Playing with Categories


3 Guineas, Day 2:
Reconsidering Our Attachment
to the Word (and to the World?)

i, too, am inclined to feed "feminism" to the word-shredder....
would rather leave it in a ditch and move on.
we stick ourselves to words so easily.
they are worthless...detached from what they represent.
when the space between the word and the world fills with fog
we must reconsider our attachment to the word.

A Bipartite Discussion

Of what use to us (in writing our own papers)
is HOW Woolf constructs her argument?

Of what use to us (as writers, as feminist activists)
is WHAT she's saying?

I. as an exploration of the issues which matter to us:
Kelsey: All I ask is this: Does anyone in this class honestly strive for poverty, chastity, derision, freedon from "real" loyalties in the context that Virginia Woolf proposes? And if so, how useful and practical is this stance to political action within a western dialogue?

Alex: i am perplexed by our discussion today.... i agree that women are socialized differently, and are different, from men, but i owuld like a concrete idea of how that difference helps us to "cure" war.... more on what i said about her plan not sounding like any fun.... i feel like my reasons for a lot of my actions involve monetary compensation or reception of praise. this is how humans work- this is how all organisms work...woolf's high minded opinion on rewards...goes against the nature of (most) humans....without...pride, people would not have a reason to defend intrinsic elements of their identities, which seems bad to me.

Orah: can we make a distinction between "outside space" and "margins" ? i think of margins as...always in reference to. outside space seems to imply a new environment around which we may create our own limits....woolf...seems less concerned...about the reformation of interior space....Woolf is more much as she emphasizes the chasm of different experience that seperates, her punchline is that we are gazing in the same direction. and maybe the difference will be beneficial in our search.

Sarah: I can't stop thinking about the discussion we had about separating ourselves from poverty, chastity, derision, and unreal loyalties.... I'm uncomfortable with following her directions in regards to my life. I can't help but to feel that if we refuse to praise those with extraordinary minds or refuse to work to achieve access to a lauded university, we will all linger in some smoothering pool of mediocrity....Bryn Mawr is ...a place built out of a reputation in learning and challenging its students....More than just an "unreal loyalty," Bryn Mawr is a way for me to say that I'm willing to work my ass off in academia. It's a way for me to say that I'm willing to dedicate myself to higher learning.

Talya: I am still struggling to try to understand all of the connections that Woolf makes... I don't understand why she suggests that one must be influenced by poverty, chastity, derision, and freedom from unreal loyalties. I don't think that they are all necessary or even desirable....having pride in something doesn't necessarily mean that you think that it's better than something else...

Samantha: It's interesting to me how folks are so torn about Woolf's proposal and whether or not they can do as she asks in their lives. From my vantage point, not coming from any of the places Woolf talks about, not having a history in establishments such as Bryn Mawr...makes me at once disagree about her points about "pride"...because I MUST believe in the prestige of Bryn Mawr to help me somehow have better chances in this world. But I can also extrapolate from her the idea that perhaps as humans we have not always been warmongers, that societies had once lived a peaceful existence with only what they could grow or get from the sea. It is for want of material goods, it is the imperialism of conquest she wants us to move away from. It seems that the cynicism people have is from only thinking in terms of a western, dominant, capitalist idea of what society can be. Dismissing my school pride would dismiss the main reason why I chose to come to Bryn Mawr...

Kat: I am so frustrated with this book. Actually, I'm just frustrated with the author....I think it's incredibly ridiculous for her to say we should move away from our pride in the things we do because those are the things that make up who we are....I have to draw the line here. I am what I do...what I enjoy, am good at or believe...they are choice that I MYSELF have made....I have pride in my accoladed accomplishments....Sure there have been times when I thought I deserved an award and someone else got it...But after I got over it, it was ammunition to do something better, to push harder so that I didn't get squeezed out again. I feel that pride in yourself is a survival tactic....The problem with this idealistic, "don't-be-proud-of-unreal-things" is that it is exactly that: idealistic and incredibly unrealistic. If we are to live in a capitalist society, there is always going to be a hierarchy....and not taking pride in your own accomplishments doesn't make the wealth gap in this country diminish. hm...

Em: reading three guineas has come at an interesting time for me, because i've pretty much committed myself to...becoming a professor.... i feel that what woolf elucidates at the end of her well-thought-out argument is exactly the kind of life-theory i have been working towards for a long time now....i think that social mavericks will always have value....the things that woolf lays out...i definitely find ... useful to think about....i want a small space of my uncompromising outlook on the value of the look long and hard at tenure and academic awards and...maintain chastity and truthfulness to oneself in the process of achieving them....there needs to be love and support of families and values, i just think woolf is condemning the ways in which this turns to excessive pride and inflicts harm upon others. this is my little thought-essay for a wednesday morning. call me up in five years and ask me if i'm using tupperware.


Maybe poverty, etc., is not the what is? Everyone agreed that advancement for "professional women" isn't as worthy of our guineas as is attention to poverty issues and working-class organization. This might suggest that we are recognizing that giving women a chance to go to college, become lawyers, etc. doesn't really cut it in terms of creating the world we are looking for. Woolf speaks to these concerns, but she doesn't seem to be convincing what do we find more productive? Is there a way to foster critique without screwing people? (Is that what women's colleges are for?) Or does that kind of distance come only with more thoroughgoing "marginalization"?

II. Anne: Let's look at Three Guineas as "modeling" the sort of thinking-and-writing we are asking you to do
we've covered her claim; let's look @ how she makes it:

  1. what form does her argument take?
  2. to whom is it addressed?
  3. what is the occasion of her writing?
  4. how does she support her argument?
  5. what concrete particularities does she use to develop her claim?
  6. what's the tone of the essay?
  7. (how about that humor?)
  8. on what key images does she rely?
  9. key passages:
  10. what form of authority does she presume? "what possible satisfaction can dominance give to the dominator?...Let us then grope our way amateurishly enough anong these very ancient and obscure emotions which we have known ever since the time of Antigone...but which the Professors have only lately brought ot he surface and named 'infantile fixation'....we must rely upon such evidnece as we can collect from history, biography,and from the daily paper--the only evidence that is available to the daughters of educated men....the daughter must not on any account be allowed to make money because if she makes money she wil be independent of her was not freedom in the sense of license that they wanted; they wanted, like Antigone, not to break the laws, but to find the law..."[footnote 42: "there are two kinds of law, the written and the may sometimes be necessary to improve the written law by breaking it...[and] to discover what are the unwritten laws..the private laws that should regulate certain instincts, passions, mental and physical desires...."] (pp. 129-138)
  11. who was Antigone?
  12. how does Woolf bring it home? "the public and the private words are inseparably connected...the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and servilities of the other...[the figure of the Fuhrer] suggests that we are ourselves that figure. It suggests that we are not passive spectators doomed to unresisting obediance but by our thoughts and actions can ourselves change that figure" (p. 142).
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