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The Education of Shelby Knox (2005) is a must see. The film documents the activism of teenager Shelby Knox’s and her fight for the right to comprehensive sex education for teenagers and for basic civil rights for all people no matter their sexual orientation is inspirational. Knox’s struggle is of particular interest because of her conservative christian/ republican upbringing in Lubbock, TX.
Proving that you are never to young to speak up and speak out, Knox shines as a genuine critical-thinker who examines the moral framework of her upbringing and finds it lacking – noting that her god is a forgiving and loving god. Knox’s determination and endless pursuit of social justice reminds viewers why we need voices and activism.
In all honesty – I am late in the game on this one. I should have seen it six years ago, but it is still worth watching. For those of you who have Netflix – the film is available through instant watch or you can buy it on Amazon. And if you don’t know – Shelby is still out there fighting her fight. You can find her blog at shelbyknox.com and her twitter handle is @ShelbyKnox.
Susan B. Anthony, a primary organizer, speaker, and writer for the 19th century women’s rights movement in the United States. she said, “It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union,” and “It would be ridiculous to talk of male and female atmospheres, male and female springs or rains, male and female sunshine…. how much more ridiculous is it in relation to mind, to soul, to thought, where there is as undeniably no such thing as sex, to talk of male and female education and of male and female schools.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Her Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the first women’s rights convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, is often credited with initiating the first organized woman’s rights and woman’s suffrage movements in the United States. She said, “Because man and woman are the complement of one another, we need woman’s thought in national affairs to make a safe and stable government,” and “The heyday of woman’s life is the shady side of fifty.”
Ida B. Wells, was an African American journalist and an early leader in the civil rights movement. She documented the extent of lynching in the United States, and was also active in the women’s rights movement and the women’s suffrage movement. She said, “No nation, savage or civilized, save only the United States of America, has confessed its inability to protect its women save by hanging, shooting, and burning alleged offenders, and “The negro has suffered far more from the commission of this crime against the women of his race by white men than the white race has ever suffered through his crimes.”
Carrie Chapman Catt was a women’s suffrage leader who campaigned for the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which gave U.S. women the right to vote in 1920. Catt served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and was the founder of the League of Women Voters and the International Alliance of Women. She said, “This world taught woman nothing skillful and then said her work was valueless. It permitted her no opinions and said she did not know how to think. It forbade her to speak in public, and said the sex had no orators,” and “Just as the world war is no white man’s war, but every man’s war, so is the struggle for woman suffrage no white woman’s struggle, but every woman’s struggle.”
Alice Paul was an American suffragist and activist. Along with Lucy Burns and others, she led a successful campaign for women’s suffrage that resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. Hillary Swank played her in Iron Jawed Angels. (You should see this movie by the way.) She said, “I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality,” and “Sometimes, if you wear suits for too long, it changes your ideology.”
And there were so many others! Lucretia Mott, Maud Humphrey, Mary Edith Campbell, Lucy Burns, Julia Ward Howe, Margaret Mitchell, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Mary Church Terrell, Millicent Garret Fawcett …
So recently I have encountered two things that deal with questions of masculinity and the oppressions that men suffer a blog entry by Pris Killingly @R]Evolutionary Witticisms in 4/4 Time entitled Our Boys Are Being Failed – A Primer and an awesome masculinist blog called No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz? – which I mentioned yesterday or the day before. And after reading these things I felt that I needed to clarify my position regarding men and feminism. Or rather that a conversation about where I stand regarding questions like do men belong in the feminist movement might clarify for some of you just what kind of feminist I am and also what I actually hope for in terms of social justice.
If you read my blog regularly you’ll remember a post I made a few weeks ago about inequalities in social justice. With reference to these ideas, I have often become enraged in women’s studies and feminist classrooms when people mention “women’s spaces” – or rather events that exclude or ban the presence of men. I feel that banning or eliminating the presence of men from the feminist discussion not only repeats the oppressions of a patriarchal culture but also underscores the male/female difference – creating no room for healing this false cultural divide.
As the bloggers @ What about the Menz? and Pris Killingly make clear the constructions of masculinity have created cultural oppressions for some men in ways that are similar to the oppressions that many women have felt and feel. That said – like with all norms – the enactment of the norm for men, i.e. sterotypical masculinity results in certain privileges, and in the case of men – those privileges are extensive. BUT still what if you’re not heteronormative or white or sporty or strong or whatever… What then? – Honestly, if you are not a man’s man who can easily enact the role of masculinity , then the ridicule that comes with failing at masculinity is vast and plentiful. Apparently, there are some feminists out there that seem to feel male privilege creates a un-sealable rift between the sexes and therefore they look down of masculinist identities by arguing that men have the privileges so they can’t complain. As far as I am concerned, I don’t need to compare suffering – if you tell me your suffering, I believe you and support you desire to escape the state you interpret as oppressive. To be fair, I’m pretty well versed in terms of feminists and I don’t know any who feel 100% anti-men but I do know MANY who feel the sexes need to remain divided particularly with regard to these “women’s spaces” which allow women to “heal” from the abuses they have suffered at the hands of men. To be clear, the abuses I am discussing are of a philosophical nature. Sexual assault and/or physical abuse clearly require healing, and it is understandable why a woman/man who has suffered from this kind of abuse would want to avoid all types that represented her/his abuser. I am not talking about this. I am talking about women’s conferences and meetings and politics, which exclude men. I am talking about the complexities of oppression that come along when we truly understand how race, sex, class, religion, sexuality and other aspects of culture converge to define us in relation to an unobtainable norm – and the need to stop seeing the world as an abstract farce of oppositions.
That said, I believe that we all – every plant, animal and mineral – suffer under the construct of masculinity and the understanding of “masculinity” as the penultimate state of perfection. The element or concept associated with masculinity that makes this true is reason. Reason is currently used to justify male mastery or rather the human understanding of ourselves as the master consciousness on the planet and the enforcement of this mastery through violence of all kinds – physical, political, verbal, sexual, fiscal etc. I have formed this opinion by reading books and articles – amongst others – Val Plumwood’s Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, Micheal Kimmel’s Guyland (see point five of Popculture Smörgåsbord) and James Gilligan’s Preventing Violence.
In particular Plumwood enabled me to understand that we see the world through a dualistic framework. Culturally we formulate our understanding of the world and cultures by defining things in opposition to each other and this opposition implies a hierarchy of dominance and submission. For example, if we look at dualisms such as male/female, civilized/savage, mind (spirit)/body, culture (human reason)/nature, master/slave etc., we recognize that traditions of western philosophic thought and practice have often defined these concepts as in opposition to each other and rendered one dominate over the other: male over female; civilized over savage; mind over body; culture over nature; and master over slave. Plumwood calls the philosophical practice of constructing reality in terms of hierarchical dualisms, the “master” consciousness or the “master model,” highlighting the oppressive nature of this kind of thinking (Plumwood 3, 23).From this perspective, at the core of continued oppression of all material beings is the assumption that human reason dominates all, particularly the corporal, natural or material.
The underlying oppression of dualism is not a concept of Plumwood’s conception; it has been explained and employed by many philosophical and feminist scholars (Derrida 1981; Beauvoir 1952; Bordo 1993, Collins 2000, etc.). Plumwood recognizes the deeper theoretical construct of “privileged domain of the master,” and subsequent subjects (Plumwood 3). She explains, “much of feminist theory has detected a masculine presence in the officially gender-neutral concept of reason…it is not a masculine identity pure and simple, but the multiple, complex cultural identity of the master formed in the context of class, race, species and gender domination” (Plumwood 5). In other words, rather than recognize the world in terms of male domination and female subordination, Plumwood views dualism as the enabling force behind power and domination, which is not inherently male but rather dependant upon a deeply more complex and ecumenically political culture, which is currently dominated by the masculine.
I tell you all of this to make a point you may have heard me make before – acting out the role most often associated with masculinity – i.e. the role of mastery helps no one. It doesn’t help men or women who are suffering from the homophopic/violent tendencies of a heteronormative masculine culture; it also plays a role in how we view nature and animals and everything else. So, a feminist acting like the patriarchy by being exclusionary and ostracizing themselves from men doesn’t genuinely understand the meaning of the word equality. Nor does she understand the philosophical framework which allows us to construct oppression, and in doing so she leaves herself open to the possibility of being THE OPPRESOR!!! This is not a solution. We need to overturn our culture of perfection and mastery – WE NEED A SHIFT IN CONSCIOUSNESS.
and honestly, that shift cannot – will not happen – unless we genuinely recognize that hierarchy stinks – nothing is black and white and no one way is the best way – or rather it’s more complicated than male/female or any other false opposition you want to throw my way.
So there are some posts that I’ve been meaning to write but I’ve been rushing to tie up loose ends regarding my submission to Hunger Games and Philosophy (edited by George Dunn and Nick Michaud) and now my thoughts on these bits and pieces are getting untimely so consider this particular post my way of saying got any thoughts on this nonsense:
1. Recently, yesterday in fact, I was reading Feministe and I became aware of a 30-year-old McCain staffer’s marriage to a girl who was 17 when they met. There are some semantics in this situation – she was of age when they married and they are very wealthy, blah, blah, blah… So the conversations about statutory rape and what not have gotten pretty overlooked, but what is the deal with women wanting to get married at 17? Ouch, say. Also, there is something so weird about how republicans can twist culture’s moral rules – think Bristol Palin pregnancy – and it’s okay but when liberals do this crap the world goes haywire. Scarier is Doug Hutchison’s (51) nuptials to a sixteen year old.
2. I need to mention www.xojane.com. I’m not sure how many of your remember Sassy Magazine but as a teenager it was my bible and it’s existence started a life long love affair (from afar) between myself and Jane Pratt – who if you don’t know was also the editor of Jane Magazine for most of its lifetime, and I would argue that her retirement from the magazine caused its demise. That said, like other feminists, I am not feeling Pratt’s newest endeavor 100%. Perhaps I return to my not so third wave feminist outlook – but the website is way more junk than edgy smart – a little more serious please! I want headings like politics and news – not just sex and beauty. What up, Jane?
3. It’s worth noting Anushay Hossain of ANUSHAY’S POINT. I first discovered her on Broadminded. She is Molly and Christine’s Feminist Broad, and her blog is always interesting and worth reading. Subscribe. Hey, while I’m at it subscribe to Feminist Cupcake, that blog is the bomb-diggity – you should subscribe to that blog too. In particular Anushay has written an informative ditty about Saudi Women’s Protest against the ban on women driving in their country.
4. Speaking of Broadminded – Yesterday morning I caught the last bit of a conversation concerning bullying and cyber bullying among teens. Unfortunately, I am not sure of their guest’s name but he said something about how our television shows and movies present adults making fun of people or embarrassing pranks as so funny and humorous – which in turn got me thinking about the movie Bridesmaids. I meant to review this film for you guys – but I’ve been busy, like I said. There was feminist potential here but I think it sank. (More later). With regards to adult bullying, sort of, so many movies, including bridesmaids present other people’s embarrassment as something we should laugh at. Admittedly, there are moments when someone trips or slides on a piece of lettuce (circa 1996, June and Ho – Rye, NY) and you can’t help but laugh. But still – is food poisoning that causes you to poop your pants funny? I say no. Maybe I’m too empathetic – but watching other people’s embarrassment – embarrasses me.
5. Finally, I wanted to turn y’all on to Micheal Kimmel, who is a spectacular example of a male feminist. I am presenting at the NWSA conference this year and he’s speaking and I absolutely can’t wait. I also teach his article “Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame, and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity” in my classrooms. Recently, on his Ms. Blog, that considers the whole Wiener incident, “Ah-nuld, DSK, Weiner–And Us.” A worthwhile read.