Exam 4

Hello everyone! Welcome to the Feminist Theory Conference here Hunter College. I thank Judith Butler and Jasbir Puar for giving us insight on their views of feminism and gender. Both of our guests have brought up some great points.

Judith Butler critiques feminism, something that many have come to know as a movement that sought to bring equality to women (and homosexuals, transgenders…), is doing the exact opposite of what it intends to. The identity of the women has long existed long before feminism. However, feminism is what created the gender/identity of the women as the oppressed group. Women are then the byproduct of feminism. Similarly with Puar’s critique feminism, a category of the “Other” is created. Intersectionality, the idea that oppressive powers/issues (racism, sexism) are linked and must be looked at together, ironically re-centralizes the White woman. The Women of Color, the “Other” is viewed as the one suffering from grievances. Both Butler and Puar have issues with feminism. Their papers chose to look at identities and how they are formed within specific contexts.

Butler takes an epistemological approach in which the knowledge/discourse is most important. Gender is socially constructed. Gender is what determines how we act in society and what responsibilities we hold.  At the same time, sex is just as culturally determined as gender. Sex, but especially gender, do not have to be fixed. The human body is moldable. Gender performativity is what everyone has been taking a part of. Our actions are merely a pattern of repeated acts that have been determined through our cultural definitions. How we dress and what we say are all acts. Butler has given us the example of drag as gender performing. Drag queens often dress up in exaggerated manners. They wear heavy makeup, glammed up costumes, and perform exaggerated actions of the opposite gender. The body is used as medium for performance. It is malleable. Couldn’t we agree that come drag queens are quite successful in displaying the opposite gender? In performing gender, drag reveals the “imitative structure” of gender. Drag blurs the distinction between the identities. Butler quoted Esther Newton. Drag reveals the outside (appearance) as feminine, but the inside (body) is male. At the same time, the outside of the performer is masculine, and the inside (thoughts) at the time is feminine.

Puar has taken more of an ontological approach in explaining gender. For her, it was more important that on the being/becoming process. Gender is socially constructed, but through discourse-as mentioned by Butler. It is the body that creates discourse. Puar mentions assemblages, the relations between things,  in her paper. She talks about the relationships and organizations of bodies. Like Butler, she also believes that identity is not fixed. However, we need more than epistemology to understand the body. Bodies does not just have to relate to humans. There are bodies of water and institutions. We can understand them in many ways, such as through language or discourse. Lastly, there are categories. Categories are ontological events(discourse) of of matter. We can look at racism as a category. Racism has always existed. As a result of racism (act), it created race (discourse), not the other way around.

Both theorists have contributed a lot in regards to feminist theory and gender identification. I agree that gender is more than what’s determined by a biological trait. Some questions I have for the theorists and/or the audience are:

1. If gender is an act, couldn’t we say that all other aspects of our lives (race, language, religion) are all acts as well.

2. If feminism has been creating separations, then what is there that can be done to actually unify the groups, if possible?

3. Lastly, Puar stated that it was necessary to look at the underlying meaning behind the matter. What are some of the underlying meanings that can be used to push feminist movements forward?


Exam 2

Dear Diary,

I am enjoying this beautiful view on the seaside right now as I write this. There are many couples on their honeymoons walking on the beach. My mom came by earlier to “talk” with me. She gave me the “talk” again. She asked me when I would find myself someone like all the loving couples on the beach and get married.

  “Wouldn’t you want to be a happy housewife like me and live a simple lifestyle with your husband and kids?”

I told my mother, for the hundredth time, that this was not what I wanted to do now. I want to be an intellectual. Great, she thought. She assumed that I meant becoming an intelligent person that can share knowledge with others, such as teaching. I told her the intellectual does not have to be the one producing knowledge. The intellectual can be the one who is in an oppressed position and is struggling against the powerful system. Students and prisoners can be seen as intellectuals. The education/prison system can act as the oppressive power. The intellectual’s job working against themselves becoming those people in the oppressive system.

To clarify what I meant by this powerful system, we can look at Deleuze and Guatarri’s Body Without Organs. There is the organism which represents the system, like the government (or the overbearing mother). The organism is made up of organs. The organs represent those who are at the bottom of the hierarchy. They are the oppressed group. The two have a reciprocal relationship. Both need each other to survive. The organism/system provides the organs with the nutrients they need in order to support it. Society instills many ideologies onto its people. In order to maintain it, people continue to become subjects of these ideologies. They are the organs that are trapped inside this body. They hate every part of it, but at the same time, still crave for it. It gives us a sense of order and belonging.

To become an intellectual, I will have to acknowledge all these but also work against them.

My mother snorted at my explanation. She thought it was all an excuse to be an antisocial anarchist, just another phase I’m going through. Well, this is not some phase. I’m serious about becoming an intellectual. I will work on becoming the BWO by putting aside everything that I have been taught. I will free myself from the ideologies. My struggle against the powerful can hopefully create a horizontal distribution of power in society where everyone is equal.

   ‘What do you think?” I asked my mother, “Aren’t you proud to have a daughter like me/”

She looked at me with a worried face that read, “My daughter is going to be a poor struggling social outcast trying to achieve an unreachable reality.” She finally replied after a long pause. She tells me it’s a great idea. However, she still thinks I should find a man soon. After all, I won’t be twenty one forever. So in my long conversation with her, I failed to change her mind. Sometimes, you just can’t change a traditional Asian women’s beliefs. With that, I decided to sit back and relax. After all, I am twenty one, and have plenty of time.

Exam 1

I was at a high school reunion this past weekend with my good friend, Louis Althusser, from English class. We were chatting up on how things have been going until we heard a loud voice. This voice belonged to the class clown (at least he used to be).

“I’m so over this capitalism thing. I don’t follow itand I definitely won’t be fooled by them. I’m so much better off out of the public school system. Thanks goodness my kids are at a private Catholic school and not getting brainwashed by what the government wants.”

Upon hearing we cannot help but laugh. Religion is another part of the ideological state apparatuses. by Sending his children to a private Catholic school does not make things any more different than public school. He continues,

“My kids don’t wear those fancy Nike shoes and Abercrombie clothes, just uniforms. They are going to grow up to be independent individuals and not follow those so called trends.”

Althusser responds to him, “By purchasing them their uniforms, and paying tuition for their education at an institution, is that not contributing to capitalism? Surely, the uniforms have been produced in a factory somewhere. The school runs in accordance with the government regulations in order to teach children the required curriculum. You are doing exactly what you deny-buying into the ideology of capitalism. ”

Angry and embarrassed, he storms out of the room. Perhaps he is going to save his children from the evil brainwashing institutions,

Reading Response 2-Intellectuals and Power

We hear that “knowledge is power” all the time. Foucault talked about the role the intellectual in his conservation with Deleuze. The intellectual known as the one who produces knowledge. This intellectual’s job  includes working with those in power, such as the bourgeois class, or working against it by exposing it. Foucault and Deleuze give examples of the prison, the school, and the factories. The prison warden, teacher, and boss are figures that exercise power. Their actions are justified. They work with the ruling class to reproduce its ideologies. However, the intellectual’s job should be a struggle against the forms of power. In other words, the prisoners, children, and factory workers should be considered as the intellectuals because they are struggling against power. We can go back to the Almighty Eye post that shows power is everywhere. It can come in all forms. Couldn’t we say that power does not have to be a physical place or person? Ideologies can also be a form of power as they play a major role in shaping our beliefs. How can we define the intellectual’s role as the one who struggles in this case?