Playing with Categories


Day 22: Jen and Anne Tell Their Feminist Stories of "Origin"

But first: Which Feminist Icon Do You Most Identify With?

Then: Jen
Next: the older generation...

Anne's Feminist Trajectory

From Snuggling (1950) and Pushing Off (1980)

To (Witch? Fairy Godmother?)
Offering the Temptation and Threat of the Apple of Knowledge

Some background

The first feminist moment of my childhood:
"Girls, don't look!"

...Said by my strong-willed (and certain) father

Wearing dresses when going to town (where they could look up our dresses) and
working as a telephone operator (where no one could see us @ all)

Noticing the limits of my mother's life, wanting something bigger:

As per Ann Dixon: I'm wondering whether a lot of the guilt
is passed along mother to daughter?
So that all of grandma's choices, or lack thereof,
in the past are passed down in a legacy to daughter/new mom?

Philosophy 101:

Too abtract, too removed from anything I was curious about

Consciousness Raising in Rural Maine:
realizing that I was complicit in shaping my own life....

Graduate School in English @ Penn
"The work you are doing is women's studies" (who knew?!)

Co-ordinating Feminist and Gender Studies @ BMC (1995-present):


I have had MANY feminist guides and foremothers in this process.
Three of the most important ones are

Susan Bordo. (Professor of English and Women's Studies, University of Kentucky)
"Feminism, Postmodernism, and Gender Scepticism" (1990):
"It is impossible to be 'politically correct' . . . all ideas . . . are condemned to be haunted by a voice from the margins . . . awakening us to what has been excluded, effaced, damaged."

Iris Marion Young (Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago)
"The Ideal of Community and the Politics of Difference" (1990):
"The ideal of community...privileges unity over difference, immediacy over mediation, sympathy over recognition of the limits of one's understanding of others from their point of view. Community is an understandable dream, expressing a desire for selves that are transparent to one another, relationships of mutual identification, social closeness and comfort. The dream is understandable, but politically problematic...because those motivated by it will tend to suppress differences among themselves or implicitly to exclude from their political groups persons with whom they do not identify....The desire for unity...generates borders, dicotomies, and exclusions....difference means the irreducible particularity of entities, which makes it impossible to reduce them to commonness or bring them into unity without a remainder....the ideal of community...has undesirable political implications....desire for reciprocal recognition and identification...denies making it difficult for people to respect those with whom they do not identify...the desire for mutual understanding and reciprocity underlying the ideal of community is similar to the desire for identification that underlies racial and ethnic chauvinism...Our political ideal is the unoppressive city....defined as openness to unassimilatable otherness...Radical politics must develop discourse and institutions for bringing differently identified groups together without suppressing or subsuming the differences."

"Impartiality and the Civic Public"(1987):
"The bourgeois world instituted a moral division of labor between reason and sentiment....sentiment has been thoroughly devalued because it has been excluded from rationality....I am suggesting that only a conception of normative reason that includes the affective and bodily dimensions of meaning can be adequate ....contemporary politics grants to all persons entrance into the public on condition that they...keep their passions private....Liberating public expression means not only lifting formerly privatized issues into the open of public and rational discussions...but also affirming in the practice of such discussion the proper place of passion and play in public."

Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (1938)
demonstrates that three requests for contributions--
to support women's education, a professional women's organization,
and the peace effort-- are inherently linked:

Goya's Third of May, from
Art and Society Through the Ages,
Archbishop Williams High School

Hicks's The Peaceable Kingdom, from
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Interpreting Virgina Woolf's analysis to mean that any distinctions made on a single axis of value lead to war, I have spent the past five years writing and talking about

Turning it over to the next generation--
what have you been "generating,"
as we have been talking?
Which "feminist foremother" is going to be the most help to you,
@ this juncture of your own thinking-and-writing?

If you are as yet motherless,
what kind of mother are you looking for?
That is, what do you need someone to help you think about?

Return to Syllabus