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Author Topic: Anti-racist like me
Babbling_Jenn
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posted 27 February 2006 12:51 AM      Profile for Babbling_Jenn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
As I read through this ambitious review by chris cavanagh, a few things hit me as strange, or remarkable, at least.

First of all, good title!

Second, I find it odd that a reviewer would take a risky stand saying that the fight against sexism has been more successful in identifying privilege than the fight against racism. Here is a quote:

quote:
Nonetheless, the fight against sexism and patriarchy is something that has won a significant degree of mainstream credibility and acceptance. Not so with another invisibility that continues to structure our society and lives in powerful and exclusionary ways: whiteness.

While this may be true, I would venture to guess that it's not proveable and I disagree with pitting like-minded movements against one another to prove how important it is to join in with one.

More strangely, later in the review, cavanagh says this about Words to our Now

quote:
One of the complicated issues in anti-racist struggle (as well as other struggles against oppression) is how both to theorize and practice the inseparability of the multiple forms of oppression. It is tempting to privilege one form over the others and much has been written on this alternately advocating for class, race or gender as most fundamental. Concepts are proposed such as “multiple and overlapping,” “intersecting” or, perhaps a bit more fearsomely, “hybridity.”

This sentiment seems to directly contradict the pitting of one oppression against another earlier.

Further, I'd like to make a totally different comment about language. I have been struggling lately with academic language. I have an undergrad degree that was riddled with nights reading pages of convoluted books and essays and I have come to believe that this academic language is a little unnecessary, especially outside of academia.

In the quote I pasted last, words like 'intersecting' and 'hybridity' just serve to confuse and alienate, I think...is it not possible to say this another, more accessible, way?

Comments?


From: Rural Ontario | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged
Thrasymachus
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Babbler # 5747

posted 27 February 2006 08:21 AM      Profile for Thrasymachus     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
In the quote I pasted last, words like 'intersecting' and 'hybridity' just serve to confuse and alienate, I think...is it not possible to say this another, more accessible, way?
I agree with you about those terms and I'm surprised to hear Chris use them. He is one of the most "popular" educators I have ever met (a wonderful person BTW). I also don't think that it is mutually exclusive to say that one problem has been addressed more successfully than another and then to say that these "struggles" should not compete against each other.

From: South of Hull | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged
Rundler
editor
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posted 27 February 2006 11:07 AM      Profile for Rundler     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think that the quotation marks around the words, as well as the characterising of hybridity as "fearsome" are an acknowledgement of just what you point out, but as these terms are used in lots of anti-racist literature, it's also important for essays like this one to use them in a way that makes it plain that it's all about the same thing, whatever the language. I see this as contributing to accessibility, not its opposite.

Another thought: a theory professor of mine once responded to her students' complaints about accessibility saying that she doesn't understand the specific terminology of plumbers or electricians or any other innumerable fields; that terminology is developed not because the plumbers don't want others to understand what a such and such is but because as you pursue something more deeply, you refine language to reflect your level of expertise, it's shorthand but language is also a stepping stone to deeper thought; so, she demanded, why should everyone need to know what she means for it to be valid.

I'm not sure I totally agree -- since it erases the dynamics of power and exclusion and the way SOME kinds of knowledge are used to dominate, control and confine others. But, nevertheless, there's something worth thinking about there I think. Even the goddess of brilliant accessible theory bell hooks creates language to convey her analysis.


From: the murky world of books books books | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged
Babbling_Jenn
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posted 27 February 2006 02:11 PM      Profile for Babbling_Jenn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I like that comparison -- plumber to academic, language-wise. In this case though, I think anti-racist work should be more accessible to the average person.

I'm somewhat versed in postmodernist language, but I still don't find this type of language useful when I'm looking for concrete suggestions and thoughts on anti-racism...or anti-oppression.

In the case of the plumber, she has special language to identify parts of the sink that the average person doesn't need to know. But doesn't that context change when we're discussing issues that, ideally, the whole world needs to know?


From: Rural Ontario | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged
Makwa
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posted 27 February 2006 08:09 PM      Profile for Makwa   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
sorry everyone

[ 28 February 2006: Message edited by: Makwa ]


From: Here at the glass - all the usual problems, the habitual farce | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged
storyfool
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posted 27 February 2006 11:53 PM      Profile for storyfool     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
What great comments. This is a first for me - to have something published and publicly discussed this way. Chris here, by the way.

Thus far i can see that there are two big issues on the table: competing oppressions and appropriate language.

On the first, i appreciate Babbling_Jenn's criticism and grant that I may have implied that “the fight against sexism has been more successful … than the fight against racism.” An unfortunate implication - I agree with Babbling_Jenn, it is “not proveable.” However, my point about winning a “degree of mainstream credibility and acceptance” is not exactly the same as “success”. While I could have been clearer, my point about mainstreaming is one that is slightly more proveable than success. And some would undoubtedly express scepticism (if not outright disagreement) that mainstreaming has anything to do with success.

I also believe that pitting oppressions against each other is not only a mug’s game but is a classic tactic of “divide and conquer”. Oppressions are multiple and overlapping and simultaneous and more. And it’s tough to talk about one without implying that it is paramount. These debates have been going on for a long while and will, no doubt, carry on for a good long while: “It’s all about class.” “No, it’s race.” “Patriarchy underlies everything.” And around and around we go. Developing a language with which to speak about the complex inter-relation of oppressions is one of the political and theoretical challenges of our time.

Which leads me to the second issue about language, accessibility and jargon. While accessibility is an important issue in these democratic times – for all language is imbued with power and no words are innocent of long and deep histories of power and resistance – it is dangerous (Makwa’s point about presumption being only one example of numerous dangers) to advocate for accessibility for the “average person.” It’s all about context: the right words for the right moment for the right people. Every field needs its jargon. And jargon (as well as all language, for that matter) can be used to facilitate and illuminate as much as it can be used to obscure and exclude. The proliferation of oppressions and the complexity of their inter-relation necessitates new words and new uses of old words. We all don’t need to wield the lofty lexicon of high theory, but I know that I want someone doing it. A diversity of approaches, I daresay, is a good strategy of resistance (which is one reason underlying my choice of the five texts I review).


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Babbling_Jenn
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posted 27 February 2006 11:56 PM      Profile for Babbling_Jenn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Makwa, I think that response was a little harsh and I'm not exactly sure what I said that made you so angry.

I wasn't saying that people who study anti-racism can't understand that type of language. I also wasn't saying that academic language should be eliminated.

My point was (and perhaps I wasn't being very clear) that sometimes when a lot of academic terms are used, the audience shrinks. I want to read something that I can understand. I don't want to have to read a book about the intersections of multiple realities before I can understand that the author just wanted me to think about how black women have to face two kinds of oppressions on top of one another.

Academia has done SO much for social causes -- to the point where, in my view, many potential activists spend much of their time writing in journals, where most people will never read them.

Personally, I don't get very much out of reading academic theories in the newspaper. If I want to really get into the nitty-gritty, sure I'll pick up that postmodernist gender studies book, but if I'm reading a book review about anti-racism, I'd rather be able to understand it right away and spend my brain power translating the thoughts into actions in my own life.


From: Rural Ontario | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged
Babbling_Jenn
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posted 28 February 2006 12:09 AM      Profile for Babbling_Jenn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Response to Chris:

I am so glad that you responded on the forum! It is so rare to have readers discussing and writers reading and responding -- fantastic!

I take your points. I think I even agree with them.

My frustration with language largely comes from picking up magazines that are progressive, but can never compete or accrue an audience like mainstream magazines. In my mind, part of the problem is that so many of our progressive news sources in Canada are thick with academic jargon: marxist/socialist analysis of the class structure of Fanon's essay on xenophobia...(totally made-up example).

I totally agree that there is a time and a place for everything and some people want to be part of the theory behind it all and some people want to throw the rocks at the cops.

I'm really just figuring this out for myself right now. Part of me loves to think about these issues and thinks there is room for public consumption of academic theories, but then there is part of me that hates having to trudge through heavy academic stuff in a magazine I thought was going to inspire me to throw it to the flood, slam back my coffee and take back the streets.

Well, anyway, I think we agree.

As for the pitting of oppressions, I understand that wasn't your point. You were trying to say that certain marginal successes have been obtained against sexism that haven't against white privilege. The way you said it though, made me feel like the people around me are conscious of their male privilege, but not their white privilege and that is far from my reality.

You raised something else that was interesting and perhaps could be a whole other thread, but the notion of success and whether this success in raising awareness of whiteness or maleness is really being measured in the right way currently.


From: Rural Ontario | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged
storyfool
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posted 28 February 2006 12:49 AM      Profile for storyfool     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I understand the frustrations with language that you're speaking of. I've had my fair share of 'em. And so i've taken the struggles with language as yet another front on which to battle against injustice. But it's more than that, of course. Meaning that we're talking about theory. Of which one of the questions is "what is theory?" And there are lots more related questions like: who gets to make theory; for whom is it made; how does one apply theory; how do we combine theory and action; and who is Thierry, anyway?

I love language and i love theory. But i try and keep it in perspective - which is to say that i try and be humble about it. (I fail a lot at that bit.) I like to think of theory as that level of discourse (or explanation) that exists after stories. First, you got experience; then you give an account of your experience - a story; then, and this is best done over beer or wine, you start to talk about the types of stories you tell, the way you tell 'em and so on - that's theory. (Followed by philosophy, pontification, apotheosis and lots of other bigs words).

I sympathize with your trudging. This common circumstance of having to "trudge through heavy academic stuff" is a symptom of the woeful way we make and share knowledge in our society. Too much is a contest of power and egos and look-at-how-smart-i-am-now-please-buy-my-book-and-make -me-rich. How different the world would be if we had the resources and imagination to take time to care about naming this world together.


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Michelle
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posted 28 February 2006 08:07 AM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Babbling_Jenn:
Further, I'd like to make a totally different comment about language. I have been struggling lately with academic language. I have an undergrad degree that was riddled with nights reading pages of convoluted books and essays and I have come to believe that this academic language is a little unnecessary, especially outside of academia.

In the quote I pasted last, words like 'intersecting' and 'hybridity' just serve to confuse and alienate, I think...is it not possible to say this another, more accessible, way?


One of my long-standing pet peeves as well, Babbling Jenn.

Makwa, nowhere did Jenn say that she thought that people who care about anti-racism are "unable to assume the mantle of abstract language". It's like you were reading her post and searching for a reason to get pissed off. Holy God.

I also agree with Chris, that every field needs its jargon in order to get complex ideas across. However, there is a certain point (and so many academics cross it, and I'm not talking about you, Chris) where it turns into jargon for the sake of jargon and becomes inaccessible even to people trying to learn in that field. And I've noticed that there's a heck of a lot of that in social sciences and humanities such as, for instance, women's studies (the one I'm most familiar with).

[ 28 February 2006: Message edited by: Michelle ]


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Makwa
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posted 28 February 2006 04:24 PM      Profile for Makwa   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Michelle:
Makwa, nowhere did Jenn say that she thought that people who care about anti-racism are "unable to assume the mantle of abstract language". It's like you were reading her post and searching for a reason to get pissed off. Holy God.
You are quite right, and I am dreadfully sorry. I was upset at something else going on in my life, and while I had meant to be ironic, instead I came out caustic and hostile. My wrong, and I sincrely apologize to everyone. I'm going to take a babble break for a while (no doubt to everyone's great sigh of relief). Bye.

From: Here at the glass - all the usual problems, the habitual farce | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged
Cueball
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posted 28 February 2006 05:04 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Nonsense. Most people like you here, as far as i can tell, and your input is valuable and intelligent. I can understand taking a break, but don't think you are not valued.

Also, I am not sure Michelle was "moderating" you when she said that, I think she was just commenting personally. But she can speak for herself on that.


From: Out from under the bridge and out for a stroll | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
sidra
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posted 28 February 2006 07:46 PM      Profile for sidra   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Makwa,

Please don't leave. I have also been subjec of Michelle "So and so did not write that" and I am of the opinion that she gives little credit to people's intelligence and their grasp of what is being alluded to. Her interpretation of people's posts is literal, subtilties escape her, nuances are not her cup of forte and were analytical skills were being distributed she was absent.


From: Ontario | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 28 February 2006 07:53 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by sidra:
Makwa,

Please don't leave. I have also been subjec of Michelle "So and so did not write that" and I am of the opinion that she gives little credit to people's intelligence and their grasp of what is being alluded to. Her interpretation of people's posts is literal, subtilties escape her, nuances are not her cup of forte and were analytical skills were being distributed she was absent.


How helpful. How generous. How empathetic.


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
gunnar gunnarson
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posted 28 February 2006 07:57 PM      Profile for gunnar gunnarson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Is that what they call sarcasm?
From: audra's corner | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged
Erik Redburn
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posted 28 February 2006 09:01 PM      Profile for Erik Redburn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
No, Sarcasm also implies a hint of irony and wit, in which case that particular post should be considered a backhanded compliment of sorts. How's that?

Michelle is an excellent moderator (without a hint of sarcasm intended) and she's absolutely right here. Specialist jargon can be useful for communicating subtle distinctions needed in certain fields, but it can also be exclusive, elitist, pretensious and vague -depends entirely on whether the user wants to communicate or obfuscate. At no point was this meant as a particular comment about Makwa, who's perfectly capable of making himself clear. (and who's usually much better at online irony and wit than I am -I'm more of a prop comedian )


Edited: Cuz effective online sarcasm also requires the ability to type without shooting yourself in the hip -scarcasm-

[ 28 February 2006: Message edited by: EriKtheHalfaRed ]


From: Broke but not bent. | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 28 February 2006 09:24 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Cueball is right. I don't think you should leave either, Makwa. I just thought you should cut Babbling_Jenn, a pretty new babbler who might not be used to "the usual" around here some slack. I hope the "something else" happening with you will turn out for the good. Sorry you're having a rough time.

sidra: kiss my ass. I don't get paid enough to take shit from you, and I certainly don't read your posts as a hobby.


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
gunnar gunnarson
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posted 01 March 2006 01:11 AM      Profile for gunnar gunnarson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
OK, so is that sarcasm?

(Hey Mak -- can you show me how to do those little dancing smilies in the chorus line?)

Edited to add: p.s., michelle, if you're having a bad day, scroll back and read 'lance's story about eavesdropping. God help me, I'm still laughing at that.

[ 01 March 2006: Message edited by: gunnar gunnarson ]


From: audra's corner | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 01 March 2006 09:06 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Where is 'lance's story about eavesdropping? I can't find it, and I need a giggle.
From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
'lance
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posted 01 March 2006 01:38 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I heard her call my name.

But I don't want to derail this thread, so I'd suggest posting followups on that one.


From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
bigcitygal
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posted 01 March 2006 02:15 PM      Profile for bigcitygal     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Hi storyfool (you know me, I'm an old bud of people from the CC). Great reviews, btw, and I'll be getting some of those books!

Although I'm a bit late to this discussion, I wanted to throw my opinons in the pot. Sorry if my points seem overly ordered. I'm on lunch break at work so I'm in that mode.

1. On hierarchies.
The hierarchy-of-oppression argument ("Yes there is one!" "No there isn't!") only works if you think phrases like "sexism works this way" and "racism works this way" and "classism works this way" are real, and that there are no people who embody more than one place (or location). A man of colour being sexist is in a different societal position than a white man being sexist, for example. I'm not saying it's okay, lest anyone jump to that erroneous conclusion.

Wanna know more about how oppressions are hierachicalized (yeah I can make up words if I want to!)? Ask a woman of colour. Ask a poor woman of colour who's a refugee. Ask a gay man of colour. Ask a white lesbian making minimum wage.

2. Language and accessiblity
Is the discussion on accessibility really about accessible language? My observation is that many conversations on babble about anti-racism degenerate into discussions about language. Yawn.

3. The comfort of distance
Knowing that babble is a majority white community, this could be why discussions on the topic of anti-racism get called on for issues like language and theorizing rather than content. This can get annoying for non-white babblers. By the time I arrived to this discussion Makwa already edited his post, so I can't comment on that. But myself and he and other babblers of colour have experienced a great deal of resistance when we have brought up issues of racism, both in the world and on babble. Again, this can get annoying.

I've said this before but it bears repeating: racism is not an abstract concept that only exists when white people think about it or remember it.


From: It's difficult to work in a group when you're omnipotent - Q | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
Babbling_Jenn
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posted 01 March 2006 11:55 PM      Profile for Babbling_Jenn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Bigcitygal,

Like Michelle said earlier, I'm a pretty new babbler, so I haven't witnessed the repetitive language discussion yet.

Having said that, I think I can see what you're saying. It's hard to know how many babblers are white as compared to of colour, but I would hazard to guess it's a majority white.

I was the one who started this thread, so I think I should explain what I hoped to get out of it. It's self-serving for sure, but the exchange of ideas is what babble is about, so I'll get to it.

What I was trying to bring up in the first post was that I had a hard time really getting into the review because of the language. In some places it felt straight-forward and in others it was very convoluted. I felt that this convolution (is that a real word?) came in part from the language used.

If I want to get deep into a topic from the base of a book review, I need it to give me the info in a simple, but not degraded manner. That may not be true for everyone, but it is for me.

Chris and I bantered on about this earlier in the thread and I think we both agreed that there is a time and a place for all types of these languages.

Yet, I still feel like I can't really discuss the books reviewed to the extent that I could have.

Maybe I should just move my babbling ass to the race forum and start a new thread that has nothing to do with language and see how things go. Who knows? I could get the conversation I was looking for!


From: Rural Ontario | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged
storyfool
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posted 02 March 2006 09:58 AM      Profile for storyfool     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
bigcitygal makes some crucial points about “hierarchies” and “language and accessibility.” I want to take up the hierarchy issue first and I’ll save my points about language for a subsequent post. (How do you folks find the time to post on these things?)

On hierarchies: I think there are two broad contexts in which this issue plays out. The first is about how society is structured. Is there one fundamental category of power that organizes all the others? Some streams of Marxism claimed that all springs from the economic relationships of class – a gross oversimplification, I admit - a position sometimes referred to as economic determinism. Of course, these debates remain lively. And I stand opposed to the notion that one form of oppression is more fundamental (or more firmly atop the pyramid) than another though I remain open to the possibility that I am wrong. In this context of social (also political, economic, etc) structure and process, the notion of hierarchies of oppression is a good debate. One that will likely rage for some time.

The other context is the day-to-day messy lived reality of our lives. And here I believe that there is what you could call temporary, provisional hierarchies of oppression in action. I’m still sceptical that this is a good way to look at things. But we do need a language with which to explain how one form of oppression (or a particular combination) is more powerful (active? relevant? important?) in certain situations, at certain moments. And we have to learn to be careful about who gets to name these moments. To play the “as a” card now: as a white, able-bodied, straight, highly educated, middle class, male, I am rarely anywhere but on the top of the “pyramid” of privilege and I think it is a political imperative to recognize the limitations that privilege puts on me in naming which oppression or oppressions are most important for a particular person (or community) in a particular situation. That’s a lot of words to advocate for a necessary disposition of the privileged-in-solidarity-with-the-oppressed of humility.

Now, I’m gonna contradict myself a bit, because I do believe that there are some forms of oppression that are more powerful than others – which you might interpret as a hedge against an anti-hierarchical position (and maybe it is a hedge). I would say that the “holy trinity” of “race, class, gender” does oppress more people in more ways (deeper, broader, wider) and more pervasively around the world than other forms. Which isn’t to say that homophobia, ableism, ageism and so on are not important (nor experienced as profoundly violent by those against whom these oppressions are waged). “More powerful” might be seen as hierarchy by another name. But I still resist the notion of hierarchy because I think that it is both wrong and unhelpful to subordinate some forms of oppression to others.


From: Toronto | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
bigcitygal
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posted 02 March 2006 01:39 PM      Profile for bigcitygal     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Babbling_Jenn: a belated thanks for starting this thread. You raised some good issues that are worth talking about. It's just always interesting to me that the issues and content raised in Chris' reviews are not what gets focussed on.

Chris: let's take an example. North American context. You take any group of people (let's say the population of Canada) and divide them up by gender and women will always statistically be doing worse than men; economically, status in society, etc. Take the same group and divide by race. Again, statistically, the white people will be doing better than the people of colour/FN people. And class, yes, divide any group by class and you'll find the wealthier people doing better than the ones of lower class status/lower actual wealth.

(Sorry to be simplifying so much, again I'm on my lunch break!)

But wait, when you divide this group up by class you'll also see that more white people are amongst the top levels, and by that extension more white men, and the lower you go the more POC and FN people, more women, etc etc. So yes, there can be a hierarchy, although it's not exact and not really meaningful, since of course there are loads of poor white people (as well as middle and upper-middle class POC) and it would never be my intention as an activist to pit different communities of poor people against each other in a "who's more oppressed" scenario.

My point about the hierarchy argument is that it's too highly theoretical, which is a funny thing for me to say, given what a theory-head I am.

There will always be exceptions, but it's not the exceptions that mark our society.


From: It's difficult to work in a group when you're omnipotent - Q | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
storyfool
rabble-rouser
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posted 03 March 2006 12:07 AM      Profile for storyfool     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
bigcitygal, seems like both of us are neither defending nor promoting the notion of hierarchy. So, back to the language issue.

I agree with bigcitygal’s implication that the discussion about accessibility is not “really about accessible language.” And while I have similarly observed debates about racism (as well as other oppressions) focus on language, I wouldn’t use the word “degenerate” to describe what happens. Controlling the terms of debate has long been a tactic of using power. To quote the Freire quote I use in the article:

When the oppressed legitimately rise up against their oppressor, however, it is they who are usually labelled "violent," "barbaric," "inhuman" and cold. (Among the innumerable rights claimed by the dominating consciousness is the right to define violence, and to locate it. Oppressors never see themselves as violent.)

The power to name things is the power to change things. And debating language has both authentic and contradictory purpose. We need to understand what we’re each saying may be an obvious truism, but some of us are awfully quick to assume shared understanding. And, of course, who gets to set the terms of understanding is, as usual, often a contest of power. On the contradictory side of things, I have often seen demands for “clarity” or “simplicity” or “reasonable language” used as ways to exclude, deligitimize or otherwise silence dissent and legitimate criticism. Simply put, shifting to language as the issue can be a dodge.

With respect, Babbling_Jenn, you want “info in a simple, but not degraded manner.” But who defines “simple”? Is it not fair to assume that learning about something new, especially if it is the privileged learning about the oppressions that they are complicit in, necessitates the hard work of learning new language (as well as learning of the experiences and stories of those who fight back, of course)? And, I daresay, that this hard work barely compares to the amount of work that people of colour have to do on a daily and hourly basis every day of their lives to resist the ubiquitous violence of racism. And the same can be said about women resisting sexism and patriarchy. In the request for simplicity I hear the legitimate need for understandable discourse. But all too often, I also hear resistance (bolstered by privilege) to taking responsibility to do necessary work. I am not implying that you are doing this, Babbling_Jenn (I don’t know enough about you to make such claims, implicit or otherwise). But the request for simplicity is common enough for me to critique it so.


From: Toronto | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 478

posted 05 March 2006 12:15 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
storyfool wrote:

quote:
Simply put, shifting to language as the issue can be a dodge.

On the one hand, yes, it can.

On the other:

Anyone who has been through the academic mill, or any "professional" mill, knows that specialized jargon can also be a dodge of another kind. Just like people of other kinds of privilege, academics and "professionals" (you can tell I don't believe in the professions, eh?) and other attenders of conferences are going to be the last people to note that their jargon has gone beyond usefulness to sheer fetishism.

So I think it is always useful to raise the kinds of questions Babbling Jen has here. BJ has reminded me of some of my own shifts in attitude towards the specialist languages I was trained in.
I will always respect (and in a few cases reverence) some of the theorists I learned from decades ago, but then I will also always snort at the guys who I sensed, even then, were picking up on the theory as a meal-ticket, and as hacks.

How do you tell the difference? Ah, there's the rub. You have to read each one and make up your own mind.

Someone above said something to the effect that every discipline must have its own jargon. I deeply oppose that notion. All jargon is death-dealing to language and thought. Derrida above all should have taught us that - it is such a tragedy that so many hacks decided to turn Derrida's own work into ... jargon. But that's life. I'm sure he caught the irony.

Some very careful writing, writing that defines its own terms every step of the way, is sometimes mistakenly labelled jargon. That seems to me wrong, but careful thought is always difficult to defend. It is always worth it, though. Well: what else have we to do?


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Crippled_Newsie
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 7024

posted 05 March 2006 12:45 PM      Profile for Crippled_Newsie     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by storyfool:
Now, I’m gonna contradict myself a bit, because I do believe that there are some forms of oppression that are more powerful than others – which you might interpret as a hedge against an anti-hierarchical position (and maybe it is a hedge). I would say that the “holy trinity” of “race, class, gender” does oppress more people in more ways (deeper, broader, wider) and more pervasively around the world than other forms. Which isn’t to say that homophobia, ableism, ageism and so on are not important (nor experienced as profoundly violent by those against whom these oppressions are waged). “More powerful” might be seen as hierarchy by another name. But I still resist the notion of hierarchy because I think that it is both wrong and unhelpful to subordinate some forms of oppression to others.

If the oppression of those who belong to groups outside of the 'holy trinity' is indeed "experienced as profoundly violent by those against whom these oppressions are waged," how is one sort of oppression really 'more powerful' than another?

By weight of sheer numbers of those oppressed? By how often the oppressed are reminded of their condition of oppression? By how prevalent the oppressive attitudes (spoken or unspoken) are in society? By virtue of how broadly socially acceptable the oppression is? According to how entrenched the systemic opppression may be?


From: It's all about the thumpa thumpa. | Registered: Oct 2004  |  IP: Logged
storyfool
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 248

posted 05 March 2006 05:22 PM      Profile for storyfool     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Good point CN! And good questions. And I don’t know the answers. “More powerful”, is perhaps, a flawed and clumsy distinction that can’t help but keep us debating the merits of one oppression over the other. I should know better than to toss around an ambiguous term like “power.” I blame it on Foucault. Once upon a time, I thought I knew what power was – then I read Foucault – now life seems all about uncertainty and contingency. But I’m not sure about that. Alas.

What I was wrestling with in my clumsy way is how we can resist pitting oppressions against each other while yet having a basis on which to take political action. Resisting patriarchal oppression and racism continue to make sense to me as priorities over other forms of oppression – perhaps on the theory that this will lead to the most good for the most people. This shouldn’t eclipse the importance of action against all forms of oppression. And yet it will, of course. But we do need to share the resources of our society and we need to start taking action somewhere. In the world of physics there is the Unified Field Theory that may someday unify all the fundamental forces of the universe (electromagnetic, strong and weak nuclear forces and gravity). Maybe we will one day have the equivalent for the vast array of oppressions. But until then we do need some means of deciding one what issues our collective political will prioritizes.


From: Toronto | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged

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