Friday, January 21, 2011

Re: reading as a tool against hegemony OR Rereading as a tool against hegemony

It is dreadfully difficult for the fish to see the ocean in which they swim. That is one of the strengths of any hegemonic system. It is difficult for those living within it to realize that they are, indeed, living "within" a construct when so much of what they see seems natural, right and normal.

One of best ways to demonstrate hegemony induced blindness is to read a book one first read several decades ago. [I would suggest watching a television show or a movie but changes in production value can make it difficult to see past the technological changes to issues of social construction.] One finds upon rereading the book that apparently an evil genie crept into the text during the intervening years to change everything from language to plot details to aspects of characterization. "How could I have missed that!" one cries.

One missed it the first time for the same reason that fish do not notice the water--because it was such an automatic and unquestioned part of the universe in which one lived that it barely impinged on one's consciousness. One missed it because the reader and the author shared the same prejudices, understandings and stereotypes.

And as you put down the book or come to the last frame of the movie perhaps you should take a moment to wonder about all of the other things one had taken for granted or not noticed.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The invisibility of misogyngy

While this article Maybe Jared Loughner Was a Bigot, After All in Slate magazine supports my argument that Loughner's attack on Giffords was motivated, at least in part, by misogyny it also serves as an example of the invisibility of misogyny. 

Look again at the headline. Loughner, the reader is told, is a bigot. Yes, misogynists are bigots. They are a particular type of bigot. If most of someone's writing is about Jewish conspiracies to take over the world we call them anti-Semitic. If a writer's output is dominated by claims about the 'yellow menace' we call them racist. Yet when a man publicly argues that women should not be allowed to hold positions of authority Slate calls him a bigot.

Tom Scocca, the author of the Slate piece, makes the argument that The New York Times article buries and obscures the importance of Loughner's atttitude towards women.
These bits of information appear in the 17th and 90th paragraphs of the Times story, a story dedicated to the thesis that the facts surrounding Loughner are "a curlicue of contradictory moments open to broad interpretation."
Scocca's argument that The New York Times was ignoring the importance of Loughner's misogyny was partially buried by the Slate editorial decision as to the appropriate headline for the story.

If Scocca himself had been a woman this treatment of his piece would have been even more ironic but I suspect that if Scocca had been a woman her editors would not have taken her argument seriously enough to publish it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How to win arguments on the Internet

Did you know that there is a really simple way to always win arguments on the Internet? Really it is very simple. I can explain how to do it in one sentence. Declare yourself the winner and don't read any responses.

If you have lots of time there are some variations on this simple tactic.

One is to write a really, really, really, really long post with little or no formatting. This will make it difficult to read. If someone responds to one of the points in your post but not to all of them counter by speaking only to the point they didn't address. Ignore anything else they said.

Another useful variation is to refer so vaguely to those you are "arguing against" that any response to your statement can be parried by saying "that wasn't the person/point I was writing about."

There you have it. You will never lose an argument again.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Running to stay in the same spot

Today I had one of those moments when I realized that I had been running very hard just to not lose ground. If you had told me several decades ago  that the gains women had made in the United States could easily slip away I would have accused you of having excessive levels of cynicism. Today I fear I would have to agree.

Today women have less access to reproductive services than they did a decade ago. Legislation aimed at protecting women is being repealed. Institutions designed to service women are underfunded. More disturbing is the perception among many that "since feminism has served its purpose" feminists should fade away.

Is it wrong to feel that one should not have to fight the same battle year after year?