Posted by: clunythescourge | January 15, 2008

Whiteness and Racism

I’m currently working on a blog for another class, Black Studies 410: White Studies: Race, Class, Culture. I think you can link onto it from this site and its titled “white studies black studies/whiteness and racism”. If not, the url is: http//whitestudiesblackstudies@wordpress.com.

From a historical, anthropological, and anti-racist perspective, we are examining what white culture is and how whiteness has been socially constructed as both “race-less” and “culture-less” yet as the societal norm and as the dominant power structure. We are analyzing the ways in white power and privilege has structured, maintained, and perpetuated racism using both biological and cultural arguments, and importantly, we are examining the CONTEMPORARY FORMS OF RACISM which as invisibility and denial shrouds racial inequality. This new insidious form of “colorblindness” is very dangerous because we cannot talk about race anymore without being accused of “playing the race card” especially as a person of color or retorts that the Civil Right Movement somehow fixed racial inequality in the U.S. despite overwhelming evidence that race is a major factor  in economic, social, and political inequality across the board.

In addition to deconstructing “race as biology” and “culture of poverty”arguments as the ways in which many individuals and structural policies justify racial inequality by “blaming the victim” while simultaneously denying racism and racial inequality, we are looking at what “whiteness” is and how whiteness perpetuates racism and racial inequality.  Whiteness as a culture and as a socially constructed “racial group” as the norm must be examined in order to understand how white privilege, complicity and denial, enables business to go on as usual, and for racial inequality to continue.

By examining the ways in which white complicity perpetuates white privilege, how “colorblindness” is the new racism, and how the denial of racism insidiously perpetuates racial inequality, we hope to develop cross-cultural alliances with people of color in order to end racial inequality. As white people as well as those who identify with whiteness and white culture, we must learn how to give up our privilege in order for social equality to be actualized. We must learn how to be allies without taking over social justice movements, without appropriating the knowledge of the oppressed, without perpetuating the very structure of whiteness and privilege that we are seeking to deconstruct. We must learn what our role is in illuminating and fighting racism.

This has been very difficult for me, but the fight must continue no matter how many times I mess up. Collective struggle is a learning experience for we have been taught in American society how to do things as individuals but not as a collective group, because individualism perpetuates capitalism and collective organization and struggle is revolutionary.

Posted by: maehem | December 6, 2007

good theory

My group couldn’t come up with any specific criteria for good theory the day we discussed it in class, but I’d like to offer one with two parts. Good theory should a) come from admittedly situated knowledge, and b) consider (even in arguing with) a knowledge that comes from a location that would typically oppose the theory. For example, theory about sexism would have to combat an argument from a patriarchal perspective, and an argument that claims gender to be completely socially constructed would have to consider or argue against someone who argued for essential gender based on their location. What do you think?

Posted by: sgrahampdxedu | December 6, 2007

A Mani Moment

I was out studying diligently for our final paper at the bar the other night, my book up next to the peanuts–so green and orange, and the FEMINIST plastered all over the cover.  The guy next to me couldn’t help but sneak a peak.  I saw the word catch his eye.  He turned rotated his stool until his body was angled toward mine. 

“Feminism, huh?”  He was mid forties, out late at a shit-hole bar.  Does that say anything about him?  About me?

“You studying Feminism?”  No.  At midnight, I am sitting at dive, drinking shitty coffee with no creamer because they don’t even know what soy-milk is reading Charlotte Bunch for the thirtieth time purely for the enjoyment of it.

“yeah–I’ve got a paper due soon.” Please take the hint.  He doesn’t take the hint.  He plows right into what sounds like a conversation he has had before.  He is a teacher, he tells me, at a high school, who proudly teaches his students about feminism.  He tells me how he tells them about the difference in wages–and then asks–you read any Friedan?  What was that book she wrote?”

“The feminine mystique.”  He wants me to congratulate him–I want to tell him feminism has come a long way since the 60’s.  I want to tell him that bell hooks would probably reach his students better–or Adrienne Rich, or Gloria Anzaldua.  I start to say something–but he’s not really listening to me–he is a teacher.  “bell hooks” I say–“you should check out Friedan” he says.

I feel like the beginning of Lata Mani’s piece.  This dude didn’t want to have a conversation with me, he wanted to demonstrate his advancement, wanted to teach me.  It was really a disconcerting feeling, to be so wholly overlooked as a source of relevant information… 

…seemed postable…

…happy winter break time everyone…      

Posted by: chuchis | December 6, 2007

Gloria Anzaldua’s, Mestiza

As a Mestiza I have no country, my homeland cast me out; yet all countries are mine because I am every woman’s sister or potential lover. (As a lesbian I have no race, my own people disclaim me; but I am all races because there is the queer of me in all races.)  I am cultureless because, as a feminist, I challenge the collective tured because I am participating in the creation of yet another culture, a new story to explain the world and our participation in it, a new value system with images and symbols that connect us to each other and to the planet.  Soy un amasamiento, I am an act of kneading, of uniting, and joining that not only has produced both a creature of darkness and a creature of light, but also a creature that questions the definitions of light and dark and gives them new meanings.” (pg. 182) 

This passage is from Gloria Anzaldua’s article, La Conciencia de la Mestiza: Towards a new Consciousness.  Anzaldua is describing the complexity of being a new Mestiza.  However, what is a new Mestiza? To understand this passage we first must analyze what this term means.  To label yourself as a new Mestiza you are automatically expressing multitudes of races, cultural and ideological terms into this one word.  You can think of it as a contradiction within itself.  Because as a Mestiza you do not belong to one category but intertwine with a range of others.  However, this does not bring absolute acceptance.  A Mestiza has indigenous ancestry but also shares current civilization blood and traditions.  She is ambiguous and has no actual place she can call home.  Like a drifting spirit she spends her time trying to figure out who she is, where she belongs and how she got in this current situation. 

Anzaldua is clearly describing herself in this passages she identifies herself as a lesbian, a feminist and a women.  I love the sentence in parenthesis because it’s such a great example of one of the many categories a Mestiza can identify with:  “As a lesbian I have no race, my own people disclaim me; but I am all races because there is the queer of me in all races.”  Just like a lesbian not being accepted by her own people and or other races Mestizas too form an overall race that other women can relate to.  Like many other non Latin American places there are plenty of other women that deal with this multicultural conflict.      

Also, being a feminist puts even more pressure in this already foggy existence.  She is working to develop a new path towards looking at the world.  Eliminating sexist oppression and uniting all peoples, forming a new society that has a balanced ideology.  Leaving all the negative social roles behind and connecting ourselves to the world.  She redefines herself and the surroundings she is in.  She is complex but focus in the direction she wants to head. 

What I found interesting that Anzaldua used in her passage was the comparison she made with a creature. “I am an act of kneading, of uniting, and joining that not only has produced both a creature of darkness and a creature of light, but also a creature that questions the definitions of light and dark and gives them new meanings.”  I believe she used this comparison to highlight that like a creature that is distinct and traditionally not accepted she too, (among other Mestizas) has this complexity that allows her to understands the light (right), the dark (wrong) sides of situations.  She makes her own world that permits her to give new meanings to terms and circumstances because she shares a wide range of identities. 

Posted by: kemalo | December 6, 2007

The “common denominator” category

The “common denominator” category as discussed by Norma Alarn really struck a cord with me, and I want to explore it a bit more.  A “common denominator” category is created when all women are lumped into a unitary category of woman/women which is defined in opposition to white men.  Doing this implies a common experience among women of gender oppression, and leaves us “unable to explore relationships among women” (406).  

In order to maintain a “common denominator” category, differences are denied and those whose experiences don’t support the category are silenced, or their experiences are tacked on as an example of difference without being incorporated. I am reminded of Elsa Barkley Brown in her essay, “What Has Happened Here: the Politics of Difference in Women’s History and Feminist Politics.” By having difference mean “not white middle-class heterosexual,” white middle-class heterosexual experiences are normalized. (Brown 301) Because Anglo-American feminism appropriated the generic term for itself, many women have to call themselves something in relation to that, such as “woman of color.” (Alarcon 409) A “common denominator” category view doesn’t enable us to acknowledge the interrelation of groups. As Brown says, “recognizing and even including difference is, in itself, not enough… We need to recognize not only differences but also the relational nature of those differences.” (298)

 

Instead of creating a “common denominator” view of women that ignores or denies differences, Alarcon sees women as complex subjects whose subjectivity is shaped by race, culture, and violence, including violence from women. In order to explore “common differences” instead of the “common denominator”, without overemphasizing division, Alarcon believes we must reconfigure the subject of feminist theory and “her relational position to a multiplicity of others, not just white men.” (407)

Posted by: eichner5 | December 6, 2007

bell hooks and her children’s book

I would like everyone to know if they don’t know already that bell hooks wrote a children book it is called in my own skin or my skin, I can’t exactly remember, but something like that. It is a childrens book about having different colored skin and through out the book it is asking not to be judgemental of the skin color to please come and get to know that person and find out what they are really like inside because they have so much to offer. I thought that everyone would enjoy reading it, I found it very interesting and was very happy that it addresses such strong issues to children, but yet it is a fun and not so serious book. I thought it was great and I hope that you all look it up and read it. It is really moving conidering that it is meant for children. I found it awesome that hooks it not just trying to reach out to the women and the world, but also she is trying to stop some of the oppression in peoples lives by starting at your youth. I feel strongly that the youth of day is our leaders for tomarrow and it is nice to know that some body esle thinks that way as well.

Posted by: kemalo | December 6, 2007

Abstract VS Experiential Theory

    After our conversation in class about abstract theory vs. experiential theory, I gave the topic a great deal of thought. I was troubled by the idea that these are necessarily, or can be considered, mutually exclusive.  While I can see the need for over-arching, abstract theories that sum up a great deal, I see the potential for abstraction to be used to completely avoid contemplating one’s own privileges. I have found the practice of trying to remove oneself from a theory in order to make the theory universal to be somewhat of a reflection of traditional scientific ideas of objectivity; the idea that one can somehow be outside the theory is, as Haraway put it, “a god trick.” (394)  Rather than seeing a dichotomy of abstract vs. experiential, or simply that both are necessary or that some people relate better to one than the other, I think the two must be entirely related.  A good theory for me includes both.  Experiential theory informs abstract theory.

   Donna Haraway and Adrienne Rich have both gotten me thinking a lot about what makes a good theory and a good theorist. I loved Haraway’s idea that “only partial perspectives promise objective vision.” (394) as well as Rich’s thought that the “faceless, classless category of “all women” is a “creation of white Western self-centeredness.” (451) These things really resonated as true to me, and have helped me to recognize why I have enjoyed particular theorists such as Gloria Anzaldua, Elsa Barkley Brown, Elizabeth Martinez, and the Combahee River Collective. These are all theorists who use their particular locations to inform their theories, and document their processes. They find the theories that work best for them and their lives from what they see, know, and learn.

 

 

Posted by: whitpdx | December 6, 2007

Super-Sexist-Marriage: Wellfare IS a Women’s Issue

Johnnie Tillmon’s article “Welfare Is a Woman’s Issue” discusses how the issue of poverty (specifically with welfare/government assistance) is simultaneously a women’s issue.  She conceptualizes her argument by characterizing the relationship between women on welfare and the state as an abusive relationship.  Tillmon addresses myths about welfare mothers that reinforce notions of as women lazy, sexually deviant, un-intelligent, un-employable, and prone to misusing welfare funds.  She describes how government aid systems like the Federal Assistance Plan (F.A.P.) control women’s bodies, occupation/wages, family size, and fail to provide adequate financial aid and child-care.  She concludes her examination of welfare as a gendered-issue by describing the visionary activism by the National Welfare rights Organization (N.W.R.O) and their plan to eliminate sexism from welfare and provide adequate assistance.  Tillmon encourages all women of varying socio-economic statuses, abilities, and races to actively inform themselves and others about the myths of welfare because welfare-reform is primarily a women’s issue.
According to Tillmon’s article (written in 1972), women headed forty-four percent of all poor families, and were the heads of ninety-nine percent of families aided through Aid to Families From Dependent Children (A.F.D.C.).  Tillmon’s analysis highlights sexism in the welfare system and calls it a super-sexist marriage that controls what women buy, their choices about reproductive health, and violates their privacy (176).   She states that above all, welfare is about dependency, and draws connections between the myths about people who depend on government aid with misogynistic views of women as sexually deviant, frivolous with money, unintelligent, and untrustworthy (178).
Tillmon describes government aid programs like the F.A.P as completely inadequate and prejudice against single women.  She criticizes how the plan implements a maximum number of family members to receive aid, which puts a cap on the amount of aid you can receive per child, requiring women to either use birth control, opt for sterilization, abortion, or other means to control family size.   Tillmon also attackss how the government differentiates aid for the “deserving poor” (the disabled, and aged) versus the “working poor” (women and children), and denies aid to women who are single with no children.  She adds that under the F.A.P, women have to purchase government recommended products and accept recommended jobs, despite the job’s ability to provide adequate child-care or wages (180).
In ending with a proposed vision of ending the “so-called welfare crisis,” Tillmon advocates wages for all working-women, weather they work in the home or in the public, giving all women financial agency, independent from men.  She describes her work with N.W.R.O and their proposal of the Guaranteed Adequate Income (G.A.I.), which would allot government aid according to need and family size only (179).  This would eliminate some of the sexism that encompasses the way welfare is currently operating and is understood in this country.  She urges all women to ask themselves questions about how they stand on the position of welfare, about what they would do if they found themselves in the position of requiring aid – because welfare is primarily a women’s issue.

Posted by: daremar | December 6, 2007

Applicability in Feminism.

When asked for our final response paper to ruminate on my favorite authors or theories from the course, I had difficulty choosing a favorite. While I had enjoyed and found interest in a lot of the readings, I could not pinpoint one theory or author that I enjoyed the most. I was disappointed in myself; I thought that my inability to choose a favorite meant I was not fully engaged in the course material, or something of the like.

But, after putting more thought into what readings I found particularly interesting, I settled on “Rethinking Sex and Gender” by Christine Delphy. The essay by Christine Delphy, in particular, was material that I found great interest in. As someone that does not have a normative view of gender, that being the dualistic perception of male and female, Delphy offered insight and more context to a perspective that I hold. Oftentimes, it is difficult to verbalize an alternative view of gender to others since the ideas of gender in this country are absolutely institutionalized and reiterated in the same way that sex and sexuality is. But, I found that Delphy provided context to the observation that gender is something that is socially constructed, and may even precede biological sex. Personally, I find that gender, much like sexuality, can operate on a spectrum for the individual, and is not always aligned with the societal understanding of the norm for their assigned gender.

Finally, I realized that Feminism, at least for me, holds greatest importance in practice and applicability. The material that I found the most interesting gave me insight into my own life, and the tools to better understand others.

Posted by: j | December 6, 2007

Aguilar-San Juan, I think you forgot something.

I want to start this by saying that I really appreciated Aguilar-San Juan’s perspective in “Going Home”. I think she addressed some issues that really needed attention to be brought to. I feel a special connection to this text because a close friend of mine identifies as a “Queer Asian-American” (not the coolest excuse for interest, I know) and has expressed a lot of these concerns. I especially like ASJ’s attention to colonialism and the similarities she sees between it and the American gay and lesbian communities expressing desire to “help” other nations’ communities.

In using Aguilar-San Juan as one of the authors for my long essay, I was put in a position to criticize her argument from a perspective differently than I might normally, and something struck me. She discusses the need for community and fighting together in LGBT communities, but she doesn’t seem to address differences in experience for people who have different sexes/gender presentations. What I mean by this is that ASJ doesn’t discuss that lesbian Asian-American identified people experience something different from gay male identified Asian-Americans. Lesbian Asian-American identified women are still viewed as and discriminated against for being women if they pass as straight. Gay Asian-American identified men can choose to pass as straight men and receive less discrimination (NOT saying that passing is easy/fun/great/safe/the right choice). Yes, racism will still play a role for both, but gender is still a big part of the discrimination that queer-identified Asian-Americans face. I just feel like the essay lumped all queer Asian-American identified people together as having the same experience. I feel that how society views your gender still plays a large role in how you face discrimination and shouldn’t be ignored.

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