Wednesday, May 23, 2007

feminismS (essence? estrangement? expulsion?)

Intellectuals insist:
"De-scribe what you mean by feminism!"
  1. "Define its essence."
  2. "Differentiate it from, say, traditionalism. Declare its estrangement from so-called masculinism. "
  3. "Do acknowledge the extreme expulsion it expects. Either defend it or deconstruct it."

feminists foster feminisms other-wise:

1. essence? pluralities

Sonja K. Foss, for example, discusses “feminist criticism,” which she explains “has emerged as one method by which scholars engage in research designed to intervene in the ideology of domination” (157). She concedes this is simply “[o]ne common definition of feminism [that most] features the concept of equality, exemplified in definitions such as the belief that women and men should have equal opportunities for self expression” (151). Thus, she names more than a dozen “various kinds of identifications” (152) within the “three waves or stages” (151) of "feminism" [153]). Foss agrees that one may attempt to describe “the essence of feminism,” but she refuses to essentialize the pluralities. Feminisms, for the most part, seem to be involved in “the effort to eliminate relations of domination not just for women but for all people” including “women, African Americans, old people, lesbians, gay men, or others” (153); hence, what is named singularly “feminist criticism is the analysis of rhetoric to discover how the rhetorical construction of gender is used as a means for domination and how that process can be challenged so that all people understand that they have the capacity to claim agency and act in the world as they choose”(157). And, generally, perhaps “the concern of feminist critics is with relationships of domination of all kinds, not simply those based on gender . . . [but also any of many] based on race, class, sexual orientation, or any other dimension of identity” (157). Therefore, for that method of rhetorical criticism concerning “relationships of domination,” Foss explains, there is that “label—feminism.” (See the chapter "Feminist Criticism" in Rhetorical Criticism, 3rd ed, 2004).

2. estrangement? no, and yes

Patricia Bizzell asks:

"Have [Jacqueline Jones] Royster, and other feminist scholars for whom she has now more completely articulated methodologies already in practice, departed radically from the rhetorical tradition?"

So Bizzell answers:

Yes, and no. No, because their work relies upon many of the traditional tools of research in the history of rhetoric. No, because the rhetors they have added to our picture of the history of Western rhetoric seem to me to be working within this tradition and enriching it, rather than consituting utterly separate or parallel rhetorical traditions. But yes, because in order to get at activities of these new rhetors, researchers have had to adopt radically new methods as well, methods which violate some of the most cherished conventions of academic research, most particularly in bringing the person of the researcher, her body, her emotions, and dare one say, her soul, into the work. (Feminist Methods of Research in the History of Rhetoric: What Difference Do They Make? (Rhetoric Society Quarterly 30, Fall 2000: 17)

3. explusion? rather: a sheltering and nurturing in a babel of eroticism, attachment, and empathy

Nancy Mairs writes on the difference between the "fundamental structure of patriarchy" and "women's language":

The difference that emerges here [i.e., in language marked as
feminist] is not the polarity intrinsic in the dominant discourse [i.e., unmarked masculinism], which reduces “woman to man’s opposite, his other, the negative of the positive.” No, this is an absolute and radical alterity that enfolds the other, as in pregnancy a woman’s immune system shuts down in such a way that she shelters and nourishes, rather than rejects and expels, the foreign body within her: “Cells fuse, split, and proliferate; volumes grow, tissues stretch, and body fluids change rhythm, speeding up or slowing down. Within the body, growing as a graft, indomitable, there is an other. And no one is present, within that simultaneously dual and alien space, to signify what is going on.” Feminine discourse is not the language of opposites but a babel of eroticism, attachment, and empathy. (Voice Lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer, 40-42)

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