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DE Response WEEK 2

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In "On Becoming Educated" Joy Castro pours the frustration of an undergrad seeking understanding and appreciation of her feminist experience through academia onto paper. As a young student she seeks a discourse on "simple" feminist issues, such as unequal pay, sexual assault and domestic violence; things she's experienced first hand.

The young Castro is in much contrast to her class' instructor who views her ideas as simple and not worthy of her time as an academic, and of higher academia. This is most evident in her attempt to talk about a recent tiny provision of the Violence Against Women Act with her professor, whom had written a long scholarly paper on the provision. When approached by Castro about writing an article that would be available to the masses the instructor merely scoffed at the idea of writing for such common magazines such as "Ms.," "Good Housekeeping," or "Cosmopolitan," because their work was going to "trickle down"

This critique of elite and "educated" could be associated to nearly any other field, academia or otherwise, that being said, this arrogance within feminism serves nothing more than to silence voices. The elitism within the movement shut people out from involvement and advocacy. When looking to Allison Jagger, she says that we must seek as may experiences as we can to view the intersections of the movement.

Castro goes on to become an instructor at an all-male school teaching feminism. She goes on and joins the academy, which she previously despised, and allowed it to work for her, instead of the other way around. She taught practical feminist experiences to students rather than complex feminist theories that are quickly and easily forgotten.

DE: Feminist Killjoy (and other willful subjects)

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This article gave me an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. There are so many different people in this world with all different experiences and backgrounds and morals and opinions, I understand her explanation as political activism as "a struggle against happiness"...how in the world is it possible for every single person to be happy? I'd love to see a day where everyone is treated fairly, but Sara Ahmed and again with Allison Jagger show us just how difficult this will be. Even within the community of Feminism, a community fighting for equality, there are divisions and "tensions". I would not even know where to begin to dissect these complex tensions of class, gender, race, sexuality, and religion in the entire world outside of Feminism. I suppose this is why Ahmed connects the Feminist with the killjoy. The more aware I am of the complexity of intersectionality the unhappier I become; I feel frustrated, confused, overwhelmed. The amount of things I begin to worry about and try to struggle to understand keep building up. Jagger says "There is no magic formula for reaching fair and workable resolutions of these pressing and complicated problems. The best we can do is resolve to be as open and sensitive as we can to the diversity of interests and range of values involved". Would there ever be an end to the amount of things we need to study and understand? Once we've tackled one injustice, with time another one will pop up, and another. It is an uncomfortably overwhelming thought, but definitely a motivation to raise more questions and to learn and understand more.

The Feminist's Complex Work (DE for Feb. 7)

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Jennifer Nash's article, "On Difficulty: Intersectionality as Feminist Labor" left me somewhat frustrated and confused. Throughout the last year, since I began my work in the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies program, intersectional theory and methods have been stressed as the most productive way to approach marginalized identities. Previously over-simplistic methods of addressing one form of social oppression at a time are no long valid; we must simultaneously address how our identities, as whole and multidimensional entities, work within society and the systems of power that permeate our lives. Of course, this will be difficult, as Alison Jagger makes quite clear in her chapter, "Addressing Feminist Contradictions". While Jagger upholds this complex work as a core value in feminist studies (while emphasizing the needs for the need for varying voices to be heard and recognized within academia and the movement), Nash challenges us to reconsider the value of difficulty. Nash says that intersectionality cannot become the only way we address identity and oppression; there is a need for us to consider its limitations and exclusions. This draws from our discussion of feminist curiosity. We also have to consider who is left out when complex theoretical jargon is used to define the feminist movement, and who these theories don't reach when confined to academia. Nash encourages us to view intersectional theory/method/politics as but a possible metaphor for understanding multidimensional identities, and not a proven fact of how they work. The need for a heightened and more expansive curiosity within feminist pedagogy and politics is clear, but we must simultaneously devote ourselves to the difficult, complex, messy (and sometimes unhappy) work that is feminism.

The Creating of Unpleasant Women

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In "Feminist Killjoys (and other willful subjects)," Sara Ahmed creates a metaphor of the societal and feminist tables. An image of a table is perfectly situated within feminist debates as it brings to mind a plethora of topics underlying feminist principles. Illustrations like ideals of a "nuclear family" are seen as outdated but still play a large role in the rhetoric of everyday life; the power struggles between a wife, husband, and their children today and in the past come to mind immediately.

How does society construct a man and woman's roles in their own home? How do simple things like the placement of one's "chair" affect the outward impressions made of them? How does the act of sitting in one's metaphorical chair help them, or deter them, from their "commitment to ending women's subordination?" And in turn, does the action of taking a seat at the table take away from everyday experiences where one might be forced, or come upon by their own accord; the "complex and multidimensional" problems that help feminists in evaluating their own values?
In constructing the feminist table Ahmed uses happiness and unhappiness, along with the figure of the feminist killjoy. The individual and collective killjoy becomes a sort of antagonist in societal workings creating controversy in pointing out the convalescence of sexism, racism, and injustice that is overlooked and therefore subtly accepted into society.

"To be willing to go against social order, which is protected as moral order, a happiness order is to be willing to cause unhappiness, even if unhappiness is not your cause (Ahmed 3)."

She uses a story of bell hooks' about racism bringing unhappiness with a different skin color; how then do we factor in things like psychology, sociology, and culture into discussions of racism? Will these things also bring unhappiness or happiness to some? Tension is also caused when one white person steps into a room full of individuals of a different color? Is that tension internal or external? As bell hooks' also wrote about internal patriarchy, can those thoughts also apply to race?

Is the issue of feminism to be a rejector of happiness? Can happiness exsist alongside upset at injustice?

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 AnzaldĂșa'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 AnzaldĂșa 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?

The Academic's Responsibility

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In both the Castro article and the excerpt from Jaggar's article, there was an emphasis on the importance of recognizing the varieties of feminists and feminist needs that exist. There is not only the need for direct engagement with misogynistic literature, but also the need for female minorities to be treated as equal to their white counterparts. The Castro article delved into the issue of accessibility, and how there are not only feminist scholars, but also poor women who yearn to be educated so they know their rights as human beings. Castro mentioned the scholar, Stephen Greenblatt, and his statement to effect that, as Castro interprets it, "Eventually, if I am superb enough, the chosen few will manage to discover my work." (5) Castro points out that this attitude is an issue among many scholars. How is the everyday woman supposed to access the information necessary in order to make good decisions? Or even, how is a woman supposed to know her rights under the law if no one is making that information accessible? According to Greenblatt, it is the responsibility of the reader to discover his work, as opposed to the writer making his/her work readily available to the general public.

DE Question for b. feb 7

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All of the authors for this week write about the difficult labor of negotiating between differences within/between feminists and feminist understandings and articulations of important issues and agendas.

In "On Becoming Educated," Joy Castro discusses the difficulties of negotiating her feminist practices inside and outside of the academy as she struggles with questions about whose voice count and who/what feminist education is for.

In "In Difficulty: Intersectionality as Feminist Work" Jennifer C. Nash challenges readers to think beyond a mere call for more and more "intersectional analysis" as a way to negotiate differences between feminists. She cautions readers that such a move can obscure actual lived experiences and can lead to a celebration of difference/complexity for its own sake.

In "Feminist Killjoys," Sara Ahmed describes the value of being willful/killing joy and refusing to be happily ignorant for "making sense of the complexity of feminism as an activist space." She argues that the shared experiences/feelings of being the killjoy at the table (even as our tables exist in very different spaces/situations) offers up the possibility for shared joy and solidarity.

In your 200-250 word response, pick one the above articles (Castro, Nash or Ahmed) and reflect on it in relation to the following passage from the Alison Jaggar excerpt:

jaggerpassage.png

The purpose of these direct entries is to get us started in thinking about the readings. In your response, you can raise questions about the readings (things you didn't understand, things you want to talk about more in class, etc). Do not use your response as a space for expressing what you did/didn't like about the essay. Instead use it as a space for taking your chosen article seriously and for struggling with how to understand it. Make sure that refer to a passage/s from your chosen text. 

The editors of this special issue on Polyphonic Feminisms, put together a feminist soundtrack for the issue in order to "demonstrate the many vocal registers of feminism, the polyphony of sounds feminism can make." So, if we created a feminist soundtrack for our class, what song would you like to add? 

Here's mine (I'll resist the strong temptation to explain why I picked it...): "My Eyes" from Dr. Horrible's Sing along Blog