Blogging the Theoretical

Entries Tagged as 'Jenae'

Butler Quote 2 Group One

November 5th, 2011 · 5 Comments

And so when we speak about my sexuality or my gender, as we do (and as we must) we mean something complicated by it. Neither of these is precisely a possession, but both are to be understood as modes of being possessed, ways of being for another, or indeed by virtue of another (Butler 2004, 19).

Tags: Abby · Group One · Jenae · Jennifer M · Monica · Rich

Butler quote for Group One

November 2nd, 2011 · 3 Comments

If gender is a norm, it is not the same as a model that individuals seek to approximate. On the contrary, it is a form of social power that produces the intelligble field of subjects and an apparatus by which the gender binary is instituted. As a norm that appears independent of the practices that it governs, its ideality is the reinstituted effect of those very practices. This suggests not only that the relation between practices and the idealizations under which they work is contingent, but that the very idealization can be brought into question and crisis, potentially undergoing deidealization and divestiture (Butler 2004, 48).

Tags: Abby · Group One · Jenae · Jennifer M · Monica · Rich

Mohanty and Knowledge (Final)

October 12th, 2011 · No Comments

By Jenae Nicoletta

In Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity, Chandra Talpade Mohanty conceptualizes knowledge as the practical application of a theory, which in turn allows knowledge to germinate social change (195). She considers theory to be “a deepening of the political, not moving away from it: a distillation of experience, and an intensification of the personal” (Mohanty 191). Therefore, she also places a great importance on the power of self-definition in relation to knowledge. Mohanty locates her own “intellectual and political genealogy” in order to illustrate this point (192). She compares and contrasts the meanings of being a feminist and racialized both in India and in the U.S. She attempts to understand her changing labels and self-identifications as well as new questions and contradictions that she discovers along her journey (Mohanty 190). She argues that this definition allows us to better understand differences, which will in turn facilitate the construction of solidarities across divisions and diversity.

Mohanty emphasizes the importance of analyzing the “commoditization” of knowledge within U.S. academies (171). She argues that knowledge is being capitalized into “commercial property” (Mohanty 173). Therefore, it is important to understand the structures that create and maintain power, especially because they are not always obviously visible. In addition, universities have become more entrepreneurial and corporate. She believes that the values and ideologies associated with entrepreneurial, corporate universities conflict with the values of a democratic, public university (Mohanty 174). Attention has shifted from educators to products of education (Mohanty 178) and feminist educators are being denied tenure due to the “’political’ or unconventional nature of their work” (Mohanty 175). However, Mohanty also argues that the restructuring of universities does not mean the total loss of a space to engage in alternative knowledge production processes. After all, Mohanty states, “what I hope and struggle for, I garner as my knowledge, create it as the place from where I seek to know” (123).  We must continue to understand, challenge and unmask the political structuring of the university.

Mohanty asserts the importance of attempting to investigate questions of race and gender in regard to the ways in which they are being “commodified” in the U.S. (Mohanty 215). She argues that feminist learning environments compel us to “identify and challenge the politics of knowledge that naturalizes global capitalism” (Mohanty 171). Some of the places she believes this is trying to be done are in women’s studies, black studies, and ethnic studies fields. Mohanty describes knowledge production in these areas as being shaped by “difference that attempts to resist incorporation and appropriation by providing a space for historically silenced peoples to construct knowledge” (195). Since these fields place an importance on self-definition, experience is authorized in order to look closely at the ways in which individuals are politicized based on race, gender, class, and sexualities (Mohanty 202). This allows students to become active in knowledge production rather than being mere observers. Mohanty argues for people of color as well as “progressive white people” to create oppositional knowledge rather than “accommodative” knowledge (217).

In addition, the main argument in this book is for the decolonization of theory in order to practice solidarity. Mohanty attempts to expose the issues that occur when Western feminists assume that all Third World women can be similarly stereotyped. Therefore, Mohanty describes ways in which Third World women produce knowledge through an understanding of self-identity. Writing is one important site for the production of knowledge because compels these women to “rethink, remember, and utilize” their lived experience as a foundation of knowledge (Mohanty 78). Within the last thirty years, publishing houses have printed autobiographies or “life-story-oriented texts” written by Third World feminists (Mohanty 78). However, storytelling, oral history, fictional texts, and poetry are other important sites that allow for alternative knowledge production. These sites create a shared feminist political consciousness because they allow these women to speak from within a collective rather than for a group (Mohanty 81).

To summarize, Mohanty is arguing against speaking for a group. Mohanty adds that Western feminists problematically construct Third World women “as a homogeneous ‘powerless’ group often located as implicit victims of particular socioeconomic systems” (23). To move away from speaking for a group, she suggests we learn to understand how our identities are defined considering our geographic locations, histories, and genealogies. Analysis must be contextual. We cannot construct “monolithic images” of Third World women (Mohanty 37). It is also important to analyze who is producing knowledge about Third World women and from what location they are doing so (Mohanty 45). Mohanty suggests that through the understanding of self-identity and the understanding of gender and race, there are ways to make connections and ask better questions rather than attempting to provide an absolute history and theory of Third World women.

 

Works Cited

Mohanty, Chandra Talapade. Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003. Print.

 

Tags: Chandra Mohanty · Group One · Jenae

Mohanty and Knowledge (Draft)

October 7th, 2011 · 2 Comments

By Jenae Nicoletta

In Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity, Chandra Talpade Mohanty conceptualizes knowledge as the practical application of a theory, which in turn allows knowledge to germinate social change (195). She considers theory to be “a deepening of the political, not moving away from it: a distillation of experience, and an intensification of the personal” (Mohanty 191). Therefore, she also places a great importance on the power of self-definition in relation to knowledge. Mohanty locates her own “intellectual and political genealogy” in order to illustrate this point (192). She compares and contrasts the meanings of being a feminist and racialized both in India and in the U.S. She attempts to understand her changing labels and self-identifications as well as new questions and contradictions that she discovers along her journey (Mohanty 190). She argues that this definition allows us to better understand differences, which will in turn facilitate the construction of solidarities across divisions and diversity.

Mohanty asserts the importance of attempting to investigate questions of race and gender in regard to the ways in which they are being “commodified” in the U.S. (Mohanty 215). One of the places she believes this is trying to be done is in women’s studies, black studies, and ethnic studies fields. Mohanty describes knowledge production in these areas as being shaped by “difference that attempts to resist incorporation and appropriation by providing a space for historically silenced peoples to construct knowledge” (195). Since these fields place an importance on self-definition, experience is authorized in order to look closely at the ways in which individuals are politicized based on race, gender, class, and sexualities (Mohanty 202). This allows students to become active in knowledge production rather than being mere observers. Mohanty argues for people of color as well as “progressive white people” to create oppositional knowledge rather than “accommodative” knowledge (217).

In addition, the main argument in this book is for the decolonization of theory in order to practice solidarity. Mohanty attempts to expose the issues that occur when Western feminists assume that all Third World women can be similarly stereotyped. Therefore, Mohanty describes ways in which Third World women produce knowledge through an understanding of self-identity. Writing is one important site for the production of knowledge because compels these women to “rethink, remember, and utilize” their lived experience as a foundation of knowledge (Mohanty 78). Within the last thirty years, publishing houses have printed autobiographies or “life-story-oriented texts” written by Third World feminists (Mohanty 78). However, storytelling, oral history, fictional texts, and poetry are other important sites that allow for alternative knowledge production. These sites create a shared feminist political consciousness because they allow these women to speak from within a collective rather than for a group (Mohanty 81).

To summerize, Mohanty is arguing against speaking for a group. Therefore, she believes we must understand how our identities are defined considering our geographic locations, histories, and genealogies. Analysis must be contextual. We cannot construct “monolithic images” of Third World women (Mohanty 37). It is also important to analyze who is producing knowledge about Third World women and from what location they are doing so (Mohanty 45). Mohanty suggests that through the understanding of self-identity and the understanding of gender and race, there are ways to make connections and ask better questions rather than attempting to provide an absolute history and theory of Third World women.

 

Works Cited

Mohanty, Chandra Talapade. Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003. Print.

 

Tags: Chandra Mohanty · Group One · Jenae

Conceptualizing Knowledge in Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins

September 16th, 2011 · 3 Comments

By Jenae Nicoletta

In Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins asserts that within the U.S., Black intellectuals often struggle to justify the credibility of the knowledge they posses due to the oppressive processes by which knowledge is validated. She argued that knowledge validation processes work to suppress Black intellectual knowledge. These processes are oppressive because they tend to reflect the interests of the dominant group of elite White American males (271). In order to properly theorize knowledge, Collins suggests the importance of understanding the concept of epistemology. Collins defines epistemology as the investigation of “the standards used to assess knowledge or why we believe what we believe to be true” and also “the ways in which power relations shape who is believed and why” (270). Collins’ deconstruction of the ways is which knowledge is validated suggests that knowledge can be biased towards the dominant group. This gives the dominant group the power to silence the knowledge of the “Other”.

Collins identifies two political standards that serve to manipulate knowledge validation processes. First, knowledge is appraised by a scholarly community, which generally consists of “White avowedly heterosexual men holding U.S. citizenship” (271). Collins contends that no scholar can escape from the influence of his or her positionality on personal experiences. We reflect and analyze knowledge based on our experiences, which not only shape the ways in which we view reality, but also what we believe to be true. Second, any scholar or scholarly community advocating a claim in opposition of the dominant cultural ideologies may be in jeopardy of being discredited. Furthermore, the few Black women holding positions of authority within institutions where knowledge is validated are used to prevent the majority of Black women from collaborating in knowledge validation processes. One tactic used is to encourage these women to work within the dominant cultural ideologies surrounding Black female inferiority (272). This omission of many Black females from positions of authority leads to the rejection of many competing knowledge claims made by Black women.

U.S. Black women bump up against many walls when trying to validate knowledge through the dominant process. Therefore, they are forced to deviate from standard academic theory. Collins claims that “reinterpreting existing works through theoretical frameworks” is one way of developing Black feminist thought (17). Moreover, U.S. Black feminist thought can take the form of poetry, music and essays (Collins 11). For example, blues songs written by Black females during the 1920s and 1930s are considered a site of academia, as are hip-hop songs of the 1990s (Collins 19). Also, Black female writers and filmmakers are considered a site of academia (Collins 115). All of these outlets are considered site of academia due to the artist’s ability to reveal her awareness of herself and the issues concerning Black women’s oppression. “Through their words and actions, grassroots political activists also contribute to Black women’s intellectual traditions” (Collins 20).

Collins still provides hope toward reaching truth even though Black female knowledge faces such culturally embedded obstacles. She declares, “all U.S. black women who somehow contribute to Black feminist thought as critical social theory are deemed to be ‘intellectuals’ (17). However, in Strange Bedfellows: Black Feminist and Antipornography Feminism, Jennifer C. Nash criticizes the argument that “every cultural product black women create is a kind of theory” (Nash 57).  Nash reasons, “this incredibly expansive conception of the theoretical tends to overpoliticize black woman’s cultural production suggesting that we can distill theoretical meanings out of black women’s seemingly quotidian social practice” (57). Nash seems to be warning other Black feminists against claiming that every black woman’s reflection on her own experience is theoretical. Nash is calling for more meaningful engagements with issues pertinent to Black Feminism.

Yet, Collins does offer alternative validation processes. She believes that by being an advocate for her ideas, she then validates her knowledge claims. Not only does this validate her claims, but also it inspires her readers to resist oppression. Furthermore, Collins argues “Black women intellectuals best contribute to Black women’s group standpoint by using their experience as situated knowers” (22). Later she states that women who claim to be experts and have lived through corresponding experiences are more credible that those who simply read about and studied such experiences (276). Collins backs up this claim by differentiating between knowledge and wisdom. “Knowledge without wisdom is adequate for the powerful, but wisdom is essential to the survival of the subordinate” (Collins 276).

Although Black feminist thought is not as widely accepted and celebrated in comparison to the dominant “truths,” Collins believes it is important to understand systems of oppression in order to seek out one’s own “truths.” “Partiality, and not universality, is the condition of being heard; individuals and groups forwarding knowledge claims without owning their position are deemed less credible than those who do” (Collins 290). This empowering statement illustrates Collins’ conceptualization of what she believes is true validated knowledge, not simply the knowledge that bolsters dominant ideas. Furthermore, “the existence of a self-defined Black woman’s standpoint using Black feminist epistemology calls into question the content of what currently passes as truth and simultaneously challenges the process of arriving at the truth” (Collins 290). We all must question, analyze, and trace the origins of and the ideologies backing the claims that are deemed as “truths” to understand why we believe them to be true.

References

Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought. New York: Routledge Classics, 2009.

Nash, Jennifer C. “Strange Bedfellows: Black Feminism and Antipornography Feminism.” Social Text. 26.4 (2008): 51-70.

Tags: Blogging the Theoretical · Group One · Jenae · Patricia Hill Collins

Epistemology

September 7th, 2011 · 1 Comment

Tags: Jenae

Musings about Coleman, Johnson & the future

August 26th, 2011 · 1 Comment

by Jenae Nicoletta

In An introduction to feminism in a postfeminist age, Jenny Coleman argues about the importance of knowing the history of feminism(s). A common philosophy is that we can learn from the past in order to try to predict or guide the future. Therefore, it is important for feminists, and other individuals, to understand feminisms of the past. We can learn from both the achievements and the failures of feminists of the past. It is also important to look back at the past to realize that some of the rights we posses, and we may now take for granted, were not always available to us all. To illustrate this point Coleman states “many young feminists these days are not aware of the fragile nature of the hard-fought gains of their feminist predecessors and, not having experienced any in-your-face sexist discriminations, seem to consider feminism to be old-fashioned and irrelevant to their lives” (3).

Although this may be the case, this means that current feminists must engage a future generation of feminists in a new way. Many young people seem hesitant to label themselves as a feminist due to the stereotypes associated with the term. Coleman claims that many young women “view feminism as: anti-men; anti-feminine; anti-family; over-prescriptive; interfering in private lives; humorless; dowdy and puritanical; and a source of oppression rather that liberation” (10). For example, Coleman defines the term feminism as having “never only been about women’s gains and empowerment, that feminism was about the bigger picture, about social relations and systematic injustices” (3).

While, Coleman points out that feminism is not simply about women, but rather feminism is about equality for all. However, many people associate the word “feminism” with the term “feminine” and therefore mistakenly assume that feminism is only about women. Upon the discovery that feminism is about equity and social injustices, people sometimes find the term feminism to be sexist, as they seem to feel that other gender/sexes are excluded from the term. From a PR standpoint, this is not extremely helpful with the recruitment of future feminists (of all genders).

Even though, it just so happens that women are still considered a minority group when discussing power, this does not mean that all feminist issues exclude other genders/sexes. Therefore, the language that we use is very important. Coleman illustrates the importance of language by discussing the pros and cons of using the term “wave” when referring to different feminist movements over time (5). She states, “by drawing attention to the common themes that unify each wave, the notion of a wave tends to obscure the diversity of the competing feminisms that exist within any given period and the contributions made by more marginalised members of the women’s movement” (5). However, she finds usefulness in the term as a metaphor. As she believes it capture the idea that feminist movements “ebb and flow, rise and decline, and crest in specific historical accomplishments” (5). Thus, finding the perfect term to describe abstract ideas and concepts does not always reach the audience as intended.

I am intrigued by Coleman’s reservations concerning third wave feminism. She originally planned on titling the article “Is third wave feminism feminist?” (11). This portrays her doubt and unease relating to third wave feminist conceptions. She asserts that there is not enough resistance to the individualism, materialism, and consumer culture that we live in. However, she seems to be happy to accept a way in which feminists of all generations may be able to work together to solve the issues of gender, equity, and social justice that link many feminists.

In Fuck You & Your Untouchable Face, Lisa Johnson struggles with her urges and desires that can be viewed as antifeminist. She confides that “one of the hardest things for me to do as a feminist is to admit that in a relationship I willingly, or at least automatically, live within the man’s emotional weather – quiet when he’s withdrawn, ready to talk, fuck, go dancing, anything, anything he wants. I am infinitely flexible” (15). I found this rather compelling because it shows the struggle to unlearn cultural norms. We have grown up with Disney fairy tales, and even though we understand the sexist gender roles and masculine and feminine performativity that can often be found within many of these stories, sometimes we still wish for a Price Charming. We are taught to want certain things. Even when we know we shouldn’t want something, sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. In a way, it is almost like an abusive relationship. It’s hard to break a cycle. Not necessarily impossible, just difficult.

I found this struggle very compelling. We can carry a certain set of beliefs associated with feminism; yet, we may still act against them to fill other desires we harbor. I found this to be a relatable subject. However, as I was reading Coleman’s anecdotes concerning her boyfriend, I felt that she was focusing too much on societal pressures. For example, she states “I knew about (and believed) feminist critiques of marriage, and truth be told, I wasn’t sure I could revise it to please us both” (19). She clearly understood these pressures, but she couldn’t deter her desire to conform to those pressures. I think that even when we can deconstruct the society we live in, we still have trouble separating ourselves from the institutions, which form asset of norms that we are expected to abide by. It is also a little unsettling that we can recognize the pressures around us, yet still act in accordance to them with little to no thought. Sometimes it seems like we are programmed to follow cultural norms by default. Acting against those norms seems to take more time and energy. However, that doesn’t make deconstructing such norms any less important.

I was critical of one of the topics Johnson brought up. She claims that there is a problem in which women are unable to talk to men “about or from the perspective of feminism” which “spoils our best relationships” (22). I find this statement to be a large generalization because a) some men are feminists and b) not all women have issues communicating with their male partners from a feminist standpoint. I understand that not all female feminists engage in romantic relationships with male feminists and many women may have issues in discussing a feminist perspective with their lovers/partners and we cannot always help whom we fall in love with. However, if you are unable to talk about a significant part about yourself with your loved one then the relationship is most likely doomed from the start, so can it really be the “best” relationship? That just sounds stressful to me.

Thoughts for the future:

I would like to see a focus the societal facilitation of “rape cultures.” There are still many instances of “blaming the victim” and, of course, blaming the person who forced the sexual assault. However, the problem stems much deeper than the individuals. The problem is societal.  We create the concept of rape and society creates rapists. We take preemptive action by providing defensive classes for (mainly) women, yet we do not take action to fix the cultural issues, which allow for rape prone societies. This is not a problem will simply be solved punishing those who commit this physical and emotional crime against individuals.  I wish we would focus on the role society plays in rape.

Tags: Against the Waves · Jenae