The Star Smattered Abyss of Rhetoric

Thursday, April 13, 2006

sonia johnson one

I really like reading Johnson. She uses excellent images and is very entertaining in telling her world to illustrate her views and beliefs. I also love that she names the patriarchy (the church and the men who run it and the world). I believe with all my heart that what she is saying is true.

Patriarchy is Todd Taihrt (T-Heart), the Republican CongessMan from Wichita, KS. I have voted against this squeaky-clean, nuclear family flaunting, Bible-quoting, patriarchal puke-bag more times than I remember: Every two years for years. Despite being "pro-family" Tiahrt is against welfare, increasing minimum wage, abortion rights, socialized healthcare, small businesses, affirmative action, or anything that might give the average American family a half-way decent chance of survival in the corporacracy we live in. He is a slime-bag, old boy's club, piece of rightwing. . . . Very bad rhetoric, Robert, stop it!

Anyway, johnson does let me down with her absolutism about family courts and the law. The courts always favor money, regardless of gender: Many fathers have been put through the family court ringer by financially advantaged mothers. I have experienced it first hand. The courts ALWAYS favor money. And if the courts most adore a Rich Man, then they most despise a Poor Man.

sonia johnson one

I really like reading Johnson. She uses excellent images and is very entertaining in telling her world to illustrate her views and beliefs. I also love that she names the patriarchy (the church and the men who run it and the world). I believe with all my heart that what she is saying is true.

Patriarchy is Todd Taihrt (T-Heart), the Republican CongessMan from Wichita, KS. I have voted against this squeaky-clean, nuclear family flaunting, Bible-quoting, patriarchal puke-bag more times than I remember: Every two years for years. Despite being "pro-family" Tiahrt is against welfare, increasing minimum wage, abortion rights, socialized healthcare, small businesses, affirmative action, or anything that might give the average American family a half-way decent chance of survival in the corporacracy we live in. He is a slime-bag, old boy's club, piece of rightwing. . . . Very bad rhetoric, Robert, stop it!

Anyway, johnson does let me down with her absolutism about family courts and the law. The courts always favor money, regardless of gender: Many fathers have been put through the family court ringer by financially advantaged mothers. I have experienced it first hand. The courts ALWAYS favor money. And if the courts most adore a Rich Man, then they most despise a Poor Man.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Burke: A Rhetoric of Motives: Two Poems

These two poems are an excellent example of what Burke is discussing in his intro to
A Rhetoric of Motives.

These are fun too because the rhetorical motives of these poems are complicated and enriched by the fact the authors (Randall Jarrell and Elizabeth Bishop) identify so deceptively well with the opposite sex.

These poems are also interesting in light of Anzaldua. These poems are about loss, but they are also about Borderlands.


The Lost Children

Two little girls, one fair, one dark,
One alive, one dead, are running hand in hand
Through a sunny house. The two are dressed
In red and white gingham, with puffed sleeves and sashes.
They run away with me. . . But I am happy;
When I wake I feel no sadness, only delight.
That, somewhere, they still are.
It is strange
To carry inside you someone else's body;
To know it before it's born;
To see at last that it's a boy or a girl, and perfect;
To bathe it and dress it; to watch it
Nurse at your breast, till you almost know it
Better than you know yourself---better than it knows itself.
You own it as you made it.
You are the authority upon it.
But as the child learns
To take care of herself, you know her less.
Her accidents, adventures are her own,
You lose track of them. Still, you know more
About her than anyone except her.
Little by little the child in her dies.
You say, I have lost a child, but gained a friend."
You feel yourself gradually discarded.
She argues with you or ignores you
Or is kind to you. She who begged to follow you
Anywhere, just so long as it was you,
Finds follow the leader no more fun.
She makes few demands; you are grateful for the few.
The younger person who writes once a week
Is the authority upon herself.
She sits in my living room and shows her husband
My albums of her as a child. He enjoys them
And makes fun of them. I look too
And I realize that girl in the matching blue
Mother-and-daughter dress, the fair one carrying
The tin lunch box with the half-pint thermos bottle
Or training her pet duck to go down the slide
Is lost just as the dark one, who is dead, is lost.
And the hats that match, exist so uncannily
That, after I've seen its pictures for an hour,
I believe in it: the bandage coming loose
One has in the picture of the other's birthday
The castles they are building, at the beach for asthma.
I look at them and all the old, sure knowledge
Floods over me, when I put the album down
I keep saying inside: "I did know those children.
I braided those braids. I was driving the car
The day that she stepped in the can of grease
We were taking to the butcher for our ration points.
I know those children. I know all about them.
Where are they?"
I stare at her and try to see some sign
Of the child she was. I can’t believe there isn’t any.
I tell her foolishly, pointing at the picture,
That I keep wondering where she is.
She tells me, “Here I am”
Yes, and the other
Isn’t dead, but has everlasting life. . .
The girl from next door, the borrowed child,
Said to me the other day, “You like children so much,
Don’t you want to have some of your own?”
I couldn’t believe that she could say it.
I thought: “Surely you can look at me and see them.”
When I see them in my dreams I feel such joy.
If I could dream of them every night!
When I sit and think of my dream of the little girls
It’s as if we were playing hide-and-seek.
The dark one
Looks at me longingly, and disappears;
The fair one stays in sight, just out of reach
No matter where I reach. I am tired
As a mother who’s played all day, some rainy day.
I don’t want to play it anymore, I don’t want to,
But the child keeps on playing, so I play.

--Randall Jarrell



Crusoe in England
A new volcano has erupted,
the papers say, and last week I was reading
where some ship saw an island being born:
at first a breath of steam, ten miles away;
and then a black fleck--basalt probably--
rose in the mate's binoculars
and caught on the horizon like a fly.
They named it. But my poor old island's still
un-rediscovered, un-renamable.
None of the books has ever got it right.
Well, I had fifty-two
miserable, small volanoes I could climb
with a few slithery strides--
volcanoes dead as ash heaps.
I used to sit on the edge of the highest one
and count the others standing up,
naked and leaden, with their heads blown off.
I'd think that if they were the size
I thought volcanoes should be, then I had
become a giant;
and if I had become a giant
I couldn't bear to think what size
the goats and turtles were,
or the gulls, or the overlapping rollers
--a glittering hexagon of rollers
closing and closing in, but never quite,
glittering and glittering, though the sky
was mostly overcast.
My island seemed to be
a sort of cloud-dump. All the hemisphere's
left-over clouds arrived and hung
above the craters--their parched throats
were hot to touch.
Was that why it rained so much?
And why sometimes the whole place hissed?
The turtles lumbered by, high-domed,
hissing like teakettles.
(And I'd have given years, or taken a few,
for any sort of kettle, of course)
The folds of lava, running out to sea,
would hiss. I'd turn. And then they'd prove
to be more turtles.
The beaches were all lava, variegated,
black red, and white, and gray;
the marbled colors made a fine display.
And I had waterspouts. Oh,
half a dozen at a time, far out,
they'd come and go, advancing and retreating,
their heads in cloud, their feet in moving patches
of scuffed-up white.
Glass chimneys, flexible, attenuated,
sacerdotal beings of glass...I watched
the water spiral up in them like smoke.
Beautiful, yes, but not much company.
I often gave way to self-pity.
"Do I deserve this? I suppose I must.
I wouldn't be here otherwise. Was there
a moment when I actually chose this?
I don't remember, but there could have been."
What's wrong about self-pity, anyway?
With my legs dangling down familiarly
over a crater's edge, I told myself
"Pity should begin at home." So the more
pity I felt the more I felt at home.
The sun set in the sea; the same odd sun
rose from the sea,
and there was one of it and one of me.
The island had one kind of everything:
one treesnail, a bright violet-blue
with a thin shell, crept over everything,
over the one variety of tree,
a sooty, scrub affair.
Snail shells lay under these in drifts
and, at a distance,
you'd swear that they were beds of irises.
There was one kind of berry, a dark red.
I tried it, one by one, and hours apart.
Sub-acid, and not bad, no ill effects;
and so I made home-brew. I'd drink
the awful fizzy, stinging stuff
that went straight to my head
and play my home-made flute
(I think it had the weirdest scale on earth)
and, dizzy, whoop and dance among the goats.
Home-made, home-made! But aren't we all?
I felt a deep affection for
the smallest of my island industries.
No, not exactly, since the smallest was
a miserable philosophy.
Because I didn't know enough.
Why didn't I know enough of something?
Greek drama or astronomy? The books
I'd read were full of blanks;
the poems--well, I tried
reciting to my iris-beds,
"They flash upon that inward eye,
which is the bliss..."the bliss of what?
One of the first things that I did
when I got back was look it up.
The island smelled of goat and guano.
The goats were white, so were the gulls,
and both too tame, or else they thought
I was a goat, too, or a gull.
Baa, baa, baa and shriek, shriek, shriek,
baa...shriek...baa... I still can't shake
them from my ears; they're hurting now.
The questioning shrieks, the equivocal replies
over a ground of hissing rain
and hissing, ambulating turtles
got on my nerves.
When all the gulls flew up at once, they sounded
like a big tree in a strong wind, its leaves.
I'd shut my eyes and think about a tree,
an oak, say, with real shade, somewhere.
I'd heard of cattle getting island-sick.
I thought the goats were.
One billy-goat would stand on the volcano
I'd christened Mont d'Espoir or Mount Despair
(I'd time enough to play with names),
and bleat and bleat, and sniff the air.
I'd grab his beard and look at him.
His pupils, horizontal, narrowed up
and expressed nothing, or a little malice.
I got so tired of the very colors!
One day I dyed a baby goat bright red
with my red berries, just to see
something a little different.
And then his mother wouldn't recognize him.
Dreams were the worst. Of course I dreamed of food
and love, but they were pleasant rather
than otherwise. But then I'd dream of things
like slitting a baby's throat, mistaking it
for a baby goat. I'd have
nightmares of other islands
stretching away from mine, infinities
of islands, islands spawning islands,
like frogs' eggs turning into polliwogs
of islands, knowing that I had to live
on each and every one, eventually,
for ages, registering their flora,
their fauna, their geography.
Just when I thought I couldn't stand it
another minute longer, Friday came.
(Accounts of that have everything all wrong.)
Friday was nice.
Friday was nice, and we were friends.
If only he had been a woman!
I wanted to propagate my kind,
and so did he, I think, poor boy.
He'd pet the baby goats sometimes,
and race with them, or carry one around.
--Pretty to watch; he had a pretty body.
And then one day they came and took us off.
Now I live here, another island,
that doesn't seem like one, but who decides?
My blood was full of them; my brain
bred islands. But that archipelago
has petered out. I'm old.
I'm bored too, drinking my real tea,
surrounded by uninteresting lumber.
The knife there on the shelf--
it reeked of meaning, like a crucifix.
It lived. How many years did I
beg it, implore it, not to break?
I knew each nick and scratch by heart,
the bluish blade, the broken tip,
the lines of wood-grain in the handle...
Now it won't look at me at all.
The living soul has dribbled away.
My eyes rest on it and pass on.
The local museum's asked me to
leave everything to them:
the flute, the knife, the shrivelled shoes,
my shedding goatskin trousers
(moths have got in the fur),
the parasol that took me such a time
remembering the way the ribs should go.
It still will work but, folded up
looks like a plucked and skinny fowl.
How can anyone want such things?
--And Friday, my dear Friday, died of measles
seventeen years ago come March.

--Elizabeth Bishop














Nepantla & Mestiza

What cool words!

What cool concepts!

I love Anzaldua's discussion of these terms because she seems to touch upon truths so profound as to be at once soberly realistic and utterly mystical. Perhaps, she has created something like an Ontological masterpiece.

Many people, most people live in Nepantla--juggling contradictions equally held to be true. Puzzling contradictory realities into a single story, they exist a state of continual flux and flow, quilting patches forever at tears in the fabric of their relationships and beliefs.

Strange, this paradox seems to define life on a very deep level, metaphycally and physically: the bizarre nature of quantum mechanics seems so at odds with Einsteinian and Newtonian physics, that it is seems a contradiction that both could be true, and yet, so far as we know, they are.

Mestiza -- una consciencia de mujer -- a/one conscousness of woman -- this is a synthesis of conflicting cultures and belief so that these multiple threads for an element of consciousness on a higher level. In effect, the attainment of the Mestiza consciousness is a personal journey to enlightenment and a fully developed identity. This consciousness is characterized by creativity, caring, and the embracing of multiple viewpoints.

There is little room to doubt, in my opinion, that these words are apt aand describe "real phenomena."

Anzaldua is a very interesting thinker, and I think I will seek out more of her work. It is time to think about a final project.

Anzaldua

Anzaldua's work is fascinating.

There is something magical about borders, bridges, transitions, and the way she depicts bordertowns and then translates this into her idea of Borderlands is enthralling.

Furthermore, it just rings true to me, on the big, metaphoric level: she has a real insight. Cultural (and other) differences create little Boarders every where: all kinds of real people really do live lives in the Boarderlands. Which makes her conceptions of nepantla and mestiza also very interesting.

Anzaldua is concerned, it seems to me, primarily with political Borderlands, but I don't think this conception need be kept political (other than the fact that de-politicizing is probably to silence the voices of political Borderlands and so to commit just another act of denial by dominant culture). :) However, I think she would she certainly agree that her ideas go far beyond the politcal.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Trihn

When discussing Trihn's theories and how to present them with Elizabeth, I had the idea to create a PowerPoint comprised of un-contextual words and symbols and to simply let the slides play to music while the presenter says nothing as a way to violate the expectations of graduate seminar presentations. :0 Elizabeth took this idea and created a nice PowerPoint which perhaps illustrates Trihn's theories better than Trihn does herself.

What I feel seems to be missed in discussion of Trihn is the usefulness of her stance and the usefulness of such Trihnian violations: There is a temptation to simply revel in the odd thrill of Trihn's stance while squarely placing her discourse in a post modern blackhole of subjective dis-argument. However,the evidence indicates that Trihn clearly has a pro-democracy stance that goes beyond dis-argument. She argues for pluralism and multiple views as ideals for rhetoric and as reality. And she hopes to tear away at the wall of hegemonic thinking, at the constructions we, as individuals in a meaning-imposing society, want to apply upon all social stimulus. That is, we Americans, for example, want to interpret the third world with our social constructions of reality because we believe these constructions to be natural and "good," but other societies have constructions of their own and no construction is correct, only false in so far as it is assumed to be truth. This deconstructive, straddling view is extremely useful in that it can provide democratic societies with a taste of surprise, a perspective that might pry expectation-weighted eyes.

:o

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Response to Booth Ch. 6 & 7

As this post is unimaginative titled, "Response to Booth Ch. 6 & 7," I should first state that, for me, it is impossible to think about these chapters without also thinking about chapter 5, "The fate of Rhetoric in Education." Booth says several times throughout chapters 6 & 7 that schools practically ignore rhetoric and provide shoddy educations in nuances and importance of understanding the difference between rhetoric and rhetrickery. Furthermore, as a teacher of composition (a subject highly informed by rhetoric and rhetorology) and someone who cares deeply about education, the urgency of the situation(s) described and decried in chapters 6 & 7 to me seem a mandate and demand that these issues be addressed in the classroom.

While there are many objections to "indoctrination" in the classroom, we certainly cannot object to the democratic ideals of Listening Rhetoric being taught as a skills crucial to our society and the preservation of our individualist and pluralistic ideals. That is to say, while some on the right might strongly object to teaching students look at the world through a Marxist or Feminist lens and some on the left would oppose the pro-capitalist assumptions made much of the culture of university life, both sides could surely see the value of teaching students to listen and question.

In English 112, we try to foster the awareness of multiple perspectives through the teaching students that the acknowledgement counterarguments in key rhetorical strategy that should be employed in any academic essay. However, students do not often link this strategy to the real world. The see t.v. show like Crossfire and assume that real debate is a shouting match and that the most forceful, the loudest, the most aggressive is always destined to win in a democracy: students see democracy as a stage on which one shouts and does not listen.

This sad state of affairs, I feel, should be acknowledged by comp. teachers, and this acknowledgement should lead teachers to further aid students in connecting the importance of counterargument to our way of life and the ideals of democracy.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Starhawk, Part Two (aka, Ode to Mary Daly)

Response to Starhawk Part Two,
Or What Daly Wills

[T]rue social change can only come about when the myths and symbols of our culture are themselves changed .
—Starhawk (145)


In the 1981 film Dragon Slayer, the aged sorcerer played by Sir Ralph Richardson speaks Latin when incanting his spells. This strategy is also used in, among many others, the phenomenon that is the Harry Potter books. The idea that words must be special to be magical is also addressed in the brilliant, half-blind bravery of Mary Daly: while words contain the very essence of society and its prejudices, words that have been gardened, tended-to, and shaped for their rhetorical situation have more power “than can be dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Words are the stuff societies are made of; they are the stuff our myths are made of; their vehicles include poetry and prose and oration and drama and all the stuff that, aside from music and visual art, really moves us. Words are our ultimate symbols and they themselves are supra-archetypes that float meaningfully through our brains—in our eyes, in our ears, out our mouths, and out our hands. Starhawk recognizes this sacred, magical power of words as part of a world filled with magic, a world that is alive with our thoughts and feelings (the woods of our souls alive with wilderness and campfires and the giant fecundity of the stars).

Why, yes, and there must be a proper stage, proper platform for sorcery.

For Starhawk, the Earth when witnessed through the Goddess is a Rhetorical Situation (Time) and Space of Spiritual Revelation and Revolution. But witnessing the Goddess is a matter of (overcoming) orientation perspective, definition: “Underneath is a deeper struggle: to change the nature of the power in which our society is rooted. The root question is, How do we define the world?” (151).

Mary Daly writes of the structure of (consciousness raising) Sisterhood among women as “deeply spiritual” (108). She ascribes to this Sisterhood a potential that is “a genuine psychic revolution[. . .]. By the same token, sisterhood is revelation. The breakdown of the idols of patriarchal religion is happening in women’s new consciousness” (108). This breakdown, Daly also argues, must come from a fundamental re-apprehension of language and, in particular, words (134-1390).

What does this say about Rhetoric? Well, I think it says that what’s to be won or lost in Rhetoric is our very souls. Also to be won is the very best, the greatest of our potential (or worst). That is to say, saying is fundamental to doing to changing to growing to being.

Works Cited

Daly, Mary. "Introduction to Mary Daly." Readings in Feminist Rhetorical Theory. Karen Foss et al eds. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2004. 105-140.

Starhawk. “Introduction to Starhawk.” Readings in Feminist Rhetorical Theory. 141-178.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Starfarmer70 on Starhawk, Part One

Response to Starhawk, Part One

The Goddess is also important to men. The oppression of men in Father God-ruled patriarchy is perhaps less obvious but no less tragic than that of women.
—Starhawk (145)

The above epigraph illustrates the key difference between Starhawk and other valuable feminist thinkers (such as Mary Daly): she recognizes that the problems feminism wishes to address are not problems for women but boons for men; rather, these problems oppress men and women alike: men’s oppression is “no less tragic than that of women” (145). This is a critical point. In fact, I would argue that this oppression that so many feminists see as only affecting women (while benefiting men) is perhaps harder on men than women: the disconnect from emotion and family forced upon men has caused men to find earlier graves and enjoy less of the richness of life than women for centuries. As Starhawk notes:
Men lose touch with their feelings and their bodies, becoming the “successful male zombies” described by Herb Goldberg in The Hazards of Being Male: “Oppressed by the cultural pressures that have denied him his feelings, by the mythology of the woman and the distorted and self-destructive way he sees and relates to her, by the urgency for him to ‘act like a man,’ which blocks his ability to respond to his inner promptings both emotionally and physiologically, and by a generalized self-hate that causes him to feel comfortable only when he is functioning well in harness, not when he lives for joy and personal growth. (145)
In recognizing this, Starhawk has made a quantum/cosmic leap in understanding what is wrong with our world/societies/cultures historically and today, and she quite simply exposes “feminist” exaggerators who are blind to the male experience, like Cheris Kramarae, as the hate-mongers they truly are.
Ah, FINALLY! Some balance: A feminist who realizes that men are not simply a bunch of knuckle-dragging, phallic-centered cavemen/overlords happily oppressing and enslaving while reaping with a gilded ice-cream scoop the benefits of totalitarian theocratic oligarchy.
And yet, I think much of Starhawk’s work could never have happened without the impetus and intellectual bravery of the semi-blind yet brilliant work of Mary Daly.
Starhawk also triumphs because recognizes that man has within himself the feminine and vice-versa—a basic Jungian concept that has seemed to elude so many other feminists—; egro all those beautiful, oppressed possibilities/places that feminism paints in apposition and/or opposition to patriarchy are in part masculine too. Starhawk explains the deeply spiritual significance of this idea:
The symbol of the Goddess allows men to experience and integrate the feminine side of their nature, which is often felt to be the deepest and most sensitive aspect of the self. The Goddess does not exclude the male; She contains him, as a pregnant mother contains a male child. Her own male aspect embodies both the solar light of the intellect and wild, untamed animal energy [emphasis mine]. (145)
Here is were Daly and Starhawk intersect in a very important way: they both understand that the driving force behind our world’s/societies’/cultures’ ideologies of domination is monotheistic, Father-God religion. Here I would like to remind the reader of what Sam Harris, bestselling author of The End of Faith, says about these religions and their fire and brimstone assertions that they are each and exclusively the possessors of the one divine Truth:
A belief is a lever that, once pulled, moves almost everything else in a person’s life[. . .]. They dictate your behavior; they determine your emotional responses to other human beings[. . .]. There seems, however, to be a problem with some of our most cherished beliefs about the world: they are leading us, inexorably, to kill one another[. . .].
Our situation is this: most of the people in this world believe that the Creator of the universe has written a book. We have the misfortune of having many such books on hand, each making an exclusive claim as to its infallibility [emphasis mine]. People tend to organize themselves into factions according to which of these incompatible claims they accept[. . .]. Intolerance is thus intrinsic to every creed. Once a person believes—really believes—that certain ideas can lead to eternal happiness, or to its antithesis, he cannot tolerate the possibility that the people he loves might be led astray by the blandishments of unbelievers. Certainty about the next life is simply incompatible with tolerance of this one. (12-13)
It is the utter intolerance of these ancient, bloody, and authoritarian religions that has driven our world into conflict time and again and oppressed both man in woman in slavery and in “freedom” centuries and millennia. Goddess worship, Wicca, and many pagan religions [and Taoism, though it is in some ways (that is, THE WAY) like monotheistic religions] offer spiritual enlightenment with tolerance of other views and respect for life as whole (not just men, not just women, not even just people).
A caveat: there however, have been/are pagan or polytheistic religions that oppress men (and perhaps particularly) women. Hinduism springs to mind, but as I am not an expert or even fairly literate with Hindu doctrine, I must simply note that Hindu societies to my knowledge seem rather oppressive. On that unpleasant and perhaps un-PC note, I leave further comment on Starhawk’s important work to [a] later blog(s).

Works Cited
Harris Sam. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. NY: Norton, 2004.
Starhawk. “Introduction to Starhawk.” Readings in Feminist Rhetorical Theory. Karen Foss et al eds. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2004. 141-178.

Daly Part Three

A Last Word on Daly:
Response to Mary Daly Part Three

In general, I find Mary Daly to be absolutely brilliant: she is original, ingenious, and a blast to read. Her project of reclaiming language for women and for humanity evinces a sharp mind and wit and is written with stunning beauty. That is too say nothing of the depth of thought she unpacks lucidly for the reader, page after page. I particularly enjoy her “A Call for the Castration of Sexist Religion,” “Gyn/Ecology: Spinning New Time/Space,” and “Spiraling Into the Nineties: An Invitation to Outercourse.” I have also taken up reading/skimming/sifting-through the following books in hopes that they may lead to an essay in the near future:

1. Webster’s First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language.“Conjured by Mary Daly in cahoots with Jane Caqputi.” London: Women’s 1988.
2. Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage. San Francisco: Harper, 1992.
3. Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy. Boston: Beacon, 1984.
4. Beyond God the Father. Boston: Beacon, 1973.

Once again, this is sure to come as a major shock to those of you who have already written me off as a misogynist out to disprove feminism. However, the fact is that Daly’s work is worthy of serious study. While she at times misses the parallel oppression of men, her work is fascinating and fun, and UN-like so many other “feminists” I have recently read, she does not rely on ex/agger/ation and half-truths to build a case or to publish art/icles. She is angry, but her anger comes a/cross as justifiable and not offensive. Daly may be a rad/ical feminist, but she is far more “fair” than her so-called mod/erate feminist sisters and brothers.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Daly Response Part Two

Response to Mary Daly Part Two

I don’t think Daly could be any more spot on than with her deconstruction of religion as the primary mechanism of oppression on this planet, this is to say the patriarchal “monotheistic” (is Christianity, in which there is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit really monotheism?) religions have been responsible for most the atrocities of oppression our world has known. Pantheons, systems of belief in which a variety of goddesses and gods are worshipped, are far more human and emphasize the divine in diversity. This is not to say that ancient practitioners of pantheonic religions enjoyed a world without oppression: in fact, their world was for the average human far more oppressive than our world is today; however, it was the pantheons and the worship and respect of both god and goddesses that tempered ancient civilizations.
Monotheism has instilled and justified in society a deep-seated distrust of not only women, but of difference in general. Sam Harris, in his New York Times bestseller The End of Faith, argues:
A belief is a lever that, once pulled, moves almost everything else in a person’s life[. . .]. Your beliefs define your vision of the world; they dictate your behavior; they determine your emotional responses to other human beings[. . .]. There seems, however, to be a problem with some of our most cherished beliefs about the world: they are leading us, inexorably, to kill one another[. . .].
Our situation is this: most of the people in this world believe that the Creator of the universe has written a book. We have the misfortune of having many such books on hand, each making an exclusive claim as to its infallibility [emphasis mine]. People tend to organize themselves into factions according to which of these incompatible claims they accept[. . .]. Intolerance is thus intrinsic to every creed. Once a person believes— really believes—that certain ideas can lead to eternal happiness, or to its antithesis, he cannot tolerate the possibility that the people he loves might be led astray by the blandishments of unbelievers. Certainty about the next life is simply incompatible with tolerance of this one. (12-13)
While Harris makes the mistakes of lumping all religions together and generalizing, his point is quite salient: radical religious fundamentalists and not-so-radical religious fundamentalists are the greatest threats to liberty, freedom, and tolerance that the world has ever known. This is particularly true of monotheism as pantheism is by its very nature more accepting and tolerant of other religions. Rome at its height of power never tried to strip the peoples it conquered of their beliefs; rather the Roman way was to see similarities between native religious practices and their own. This leads to some of Starhawk’s work, but that is for later blogs. . . .
Daly does make some mistakes of her own. She clearly wants to place the blame for the evils of religion squarely on the shoulders of men, but this is overlooks that fact that men are also oppressed by religion and that none of us (men) alive today were around when the dogma was being coked up. Men AND women who have been indoctrinated in the oppressive ways of religion and who, in turn, indoctrinate their children must share equal blame. The mother who indoctrinates the son is as guilty as the father who indoctrinates the daughter.

Daly response part one

Response to Mary Daly Part One

This is likely to come as a surprise to those of you who have already pegged me as a misogynist determined to disprove feminism, but in general I like Daly’s work. To compare her to Kramarae is to compare a fiery thinker of vision to a whiny exaggerator: Daly is worthy of inclusion in anthologies of Rhetoric while Kramarae is an insult to the word Rhetoric, at least is merely an example of the worst kind of rhetoric.
While Daly is 100,000 times better than Kramarae, she still fails to truly take the male experience into consideration: e.g. “ideologies and institutions[. . .]alienate women from our true selves, deluding us with false identifications, sapping our energies, deflecting our anger and hope” (Castration of Sexist Religion par. 2). While this may be true that women are “alienated” and “deluded with false identifications,” it also seems to imply that men are not alienated and deluded with false identifications. This is short-sighted and narrow-minded: it presumes that the world is just a super-swell place for men, and that all the contrived roles and identities served up to be swallowed whole as our cultural inheritance are only damaging for women and empowering for men. Here, Daly is sadly mistaken.
Daly is also correct in identifying patriarchal religion as key culprit of oppression, but she fails to realize that men too are oppressed by Christianity. She makes other sexist errors in judgment as well. In paragraph four of A Call for the Castration of Sexist Religion, she writes:
I think it certain that the bonding phenomenon among women, generally referred to as sisterhood, has deeply spiritual dimensions, even if those experiencing it would not always be inclined to use religious jargon to describe the experience. This spiritual quality of the women’s revolution is grounded in our confrontation with non-being. As the ultimate aliens, perennial outsiders in “a man’s world,” women are beginning to be able to allow ourselves and each other to experience nothingness—to see that the entire social structure, meaning structure, language structure bequeathed to us essentially excludes as fully human beings.
Daly here makes some errors of sexism: 1) she fails to note that bonding among people of any gender could be described as spiritual; 2) in positing that woman are excluded as full human beings, she fails to realize that men to are limited and also are excluded as full human beings: while men may have had (and may still) have more right(s) in the public sphere, they are limited in their ability (per socialization) to be fully human and experience the richness of life (e.g., “boys don’t cry”).
However, Daly’s discussion of the religion and Christianity in particular as mechanism for oppression is very insightful and for the most part accurate. Furthermore, her idea that women, through consciousness raising, can change the world and the face of religion is quite hopeful, appealing, and seems to fit with the way in which change of such scale is really made.

General response to Kramarae

As a general response to Kramarae, I have to say that I find her work hostile and uncorroborated. She routinely makes claims without citing sources, exaggerates, and makes broad, sweeping generalizations without caveat or shame. The lengthy discussion I previously published on her essay “Visiting Scholar” discusses some these problems as they relate that particular piece in depth. In her other articles, she will say things like “research shows,” but she rarely (or never) gives the reader an actual glimpse of said research and does nothing to set up the research as credible: there is research that demonstrates that the Holocaust never happened, and anyone who has studied remedial statistics knows that numbers can easily be manipulated to say just about anything a person wants them to say. So, in general, I wish Kramarae were a bit more objective and a lot less hostile.
E. Fleitz commented that I should like Kramarae because she agrees with me that patriarchy is an inaccurate term: “Discussions of patriarchy can lead to talking about women as an undifferentiated mass” and possibly “efface[. . .]other oppressions” faced by men and women (qtd. in Foss et al p. 40). While I do appreciate Kramarae’s diplomacy and ability to see that the oppression feminism identifies in our most of world’s cultures is not a simple issue of gender, I find her to then be quite hypocritical in her use of the term malestream as a way illustrate that what is mainstream is determined by men. I see no difference between malestream and patriarchy. Both terms are sexist, inaccurate, and offensive.
I want to address Kramarae’s discussion of public space particularly as it relates to “cat-calls” (see 43-44 of Feminist Theories of Communication). Kramarae says that cat-calls (the type stereotypically attributed to construction workers) to women on the street are used as marker to let women know that they are not safe in the public sphere. However, she does not seem to see the link between this behavior and humiliating social task placed squarely on the backs of men of having to be the initiators of romance or of relations between the sexes. This can be quite a frustrating and humbling burden.
Furthermore, I would argue that this burden of men’s is the reason we take such care to label women according to their marital status (Ms. vs. Mrs.). Kramarae argues that such labeling is all part of the evil plan of men to oppress women; however, it is more likely that it is because men are burdened with the responsibility of initiating romance, and without some sort of marker to help the man determine who it is socially acceptable to pursue, the burden would be much greater.
I think that if Kramarae would consider the experience of men more, she might realize that theirs is typically a life filled with rejection and humiliation. All men, unless they are very lucky or very sheltered, have had the experience of making themselves vulnerable only to be shot down in ways that quite often are been and impolite. Dr. Kramarae, go ask out ten men in a week, get turned down ten times and be insulted at least five of those times, and see, then, if you don’t feel like taking to the streets and howling some cat-calls of your own. This is not excuse this behavior of men (I find it appalling, and I have never nor would I ever engage in such activity); however, having a much better understanding of the male experience than Kramarae, I can clearly see that this behavior is likely more about pain than power.