1.Provide an analysis of the week’s required lectures. 2.Do some outside research to find a CURRENT EVENT example that ties into the lecture content from a credible source. LECTURE:(feminist activism, The “personal is political” problem, concept of gender and activism, importance of difference)*** Hi, welcome to the lecture on
00:03
feminist movements
00:05
throughout the world, activism
00:07
around women’s issues seemed to
00:09
explode in the 1960s
00:11
and 70s.
00:12
This activism was a part of an
00:14
ongoing historical struggles
00:16
over the situation of women
00:19
earlier in the 20th century,
00:20
United States and across
00:22
the world, women’s movements often
00:25
allied with anticolonial liberation
00:27
movements and labor activism,
00:29
and promoted a good deal of change
00:31
in women’s social status and their
00:32
political rights.
00:34
In many nations, women’s activism
00:36
focused on notions of public justice
00:38
for women, including citizenship,
00:41
education and marriage rights.
00:46
Efforts to end male domination
00:48
have also ebbed and flowed,
00:50
a fact which is exemplified
00:52
by the eagerness with which women
00:54
take up or eschew
00:56
completely the label of feminist.
00:58
In the 1970s, feminists
01:00
came together around the U.N.
01:03
decade of women to further
01:05
the women’s rights agenda
01:06
internationally at the same
01:08
time.
01:09
Some feminists raised claims
01:11
about social influences on women’s
01:13
identity and about power
01:15
in private relationships between
01:17
women and men,
01:20
feminist challenges to women,
01:21
subordinate status, rights
01:23
both on activist struggles and
01:25
on intellectual efforts to change
01:28
the dominant conventions about sex
01:30
differences.
01:31
Differential treatment based on sex
01:33
dominated the social practices,
01:35
law and religion in the 19th
01:37
century and much of the 20th
01:39
century.
01:40
In both the liberal capitalist
01:42
nation states of the North
01:43
and their colonial regimes across
01:46
the South.
01:47
There have been many explanations
01:49
for the need for differential
01:50
treatment at numerous times
01:52
and in numerous locations.
01:54
The belief that women’s bodies,
01:56
souls, character, intelligence
01:58
or skills differed from men’s
02:00
was used to justify their different
02:02
social positions, spiritual
02:04
authority and political rights and
02:06
economic opportunities.
02:08
Frequently, these explanations
02:10
derive from cultural meanings
02:12
given to women’s reproductive
02:14
capacities.
02:15
The biological fact that women
02:17
have the potential to give birth
02:19
is grounded in many scientific,
02:21
spiritual, political and social
02:23
explanations for the differential
02:25
rights roles and obligations.
02:28
Feminist intellectual challenges to
02:30
conventional ideas about women in
02:32
the 70s were built on several
02:34
central concepts gender,
02:37
women’s experience.
02:38
The personal is political and
02:39
different.
02:40
These concepts were initially
02:42
articulated within political
02:43
struggles involving issues of equal
02:45
rights, social conventions
02:47
of femininity and sexuality,
02:50
reproductive self-determination,
02:52
violence, poverty and
02:54
environmentalism, among others.
02:56
Prior to the 70s, gender was a
02:58
concept that had no social meaning
03:00
in English.
03:01
It was merely a grammatical feature
03:03
of some European languages.
03:05
But in the 1970s, feminist
03:07
theorists began to use the concept
03:10
to ground their arguments that
03:11
biology, biology,
03:13
sex is not destiny
03:15
and to a start instead that
03:17
meanings attribute it to sex
03:18
differences.
03:19
Gender are defined in
03:21
historically specific ways through
03:23
culture and politics
03:25
and as quote unquote, man
03:27
made interpretations secure
03:30
male dominance over women.
03:32
While some, such as Simone de
03:34
Beauvoir, had presented such
03:36
ideas earlier in the century,
03:38
the concept of gender ignited
03:40
an explosion of feminist
03:42
scholarship in the 1970s.
03:44
That continues today.
03:46
The concept and analysis, using
03:48
it in interdisciplinary
03:50
perspectives, provides the
03:51
foundation for the field of women’s
03:53
studies internationally.
04:00
Throughout the United States in the
04:01
70s, a great deal of research
04:03
in fields such as psychology and
04:05
sociology
04:07
linked, observed sex, differences in
04:09
personality and achievement
04:10
behaviors to sex based differences
04:12
in the context of socialization.
04:14
At the same time, anthropologists
04:16
produced an enormous amount of
04:18
research cataloging the various
04:20
meanings given to sex differences in
04:22
cultures worldwide.
04:24
This research concentrated
04:26
on differential meanings of
04:28
masculinity and femininity
04:30
in different cultures, and
04:32
especially differences in the sex
04:34
based division of labor,
04:36
where appropriate work activities
04:38
are defined by the sex of the
04:39
worker.
04:43
Typical of feminist theories of its
04:45
time and place.
04:46
Gail Rubin theorized biological
04:48
sex is the raw material that
04:50
cultures mold together into
04:52
genders and sexualities.
04:55
Rubin’s argument is remarkable
04:57
for at least one other feature.
04:59
Throughout her explication of the
05:01
sex gender system, she
05:03
peppers her discussion with examples
05:04
of, quote unquote, exotic and sexual
05:07
practices drawn from
05:09
studies of culture in the South
05:10
produced by anthropologists from the
05:12
north.
05:13
This is one early example
05:16
of the rhetorical practices
05:17
among feminist theorists in the
05:19
north of appropriating examples
05:22
of different cultural practices in
05:23
the South to bolster their arguments
05:26
for social change.
05:28
In this way, feminists
05:30
of the North universalized
05:32
their own local struggles to
05:34
the struggles of all women.
05:36
The examples Rubin cites work
05:38
simultaneously to provide evidence
05:40
of the diversity of the content
05:43
of sex gender categories
05:45
and is evidence of the ubiquity
05:47
of the sex gender system.
05:49
So even though the details may
05:51
differ, all women are subjected
05:54
to the same underlying sex gender
05:56
system.
05:57
And this rhetorical practice treats
05:59
all women as subject to the same
06:01
patriarchal power relations
06:03
and conflates differences
06:05
of history, culture and
06:07
location, even as it
06:09
also positions women of the South
06:11
as resources for the political
06:13
struggles and theorizing
06:15
of women in the north.
06:17
So needless to say, this is quite
06:18
a large problem and a challenge for
06:20
feminism.
06:22
In the 1990s, postmodernism,
06:25
queer theory, transgendered politics
06:27
and activism by intersex
06:29
persons have theorized
06:31
a far more complex and contingent
06:33
relationship between body sexes,
06:36
sexualities and genders
06:38
than earlier feminist theories
06:39
accounted for.
06:41
So, interestingly enough, more
06:43
recent feminist scholarship has
06:45
returned to the relationship between
06:47
biology and culture to consider
06:49
how much of what we call anatomical
06:51
sex difference is shaped by
06:53
culture and to critique the binary
06:56
opposition of sexes, sexualities
06:58
and genders that prevails in
07:00
most social, including feminist
07:02
theory.
07:04
Also in the 90s, the emergence of
07:06
post structural challenges to
07:08
any notion of settled or stable
07:10
identity has shifted the focus
07:12
of feminist theorizing to questions
07:14
of the construction and performance
07:17
of gendered bodies and identities
07:19
in cultural discourse and practices.
07:23
Debates about whether anatomical
07:24
sex, sexuality and or gender
07:27
are stable and whether there are
07:28
correct sex of individuals lives
07:31
throughout their lives will continue
07:33
to shape feminist theories in the
07:35
future.
07:37
A discussion of the concept of
07:38
difference
07:40
or I’m sorry, in the in a discussion
07:43
of the concept of difference.
07:44
Feminist theorists initially, mostly
07:46
women of color and lesbians in the
07:48
north and south, immediately
07:50
challenged this universalized
07:52
view of gender, universal
07:54
claims of gender oppression that
07:56
defined the characteristics of the
07:58
gender group women in terms
07:59
of their differences from the gender
08:01
group. Men, they argued, wrongly
08:04
glossed over differences among
08:05
women.
08:06
They particularly objected to the
08:08
nearly exclusive focus on sex
08:10
and gender in feminist theories and
08:12
agendas articulated by
08:14
white and Western women.
08:17
This focus teams other dimensions
08:19
of social life to be less important
08:21
in understanding women’s experience
08:23
as women.
08:24
So within such theories, even if
08:26
differences among women are
08:27
acknowledged, those differences are
08:29
not seen as shaping women’s
08:31
experience as women.
08:36
So this fundamental
08:38
or such a focus of
08:40
is the difference in women’s
08:41
experiences as women that are shaped
08:43
by the interconnections of race,
08:45
ethnicity, nation and class
08:47
with gender.
08:48
So this fundamental feminist
08:50
concept, gender does actually
08:52
not have an uncontested
08:54
definition, even if it is
08:56
central to feminist theory and
08:58
political agency.
09:03
In displacing the notion that
09:04
natural sex differences made male
09:06
domination inevitable, the
09:08
concept of gender created another
09:10
problem without the female
09:13
body. So nature as the thing
09:15
that makes women women, what
09:17
would be the basis of women’s common
09:18
identity?
09:20
On what grounds would women come
09:22
together as a group to demand
09:23
change?
09:24
In other words, what would be the
09:26
basis of women’s political agency
09:29
as women?
09:30
Experience is the principal
09:33
concept feminist theorists have used
09:35
to replace female quote unquote
09:37
nature as the common
09:39
element defining women as women.
09:42
Many feminist theorists have
09:43
asserted that women’s identity
09:45
as a distinct and specific social
09:47
group begins with their lived
09:49
experiences as women beings
09:51
whose lives, rights, opportunities,
09:53
pleasures and responsibilities
09:55
are often dictated by the value
09:57
their culture’s give to the sex of
09:59
their bodies, as distinct
10:01
from that of men.
10:03
So a shared experience of oppression
10:05
is what women have in common.
10:08
This shared experience defines them
10:10
as a social group who can act
10:11
in concert to resist gender
10:13
oppression and improve their lives.
10:16
Critical examination of those
10:18
experiences provides
10:20
the grounds for building a feminist
10:22
political agenda.
10:24
In 1970s, feminist activism,
10:26
consciousness raising held a
10:28
privileged place as a source
10:29
of critical knowledge that could
10:31
inform resistance to oppression.
10:34
Consciousness raising involves
10:36
sharing experiences with other
10:37
women in groups.
10:39
And from these conversations,
10:40
feminist activists believed women
10:42
would come to identify with each
10:44
other and
10:46
turn. The conversations would help
10:48
identify the common elements
10:50
in women’s individual experiences.
10:52
And so then it would clarify the
10:54
systematic nature of
10:56
women’s subordination and
10:58
the institutional mechanisms of
11:00
their oppression as women.
11:02
So this analysis would reveal
11:05
the most pressing issues for women
11:07
and would explain how power works
11:09
to dominate women.
11:10
And then finally, I would also point
11:12
to liberatory strategies.
11:15
The concept of women’s experience
11:17
also provides the grounds for
11:18
challenging conventional cultural
11:20
wisdom about, quote unquote, women’s
11:22
nature, feminist
11:25
scholars have observed that much for
11:27
what passes for knowledge of women’s
11:29
or men. Nature has historically
11:31
been constructed from the point of
11:33
view of the social group men
11:35
who benefit most from women’s
11:37
continued subordination.
11:39
Suspicious of arguments that derive
11:41
from their power, that derive their
11:43
power from nature, feminist
11:45
theorists have argued that the value
11:47
and meaning of women’s lives must
11:49
be defined in social context.
11:53
Given this, it’s not surprising
11:55
that much of what is, quote unquote,
11:57
known about women’s quote unquote,
11:59
nature justifies their subordination
12:02
in this case, feminist theorists
12:04
have argued knowledge that justifies
12:07
male domination is untrustworthy
12:09
precisely because of the interest
12:11
men have in continuing that same
12:13
dominance.
12:14
So those theorists conclude
12:16
the value and meaning of women’s
12:18
lives must be defined
12:20
from a women’s point of view, from
12:22
women’s point of view, excuse me,
12:24
from the inside of their experiences
12:26
rather than from some outside view.
12:29
It was argued that because women
12:31
have a common experience as women,
12:33
it’s that is distinct from
12:35
that of men, women are in the best
12:37
position to define how social
12:39
structures and cultural beliefs
12:42
shape women’s subordination.
12:44
So in this way, women’s gender
12:46
based differences from men
12:48
constitute grounds upon which
12:50
feminist claims of women’s political
12:52
agency rest.
12:54
Those differences mean that men
12:56
cannot adequately represent women’s
12:58
interests, and so women must address
13:00
for ourselves how the fact
13:02
of being women will affect our
13:03
lives, what opportunities
13:05
precisely have been given to us and
13:08
what has been withheld.
13:11
Yet the claim that women share a
13:13
common experience has also been
13:15
challenged since it was articulated,
13:17
some feminist theorists, mostly
13:19
women of color and lesbians in the
13:21
north and south, have continually
13:23
contended that the differences
13:25
between women, social positions
13:27
and cultural contexts are so
13:29
extensive that women may not
13:31
actually have a common experience at
13:33
all.
13:35
Even while women of color in the
13:36
north and south challenged the
13:38
notion of a common women’s
13:39
experience and have opposed the
13:41
dominance of white and Western
13:43
women’s issues in feminist theory
13:45
and politics.
13:46
They have also often pursued
13:47
theoretical strategies that embrace
13:50
the core concept of experience.
13:53
They often offer alternative
13:55
narratives that give voice to
13:56
women’s experiences and
13:58
women’s personal lives.
14:00
So the relationship between between
14:02
one sense of identity as a woman
14:05
and one’s knowledge of oppression
14:06
continues to be crucially important
14:08
for a variety of feminism.
14:12
This linkage formed the basis
14:14
for the identity politics that
14:15
dominated feminist activism
14:17
in the 1980s and early 90s.
14:21
Identity politics are based on the
14:22
premise that those who experience
14:25
specific configurations of
14:26
oppression are best suited
14:28
to articulate an adequate theory
14:31
of that oppression and an adequate
14:33
strategy for change.
14:35
So, as with gender, the concept
14:37
of experience is central to
14:39
feminist theorizing, but its meaning
14:41
and usefulness have continually
14:43
been contested.
14:49
So if women’s experiences are to
14:51
be the basis of knowledge and
14:52
feminist theory, which women’s
14:54
experiences should be the focus of
14:56
consciousness raising and critical
14:57
analysis, the concept
15:00
of the personal is political
15:01
distinctly expresses the experiences
15:04
privileged in second wave feminism
15:06
in the north.
15:07
It started out as a political slogan
15:09
used by stealth named radical
15:11
feminists in the United States
15:13
and conveyed several related
15:15
notions.
15:16
It encapsulates the relationship
15:18
of theory to politics.
15:20
This concept incorporates the notion
15:23
underlying the practice of
15:24
consciousness raising.
15:26
That experience is the best grounds
15:28
for building feminist knowledge and
15:29
is the best way to define effective
15:31
feminist politics.
15:34
At the same time, it expresses
15:36
the claim that the system of male
15:37
domination is deeply entrenched
15:40
in intimate relationships between
15:42
women and men.
15:44
Many of the most pressing issues
15:46
for feminists in the North have
15:48
involved women’s most personal and
15:50
intimate experiences inequality
15:52
in marriage, male centered
15:54
sexuality, reproductive
15:56
self-determination and male
15:58
sexual violence.
16:00
Examination of those experiences
16:02
through consciousness raising, it
16:04
was argued, would reveal the system
16:06
of male domination, often
16:08
called patriarchy in early feminist
16:10
theory and would expose the
16:12
underlying power relations
16:13
that bound those personal
16:15
experiences together.
16:18
The slogan also challenges the
16:20
conventional view of politics
16:22
is limited to formal processes
16:24
of government and market
16:25
relationships in the public sphere,
16:28
which tends to treat issues
16:30
of marriage, sexuality, reproduction
16:32
and sexual violence as nonpolitical
16:35
because they’re part of private life
16:37
instead.
16:39
Radical feminists define
16:41
politics as relations of power
16:43
that operate within all human
16:45
relationships in which one
16:47
group rules another.
16:49
This view of politics was
16:51
articulated against criticisms
16:53
from the left and liberals
16:55
that issues US women sought
16:57
to address related to personal
16:59
problems, not political issues.
17:02
The notion of the personal is
17:03
political was not limited to changes
17:05
in private relationships.
17:07
However, it also informs
17:09
claims upon government to recognize
17:11
and change laws and institutional
17:13
practices that constrained
17:15
women within private relationships.
17:18
The concept of autonomy as
17:20
self-possession implied
17:22
in the notion of women’s bodily
17:24
integrity extends liberal
17:26
rights of the public sphere into
17:28
the private sphere.
17:31
At the same time, women of the South
17:33
questioned the extent to which
17:34
feminist theory in the North
17:36
privileges personal experiences
17:38
in private life.
17:40
Even the experiences feminist
17:42
theories focus on in order to
17:44
understand women’s oppression as
17:46
women are not fixed but must
17:48
be defined in specific historical
17:50
times and places.
17:53
The need to continually specify
17:55
time and location in all
17:57
feminists, they’re theorizing, is
17:59
one key insight that has resulted
18:01
from feminist theorizing about
18:02
differences.
18:04
Bell Hooks makes this point
18:06
brilliantly by noting that feminists
18:08
often argue that women want equal
18:10
rights to men.
18:11
But she asks which men
18:13
do? What do women want to be
18:15
equal to?
18:16
The abstract individual who
18:18
possesses full human rights in
18:20
national and international law is
18:21
in practice not just male but
18:23
is white. Middle class resides
18:26
in the north and is heterosexual as
18:28
well.
18:29
She asserts that an adequate
18:31
feminist theory and practice cannot
18:33
lay claim to rights of women in
18:35
general to equality with men in
18:37
general, as history has
18:38
shown, Hooke’s writes,
18:41
feminist activism based
18:43
on such generalized notions of
18:45
women and women’s experiences often
18:46
finds it expedient to sacrifice
18:49
the rights of some groups of women
18:51
in the interests of securing rights
18:53
for other groups of women.
18:55
Such a situation is unacceptable
18:58
to Bell Hooks.
18:59
For her, freedom for all women
19:01
is the bedrock of feminist advocacy
19:04
and requires the elimination of
19:06
all forms of domination.
19:08
In order to begin to pursue this
19:10
goal of freedom, feminist theories
19:12
must take account of differences
19:14
among women.
19:19
Conversations and debates about
19:21
the importance and composition of
19:23
differences between women became
19:25
a generative engine for feminist
19:27
theory in the 1980s.
19:29
Through this concept, feminist
19:31
theorists have grappled with
19:33
questions of how race, nationality,
19:35
class and sexuality
19:37
shaped women’s lives.
19:39
Theorizing different has generated
19:41
invaluable insights into gender
19:44
power relations and how
19:46
those power relations interact
19:48
with dominations of race,
19:50
nationality, class and
19:51
sexuality.
19:54
Questions are raised by efforts
19:56
to articulate the intersections of
19:58
dominations within women’s lives
20:00
have also led to a critical
20:02
reassessment of the concept of
20:03
identity itself.
20:06
In debating whether and how
20:08
it might be possible or impossible
20:11
to ever separate the gender aspects
20:13
of experience from other aspects of
20:14
experience such as race,
20:16
nationality, class and sexuality,
20:19
the basic attributes of experience
20:21
have themselves been cast into
20:22
doubt.
20:24
The post structural notion of
20:26
difference and power disturb
20:28
the notion of a stable identity.
20:31
Post structural feminist theories,
20:33
ask how differences within a
20:35
person shape her sense of
20:37
experience, her sense of identity,
20:39
her sense of self, her agency.
20:43
They question if experience is ever
20:45
a constant or singular thing, even
20:47
within an individual
20:49
post-structuralist theory suggest
20:51
that identities are the consequences
20:53
of shifting relations of power.
20:56
So post-structuralist theories
20:58
understand identities identity
21:01
as mobile sites of different
21:03
and extoll the possibilities of
21:05
those flexible and changing
21:07
identities.
21:08
Women’s movements have necessarily
21:10
shifted, along with the fluid
21:12
complexities of women’s identities.
21:15
And we’ll talk a lot more about this
21:18
towards the end of the class when we
21:20
talk about feminist epistemology.

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