Friday, September 7, 2012

Feminist Theory Reading Club: Read The Dialectic of Sex by Shulamith Firestone by Oct 4. We will discuss it online. Details forthcoming. Use Feminist Thought by Rosemarie Tong as a supplemental text. The next book will be picked by the people who finish the first book. If no one finishes I will pick the next book.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Veiled Threats? by Martha Nussbaum

World reknowned feminist philosopher, Martha Nussbaum, shares her well-reasoned argument against banning the burqa on the New York Times site today
A third argument, very prominent today, is that the burqa is a symbol of male domination that symbolizes the objectification of women (that they are being seen as mere objects). A Catalonian legislator recently called the burqa a “degrading prison.” The first thing we should say about this argument is that the people who make it typically don’t know much about Islam and would have a hard time saying what symbolizes what in that religion. But the more glaring flaw in the argument is that society is suffused with symbols of male supremacy that treat women as objects. Sex magazines, nude photos, tight jeans — all of these products, arguably, treat women as objects, as do so many aspects of our media culture. And what about the “degrading prison” of plastic surgery? Every time I undress in the locker room of my gym, I see women bearing the scars of liposuction, tummy tucks, breast implants. Isn’t much of this done in order to conform to a male norm of female beauty that casts women as sex objects? Proponents of the burqa ban do not propose to ban all these objectifying practices. Indeed, they often participate in them. And banning all such practices on a basis of equality would be an intolerable invasion of liberty. Once again, then, the opponents of the burqa are utterly inconsistent, betraying a fear of the different that is discriminatory and unworthy of a liberal democracy. The way to deal with sexism, in this case as in all, is by persuasion and example, not by removing liberty.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Judith Butler - I must distance myself from this complicity with racism

Judith Butler refused to accept an award from Berlin Pride, making this anti-racist statement:

"When I consider what it means today, to accept such an award, then I believe, that I would actually lose my courage, if i would simply accept the price under the present political conditions. ... For instance: Some of the organizers explicitly made racist statements or did not dissociate themselves from them. The host organizations refuse to understand antiracist politics as an essential part of their work. Having said this, I must distance myself from this complicity with racism, including anti-Muslim racism.

We all have noticed that gay, bisexual, lesbian, trans and queer people can be instrumentalized by those who want to wage wars, i.e. cultural wars against migrants by means of forced islamophobia and military wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. In these times and by these means, we are recruited for nationalism and militarism. Currently, many European governments claim that our gay, lesbian, queer rights must be protected and we are made to believe that the new hatred of immigrants is necessary to protect us. Therefore we must say no to such a deal. To be able to say no under these circumstances is what I call courage. But who says no? And who experiences this racism? Who are the queers who really fight against such politics?"

Read Judith Butler's statement here

"I must distance myself from this complicity with racism, including anti-Muslim racism." 'Civil Courage Prize' Refusal Speech. Christopher Street Day. June 19, 2010.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

As you might know, there's a new translation of Simone de Beauvoir's classic feminist text, The Second Sex, out in hardcover. I don't have a copy yet and I don't think the library does either, but I spent awhile at Orca skimming through it a few weeks ago and if they didn't have a cat that was making me sneeze I would probably have read a lot more in one sitting.

I'm tempted to get it this week because the next reading in The Feminist Theory Reader (FTR) is the introduction to The Second Sex and it would be cool to compare the translations here. I'm not sure how different it will be, but I'm excited to re-read it.

A few years back I was involved in a feminist theory book club. We tried to take a "break" over the summer and a few of us (ok two, hi Marissa) agreed to read The Second Sex. I should have known better. Out of all the book clubs I've started, most of them fall apart over the summer or when we tried to read classic, long books. Other examples: Moby Dick, Ulysses and what were we talking about, oh yeah The Second Sex!

So anyhow, I had to read a lot of it in school -early 1991- along with a packet of queer theory articles, post-structuralist feminist theory and a bunch of books by radical WOC. I remember getting 50 pages of Judith Butler's Gender Trouble handed out as a xerox and losing my mind! But really, The Second Sex, despite its flaws and limitations, really inspired me at the time. I had taken a lot of philosophy from male teachers who were open-minded, inclusive and knowledgeable but it was reading De Beauvoir and not Foucault (though I am a fan) that really got my mind thinking critically in ways that applied to my own life and helped me navigate my way out of the very male-dominated world I was living in at 21...I could relate to a lot of her personal conflicts and the way she explained the world was truly illuminating to me. She articulated things I had felt for so long, that I had no words for (I stopped talking an hour ago) and she was so precise and funny and smart. I think of her writing a lot and often return to her work.

Still, as hugely influential as it was on me, I'm not sure if I've ever read The Second Sex cover-to-cover...I've read The Ethics of Ambiguity, The Mandarins, She Came to Stay, The Prime of Life, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, Woman Destroyed and I don't know what all else by Simone de Beauvoir, not to mention several biographies, literary history, late 20th century feminist critique etc.

In the past few months I re-read the ending of Prime of Life and started reading Force of Circumstance. I'm currently in the middle of A Very Easy Death and re-read the introduction to The Second Sex in FTR yesterday.

So maybe it's time to try again, seeing as how Simone de Beauvoir is haunting my brain right now and this book is there, sitting at Orca Books, just a few blocks away?

Or maybe it's because today is the longest day of the year and I think I can read every book and play guitar every day and write and exercise and go to work and still have time to listen to all the records I need to review? Not to mention, making dinner, doing the dishes, cleaning the bathroom and clearing a space to write in my room?

Well, I won't make any promises, but I did just find this:

Maybe if I just take it if I'm not already moving slow enough...well I guess I'll just read and keep track of it here and you'll have to wait and see what happens dot dot dot style.

P.S. Joaquin just reminded me that today is not only Summer Solstice, but it is Jean Paul Sartre's birthday. You might know him as Simone de Beauvoir's boyfriend/life-partner/comrade. Ha.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Vijay Prashad & Inji Aflatun

Anti-colonial nationalism, even in its reformist incarnations, worried about the woman question. An end to social oppression found its way on to the agenda of national liberation. At its most traditional, such an end looked like the modernization of patriarchy, with the new woman relegated to the domain of the home. On the more progressive side of national liberation, one finds many who argued that cultural traditions had ossified under the impact of patriarchy and feudal relations, and any opportunity to redress this had been suffocated by imperialism's alliance with the old social classes, which benefited from misogyny and status. Women and men, in this model, had to struggle against conservative domesticity and reconfigure what it is to be the public space of the nation and the private domain of the family.
-Vijay Prashad, The Darker Nations

The chapter "Cairo" in The Darker Nations by Vijay Prashad provides context to "We Egyptian Women" by Inji Aflatun in the Feminist Theory Reader.

Prashad views women's participation in anti-colonial struggles as a "first step towards liberation", claiming that "imperialism made progress for women nearly impossible". Women fought alongside men for national independence in Algeria, Cuba, Guinea, Indonesia, Kenya, Korea, Oman, Venezuela & Vietnam. Women dominated street protests in Egypt, India & Zanzibar, etc. This was a basis for anti-colonial solidarity all over the world. The struggle for representative democracy provided an ideological basis for extending political rights to women. This setting needs to be taken into account when reading 20th century feminist theory.

Putting Aflatun's essay in this context is helpful.

Egypt briefly granted women the vote in 1923, after independence was established. The Egyptian feminist movement can be traced back to this time period. Women won the vote again in 1956.

Writing in 1949, Aflatun equates democracy & modernization with women's full political participation. She claims the enemies of women are enemies of democracy, arguing that women are citizens and that to deny them rights would be an "injustice to society".

Rejecting the public/private split of classical liberalism, Aflatun does not see family (the domestic sphere) in opposition to society. She points out that women deal with social problems on a daily basis, naming clothing, food, health care, education, children and housing as issues.

She identifies British imperialism as contributing to illiteracy, noting that rates were highest before 1923. Education and literacy are goals to strive for, not barriers to granting women the vote.

Aflatun concludes by examining the status of women in an international human rights framework, noting that the UN Charter (1946) names equality as an issue and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) claims that everyone is deserving of the same rights, regardless of sex.

Because I still don't know that much about 20th century Egyptian political history, I am not sure why Aflatun's feminism hinges on the idea of Egypt as a modern state. Following Prashad, I think it's important to view this as part of the larger struggle for Third World independence, but it's unclear to me why Aflatun is so focused on viewing Egypt as a civilized nation. What do "modernization" and "civilized" mean in this context? In order to understand this, I think I need to know more about Nasser's Pan-Arabism.

Prashad notes that Nasser's Egypt has been criticized for promoting "state feminism", where women became dependent on the state instead of the family.

Aflatun's essay ends by praising Syria as the first Arab nation to give women the right to vote, but notes that this was limited progress because it was only given to educated women. It's not clear if Aflatun believes that all women are equal, but she does advocate full political participation for all women.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Todos Somos Arizona: Immigration is a Feminist Issue

According to the NY Times, several thousand people demonstrated on May 1 for immigration reform. These numbers included 50,000 in LA, 25,000 in Dallas, 10,000 in Chicago, 10,000 in Milwaukee & "thousands" in SF & DC. The NY Times failed to mention that "thousands" also marched in Seattle.

I remember learning about some of the issues surrounding immigration in 1994 when Proposition 187 passed in California. We were on tour and not reading the news and when we heard it passed I didn't really 'get it' at first. It took awhile to sink in...and when it did I realized I had a lot to learn.

A few years ago, I came across this article that clearly articulated why immigration is a feminist issue. It's written by Jesscia Hoffman as a white woman to white feminists and discusses privilege and accountability.

She poses the question:

Prominent white feminists often say they are organizing against violence, for safety. So where have they been while working-class immigrant women have been pulled from their homes and workplaces, often separated from their young children, in immigration raids across the United States in recent months?

She goes on to say:

Immigrant communities are living in near-constant fear, with little "safety"; women and trans and gender-nonconforming people are suffering gender-based violence at the hands of federal immigration officials; and the movement for immigration-policy reform is arguably the largest mass movement in the United States today.

I was reminded of this quote when I was reading the paper on Sunday and wanted to link to it here, because it brings up a lot of issues that are relevant to what's happening right now.

I just wrote this long semi-coherent rambling thing about being on tour and trying to open up the mic for political dialogue on May Day in LA...and how it didn't work... Punk Rock Feminism rah rah rah. But what I really want to say is TODOS SOMOS ARIZONA... that is a cry for solidarity.

Please write to the Governor of Arizona voicing your opposition to SB1070 and if you are in a band, BOYCOTT ARIZONA.

To people who have a problem with that
: would you have played South Africa during apartheid? A boycott is an act of solidarity with people who are oppressed. Being in a punk band does not make you above solidarity. Think about it. I hate how punks think they are immune or somehow "outside" of the power structure. And let's not get into a thing about how it's ok to eat dumpster-dived grapes or pizza from that anti-abortion chain. That's not the same as what we are talking about here and you know it. Or you should know it. To all the punks who live in Arizona, SOLIDARITY !!!! Sorry but you're gonna have to jump a train across state lines to see shows for awhile.

From a recent Threadbared post
, here's what Chuck D and his wife Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson have to say about SB1070:

Jan Brewer’s decision to sign the Arizona immigration bill into law is racist, deceitful, and reflects some of the most mean-spirited politics against immigrants that the country has ever seen. The power that this law gives to police, to detain people that they suspect to be undocumented, brings racial profiling to a new low. Brewer’s actions and those of Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce, the Arizona State Senate are despicable, inexcusable, and endorse the all-out hate campaign that Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce, and others have perpetrated upon immigrants for years. The people of Arizona who voted for this bill, as well as those who crafted it, demonstrate no regard for the humanity or contributions of Latino people. And for all of those who have chosen not to speak up, shame on you for silently endorsing this legislated hate.

In 1991 I wrote a song criticizing Arizona officials (including John McCain and Fife Symington) for rejecting the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The same politics I wrote about in “By the Time I Get to Arizona” are alive and well in Arizona today, but this time the target is Brown people.

These actions must stop. I am issuing a call to action, urging my fellow musicians, artists, athletes, performers, and production companies to refuse to work in Arizona until officials not only overturn this bill, but recognize the human rights of immigrants. This should include the NBA playoffs, revisiting the actions of the NFL in 1993, when they moved the Superbowl to Pasadena in protest against Arizona’s refusal to recognize Dr. King. We all need to speak up in defense of our brothers and sisters being victimized in Arizona, because things are only getting worse. What they’re doing to immigrants is appalling, but it will be even more damning if we remain silent.”

Listen to Chuck D's new song here:

When are we gonna get the punk rock feminist version of this statement?

Solidarity forever!

Happy Birthday Pete Seeger: