Saturday, May 23, 2009

Beyond: Default Phallogocentrism for Feminism

I'd urge you to read very closely David E. S. Stein's “On Beyond Gender: The Representation of God in the Torah and in Three Recent English Renditions” published in Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues and just made available online (as per his two links at John F. Hobbins' blog Ancient Hebrew Poetry, where John twice at least valorized the piece before anyone could easily read it). Unfortunately, Gesa E. Kirsch's and Joy S. Ritchie's article, "Beyond the Personal: Theorizing a Politics of Location in Composition Research," is still not available online for free (although your library might have CCC 46.1 [1995]: 7-29); I'd urge you to read that article just as closely. Then come back here to finish my post.

What did you notice? See the default, unmarked masculinist frames? Beyond Gender is where Stein suggests three works go, and ought to go, when representing God in the Torah. Beyond the Personal is where Kirsch and Ritchie say (feminist) composition scholars go, and ought to go, when collaborating with students on publication and such.

What if "going beyond" is really never going anywhere except this place where one pretends he's not priviledged? Can't we see how "gender" and "the personal" become objectified by these scholars pretending to say something about the well-bounded limits of the "feminine" and of "feminisms"? As if beyond gender is not gendered masculine by default. As if beyond the personal is not gendered male in an unmarked way.


Katherine said...

I am always suspicious that calls like this to go beyond something (gender, race) are simply pleas to just shut up about it already and go back to "normal". That may just be my her-meneutic of suspicion, though.

I remember one time in college (a Christian college) there was a flyer for a talk about going "beyond modesty" posted on the forum wall (a wall in the student center where people would post news or opinion and people would write comments on the paper; come to think of it, it was kinda like a blog). I wondered what that could mean, especially since it seemed nobody agreed with anybody about what modesty meant in the first place. So I wrote "can we at least agree on 'modesty' before we start going beyond it?" I came back later and saw someone had written below it "I'm not responsible for your lust!" (I have to say at this point that I have pretty sloppy handwriting, such that it seems to be gendered masculine in anonymous settings). My thought was: no, no you're not.

John Hobbins said...

Hi Kurk,

I've been meaning to interact with you a little bit for a long time.

Most people for whom the Bible is understood as light, compass, and mirror, are not going to give you the time of day, as you must realize by now, because they hear you saying that the Bible is darkness, in need of a "strong reading" from the outside in order to render it innocuous, and profoundly distorting as an instrument of self-examination.

I disagree with you on all counts, but I applaud your honesty as you develop your point of view "over against" Scripture from a point of view (desde) external to it.

Furthermore, I am happy to interact with you, because your questions are my questions, no matter how differently we answer them.

As far as I can see, you come at scripture with axe in hand. If the options are:

(1) that the Bible is God's word and its teaching perfect and infallible, just what God intended,


(2) the Bible is imperfect and fallible - except for the parts we like based on some external criterion,

I will go with (1) every time. I see you going with (2). Correct me if I'm wrong.

But it's not (1) or (2), sic et simpliciter, for those who consider Augustine's De Doctrina Christiana - a treatise on scriptural interpretation - to be of fundamental importance.

TO Be CONTINUED on my blog - since your comments section does not accept long comments.

Torah said...


J. K. Gayle said...

Katherine, Thanks for your comment, your her-meneutic! I absolutely love that personal and gendered story of yours (and appreciate, both personally and with respect to gender, how certain readers of your handwriting have made such absolute assumptions about you). It's the "Christian" label, you know, that tripped up Joy Ritchie in her collaboration with one of her students (as she made the absolute assumption that the one learning from her increasingly was less feminist because she, the student, was more and more "Christian").

I'm flattered you'd read and now write an entire post at your blog to me. I absolutely love that you (always it seems) press for the "common ground." Too bad my blog's comments section doesn't allow you to go on and on here - I can't figure out why. But I also can't at the moment respond to each point you wrote (even in your short note to me here). I ahve about as much hope for dialog with you as Socrates did in perfecting Aspasia's dialectic method - in other words, I'm really looking forward to it and personally am humbled by your taking the first move to try to outline some of my positions here. You are very close, I concede. But we're not at all close in many ways. This weekend, I'll likely not get to what you wrote over at your blog. Please understand it's just I'm not at the PC much during this American holiday time.

Torah, Thank you, indeed.