Posted by: misskittykate | November 1, 2007

Effective Communication

Leave it to me to play the Devil’s Advocate. I often feel that I play that role in my WS classes, and have lost the desire to express myself in class, so I appreciate this blog. I’m not sure if I’m using it properly, so hopefully I don’t mess anyone up to badly!

I often wonder about the lives of the authors of we read in this class, or in any class really. I wonder if what they say on paper is the same thing they would say to my face, should we ever participate in a personal conversation. Most authors I feel are not so sensational that a conversation with them would differ from the experience of simply reading their article. I would get the same point either way. However with authors like Catherine MacKinnon and Charlotte Bunch, I find their words to be so strong and, dare I say, a little outrageous. I find that I relate to authors like Elizabeth Martinez, bell hooks, and Marie-Aimee Helie-Lucas quite a bit more than to Bunch and MacKinnon. This is becasue I think that MacKinnon and Bunch take such a far reaching, extraordiary approach to their argument that I can in no way see how what they feel is feminism would in any way relate to my life. I think that suggesting such ideas as developing a woman-identified-woman only community is detrimental and dangerous. Why? Well, I know that most women out there realize that this kind of lifestyle is a little far-fetched, to put it mildly. However, there are those few women that would agree with Bunch’s argument and take that radical approach to eliminate men from women’s lives. As someone who has many, many male friends, I know first hand that women who approach men as the enemy and unnecessary, can leave men, as well as some women, with a tainted idea of what the feminist movement is all about. Like Martinez, I feel that coming together as individual communities, including everyone in the fight to eliminate oppression, is a more effective method of communicating the ideas of feminism. This inclusive form of communication ensures that eveyrone is on the same page, and everyone is participating. It is a kind of communication that everyone can relate to.

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Responses

  1. I feel like im going to reverse things and play the devils advocate to your devils advocate….though i agree that the far radical “men-hating” ideals taint and in fact can impede a true, communal, and succesful women’s movement (or feminist movement or anti-oppresive movemment, whatever you want to call it), i see the ideas, extreme though they may be, as useful in creating a spectrum or scale. Theorizing doesn’t always manifest itself it reality, and even the theorizors are aware of this. But by simply discussing and creating dialogue- even if it incites people or simply pisses them off, something is accomplished. It spurns a discussion of what you may change in that one persons ideal, what you would take from it and what you would leave behind. though i dont find myself jumping on the woman identified woman bandwagon, leaving my heterosexuality behind, and creating a new world where men dont exist, i do find myself recognizing truths in what the outrageous have to say.

  2. I have to agree with you. Charlotte Bunch says that feminists must become lesbians if they hope to end male supremacy. There are several things that strike me immediately about her proposition.
    While her idea of lesbianism as a political choice is intriguing, the majority of women think of lesbianism and heterosexuality based on who they are sexually attracted to, not their political goals. As bell hooks says, this kind of idea closes off the feminist movement from most women, and they feel it devalues their life experiences.
    Bunch’s proposition also troubles me because she seems to focus on sexism at the exclusion of racism, classism, or imperialism. Elizabeth Martinez says in her article that these oppressions can’t be separated because they are all part of the same system.
    That brings me to the third critique I have of Bunch, which is that her proposition suggests that men only benefit from male dominance, when in fact men are also harmed by the white supremacist patriarchy. I like bell hooks’ take – in order to end sexist oppression, we must eradicate the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture. As Martinez says, we will not win the liberation struggle unless women move with men instead of against them.

  3. “we will not win the liberation struggle unless women move with men instead of against them.”
    Just wanted to touch on this a bit more. Within these words I see so much through the conversations that I have with many of my male friends daily. They agree with me on all sides that in order to end this oppression we must tear down these wall of white supremacist patriarchy. There is so much that people can learn together and conquer the people in power that are constantly pushing these ideals on us.
    At the same time I keep going back to these arguments made by Bunch and Wittig, in particular, that to find that freedom you must completely turn away from the heterosexual world. I question this for myself because maybe she is not saying friends necessarily but your lovers. Would this really give us all a different outlook? A better outlook? Or is it just not the person.
    And another thing that I have been thinking about when reading these articles and writing my papers, is that what if these women are trying to prove a point just like I try to prove a point when writing a thesis statement. I may not believe it to the full degree but I’m still going to fight as hard as I can to get my point across. What if this is the same idea. Just something I’ve thought about. Thanks

  4. I agree with the majority of what is being said here. While, Bunch and MacKinnon have the effect of arousing strong disagreement with my self (and many others it appears). I believe that they demonstrate to us another lesson that isn’t explicitly found in their text or criticisms of their writing.
    Many of us at some point in time (myself included) have regarded our own theories or our analysis as the truth, that we “get it”, as if “it” is some location that we can point to demonstrating our conquest of the objective truth. However, this kind of view is mistaken, and removes us from understanding education and theory as a process as opposed to a destination of rightness.
    Like “mukam” said we can view the more parochial theories as useful to our dialogue and crucial to the self reflective process of theorizing for the feminist movement. This dialectical process is a huge source of its strength.
    For me this idea of a process allows me to hear Bunch and Wittig a little bit easier and to empathize with their theories and social locations. By entering in to a dialogue with their theory or observing how hooks or Martinez engage with such theory I find a certain amount of solace. Especially finding authors that hold male sexism and privilege accountable but do not simplify male-identified people into a monolithic class of men actively invested in patriarchal domination.

  5. This post has a really valid point about alienating men within the context of feminism and feminist action. It is important to remember that social movements need allies. An ally of course being someone not on the oppressed end of the cause of social movement, but is an informed supporter, often belonging to the class of the oppressor. One of the biggest impediments in a movement is to raise consciousness amongst those holding privilege.. having them identify their privilege and engage in ways that support those who are being oppressed by their privilege. When the ‘pool’ of available allies (horrible way to phrase it!) feels alienated/targeted by a cause, they will not only not support it, they will actively oppose it. Any investigation into the cause will be colored by their perceived position as the enemy.
    On the other hand, I very much agree with mukam that many productive theories and ideas have come in the aftermath of incendiary assertions and proposals. Centuries of oppression is bound to ignite large fires within people, and while their initial ideas may not hold a very valid spot, i guarantee there are nuggets of wisdom to be gleaned every time. We also can’t deny the power of emotional dialogue; polarizing pieces such as Bunch and McKinnon’s articles create set the relational tone of anger to the actions taking place. They create a response in those who read their articles that will initiate dialogue, even if just with one’s self.


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