DE #2 (Group D) "On Becoming Educated"

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Joy Castro's piece, "On Becoming Educated," strongly resounded with Alison Jaggar's assertions about needing to, "confront complex, multidimensional problems that require us to balance a variety of values and to evaluate the claims and interests of a variety of groups." That is to say, Feminism cannot merely be content to exist in a realm of comfortable universality; it's not realistic or proportional to the world we live in. There are not only different groups of women ranging from ethnicity, sexuality, class, gender expression, political views, etc, but men too, should be included in this conversation. If part of the goal of Feminism is to fight patriarchy then certainly men's role in society and their own broad range of experiences should be expressed and navigated as well.

Castro notes in her article how she "got to teach women's literature, including Latina literature, and feminist theory to classrooms of thirty-five men at a time. Farmboys and lawyers' sons took my classes... I value those voices, those questions, that red-state hostility, because they taught me how to make feminism's insights relevant to people outside a closed, snug room of agreement." Castro's insight about her own first experiences teaching demonstrates how feminism can and needs to be expressed and taught outside classrooms of highly educated and interested students that are a vast majority female. A person need not be an entitled scholar to learn and benefit from what feminism is able to teach and likewise feminism shouldn't be locked away in academia for a select few--inaccessibility breeds stagnation because there is no longer a myriad of ideas, thoughts, opinions, and experiences being discussed.

And finally, As Jaggar also points out, "if we are sincerely concerned with ending the subordination of all women, feminists cannot afford unquestioned assumptions, orthodoxies, or dogmatic commitments to positions alleged to be 'politically correct.' What is common of often "accepted truths" is that these assertions are meant to include everybody but in fact leave out a good number of people. Something is not a fact or justified simply because a majority of people agree with that rhetoric; it's that kind of thinking that has marginalized women for so many years. Castro in her experiences with grad school faced a similar situation in one of her classes. They read, Gloria Anzaldúa's, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, and apparently "it was too disjointed, too polemical. Students quickly chime in with their discomfort over the book's 'angry' content..." Castro goes on to say how, "my professor and classmates hadn't stumbled over W.E.B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, or Maxine Hong Kingston, but Gloria Anzaldúa is somehow too different, too much....I find myself arguing in defense of the book's worth, trying to articulate the difference between being angry by temperament and expressing justified anger in response to violation." This situation exemplifies how certain materials written by authors of a different ethnicity and perspective can instill a particular amount of unsettlement in the audience.

The book's merits were dismissed because the material covered a wide range of subjects, was strongly worded, and it made people feel uncomfortable. These characteristics should not disbar a piece of work. It's good to feel that discomfort, especially over someone's being angry, because it challenges readers then to reconcile not only their own experiences with the author but to really evaluate the issues being brought up. It's okay for an author to be angry; the very real problems that face women aren't something that should be just viewed in a distanced objective manner--it discounts the very real situations and struggles that these different groups of women face.

What I'm still wondering though is how does academia then get itself a reality check? I mean, how are we able to begin the discourse around issues and subjects that make people uncomfortable and challenge strong held beliefs or ideologies of a given field like feminism?

3 Comments

You bring up some really interesting points about the article. I think it is really important to challenge ideas and concepts. A way to do this is to grab people's attention and express oneself in a way people don't usually see. By doing this questions can be brought up and it gives you a chance to think "why did this have such an effect on me? Why do I not like the way it is presented? Is it because of what it says or how it's presented?" I think by doing this within the academy we would be able to challenge issues and theories. By having a clear cut systematic way to write we lose the ability to express the issue the way we personally see it in many cases.

I really like the connection you made about Castro saying that she likes diverse classes because she gets to spread the message of feminism/get better at arguing it, and the fact that diverse populations outside of white women may not know so much about feminism yet, outside of the "snug room" as they are.
There's an interesting correlation between what you're saying here and what the DE entries were about last week (feminism in social media). Someone made a point about how they didn't think feminism blogs and accessible feminist sources outside the academy would be effective, because only people who are already feminists would read them. These blogs and other social media get feminism out of its position of "locked away in academia", in your words, but how do get feminism out of its "snug room", as Castro puts it?

I think that your point about how feminism is multidimensional and should be taught and interpreted differently according to a persons own experiences, ethnicity, political views, class, sexuality etc. is a very important point to explore. Clearly feminism education has a long way to go and it is vital that people’s different social makeup and individuality is kept in mind. The other thing that I really liked about your entry was he fact that feminist issues bring up a lot of hard feelings, and this uncomfortable situation sometimes inhibits people from exploring how they actually think and feel about these tough topics. Feminist issues are hard to talk about, and I agree with you that pieces that are written shouldn’t always be from an objective attitude, sometimes people need to see the anger and emotion that exist in peoples’ thoughts and feelings so that they too can explore their opinions about the topics. Lastly, I agree with you that education into feminism should not be closed in to only scholarly settings education should exist in multifaceted settings and situations. People from all different walks of life can benefit from education into feminism and people from all different walks should have opportunities to learn and experience feminism and the issues associated within this complex subject.

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