well, I guess I'm a postmodern feminist - U2 Feedback

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Old 12-08-2006, 05:38 AM   #1
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well, I guess I'm a postmodern feminist

Ok, this is long...but I'm interested in feedback...

Humanism, Gynocentricism, Performativity and Liberty
“All the world is a stage, And all the men and women merely players”
William Shakespeare, As You Like It
Perhaps nothing is more important to a philosophical and social cause as having a cohesive, unified vision. Humanistic feminists originally, beautifully, articulated the voice of feminism. They elegantly ranted against the unfair treatment of women; they argued that women are enslaved what society deems as the feminine role - domesticated life - and are thus unable to reach their full potential as human beings. Of course, their rejection of femininity came with an understandable backlash. Some women happen to take pride in raising children, decorating their homes, and preparing meals for their families. Nevertheless, this pendulum-swinging backlash has swung too far. While a celebration of femininity is necessary, articulating that this feminine essence is the sole property of women is unfair, not just to men who then become unable to express femininity, but for women as well. If women are to be completely free of oppression, they can subordinate themselves to allowing themselves only the opportunity to perform the feminine role. Performitivity oppresses both men and women: it reduces men to playing the role of the masculine - powerful and aggressive - while reducing women to playing the role of the feminine - submissive and mysterious. Thanks to the philosophical tools of anti-essentialism and intersectional, philosophers can reject the notion that femininity is the sole property of women.

Essentialism enslaves both men and women to mental slavery. Women will only be free of such slavery when they emancipate themselves by rejecting that all women have to be feminine. The feminist vision then ought to seek a world in which women can choose whether their personality reflects femininity or masculinity.
Before such a conclusion can be reached however, it is necessary to understand humanistic feminism, geocentric feminism, and of anti-essentialism and intersectionality. The scientific revolution and enlightenment provided an adequate backdrop for feminism. Science no longer accepted that men and women are fixed diametrically opposed entities. The enlightenment provided humanity with the theory that humans are equal and deserve equal rights. This view, humanism, rejected the social implications that men and women are different; men and women are both human, and as such deserve certain rights. Simon de Beauvoir expands on this idea, “Surely woman is, like man, a human being (115),” and if humans deserve equal rights, then women deserve equal rights. Some feminists, such as Sojourner Truth, took this one step further - men and women are not just the same in that they both share humanity, they are simply just the same. “I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man….I have heard much about the sexes being equal; I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too,” she said in her famous “Ar’nt I a Woman?” speech (Truth, 113). Iris M. Young articulates in, “Humanism, Gyncocentrism, and Feminist Politics” that humanism views women’s liberation as, “freeing women from the confines of traditional femininity and making it possible for women to pursue the projects that have hithero been dominated by men” (Young, 175). In other words, women’s liberation consists of women being able to do what men do - own businesses, hold political offices, play sports - and engage in traditional masculine behavior. Philosophers rationalized that if men and women are the same then femininity - the essence of being a woman - never existed either.

Eventually, however, critics began defending femininity. This criticism came under the umbrella of gynocentric feminism. According to Young, “gynocentric feminism defines the oppression of women very differently from humanist feminism. Women’s oppression consists not of being prevented from participating in full humanity, but of the denial and devaluation of specifically feminine virtues” (Young, 178). In other words, whereas humanist feminism concerns itself with freeing women to be able to act as men do and reach their full-human potential, gynocentric feminism concerns itself with demonstrating how feminine virtues ought to be celebrated and accepted. Young rightly articulates that many women enjoy decorating their homes, loving and raising children; many women enjoy dressing up, not just to please their man or look how society expects women to (Young, 179).

Another gynocentric feminist, Audre Lorde, articulates that there is even great power - the erotic - within femininity. Her essay “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” explicates her belief. She writes, "The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane" (Lorde, 188). For Lorde, the horror of women's oppression is not that women are unable to engage in masculine activities, it's that masculinity is seen as superior. When women begin to explore their erotic nature, "we begin to recognize our deepest feelings, we begin to give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering and self-negation" (Lorde, 191). She writes that when she is in touch with the erotic she becomes less willing to accept powerlessness and self-denial. The feminine spirit, the erotic, empowers women to go beyond accepting their roles in life and creatively seek fulfillment and joy in life.

Nevertheless, gynocentric feminism is a philosophy that actually oppresses women. While celebrating femininity and the erotic is positive, claiming feminism is the essence of women forces women to perform only within the confines of feminism. Young even admits that there is a danger to gynocentric feminism as it gravitates towards essentialism (Young, 184). In other words, gynocentrists celebrate the femininity, rightly so, and additionally they assign it as the essence of women. Trina Grillo explains essentialism in her essay “Anti-Essentialism and Intersectionality: Tools to Dismantle the Master’s House” as such, “the notion that there is a single woman’s, or blacks person’s, or any other group’s, experience that can be described as independently from other aspects of the person - that there is an ‘essence’ to that experience” (Grillo, 32). In essence, essentialism states that there is a core to womanness. Femininity is the core of what it means to be a woman.

Many believe this is a critical mistake. Judith Butler argues that essentialism is dangerous to feminism, in her work, Gender Trouble. She writes that the coherence of the categories of sex, gender, and sexuality—the natural-seeming coherence, for example, of masculine gender and heterosexual desire in male bodies—is culturally constructed through the repetition of formal acts in time. These formalized bodily acts, in their repetition, establish the false appearance of an essence. Therefore, gender, along with sex and sexuality, is performative. Women perform femininity; men perform masculinity. Neither male nor female, then have a choice in determining their own character (Butler, 171-90). Without a choice in determining who they are, women cannot be said to be free. Thus, gynocentricism inevitably furthers the enslavement of women, as well as men.

However, if feminism rejects essentialism and accepts intersectionality, a broader, more inclusive theory can be articulated. Intersectionality recognizes the complexity of humanity. To illustrate this notion, Grillo writes that all humans stand at an intersection: some of us are white, middle-class, and white while others are Chicano, homosexual, and upper-class, but none of us are just one of those categories - no one can be defined by just one category (Grillo,31).

With this in mind, and given the negatives of an essentialist view, feminists may espouse a broader feminist theory. Feminists ought to concern themselves with eradicating the view that femininity belongs to women and masculinity belongs to men. This view, as stated earlier, forces women - and men - to perform roles. Young and Lorde are correct in writing that femininity is a beautiful force or spirit, but they are wrong in limiting the application of the force. Men ought to be able to express femininity. Likewise, females cannot be free if they are unable to express masculinity. Due in part to gynocentrists’ overt celebration of femininity, masculine women have been rejected and caricatured as “a butch, man hating dyke.” Not only is this cruel to particular women who appreciate masculinity, this is detrimental to all woman. As stated earlier, if women are not able to choose who they are, they are not free and still bound to a sexist institution.

Any view that does not liberate all women is hardly an appropriate view for the woman’s movement. Leslie Feinberg points out in her novel Stone Butch Blues, that many transgender women (male to female, or female to male) feel left out and despised by the women’s movement. Her main character Jess Goldberg shouts in a rousing speech at a feminist protest at the end of the novel:
“I watch protests and rallies from across the street. And part of me feels so connected to you all, but I don’t know if I’m welcome. There’s lots of us who are on the outside and we don’t want to be. We’re getting busted and beaten up…We’re dying out here. We need you - but you need us too. I don’t know what it would take to change the world. But couldn’t we get together and try to figure it out? Couldn’t the we be bigger? Isn’t there a way we could help fight each other’s battles so that we’re not always alone?” (Feinberg, 296).

If feminism is to liberate women, as Feinberg points out, it must liberate all women. A theory that relies on essentialism does not liberate; it mentally enslaves both men and women to performing sexual and gender roles. By embracing all types of women (diversity) the women’s movement becomes a stronger unit. The movement cannot initiate social change without embracing all different sorts of individuals as members of the family. This means that femmes, butches, homosexuals, mothers, and daughters are all to be included in the women’s movement. The feminist movement is one collective unit, yet the individual members are different. These differences serve as the glue that binds the unit together and as the source of power to change society. Mocking differences or devaluing either masculinity or femininity serve the interest of the few. On the other hand, celebrating differences and using the differences to serve as the glue that binds the unit together and as the source of social change, serves the interest of everyone. In the song “One” by U2, Bono sings “We’re one, but we’re not the same, we get to carry other.”
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Old 12-08-2006, 05:59 AM   #2
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That was an interesting article. I'm a woman, but I always celebrated my humanness more. I noted the differences, but didn't feel bound by them (well, not usually). I figured I get one go-around so I wanted to explore as many aspects of myself as I could wherever it fell. I thought there was power in both the feminine and the masculine, so to move between the two was comfortable to me. (I was fortunate enough to grow up in a time and a place where those options were open to me for which I am eternally grateful to trailblazing feminists)

I accept differences between the sexes (as I accept differences between individuals). I don't accept rigidly mandated roles, whoever is mandating them. People move between roles all the time and I appreciate the flexibility in people who move easily between them. Not everyone can or chooses to. It's their go-around. I've both benefited from and been harmed by the perceived differences in roles and responses between the sexes. Men have both benefited and been harmed also.

I doubt that no matter how many traits are considered human as opposed to sex-specific that men and women will ever be indistinguishable from each other.
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Old 12-08-2006, 06:11 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonosSaint
This deserves some thought. I'll come back to it in a little while.
oh thanks (edit to say I'm not being sarcastic...I read it after I wrote it and realized I might sound like a jerk)
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Old 12-08-2006, 06:52 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by blueyedpoet

oh thanks (edit to say I'm not being sarcastic...I read it after I wrote it and realized I might sound like a jerk)
I don't think you came off that way. It's a good topic for discussion. Lol, I edited out the statement you quoted when I gave my reply.
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Old 12-08-2006, 07:06 AM   #5
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I'm certainly interested in all of us being open to flexibility and being able to dabble in femininity here and masculinity here.
That gender is social constructed is an easy idea to wrap your head around; however, the idea that sex is a social construction (though it very well may be correct) is a rather difficult idea to fully grasp.
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Old 12-08-2006, 07:58 AM   #6
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I'm not sure I understand above. I often use sex and gender interchangeably, but I note your distinction. How are you defining gender and sex above?
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Old 12-08-2006, 09:02 AM   #7
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Still need clarification on above. But thinking about it further, my response was inappropriate to what you were asking. Given the choices on the above, intersectionality.

Seems to be if feminists become divisive, they (we) become counter-intent. By defining feminism, we limit it. We lose the gift of differing perspectives. We become ideologues and enemies to each other based on nothing more than self-definition.
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Old 12-08-2006, 11:56 PM   #8
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sex is something generally believed to be assigned to us at birth when we show either a penis or a vagina.
That one in a thousand are born with ambiguous genitalia demonstrates that our concept of sex is at least, not quiet right.
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Old 12-20-2006, 11:20 AM   #9
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Also, the fact that transgendered do exist in the world shows that it's not quite right - I cannot tell you how much anxiety, depression, and physical pain I go through on a daily basis due to the stress of not really being female and not really being male. It's just plain torture, to have to constantly and vigilantly protect myself from people's ignorance and self-righteous anger over how I choose to live,a nd who I am at the core of my being. I don't ruddy well want to be female, and on the other side of that, I don't want to go through 60,000 bucks worth of surgery (at LEAST) to have a body that only approximates the way I am inside. Because the fact is, you can make a fake penis, but it won't work. I cannot have an erection that would work as a born-male person can. I cannot father children, should I want to (and on occasion, I think about it. ) The most I can do at this point is be half a man. And that makes me very, very angry. Society sees a female, expects me to behave as female, and spends much time villifying me for not being female.
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Old 12-20-2006, 09:41 PM   #10
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Devlin,

Be yourself and to hell with the rest of em'
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Old 12-20-2006, 10:41 PM   #11
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To just be human, without any other limiting adjectives, is I think the most any of us want.
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Old 12-21-2006, 10:35 AM   #12
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Hee. Thanks. Now that the complete irritation is out of my system, I'll go on to talk about what this thread is really about. That marvelous essay. I think Mercedes Lackey once wrote something to the effect of "All women should be free to pursue the life that's right for her." In other words, if a woman wants to stay home and raise babies, great! Do that. It's no less honorable than the woman who wants to be a Supreme Court Justice.

People tend to downgrade the woman who enjoys being a homemaker, and downgrade the woman who doesn't. You can't win. And I'd always thought that 'equal opportunity should mean just that - the equal opportunity to do what works for you, whether that be a homemaker or a career person, or a bit of both. Or whatever.
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Old 12-21-2006, 10:40 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by Devlin


People tend to downgrade the woman who enjoys being a homemaker, and downgrade the woman who doesn't. You can't win. And I'd always thought that 'equal opportunity should mean just that - the equal opportunity to do what works for you, whether that be a homemaker or a career person, or a bit of both. Or whatever.


I used to be a full time nanny for four kids and I'll tell you, that was more stressful and far more difficult than any course I've taken and any problem I've had to fix as part of my job (computer repairs). My husband's going to be a stay at home dad
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Old 12-21-2006, 11:11 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by Devlin
And I'd always thought that 'equal opportunity should mean just that - the equal opportunity to do what works for you, whether that be a homemaker or a career person, or a bit of both. Or whatever.
Absolutely

Being a stay at home mother and homemaker( I prefer to call it a mother with two jobs instead of three)is the hardest job on the planet-and it certainly is a job. Especially if you don't have a partner who assumes and carries out their fair share of the parenting and home responsibilities.
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Old 12-22-2006, 12:14 AM   #15
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I really wish we could somehow get away from labeling everyone male or female. ONce a baby is born we assign them a sex - that assignment then shapes the way in which the baby will develop socially. We are stripping away the ability for the baby to ulitimately make its own decisions.
We should all try to deconstruct our gender and sexuality. Where do our behaviors and actions come from? Are we simply performing the role we feel we must ascribe to?
In terms of practical things we can change today...we need to get rid of our restroom system. It reinforces the false male/female binary system.
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