Here’s the full text from the The Pacifica Radio/UC Berkeley Social Activism Sound Recording Project:
This was the final paper for my Feminist Philosophies class. I’ve taken a lot of heat for writing it and I think I have learned a lot about sex positive feminism since the initial release of the paper. My paper was sliced and diced to pieces on a few blogs. I kept my mouth shut and listened. I talked with my philosophy professor. I talked with my sex positive friends. I listened some more. I’ve decided that I am on the fence about pornography. I need more time to figure out the complexities of something that I feel is oppressive. I feel that pornography contributes to the “patriarchy.” However, several people have informed me that my paper is oppressive. I am simply posting the paper now to show where I was at a few months ago…
According to bell hooks (2000), feminism is defined as “a struggle to end sexist oppression” (p. 26). There are multitudes of definitions for “feminism”, but I believe that ending sexist/patriarchal oppression is a just rationale for acceptance of hooks’ definition as the definition of feminism in this paper.
One particular form of feminism, radical libertarian, is constructed on the basis that the sex/gender system is the cause of women’s oppression. There are two aspects of radical libertarian feminism that I believe are in direct contradiction with hooks’ definition of feminism. Radical libertarian feminist believe that pornography and prostitution are acceptable practices that are liberating for women. Radical libertarian feminists contend that repressing women’s sexuality in any way is oppressive and leads to the continuation of patriarchal oppression.
Unfortunately, I disagree that pornography and prostitution lead to the liberation of women. I believe that pornography and prostitution maintain, increase, and encourage patriarchal domination/oppression and thus this brings me to the central question of this paper: Is radical libertarian feminism a feminist philosophy if feminism is defined as a movement which seeks to end the oppression of women? I would posit that radical libertarian feminism is not an actual feminist philosophy because it fails to grasp the damaging consequences of pornography and prostitution.
I will attempt to give numerous examples of how pornography and prostitution contribute to the continuation of the oppression of women. Having read both pro and anti pornography/prostitution prose, I have determined that radical libertarian feminism is in fact a feminist faction that is simply a patriarchal movement which disguises its true objectives behind veils of free speech and anti-censorship rhetoric.
Radical Libertarian Feminism
On the surface, radical libertarian feminism appears to be a valuable form of feminism. Cara Stewart (2003) states that, “radical libertarian feminists like to violate sexual norms and believe that women should control every aspect of their sexuality.” I am an overt proponent of free expression that does not come at the expense of another group. However, I believe that there are significant flaws within radical libertarian feminism. Similar to white supremacist views, radical libertarian feminism’s construction of freedom of sexual control for women is built upon freedom for some and oppression for others. A white supremacist would say that whiteness is superior to any other race and that white privilege is something that is acceptable. This superiority idea and privilege acceptance, oppresses and devalues people of color. A radical libertarian feminist who states that pornography and prostitution are liberating for women seems to be liberating some women and denigrating/oppressing others. In fact, most of the scholarly writings, newspaper articles, and online resources which speak of radical libertarian feminism fail to mention women of color, women from countries other than the United States and Canada, and women from non-educated, lower socio-economic backgrounds. If women of color are mentioned in writings on pornography or prostitution, they are portrayed as victims of racism or patriarchal oppression. There does not seem to be anyone who has written anything positive about women of color engaging in pornography or prostitution.
bell hooks (2000), in referring to mainstream feminism’s goal of achieving gender equality, asks the question of “which men?” Which men should women be equal to? Similar to hooks, I think it is prudent to ask a parallel question to proponents of radical libertarian feminism. Which women? Which women are liberated by the practices of pornography and prostitution? This leads me to ask another question: What exactly is pornography?
I think that to discuss why pornography is a practice which devalues women and in turn devalues radical libertarian feminism, requires an attempt at defining pornography. Pornography has been defined by numerous feminists. Defining pornography in a patriarchal landscape can be a slippery task. Pro-pornography advocate, Wendy McElroy (1995), states that a definition of pornography serves only those individuals who are trying to “control the debate [about pornography]” (p. 42). Most sources that represent a radical libertarian feminism view fail to include a definition of pornography. I think this is because a pro-pornography definition would expose the inherent ugliness of pornography. To create an inclusive definition of pornography would force pornography advocates to acknowledge the voices of the anti-pornography movement. I attempted to find a pro-pornography definition but unfortunately most of the language revolves around debunking anti-pornographer definitions. If pornography is a good thing for women, I would think that proponents of pornography could give it a meaning which upholds their libertarian values.
Two of the most cited anti-pornography feminists are Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon. I found that sources which were against pornography frequently cited Dworkin and MacKinnon while pro-pornography sources tended to minimize the use of so-called “MacDworkinite” writings. Dworkin and MacKinnon drafted a model civil rights law which gives specific definitions of pornography:
Pornography is the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures and/or words that also includes one or more of the following: (i) women are presented dehumanized as sexual objects, things, or commodities; or (ii) women are presented as sexual objects who enjoy pain or humiliation; or (iii) women are presented as sexual objects who experience sexual pleasure in being raped; or (iv) women are presented as sexual objects tied up or cut up or mutilated or bruised or physically hurt; or (v) women are presented in postures or positions of sexual submission, servility, or display; or (vi) women’s body parts — including but not limited to vaginas, breasts, or buttocks — are exhibited such that women are reduced to those parts; or (vii) women are presented as whores by nature; or (viii) women are presented being penetrated by objects or animals; or (ix) women are presented in scenarios of degradation, injury, torture, shown as filthy or inferior, bleeding, bruised, or hurt in a context that makes these conditions sexual (as cited in Blakely, 1985, p. 46).
This definition does not represent a fictitious view of pornography. I believe it simply includes every conceivable act of that which is named, pornography. Another definition which is shorter in length but equally as powerful comes from Laura Lederer. According to Lederer, pornography is “the ideology of a culture which promotes…crimes of violence against women” (as cited in Mielke, 1995, p. 27). In 1994, Ms. Magazine held a round table feminist discussion regarding pornography (Dworkin, Findlen, French, Gillespie, Jacobs, Ramos, and Shange). Several definitions of pornography were discussed. Norma Ramos (Dworkin et al., 1994) defined pornography as “a system and practice of prostitution, as evidence of women’s second-class status. It is a central feature of patriarchal society, an essential tool in terms of how men keep power over women” (p. 34).
Pornography is liberating
Annie Sprinkle is an outspoken advocate for pornography. She is frequently referenced in books that declare that pornography is empowering for women. Sprinkle, who defines herself as a radical libertarian feminist, states that she is a “post porn modernist” (Touma, 1994). According to Sprinkle:
Post Porn Modernists celebrate sex as the nourishing, life giving force. We embrace our genitals as part, not separate, from our spirits. We utilize sexually explicit words, pictures and performances to communicate our ideas and emotions. We denounce sexual censorship as anti-art and inhuman. We empower ourselves by this attitude of sex-positivism. And with this love of our spiritual selves we have fun, heal the world and endure (as cited in Touma, 1994).
Sprinkle is an extremely public figure in the pornographic industry. She is a woman who has “stepped outside of the dominant culture altogether, embraced the sex industry, and felt a sense of empowerment that…women seldom experience” (Assiter and Carol, 1993, p. 153).
Sprinkle is also completely in denial that pornography can be attributed to anything negative. In an interview on her personal website, AnnieSprinkle.Org, she stated that child pornography “does not exist” and that “the only nude picture of a 12 year old girl you can find on the internet was put there by the FBI to entrap pedophiles” (Annie Sprinkle). Unfortunately, child pornography does exist as evidenced by a recent New York Times article in which a child pornography ring was revealed consisting of over 1,500 customers, all of which were men (Eichenwald, 2005). Sprinkle consistently swears that pornography provides her with an avenue to a “safer world”.
Sprinkle experiences pornography as an active participant. She is a porn star. Porn stars like Sprinkle, Nina Hartley, and Jenna Jameson frequently posit that pornography is a good thing. The views of women who are pornography consumers or users are seldom presented. In Talk Dirty to Me, Sally Tisdale declares her ardor for pornography (1992). She asserts that she uses pornography to “make peace” with herself. Pornography helps to expose herself “truly” to herself (Tisdale, 1992, p. 46).
In addition to porn stars and porn users, I think it valuable to include the voice of a proud pornography purveyor. According to pornography actor and producer Adam Glasser:
[Pornography] completely changes their life. If they get into the right situation, the right hands, and they have a good head on their shoulders and some support from somewhere, this could be a life-changing business as far as giving people a freedom and financial stability that they have never ever imagined for themselves (as cited in Frontline, 2001a).
Glasser claims that women are safer in the pornography industry and that he has had numerous women contact him with stories of how pornography was liberating to them (as cited in Frontline, 2001a). It should be noted that Glasser is selling a product and that he is in the pornography industry to make money. Why would he ever say anything negative about what he is selling?
Pornography harms women
I presented what I believe is a fair representation of what pornography is and how pornography has been labeled as liberating for women. I did not want the pro-pornography voices to overshadow what I believe are the true non-liberating factors of pornography.
Pornography is violent. I believe that it is violent because the creators of pornography tell me that I am correct. Rape is an act of violence. Rape is portrayed in pornography as something that is supposed to arouse. Since most users of pornography are men, I can only guess that this means that rape in pornography is designed to arouse men. In gonzo pornography, men frequently rape women.
A horrific example of the violence in the pornographic industry is the story of Linda Marchiano. Marchiano, whose stage name is Linda Lovelace, starred in the 1970’s pornographic film, Deep Throat (Horne, 1997). In Deep Throat, Marchiano is depicted as a woman whose clitoris is located in the back of her throat. In the movie, Marchiano’s only method of achieving an orgasm is to have a man’s penis shoved into her mouth and down into her throat. As a feminist, I am for non-violent oral sex. I believe it is a healthy, non-oppressive form of sexual expression. In Deep Throat, Marchiano was forced to act like she enjoyed being submissive. In 1980, Marchiano wrote a book called, Ordeal (West, 2005). “In Ordeal, Marchiano tells of how she was abducted, hypnotized, drugged, beaten and tortured in order to perform her starring role” (as cited in West, 2005). Pornographic arousal for patriarchy was exchanged for Marchiano’s well-being.
How can radical libertarian feminism maintain membership within the context of feminism? Women are being hurt. According to Catherine MacKinnon:
Pornography is a harm of male supremacy made difficult to see because of its pervasiveness, potency, and, principally, because of its success in making the world a pornographic place…to the extent pornography succeeds in constructing social reality, it becomes invisible as harm (as cited in Lee, 2005, p. 99).
How can radical libertarian feminists control their sexuality without simultaneously hurting women? I don’t think it is possible as long as patriarchy is the dominion in which pornography exists.
In 1998, the Oregon Department of Corrections banned inmates from possessing pornographic materials (Roberts, 1998). The administrator who handles mail operations stated that the ban was put in place to curb rape. Even the American Civil Liberties Union thought that the prison ban on pornography would hold up in court (Roberts, 1998). It seems quite obvious then that if banning pornography in state prisons helps to prevent rape and other forms of violence, why then would a similar ban in the rest of society not help to prevent rape and other forms of violence? Nadine Strossen of the ACLU says that pornography must be tolerated because of free speech or the First Amendment (as cited in Atcheson, 1995). I do not understand how the KKK has been prosecuted for committing violent acts while pornography in the non-Oregon prison world is allowed to contribute to violence and oppression against women. Racists are not allowed to hide behind the banner of the First Amendment while perpetrating violent acts.
In 1991, Robert J. Stoller’s ethnographic text, Porn: Myths for the Twentieth Century, was published. Stoller conducted interviews with “producers, directors, actresses and actors involved in the production of X-rated videos aimed at the heterosexual male consumer” (Mielke, 1995, p. 84). The violence in the pornography industry is described in detail in an interview by Stoller:
Producer-performer Bill Margold told Stoller that his reason for being in the adult film industry is, in large measure, to satisfy the desire of the male consumer to see the male porn stars “getting even with the women they couldn’t have when they were growing up.” According to Margold, when they ejaculate on a woman’s face or “somewhat brutalize her sexually,” male porn stars are satisfying male viewers’ desires to gain revenge against women for remaining beyond reach (as cited in Mielke, 1995, p. 84).
Pornography seems to use violence to push what Robert Jensen (2004a) calls “the edge.” According to Jensen (2004b), “As pornography has become more acceptable, both legally and culturally, the level of brutality toward, and degradation of, women has intensified.” In Japan, a form of pornography which is extremely violent is called bukkake (Wikipedia contributors, 2005). In “forced bukkake” pornography, a woman sits in a chair and then is ejaculated on by a dozen to fifty men (Wikipedia contributors, 2005; Frontline 2001b). Jensen furthers the fact that pornography is violent by confirming that:
…from both laboratory research and the narratives of men and women, it is not controversial to argue that pornography can: (1) be an important factor in shaping a male-dominant view of sexuality; (2) be used to initiate victims and break down their resistance to unwanted sexual activity; (3) contribute to a user’s difficulty in separating sexual fantasy and reality; and (4) provide a training manual for abusers (2004b).
According to Assiter and Carol (1993), “very little pornography actually depicts violent acts” (p. 21). Perhaps this is true, but pornography does contain and perpetuate violence and it has been shown to contribute to violence. Dr. Edward Donnerstein and Dr. Neil Malamuth have conducted research which “has shown that…pornography increases male acceptance of aggression toward women, trivializes rape, and distorts perceptions of rape and forced sex” (Blakely, 1985, p. 40-41). Radical libertarian feminism might aid women from being repressed sexually but it contributes to the oppression of women by advocating for pornography.
Pornography objectifies women. In heterosexual pornography, women are seen as the means to end. I think that most men consume pornography so that they can masturbate to the objects on their screens. For Catherine MacKinnon (1989), pornography “constructs women as things for sexual use and constructs its consumers to desperately want women to desperately want possession and cruelty and dehumanization. Inequality itself, subjection itself, hierarchy itself, objectification itself…is the apparent content of women’s sexual desire and desirability” (p. 327).
I think that MacKinnon is correct when she argues that pornography turns women into objects. A pornography web site offers this view of women in the description of a DVD: “women were born with three holes for one purpose: To cram a cock deep inside every cuddly cavity! Like true cock sockets, our whores subject their beautiful bodies to the nastiest 4-way debauchery ever lensed” (Zero Tolerance, 2005). Robert Jensen’s description of pornography eerily mirrors the pornographers: "In pornography, women are three holes and two hands. Women in pornography have no hopes and no dreams and no value apart from the friction those holes and hands can produce on a man’s penis" (Jensen, 2004a). Bob Guccione of Penthouse magazine declared, "When I see a pretty girl the thing that I immediately think of is not how she looks to me, but how she would look to my readership. In other words, what is her centerfold potential" (Erase the Dark, 2003)? Guccione is turning women into things that can be sold for men’s pleasure. Women in pornography are turned into commodities which are bought and sold. Women are constructed as objects and not subjects. Radical libertarian feminism does not provide any substantive rationale for how it is acceptable for women to be oppressed by the objectification of women through pornography. I do not think objectification contributes to the end of sexism. Radical libertarian feminism is not feminism. Feminism is a movement that seeks to end the oppression of women.
Prostitution is the act of women being sold for sex. It’s very similar to pornography. Whereas pornography is mostly legal in the United States, prostitution is mostly illegal. Prostitution is violent. It also objectifies women. I know this to be true because I was recently in Las Vegas, Nevada where I was bombarded by people who were handing out cards. Each card contained sexually explicit photographs of women who were supposedly “ready and willing” to “get me off” sexually. Apparently, prostitution is a thriving industry in Las Vegas. Interestingly enough, I did not see a single advertisement for male prostitutes. If prostitution is work, why are men not selling themselves to women? I think it is because in the world of prostitution, men are pimps and women are whores. I think it is concentrated patriarchal oppression. I do not know of any women who act as pimps with men as their whores. According to Annie Sprinkle, “Whores are rebelling against the absurd, patriarchal, sex-negative laws against their profession and are fighting for the legal right to receive financial compensation for their valuable work.” I think Sprinkle is incorrect. Whores are oppressed by the patriarchal pimps who sell them to other patriarchs.
In Amsterdam’s Red Light District, women are displayed like department store products. Women are people, not products. The Internet is home to a myriad of stories which state that the prostitutes in the Red Light District enjoy their “jobs” and that they do not feel oppressed. What about other women? What about women who are forced to face the realities of what prostitution does to them? Radical libertarian feminists would say that the women who enjoy being prostitutes are liberated. What about the women who are sold like cattle into prostitution rings? How are they liberated? According to Andrea Dworkin (1994), “prostituted women are being killed every single day.” I do not believe that radical libertarian feminism is feminism. Feminism is a movement that seeks to end patriarchal oppression in any form. I believe that prostitution oppresses women and supports patriarchy.
Perhaps pornography and prostitution do provide some women with a means of expressing themselves and that via that expression; they are able to break free of patriarchal bonds. Although, I wonder why more women do not choose to consume pornography or to become porn stars and prostitutes? I think it’s because most women do not see pornography/prostitution as liberating. I think pornography was created for men, by men, and that the women in pornography do not accidentally have large breasts and skinny bodies. They are constructed as objects for patriarchy.
Why, if prostitution is so good for women and radical libertarian feminism, are so many women abused, diseased, and murdered because of their participation in the world of prostitution? There are very few women who advocate for pornography and prostitution who have ever been porn stars or prostitutes. I think it is easy for them to sit in their offices and write about the benefits of pornography and prostitution. They will never have to suffer through triple-penetration sex scenes, or be advertised like property, or have to sit in a chair while a dozen men ejaculate on their face in a bukkake film.
However, how does the inherent violence, dehumanizing effects, subordination, and objectification of pornography/prostitution affect men? It seems like it creates men who are prime examples of patriarchal oppressors. Robert Jensen (2005) writes of men who use pornography as just “johns”. A john is defined by Jensen (2005) as “a man who buys another human being for sex” (p. 1). According to Jensen (2005), lots of “men masturbate, or have masturbated, to pornography…[and that] when you masturbate to pornography, you are buying sexual pleasure. You are buying women” (p.1).
I do realize that this paper has been written from a heterosexual perspective. I attribute that to my own experience as a heterosexual man. Besides, almost all pornography is constructed for a heterosexual audience. Even if the pornography is supposedly for lesbians or gay men. It still showcases objectification and violence. These are the calling cards of dominator patriarchal culture.
I think I have shown that radical libertarian feminism contributes to the oppression of women and that it is therefore not feminism. I do not think you can liberate one person while oppressing another and still maintain membership in the feminist movement. I guess this means that I am a radical cultural feminist. I am for the end of patriarchal oppression.
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Organization and Administration of Student Affairs
Individual Learning Activity
I started reading Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope by bell hooks in May. I finished reading Teaching Community in November. bell hooks’ prose is easy to read. She does not write “above my head.” However, the meaning within her words is so powerful and challenging that this book took a very long time to read. I would frequently stop and reflect about individual sentences. It is because of this inner intellectual struggle that I actually had to modify my learning activity.
I was not able to even approach Multicultural Competence in Student Affairs by Pope, Reynolds, and Mueller. How could I? I could not leave Teaching Community without having fully digested its meanings. bell hooks has the ability to make your mind go into overdrive. The copy of Teaching Community that I was reading had been borrowed from a friend. I ended up highlighting sentences and underlining paragraphs. This book (a new copy will soon be on order for the lender) is like a companion from my personal self awareness journey.
At one point, halfway through the term, I debated the idea of reading both Teaching Community and Multicultural Competence in Student Affairs. I understood that this would enable me to finish both books but I did not feel that my understanding of either book would be as meaningful as it was through my intimate read of Teaching Community.
When I started reading Teaching Community, I was struck by hooks’ arrogance in comparing herself to Michael Jordan. I now know that hooks is indeed a powerful writer/thinker. She was not being arrogant, she was telling the truth! Her voice can be difficult to hear but after a while, my ears adjusted and my eyes were opened.
White supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Wow! When I first read this phrase I was unsure about its meaning. I’m a straight white male so I was prepared for a rough journey. I had just finished an epic struggle with Janet Helms’ White Racial Identity model so I knew that if hooks called me a racist I would be more understanding. Helms pushed me towards an understanding of white privilege and white guilt. hooks gave me information, tools, words, feelings, etc that I can use in my personal and professional spheres. I was so inspired by hooks’ writings that I wrote a posting about white privilege on my blog: http://ericstoller.com/blog/index.php/2005/12/01/white-privilege-shapes-the-us/ . I have invited my readers to dialogue with me about white privilege. I hope to use my white privilege for good and to work towards becoming an active anti-racist. In terms of this assignment, I am utilizing the blog posting to bolster my overall experience.
Here’s an excerpt:
“just finished reading Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope by bell hooks. bell hooks is amazing. Her writing is pleasantly painful. I wish I could write as eloquently as hooks. Her words are completely accessible yet they have meaning that can take days to process.
“One problem that plagues our society that has been stirring my mental pot is white privilege. Thanks to bell hooks, Beverly Tatum (Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?) and Janet Helms (White racial identity and A Race Is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being a White Person or Understanding the White Persons in Your Life), I now have an awareness that is light years from where I started. Self awareness can be challenging and very frightening. I wrestled with Janet Helms until I could finally understand what she meant when she says that all white people start there lives as racists.”
My last place of employment was at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). UIC is an extremely diverse, urban institution on the west side of Chicago. It’s ironic that at UIC I was immersed in a student affairs world that was awesomely diverse and I had no idea about white privilege, white identity, or racial self awareness. I had to come to Oregon State University, and it’s mostly white campus, to become self aware of my white privilege. This journey has enriched both my personal and professional spaces. Today, I ask myself the question, “How did I work with students of color at UIC when I had no actual realization that I was white?” My usual answer to the “what are you” question was that I was German. Oh how the tides of life change.
bell hooks — Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope
There are 16 chapters in the book. The chapters that were the most influential/inspirational/educational to me were 3, 5, 6, 9, 15, and 16.
Chapter 3 is entitled, “Talking Race and Racism.” This chapter should be read by every student affairs administrator in every college and university. It is 16 pages of learning about racism and race that I will probably read from time to time so that I do not forget bell hooks’ words.
Chapter 5 is entitled, “What Happens When White People Change.” This single chapter should be at the core of any multicultural curricula for both white people and people of color. I love it when hooks states that risk is okay. She says that learning can occur and does occur in environments where we feel vulnerable. I actually read the exact quote from the book (page 64, first paragraph) to my Cross Cultural Counseling class. We all needed to take risks. Coincidentally, it was in that class that I articulated white privilege and white guilt to a group of students in which the majority had no idea that they were even white. The students of color in the class congratulated me while most of the white students acted like I was a radical.
The following chapter, number 6, is simply listed as “Standards.” However, this is not a simple chapter. In this chapter, hooks places the opportunity of building community upon all of us. I really appreciate the concept that we all have to believe that people can change. If we forget that people can change, can grow, can learn, we contribute to the problem.
Chapter 9 is entitled, “Keepers of Hope: Teaching in Communities.” This chapter contains an amazing exchange between hooks and her friend, Ron Scapp. I really appreciate the fact that this conversation was made public. Meaningful conversations can be quite educational and this one was very insightful.
“Spiritual Matters in the Classroom” is the title of chapter 15. In this chapter hooks writes of her experience with spirituality in higher education. In this powerful chapter, hooks challenges her readers to incorporate spiritual qualities into their classrooms/educational environments. I am still processing this chapter as it does give me a new lens with which I can look at spirituality in our field.
When I was almost at the last chapter of Teaching Community, I was perplexed as to how there would be enough space/time/inertia to conclude the journey at chapter 16 – “Practical Wisdom.” I think, having read the entire book, that hooks does a marvelous job of bringing everyone back to the core of her message: learning is ongoing. She even brings out a final educational thrust regarding white privilege. Robert Jensen’s quote about his whiteness is on my blog because of bell hooks. I can’t wait to meet her.
I did have one disagreement with hooks. I am labeling it as a disagreement but it could be that I misunderstood her meaning. In chapter 12 — “Good Sex,” hooks basically says that it is okay to have intimate encounters with students. That’s how I understood her…it is a very confusing chapter. It’s part confession, part radicalism, and entirely hooks.
I think this assignment gave me the nudge that I needed in order to sit down and effectively reflect. I was reading Teaching Community prior to the start of this Organization and Administration of Student Affairs. I think this personal learning activity has furthered my understanding of how I can use hooks’ writings and philosophies in my professional work and in my personal life. When we were constructing our projects we were informed that they had to be rigorous enough for a CSSA class. I’m not sure how you measure the rigors of working towards being an anti-racist and of becoming more self-aware but I feel that this has been an extremely valuable experience.
I just finished reading Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope by bell hooks. bell hooks is amazing. Her writing is pleasantly painful. I wish I could write as eloquently as hooks. Her words are completely accessible yet they have meaning that can take days to process.
One problem that plagues our society that has been stirring my mental pot is white privilege. Thanks to bell hooks, Beverly Tatum(Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?) and Janet Helms (White racial identity and A Race Is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being a White Person or Understanding the White Persons in Your Life ), I now have an awareness that is light years from where I started. Self awareness can be challenging and very frightening. I wrestled with Janet Helms until I could finally understand what she meant when she says that all white people start there lives as racists.
On that note, I would like to start a discussion with my readers. I want to ask a question and attempt to elicit responses via comments. I will moderate comments so that hate does not appear. Dialogue is good, but hate has no place on my blog.
Feel free to add comments to the following question(s):
Does white privilege exist? and if you answered “yes”, how have you become aware of it?
I will post my answer to the question in a few days.
“In a white supremacist culture, all white people have privilege, whether or not they are overtly racist themselves…
I have struggled to resist that racist training and the ongoing racism of my culture. I like to think I have changed, even though I routinely trip over the lingering effects of that internalized racism and the institutional racism around me. But no matter how much I “fix” myself, one thing never changes–I walk through the world with white privilege.
What does that mean? Perhaps most importantly, when I seek admission to a university, apply for a job, or hunt for an apartment, I don’t look threatening. Almost all of the people evaluating me for those things look like me–they are white. They see in me a reflection of themselves, and in a racist world that is an advantage. I smile. I am white. I am one of them. I am not dangerous. Even when I voice critical opinions, I am cut some slack. After all, I’m white.” (as cited in bell hooks, Teaching Community:A Pedagogy of Hope, 2003)
If you do not feel that white privilege exists, please consider the following:
“Daily effects of white privilege:
1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.
12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.
25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.
28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.
30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.
31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.
32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.
33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.
34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
36. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.
37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.
38. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.
39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.
40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.
43. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem.
44. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race.
45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.
46. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.
47. I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.
48. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of our household.
49. My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership.
50. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social” (McIntosh, 1990).
McIntosh, P. (1990). White privilege: unpacking the invisible knapsack. Retrieved Dec. 01, 2005, from http://seamonkey.ed.asu.edu/~mcisaac/emc598ge/Unpacking.html.
Personal Learning Outcomes:
• General overarching outcome — To continue learning about multicultural perspectives through selected readings and to create meaningful self-reflections and questions that will enhance/promote my multicultural competency.
• To continue exploring my own cultural heritage within the context of multiculturalism in a student affairs paradigm.
• To further my personal journey as a multiculturally competent student affairs practitioner through in-depth readings/reviews of selected texts.
Individual Learning Activity:
I mulled over several different projects before I decided upon a simple yet potentially powerful method of learning. I would like to conduct a reading and reflection project. I have selected two texts: Multicultural Competence in Student Affairs by Pope, Reynolds, and Mueller; and Teaching Community by bell hooks. Multicultural Competence in Student Affairs fits perfectly as a selection for my project because it is a book about organization and process which fits well with this course. bell hooks’ Teaching Community focuses on what I would pose is an academic affairs point of view. One of the basic foundational tenets of my personal philosophy of higher education is that student and academic affairs are joined holistically and therefore I try to encapsulate these historically divergent areas through strategically guided experiences.
• Read Multicultural Competence in Student Affairs and Teaching Community. (I am 60 pages into Teaching Community and on page -0- of Multicultural Competence.)
• Synthesize readings
• Craft personal yet professionally applicable/meaningful thoughts and reflections in the form of a chapter-by-chapter critique/review/personal journey.
• Present in the form of a paper/online blog.
I participated in a 4 day Team Liberation training this month. It was a terrific experience. I learned about how to facilitate human relations workshops.
Padma and I co-facilitated a workshop called the “Coming Out Star.” This workshop illustrates the harmful effects of homophobia. People create paper stars which represent their hopes, dreams, family members, things they love, etc. Due to the destructive effects of homophobia, people end up folding their stars (to illustrate negative emotions) and sometimes they have to rip off star points which have the name of a loved one on them. Some participants tore off all of their points and throw their star onto the floor. They have just committed suicide. This part of the exercise was extremely emotional for me. I have been part of a heterosexist, homophobic culture and I have come to terms with my guilt, but it still made me very sad to watch people who I care about get so upset when they destroyed their stars. This workshop is almost as hard to facilitate as it is to participate in.
Team Liberation is a group of facilitators (mostly students) of human relations workshops. These workshops include issues of racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ageism, ableism, religious intolerance, communication and community & leadership development in an interactive and inclusive way. Team Liberation facilitators have received over forty hours of intensive training, followed by additional peer mentoring in facilitation with diverse groups on campus and in the community.
Liberation is “a movement seeking equal rights and status for a group”. It is also a state of being. We as facilitators are seeking to help people liberate themselves from the thought-patterns and actions of social systems of oppression in which they have been immersed. We seek to manifest the change that we seek in the world—that everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, religion, age, or ability, has an equal opportunity to grow, thrive and live with dignity and respect.
What We Do
Team Liberation facilitates experiential exercises and process learning methods to provide the following:
- Communication and Relationship Building
An initial goal of human relations facilitations is to create a safe and supportive environment conducive to open and honest dialogue.
- Raising Awareness
With the proper atmosphere created, a facilitation or workshop can encourage participants to expand their awareness of the impact of different social circumstances on individuals and groups.
- Education and Training
Workshops can also challenge participants’ assumptions about individuals and groups. It also provides opportunities to develop new strategies for care in daily interactions.
- Consensus/Buy-In and Community Development
Finally, group facilitation works to aid group members in recognizing and actively valuing each others’ contributions to the shared environment. This layer can include development of group goals and action plans.
Each workshop is custom designed for the participant group to match the group’s needs and goals, based upon interviews with the group organizer and using the knowledge and experience of the facilitators involved.
I went to a talk by Tim Wise last night. He’s a white, ant-racist, social justice activist. It was the first time I ever heard a white guy talk about ending racism. I read Janet Helms model of White Identity and became very frustrated/confused. Tim Wise provided the (mostly white) audience with some great insight about what it means to be white and how white people can use their unearned privileges to end racism. I am reading White Like Me by Tim Wise and it is full of useful language and ideas for action.
I talked with some friends of color and they had a less than positive reaction to Tim Wise. I empathize with their anger. Why should a white guy have to tell other white people that they have to end racism when people of color have been saying the same thing for a long time. I think Tim Wise is valuable as a social justice educator. He got my attention. Isn’t that valuable? How many white folks were affected by Wise’s talk? I think we all have to work towards the elimination of all oppressions and if someone from an oppressor group gets the attention of other oppressors than so be it. IMHO