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Judith Butler and Identity Politics

In my (fantastic) Women's Studies class this semester, we read quite a few pieces on identity politics: basing one's politics on categories that one claims as one's identity, including woman, working-class, lesbian, and so on. Some theorists, most notably Butler and Wendy Brown, critiqued identity politics, in part for their normalizing tendencies. That is to say, some members in the group might not agree with the hegemonic group viewpoint/party line, so they must either keep quiet or leave the group. In a recent essay responding to comments by Harvard University president Lawrence Summers criticizing what he perceives as "anti-Israel" (and, Butler claims, by implication also anti-Semitic) views, Butler describes this kind of normativity at work:

Reasons You Should Vote Dean

Ann Coulter Talking Action Figure

Ann Coulter Talking Action Figure:

Includes such gems as:

"Liberals hate America, they hate flag-wavers, they hate abortion opponents, they hate all religions except Islam, post 9/11. Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like Liberals do. They don't have the energy. If they had that much energy, they'd have indoor plumbing by now."


"Liberals can't just come out and say they want to take more of our money, kill babies, and discriminate on the basis of race."

[Via Sivacracy.net]

Stuff I've Been Reading Lately...

Farai Chideya has put into words something I've thought for a long time:

The key to reinvigorating younger voters, and the untapped 100 million non-voters, is to find an aspirational, inspirational language for political change. The Republicans have been very adept at creating a clear narrative of power and self-determination that appeals not only to the people they serve (the rich), but to anyone seeking to better themselves. Thus the trend of the "NASCAR Dad," a demographic whose economic interests should go clearly Democratic but whose voting patterns are stubbornly Republican. Right now, at least, the Republicans are better storytellers.

She goes on to argue that Democrats need to take back the "language of opportunity"; we need "[a] spot-on narrative will demonstrate that social justice – including no more no-bid contracts for fat cats, more educational opportunity, halting the growth of the prison-industrial complex and better jobs creation – benefits those seeking economic gain." I hear that.

UPDATE: Lisa Michelle Nelson's article "Why We Need Success Stories" supports Chideya's argument and is, I think, a fine companion piece.

I've also been following the Tenure and Toddlers discussions with interest. It only marginally applies to me, as I'm not going to have children, but several have said that those without children should be expected to pick up extra work left over when parents need time off. I have a few qualms with that, and as others have already said, I think the extra work is a problem that the institution needs to deal with in other ways, like on-site child care. These discussions need to take place, of course, because this is an important issue that's on our minds, but they are probably not the most productive use of our time. Actively pushing for changes in the workplace--with individual institutions' administrations--is the best solution, in my humble opinion. (Others have debated whether having children is this big an issue outside of academia. The tenure clock is, of course, unique to academia, but I think it's an issue for everyone, particularly white-collar professions: people who have the luxury of engaging in these conversations in the first place. It seems the news is bleak for parents, whether academic or not. Terrible.)

We're obsessed with beautiful people. Yeah, I know, duh, but I still like this article; it, along with many other AlterNet articles, is a good example of a brief lite argument/cultural critique.

Speaking of reading for undergraduates, I think that "Five Faces of Oppression," a chapter in Iris Marion Young's Justice and the Politics of Difference, should be required reading for all undergraduates--no, everyone of voting age. Young explains brilliantly the ways that oppression works: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence. She clearly defines each term and tells exactly how they work. Maybe I'll assign it to my students next time I teach Rhetoric 1101.


Howard Dean says:

“We like to think that every child starts kindergarten with the same opportunities, but the truth is, some kids have great preparation and others have nothing,” said Dean. “By the time those kids start kindergarten, even the best teachers can’t make up for six years when a child was never read to, or never taught the alphabet, or never even saw a doctor.”


The "Meatrix"

This is a flash movie about factory farming. Definitely a must-watch.

Church Sign Generator

Make your own church sign. See Becky's sign and the one I made, which is decidedly more disturbing, but something I've been worrying a lot about lately.

Link via Becky.

Intersectionality, and I *heart* Nomy Lamm

It's cool when the reading you're doing for two of your classes runs together, isn't it? It is for me. In my Gender, Rhetoric, and Literacy class, we're reading selections from the anthology Available Means, including Nomy Lamm's essay, "It's a Big Fat Revolution." It just so happens that what Lamm's saying fits very well with this week's problematic in my Women's Studies class: Theorizing the Multiplicitous Subject, or Intersectionality. Here's my response to the texts ("The Combahee River Collective Statement," "The Impossibility of Women's Studies" by Wendy Brown, "U.S. Third World Feminism: The Theory and Method of Oppositional Consciousness" by Chela Sandoval, and "Notes from the (Non)Field: Teaching and Theorizing Women of Color" by Rachel Lee).

When I think about all the marks I have against me in this society, I am amazed that I haven't turned into some worthless lump of shit. Fatkikecripplecuntqueer. In a nutshell. But then I have to take into account the fact that I'm an articulate, white, middle class college kid, and that provides me with a hell of a lot of privilege and opportunity for dealing with my oppression that may not be available to other oppressed people. And since my personality/being isn't divided up into a privileged part and an oppressed part, I have to deal with the ways that these things interact, counterbalance and sometimes even overshadow each other. For example, I was born with one leg. I guess it's a big deal, but it's never worked into my body image in the same way that being fat has. And what does it mean to be a white woman as opposed to a woman of color? A middle-class fat girl as opposed to a poor fat girl? What does it mean to be fat, physically disabled and bisexual? (Or fat, disabled, and sexual at all?)

Nomy Lamm, “It's a Big Fat Revolution.”

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