Cyborgs and Feminists

Haraway writes that a cyborg is between “imagination and reality” and there is a pleasure “in the confusion of boundaries”. Throughout the piece, she emphasizes a breaking of barriers. She seeks to break down our dualistic mindset using examples such as humans and animals, mind and body and more. By showing us how these barriers can be broken she is showing us how our own barriers can be broken. Haraway desires women to unite on one feminist front rather than remain divided among all the branches and groups that exist today. She talks a lot about the being made of “parts” and “wholes”. These parts and wholes refer to our identities. We are shaped by so many different factors sometime wholly sometimes partially. Like Beauvoir, she acknowledges that women have no collective allegiance to one another. Our ability to form a unifying group is blocked by other parts of our identities. We are divided by class, race, and other parts that make up our whole. We need to be “fluid” as the technology is. She uses the examples of rays, signals and waves to show us how we should be. When she is calling for us to be “fluid” she is calling for us to be able to move between all the parts of ourselves and our world. Once again it is a way of saying we need to remove some of the barriers that we are defined by. Haraway claims we should have an affinity for each other. That affinity should be able to bind us together into one unifying group. We need to be unified by our common struggle.

Haraway’s desire to break down our individual identities to form a greater sense unity between women reminds me of chapter eleven and fourteen. Although she takes a different approach she is still making the same essential case. Women need to join each other, she says through an affinity, others say through a sisterhood. Either way it is again a call for us to unite and fight our common enemy together. Beauvoir makes a point that women have no unifying history and so does Haraway. She claims that cyborg’s have no real origin. In this way women are cyborgs. We don’t share a unifying history or unifying moment that brought us together. All the authors still seek the formation of some type of greater bond to bring us all together.  They all believe the strength to change the dominant culture comes from the power of all women united.

While Haraway’s points related closely to Beauvoir and Hopson they directly contrasted those of the authors from chapter twenty-six. Chapter twenty-six praised all the unique outlets of feminism and re-purposing feminism to an individual identity. Haraway seeks to put our individual identities aside for the ease of uniting whereas the others find a strength in personalizing feminism. She writes that she hates when women claim their individual outlet of feminism is the “telos of the whole”. When we limit our goal to simply forming our own individual feminism we are settling. She doesn’t want us to find a sense of comfort in our little niche of feminism but to join as whole. She also claims that when we name or create these little niches we are actively excluding other women. We cannot claim to be part of an identity specific group without knowing we are excluding someone else. If this group is based only for a small and specific group we are choosing to create further barriers rather than breaking them down. We see an argument for both honoring all parts of your individual identity and an argument for leaving them in the past. She finds these categorizations to be limiting and culturally imposed. The others see embracing them as a crucial part of creating an individual and knowing oneself. Haraway sees a bigger picture of women coming together for the fight and then possibly embracing a type of individualization or separation. The other argument is to start separate and eventually come together. One is to build and the other is to destroy in a manner of speaking. I’m not sure these individual points can be reconciled since their methods are so vastly different. The only commonality between the two thoughts is the idea of survival. Pough sees her individual feminism as a means for survival and Haraway also claims her method are necessary for survival. In both cases women are fighting for more than their freedom and equality but for their very lives.

For women to come together she wishes there was a “common language”. Discourse naturally favors wealthy white men so it is limiting to women and other men. We are using a language created by our oppressors to explain our oppression. It is hard to deconstruct how women and their bodies are discussed using the same language that subjugates them. It is also hard to break down culturally constructed barriers between us without the proper tools. We need to be able to understand each other completely. Language is the proper tool to dismantle barriers, stereotypes and assumptions. The dominate discourse is another barrier designed to limits us.  Without the right tools we are struggling to work past everything. She calls her desire a “dream”. She dreams for the common language because it does not yet seem plausible. Perhaps, in the future we can figure out this common language but for now she dreams of it.

Haraway also writes about women’s unique relationship with work and how it has changed. She claims women are suffering on two fronts due to the changing face of the workforce due to technology. She claims women suffer that their husbands or men are losing their jobs because of these advancements. This causes a loss of income which could be crucial to the family. Then, women suffer again because their labor is commodified. Traditional “women’s work” such as nursing and office work are now capital-intensive. Women are the new face of the workforce as the “homework economy” takes off. They are the new face of the workforce but their positions are also considered “vulnerable”, “serving”, ‘exploitable” and so on. Haraway calls this a feminization of work. Women are being used in the workforce as well as the home and everywhere else. Some see this as women’s formerly undervalued work being assigned value. She does not believe this to be a change for the good. Now women’s work is valued but at some monetary number when it could be worth so much more than just that. When they claim that “women are given to dailines…their work is the ground of life”, it is an oversimplification of a complex web of issues.

 

 

 

Where are the Arab Women? (Chapter 28)

The question, “where are the women?”, goes beyond just protests and political activism. The question holds relevance to where women are in Arab societies at all. It questions their place in society, the media and more. Women are second-class citizens in most places and the Arab countries discussed in the reading seem no different. Women are told to wait for their rights until the men have theirs first. Women’s rights and needs are deemed less important and urgent than reforms pertaining to men. The men will gladly use the women to further their own cause but often won’t give that support back. Once the men have won their rights they consider the battle to be won. Nadje Al-Ali makes note that despite what is shown in Western and other media outlets women have long been parts of political protests and activism. So while we ask where they are, they are hidden in plain sight. They are among all the men we are shown but aren’t shown themselves. Since women have always been active in these areas it’s fair to ask, where has it gotten them? It appears the answer is often not too far, they are constantly pushed to the back burner. The women are helping the men fight for change because it is the only way they can eventually get their needs met. They see helping like-minded men change things as the first step on a long journey towards helping themselves. They must accept the fact that men come first in dominant society and their individual parties or protest organizations.

I think it is very telling of Arab perception of Western society that Al-Ali specifically claimed “they are all very different” after listing a few Arab countries. She is working under the assumption that we will assume they are all comparable. Often, we simply group all or many of those countries under the label of “The Middle East”. We lump them into a homogeneous group and assume they are all operating similarly. Since they share some religious beliefs and a specific part of the map we fail to see the importance of discerning between them. This is an awful truth and it needs to changed. This type of homogenization leads to stereotypes and assumptions about whole groups of different people. By doing this we are allowing the negative actions or beliefs of some to taint our perspective of those who may be innocent. I believe this plays a hand in why many American’s have such fear of Arab people. By failing to educate people about the differences they assume the radical actions of a few individuals are approved of by all. This ignorance begins on the larger scale by failing to recognize these countries as individual’s then goes deeper when we begin to see the actions of the few as actions of a whole.

The story of Iman al-Obeidy brought up issues that reminded me of chapter fourteen. Iman takes the horrific story of her rape public and she is shamed by her peers. Women are calling her a “traitor” for telling the world what these men did to her. This reminded me of structures within the Black community that put women’s allegiance to men ahead of their allegiance to other women. Just as black women were taught to put their men’s needs first, these Arab women are doing the same. They are putting the reputation of Arab men before a sister who is suffering. They are taught that they must protect the abhorrent actions of their men rather than aid a fellow woman. Society has ingrained their inferiority into their very beliefs. Someone must truly feel a sense of inferiority to defend rape and turn their hatred upon the victim.  It’s sickening to think that this rape was a tool used to hurt a community. Iman must live with these horrors the rest of her life and it wasn’t even about her. She will be burdened by the truth that no one cared if it was her or another woman, she was simply used. Her rape will soon be forgotten among the other tragedies of war but she will never forget. Her story is just one of the many stories telling us why we need change. Clearly, a world where rape is used as a tool of war is a world that needs feminism. Women are not objects or stepping stones for men. Women are people.

Fourth Wave?

In the book the Third Wave is written as being the contemporary wave. The introduction to the readings claim that it is still relevant and active today. However, I also found an article from 2008 claiming that there is an even newer wave of Feminism. Young people are taking up a Feminist banner to change the fight and continue it. They aren’t entirely new in their thoughts or methods but combine some of the beautiful things from all of the waves to say : “The fight isn’t over.” So are we the Fourth Wave?

Read it here: Four Waves of Feminism

Third Wave Feminism (Chapter 26)

Third Wave Feminism’s main pillars are a focus on intersectionality, a critical look at the “victim” mentality of Second Wave Feminism and a desire to re-purpose cultural identity to a feminist perspective. The Third Wave desires a more inclusive view of feminism, not a strict definition. There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to be a feminist. There is a recognition that with different history, culture and circumstances people must grapple feminism differently. One mode of feminism won’t work for every woman. People’s individual lives change how they define feminism and how they participate in feminism. While this recognition exists the third Wave also wants women to remember we all share a common oppression. No matter how we handle it or experience it we are still together under the umbrella of male dominance. There is both an attempt to diversify and unite woman. On a personal level, we must accept individual interpretations but on a larger scale we still need to remain united. We need to find unity through our differences. Our differences make us beautiful and allow us to have unique contributions to feminism. These various contributions coming together for the greater purpose of equality is the goal. Attacking patriarchy from different angles will only strengthen our fight.

Although all the authors have their individual goals and means to their feminism they share some common messages.  All of them seek to prevent the internalization of sexism whether it is from hip-hop, Judaism or Capitalism. They all see this internalization as damaging and weakening. A woman who internalizes these messages cannot fight for her rights the same as a woman who rejects them. Someone who places stock in the idea that they are “lesser” or inadequate will not feel the same passion and anger towards their mistreatment. From that anger sparks actions and from those actions we create change. We must realize that these messages are wrong and from there we can fight. Pough considers these tools to battle internalization to be tools of survival. We cannot survive when we feel no sense of self-worth and place no value in our own existence. Eating disorders and other mental illnesses can stem from being constantly belittled and objectified.  Sometimes we don’t even realize we have internalized some of this negativity until it is too late. Through the media and culture we are inundated with these messages, it spans all the individual forms of feminism.

Kathleen Hanna believes that the fight for change begins in our individual lives. We cannot declare all-out war on patriarchy or even capitalism is her case. She knows that it is unrealistic to think that we can overturn anything so large simply through revolting. We must begin to change ourselves and then our individual worlds for a successful revolution of thought. Once we have cleared ourselves from all the cultural ideals placed upon us we can work on our surroundings. For her, since she is in a band, means things like supporting fellow female artists and helping them gain a following. Even something as seemingly small as helping a fellow female musician can have rippling effects that help her cause. Hannah also uses her music as a way of gaining support for feminism and breaking stereotypes about women. She front an all-female punk band,  Bikini Kill. Through her band she shows how females can be angry, aggressive and participate in traditionally male-dominated activities.  She is beginning her own revolution with her music.

Gwendowlyn Pough also seeks to start change small and grow from there. She claims she used to find validation in hip-hop music of days past. However, as times have changed the music has become less female friendly in a sense of focusing on the objectification and degradation of women. Often these are focused on black women specifically. She finds this hard to handle since something that used to make her feel good now does quite the opposite. Rap and hip-hop often get a bad reputation for feminists for these very reasons. Pough thinks we can use these songs and videos for a greater good. She claims we can use these things as mirror on society as whole. Society informs these lyrics and videos so they should be held accountable, not just the music genre. We can point to the inspirations that create them and educate the public. People who see specifically rap and hip-hop as problem need to see the whole picture. Rap and hip-hop changing in this direction is a symptom of our patriarchy not a cause. Pough doesn’t surrender her love of hip-hop because she wants to be true to her history and true to her feminism. That’s exactly why she needs Hip-hop Feminism. She needs to be able to individualize feminism in a personally meaningful way as well as helping the united feminist cause.

Alana Suskin also finds a need for her own individual brand of feminism. She finds herself in a peculiar place of loyalty to a religion that considered to be patriarchal and an opposing loyalty to feminism. She was pushed into a deeper study of Judaism when she was constantly told to reject it. She read article after article claiming that women must throw off the shackles of Judaism. She could not reconcile this idea because Judaism is a part of her life, a part of her identity. Why must she throw away a part of herself to be loyal to another part? Aren’t both integral to her life, to her being? She had to defend her very existence too often. Her existence as both Jewish and Feminist was often denied. The very denial of one’s existence proves that we do need Third Wave Feminism. We cannot disregard whole groups of people, or even individual’s in our quest for equality. Equality means everybody is equal, not just the people we identify with. Suskin claims that Judaism has natural links to feminism since it’s “roots stem from resisting degrading paradigms in dominant culture”. Clearly, feminism does the same by rejecting the subordination and objectification of women that is so ingrained in our dominant culture today. By going back to the roots of Judaism she finds a unique place where she can be both Jewish and Feminism. She can also battle on both fronts for the two to integrate rather than polarize.

From Jennifer Baumgardner’s manifesto I really agreed with her desire for women to have a choice in child-bearing and her desire to view sex as pleasure rather than procreation. It is through these norms that “slut-shaming” and other stigma’s come to exist. If men and women could both bear children, we would think of sex very differently in our society. Women are shamed for enjoying sexual pleasure while men are encouraged. I think this stems from times when childbearing was necessary to continue a family line. If a woman became pregnant with a man other than her husband there was no way to truly prove whose it was. Therefore, women must be punished and shamed for their sexual activities lest their actions could not be controlled. These ideas are outdated and truly need to be updated to fit our world today. In addition, women are constantly pressured to want children. If you do not want children people treat you like a pariah. There is assumed to be something wrong with you either mentally or physically because it is women’s “nature” to want children. I simply do not believe this to be true. Just as men get the right to want individual things, women should too. Women are individuals and should be able to make choices as such. We cannot generalize all women based upon the fact that they are physically able to bear children. All the points she wants to fight against in the manifesto keep us limited by the desires of the majority. Just because most women want children doesn’t mean there is anything wrong those who don’t.

Trespassing on Male Superiority (Chapter 20)

The lack of appropriate interactions between men and women, besides procreation, in Muslim beliefs is a testament to how differently women experience oppression in different societies. Many of the authors have discussed how these differences keep women separated and reading this chapter helped me have a personal understanding of this idea. As Mernissi even writes, “…seclusion of women, which to the Western eyes is a source of oppression, is seen by many Muslim women as a source of pride”. I don’t understand how being separate from the public sphere and all it encompasses can be a positive thing. For me I would want to fight to give women access to public spaces freely but obviously, that isn’t something all Muslim women want. Even within the Muslim community women seem to have a hard time agreeing on exactly what is their oppression and how to fight it. From Mernissi’s writing she views this separation as oppression also. For her, the separation emphasizes the differences between men and women and heightens the tensions between them. By keeping these differences highlighted the trespassing of women is then heightened in its offensiveness to men. Women are so separate from men that they truly become outraged when women venture into public places for work or schooling. That outrage helps to fuel the harassment and abuse these women face.

In Muslim societies women are “foes” because they are always offensive to men. Their very existence and presence is “aggressive”. Somehow a woman standing on the street, even veiled, is an attack upon any male witnesses. Even as she stands passive her presence is enough to justify repercussions. A woman cannot even exist without needing to explain herself or justify her existence through a man. A woman’s only purpose is to have children so without a husband she is useless. Whereas Western women sometimes rely on men to define themselves, Muslim women need men to explain themselves. Muslim women are in an even further debt of subordination to men. However, once they are married they only become further scorned. Per the reading a married woman is the most dangerous because she has experienced sexual pleasure. Women are objects of scorn and distrust which all of men’s woes seem to be blamed upon. A woman’s duty is to “obey” therefore her existence means nothing more than doing as she is told. Women are denied their aspirations, dreams and any sense of personal fulfillment in this dynamic. She is no more than a mere object used for a man’s purposes.

It seems there is a sense of the “victim blaming” mentality that we see in American inherent in the Muslim beliefs. Except women aren’t seen as victims but as aggressors whose very presence is enough to cause trouble. Women are beings who naturally instill lust in a man and cannot control themselves. Their only purpose is to lure men into sexual relations that could be ruinous to them. Clearly, if a woman is in any way infringed upon by a man it is her fault for being a woman. Just as any woman wandering freely in the streets is assumed to be sexually available. Here, we blame by saying that the woman was “wearing something she shouldn’t” or “leading someone on” in cases of rape or assault. In the Muslim scenario these attacks can be justified similarly. Since the eyes are an erogenous zone, a woman who isn’t veiled is inviting men to look at her inappropriately. This gaze is thought to cause an equal amount of lust to actual touch. Her presence in a male place can be “leading on” because she is giving the impression of being a prostitute by being there. In both societies we are quick to blame women for the actions of men. It is an insult to male dominance and superiority for them to be at fault in a situation that involves both sexes. Men must maintain the myth that they are always in control and morally superior, even when they are at fault. If they are found to be acting on emotions or desires then they cannot condemn women for these actions. Men plant themselves on the side of logic and women on the side of emotion. If they break down these barriers there is less separating them from women and they are closer to accepting them as equals.

It’s very meaningful that Mernissi cites Samir’s “stare” as being the end of their childhood. It is the invasion of the “male gaze” that comes between these two close relatives. Samir has reached the age where he has learned to sexualize the female body and therefore he cannot enter the woman’s bathhouse. After that incident he recognizes all the separations between men and women. Samir and the narrator can no longer maintain the closeness they had because they are divided by power. He can no longer see her as equal which means their friendship cannot continue. Men and women cannot be friends when women aren’t even human. They are “outside of humanity”, lesser than human. The story shows the hardship of a young girl coming to terms with how her society sees her. At first the story seemed lighthearted but it takes a turn. This almost mimics how young girls experience this realization that comes with age. When they are children they don’t’ recognize these power plays and differences, but something will happen suddenly to change that just as it did in the story. The hard truths are always there but it takes something for children to realize them. That realization then comes with a changing of actions and attitudes.

It is also important that within the story the narrator becomes a “traitor” for telling her father that her mother and others use the men’s dining room and radio while they are out. She is a traitor because she is selling out other women to the authority, men. Although she didn’t know it was a secret she should’ve naturally allied with the other women in her family. Since she is a woman her kinship should lie with other women, difference will keep her apart from men. As noted she is young and doesn’t realize these differences yet but the older women do. They see her actions as an insult because they mimic the actions of society as whole. Women will be punished for wanting or using male things. In this story it’s the radio and the dining room, but in the larger picture it is jobs, educations and any public spaces. Women wanting jobs and educations threatens male superiority directly by taking their means of supporting a family. If a man cannot provide for a family surely he is emasculated. That is his purpose, a woman’s purpose is supposed to be in the home.

In addition, the father says “If they made a copy of the radio key, soon they’ll make one to open the gate”. I think this also fits into a larger picture of women’s desire for freedom and equality. Women taking small steps, like getting an education, could lead them to wanting more. Just as the women in the story are just listening to the radio it is assumed they will eventually want more freedoms. If you give women a taste of men’s privileges they will soon want more. No one can content themselves to live in servitude after they have begun to experience freedom. Women taking baby steps to break into the “male sphere” is just the start of a revolution.  While the trespass may seem small, it is the fear that they will become more frequent and assume more liberties that drives men to thwart them altogether.

Native American Women and the Start of Feminism

Just as Paula Gunn Allen claimed in her writing this article cites Native American women as a starting factor of the Feminist movement. Native American women enjoyed many rights European women did not, before colonization at least. They saw women’s positions, rights and work as a testament to what they could have if they fought for it. Although they aren’t often credited or recognized they deserve recognition for their role in motivating our Feminists movement. The movement has changed and evolved immensely over time but it wouldn’t be what it is today without those origins.

 

Read it here: How Native American Women Inspired the Feminist Movement

Silenced History- Native Americans and Gynarchy (Chapter 18)

 

One of the most important lines in the reading for me was when Allen wrote that “little or nothing” occurs in the minds of most Americans when Native Americans are mentioned. Often Native Americans are thought of as mythical or historical figures. People honestly don’t realize that they are still here today. People don’t realize because they are either ignorant of the reservations or fail to recognize Native Americans on the street because they aren’t the stereotypes often shown. People equate Native Americans to tipis, headdresses and powwows because that is what they are taught in elementary school. After elementary school Native Americans and their issues aren’t discussed which helps to explain the widespread ignorance today. This ignorance can also be attributed to America’s desire to “forget” as Gunn wrote. Where the Native Americans fight to remember their culture and language, America was built upon forgetting. Immigrants who came here for a new life were often given new names, Americanized names. That’s the first step to encouraging people to forget their heritage and past culture as a means to blend and assimilate to America’s new culture. It is also convenient for America to “forget” in the case of Native Americans since they were treated so abhorrently. America does not want to remember the genocides, forced sterilizations and other horrors they put upon the Native Americans.

The oppression of Native Americans stems from their forced loss of culture, traditions and history. Those are the foundations for any group to thrive, to have a sense of identity. When you take away these foundations the people become lost because they have nothing to build from.  The inability to have a solid identity will impair people for life because they need a sense of who they are to figure out their place in society and their individual importance. Everybody needs some sense of purpose otherwise they have nothing to work and live for. While dealing with these losses they are also dealing with the suffering of their ancestors and all they went through. In the Native American Women Writer’s course we discussed how “past is present” for Native Americans. They are constantly living with the horrors America put them through and the fact that these horrors are now largely unrecognized. They are aware of all the prejudices against them and question their own worth as a result. Native American and Settler interactions chronicled to the history books are usually limited to historical attacks, battles and treaties. They are all political encounters rather than the interracial marriages and sharing of knowledge between tribes and settlers. We are taught the cold political facts rather than the warm human bonds that occurred. This helps to keep a separation between the Americans, Native Americans and everything that happened between them.

Other than simply keeping Native Americans in an oppressed state their history and culture also needed to be destroyed because some of their systems were almost the opposite of patriarchy. They had gynocratic and matrilineal societies. In these system women ran government and social relationships as well as having the family descent follow their lines. If European women saw these systems functioning among Native Americans they would demand more power. Allen discusses all the changes that would occur if Native Americans ran our country today: Women have a more central position, elderly respected, egalitarian distribution of goods and power, destruction of environment ended, no wars and more. Many of these values go against the way the Settler’s had been living and what they believed in so they could not let it stand. They could not let the Native Americans thrive because it seemed like a direct assault on their authority and supposed superiority. They could not abide by the fact that maybe the Native American system was working better tin some ways than theirs.

The Native Americans also had the first feminist rebellion in 16,000. Some of the women joined together to declare a ban on love-making and child-bearing until they were granted the power to decide upon peace or war. They were successful in their rebellion which also speaks to the Native American way of life. Rather than forcefully quelling the rebellion the women had won. Femaleness was respected by Native Americans rather than devalued. In our society today being a woman is not a place of privilege or respect. Women are still fighting to be considered equal let alone revered. Women in the Cherokee society were the core of the family, could oversee land and hold political positions. Cherokee women received a special place in society and with that place came respect. There were even “Nan’yehi” or “Beloved Woman”.  The Beloved Woman got a vote on the Cherokee General Council, they got to lead the Cherokee women’s and act as diplomat and negotiator for the tribe.

From this power and respect Cherokee women gained a certain confidence. They had the confidence to write and speak in protest of their treatment. Many times, they would go so far as to address European diplomats as “son” in their letters or speeches. By claiming themselves “mothers” and the diplomats as “sons” they are flipping the power dynamics. The mother is the one who controls, raises and disciplines the son not vice versa. When they call the men “sons” they are putting them in a place to listen to their words with respect, demanding rather than begging. They are in a position of wisdom and experience. This also has ties to the belief that the mother’s identity is a key to one’s own identity. If these Cherokee women set a scene where they are “mothers” to these men they are integral to their identities and beliefs. It is an attempt to establish a human connection where there may otherwise just be diplomatic and political coldness between them.  Clearly, Native American women had a certain power that European women did not at the time. That power is a contributing factor to the destruction and dismantling of Native American culture and history. Empowered women have always been a concern and threat to patriarchy.