Posted by: ghazzu | December 14, 2007

Fracturing binarism

The name of the chapter itself stands tall amongst this race of the giants in an undeniably stratified society. Bulbeck has furthered these stratifications by eroding the differences that are safely hidden but they do exist even within particular stratas themselves. This on going debate of women being ‘oppressed’ and ’suppressed’ identities in a man’s world is delved more deeply in this chapter. the questions however shifts to a more universal one of what are the first and third worlds?Another more embedded questions in our histories is whether colonized societies saw a rise of the status of women or not? Bulbeck has given individual examples of China, India and Japan to shed light on both sides of the debate.In the Declension narratives of colonialism, the end of the argument is supported; that men and women both lost their status under white colonizers. Edward Said claims as quoted by Bulbeck that it is ‘the politics of blame’, where the white are colonizers are blamed for everything.However, it is the theory of Hybridisation that breaks into the binarism. Frantz Fenon’s writing is shown of ‘black skins wearing white masks’. This evokes feelings of internal cultural dilemna that is buried much deeper than one would assume. Who are we? It is not just black and white, it is what is in between that safely covered empty space in between them that deserves to be understood.This is what outlines’ traditional’ and ‘western’  dualist notions. This dualism of cultures and colors and people, which part of the world do they belong to then? The est way to summarise this chapter in my opinion is what Susanne Keppeler saus (1995:44, 48, 83) as used by Bulbeck that ‘ The expedition ot the Other is invariably also a journey to oneself’. 

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Posted by: ghazzu | December 14, 2007

Liberal Feminism

This chapter focuses on liberal feminism and how it started and emerged as an entity through the centuries and through rigorous struggles. However, the actual content of the chapter managed to leave my appetite unfulfilled and it was only the critique that gripped my attention. One of the most common critique of liberal feminism is that it was considered as a ‘bourgeois, white movement’. The black women were completely excluded and treated as invisibles, where as lesbians on the other hand had to fight for their right to be just as much a part of liberal feminism as others.

            There are two branches of liberal feminism that focus on different pressing issues and do not blend well together. These offshoots cannot be combined for a collective motive as their aims are set a part. The Classical liberals: the protection of civil liberties and Welfare liberals: focuses on economic justice.

            Liberal feminism’s determination to achieve equality has led up to the question of whether it is only equality that they are seeking or if it is power, the domination over men, or like men. This is the most intriguing critique as well, that a draw back of liberal feminists is that they want women to be like men. This role-play comes into question only because liberal feminism does not consider biological differences to play any part is deciding gender roles. For them the distinction between men and women only arises due to cultural, social and societal categories. This oblivion to accept some fundamental biological differences that might also have been used to shape gender roles is a downfall of it.

            In my opinion, liberal feminism has kept working around the peripherals; accepted that men do exist but women co-exist parallel to them. By edging towards voting rights, economic equality or even domestic violence abolition, it wishes to overturn and take over the very structure of society. However, the failure to realize that men have created all the structures themselves, disallows liberal feminism to establish itself completely. For the only way for liberal feminists to achieve what they might be gearing after would be by breaking down the structures and then re-constructing them with a feminist approach. This obviously is a Herculean task that in it self might be an impossibility, but another decades of centuries could bring the answer to all these questions.

Posted by: ghazzu | December 14, 2007

Agency-week 13

Both the chapters fuse an idea so great together that it comes alive, so much so, that women would listen and feel. They will for the sake of their own responsibility and the need to speak- just listen. They would speak not in the form of the voice of words, but that of the magic of poetry. Words with hidden meanings and hidden meanings revealing life itself. That is when women will survive and thrive on their own reality.

In ‘Claiming Education’, Rich emphasizes on the crucial need of the ‘contract’ being fulfilled by all the parties involved; be that the teachers and the students. The chapter invoked a feelings of satisfaction, as if our time had come to awake us. And we women needed to grab it and take responsibility of our own right.

The major themes that are interwoven are that education is in fact the right of women and that women should not allow themselves to be siddled and answered for. Women have to become authoratative, even if that comes from dictatorship because women need to be taken seriously. The objectifying of women is a practice that will be not exercised on the students of the university( another aspect of the contract). For the women who will follow the contract- they will talk and they will speak. This will inevitably come by not adopting silence as a means of communication. That women will not be put aside like all the marganilized communities; all the minorities.

This theme of the woman’s voice is further played into potry as Audre argues. Stressing that poetry is the means of survival for women. That poetry is the perfect disguise to shed light on what women really are, and who women are. The best way to mould the entire chapter of poetry is in this exquisite line:

“This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we can give name to those ideas which are- until the poem- nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt’.

Posted by: ghazzu | December 14, 2007

The Problem of Desire- week 11

‘Desires are constituted through the narratived and storylines, the metaphors, the very language and patterns of existence through which we are “interpellated” into the social world’.

In this article, this was one description of desires that in capsulated so many different layers. The basic problem that the word ‘desire’ has are the various connatations aligned with it. If a “good girl” was to hear it, her reaction would be different from that of a “bad boy”. The reason why this distinction has been discussed is because it is these contradictories, these classifications, these categories and this labeling that further elaborates ones own self. When one is coined into any one of the numerous categories then the concept of the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ comes into play. It is these divisions that give us more open space to think and formulate a more informed opinion.

It is Kristeva’s paper that acts as a catalyst to understanding how different branches of feminism view desire. The three being, the liberal feminists, the radical ones and the third tier where the aspects of womanly and masculine are condemned and abandoned. This is so because a woman is considered whole just as she is not as a counter part of a man or to become like him.

These three generations of feminists are collaborated together to create the basis of desire. It is in fact the Radical feminists who shield against the degration and attack if questioned.

Desire has been glassed through psychoanalysis which reaffirms the projection of women as being liberated to some degree since women can re-create their past and themselves. Re-write their history. As every meaning and action resides in language, when psychoanalysis is used, language is the spectrum that is dealt with, allowing women to have a platform to talk in.

When the third tier is considered, the bi-module falls into place. However, it is the same ‘bi’ terminology that further complicates matters. Since no lines are chalked between a woman and a man, the basic acknowledgement of the two sexes being different is ignored. Hence, the masculinity and feminity concept that reside over them are fairly non-existant. Moreover, as critiqued in the article as well that the obvious relation between men and women is over looked and thus we move away from the binary logic, stuck once again, but this time, in a new age dilemna

Posted by: mavra | December 9, 2007

week 12-South Asia

Amina Jamal’s paper takes the Saima case as an example and seeks to highlight the relationship that  exists between gender and citizenship. It explores the political, social, religious aspects of gender and how each is dictated by notions of nationalism and citizenship. Through her paper she makes evident the integral question of whether being a female citizen of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan inherently means that one has to forfeit all rights that every individual should have.

Amina Jamal’s picks up the most common debate of Pakistani society which weighs down on the issue of women liberation. It is one the encompasses the conflict of western modernism versus Islamic thought, constitution versus Shariah law and social conformity versus sexual autonomy. In this context any issue especially one concerning marriage or the institution of family takes up negative connotations because of its gender implications.

One can relate to the example she takes of Saima’s case as through it she is exploring the issues that are present in the heterosexual middle class nuclear family. conforming to a particular national narrative in this society suggests that women rights have to be different and more carefully regulated than universal human rights. As with Saima’s the case, the choice that is present in a marriage contract is compromised because of social pressure and misuse of tradition under the ambiguous space provided by Shariah laws.

The threat that comes with sexual autonomy for women works like a chain reaction in a society such as ours. it dangers the the identity of the nation-state, threatens the societal structure and displaces the norm of the nuclear family. It challenges the role of the father figure and dependency created by the patriarchal structure. Particular identities are constructed for women which coincide with the national narrative with its political, religious and cultural aspects. Every woman has to conform to these in order to have the status of being a respected citizen. The concluding statements of the three judges presiding over Saima’s case echo the same notion of how important it is for a woman to uphold the socio-religious framework of this society. It is important to ask if the conflict between modernism and Islam means that first and foremost women civil rights have to be altered?

This 1996 Saima case raised the issues of the legality of a marriage contract, a woman’s right to choose her husband, and the degree of her independence as at anytime a woman’s custody can be claimed. This is highly problematic because the lapse between religious and legal framework allows such ambiguities to exist concerning such matters that can be easily used against a woman in order to regulate her freedom as an individual on the grounds that she has been misled by western ideas and is too ignorant to realize what is good for her. One can ask then, what autonomy does a woman have in the private, public, religious, political sphere of our society? 

The second reading by Nivideta Menon focuses of women’s movement in India and how it has changed shape over the years. She begins her discussion at the ‘Golden Vedic age’ and talks about how women had a much higher, and in a sense liberated, status in that time. This changed with the on set of Muslim invasions as notions of protecting the Mother Earth and hence their women from the ‘other’ became the most important concern. However, she points out that this was not completely true. Even in the Vedic age when the female energy was celebrated, women were still awarded a lower status than men and the scriptures mostly talked about their role in the household. As society became organized with time gender was institutionalized. The social reform movement that developed in India concentrated on women issues that mostly existed in the Upper class strata like purdah and unequal education opportunities. This movement in some instances aggravated the issues that were being faced by women. The National movement for women simply highlighted the power struggle between the British and the Indians as the debate of women liberation was used by each at a political front. Over the years various women movements have developed all over India and many serious issues have been addressed, however, to this date there are still institutions in place that maintain a gendered society.

Both the readings show how the status of women as citizens can be manipulated politcally, socially and religiously to provide a morphed form of autonomy which works well in a patriarchal society.

-Mavra

Posted by: mavra | December 8, 2007

week 3-Fracturing Binarisms

This chapter by Chilla Bulbeck focuses on the differentiating categories of the “other women” and the “western women”. It highlights the binary perspective that surrounds feminist reality for social groups existing in different parts of the world. In the light of the phenomenon of colonization Bulbeck discusses the process of societies becoming gendered and the effects of binary thought that come with it.

Colonization brings about the process of acculturation as two different societies interact and co-exist. However, in this situation one group becomes ideologically and culturally superior than the other. This unique social instance itself brings about a hierarchy of identities as there is an imbalanced interaction with control concentrated with the few than the many. As this effects the societal structure on the whole it also modifies the private sphere and the status of women because the more traditional customs and mores are challenged and displaced. She goes on to describe with various examples how societies became more gendered in their laws and values after colonization.

Colonizers viewed the natives as uncivilized and primitive in their way of living. this bias extends to issues of that surround women in the east as they are thought to be ignorant to dilemmas that plague their society. Third world feminists oppose this unbalanced view. The believe that the  supposed liberation that was brought on by foreign rule further aggravated the issues women had to face in the transitioning to modern times.

In her discussion of first and third world binaries, Bulbeck brings in the declension narrative. This narrative challenges the notion of modernisation which is equated with the on set of colonisation and was thought to improve the status of women. Declension narrative reveals the other, unfavourable side of colonisation claiming that colonised women actually lost social standing under the white patriarchal colonist rule instead of getting liberated. This is the notion which highlights the interesting dynamic of ‘us’ and ‘other’, a conflict that always exists and therefore the tendency to always divide into dualism of thought with one group considering itself to exist in a superior framework. it shows how women cannot relate across boundaries just on the basis of gender and therefore construct opposing identities.

Bulbeck is drawing our attention to the oppositions which dictate society and construct conflicting identities such as black and white, third world and first world. These take up negative and positive connotations and equated to the east and west, depending on whose perspective is being mentioned. There is a wide ranging narrative which surrounds women and these constructed opposing ways of defining themselves just isolate and demarcate. Bulbeck talks about the importance of understanding and deconstructing these very categories which result in a rigid, fracturing binarism in order to better interpret the politics that surround feminist issues in different parts of the world.

-Mavra

Posted by: mavra | December 7, 2007

week 8-Rethinking the Paradigm

Gerda Lerner’s piece “Rethinking the Paradigm” expounds on how the patriarchal structure subsists and functions on the basis of inequality amongst social groups. These inequalities are seen to emerge from constructed differences, dictated by society, which ascribe a certain identity to an individual.  This process of differentiating makes room for notions of inferiority, superiority and facilitates power struggles.  At times these power struggles may reinforce the differences amongst individuals and widen the gap between social groups instead of reducing the disparities.

Categories of sex, race, ethnicity and class, Lerner argues, are seen to be unilateral which is a problematic perspective. One needs to re-vision social organization as a matrix of identities. Social differences are in the form of an amalgam of one’s gender, class, race and ethnicity and it is important to see the relationships of dependency and overlap that exist instead of viewing these as isolated social markers. As each identity marker overlaps the other it is difficult to disconnect oneself from one and not the other. Lerner points out that it is important to see the role that gender plays in the formation of other social categories. She points out that the notions of claim over a woman mentally and physically is what social differences emerge from. Meaning, the power struggle of the male and female is what made way for other forms of struggle. This idea is similar to what we have read before about how sexism gives rise to other isms. A patriarchal systems need to dominate is reflective in its classicist and racist methods as well so as to maintain the in-balance of social hierarchies. Lerner talks about moving away from a binary reality and grasping a wider perspective which takes into account all social factors in explaining any social phenomena and historical change.

Marxist ideology says that class is the only manifestation of all social inequality as it is economically determined. Private property divides the haves from the have nots. The author proposes a different view. The point she makes is not to de-centre man but to put woman at the centre of the social narrative to in-order to understand class and its relations to other social aspects, which Marxism fails to do. She propagates that gender differences precede differences of social classes and are the very cause of this economically determined divide. Women are treated as private property and are passed on from one male to another often to maintain control and preserve patriarchal inheritance practices.

She goes onto reinforce this point by giving examples of the how women have been commoditized through history. similar examples can be seen in our society where practices of bride money, child marriage are still common. Therefore, class is a reflection of one’s gender as it is a reflection of one’s race and ethnicity and vice versa. Lerner asks for a broadened focus towards class keeping in mind gender and how that contributes to the hierarchy of classes because the differences amongst women cannot be attributed to one social aspect as they, “are interdependant, interrelated and inseparable.” (p 153)

Similar is the case with race which has evolved into another social construction which dictates social reality. Race, also, cannot be bracketed off from other social identity markers. It is then important to realize that all these categories of differentiation dictate an individual’s life chances and together they determine his or her position in society. A black middle class woman’s reality will be very different from that of a white middle class woman’s. Also, one would be more socially mobile than the other hence giving her a different cultural experience and social perspective.

Simply put, Lerner is asking her reader to rethink these paradigms which reign our society. It is not sufficient to merely redefine the binary differences as that would not remove their structural rigidity. Instead, there is a need to redefine the premise of such categorical thought and understand their interrelated relations that socially locate and label individuals.

-Mavra

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