-----Original Message-----
From: Male, Discovering
Sent: Mon 4/21/2003 8:18 PM
Posted To: English 215 Sanders
Conversation: Well maybe I am after all.
Subject: Well maybe I am after all.

 

Iíd like to say first off, that I actually spent some time looking at the "other" online resources today and am quite impressed with the huge volume of information there.  I donít know if I love it, or I hate it, but these pages represent a whole lot of information that I want to learn. 

All of this feminist criticism has made me do some thinking.  Iíve found that I especially enjoy the parts about feminism that point out that men are themselves victims of the patriarchy.  This puts some irony into the whole system and really makes for some interesting interpretations.   It is an easily overlooked point of feminism due to the dismissive attitude that some people have (ďfeminism is just a bunch of angry chicks who want to castrate all menĒ kind of attitude).  Not that I think marginalization of women isnít an important thing to study, this just happens to be the part that hooked me on feminism.

 

Iíve been thinking more and more about feminism lately including some of my past experiences with gender roles.  I was recently in the Chekhov one act play ďThe BoorĒ (Miriam was in it too) and this chapter really got me thinking about the gender roles I was portraying and grappling with, without even really being aware.  In studying character motivation and goals, it seems like I was studying feminism in miniature.  This chapter opens up that play a bit more for me.

 

About 8 months ago, my girlfriend asked me if I was a feminist.  I was a bit confused and didnít know quite how to answer since I had never given it much (or any) thought.  I told her I donít declare myself many things and I donít think I would call myself a feminist at all.  She responded that she didnít think she would be dating me if I wasnít a feminist.

 

I guess she was right. 
 
Discovering

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Male, Recovering
Sent: Mon 4/21/2003 10:45 PM
Posted To: English 215 Sanders
Conversation: Well maybe I am after all.
Subject: RE: Well maybe I am after all.

 
I had a similar realization that Discovering had.  I grew up in a very liberal household, in which it was always okay to talk about "your feelings," which is something that is not very macho or male-oriented.  Also my sister, who is 7 years older than me, was a women-studies major at Penn.  This was kind of a joke to me and my brother, but now she is extremely successful, so what do we know.  Anyway, the idea of being a feminist was always foreign to me, and I guess because I never truly understood what it meant to be one, I was unable to make an educated decision about it.  Last semester, Jacqueline asked me if I was a feminist.  After thinking about it for a minute, I sarcastically responded, "Yes, because my mom told me I am!"  However, after this unit, and particularly from the Fetterely's reading, I realized that in many ways I am.  I thought that the Fetterely reading made a lot of sense and had a great deal of truth to it.  On Tuesday, I awkwardly asked Arnie, if he was a feminist.  He slowly answered, I guess so, and now that i think about it, that is how I, too, would respond!

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Female, Persisting
Sent: Mon 4/21/2003 11:44 PM
Posted To: English 215 Sanders
Conversation: Well maybe I am after all.
Subject: RE: Well maybe I am after all.

 
Ironically, I am taking a break from writing my women's studies journal entries to post this.
 
I want to thank you both, Recovering and Discovering, for your honesty and openness.
 
I don't think I am a feminist, even though I am taking my second woman's studies course and constantly write papers about women's roles in various works.
 
Maybe I just don't really know what a feminist is. Maybe I buy into the whole thing at the beginning of the Tyson feminism chapter, that because I like men, wear a bra, and am all for women (and men) deciding to stay home with their kids, I am not a feminist. But I think it's something different.
 
I don't believe that men and women are, or can be equal, mostly because of biology. Men are often stronger than women, and, dammit, they don't menstruate. While biological differences should not make one sex/gender more powerful than the other, they do make the two sexes/genders undeniably different. Still, I think women and men should have the same opportunities, and women should not be oppressed by the Patriarchy (and neither should men, for that matter). So maybe that does make me a feminist.
 
I don't think feminism ever really came up as I was growing up. Perhaps I had the anti-feminist childhood: I watched a soap opera with my mother, enjoyed my family's Miss America parties, where I got really into making fun of all of the contestants, and was used to having a mom that cooked and sewed (and still do/am). I take it for granted that my mom's mother has 4 or 5 college degrees and worked, first as a teacher and later as a school librarian, as she raised her 5 children. I believe that my dad's mother didn't mind being a housewife, and she probably didn't, as it allowed her to volunteer and become extremely active in her synagogue and Hadassah and her children's lives.
 
So am I a feminist?
 
I don't know.
 
Persisting

-----Original Message-----
From: Female, Resisting
Sent: Tue 4/22/2003 9:57 AM
Posted To: English 215 Sanders
Conversation: Well maybe I am after all.
Subject: RE: Well maybe I am after all.
 

I think the definition of the word "feminist" is slippery.  (Ooooh, Deconstruction!)  I guess people avoid the lable because it sounds very female-centered, like feminists only want to benefit women, or think women are superior to men.  When I was in middle school, I took the pet cause of declaring, "That's sexist!" on a frequent basis, but for the reasons mentioned above, I called myself an equalist.  I no longer have the adolescent egocentrism that allowed me to invent words (well, not often, anyways), but I now hold what I hope is a more thoughtful version of my middle-school ideologies.  I'm no longer offended by the idea that there are differences between males and females, but I really do think they should have the sme opportunities.  I'm currently working on a play centering on a woman torn between full-time parenthood and her career, and it truly bothers me that she must make this decision and her husband gets to keep working, judgement-free.  It bothers me that domestic violence and rape exist, and it bothers me that for centuries and probably millenia, society thought of women as a subordinate species, and many people around the world still do.  It bothers me that girls and women think they have to look a certain way, even if it means denying themselves food. It even bothers me that women in professions such as police work, fire-fighting and mail-carrying must wrestle with their nomenclature. As long as the term "feminist" describes someone who feels this way, I will be a feminist.
 
Was the above ramble an example of ecriture feminine?  Maybe.  Probably not.  I've been writing in coherent sentences for years, and am comfortable with them.  I just had a lot of ideas to get out, and if I were male (and happened to have similar ideas), I imagine I would have put them together in a similar clump.

-----------------Arnie's Somewhat Longwinded Reply-----------------

Ironically, I am taking a break from reading the "Working With Feminism" papers to post this.  I really enjoyed reading this series of postings, and not only because Discovering got into the online materials I've been squirreling away all these months.  The kinds of thinking you're all doing suggests that the course's examination of theory as ways of seeing is having the desired effect.  Don't worry if you're not a doctrinaire This or That Kind of Theorist.  To do so would risk descent into the bad old days of debates among Marxists, Feminists, and other politically radicalized critics who wound up attacking others on grounds that they could not claim to be a practicing This or That because they failed to adhere to a particular ideological position or to deploy a specific kind of critical method.  Though they did not use the term "politically correct," that's what they were worrying about. 

     There are basic levels of competent practice.  For instance, no feminist ever made bra-avoidance a theoretically defining feminist practice, nor do current Marxist thinkers advocate a dictatorship of the proletariat.  Feminists do believe that gender is politically determined and that it is a politically determining factor in shaping our consciousness, our cultural products (like literature), and the like.  Marxists do believe that forms of false consciousness are haunting our attempts to make sense of our lives and cultures, and they think class has a lot to do with exposing its existence.  Figuring out what the absurdities of each theory are, and what is salvagable, also is a crucial part of each "Working With" paper's "Part One."  However, the kinds of minutely nuanced definition-mongering that can arise at the top end of the theory-heap do not produce much light, however heated the rhetoric.
     When the question of what theoretical flag I sail under comes up, I prefer to invoke the concept of "overdetermination," which just happens (neither ironically nor coincidentally) to be relevant to this week's discussion of New Historicism and Cultural Criticism.  Freud used the term to describe the complex interrelationships which construct consciousness, a complexity which is belied by the simplified schema of id-ego-superego that often is used to explain Freudian consciousness theory.  Freud, himself, came near to despair as a result the simplifications sought by commentators, teachers and students who tried to find an easier way into his theory.  Louis Althusser swiped the term creatively for Marxists when he described the operations of social systems as overdetermined.  For instance, what U.S. forces in Iraq currently are discovering is that, even though the dictatorial government is gone, there is something resistantly, resolutely "Iraqi" about the remaining social systems which strive with each other and support each other in the process of power negotiation Michel Foucault describes in his "exchange" theory (material goods, people, ideas, all circulating in a non-hierarchical fashion, even out and define distribution positions in the culture).  Similarly, one's gender identity is the product of many discourses, some of which one is aware of, some of which one likes, some of which one considers unspeakable, etc. etc.  The notion of discourses "speaking us into being" may sound "tetched in the head," but it's not a bad way of seeing around the corner of the whole system as it responds to our pokes and prods with little gives and takes that, in their turn, poke and prod us into new shapes of consciousness.  Comparisons to the physics of weightlessness are instructive.  Push hard, intellectually, and you'll go someplace, but you'll also affect the thought in the place to which you are going, as well as the place you left behind (by your absence, the acceleration of your departure, etc.).
     You're probably familiar with the notion of overdetermination via the famous example of the butterfly flapping its wings on one continent and being linked by relatively few connections to the causes of a great storm on another continent.  For a quirky but well-informed guide to some of notions by somebody who's not me, check out Satyananda J. Gabriel's page on the topic.  He's a political economist who does film studies at Mt. Holyoke.  (Egad--what an eclectic Econ Department they must have!)  If you backspace to his home page, beware the whacked-out rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" he's installed on it.  Your roommate may suspect you of drug use.
http://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/sgabriel/overdetermination.htm
He also is lucid, if somewhat jargon-heavy, on the general topic of Post-Structuralism and how it got that way:
http://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/sgabriel/post_structuralism.htm
     Basically, what we're up against in this Post-Structuralist world-view, is the necessity to consider the viewpoint of and to deploy the methods of a wide range of relevant theories if we are to avoid being trapped in the limited perspective of any one of them.  For some situations and purposes, Feminism will perform the necessary "window washing" you'll need to perceive "The Matrix" in operation, and for others, Reader-Response or Marxism or Structuralism (in careful doses!) will do the trick.  Even Plato, Aristotle, Horace, Wimsatt & Beardsley & Hirsch may come in handy!  Combinations, a "theory cocktail" as it were, are the most common form of theoretical practice in use today.  To paraphrase Chairman Mao, "Let a thousand theories bloom!"
--a. (Not that "Arnie" in Gabriel's "Overdetermination" page, but the other one.)