A Year in Review: Changing Perspectives

Since it is the time of year where it is customary to review events and happenings of the past twelvemonth, it is both seemingly customary and obligatory to write a review of the year. I have invited Sinistre, Destre and Antisophie to give a piece about reviewing the year, and Antisophie rejected this on the basis that it was an arbitrary idea for a blog post. If there is one thing I have tried to do in my resolutions of 2011 it has been to keep a sense of consistency with the things that I have resolved. In addition, one other thing that I think might be worth talking about is not just a change in my activities, which is usually characteristic of New Years resolutions, but what usually characterises the failure of said resolutions: mindset.

Previous New Years resolutions have met with some success. In 2009 I ventured to keep more records of music, so I used Last.fm religiously (p.s. feel free to add me!). My resolution for 2011 was to improve my fitness, and read more. I’ve been training for the past few days with Sinistre, and I think with some fairness I can say that I’ve upheld the former resolution but there is more to do in the world of keeping fit. Regarding my reading target, I set a task of reading 100 books, which I have kept a log on another social networking site, Goodreads (again, feel free to add me!). I not only met the target of 100 books but exceeded it. I hope that the developers of the site keep that widget for 2012.

A related, but non resolution task that I set for myself over 2011 was to read more about Feminism. I did this through the help of the ‘A Year of Feminist Classics‘ blog, which I must admit that I couldn’t find many of the books towards the later months. Reading the (excuse the gendered word) ‘seminal’ works of feminism did help to widen my perspective, and the agenda of feminism will continue to be something of interest to me. I suppose I have been apprehensive about feminism in the respect that people often say things like ‘I’m not a feminist but…’, or ‘I agree with feminism to a point’, in reference to the fact that many people seem to think that the literature in the 1970s to 1980s which typified feminist discussion in relation to more radical themes discussed in Margeter Walters’ VSI monograph on feminism. Another feature that may annoy many people is the perception of contemporary feminists as 20-30 something women who predominantly speak from a caucasian, middle-class university educated perspective. If politics has the problem of these male equivalents (give or take a decade older) dominating political discourse, contemporary representations of feminism would also have this as a difficulty as well.

As an aside, I recall an interesting allegation that I was perpetuating a white bourgeois view of culture in a talk that I gave on Utopias earlier on in the year, and I thought to myself: I am the last person to be accused of being white or bourgeois! My point is that the population or over-reputation of any discourse (such as the overrrepresentation of men in politics or academic fields) is not a reason to dismiss the discourse tout court, even if it undermines what we may call its ‘ecological validity’.

So, having read Mill’s ‘Subjection of Women’, Wollstonecraft’s ‘Vindication’ and Perkins-Gilman’s ‘Herland’, can I call myself a feminist if I see a good amount of reasoning about the historical and current status of women being diminished by virtue of their urinary organs. I find this difficult to answer. One because feminism isn’t really my ‘battle’ to fight, firstly as a man and secondly since I have so many other battle grounds to engage with (Adorno on Culture, for instance). There is a certain kind of flaw about campaigning on too many issues which undermines a campaigner (let’s call this the P. Tatchell factor), so in that regard I am more an observer of feminism than a participant.

I think the real thing that blew my mind in relation to gender is that I am much more aware of the gendered nature of culture. I have a nephew and a niece for example, and I can see how toys and products are marketed differently, and perhaps the obvious form of this is the colour coding and gender assigning of products. Girls like pink and boys like blue. Girls toys relate to domesticity and male toys relate often to activity. Another thing that interests me is that feminism was introduced to blow open a quagmire of intellectual discourses, politically the acknowledgement of women shook up the establishments of the early 20thC and still continue to do so in various respects, consider for instance the recent BBC story that women are not included in the Sports Personality of the Year award (to which the F-Word blog put forward a series on contemporary women in sports today, many of whom are Olympic hopefuls).

In the history of feminism, intersectionality is essential to the movement, to talk about women is to demystify an ‘other’ character. Increasingly we can demystify the ‘other’ by addressing issues of ethnicity and sexuality. Black and lesbian feminisms were interesting critiques which split feminism into a plural movement of feminisms, which would attack each other for their lack of representation and the solidarity with the female disaspora. One thing that I learned from new personal friends is the experience of the transsexual woman. Blowing open our sense of social awareness even further, there is still much more work and social awareness for the cause of transgendered persons. Cisgendered establishes currency as a term in relation to the transgender, and the acknowledgment of transgendered people poses another set of issues for feminist discussion.

Being a philosophically inclined person, I couldn’t help but ask if feminism was relevant to philosophy. This merits a whole article on it self, but let’s just say that it does have much of a contribution to systematic areas of philosophy. Empirical studies on gender and gender bias show that data on gender perceptions affects issues that are relevant to theorising in epistemology, morality and even the construction of science. I have wondered personally whether ‘feminist epistemology’ is basically the same thing as ‘social epistemology’ , in that they acknoweldge the social construction of knowledge and question what things are not included under the aegis of episteme (that’s just one example). I’ve had a related thought which is whether it is possible for feminist philosophy to be a systematic philosophy. This I need to think harder about. It is one thing for feminism to be relevant to philosophy systematically, it is vastly another thing for feminism to be systematic. Perhaps it is unique about an intellectual movement to be involved so intimately with campaigning and action that it resists systematising.

2011 has been the year of the SlutWalk, superinjunctions which mostly related to men having affairs with women and for British readers, changes in government funding which negatively affects everyone, but women will be especially affected in relation to activities such as childcare and employment, where the gendered roles affect their social and public roles. The frame of gender has been useful to me in my general outlook, and it also has enabled me to be painfully aware of my own gendered existence. I spend hours playing skyrim, working out at the gym. I have macho interests like airsofting and tasteless action films. I realise that some of my interests I probably find compatible with being male. I am self conscious about the gendered language among my friends, and even some of the things I say which normally is accompanied by an ‘oh shit did I really say that 2 years ago?!’ moment. Gender is a very interesting frame to look at contemporary issues, and I think it will continue to do so. So if there is anything that can characterise my year I would say that it is reflexivity.


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