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Postmodernism and Knowledge Claims: Today's Task

My task: Well, my first task is to finish up a recommendation letter for a former student. THEN, what I have to do is figure out how we go about producing knowledge anyway, despite the postmodern critiques of truth and of knowledge claims, and write a 1500-word paper about it. One of the issues I must engage is feminist standpoint theory, particularly in Susan Hekman's "Truth and Method: Feminist Standpoint Theory Revisited," and the subsequent response essays by Nancy Hartsock, Patricia Hill Collins, Sandra Harding, and Dorothy Smith. Big job...as an aside, I was talking to my Women's Studies professor about what topic I'd choose for this paper--the choices were situatedness in research, the challenge of interdisciplinarity, and the postmodern critique of knowledge (or, post-postmodernism). I said that I felt a little more confident doing my paper on situatedness, but I know I'll have to deal with the issues presented in the readings on postmodernism too. She said, "If you're not as confident about postmodernism, that's what you should write about." I grinned and said, "Yeah, that's what I was thinking too."

Suicide Girls Burlesque Show Review

I have had well over 100 hits since this afternoon from an online sex, etc. magazine that's somewhat similar to Nerve. The site in question is a review of the Suicide Girls' Burlesque Show, which is coming here to the Twin Cities--not sure whether or not I'm going, though. I feel compelled to respond because I don't want it to seem as though I've given my imprimatur to what the author is saying, especially here (my emphasis):

it's exceedingly hard to change what turns you on," I said.
"But you can go one of two ways on it: You can agree with Catherine [sic]
and Andrea
that what acts out and reinforced the power structure
is immoral, or you can take a lead from sex-and-gender researchers
like Gayle
and Patrick
and just accept that eros is value-neutral."

So, were
a half-dozen or more nubile young things covering each other with
chocolate syrup and writhing around onstage burlesque? Perhaps not.
Was it demeaning to women? Possibly. Was it art? Maybe. Was it hot?
Uh-huh. It was damn hot, even if I know that I only think it was
hot because I've been programmed that way.

It's not that I want to be essentialist or determinist here (those are the most deadly academic sins!). I don't agree with most of Dworkin or MacKinnon. This author is a smart guy, and I can tell that he's trying to yank my chain with the juxtaposition of "eros is value-neutral" with the waggish "I've been programmed that way." Yeah, yeah. But at least Dworkin and MacKinnon are questioning and critiquing why what turns us on turns us on. That, in my opinion, is a valuable endeavor, which I have said before. I agree with what Susie Bright once said, that the erotic is all about taboo. Sure, if everyone were swinging BDSM renifleurists, the ultimate turnon would be two virgins on their wedding night, consummating their love through a hole in a sheet. However, I am all for studying taboos in their sociodiscursive context.

Identity Politics: Genealogy, Problems, Legitimacy

This is an essay I wrote last semester for my Women's Studies class. For some reason, I've been hemming and hawing about posting it here, but finally decided what the heck, maybe somebody will get something out of it. At any rate, those who took the class with me might like reading it.

Identity politics has become a pervasive theme both in everyday life and in scholarly work. As a feminist scholar, I know I need to have a well-articulated “take” on identity politics, but I do not yet. The essay that follows is a critical reflection on the academic conversation surrounding identity politics. In it, I review briefly the genealogy of and problems associated with identity politics, including experience and its interpretation, normativity within groups, transience, and self-subversion. I then discuss the place of identity politics in my own work on the conflict between proponents of the women-born-women only policy at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and advocates of trans inclusion, and conclude with a preliminary evaluation of the need for identity politics. Although politicized identity is fraught with legitimate problems, I argue that for psychological, social, and emotional reasons, most people have a need for it, a need that, it could be argued, is powerful and as legitimate as identity politics’ critiques.

The Janet and Justin Incident

Mike asks: "What the hell was that?"

Well, I'll say right off the bat that I didn't see it, as I was watching Queer Eye at the time, but my roommate was watching the game in the next room and stuck her head in my room when it happened. Her initial reaction was to be disturbed by it. When she told me about the baring of the breast, I had an immediate flashback to the Halle Berry and Adrien Brody kiss, which I still think was disturbing and inappropriate, but I'm glad Queen Latifah retaliated, heh. By the way, I know this situation is completely different and that Jackson was complicit. Anyway, the link roundup: Feministe, Echidne, and Christine all have thoughtful comments.

Update: Larry Lessig reminds us what really matters in this debate.
Uh, link isn't showing up. What I mean to say is that Lessig reminds us what really matters in this debate. The link is to http://www.moveon.org/cbs/ad/. I don't know what's going on! I did the code right.


Why am I so tired all the time? All I want to do is sleep. I have plenty to say...a lot to blog about, which will have to wait until tonight or tomorrow, which is my lovely off day. For now, I'll just give you a little too much information, but I see this as a case of "personal is political." Here goes: About six or seven weeks ago, I stopped shaving. I now embody one of those stereotypes (heh), and am actually loving it.

Reflections on (No) Method

Jill has some good stuff to say about method. It takes me back to when I was working on my master's thesis, and my advisor asked me what my method was. I was frustrated and flummoxed, and thought, "I'm writing a freakin' essay! I guess that's it." Having a method for a critical reading of the ways that composition theorists have used Haraway's cyborg theory seemed utterly counterintuitive to me. Since then, I've learned that in some disciplines, "method" is a mechanical procedure, like "the sample was placed in a centrifuge and left on a petri dish for 5 days," and in others, it's more a basic question of what texts you're going to study, the basis of selection of those particular texts, and the theory and assumptions, the (to use the Burkean term) teministic screen, you're using to interpret the texts. For example, in my M.A. thesis, I went into my reading with the assumption that Haraway's theory is, of course, a way of looking at humans and technology, but indissociable from the theory are its political underpinnings; it is a socialist feminist social theory, and it has implications for activist practice, which Haraway has said in an interview with Gary Olson in JAC. I used my reading of "A Cyborg Manifesto," along with my assumptions/convictions about the argument's meaning to critique the way that composition theorists have used Haraway's theoretical framework (at times focusing too much on the implications for human-computer interaction, collaborative writing, and hypertext at the expense of the rich socialist, feminist, anti-racist aspects of the theory).

A Gender Specific Fetish

Amrita Ghosh has written an incisive column on gendered colorism in India. She describes the damaging classification of darker-skinned, or "dusky" women as not marriage material and generally undesirable. The makers of one product, "Fair and Lovely" skin-lightening cream, are particularly egregious (but, as Ghosh points out, are just making explicit undercurrents in the culture that were already there):

In 2001 they ran an offensive ad claiming that darker skinned women are incapable of getting jobs in the corporate world. I was shocked during one of the trips to my hometown, to see the advertisement flashing several times on one of the mainstream television channels throughout the day without respite. A 'dusky' girl goes for an interview to be an air-hostess for a reputed airline. She is obviously rejected because of her darker complexion. She returns home forlorn and sad, and faces her father who wishes he had a son who would have taken care of the parents in their old age; instead all they have is a dark daughter who is only capable of causing misery to the family.

Book Review: Feminism and Composition

I am supposed to write a review of Feminism and Composition: A Critical Sourcebook, edited by Gesa E. Kirsch, Faye Spencer Maor, Lance Massey, Lee Nickoson-Massey, and Mary P. Sheridan-Rabideau. The problem is, I want to hide when I think about its behemoth-like length (589 pages of maybe 9-point font!). It's not that I'm such a tenderfoot that I can't read a long book, but I'm also taking courses this semester, working constantly on the blog collection, presenting at 4Cs and maybe another conference, teaching, etc. etc. So. I've decided to blog about essays in Feminism and Composition as I read them--at least one or two a week. I intend to be done with this review by the end of March. I'm going to try my best to blog like Clay. Hold me to it, now!

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