We’ve been asking ourselves for years why certain voting blocs vote for the Republican Party apparently against their interest. The economic platform of the GOP does not seem to serve working class white men, but the racist dog whistles and socially conservative “family-values” appeals draw these voters in election after election. The neoliberalism of Hillary Clinton suggests that this same question should be asked of traditional Democratic voters who feel compelled to vote for the Democratic nominee to protect specific rights associated with identity politics. 7 intraparty caucuses are listed by the DNC in 1982, Donna Murch notes in this volume: “women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, gays, liberals and business/professionals” (92).
One contributor asks whether, if Roe were settled, many feminists would feel any compulsion at all to support the Democratic candidate cycle after cycle. Maureen Tkacik (“Abortion: The Politics of Failure”), founder of Jezebel, argues that this is the one issue that seems to unite women to the Democratic Party, despite the fact that Democrats haven’t been very good at making abortion safe and accessible to women. Tkacik maintains that the right to abortion is easier to exercise in Mexico, a country where that right does not exist. “This is telling because Hillary Clinton owes her chances at the presidency to abortion: and she’s not alone–it’s often Democrats’ unique selling proposition to women” (113).
But abortion cannot be the sum of feminist politics. Far more significant and far more central in making women’s lives, workers’ lives, people of color’s lives precarious are the neoliberal policies long supported by Hillary Clinton. Neoliberalism is the political and economic view that uses government to support and protect corporate interests, devolving risk to individual workers, who can be deemed too expensive to support. Tkacik concludes that it is telling that abortion has become the rallying cry of Clinton’s feminism:
Yet it makes sense from an insular Beltway fundraising perspective to focus on an issue that makes no demands–the opposite, really–of the oligarch class; this is probably a big reason why EMILY’s List has never dabbled in backing universal pre-K or paid maternity leave; a major reason “reproductive choice” has such a narrow and negative definition in the American political discourse. (123)
This collection of essays edited by Liza Featherstone reminded me of how central was Hillary Rodham Clinton’s role in bringing the neoliberal state of affairs to American politics and making it commonplace. In three specific areas-education, welfare, and crime policy- Hillary and Bill Clinton were catalysts of change in American thinking such that these issues appear incontestable yet are severely damaging. Read more
Starting on May 5, I embarked on a week-long social media experiment where I only engaged with women online. I did this project in conjunction with blogger and philosopher Leigh Johnson. Here’s what I posted and she posted on Facebook to announce the project.
I have long felt like social media is a man’s world. Men get all the privileges they get as men, but it feels amplified on social media. My experience of social media in general is that men can say things that get taken as definitive, while women are asked to explain and justify. Men say things about their difficulties in any particular area of their life and it is taken as an expression of their reflective capacities, but when women express such difficulties, it is taken as a moment to offer advice. I don’t have the data (a. I would love to see such work being done and b. I think the call for data in response to this expression of my experience is in a sense part of what happens to women on the internet–we call it gaslighting when experience is not to be trusted), but my experience on the interwebz is that it’s a hard place to be a woman, especially a woman in philosophy. Read more
Today was the first day of the Ancient Philosophy Society in Portland, Maine, hosted by Jill Gordon at Colby College. A new day has dawned for the APS when so much discussion of gender in ancient philosophy and explicitly of feminist approaches to ancient philosophy is given center stage. I was planning on posting a blog on the conference as a whole, but today’s program was so rich, and so focused on gender, that it deserves a post of its own. Read more
On March 12, 2016 at the University of Colorado, Denver, at the meeting of PhiloSophia: Society for Continental Feminism, I will be speaking on an Author Meets Critics panel discussing Robin James’ recent book. Below are my comments.
I like this book. I like how Robin James says important things to a popular audience from a background in academic philosophy that remains unbeholden to that world. I like her independent voice. I like how, in Resilience & Melancholy: Pop Music, Feminism, Neoliberalism, James exemplifies what philosophizing out of a singular moment and specific site looks like. Her moment is neoliberalism and her site is pop music. James uses music as more than an example; in her hands, music is a place for developing a conceptual apparatus for neoliberalism. In music, we hear how the demand to turn damage into something productive works to make oppressed persons assimilate into the neoliberal apparatus.
James references a whole slew of sources that signal the breadth of her influences in this project–from Adorno and Marcuse to Deleuze and Guattari, queer theorists Jack Halberstam and José Estabon Muñoz, New Media Studies theorist Steven Shaviro, political theorists like Jodi Dean, Lester Spence and Mark Neocleous, as well as cultural studies scholars like Zandria Robinson. Beyond those we recognize as theorists, James draws insight out of the work of pop musicians Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, Atari Teenage Riot and Rihanna. With this book, James expands the sphere of those figures worth putting to work in philosophy, just as her working out of music multiplies the sites in which thinking occurs outside of the center of well-respected philosophical discourse.
In this comment I move back to those well-respected in philosophical discourse, somewhat abashedly and certainly not because I think James’ argument needs to be put in conversation with those folks in order to gain legitimacy. By no means. James’ work addresses a strain in political philosophy that shows her to be calling into question, even turning on its head, the structural framework within which we have thought about how to expand the sphere of the political to include those at the margins. It’s fitting that this structure is turned on its head through voices unheard in philosophy. Read more
I was just listening to the latest edition of Slate’s DoubleX podcast, which I’ve decided to start blogging about more because at least once in every episode, I’m listening as I run, and I start actually talking out loud about why whatever they are saying is just so wrong-headed. I’m the chair of the Gender Studies Minor at Wabash, and so I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about how to encourage students to take more courses in gender studies and to minor. Listening to three women whose jobs are to think and write about gender but who often have underdeveloped or undertheorized accounts of the roots of gender inequality or the assumptions that support their analysis of gender inequality and possible recourses convinces me that students who have just some gender studies under their belt are both needed and highly marketable. I hate to sell things in terms of marketability, but sometimes I do. Read more
I’m coming to the end of my 31 days of blogging and I’ve been thinking about how this practice has changed my habits. Like blogging when I travel, I think blogging every day for a month has made me pay more attention to the thoughts that flit in and out of my head. They’ve also made me think about whether I want to develop something I’ve already written about a bit or if it matters enough to me. At the end of last year, I was recognizing a reticence in myself to write whatever insight or thought I had in a way that it looked to me that many people–mostly men–on social media did not have. I felt like I would circle around the idea four or five times and wonder whether it was worth putting in the world, which I talked about in my mid-month reflection on blogging.
Naming that problem has not necessarily changed it. Right now, I’m having one of those moments. I don’t know if my thought is worth sharing — I felt a little like this about yesterday’s post too — or if everyone already knows this except me. But I decided in these moments that the blog was just as much for me as for the world, and if it was important to me, it was worth sharing. Blogging about it gave me the opportunity to work through and clarify an idea that was percolating. I also tried to get out of my head the idea that my audience was other philosophers. In fact, I think this might be one thing that keeps philosophers from effectively engaging in public philosophy: we’re so tough on each other, we end up being more concerned with crafting the argument to be unassailable and original that either we just don’t write or we write to an audience that already is our audience!
The thought I had this morning was about the notion that women are more associated with their bodies than men that I discussed yesterday. I had always thought that the reason for this is that women bear children and so their work is literally in their body. But this morning I was thinking that is not sufficient. After a week of discussing Anne Fausto-Sterling’s work, it occurs to me that we think of men as less involved in reproduction because of our views of women as more their bodies and men less so, not the other way around. Read more
In Charles W. Mills’ essay, “But What Are You Really? The Metaphysics of Race,” he offers an array of markers that are used to identify a person’s race–ancestry, immediate family, self-identity, appearance, experience, self-awareness of culture, and so forth. He argues that the fact that we shift from one criterion to the next in identifying race suggests that we have a political not an epistemological investment in identifying race. Put another way, it’s because we want to maintain a certain structure of power that we shift our notion of what race means in different settings so that it applies in ways that serve that power structure in different moments. This move demonstrates that race is not something we wish to determine for the sake of some uninterested knowledge, but for political purposes.
While arguments against nature might be easier to make in terms of race, many more people think nature supports different roles for men and women. Witness, Larry Summers. Today, my Introduction to Gender Studies students came to the conclusion that we shift our definition of what nature means (either the ground for how things are or the thing that must be overcome) in a similar way to how we shift our definition of identity markers determine race. The shifting senses of nature show that we are invested in nature as a category that grounds certain power structures rather than as a real ground that will give us information about how things out to be. We change what we mean by “nature” depending on what allows us to justify the way things are in a particular context. Read more
In Debt: The First 5,000 Years, David Graeber writes,
One could see how the metaphor of the porne might seem particularly appropriate. A woman “common to the people”–as the poet Archilochos put it–is available to everyone. In principle, we shouldn’t be attracted to such an undiscriminating creature. In fact, of course, we are. And nothing was both so undiscriminating, and so desirable, as money.
This is in the context of explaining why Greek aristocrats thought money was garish. The conception of woman behind this critique of money is telling. Women have value because they are inaccessible and restricted. Men protect and isolate their women to preserve this value, which is based not on the woman’s unique personality, appearance, wit or strength, but on the extent to which she is accessible to other men. The less accessible the more valuable. The less accessible, the more desirable. How one is a woman, either parthenos, virgin or gynê, wife or mother, is determined by whether anyone has access to her or not. In the case of gynê, your husband and your sons have access to you. The power of Athena as parthenos is in part her refusal of access to anyone. Read more
With some help of some Facebook friends, I’ve collected a list of scenes from film and television of fathers or coaches or other male role models shaming younger men for not being manly enough. Here’s the list. It is surely not exhaustive. Add your suggestions in the comments. Read more
Last weekend, Elinor Burkett published an opinion editorial in The New York Times calling into question whether Caitlyn Jenner is really a woman. Sarah Miller points out the many problems with Burkett’s argument over at Jezebel, which I want to point to and double down on here, mostly because I’m put off that even the podcasters over at Slate’s DoubleX had a hard time finding the language to respond eloquently to Burkett. Noreen Malone notes on the podcast that it was the #1 most emailed piece at NYT over the weekend, which is to say: it struck a chord. So I want to say a few things about that chord. Read more