Using subject position as a terministic screen in cross-boundary discourse permits analysis to operate kaleidoscopically, thereby permitting interpretation to be richly informed by the converging of dialectical perspectives.
--Jacqueline Jones Royster
“When the First Voice You Hear is Not Your Own”
Sometimes a man’s ostensible attempts at objective representation is more problematic than just a jigsaw puzzle.
My daughter has her Honors Biology final today. Last night, she asked me to help her review the material. Much in the textbook, explicitly, is directly from Aristotle. In fact, he’s given credit for the classifications and the classification system as a “scientist and philosopher.” The test is over various Phyla and Classes of lower level species, and the textbook is fairly thorough, just as is Aristotle. What the book leaves out, is Aristotle’s discussion of females. He claims females leave a lot out that whole males complete. My daughter, in talking about that, has lots of questions about the credibility of Aristotle, and of his observational method. So do I.
Then, this morning, I read David Ker’s latest post on puzzles. It’s another fantastic one, asking about what people in
What's wrong with this picture? It's pretty unlikely that . . . ! Imagine the art director for . . . [the] Magazine talking to the illustrator and saying, “For this story we want a picture of . . . ” Then the illustrator went to the drawing board and thought to himself, “What kind of picture can my young readers understand?” The result was this . . . . Does this image have any relation to the actual historical event?”
Now some questions that David Ker doesn’t ask, but our daughters do.
- Isn’t it ironic that men feel like they have to conceive of biology or history as a jigsaw puzzle, and yet some of the biggest pieces left out are females?
- Why in our imagined hierarchy is there an “art director” directing art to “the illustrator” who directs the representation of some “actual historical event” to “my young readers”? Why, along the hierarchical chain here, must we imagine the “illustrator” to be a male by default, who must represent down to children?
- Why does a King trying to solve a puzzle at his own dinner table say to his own child, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman!” Why is the story, in history, represented this way by the male historian? And why don’t we, whether in the West or in
ask ourselves where is she, this woman? And why can’t she represent herself? Is she just a missing piece of our puzzle, to represent a father, a son, and another man who would be king? Mozambique
- And when professor Ker has us blog readers “Imagine the trouble we had several years ago translating this [other] strange scene . . .,” why do we not by default find it unimaginable that the very strange thing is that the woman in this history is always unnamed (to this day!)? Why is she always the representative “sinner” in the story, and represented as “at his feet, weeping, and began[ing] to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair”? Is she just a missing piece of our puzzle really only, mainly, to represent our Western or Mozambiquan or Jewish imaginations of him?
I suppose this is very difficult for some of us. Not because it’s some puzzle of history, or of art. But because we are so reflexively trained to ask certain questions, and not others. We think with our “objectivity” (i.e., from the perspective at the top of the hierarchical heap) as the best way to solve our problems. Are we afraid that our subjectivity is going to miss something? Or, really, is it just maybe we are afraid that subjectivity’s going to knock us down off our (male, Western, interpreting and translating for others) high horse?
My daughter asks me, “Why don’t I get to study psychology in high school?” And she, just completing her first year, is starting to see that there are some things very personal that biology, Aristotle-style, just leaves missing. She’s also in Honors Bible at her private Christian school. Can you imagine her questions about that subject? “Why do men say so much about women without letting the women say much of anything?” Good questions for us men and women to ask.