The dilemma of feminist researchers working on groups less privileged than themselves can be succinctly stated as follows: is it possible—not in theory, but in the actual conditions of the real world today—to write about the oppressed without becoming one of the oppressors?
In an absolute sense, I think not. In addition to the characteristic privileges of race and class, the existential or psychological dilemmas of the split between subject and object on which all research depends (even that of the most intense participant observer) imply that objectification, the utilisation of others for one’s own purposes and the possibility of exploitation, are built into almost all research projects with living human beings.(Patai, 1991, p.139).
Gluck, S. B., & Patai, D. (Eds.). (1991). Women’s words: The feminist practice of oral history. New York: Routledge. (p. 139)
“…feminists imagine that merely engaging in the discourse of feminism protects them from the possibility of exploiting other women, while their routine research practices are and continue to be embedded in a situation of inequality” Daphne Patai
To intervene in the name of transformation means precisely to disrupt what has become settled knowledge and knowable reality, and to use, as it were, one’s unreality to make an otherwise impossible or illegible claim…. when the unreal lays claim to reality, or enters into its domain, something other than a simple assimilation into prevailing norms can and does take place. The norms themselves can become rattled, display their instability, and become open to resignification (Judith Butler 2004, 27-28).
“To make trouble was, within the reigning discourse of my childhood, something one should never do precisely because that would get one in trouble. The rebellion and its reprimand seemed to be caught up in the same terms, a phenomenon that gave rise to my first critical insight into the subtle ruse of power: the prevailing law threatened one with trouble, even put one in trouble, all to keep one out of trouble. Hence, I concluded that trouble is inevitable and the task, how best to make it, what best way to be in it” (Gender Trouble, Judith Butler xxvii).
While laudable in its efforts to educate both teachers and students about the violent effects of various isms that impact LGBT people, I have always found myself at odds with the very notion that the classroom can or should be a safe place. In my early years of teaching I recall conversations with colleagues who identified as allies and spoke of the ways in which they establish their classrooms as “safe spaces”: places LGBT students could expect to be free from anti-gay bias and homophobia. I was always taken aback by these conversations, in part because I espouse Stuart Hall’s (1996) sense that there are “no guarantees” in either hegemonic or counter-hegemonic struggles for power, and in part because such an approach suggests that the teacher can single-handedly mold the fluid, dynamic nature of a classroom into a safe space for those who might be identified as queer or identified as marginalized in other ways. Heteronormativity is partially constructed through a dichotomous logic, where heterosexuality is considered normal, natural, and inevitable and homosexuality is constructed as its binary opposite: abnormal and perverse. Elsewhere, I have argued that discourses of safe spaces for LGBT students too often reproduce this dichotomy through an inclusion model that focuses on homophobia (Fox 2007). Suggesting that allies give, provide, offer, and secure safe space for LGBT people reinforces the normative authority and power of an ally to be the agent configuring what these spaces might be. While the inclusion model has been an important part of development towards queer studies over the last thirty years, it tends to focus on visibility and countering homophobia and often revolves around how to help LGBT people feel comfortable within existing frameworks rather than disrupting them. The display of safe space signs, however well-intentioned, often operates through a transactional rather than transformative logic that serves protect the social safety (or comfort) of allies, thereby occluding genuine reflection, dialogue, and struggle about what might constitute safety for marginalized peoples.
A great read from:
Fox, Catherine O. (2013). Neither Bitch Nor Mother: Queering Safety in the Classroom. Socialist Studies/Études socialistes, 9(1).
Reflecting on how an ethic of maternal care reproduces dominant social relations. “The mothering model…valorizes asymmetric social relations…What the ethic of care takes to be reciprocity (the baby’s smile, the student’s moment of understanding) is not true reciprocity. In contrast to egalitarian relationships such as friendship, ‘caring’ interactions do not include the carer’s needs in the picture. They do not require the cared-for to see the person who is attending to her from the latter’s point of view” (Bernice Fisher (2001).
Throughout the years, African American entertainers, especially those in the R&B field, have often reached for the exotic in order to enhance their art. One of the things reached for was a turban.
A turban is basically a style of headwear that is closely associated with India. It consists of a piece of cloth wrapped around the head, often in an ornate manner. Although the exact history of it is not known, it is believed that the turban evolved out of a hat that was worn in ancient Persia. It has become a symbol of some religions, including Islam (Mohamed was said to have worn a white turban) and Sikhism (all males wear a turban).
“Why am I compelled to write?… Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger… To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispell the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit… Finally I write because I’m scared of writing, but I’m more scared of not writing.” ― Gloria E. Anzaldúa
I have a gripe, and that gripe is the proliferation of hip hop workshops targeted at Indigenous mob, particularly young fullas. You may think that this is weird, a long term, hard core Indigenous hiphop-head who doesn’t believe in hip hop workshops? Well, let me explain. I love hip hop. I grew up…
“DuBois pointed out that in order to fully abolish the oppressive conditions produced by slavery, new democratic institutions would have to be created. Because this did not occur; black people encountered new forms of slavery—from debt peonage and the convict lease system to segregated and second-class education. The prison system continues to carry out this terrible legacy. It has become a receptacle for all of those human beings who bear the inheritance of the failure to create abolition democracy in the aftermath of slavery. And this inheritance is not only born by black prisoners, but by poor Latino, Native American, Asians, and white prisoners. Moreover, its use as such a receptacle for people who are deemed the detritus of society is on the rise throughout the world.”
Some powerful leadership: “I want you all to imagine something with me. Imagine that each week an Australian is murdered at a train station.That each week, someone’s brother or sister; mother or father is violently killed getting on or off a train. Picture it? Now picture the public response. It would be a front-page news story in each of our capital cities.Police would flood our stations, while people would avoid public transport in favour of private cars. Congestion would quickly become a major problem, as the number of cars on the roads increased.
The word “crisis” would pepper our talkback.
Can you imagine it?
Okay. Now I have another figure—a real figure—that I think is just as horrific. A figure that is just as worthy of galvanising our sympathy and outrage. But it doesn’t. The figure is this: every week a woman is murdered by her partner or ex-partner. Every week this happens.
Now, our public response isn’t at all like we imagined it would be if those victims died not in their family rooms but at train stations. Why do you think that is? I’ll tell you why I think it is. Because what happens in someone else’s home doesn’t affect us. And because we are constantly misapprehending the nature of violence. We do this because we want to feel safer—so we apportion complicity to those who die violently. In our heads, we make them somehow responsible for the wickedness that befell them.”
“Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and our needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master’s concerns. Now we hear that it is the task of women of Color to educate white women—in the face of tremendous resistance—as to our existence, our differences, our relative roles in our joint survival. This is a diversion of energies and a tragic repetition of racist patriarchal thought.”
"How can you change something if you won’t even acknowledge its existence, or if you downplay its significance? White supremacy is the great silence of our world, and in it is embedded much of what ails us as a planet. The silence around white supremacy is like the silence around Sauron in The Lord of the Rings or the Voldemort name, which must never be uttered in the Harry Potter novels. And yet here’s the rub: If a critique of white supremacy doesn’t first flow through you, doesn’t first implicate you, then you have missed the mark; you have, in fact, almost guaranteed its survival and reproduction. There’s that old saying: The devil’s greatest trick is that he convinced people that he doesn’t exist. Well, white supremacy’s greatest trick is that it has convinced people that, if it exists at all, it exists always in other people, never in us." - Junot Díaz
Ghassan Hage nails the predicament of refugees in Australia.
Like many others I find the images of these “ethnics behind cages” - for this is how they come across - shocking. Even if one is supportive of the practice and does not feel particular empathy towards the “caged”, the practice still stands out as non-ordinary. Indeed, a nationalist register is sometimes evoked to call this “ethnic caging” un-Australian. It strikes many Australians as so shockingly “other” of the Australia they experience in their everyday life. It is certainly different from the Australia I experience on my way to work, for example. This is the kind of place where I can stop at my local Italian coffee shop and engage with the owner in a ritualistic ode to “market multiculturalism”: the multiculturalism of consumption, especially the multiculturalism of ethnic food. The one that makes my macchiattos particularly enjoyable. Where those who are classy enough to appreciate it enjoy eating ethnics, and where ethnics, who are good enough to offer themselves for consumption, enjoy being eaten. Everybody’s happy.
If you think a woman in a tan vinyl bra and underwear, grabbing her crotch and grinding up on a dance partner is raunchy, trashy, and offensive but you don’t think her dance partner is raunchy, trashy, or offensive as he sings a song about “blurred” lines of consent and…
Philosopher Judith Butler on the Value of Reading & the Humanities: McGill Commencement Address
The humanities allow us] to learn to read carefully, with appreciation and a critical eye; to find ourselves, unexpectedly, in the middle of the ancient texts we read, but also to find ways of living, thinking, acting, and reflecting that belong to times and spaces we have never known. The humanities give us a chance to read across languages and cultural differences in order to understand the vast range of perspectives in and on this world. How else can we imagine living together without this ability to see beyond where we are, to find ourselves linked with others we have never directly known, and to understand that, in some abiding and urgent sense, we share a world?
Ideally, we lose ourselves in what we read, only to return to ourselves, transformed and part of a more expansive world — in short, we become more critical and more capacious in our thinking and our acting.