I am writing this blog in light of a presentation I led yesterday. What I was discussing was Foucault regarding the way that he discussed Race in The History of Sexuality An Introduction Volume 1. This wasn’t an expansive exploration, it was more like a discussion of a reading that pointed out these themes in Foucault’s work. Well, I was having trouble putting this presentation together, as the piece of work I was given seemed very dry and redundant throughout. Although this piece did explore an important point in how Foucault discusses the foundations of the Racisms we know all too well today, it expounded on this single point for 20+ pages. Going into this presentation, I knew that others in my class were also finding it difficult to relate and even to really understand the point of this piece, so obviously I had a bit of pressure to try and make my presentation clear and engaging. I am writing this though because of the outcome. It seemed like it took me providing some real, jarring examples of issues that took/is taking place in our U.S. society to really get the point across that the stuff Foucault is talking about ISN’T this historically disconnected abstraction, but it is something that is real, alive, and well. This might be a digression, but there are SO many troubling things found in the power we give people like Foucault. We allow for one person to quantify billions of people in less than 200 pages. What I really want to focus on here are power dynamics within our society. I am having difficulty finding peace, living within this society as a cog in its machine. I am having a lot of trouble as a graduate student, discussing current social and political issues without having much of an outlet to actually GET THE BALL ROLLING.
There are so many digressions from this main topic, so I will try to remain focused on the general disquiet that my mind, body, and heart have generally been stuck in. Now, I will preface this next discussion with the fact that my views and ideas DO NOT reflect anyone else’s beside my own. I am in no way attempting to push my ideas on anyone, though I really think they need to be out there adding to the discussions I see and read going on around me. I’d like to begin by discussing the gun regulation talk that followed the Connecticut school shooting. There was a huge backlash on any suggestion of more regulations to treacherous extents. I will discuss two things I came across. One of the tragically disapointing things was a blog entry that was basically overtly saying that with more gun regulations, comes the end of the ability for women to truly protect themselves from their stronger, male counterpart. This person used a very essentialist argument pointing to the notion that women are inherently physically weaker than men, and suggested these regulations would be taking guns away from women who depend on them for protection (without guns, women would become damsels in distress I presume). The author speaks about feminism pejoratively and leaves me with a bad feeling. Why? Because I know this person is NOT the only one who holds these convictions. Here is the blog to which I am referring. A couple of the more disturbing quotes from this person reads,
“Yes, some women are stronger than some men, but they are never stronger than strong men, and a woman without a weapon is no match for a man who wants to do her harm, even if she knows how to fight.”
“No matter how much the Feminists rail, and no matter how many times Hollywood portrays heroic fighting women, women are the weaker sex. This doesn’t mean lesser, it just means physically weaker and that’s a fact no amount of affirmative action or double standards can change. Leave it to hypocritical liberals and feminists to ignore scientific reality in favor of the brave new world they want to force into existence. You would think that girl-power philosophy would extend to empowering women to protect ourselves with any weapon available, especially after teaching us for so long that we don’t need men. But no, the hypocrisy is ubiquitous. Women don’t need men and they don’t need weapons either. Feminism thus fails women.”
This person’s argument seems to egregiously overstep. Why would this person point so combatively, so disparagingly at feminism? Why would this person feel so confident in pointing out the “hypocrisy of the liberals and feminism”? Notwithstanding the actual stance on the right to bear arms, what I see happening in this blog is a clear misunderstanding of what Feminism is, and its function in our society. I think it is genuinely sad that this person has not been in a position that allowed for understanding, but has allowed for such chronic misappropriations of attributes. None of the feminisms I have come to know EVER TAUGHT that men are useless, that women don’t need men or vice versa. That notion is very divisive and the feminisms I know don’t perpetuate divisive, dichotomous relations. A couple of the aims from the feminisms I know include an emphasis on the need to work TOGETHER in order to make visible the disperate power dynamics within our U.S. society in order to even have the POTENTIAL to make some sort of systematic change. Also, there is an emphasis on the importance of discussing EVERYONE’S role in the preservation of the ruling class and the perpetuation of the “-isms” that we all live and are impacted by on a daily basis. This disquiets me because I know that the author’s opinion comes partly from their positioning within our society. It seems like the author is fairly skilled at writing and that there is a lot of privilege from the sociopolitical position of this person. So my question here is where is the disconnect? How did Feminism seem so clearly to fail women to this author? As I said earlier, I am pretty sure this person is not the only one that holds these convictions, which is why I think there is a need for more feminists at the ground level to write, speak, and engage. I think there is a lot lost when we concede our voices to those who have more laud. There is this serious backlash against feminism going on that I just don’t understand. This public discourse seems to reflect that we (the disenfranchised, marginal) have overcome all of the trials and tribulations of the past, so now we don’t need feminism, now feminism is what is failing us. I want to pull my hair out, but I can see the disconnect. I can see the intellectually stimulating and disconcerting yet productive discussions going on in classrooms that never get any further than the classroom door. I think this is also an introspective moment for me. I see that I haven’t been engaged in the current discourse as much, and I need to be. Alongside my colleagues and comrades I want to make visible the struggle of bridging these gaps between the scholarship and public discourse. I have been thinking of more ways than this blog to become active locally (there is an INTENSE need here in NC), and am at the conception phase of putting together an organization linking students and community in an activist way. This seems promising, though it is a daunting task that will take a long time to get going. I love that I am doing this however.
Another issue surrounding guns I came upon in my inbox. As Gun Appreciation Day just happened recently, there has been a proposed campaign entitled, “What Would Django Do?” to attract minorities. After reading this, I was floored. This is exactly what I am talking about as far as the discussion of the perpetuation of power. Now, these people who are coming up with this campaign FAIL to become aware of how controversial the Tarantino film “Django Unchained,” is within the Black community, nor does it seem to bother them that they don’t know. They are blissfully ignorant. Also, the supporters of this campaign claim that this campaign is attempting to attract minorities, though they CLEARLY are focussed on Black people (not being equal in their racist aims). I will quote one of the things that was very troubling to read from this article,
“If African-Americans had had the right to keep and bear arms from the founding of the Republic, America today might be the promised land for African-Americans.”
REALLY? This is why I think there is a need for more ground level activism. These things I’ve noted are legitimately happening, these are real convictions held by SO many people. The sad part to me is that most of these convictions stem from misunderstanding and LACK of the will to engage. There are all of these gaps within our society that need to be bridged, all of this discourse going on in classrooms that NEED to make it out of the classroom. There were some major existential crises that followed my presentation, which made me really think about the gaps and the distance between the scholarship and public discourse.
I’m not blaming anyone in particular, I am blaming EVERYONE including me. There has been a disturbing discussion of funding allocations in higher education in NC. From this discussion, I find it important to engage, to write, to speak, to be active in order to make visible how extremely classist, racist, ableist, elitist++ these proposed allocations are. This situation ties into the bigger theme I am discussing here. The preservation of the ruling class, the perpetuation of our White, patriarchal, heteronormative hegemony, and the sickening feeling that happens when I realize my own role in this. Having noted this, I know I am not the only one out there who holds these convictions. To those of you who share these convictions, I ask you to engage. I ask you to write, to speak, to act in any way that you can to make visible these inequalities. I ask you to speak to what feminism you stand for, and what function you think it plays in our society. I know that there is power in silence, but there is also complicity in silence. I find that there is power in discourse and rhetoric. I ask that those of you who share these convictions to add to the current discussions in any way you think could be productive. WE ARE FAR FROM OVERCOMING. WE ARE REGRESSING.
Until next time comrades.