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WMST 101 - Jan. 21
Transcript of WMST 101 - Jan. 21
Ms. S. Laurel Griffiths
TR 9:30-10:45am, MIKC 107
Why Do I Teach Women's Studies?
Why Do I Think That Studying Gender Is Important?
"Like many features of social life, gender is a factor that has been seen and felt by all of us and in some ways that experience makes us all 'experts' about it. Our familiarity with the topic, however, may make us prone to look only at the surface or to accept the conventional wisdom of the time and, therefore, to have distorted or superficial views of issues."
, top of page 3
What Is This "Gender" You Speak Of?
"Understanding Intersections of Identity"
by Sam Killermann
"In doing the work I do, I often find myself struggling to help people make sense of the two extremes of identity: on the one side we have the idea that people in a group are all the same (stereotypes), while the other side supports this idea that everyone is absolutely unique (snowflakes). I find myself saying, 'We're not the same, but we're also not that different'" (27).
In the final analysis, "you're a unique combination of common ingredients" (29).
Key Questions and Key Terms for Today
Why do we study and teach Women's Studies?
What do we study when we study Women's Studies?
How do we study Women's Studies?
socially constructed (adj.)
intersectional analysis (n.)
critcal lens (n.)
Sam Killermann on Stereotypes
Stereotypes are "expectations we make of people based on their group identities" (28).
Stereotypes affect us in two ways:
Stereotypes affect how people treat others. If you are in a situation where one facet of your identity is conspicuous, people "will tend to ascribe the stereotypes of that identity to you, whether you're expressing [those stereotypes] or not" (28). Or they "may be hypersensitive to anything you might do to reinforce those stereotypes. And if people see you as a stereotypical X, they will treat you like a stereotypical X" (28).
Stereotypes affect how we behavior. Many people unconsciously or uncritically "act out stereotypes of group identities we possess or are drawn (knowingly or subconsciously) to" because we have a feeling that that is how we are supposed to act.
Some Other Key Points from
"Understanding Intersections of Identity"
"Even though you may share a group identity with someone, you don't necessarily know their story" (30).
"Be careful deconstructing a person (even yourself) down to the individual ingredients" (30).
Some Ground Rules for Studying Gender
"Trying to determine a place to begin answering questions about gender is difficult. How to consider the subject, what to focus on, and what to ignore are all challenging issues. In this book [
], we approach the subjects with a few important assumptions:
social life is socially based and politically structured,
gender is part of a network of social inequalities, and
scholarship is political" (2).
Foundational Assumption 1:
Social Life is Socially Based and Politically Structured
"[R]ace ethnicity, gender, and sexuality are among the fictions that support relations of power. 'There is no race--just colors--before it is socially constructed,' writes Zillah Eisenstein.... [Similarly] there is no gender or sexuality--just bodies--before they are socially constructed" (3).
Foundational Assumption 2:
Gender Is Part of a Network of Social Inequalities
"explores inequalities of gender, their consequences, and the movements challenging them. However, gender analysis alone will not hlep us to understand the ways that this particular inequality shapes our lives and the lives of people around the globe. We live in a world built atop gendered differences but also put together by race- and class-based systems of power" (3).
"Sometimes scholars use the word
to talk about the complexity of social life. If you were to put on a pair of glasses that allowed you to see only objects that were green, and another pair blocked everything but blue or red, and so on, then each time you took off one pair of glasses and put on another, you would see only a piece of the total view and never be able to see the whole picture" (3). In this way, critical lenses allow us to bring one thing into focus--such as gender. However, we must not forget that this subject is part of a complex world and never works independent of those complexities.
Foundational Assumption 3:
Scholarship Is Political
"More than three decades of feminist activism and research have developed the idea that researchers cannot and should not claim to be neutral outside observers and that knowledge is best produced collaboratively among scholars and others, including the people being observed. In particular, our knowledge should be grounded in the experience of people at the bottom of the power systems of gender, race ethnicity, sexuality, and class. Beginning to build knowledge from the perceptions and lives of the marginalized and least powerful members of society produces knowledge
--in contrast with knowledge
The Methodology: Intersectional Analysis
Examining "the crosscuting inequalities that complicate gendered differences [is] a method... called intersectional analysis" (9).
"Today, in most places in the world..., the categories of gender, race ethnicity, class, sexuality, and nation are the central categories of intersectional analysis" (9).
"Intersectional analyses focus on the attributes assigned to members of oppressed communities of gender, race ethnicity, class, sexuality, and nation. The gender order is hierarchical: overall, men dominate women in terms of wealth, power, and social position, but not all men dominate all women. The racial ethnic order is a hierarchy in which whites [generally] have power over people of color. It crosscuts gender so that, for example, some white women are richer, more powerful, and more privileged than many men who are not white" (9).
What We Can Learn from Intersectional Analysis?
"The lesson of intersectional analysis is this: gender arrangements create relationships of inequality between women and men, but these arrangements also cause disadvantages for both women and men. Most important, not all women suffer oppression in the same way, nor do all men always benefit from patriarchal privilege simply because they are men. Being a white, wellborn man opens doors, offers privileges, and produces rewards. Being a poor, black woman increases the difficulties and barriers a woman faces in her life. However, no person is completely oppressed or completely privileged, because oppressions and privileges shift with the social context... Intersectionality... focuses attention on the ways that multiple and sometimes conflicting sources of oppression and power are intertwined" (9-10).
"The insights of intersectional analyses help us to see that there cannot be only one, universally valid way to be a man or a woman, but there are certainly images of the 'right' way to be a man or a woman that dominate our thinking and our experience" (10). Aulette and Wittner call theses dominate images hegemonic masculinities and emphasized femininities.
Living in a System
"Although individuals make choices about their destinies, they make them wthin the limits of the society in which they live. We are all constrained by the ideas and social institutions that surround us. The laws that protect equality (or not), the media messages we are sent about what are acceptable ways for women and men to behave, the technology available for health care or warfare, and the pay scales and the jobs available in our economic system, for example, all shape, limit, and sometimes even determine the 'choices' we make as we interact with one another" (10-11).
"It is unlikely that we can successfully challenge these constraints as long as the systems are in place. We cannot live 'outside' society and therefore have to live at least to some extent within the rules. We can, however, change the systems" (11).
"C. Wright Mills... wrote, 'By the fact of his living he [each individual within a society] contributes, however, minutely, to the shaping of this society and to the course of its history, even as he is made by society and by its historical push and shove.' This quote has two important implications:
First, it means that our experience of gender and our gendered relationships with one another are subjects of constant debate and struggle....
Second, it means that we have the opportunity to shape the course of history--our own and our society's--by entering into these [debates] and the social movements that have surrounded them.
[We] use the term
to describe the ways that people seek to change their social circumstances to dismantle existing ways of thinking and acting, and to create new ideas and new social institutions" (11).
Women's Studies as a Discipline
"Women's Studies... made its debut in 1970 with the establishment of the first program at San Diego State University.... During the 1970s, the pioneers of women's studies focused on establishing the field as a separate discipline with autonomous programs" (Guy-Sheftall 56).
"In the 1980s, the focus expanded to include 'mainstreaming' women's studies throughout the established curriculum, incorporating feminist scholarship within many academic disciplines. In that way, women's studies wouldn't remain in an academic ghetto, but could begin to transform and gender-balance every aspect of the curriculum" (Guy Sheftall 56-57).
"Also in the '80s [and especially in the '90s], women of color began to critique both women's studies and gender-focused curriculum projects for their relative lack of attention to questions of race, ethnicity, class and cultural differences" (Guy Sheftall 57). Responding to these critiques, intersectional analysis and expanded departments developed.
A Critique of Women's Studies as a Discipline and a Response
"It's a typical question from parents, fellow students and even faculty: What can you do with your college degree? In an era of conservative impediments to progressive liberal arts education, a field such as women's studies seems a particularly common target for that query" (Stewart 65).
In their research for their book,
Women's Studies Graduates: The First Generation
, professors Barbara F. Luebke and Mary Ellen Reilly "found that the fact that women's studies majors and graduates were persistently asked what could be done with their degrees reflected a continuing ignorance about women's studies as an academic discipline" (Stewart 65).
"In their study, Luebke and Reilly were also able to document a unique set of skills learned through women's studies programs: empowerment, self-confidence, critical thinking, building community, and understanding differences and intersections among racism, homophobia, sexism, classism, ableism, anti-Semitism and other types of oppression" (Stewart 65).