Jaded16’s Note: The Interwebes is a funny place, gentle readers. Sometimes it shows you things like how I can get an artificial virginal cooter if I want (on special demand!) or it draws just the right guest bloggers to your blog so you don’t spew rambling LadyFeelings all over your blog as you battle writer’s block. And lose repeatedly. So LogosKaiEros is back to save my skin as I get what is left of my head back. Hopefully soon.
I just read a handful or articles for one of my classes, and I am left thinking about a moral dilemma that has antagonized me since beginning my foray into anti oppression studies.
First, let me sum up the articles (I also discuss these articles on my blog here).
Nancy Hartsock writes about Feminist Standpoint Epistemology, which is, in a nutshell, the idea that oppressed people, by being oppressed, get to see the icky underside of society for what it is (i.e. oppressive) and so in this way, they know more than the privileged groups that are much more ignorant of the workings of kyriarchy.
Uma Narayan comes along and points out that we shouldn’t valorize this epistemological position, since, although oppressed people are better situated to see oppressive systems for what they are, they are also–by being oppressed by these very systems–possibly unable to use or access this knowledge.
So for instance, generally speaking women are better able to detect sexism than men are, but many woman have constructed identities around thinking that traditional female roles gain them respect–so their understanding is fractured. If you push them, they might admit that people don’t respect them fully for being a mother/sex partner/’girly’ girl/model/childcare giver etc, but at the same time, they may not be willing or able to acknowledge that this is due to a society-wide power differential. They may tell themselves that these are isolated cases and that their [insert traditional female role] provides them with all the fulfillment they need. So in that way, many women suck at identifying sexism for what it is, too.
So then come along Acker et al, who did this research project about middle age housewives who are going back to the workforce. In the article, they discuss how they want to approach this project so that they don’t impose their ideas onto the women they’re studying and end up skewing their results. They talk about how they want to acknowledge these women as subjects, not just objects to study. They write,
“…our commitment to minimizing the power differentials of the relationship in the research was further confounded when it came to the analysis. We found that we had to assume the role of the people with the power to define. The act of looking at interviews, summarizing another’s life, and placing it within a context is an act of objectification. […] The question becomes how to produce an analysis which goes beyond the experience of the researched while still granting them full subjectivity? How do we explain the lives of others without violating their reality?” (my emphasis)
I haven’t been able to get this question out of my head, partially because my immediate response was “we can’t avoid this, nor should we.”
Acket et al. talk about how some of the women in the study really resisted looking at their lives from a feminist point of view, and the researchers felt reluctant to push the point–to risk shattering whatever comfort these women have managed to find in their oppressive society.
But I kept thinking, but aren’t they delusional? Isn’t this comfort false? Isn’t this valorizing their oppressed existence? Aren’t they really suffering from a fractured identity and then lying to themselves about being respected members of society?
So here’s the question: If you meet someone who belongs to an oppressed group, and they deny that they are oppressed, do you have an obligation to try to shake them out of this? Or the other way, is there ever a time when you have an obligation NOT to shake them out of their current self-understanding? Are you ever obligated to leave people to their bluepill worlds?
[The blue pill in the matrix would have you stay in the matrix (blissful ignorance) and the red pill would bring you into the real world–where robots would try to kill you].
I really really really want to say that we should shove redpills down people’s throats; that they are living a delusion where they’re aren’t even all that happy anyway; and that by leaving people to their bluepill existence, that can actually get in the way of liberation for us redpillers.
…And then I remember the debate on whether rape victims should be obligated to report their attacks.
And I realize that I have argued that women should NOT be forced to report their attacks, since this could be harmful for their personal/mental well-being, and no one woman should bear the responsibility of fixing patriarchy. We shouldn’t be forced or obligated to sacrificing our own personal happiness or serenity for ‘the good of the cause’.
But…can’t I use these same arguments here? That one can’t really be happy or serene if Patriarchy is free to stomp around? That one’s personal happiness would then be indirectly contributing to the further oppression of others?
Should I shove red pills down their throat but acknowledge that this is an unfair burden? (Hmm that sounds skeezily imperialistic).
Should I admit that one of obstacles in being anti-evil is acknowledging that if a person has chosen their bluepill ignornace, it’s not my place to wake them up from it, lest I violate their reality?
Now I don’t know what to think.
P.S. Gentle readers of the Olde Interwebes, remember that magical Open Guest Posting policy link? It still works, press it and see for yourself. No innuendo intended. Well not too much anyway.