The readings made me question the so called structure of family. What constitutes a family? Is it a mom, dad, kids and a dog. Or could it be two dads, a kid and a hamster. What makes one family more important than another? Is it money or status? After reading the article by Pardo I was struck by the audacity of the lawmakers in the East LA area. They treated these families like second rate citizens, simply because of their low socio-economic status. I thought this reading was powerful, the way these women took charge or their town. They didn't wait to be trampled on, they stood up and fought. It is sad though that they had to wage such a war just to have their families lives treated with justice. There will never be an instance where a chemical plant or prison would spring up in a rich neighborhood. They pick these neighborhoods because they assume the people living there wont fight back, and they are treating them as if their families lives don't matter quite as much. I felt very empowered after reading the Pardo article because of how couragous these women were. The thing that did strike me as a bit anti-feminism however was the assumed nature of family structure within the story. All the perspectives given were from a "house wife" perspective. They made it seem like it was just a "given" that then men would work and the women would stay home and protect their children. To me that is absurd. Maybe I just came from a different lifestyle, but I grew up thinking both parents should work and both parents should take care of my well-being. They dad shouldn't be given any slack because he had a tough day job. My mom AND dad had a tough day job and they both came home and expected that they'd equally care for my sister and I. This notion that there is a place for the moms and a place for the dads should no longer exist. Sure if that is what they want, by all means live the life you want. However, if the women are just following some "family value structure" then what they are doing is non-sensible. If anything the most alarming part of Pardo's essay was that the women gave their husbands titles within their group just to get them involved. That seems counterproductive to me. These men should be engaging in their projects not because they get a title, but because they are fighting for their children's safety. Or at least the children of the towns safety. I don't care if you have kids or not, they are the next generation of adults, and they should be protected. The town your in should be your family that you look out for, not just those you share a blood-line with. Overall what made me curious about this article was the structure of family and the audacity of representatives. When did it become assumed that women were care-takers of children rather than both men and women. And when did it become kosher to harm the lives of those less fortunate by forcing them to live by chemical dumps and prisons while our upper, middle class white families live in the safety of our suburbs?
Recently in Question 7: 3/23-3/25 Category
Patricia Hill Collins' article really got me thinking. She proposes that the concept of "family" pervades government, the economy, public and private life-- and that it serves to justify and legitimate inequalities among people. Her theory that the structure of family serves as a metaphor for social structures on a much bigger scale is extremely interesting--I appreciated that she pointed out the contradictions inherent in "the family", since all members of a family are considered equal and part of a coherent set, yet the group is broken up into hierarchies based on a number of factors (age, gender, blood-ties, etc.) I had never thought about the "family value" that positions children as inferior to adults/parents, and how this could possibly inform how race relations play out in broader society (if minorities are portrayed as or perceived to be more "child-like" than whites, than white domination is legitimate). This is mirrored in the ideas of man-as-breadwinner, woman-as-homemaker, and the subsequent inequalities for men and women in society as a whole (as women's power inferiority has been established in the basic "family" structure).
Hill Collins' arguments hold up very well; she manages to draw parallels between power imbalances in the "family" and nearly all power imbalances in society writ large.
I was left wondering about the factors in place that reinforce the "family" as most-legitimate societal structure. Taxation, education, property ownership, (and perhaps above all, capitalism)- inform how families operate and remain intact. The connection between family and the perpetuation of capitalism seems particularly pertinent, and important politically. What other factors can you think of that operate to legitimate/ensure that the traditional "family" structure as we know it stays intact? How do you think the "family" ideology could be challenged or deconstructed?
In the article written by Patricia Hill Collins I thought that it was very interesting how she talked about the correlation between the ideas of family values and the abuse of women and children. For very long time violence against women in the home or wife battering was not viewed as a crime. This was because the man was the head of the house who brought home the money and therefore the woman of the house needed to be submissive and not act - out towards her husband. In her article Hill- Collins suggest that in order to maintain a situation which has a hierarchy in place sometimes violence or force may be used. When thinking about terms like, what happens in the family stays in the family, or , don't talk about our family business to other people, many times this revolves around some kind of harm that is happening within the family. The U.S. has enforced this idea of family values which has limited many women and children from being able to make claims against their family members for things like abuse.
Another interesting point that Hill-Collins makes is the idea that within certain communities going against the family is equivalent to going against your own race. Many women of color who are being abused by men of the same race, particularly African American women, find it very difficult to call the police on their husbands or boyfriends for fear of racism and the potential for their abusive partner to also be abused by the police.
Reading all of these articles really made me interested in the symbolism and rhetoric of the family. I felt that this was mentioned at least a little in all the readings I did, but most notably in the Patricia Hill Collins and the Pardo pieces. Collins specifically talks about the rhetoric of the family, and how this is used to achieve political goals. I think even more than just individual WORDS, images of the family can also be co-opted by the conservative movements. Pornography seems like the perfect example. Whenever conservatives talk about wanting to increase restrictions on radio, television, or internet content, the most-cited image is the idea of sexuality creeping into the realms of and destroying the family. The family is held up as the unit of perfection - the "American family" is often cited in political or military concepts as something that we need to uphold and protect. Perhaps the most famous argument against legalizing gay marriage (I really feel like I have heard this specific quote on TV, but I don't remember who said it) is that it is tearing apart the fabric of the American family - by letting "non traditional" marriages take place. To me, this argument seems completely devoid of logic, but its definitely possible to see how the image and language of the American family can be hijacked to carry out counter-feminist goals. I became curious about WHY the family was so targeted by political regimes. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that when people refer to an abstract "family", we immediately think about our own family. We are protective of the people we love, so when a politician or other powerful figures mentions that something is "destroying the American family", it's easy to get caught up in emotions instead of logical reasoning. As Collins says, "blood ties" are often the golden standard by which we decide loyalties.
However, this sort of symbolism can also have an upside. Collins notes that while family discourse is "reworked" by "conservative movements of all types", "the alleged unity and solidarity attributed to family is often invoked to symbolize the aspirations of oppressed groups." There are countless stories of people who pull themselves out of poverty or bad living conditions because they are determined to have a better life for their children. The Pardo piece mentioned that many groups of people were forming - groups for fathers, groups for mothers, etc. These types of organizations show that the idea of family can create solidarity in a different way - by letting people identify as a "mother" or a "father", they can find support and feel connected to other individuals. However, I still believe that gendering the roles of the mother and father can be problematic. Collins mentioned that family structures often force people to ascribe to stereotypes of the father as breadwinner and the mother as caretaker. I am curious whether it's possible to create solidarity groups without gendering those identities - could we have just a Parents group? Would such a thing be successful in our extremely gender conscious society?
How can we fight against 'family' rhetoric being used to achieve (sometimes bad) political goals? Is it possible to do this without fundamentally changing the notion of what it means to be a family?
The Feminist Family Values Forum made me curious about more general aspects of feminism. Reading the opinions of different feminists, it is clear that culture does play a part in gender roles or lack thereof. Gloria Steinem brings up the Bush People's way of life and values (84). Unlike our society, they neither judge people by their sexual orientation nor do they try to limit each other's sexual freedom. In contrast, Angela Davis speaks of the Women's Movement, once uniting Native American, Asian American, Black, Caucasian, and Latino communities with very broad goals (90). What "counts" as sexism? Should all cultures or people find the same things sexist? Certainly there are many factors that do affect our perception, but should they? What does it mean to be truly equal, and is it realistic, or even possible, for women to be equal? Men and women are different physiologically, and there is broad spectrum in between the two socially-accepted sexes. Based on biology, why would men, intersexuals, and women be equal? Chemically, we are different. Different levels of hormones affect how we feel, think, and act. Furthermore, natural selection has eliminated people of certain traits, ill-suited to cope in their environment. Women had an increased likelihood of passing their genes on to the next generation if they stayed with one mate and took care of their offspring. Men also increased their chances of passing on their genes if they stayed with one mate and provided shelter and food for his mate and offspring. This sounds like patriarchy to me. Is it possible that patriarchy helped people survive? If so, why should this be changed? If ain't broke don't fix it, right?
Upon reading María de los Angeles Jiménez's speech, her mentioning of two Mexican figures, La Virgin de Guadalupe and La Llorona, made me especially curious to think about the cultural factors that shape families and, specifically, the roles of mothers in families. To me, it's incredibly interesting to think that La Llorona especially plays such a large role in the shaping of a mother. As a Spanish major, I would be very curious to read more Latin American and Spanish literature and examine the effects the mothers in the writings have on the nation's culture and views of a mother and her role. Furthermore, I find it fascinating how such roles that transcend from legend (both La Virgin de Guadalupe and La Llorona), affect how society views women and thus treats them when one may decide to step out of the traditional women's role.
Another interesting point raised by Jiménez is the ability of the English language to be feminized, and the lack of ability to do so in the Spanish language. "The reality of the Spanish language, however, is such that similar changes in Spanish were not possible because they would alter the basic structure of a language." (Jimenéz, p.29). I suppose then that the question raised is such: if a language inherently gender discriminates, how do feminists overcome such biases? As both dignity and culture are vital aspects to a person's self, I can't imagine the struggle that Latina feminists must have undergone to attempt to reconcile the two with one another.
Furthermore, my curiosity has always been and will continue to be struck in relation to the movement of the Mothers of the Disappeared. Jiménez raises a very astute observation that this movement changed the way women could achieve equality in Latin America. She notes, "In this movement, women assert their moral authority as mothers and raise their voices for the political systems they want and against oppression. Their reproductive and nurturing roles were transformed from the private to the public, the biological to the political." For me, this statement brings to light a positive manner in which reconcile the traditional mother's role in Latin America with the feminist's desire to achieve equality. How else should cultures in which the woman's role has traditionally been in the home--where religion and tradition are incredibly important to the region--attempt to reach gender equality and an empowered role in society for women while maintaining a sense of culture?
After reading the Pardo article, I questioned the idea of "mother groups" in societies. The MELA group had a big role in this article, and I think its interesting why there isn't a "Fathers of East LA" group also. Even in societies that I hear most about, like where I'm from, I never hear of father groups. It's always the mothers taking the big roles in parent involvedness. Is this fair? Shouldn't both parents be involved equally in their child's social life? These ideas make me curious about whether or not the women and mothers in these positions are being dealt fair cards. Could it be because of the famous "mothers intuition" that everyone knows and loves? I liked the blurb about mothers turning into lionesses when their child's safety is in danger. Why don't they mention father's turning into lionesses? I don't necessarily think there is a right or wrong answer, I just think it's interesting to notice the gender differences in everything that you read and see. This article seemed to make it very obvious, which I know was the reason for the article. Its just interesting to really think about...
Genevieve Vaughn opens up the reading from Feminist Family Values Forum by stating, "My hope is that this evening will stimulate a wide scale discussion of values which will liberate all of us from the stereotypical thinking and ideological control of the right wing." This got me thinking about why is it that the right wing has given us all the stereotypical thinking that it has? How was it able to make so many people fall under its ideological control? Genevieve also states, " We have to liberate ourselves from our ignorance and take our power to make the changes in a system which is dispowering our hearts and creating a context of scarcity which makes caring impractical and even self-sacrificial." The question that this raised for me was how do you draw the line between knowing where an individual person can make a difference and where a much larger group or certain item must be changed in order for an individual person to be able to make a difference? Maria de los Angeles Jimenez was the second person from the reading and she said, "Mexican culture looks upon the mother as a creator of life, not only biologically, but socially, who, by nurturing and building her family, builds the life of the community around her. I think that this was, and in some cases still is, the view in a lot of cultures. A question this statement raised for me was, how did it become that mothers were given all the responsibility or raising their children? It seems common sense to me that the responsibility of raising a child and building a community would be equally split between the man and the woman, considering they both produced the child.
Maria de los Angeles Jimenez speaks about the difficulties as a feminist within Chicano and Latin American communities. Demanding rights as a woman was viewed as disloyalty to the Chicano movement. Maria says in her speech, "They (Chicano males) told me that the abandonment of the family and the tradition we were fighting for was Gringo culture, that I was being brainwashed by white ideology". I am curious about the struggles of the feminist movement within various cultures. Maria talks about when she compares the feminist movements in Mexico and the U.S. there isn't much difference in overall ideals, "Both movements work toward women's equality and dignity". So it is interesting that the issues vary between cultures, and that the end goal of feminism is the same.
The basic linguistic struggle of a Spanish-speaking feminist is one that English-speaking feminist doesn't consider. The feminization of English words is not an option for the Spanish language because it changes the basic structure of the language. This is a limitation for a Latin American and demonstrates the importance of basic language choice as a tool of breaking down societal structures. How can Spanish-speakers use language to promote equality, and do you think the feminization of English words has made a substantial impact on the feminist movement?
The Zapatista women of Chiapas stated in 1994 wants such as, to be able to marry who they wanted, have the amount of children they want, leadership positions, education, and ability to be drivers. While these demands are very different to those of women in the U.S. during this time, the fundamental idea is the same. In order to try and change the traditional idea of how a woman is defined, many Zapatista women have decided to stop reproducing, and join the men in the Zapatista Army contributing significant numbers to the soldiers.
These different approaches to feminism are what makes it a fluid movement, and I believe that attempting to understand the differences, will contribute positively to the work toward equality.
In It's All In the Family, Patricia Hill Collins states, "Just as reworking the rhetoric of family for their political agendas is a common strategy for conservative movements of all types, the alleged unity and solidarity attributed to family is often invoked to symbolize the aspirations of oppressed groups. [my bolding]" (Hill Collins, 63).
This statement stood out to me for two reasons. First, it highlights the use of unity, a buzzword whose meaning and implementation have been debated by feminists (see "They Should Not Breed" by Sayce and Perkins for an example) and our class.
Second, it's notable that Hill Collins discusses the use of unity to rally conservatives and social justice activists, two groups traditionally pitted against each other.
This discussion of use/abuse of unity by different groups reminded me of a topic of which I'm very curious. Does and should feminism impose gender and political alliance requirements on its members? Can a man or a conservative woman call him/herself a feminist? (I discuss men and feminism in another blog post.)
In many of our readings in class, it seems almost assumed that feminists and conservatives are at odds (I left my course packet at home, but will post some quotes later today). I'm guessing this is because worker's rights, subsidized daycare, etc., are traditionally liberal political platform components. Considering that bell hooks defines feminism as "a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression" (Feminism is for Everybody), could a conservative woman still include herself in the movement if she believed that an end of oppression was signified by equal pay for men and women, but didn't include unsubsidized daycare in her definition of oppression? Would an otherwise liberal woman also be excluded if she disagreed with such a program?
One of the things that immediately caught my attention while reading the excerpts from the Feminist Values Forum was a significant underlying Marxist discourse, especially in the speech of Gloria Steinem. Of the socialized idea of the family Steinem says, "The patriarchal, nuclear family that we are supposed to think is the normal and only one, that kind of family is really only about one-hundred-and-fifty-years-old, and is almost entirely the function of industrialization and capitalism [emphasis mine]" (47).
(ON A COMPLETE SIDE NOTE: Perhaps the reason this has caught my attention so quickly is because I have recently been reading excerpts of Caliban and the Witch: Women the Body and Primitive Accumulation by Silvia Federici, which is a historical work addressing Marx and his ideas, specifically his conception of "primitive accumulation," from a feminist perspective. It's very interesting, and I would definitely recommend it.)
Anyway, there is one main thing about which this underlying discourse has piqued my curiosity. Several of the speakers hinted at being able to move beyond capitalism in order to overcome some of the harms women and men suffer in the status quo. I know that such an idea--especially since the most well known alternative to capitalism is either socialism or communism--is generally stigmatized and connoted negatively, especially within the United States. Yet in her speech, Angela Davis says, "That does not mean that there is no possibility of envisioning a social system beyond capitalism. We cannot be content with this system" (60). Steinem hints at a similar theme when she says, "So I suggest that we just declare the last five-to-ten thousand years an experiment that failed. Let's declare this the first meeting of the post-patriarchal, post-racist, post-nationalist age" (45). María de los Angeles Jiménez indicts capitalism too when she says, "The restructuring of economies and integration of economic blocks, as we know, is the work of transnational corporations. These corporations have skewed power structures and have redefined patterns of employment and degraded the quality of life throughout the world" (35). In short, the question that I am hinting at is this: Do you think humanity should pursue an alternative to capitalism in order to overcome not the only the patriarchal harms of the status quo but also to overcome the harms to the peoples of the Third World, which, as Genevieve Vaughan points out, are also linked to patriarchy? I would argue that yes, an alternative to capitalism should, at the very least, be pursued.
Last year, I had a macroeconomics class that had a similar class blog, and I wrote an entry in justification of this very argument. I will try to summarize that entry as it was very long, and this entry itself is already getting to be long enough.
The argument I made was largely a Nietzschean one insofar as it rejected the idea of the justification of free trade in a similar way that Nietzsche rejected Hegel's teleological conceptualization of history. Translated into English that means that one of the biggest justifications for free trade is the idea that, eventually, everything will get better for everyone--free trade posits the idea that some people will have to suffer, i.e. lose jobs and income, in order for economic progress to occur, for humanity as a whole to improve their living conditions--but, in my opinion, such an idea precludes the possibility of (significant) progress and/or amelioration because of the inherent implication that such progress is inevitable. That is to say that if you accept the idea of progress as inevitable, such progress is going to be hard to come by because everyone will be sitting around waiting for it to occur. There will be no active attempts toward such progress.
Furthermore, in this blog entry, I also made the point that capitalism's ability for some to succeed is purportedly a function of people's willingness and ability to work hard and adapt to new circumstances and situations. This is not at all the case. Capitalism, especially in the Third World but also in cases of chronic inner-city poverty, necessitates a systemic poverty, thereby precluding this 'tenet' of capitalism. Yes, for some people there is always the possibility of "pulling one's self up by one's bootstraps," so to speak, but for many others such a possibility is, antithetically and ironically, an impossibility.
Finally, the idea of capitalism is also largely based upon the necessity, or the drive, to improve 'living conditions.' This, however, doesn't necessarily improve living quality, and I think this is perhaps the biggest problem with capitalism. The idea that materialistic improvements are necessarily good things is an inherent tenet of capitalism, which, in my opinion, is completely false. For instance, the environment has suffered greatly at the hands of capitalism, there are many psychological experiments indicating that wealth is not, in fact, an indicator of happiness, et cetera.
These were, in short, the main points in my blog entry, so, again, I pose the question: Do you think humanity should pursue an alternative to capitalism in order to overcome both the harms caused by capitalism and the harms caused by patriarchy, or any combination thereof? I know this is often a touchy subject, especially in the United States, but I'm not advocating that such an alternative necessarily has to be communism. I'm just advocating that an alternative has to be pursued. I'm not even advocating, for that matter, that such an alternative couldn't be capitalism itself, granted it would have to be an alternative or different capitalism, i.e. a more compassionate capitalism (NO Bush connotations intended here whatsoever).
Note: Because of spring break, I am requiring that the direct engagement entries be posted by Monday instead of Sunday this week. So, Group C, your entries for this week are due on Monday, March 22 by 6 PM. Comments should still be posted by noon on Tuesday (3.23).
After reading through all of your midterm evaluations, I have decided to mix it up a little. Several of you indicated that the question prompts were too restrictive and didn't enable you to engage with the readings in the ways that you wanted to. Therefore, I am opening up the direct engagements for this week by asking one broad question in terms of the readings: How do the readings (Hill Collins, Feminist Family Values Forum, or Pardo) make you curious? You can engage with this question in any way that you wish as long as you follow these basic rules:
- Your direct engagement must address at least one of the readings
- Your direct engagement should be aimed at making us curious and demonstrate a respectful and critical engagement with the ideas/readings
- You may include your own opinions about the readings, but those opinions must be explained and supported by examples (from the readings, your experiences)
- You should include some sort of question that you pose to your readers
Good luck! I am looking forward to reading your entries and being impressed by your creativity.