Thursday, January 15, 2004

 

And Now for Something Completely Different

“Every revolutionary ends by becoming either an oppressor or a heretic.” –Albert Camus

A month or so ago, Winston very kindly caved in to my pestering him about letting me blog on his site and now, finally, I will stop dithering and get about it.

Like Winston, I have found my way to a critique of theory and the academy from the inside out. During my MA program, I was deeply enamored of theory, particularly feminist and gender theory. In my particular field of literature, theory hadn’t yet made quite as many inroads, and there was still the perception of a “good old boys” club that resisted young feminist scholars such as myself. The fact that I never actually personally encountered any such resistance, despite interacting with a number of well-established, older male scholars who would have been considered members of said club, should probably have been a tip-off for me to question that perception a little more closely. At any rate, my MA thesis “brilliantly” interwove gender performativity and Occitan poetics, and I felt confident that my future work would continue along these lines.

What changed? One incident that stands out in my mind was in a graduate pedagogy class, early in the first term of my PhD. In a discussion about gender and authority in the classroom, in which most participants nodded sagely at the claim that gender (that is, being female—men don’t have gender) inherently and negatively affects an instructor’s authority, I had the audacity to protest that personal demeanor might have something to do with it as well. (I still believe this. In the seven years I’ve been teaching, only once have I had any kind of authority issues, and that was with female students who objected that I wasn’t “touchy-feely” enough.). The response I received shocked the hell out of me—one would have thought I had just asserted that rape victims have it coming. The sheer irony that I had been judged an anti-feminist reactionary left me bemused at first, then thoughtful, and finally disturbed. I began to question my identification as a feminist, because I found many of the positions advocated even by supposedly mainstream organizations such as NOW to be deeply problematic. Issues concerning gender are still important to me—more important, in some ways—and in the end I decided to reclaim my feminist identification in the tradition of equity feminism exemplified by the likes of Christina Hoff Sommers and Tammy Bruce.

So that's a bit about me and where I'm coming from. Stay tuned...

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