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Entries Tagged as 'Group Two'

Mohanty: The Solution

October 7th, 2011 · 4 Comments

By Brooke Hessney

Chandra Talpade Mohanty poses a unique outlook on the oppression Third World women in her book, Feminism Without Boarders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. It is evident that Third World women face adversity in all parts of the world but she sheds light on innovative strategies towards a common solution to the oppression of Third World women by, “…[generating new] ways to think about mobilization, organizing, and conscientization transnationally” (Mohanty 140). She argues that Third World women must make colonization and domination pedagogically transparent by learning the ways in which these ideologies function as modes towards practicing solidarity. Mohanty further examines these concepts through a lens of the working-class, targeting the exploitation of Third World women. Essentially, these ideologies operate under the notion of difference based on the hegemony of the dominant culture.

Mohanty respects difference among Third World women but encourages the understanding of commonalities as a basis of solidarity. She herself recognizes the challenges that Third world women face through her own experiences and urges an emancipatory discourse to be established. This will in turn evoke the mobilization of Third world women. According to Mohanty, mobilization can be achieved by, “emancipatory action on the basis of the reconceptualization of Third World women as agents rather than victims (143). Ultimately, Mohanty seeks the reformation and reclamation of the historical normative discourses surrounding Third World women as a means to promote autonomous thinking. By this she explains that, “Capitalist patriarchies and racialized, class/caste-specific hierarchies are a key part of the long history of domination and exploitation of women, but struggles against these practices and vibrant, creative, collective forms of mobilization and organizing have also always been a part of our histories” (Mohanty 147-148).

She indicates that hegemonic social ideologies serve as the basis for oppression of Third World women workers. Mohanty notes, “Patriarchal ideologies, which sometimes pit women against men within and outside the home, infuse the material realities of the lives of Third World women workers, making it imperative to conceptualize the way we think about working-class interests and strategies for organizing” (143). Thus, she encourages the deconstruction of the historically Westernized social institutions that strain the emancipation of Third World women within the work force by examining other marginalized women workers around the world that have been incorporated into the global economy. This is exemplified through her case studies on the women of Narsapur and Silicon Valley in which she states, “While in Narsapur, it is purdah and caste/class mobility that provides the necessary self-definition requires to anchor women’s work in the home as leisure activity, in Silicon valley, it is a specifically North American notion of individual ambition and entrepreneurship that provides the necessary ideological anchor for the Third World women” (155) Thus, these two instances demonstrate the contradictory position of women in the working-class in context to their social identity which further exhibits Mohanty’s resolution for mobilization, organization, and a transnational feminist perspective.

Overall, Mohanty’s conception of the solution incorporates the reclamation of mobilization, organization, and transnational feminism and is by no means a static endeavor. It is imperative to generate new ways of thinking of these ideologies in order for Third World women to collectively engage in reformation. She urges an emancipatory discourse to encourage change in the praxis of mobilization and organization among Third World women. Also, promoting transnational feminism recognized the intersectionality of race, gender, and sexuality in the context global of developing global capitalism. In turn, this advocates for the title of Mohanty’s novel that suggests feminism needs to occur transnationally as a means to decolonize historical theory by practicing solidarity.

 

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

 

Tags: Brooke · Group Two

“Please Knock First: An Examination Of How Capitalism Erodes Culture”

October 6th, 2011 · 5 Comments

By Kate Aseltine

There is a serious problem with the way women living in the “Third World” have come to be conceptualized in the West. Stationed within our own “Euro-centric” discourses, we often overlook the varying and distinctive cultural contexts these women occupy. By viewing these women only through the lens of Western capitalist ideologies, we are complicit in the controlling imagery that “undercuts women’s agency by defining them as victims of a process of pauperization or of “tradition” or “patriarchy” rather than as agents capable of making their own choices.”(Mohanty 151). We overlook the examples of Third World women who have carved a space for themselves, as teachers, as entrepreneurs, as leaders, or we disregard these women as “outliers” from the normative subjugation. Though Mohanty would not hesitate to concede that the lives of many women in the Third World are bleak, she argues that the capitalist strategies of the West are not a solution. In fact, these subversive and increasingly globalized forms of capitalism are, in her estimation, structurally responsible for their strife.

Yet again, we find capitalism painted as the antagonist, determined to thwart an egalitarian future, and with good reason. As Mohanty emphasizes,” The common interests of capital (e.g. profit, accumulation, exploitation) are somewhat clear at this point” (Mohanty 140). As I argued in my previous blog, capitalism functions by creating inequitable power levels, establishing dominions of domination and subordination, and designating social groups as the privileged or “the other.” Those who occupy the space of this other, or minority, are then positioned to be utilized as cheap labor and are stripped of their rights by de-humanizing controlling images.

This mechanism can be seen throughout out our nation’s history, and remains a salient issue today. “In the United States, histories of slavery, indentured servitude, contract labor, self-employment, and wage work are also simultaneously histories of gender, race, and (hetero)sexuality, nestled within the context of the development of capitalism (i.e. of class conflict and struggle)” (Mohanty 146). Mohanty utilizes the example of slavery in the United States, when African American men and women were used as “chattel” to serve Caucasians and produce agriculture in the South, and the subjugation of people of color and women continues to be a salient issue today. These points argue for a reexamination of the picture of Third World women that exists in our imagination.

In examining the relationship between the women of the Third World and the West, Mohanty suggests that the Eurocentric colonizers of the past seem to have been replaced, by a modern model disguised as “globalization.” Capitalist interests in the Third World have changed very little over the past 500 years. The West continues to strip women of the Third World of culture and agency, and leech their resources and labor. Women are the cheapest producers of foreign goods, and women of the Third World make the ideal employees. Using the example of female lace workers in Narspur, India, Mohanty asserts that jobs and tasks are established within an “ideological construction… in terms of notions of appropriate femininity, domesticity, (hetero)sexuality, and racial and cultural stereotypes.” These discourses drastically belittle what women, particularly women in the Third World, are capable of by portraying them as infantile, a controlling image we reinforce every time we think of them simply as victims. Job typing has facilitated the creation of a social identity: workers are isolated within their sex, race, and class, and this isolation perpetuates their subjugation. The work of these women is shaped within this framework, and “tedious” and “unskilled.” The effect of these definitions of women’s labor is not only that it makes women’s labor and its costs invisible, but that it denies women power and agency, effectively trapping them within a position of subordination. Capitalist principles stress that valuable labor and laborers, exist only within the masculine sphere, which is why Mohanty argues that, “Analyzing and transforming this masculine definition of labor, which is the mainstay of capitalist patriarchal cultures, is one of the most significant challenges we face” (Mohanty 151).

Our role in the future of our increasing globalized, and capitalistic world is changing dramatically, and we must adjust our conception of ourselves accordingly. Within the globalized, capitalistic matrix of domination we no longer occupy the role of citizens –we are consumers. This has dramatic implications on the way we interact with our politic systems, particularly the ones responsible for perpetuating this matrix. When we subscribe to controlling images of women of the Third World, we take a step backwards. When we vote for a system sustained by subjugation, we deny ourselves a more egalitarian future. To combat this, we must rethink what we know about positionality and experience. We need a movement built on solidarity, and productive solidarity cannot exist without an acknowledgement of culture, history, and difference.

 

Tags: Chandra Mohanty · Group Two · Kate

Mohanty and Gender

October 5th, 2011 · 4 Comments

Chandra Mohanty’s Feminism without Borders addresses many critical and multifaceted issues and present-day feminism. Mohanty establishes essential links and connections between the working lives of women in the Third world as well as the United States and how these connections show similar ideological patterns within varying class/ cultural structures.

Mohanty looks at women in the Third World and how “gender” is portrayed. When Mohanty says: “This average Third World woman leads an essentially truncated life based on her feminine gender…” (22), which signifies the idea that the lives of women in the Third World are sexually constrained. What binds these women together is their “sameness” of oppression (22). Women, as a gender, have been labeled as “powerless, exploited, and sexually harassed…” by varying scientific, economic, legal, and sociological discourses (23). Mohanty brings up the concept of “object status” in regards to gender. Mohanty expresses that when women have been previously defined as “victims of male violence, universal dependents…and the victims of the economic development process” (23), women’s status then becomes objectified. As women of the Third World they are simplified to objects, or property then in which men acquire rights over (27). Through the economic development process, globalization, and the capitalist economy, women of the third world are once again being exploited by a dominating patriarchal society.

The second section, Demystifying Capitalism, looks at the exploitation of Third World women workers, by comparing various situations in many diverse locations. First, Mohanty expresses the idea of “the sexual politics of global capitalism” (141) and hoe globalization has led to the exploitation of women workers across national borders. Mohanty goes on to discuss a few key examples of women workers in the Third World and how the work they are doing, or how they are viewed doing the work leads to patriarchal domination. Before going into the specifics of the examples, Mohanty sets the stage very nicely by stating: “While the global division of labor looks quite different now from what it did in the 1950s, ideologies of women’s work, the meaning and value of work for women, and women’s struggles against exploitation remain central issues for feminists around the world. After all, women’s labor has always been central to the development, consolidation, and reproduction of capitalism in the United States and elsewhere” (146). In comparing situations of women workers, Mohanty first looks at the lace makers in Narspur. The women of Narspur are responsible for making products, and ultimately means that men “live on profits from women’s labor” (149). Mohanty discusses the polarization between that of men and women’s work. “Men actually define themselves as exporters and businessmen who invested in women’s labor, bolstered the social and ideological definition of women as housewives and their work as ‘leisure time activity’” (149). Through this we see a patriarchal definition of work and Mohanty looks at this patriarchal definition of work to further her discussion of worker and non-worker, and ultimately the further exploitation of women. Naomi Katz and David Kemnitzer show a comparison of the Third World “women’s work” to that of “women’s work” within the US in looking at the production strategies/ processes that produce an “ideological redefinition of normative ideas” of Third World factory workers in the Silicon Valley of California, where immigrant women are the primary workforce. Katz and Kemnitzer discuss that gender stereotypes are used in the Silicon Valley to attract females who may be “more suited” to perform “tedious, unrewarding, poorly paid work” (Mohanty 153). Clearly these stereotypes/ ideologies around gender are the basis for exploitation of these workers.

In both instances we see how Mohanty examines globalization and capitalism in terms of division of labor to show how ideas of “woman’s work” come into play, not only in Third World countries, but within the United States as well. These examples of the lace workers in Narspur and the electronic workers in the Silicon Valley show the “gendered” politics of the global labor market. Mohanty establishes essential links and connections between the working lives of women in the Third world as well as the United States. These connections show similar ideological patterns within varying class/ cultural structures. Woman’s work is viewed in terms of leisure time or something to do in their “free time” and comes secondary to their roles within the family structure; taking care of the children, the house, and being their for the husbands. Based on these ideas woman’s work outside the home is judged on a completely different scale compared to men, but Mohanty explains how woman’s work has indeed been the backbone of the capitalist system for some time.

Tags: Erika · Group Two

Power and the Privitization of Higher Education

October 5th, 2011 · 4 Comments

 

The education system we have come to know, appreciate, and strive within is changing and fast. In fact, it has already changed. We are unknowingly living in an exploitive educational environment, which is slowly draining our opportunities for creative and introspective thought. We are being primed as political and global consumers, and those who do not economically fit within this scheme of privatization are being phased out. Mohanty discusses these power dynamics and the negative change they are having on higher education, specifically how these changes are affecting women and people of color.

As the system of higher education has developed it became a space to expand ones own knowledge, to foster creativity, to ask questions, and to probe society. “It is one of the few remaining spaces in a rapidly privatized world that offers some semblance of a public arena for dialogue, engagement, and visioning of democracy and justice” (Mohanty 170).  Thus, “the academy”, as Mohanty refers, has been the leading location for feminist conversation, debate, and change. Through such outlets, leading feminist academics have developed their theories and have made a significant impact on our world and understandings. Through this system of knowledge development the University came to serve as a system of “non-repression”(174).  However, this growing concept of “globalization” and the expanding global political economy is privatizing the academy, changing its students from democratic and informed citizens to consumers in an education/profit driven matrix.

Intellect has become a primary marketable commodity. Education has begun a second revolution in which research is encouraged so that it can be translated “into intellectual property, a marketable commodity, and economic development” (173). We have begun to put a price on the intelligence of the future generations, and even more so on the fields of education that have the potential to garner a large margin of profit. Thus, we are seeing an emphasis’ on studies similar to economics, government, business etc, and “the simultaneous marginalization and cooptation of feminist, race and ethnic, and gay/lesbian/queer studies agendas in the service of the corporate academy” (174). This meaning, that in the near future we will see a decrease in the number and importance of the humanities, for their role the market will become “ornamental”. We will be phased out of sorts, our position within the academic matrix lost/stolen by this monster named privatization.

Why does this affect us, you may ask? Not only are the humanities at risk of extinction but the opportunity for all people to be educated is severely at risk of being eliminated. With this move towards marketing intellect, is the “growing link between money, the ability to consume and own goods, and the participation in public life (democratic citizenship)” (183). Mohanty argues, that this opportunity or “free-choice” for education is only available to those with economic means. Wealth determines ones ability to not only be educated but to have a say on the ebb and flow of educational change. The education system is undergoing a deliberate transformation for the sole purpose of profit making.

One shocking example of this change is the new St. Lawrence strategic action plan.  Previous to the current President, St. Lawrence strove for diversity. We aimed to rise our inclusion of minority students, and have a huge emphasis on financial aid to students who are academically strong enough for the rigor, but not able to finance their education. However, with the induction of the new president, circumstances of the university are changing. SLU is in debt, and so now things must change. In addition to the new business major, enrollment is desired to go up, international students are only accepted if they can pay full tuition, and we are now “expanding admissions reach to enhance good fit and Financial Strength”. The SLU I know and have loved for the past four years is on the brink of serious change. The powers at be are moving away from goals of diversity and towards goals of profit. The president, no longer looks to expand the intellect all those capable of SLU, but rather only to those students who have the fiscal means to pay their way through. We will lose our being; we will lose the university we are today, and who is to say that we haven’t already lost it?

Finally, I wish to move back towards Mohanty, and further discuss this change its global impact on the education of women and People of color. This change in education is pertinent to us. We are at serious risk of a loss of our education. The restructuring of higher education enables the wealthy to become wealthier, and the opportunity for education and self-development dwindles to only those who can afford it. One must look at this global economy as a white male structure of power, geared only to fiscal production. If we are not aware of these changes, and attempt to stop or delay them, then we threaten to lose ourselves. We will be giving in to these changes, and letting the powers at be to take over.

-Olivia

 

Work Cited:

Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. Feminism without Borders :Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity.           Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.

Tags: Group Two · Olivia

The conceptualization of Power through pornography by Olivia McManus

September 24th, 2011 · 1 Comment

 

Power

 

Although Patricia Hill Collins discusses the intrinsic relationship between Black Women’s oppression and power, I wish to specifically focus on her argument concerning the exploitation of Black Female sexuality and its relationship to the power dynamics of oppression. Although sexuality can be interpreted among other oppressors, such as race, class, or gender, Hill Collins argues, that instead of standing alone, it is the “conceptual glue that binds intersecting oppressions together” (145). Thus, sexuality becomes connected to every aspect of oppression that is present within the three categories listed previously. More specifically, Hill Collins argues, that pornography represented and still represents the apex of sexual oppression towards Black Female Sexuality. Porn stands as the conceptualization of power in opposition to Black female sexual freedom.

Hill Collins argues, that the origin of pornography actually began with the sexual exploitation of Black women in the 19th century. The bodies of slaves were put on display representing objects of desire for the rich white male. The most well know example of this phenomenon is the exhibition of Sarah Bartmann, the “Hottenton Venus”. She was often shown at “fashionable parties” wearing little clothing as a form of entertainment. She came to represent sexual deviance. She was not the norm, and exploited by her owner to show off her “different” sexuality. She was reduced to nothing more than her genitalia (148). This form of power over Black Female sexuality was orchestrated by the domineering white male.

In addition to the exploitation of Bartmann, we must examine the creation and continued existence of controlling images. Hill Collins specifics six concrete representations of the Black Female, all of which can be interpreted as negative categories of Black Female sexuality. Lets begin with the criticisms of a lack of sexuality and a disruption of the heterosexual norm: Mammy, Middle Class Professional, and the Black welfare mother. The Mammy is represented as an asexual servant to those whom she works for. She represents a mothering figure of sort, and has no connection to sexual urges. The Middle Class Professional is commonly associated with the image of the male-eating Black lesbian. One who is so career driven, that she has pushed all the men away. She exists outside this norm of heterosexual passivity. Lastly, the welfare mother is commonly seen to be a single mother “using the countries resources”, because she is single she also breaks with the heterosexual norms of marriage and bonding. The last three are objectified due to their supposed “hyper-sexuality”: Jezebel, Hooche, and the Matriarch. The Jezebel is represented as the extreme hyper sexualized monster. This ideology regulates “all black women to the category of sexually aggressive …” (Collins 89). The Hooche is criticized for her aggressive sexual appetites, where at best is misbehaved and at worst a criminal. Lastly, the Matriarch is criticized for being a “bad black mother”. She has let men walk all over her and is in the position she resides, because of her lack of physical and mental defense against men. However, this is not their fault, but hers (Collins 83-84).

Each controlling image casts a negative shadow on the sexuality of Black women. They cannot be strong without being a lesbian, enjoy sex without being a Hooche or a jezebel, or be their own woman without being called a bad mother. Although many of these images were created during slavery, their existence persists into our society, and their continual existence, maintains the power dynamic in which Black women’s sexuality is placed firmly at the bottom. Hill Collins goes on to conclude, that this has not changed, she views this aspect of power to have merged and morphed into 21st century pornography.

According to Hill Collins, the role of the Black Woman in pornography is completely dependent on the hyper-sexualized controlling images created during slavery. She argues, that these depictions are seen in modern day porn, animalizing the Black Female. Either they are depicted as extremely sexually aggressive, or they are reduced to their sexual organs, paraded around as animals or treated as a mule (Collins, 150). Thus, porn reconceptualizes power over the Black female, in relation to the continued existence of controlling images.

However, according to Nash, this view of the power of pornography is incorrect in some senses. Nash looks to disconnect the reading of modern pornography through the lens of 19th century oppression. She believes that Hill Collins fails to acknowledge the change in society, technology, culture, and the sexual power of the black female. By viewing porn though the exploitative experiences of Sarah Bartmann, we come to define all black women’s sexualities through these lenses. In addition, we fail to understand that there exists a possibility for Black women, and women in general to not be exploited by this “power porn”.  Also, it erases all potential for pleasure in viewing from any queer sexualities, or non-white spectatorship, and it silences a diversity of viewing pleasure.

Nash argues for a taking back of this viewing pleasure, and to reclaim sexual power through self-representation. The viewing lenses of 19th century slavery and sexuality are shadowing the desire for self-representation today. The opinions of Black Feminists, and Antipornography Feminists, are in turn casting a negative power structure back onto the sexuality of Black women, instead of breaking down the oppression that still exists.

Although Nash calls for a rising for new terms of self-representation, one must ask, whether this is a possibility? Here in lies the crux of Black women’s sexuality. Although the thoughts of Black feminists, and antipornography feminists are more restrictive than freeing, how are Black women allowed to create self-representation of their sexualities, without being influenced by the oppression that controls the lenses, in which their sexualities are interpreted in the first places. So is power in the sense of controlling sexualities unavoidable, or are Black women truly in an age in which they can control their own sexual agency?

-Liv

Tags: Group Two · Olivia

Revised

September 23rd, 2011 · No Comments

Alexandra

 

Knowledge

 

White men and women are the dominant culture in society. As a result their views are considered the “norm”, for “suppressing the knowledge produced by any oppressed group makes it easier for dominant groups to rule because the seeming absence of dissent suggests that subordinate groups willingly collaborate in their own victimization” (Collins 5). In addition, “past practices such as denying literacy to slaves and relegating Black women to underfunded segregated southern schools worked to ensure that a quality education for black women remained the exception rather that the rule” (Collins 7).  Nevertheless, knowledge is not just gained in school; it is acquired through skills, observation, and experience. One does not need to know how to spell, read or write to be enlightened or knowledgeable, and African American women are a great example. For years these women have been silenced, but never silent among themselves, for they have been theorizing through out history.

Through observation and experience these women were able to make sense of the oppressor and in turn make sense of their situation. For example, “domestic work allowed African American women to see White Elites, both actual and aspiring, from perspectives largely obscured from Black men and from these groups themselves” (Collins 13).  This enabled them to gain knowledge that influenced black women’s critical social theory.

African American women also gained knowledge through living conditions; “the majority of African-American women lived in self-contained Black neighborhoods where their children attended overwhelmingly black schools, and where they themselves belonged to all-Black churches and similar community organizations” (Collins 12).  These conditions allowed them to discuss political and social issues, a long with family stories passed down from generations openly. This encouraged “African American men and women to craft distinctive oppositional knowledge’s designed to resist racial oppression” (Collins 12). Collins use of quotations from multiple voices such as intellectual Alice Walker, blues singer Aretha Franklin, to the everyday black women denies any possible view that only a few Black women can theorize emphasizing the importance of oral traditions.

Oral traditions educated black women on history and thoughts of others who were illiterate due to the political structure and social regulations imposed on them. This influenced the ideas and actions of Black women intellectuals. These intellectuals are discovering and reinterpreting the minds and talents of grandmother’s, mothers, and sisters who have been oppressed. “In my own work I write not only what I want to read- understanding fully and indelibly that if I don’t do it no one else is so vitally interested, or capable of doing it to my satisfaction- I write all the things I should have been able to read (Walker 1983, 13)” (Collins 16).  Through songs and writings one can begin to understand that among U.S Black women “all were in some way affected by intersecting oppressions of race, gender, and class” (Collins 15).

I believe that oral tradition was vital for theorizing Black women’s feminist thought. Many black women were illiterate and therefore in order to express their feelings and thoughts stories played a key role because they could be passed down through generations. Black women could gain knowledge through situations and experience’s from women who never stopped theorizing. From this they could talk about it and theorize more among each other through Black neighborhoods, schools, churches and other organizations. This created a “collective knowledge that served a similar purpose in fostering Black women’s empowerment” (Collins xi), for knowledge plays a key role in empowering the oppressed.

 

References

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

 

Tags: Group Two · Troli

Final: The Solution by Brooke Hessney

September 23rd, 2011 · No Comments

In Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins promotes a heavy emphasis on gaining empowerment through the power of knowledge in order to evoke systemic change. She asserts that there is no concrete answer to the core issues associated with the oppression of black women but there are ways to engage in the praxis of change. The fact of the matter is that our society has created a perpetuating problem and a collective intervention is imperative to gain understanding of why things are this way. We must note that this understanding stems from the contributions of intersectional paradigms, which ultimately shape the epistemic communities of Black women. This means that the ways in which knowledge circulates within a community directly influence social discourse. The epistemic communities of Black women ought to be defined by this intersectionality in that there are new interpretations of Black women’s experiences and a better understanding of how domination is structured. Collins explains, “The term matrix of domination describes this overall social organization within which intersecting oppressions originate, develop, and are contained” (Collins, 246). Therefore, Black women will gain knowledge of how oppression is organized and seek to alter their epistemic communities that influences cultural ideologies.

Although this process may seem counter-intuitive, it will break down existing normative discourses and influence change among social institutions. According to Collins, “…[forming new epistemological positions] provide alternatives to the way things are supposed to be” (Collins, 305). In turn, this will form a new dialogical relationship in which a reclaimed collective identity may be established. Collins also voices the issues surrounding the continual dialectic of oppression and activism. This dialectical relationship is not a single entity but rather, a coexistence of deeply intertwined and interdependent frameworks. Collins has thus drawn out a search for ways in which Black women can reclaim the dynamic of this relationship on a micro-level of the individual to a new collective identity. She stresses the notion of an evolving dynamic when she notes, “Neither Black feminist thought as a critical social theory nor Black feminist practice can be static; as social conditions change, so much the knowledge and practices designed to resist them” (Collins, 43).

Collins feels as though Black women must understand how to utilize knowledge in various matrices of power in order to be successful to change systems of oppression. This demonstrates her keen insight regarding the power of knowledge and that empowerment directly results from this dichotomy; however, she also poses that, “Historically, U.S. Black women’s activism demonstrates that becoming empowered requires more than changing the consciousness of individual Black women via Black community development strategies ” (Collins, 291). Although knowledge is seen as a vital aspect towards empowerment it is not enough to change systems of oppression. Collins claims that, “Empowerment also requires transforming unjust social institutions that African-Americans encounter from one generation to the next” (Collins, 291). Due to this, Black women must consider regenerating the formation of their standpoint positionalities. This is because all humans are deeply entrenched within multiple social locations whose normative conventions have outlined their ways of life. It is then crucial to develop a self-representation as an additional alternative standpoint that challenges the existence of unjust social institutions.

Collins also speaks favorably of autonomy used as a means and modality for empowerment. She denotes that, “rather than seeing social change or lack of it as preordained and outside the realm of human action, the notion of a dialectical relationship suggests that change results from human agency” (Collins, 292). It means that in order for Black women to progress within the social justice project they must each modify the ways in which they think and act within the world. Thus, the solution itself is contingent upon agency and it is noteworthy that she indicates there is no singular way to approach the normative issues regarding black female oppression as long as it is a collective endeavor. Collins affirms this notion when she states, “As each individual African-American woman changes her ideas and actions, so does the overall shape of power itself change. In the absence of Black feminist thought and other comparable oppositional knowledges, these micro-changes may remain invisible to individual women. Yet collectively, they can have a profound impact” (Collins, 293). By this she means Black women can have an immense influence on a social revolution if they start at the basis of individual knowledge as power and culminate a unified praxis towards systemic change.  Ultimately, Collins suggests that this notion of empowerment through knowledge serves as a conceptual tool that ought to be utilized in order to change systems of oppression towards Black women.

Reference:

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

 

Tags: Brooke · Group Two

Feminism in the words of Collins and Nash (Final)

September 23rd, 2011 · No Comments

 

When it comes to Feminism, there is no specific definition. There are only theories as to what Feminism is. Some figure that feminism has risen into its nature because of oppression suppressed by all women when it comes to certain humane rights. These produced systems of oppression have led to the feminist theory of intersectionality. Intersectionality is in fact due to the way in which the economy, segregation, and certain ideologies have shaped this oppressive theory, leaving a distinctive perspective on this theory. However, this does not mean that this theory cannot be altered or perceived through a different lens. Even though there are controlled images of a certain race or gender, it does mean that one has to perceive themselves within that controlled image. For instance, if a black woman is stereotyped as a ‘golddigger’ or ‘hoochie’, it does not mean that she has to level herself to that standard. She can look past the controlling images of society and find a job and buy her own things.

Controlling images, which would have been stereotypical images of Black womanhood, were designed to make racism, sexism, poverty and other forms of social injustice appear to be natural, normal, and inevitable parts of everyday life (77). These images were those that kept Black women suppressed and under control of the dominate discourse. These images shape the normality within society which kept the whites as the upper class and any other race as the less unfortunate lower class. A controlling image that was displayed to a U.S. Black woman was the concept of mammy- the faithful, obedient domestic servant. This image symbolizes the dominant group’s perception of the ideal Black female relationship to elite white male power because it supports the racial superiority of White employers (80). These controlling images have even reached a point where it has affected schools, the news media, and government. For example, in schools, during social science research, the Black woman’s sexuality has been influenced by assumptions of the jezebel. Two topics both deemed as social problems were the results in which Black woman’s sexuality appears within AIDS research on adolescent pregnancy. With the growing influence of media display – radio, movies, videos, CDs and internet- the controlled image of Black women has ambushed and circulated at a higher rate and speed. With pop culture being quick to promote sexual images of Black women, there has also been trouble with the way these women have been portrayed through Black hip-hop music videos (93). The fact that they are seen as exploiting themselves puts an even denser effect on the controlled image perspective.

In her book, Black Feminism Thought, Patricia Hill Collins, discusses Black Feminism and the oppressions that many Black women struggled through. One way she describes Black feminism is “as being a racial, class, gender, and sexual constitute mutually constructing systems of oppression” (246). This idea of Black feminism is the standpoint behind the developed concept of controlling images that many women have been trying to overshadow since the World war era and etc. During the 1900s, many Black women were enslaved and positioned as domestic servants. They worked on plantations, where they were seen as the “Aunt Jemima’s” or “mammy’s” because they stayed within a particular work field…which was domesticity and tending to others. Today, some would say that many Black women have strayed away from these domestic duties or any particular job description that tends to exploit them within the domestic work field. However, some theorists like, Omolade point out that Black women have not in deed strayed away from historic domestic duties, such as care taking for white families or maintenance duties. In fact, they have taken new forms, such as working in nursing homes, day care centers, dry cleaners and etc (44).  The positions that these Black women held within the domestic sphere were influenced by the controlling images they were first suppressed by. These controlling images, in due to feminism, have regarded in positioning Black women in another suppressed state due to the controlling image of the ‘Jezebel’. This is where the Black women’s sexual desires come into play. Collins discusses the history of the 19th century conception, the white imagery of female black body and its sexuality. She goes onto distinguish the ways Black women have been portrayal and the social enslavement they have endured due to the dominant race. The ‘Jezebel’ image is this portrayal and sort of “social enslavement” because of the fact that her sexual appetite is inappropriate and insatiable, which labels her as a “freak” (91).  This image is also seen as one side of the normal/deviant binary which gives black women a bad representation.

Jennifer Nash’s article entitled “Strange Bedfellows: Black Feminism and Antipornography Feminism” critiques Patricia Collins and her view of controlling images. According to Nash, “Collins describes ‘controlling images’ as dominate representations that produce and entrench racial-sexual mythologies. These images depict black women as licentious, animalistic, libidinous jezebels; …Collins envisions these images as serving a social purpose: providing justification for the states continued disciplining of the black female body” (57). However, Nash states that one cannot presume a particular view in race because of the systems that have oppressed certain women due to race, class, poverty and inequality. Within her article, Nash declares that she has a problem in which anti-pornography displays and exploits race. Nash vows for the theory of self representation and stands to the claim that images should not be controlled substance for a certain race or class. She holds on to the idea that there should be choice on whether a woman wants to be seen a certain lens. She argues so that sexual desire or pleasure does not limit a woman, for the thought that a woman should be labeled based on her own terms and interpretations and she wants women to drift away from controlling images.

While, Nash focuses more on the Anti-pornographic view, Collins goes against the exploitation or objectification of women within the stages of oppression on a historical stance. Nash’s concept of sexual exploitation through pornography shows how black women’s bodies and black women, especially those with big butts, are perceived. Black women tend to be racialized and sexualized more than white women because of their appearance and curves. They are seen as sex objects and as affordable. For example, since white women are on a higher rank then black women, they are untouchable or unreachable as compared to a black woman who is at a lower rank and is more likely to comply with demands for a means of societal approval. A white woman does not need approval of her beauty or rank because she is dominant race. Nash describes racialization when she states that “while white women are pictured as pillow-soft pussy willows, the stereotype of the Black ‘dominatrix’ portrays the Black woman as ugly, sadistic and animalistic, undeserving of human attention.” (54-55). She also states and explains that “black feminism has become steeped in an ‘epistemological respectability’, producing an intellectual formation that tends to avoid questions about black women’s sexual desires, black queer subjectivities, and the various forms of black women’s pleasures” (53). This can be seen in the way pornography oppresses women and subordinates them on a different spectrum based on their racial rank. The fact that they are Black women it makes them more suitable for the sexual position or pornographic position in which they are exploited in because they are not white, and for both races, this is the norm of society.

Based on Nash’s depiction, feminism has filtered some components from Black women. Their sexual desires and preferences have been controlled by images that have been labeled by society and not black women themselves. However, not many know that sexual desire and pleasure is an important aspect of feminism and dominance. Many link pleasure and liberation but where is the pleasure in being controlled by images of society? Nash describes the ways in which pleasure is depicted through ‘black female subjectivity’ and how sexual desire through the porn industry is not always beneficial for the black woman who is being exploited. Will there be a time where sexuality portrayed by black women will be seen as something more than the dominant cycle? What would be seen as challenging their sexual integrity? As we consider the answer to these questions we are left wondering whether controlled images have evolved elapsed or have they taken shapes in new forms.

 

Patricia Hill Collins (2008) Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge

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Black Feminist Politics in the Theory of Patricia Hill Collins [Revisited]

September 23rd, 2011 · No Comments

Kate Aseltine

The prevailing logic for social subjugation is a simple truth: a thing can only exist in juxtaposition to it antithesis. This translates itself into a variety of dichotomies- light and dark, order and chaos, right and wrong – because an idea is easier to describe if we begin with what it is not. Invariably, we come to know something best by comparing it to “the other.”  When we examine this phenomenon more closely, and as it relates to political economy and the intersections of gender, race and class, we can better understand why the United States, as a capitalist economy, must facilitate a society composed of disparate levels. Disparate levels which result in what Patricia Hill Collins qualifies as a “matrix of domination.” Wealth does not exist unless until it can be contrasted to poverty, and as wealth exists as the primary form of “capital” in capitalist societies, the United States has a vested interest in protecting a system that is fundamentally oppressive. Oppression is political, and the creation of public policy involves a concerted effort to establish a binary that preserves “advantaged vs. disadvantaged” social categories, within the axes of: race, gender, class, and sexuality. This discourse is of particular significance to an examination of how United States’ politics shape the experience[s] of Black women.  The United States’ matrix of domination is constructed by those who with a positionality our society privileges (i.e. wealthy, white males) and is maintained through the intersection of four domains of power, which she distinguishes as structural, disciplinary, hegemonic, and interpersonal (Collins 294).By examining American political economy, through this matrix, we are able to better understand, and begin to diagnose, the plight[s] of Black females, who have a uniquely disadvantaged positionality within our transversal politics, which subjugates them on the basis of race, gender, and, arguably as the result of this intersection, class.

The pursuit of capitalist gains inspires a particularly oppressive set of structural conditions which are seminal to an understanding of Black women’s experiences. Structural conditions, Patricia Hill Collins explains, organize the oppressive systems that are maintained by the disciplinary domain (Collins 294). Black women are subject to this systematic suppression as their “definitions intermingle and become more salient: oppression via gender may be more prominent as a mother, race as a homeowner, class when applying for credit ”(Collins 265). This theory of subjugation is particular relevant to the politics of oppression because it interrogates the effects of public policy on the lives of Black women. What does it mean to be Black? What it means to be female? What it means to not have enough money to pay the bills? For Black women in the USA this intersection means housing discrimination, lower wages, higher rates of unemployment, the list goes on. The structural domain organizes transversal identities and assigns them value within a hierarchy of conditions. It is, in turn, aided and abetted by the disciplinary domain, the bureaucracy that enforces these modes of oppression. Historically, the United States upheld policies of de jure racism and sexism — laws that explicitly denied basic rights to women and to people of color. Today, the same inequalities exist, but as a result of de facto injustices, as our new “enlightened” Constitution declares that all citizens have equal rights, regardless of race and sex. These de facto inequalities are just as sinister as their more transparent, de jure forbearers, Collins argues citing the example of a resulting discourse, involving the intersection of the disciplinary and hegemonic domains. She begins with the now pervasive rhetoric of “color-blindness,” arguing it fosters discrimination by rewriting structural conditions but preserving an ideology of oppression that undermines the obvious disparities in the way people of color are treated in order to preserve the interests of the dominant group[s].  This intersects with the myth of the meritocracy, which suggests that the American political economy will assure that anyone who works hard will do well. This discourse, a “utopian” illusion, has no place within a capitalist system, and serves as a classic example of how dominant groups use their position to create “commonsense” social ideologies that allow them to maintain power. These discourses [“color-blindness” and the “myth of the meritocracy”] have been fused to justify new rhetoric that argues: if there are gaps between white people and people of color, within a system that treats all people as equals, these discrepancies must be the result of other inherent “cultural” inequities. Read: White people are disproportionally better educated, better treated, and wealthier because they deserve it. The hegemonic domain utilizes this argument to perpetuate controlling images of Black women, such as that of the “welfare queen” who relies on government handouts because she is indolent. This also feeds into images of Black women as “hoochies,” a refashioning of the historic “Jezebel” model of Black female sexuality as something wanton and insatiable, a controlling images that continues to invalidate the cases of Black women who are victims of sexual assault and violence (Collins 303).

Patricia Hill Collins emphasizes the interpersonal domain as the realm in which an individual can begin to deconstruct the matrix of oppression, by highlighting the importance of the dialectic relationship between structural conditions and the actions of the individuals who occupy these structures. As the root word “structure” suggests, structural conditions are constantly shaped and reformed by the individuals who inhabit the social/cultural contexts they outline. In this way, for better or worse, the relationship between the structure and the individual is symbiotic. “Dialectic approaches emphasize the significance of knowledge in developing self-defined, group-based standpoints that, in turn, can foster group solidarity necessary for resisting oppressions” (Collins 293). Patricia Hill Collins’ posits that this dialectic approach can be used for good as well as evil, and argues that we can deconstruct the matrix of domination from within the domains of power. To do so, we must begin at the individual level, by denying power to controlling images and oppressive discourses in our day-to-day lives and thereby reclaiming the interpersonal domain. Then, we seek solidarity, by joining together to brainstorm and disperse “counter-hegemonic knowledge.” Finally, as a movement, we can present egalitarian dominant discourses that will reconstitute the structural and disciplinary domains. This is the solution.

 

 

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

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Hill Collins and Gender by Erika Seaver (Final)

September 21st, 2011 · No Comments

Gender oppression is the oldest and possibly the most fundamental oppression within history in which other oppressions could/ most often are based on, due to the intermingled system of Intersectionality. Hill Collins describes this idea of Intersectionality as the place in which intersecting oppressions, such as sex, class, race, nation, and gender; meet (138). All of these categories in which women have been placed within have lead to their further oppression by the elite white male society. It is through these intersecting ideas that Collins points out the fact that black women are oppressed in so many different areas due to the interconnectedness of the ideas and expectations around sex, class, race, nation, and gender, which have been constructed through the eyes of white males. Ultimately, perpetuating the system of patriarchal domination and oppression of black females.

Hill Collins first looks at Heterosexism, “the inherent superiority of one form of sexual expression over another and thereby the right to dominate” (Collins 139). Heterosexism is a framework in which black female’s sexualities are looked at and anything deviating from the norm of heterosexual expression as being “normal, natural, and normative” (Collins 139). In expanding further on heterosexual norms there are black female images such as the “hoochie” that are viewed as “unnatural, dirty, sick and sinful” (Collins 139) or “wild, [or having an] out-of-control sexual appetite” (Collins 140). This lens in which we look at Black women surrounding sexuality feeds into the ways in which black women face oppression based on this clearly visible racism through sexuality. The classes in which black women experience oppression will be discussed further to follow when specifically discussing controlling images of women within certain classes. Race is also an intersecting oppression to women and Hill Collins is choosing to tell the stories of specifically black oppressed women, so the ideas and struggles we read about are focused on the basis of race, and the struggle of black women.

In looking further into the oppression of women based on race, gender and class, Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Feminist Thought describes how black women have been portrayed in various lights that confront these very ideas of race, gender, and class oppression. Women, black women more specifically have been oppressed by the white patriarchal society and how this oppression and objectification has led to black women’s experiences and life stories in some way to serve interest or benefit the elite white males. Throughout Black Feminist Thought, Collins discusses the oppression paradigms of race, class and gender to conceptualize domination and resistance. “Gender” comes to the forefront when Collins brings up the ideas of “controlling images”. Examples of controlling images around Black women include; “The Mammy- the maid/ housekeeper (Collins 80), the “Matriarch”- head bread winner of the household (Collins 83), the “Welfare Mother”- mother who spends too much time with her children (Collins 86), the “Jezebel”- the powerful and masculine women” (89), and the “hoochie”- the sluty/ distasteful black women (Collins 90). All of these images are examples of gender exploitation and created in the eyes of white males. In my opinion these gendered images serve to coerce/ force black women into acting a certain way based on the image they have been associated with.

When Hill Collins states: “Intersectional paradigms remind us that oppression cannot be reduced to once fundamental type, and that oppressions work together in producing injustice” (Collins 21), she is looking at the intersectionality between sexuality, race, class, and gender within the specific Black women community to show how these aspects within a black women’s life are what contribute to the oppression in which they received, based on the patriarchal society and expectations in which we live in. With the examples given above and discussed thought out all of Black Feminist Thought, we see that women’s experiences are always going to be gendered, raced, and classed.

It is important to note that as we see through controlling images of black women, that all black women do not share the same experiences and therefore cannot relate to specific situations directly but through what Hill Collins describes as the Matrix of Domination- how intersection oppressions are organized (21), can find common ground/ themes and a new angle to define themselves individually, as a community and within the society. These collective powers of black women allow them to find an outlet of the gendered patriarchal society and allow them [black women] to shape particular standpoints of black women in the United States.

Tags: Erika · Group Two