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What are...family values?

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In this post I want to briefly discuss feminist values/family values and how I have organized this section. Before getting into that, here's a pdf of my reading notes for the Patricia Hill Collins' essay. 

The essay that we are reading for Monday's class (4.4) is partly responding to a particular moment within American popular/political culture when rhetoric about family values was frequently used to critique feminism and to position feminists as against the family and family values. One oft-cited example of connecting the promotion of family values with the critiquing of feminism is Pat Robertson's remarks in a 1992 letter opposing Iowa's equal rights initiative*:

The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.

Another notable (and perhaps the most popular) example of connecting feminism/feminist goals with the erosion of the family and its values is Dan Quayle's (in)famous comments about the fictional character, Murphy Brown in May of 1992:

It doesn't help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown -- a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid, professional woman -- mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another `lifestyle choice'. I know it is not fashionable to talk about moral values, but we need to do it. Even though our cultural leaders in Hollywood, network TV, the national newspapers routinely jeer at them, I think that most of us in this room know that some things are good, and other things are wrong. Now it's time to make the discussion public. -- Vice President Dan Quayle addressing the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco and criticizing Murphy Brown's decision to be a single (highly successful) mother, 5/19/92.

Important to note is that Quayle's comments on Murphy Brown are part of a larger speech in which he claims that one of the primary causes of the LA riots (which happened in the summer of 1992 right after the police who beat Rodney King were found not guilty) is the erosion of traditional family values. Here is a transcript of the entire speech and a news clip with an excerpt from the speech:


As an aside: Did you watch the entire clip? What do you make of the juxtaposition, by the newscasters, of the clip about Dan Quayle and his description of Murphy Brown as mocking the importance of fathers with the clip about Robert Reed (Mr. Brady) and the revelation that he had died of AIDS and not cancer? Is this merely coincidence that one clip leads to the next? Or, is some connection being encouraged in the viewer?

It would seem that for both Robertson and Quayle, feminism poses a serious threat to the family and its values about "right and wrong"? But, why is feminism such a threat? Why does feminists' desire to work for an equal rights amendment (Robertson) or a feminist's choice to be an unwed mother (Quayle) elicit such extreme responses? What anxieties/fears about white masculinity do these feminists claims tap into (see Chloe's post for more on this)?

In her essay, "It's All in the Family," Patricia Hill Collins focuses her attention on "the family" part of family values by exploring "how six dimensions of the traditional family ideal construct intersections of gender, race, and nation (63) and produce/reinforce gender/race/nation hierarchies. She argues that it is crucial for organizations --feminist or Black Nationalist, for example--to be critically aware how they use/invoke  'family.'

In their various contributions to the Feminist Family Values Forum, Lloyd, Jimenez, Steinem and Davis focus much of their attention on the "values" part of family values. Indeed, the purpose of the forum was to bring a wide range of women together to talk about what values actually mean and what values feminists want to embrace and promote.

In bringing all of these readings together, I want us to be curious about:

  • What are families? What are their values?
  • Is feminism bad for families and their values?
  • What sort of values do feminists promote?
  • What does it mean to value something?
  • Why is language about values (and morality) so exclusively linked with one particular vision/version of the family?
  • What differences do you see between the phrases "family values" and "families values"?

Who is...an undocumented worker?

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Starting this past Monday and for a few weeks after break, we are discussing housework, nannies, and invisible labor. Central to our discussion are the many women and men who perform the invisible labor that have enabled some feminists to "solve" the housework crisis. A lot of these women and men are undocumented workers. So, who are...undocumented workers?

One way to get at this question is to explore the term "undocumented worker." Why should we use this term instead of the many others that are articulated within the popular media? In her entry, "Stop saying 'illegal'," the Feminist Texican provides a compelling discussion of why "undocumented worker" should be used instead of "alien," "illegal alien," "illegal immigrant," "illegal," "immigrant," and "undocumented immigrant." Her post includes this video by Rinku Sen:

Another way to get at the question of "who are...undocumented workers," is to read about/listen to/watch the stories of undocumented domestic workers (like nannies or maids or gardeners). On Wednesday March 23, we will watch the film, Maid in America about 3 undocumented domestic workers, living and working in the L.A. area. Check out the resource page on the film's website for more information. Here is the film description:

Housekeeper. Nanny. Maid. Surrogate mother. Such are the many roles of las dom├ęsticas--undocumented workers who came to America in search of a better life and found themselves scrubbing toilets and setting tables, working long hours for little pay in private homes.

Most have no health insurance, no driver license, no pension and no recourse when it comes to employment injustices. They cook meals they could never afford, clean houses they could only dream of owning and care for strangers' children when their own children are thousands of miles away. Deportation is a constant fear. And still they come to the United States by the thousands in hopes of a better life for themselves and their families.

MAID IN AMERICA is an intimate, eye-opening look at the lives of las dom├ęsticas, as seen through the eyes of Eva, Telma and Judith: three Latina immigrants, each with a very different story, who work as nannies and housekeepers in Los Angeles, California. Filmmakers Anayansi Prado and Kevin Leadingham followed their subjects for several years, and their cameras caught some of the most intimate moments of these women's lives, both on and off the job.

A third way to get at this question, is to think about how it gets represented in the popular media. Here is just one example from Jezebel that discusses nanny trends, documented/undocumented domestic workers, and labor abuses in the domestic workplace: "Don't You Just Love Your [Insert Ethnicity] Nanny?" This article also provides some great links for more information on the issue of nannies and other undocumented domestic workers.

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Finally, you can also check out the Drop the I-Word Campaign and their "I stories" like I Am...a mother or I Am....determined, over at Color Lines.

Who is...Betty Friedan?

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Next week we are reading an excerpt from Betty Friedan's feminist classic, The Feminine Mystique. But, who is Betty Friedan? For more information on her, check out this interview from PBS, or skim The Feminine Mystique via amazon.com, or read this great obituary (she died in 2006) by Katha Pollitt, or watch this early youtube clip from 1964:

While often referred to "the mother of second wave feminism," Betty Friedan's beliefs about who should and shouldn't be included within feminism created a lot of division in the movement. Last week in class Jackson mentioned Friedan's homophobia. Here's some more about her labeling of lesbians as the lavender menace.

A new book about Betty Friedan and The Feminine Mystique was just published in January. Here's a review of it: Why the Women's Movement Needed The Feminine Mystique
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Who is...Loretta Ross?

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One of the readings for this week is Loretta Ross's "The Color of Choice." It comes from the anthology, The Color of Violence: The Incite Anthology. In the essay she discusses reproductive justice and Sister Song. Check out her biography/bibliography on the Sister Song website. Also, check out this youtube video on reproductive justice:


And here's a very recent video clip in which Loretta Ross discusses the origins of the phrase, "Women of Color":

 

Who is...bell hooks?

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We are reading parts of bell hooks' Feminism is for Everybody this week. But, who is bell hooks? And no, that isn't a typo--she doesn't capitalize her name. For more on why, read this excerpt from Talking Back. Periodically throughout the semester, I will post these "who is...?" entries about some of the authors that we are reading. I will file them under the category, "who is...?"  bell hooks is an amazingly prolific writer/scholar/activist/cultural critic/teacher. For more information on her, including a bibliography, check out this link from the UofM's Voices from the Gaps. Also, watch this youtube clip, to hear her speak about her own role as a cultural critic:

 

In Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks argues for the importance of consciousness-raising and the need for more "feminist education for critical consciousness." She suggests that going door to door with pamphlets, wearing T-Shirts with feminist slogans, posting billboards, and writing brief, accessible books like hers could help feminists to make more people aware of systematic institutionalized and internalized sexism. How about blogs? Could we envision blogs as a way to educate others on what feminism is and the issues is stands for? What are the limits and possibilities of blogging about feminism (and/or blogging while feminist)? For more on this issue, see The Scholar and Feminist Online special issue from 2007, "Blogging Feminism: (Web) Sites of Resistance". For more on the connections between consciousness-raising and blogging, check out this article from the special issue: "The Personal is Political: Feminist Blogging and Virtual Consciousness-Raising"

One more thing: bell hooks repeatedly makes reference to the term, "white supremicist capitalist patriarchy." If you want to know more about what she means, watch this youtube clip (in addition to discussing how racial stereotypes are used in films like Star Wars or how feminist backlash works in Leaving Las Vegas, she discusses "white supremicist capitalist patriachy," 4 minutes and 30 seconds in):