Tag Archives: the academy

Thought of the Day

24 Jan

This post should be short, as I’m using it to actively procrastinate (or, maybe not: is it still procrastination if you are working through information you are in the middle of reading?). Nevertheless, here is the framing of this thought: I am currently wading through a few hundred pages of reading for the week. I’ve gotten through my readings on gender and human rights and inequality, poverty and gender, but now I have come to my readings for feminist knowledge production. I could probably go on for endless paragraphs even about what that name means, but the point is, I’m reading the first chapter of Feminist Research in Theory and Practice and am in the middle of the section about language. Many theorists argue that, while talking about knowledge and knowledge production, especially from a feminist perspective, you must consider language as the creator of reality. Language is determined by those with access to power and authoritative knowledge, these barriers are designated by those with the most cultural control, and historicall in a Western sense, those people have been men. Specifically, white, upper class men. There are arguments about whether language is or should be presented as the sole motivator in the constitution of reality, I don’t want to get into that.

Right now, the author is discussing political correctness and its effects on language and on the work of feminists to subvert masculinist language and discourse. If “politially correct” is the concept that enourages gender-neutral terms for occupations and pronouns as well as the political catechrises and reappropriation of words previously connotated derogatory, then a culture that rebels against politcal correctness is likely to reject and ridicule these attempts. Further, through manipulation of language over time, words like spinster (originally referring to a woman who worked with a spindle. These women just happened to enjoy a higher than normal standard of living for women, by the by) and gossip (originally meaning a friend who was there for the birth of a child and would take on the role of godparent) have turned into deragatory terms that are mainly targeted at women. And, when used in reference to men, have a doubly damning impact of also feminizing the one in question. Like these words, “feminism” is now out of vogue. I cannot tell you how many times people have asked me why, if it has such a negative connotation, don’t I just pick another word? When I mention that some people have negative reactions to the word, the most common response is almost accusatory, like I am asking for this response because I already know that feminism is the other “f-word” and that people don’t like feminists, in general. I don’t like anyone accusing anybody of “asking for it,” in general, but in this particular instance it is so difficult to explain that even claiming the word “feminist” is, in itself a feminist act. In the article I’m reading, a UK women’s magazine printed this sentiment: “feminism: we still need it but we want a new name for it.” This, reflecting on all of the reading about language preceding it, led me to this question: Why are only the subversive uses of language asked to change? Why would anyone feel it is alright to ask an entire movement to change it’s name because of an unfounded, sexist, and misogynist backlash against its very foundation? I will not accede to the demands of masculinist culture and change my stance, and I will not choose a different word based on the manipulation of a patriarchal society. Feminism is about calling out inequality and demanding that the patriarchy end, so why on earth would you ask me to appease this demand of The Man, which attempts to discolor “feminism” and mold it into a dirty, shameful word?

I will not be your bubblegum feminist to make you feel more at ease with me, and I will not pick from your “more acceptable” terms to desribe what I am. I am a feminist. This means, inherently, that I’m dedicated to the reorganization of society and a rejection of current hierarchies and patterns of oppression.

Deal with it.

In Sisterhood and Solidarity,

Me

Procrastination, how Maryann is inspiring, and my issues with The Academy

8 Dec

It is 3 AM on a night that I began intending to go to sleep at 12 so I could wake up at 8, get to work at 9, and then go to the library and start studying like a good grad student by 2. All I have to say to that is: hahahahahahaha. I have been on such an awesome final term paper roll since Friday. I’ve set goals, met them (for the most part) and not experienced any intense finals stress. The problem is that I already finished my first paper, which has given me an unrealistic feeling of accomplishment. The reality of the moment is that I have written… let me check… 15 pages of the necessary 41 to complete all of my term papers (plus a three page book report that I’m not even counting, unless of course I don’t finish the book. Let’s not talk like that.) which leaves me 26 pages to write before Monday. In order to not stress out and lose my mind, I’m planning to write six pages a day. The problem with this is that I’m still researching. See how this is decidedly not working out? Yeah. It’s not that I’m necessarily procrastinating to the same extent that I was before, but that I’m still not willing myself to work at a fast enough pace. Exhibit A, this blog post at 3 AM which will probably be the equivalent of one page double spaced. Oh well, what can you do?

With that perfect seque of procrastination as a habit I would like to kick, we’ll move on to my friend and how her new blog with her roomie in NYC is inspiring. Basically, they have decided to base a 30 day life challenge around a 30 bikram yoga deal at a studio a few blocks from their apartment. Among the list of things they are committing to are: yoga once a day (and bikram yoga don’t play, you basically sweat out your body weight during the class, or at least that’s how it feels), no cab rides, no drinking, and no eating out. I think this is awesome. Perhaps when I return from the holidays I will try to take their example and kick some habits in my own life. I’m considering what the list would look like, and I think it would have to incorporate lessening my pop culture addiction’s death grip on my time and brain space. (And of course by “pop culture addiction” I mean using netflix to burn through seasons of television, like Veronica Mars, Roswell, and Freaks and Geeks.) Possibly also reading farther ahead of time and more critically for class. Yes. Anywho, thanks to Maryann for inspiring me to be awesome like she is, for generally being a great light of a lady in my life, and for letting me sleep on her couch the night before I catch a plane next Tuesday. Yup.

Now on to a quick rundown of my issues with The Academy. It feels like just a list of questions, but we seem to be constantly arguing in class two sides of the debate I struggle with in my head (which is reassuring, even though frustrating). Basically, I had this fabulous amazing wonderful teacher who inspired me to be a professor. It seemed like a great form of activism that combined my love of school with my activist feminist tendencies: get a job where you can still hang out in a classroom, and you get to hold people captive for hours at a time while talking about feminism. Fan friggin tastic! Unfortunately, there were some things that no conversations with faculty at ye olde alma mater could have prepared me for. Mainly, that feminist departments are just as ridiculous as every other department. Let me explain. In the rundown of things, undergraduates lend rankings to things like the Princeton Review, so they are important to programs and universities. PhD candidates also affect rankings, as well as being around long enough to greatly contribute to the work that professors in the department are doing, so they are also important to the department and the university. Master’s students, however, do not influence rankings and they aren’t around long enough to really help professors get anywhere in their research. This means that though professors and other people at the university and within the department may value us individually, the MA program in general is not represented in the power hierarchy that defines the department within the university system (AKA the ‘academy’). In general, this was not something I was prepared for. It’s different at a teaching school, like St. Edward’s, where the value of the faculty is judged by their ability to interact with and support students. Here, the emphasis is on research, because this is a research institution. Long long boring academic story short, I couldn’t help but expect, even after learning this reality of life as a professional academic, that a Women’s and Gender Studies department would somehow be different. It is similar to my issue with all those mofos who always leave their dirty dishes in the department sink. Just who do you think will clean up after you? In a department that is built upon the feminist movement, which challenges power hierarchies (including expecting someone else to wash your dishes for you, assholes) by its very existence, I expect to find something more feminist than “that’s the way The Academy is.” Color me disillusioned. Of course, not all of my professors buy in to this or act towards the MA students in this way, but the department consistently and constantly communicates this attitude. I do not see myself becoming complicit in such a structure, and as of today the idea makes me feel physically ill, but as we all know tomorrow that thought may change. The point is, I had hoped that the feminist department would be, well, feminist, and wonder if those feminist scholars comprising the department (and perhaps the institution of WGS departments as a whole) ever stop to contemplate this dimension of the department’s dynamics of power.

And now that I have wasted even more of my time alotted for sleeping with an activity that is neither sleeping nor studying, I bid you adieu with what will now forever be called “The Date Rape Song” in my brain. Don’t believe me? Listen to the lyrics. “Hey, what’s in this drink?”

In Solidarity and Sisterhood,

me