal human behavior....

90: Diagnosis is always synchronic. It always takes place in a clinical present moment of certainty. It has to willfully suppress the diachronicity of its own coming into being, because such history might reveal contingency, chance, convention, and so on....the diagnostic constitutionally incapable of being uncertain about its certainty.

93: diagnosis...requires requires the certainty that comes from the amnesis of past and the dissolution of commensurability between subject and object...the tragedy of certainty.