Just Before the Chrismas,

and in human rights’ week

women of the world experience different lives

for some of them every kiss

and for the others every knife, keen knife,

begins with K

Bitter Bloody Innocent K

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Knives cut the noses, the lips and the ears of my Afghan sisters

Setareh, Aishe, who else? Do you know their names?

Sorry there is no K in Sisterhood, in Solidarity and in Sorrow

And Sorry there is no kiss for Setareh’s four young children,

Kisses need to be started by lips first,

and there is no lips in Setareh’s face

Sorry my 23 year old Sister, Setareh

Azar Nafisi, Iranian English professor, published her muti-genre autobiography on the private rhetoric on classic Western literature circle she have had during 1995-1997 along with seven of her female students at her home under the name of “Reading Lolita in Tehran”.
Nevertheless the book became one the best sellers of new York Times and it was read frequently by Americans and Iranian- American communities, it received severe attacks by both American and American-Iranian post colonial scholars, who believed that the book was part of US invasion discourse to Muslim countries with the apocryphal aim of rescuing Muslim women. Consequently Nafisi labeled as one of the native informants who betrayed their own culture in order to serve US empire.
Although “Reading Lolita in Tehran” was published, there are so many other Iranian female narratives which were affected by the attack. In other words, the meaning of the harsh criticism for some of the Iranian women was transcoded to the necessity of silence and self- censorship. Therefore this article works on the rhetoric of silence and it tries to show how the critics benefited from the intersection of sexual, transnational and post- oriental issues to making iranian female writers silent.

Hip-Hop Feminism?

The Structural Transformation of Public Sphere: an Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society[i] has been written in 1962 by German social critic, Jurgen Habermas, and it was translated to English in 1988. The book has a kind of historical/ sociological point of view toward a very special kind of public sphere which formed for the first time in Western Europe in the 18th century. These public spheres were literally formed by middle class educated men who gathered in coffee houses or squares and discussed social, political or everyday related issues. People were supposed to talk only through reasoning and the winners were supposed to be the wiser ones who brought more acceptable ways of thinking. Religious, social and political affiliations were strongly excluded from these public spheres and we may call these hypothetical public spheres as the kingdom of reason. Meanwhile the book seems like an academic piece, there’s an agenda of social hope for comprehensive democracy in the text, a kind of belief that having a society based on merit and reason, but not power and discrimination is possible; and this made the book attractive and widely read by academicians, as well as ordinary people in the last five decades.

What makes Pough[ii] and writers of Balck Public Sphere[iii] to criticize the Habermasian claim is about the exclusions implied in it: that dialogue based democracy never happened completely for so many groups of people and there is no hope that it can happen at all. The bourgeois public sphere which Habermas talked about based on the privilege of some white middle class men and it never went beyond. Hence investing social minorities’ hopes on such a luxurious and restricted social possibility may end in disappointment: women, racial and ethnic groups, immigrants, children, and some other groups are excluded. In the other words being optimistic about such a bourgeois public sphere for broadening diversity and inclusion is nothing but using masters’ tools for dismantling masters’ houses[iv].

By the way, there are some doubts using Hip-Hop as the tool for women’s and especially feminists to express their resentment about the patriarchal and discriminator society. Some of us found rap music and its lyrics extremely offensive to our femininity, considering only the fact that some of the rape culture songs came out of that. The Hip-Hop culture called women as hoes and bitches and behave their bodies as a desirable commodity sometimes. Reading the Check it While Wreck it, I had hard times understanding how women decided to use Hip-Hop and how they could be successful in adopting it as a tool, until I found Jessica Care Moore’s “I’m a Hip-Hop cheerleader”[v]

I ask myself how she can be Hip-Hop culture fan, while the culture is sometimes so offensive for women. Kimberly Crenshaw[vi] in 1980s talked about intersectionality on race and gender and the vicious circle they made to trapping black women to be ignored both by feminism and anti-racist movements. In the other word, it seems that even yet we think that “All women are white and all blacks are men”[vii] and I think when I found the Hip-Hop and its relationship wired for black females probably I forgot the first component of the intersection equation. Racial discrimination is not an ignorable factor, even though in 2013, a country with Afro-American president.

Therefore Hip-Hop culture and the wreck reasoning could be understood as mechanisms of the excluded groups to deny the elitist public sphere which keeps its doors carefully closed to them and tries to give them an illusion of the democracy which will never come true. Black females adopt Hip-Hop as other oppressed groups’ tool and use it for their emancipation, in the similar way that it was used before. I think theoretically they find other oppressed people’s tool more appropriate than oppressors’ ones. These people made their own public sphere, through their own way of reasoning. Here applying the wreck is the symbol of these groups’ deep awareness of being excluded from white rationality and their claimed universal reasoning. Down the road, when we become aware of the intertwined and systematic oppression, we may do our version of Hip-Hop feminism.


[i] Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought; Variation: Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought. (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1989).

[ii] Gwendolyn D. Pough, Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-hop Culture, and the Public Sphere (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004).

[iii] Black Public Sphere Collective, The Black Public Sphere: a Public Culture Book, Black Literature and Culture; Variation: Black Literature and Culture. (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1995).

[iv] Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, The Crossing Press Feminist Series; Variation: Crossing Press Feminist Series. (Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1984), 110.

[v] Pough, Check It While I Wreck It, 99.

[vi] Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity, Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,” Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6 (1991): 1241–1299.

[vii] Gloria T. Smith Hull, All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies / Bell-Scott, Patricia. (Old Westbury, N.Y.: Feminist Press, 1982).

Karlyn Kohrs Campbell wrote “Man cannot Speak for her[i] in reviving and revisiting the forgotten moments of the history of female rhetoric, especially in 19th century. The book traces this history back up to the time, which there was no clear differentiation between advocating for woman’s rights or other types of social movements. For example she asserts that “many early woman’s rights advocates began as abolitionists”[ii], and there are other evidences which show women’s activism for anti-alcohol movement and suffrage, as well. Campbell even talks about two different ways which female rhetors have been able to choose: “presentation of their grievance and justification of women’s rights to function in the public sphere”[iii]. By justification she means grabbing the idea of true womanhood, which has literally been defined womanhood according to women’s self-denial and sacrifice for husbands and children. Therefore her readers may agree that Campbell is vibrant about some aspects of anti-femininity of her rhetors’ rhetorical activities.

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On the other hand, Biesecker, as Campbell’s critic, starts her criticism by saying that “feminist rewriting of the history of rhetoric that finds itself on the mandate to secure a place in the canon for great women speakers is simply not enough”[iv]. By the way, after reading Biesecker’s article, the reader can validate that she doesn’t look only for a complement. Biesecker criticizes Campbell for at least two more dissimilar themes, which are pretty robust: ignoring female tokenism, and considering women who benefited from it as part of the feminist rhetoric history, in addition to individualist account of narrative Campbell extracts from that history.

Biesecker borrows the definition of female tokenism from Adrienne Rich, as a “false power which masculine society offers to a few women who think like men, on condition that they use it to maintain things as they are. This is the meaning of female tokenism”[v]. As Far as I concern, here she alleges that there are some opportunist female rhetors who not only take the masculine power of the patriarchal society, but also they use their rhetorical ability in order to attack their other sisters and keep the state of masculine domination for a longer period. Although she doesn’t give us precise examples of the female rhetors who did so, we can go further and guess that she may point to the group of the rhetors who worked on justification of women’s rights through acknowledging the women’s rights of being good mothers, home makers, and housewives in the paradigm of patriarchy.

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However the second crisis seems more serious to me: “In Campbell’s work, the possibility for social change is thought to be more or less a function of each individual women’s capacity to throw off the mantle of her own self-interests (interests that are her own as a woman and, thus, are shared by all women) and to intervene on behalf of those interests”[vi]. Reader can find deeper levels of criticism here, via considering the fact that Biesecker advocates for postmodern idea of deconstructing the centrality of the subjects, which is defended profoundly by Campbell. Eventually Biesecker summarized her article to conclude that “a call for a gender-sensitive history of rhetoric, in working against the ideology of individualism by displacing the active/ passive opposition, radically contextualize speech acts”[vii].

Relying on individuality of female rhetors (subjects) by Campbell, in opposition to the taking care of masculine/ feminine structures of power by Biesecker, makes me to put their debate in the context of bigger dilemma of agent/ structure in sociology. The predicament is not only one of the oldest ones in the discipline of humanities, but also one of the most challenging ones. There are resilient rivals on each side who have been able to bring undeniable reasons and examples. The history of the problematic now is up to accepting the combination between both structuralist and agent- centered theories, while we need to be clear that none of the combinations work perfectly.

By the way, as a post-colonial feminist and post- structuralist sociologist who identifies stronger with theories which stress on the social structures, I can say that Biesecker’s point of view makes me more interested. Even though I cannot ignore the fact that I have no idea about the way she absorbs female tokenism in her post structuralist standpoint. As she mentioned later in her text, subjects are not centered Foucault’s genealogy, and that’s why he denies traditional historiography and works on discourses and discourse positions rather than depending on subjectivities. For me, the idea of female tokenism is all about having conscious historical subjects who are totally aware of opportunities the discourse can give them and the duties they accept the burden instead. Masculine society chooses some opportunist female agents who consciously think like men (other conscious social agents) and they deliberately accept the privilege to use it as a weapon against other women. For me all the dialogue between Campbell and Biesecker on the topic seems meaningless.

On the contrary, I appreciate the part which Biesecker gives up the idea of female tokenism and starts criticizing Campbell because of individualist elements of her work. Nevertheless I can’t ignore the fact that Campbell is right when she says Biesecker didn’t provide an example of the collective history telling/ writing, I am sure that there are frequent examples of the collective/ discursive historiography out there, and history of sexuality, by Foucault can be one of them.

On the other hand, I don’t really appreciate the approach of Campbell in determining who cannot speak about the topic. She chose the name of “Men cannot speak for her” for her book, while she is aware that men speak for so many of these women, especially the ones who accept and adopt masculine discourse of women’s right in order to justify the rights. She chose another topic for her article “Biesecker Cannot Speaks for her either”[viii] to show her power in exclusion again, and I guess if she takes any other critic serious, she may want to deny their right to speak, either.

At the end, I want to appreciate Campbell’s contribution to the history of rhetoric. Rejecting her exclusionism and criticizing her way of historiography don’t prevent me from seeing the valuable work she did. She revived forgotten part of the history and this is the first step, in both criticizing it and working on discursive histories of female rhetoric.


[i] Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, Man Cannot Speak for Her, Contributions in Women’s Studies,; No. 101-102; Variation: Contributions in Women’s Studies ;; No. 101-102. (New York: Greenwood Press, 1989).

[ii] Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, “Introduction to Man Cannot Speak for Her,” in Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics (United states of America: Polar Press, 2010), 9.

[iii] Ibid., 16.

[iv] Barbara Biesecker, “Coming to Terms with Recent Attempts to Write Women into the History of Rhetoric,” in Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics (United states of America: Polar Press, 2010), 341.

[v] Ibid., 338.

[vi] Ibid., 342.

[vii] Ibid., 350.

[viii] Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, “Biesecker Cannot Speak For Her Either,” in Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics (United states of America: Polar Press, 2010), 355–359.

Image  —  Posted: September 25, 2013 in Talking Points
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Session 1 Aug 29

Fall 2013 is going to be my third semester in women studies and I took Feminist Pedagogy as one of my main courses, this semester. I hope I can make myself a teaching resume which helps me getting teaching job after graduation. By the way, my classmates and I are going to co-teach the undergraduate class with Professor Janell Hobson, and here I’m going to write from my own experience of teaching.
It is not the first time I find myself in a teaching position, though the very first time in an English language class, in a US academic context. Before choosing the course, I had some serious moments of doubts, teaching the class through my second language, English, which doesn’t seem to me perfect at all. I asked some other friends and classmates about their opinions on the topic, and they told me to be honest with students, tell them about your accent and the make it clear that they can ask you to repeat anything unclear. Frankly speaking, it is not only the language which scares me. I used to be a cultural and social informant of my own society, as a sociologist; and here the social context looks very new to me. I’m afraid my students watch TV shows, listen to the music, go to bars and get socialized through the context which I have no idea about.

Finally my motivations went ahead of my fears, and it happens frequently in this way in my life, so I kind of get used to it. For me teaching is the passion and from the moment I enter the class, I find it there. My excitement is there, and I only need to dare, go through the door, and embrace it. It waits for me like an old friend, with an open hug and a shiny smile. It is there on the faces of my undergraduate students, on their curiosity and even ignorance, when they have the doubt if the class could be ever relevant to their own life and experience.

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I remember myself, confused and bewildered on the first days of social science department in University of Tehran, with a big thirst in my heart and a huge question in my mind and the fact that it wasn’t an easy task at all to find something to quench the thirst or answer the question. I wanted to know what was going on to my life, why I couldn’t think anymore like my mother and why I was feeling a volcano in my mind. I remember my click moments, and the endless happiness I could feel when finally I found my right place on the sociology of literature, when I related myself and my lived experiences as a novel reader, with the rhetoric of silence in women’s lives, the reason of having choking emotions in my throat.
I wish the same moment for my students, even for the not interested ones, because I have the belief that once it happens, it could uproot you totally, and put you in the very different state of mind.

The first reading is “A Guide to conscious Raising Group”[i] in Ms. Magazine. The first time I heard about conscious raising groups, was years ago. But I remember the moment, because I told to myself, if this is the way how conscious raising group works, I used to live in a conscious raising group, while I didn’t have any idea. Actually I’m talking about my undergraduate years (1999-2004), the time I spent with my best friends in the social science campus of University of Tehran, the years we spent almost together, we met almost every day and we discussed about almost everything.
Life seemed so complicated those days to me and my generation. We entered Undergraduate level at 1999, the year of the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, the first reformist president of my country, Iran, after the Islamic revolution of 1979. It was probably for the first time that ideas about women’s right and democratic society was heard in Iran, and we were probably the generation who took those ideas more serious than any other generation before. The reformist movement of 1999, which has had most of its advocates among university students, has become part of the life of my generation, maybe forever. We were the generation of resistance and democratic rights, and nevertheless there was nobody among Islamic clergies in charge of giving those rights to students and young people those days, we couldn’t let it go. Everyday life of our department student has passed talking about those big changes. For me and other female students, the biggest portion of change was happening in social structures of our families and our gender issues. We used to challenge the authority of our parents, as well as other social structures, every day in our little conscious raising groups, in a way that we couldn’t ever imagine ourselves. Those debates made us stronger, as well as more resistant. After more than a decade, whenever I look back, I could find the biggest passions and happiness there.

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My own experience of growing up in a supportive conscious raising group made me a severe advocate for those groups, and I think I have the motivation for doing my best in order to make such a group out of my discussion class.

Reading the Pogrebin’s article[ii] gave my students the information to get ready to jump in, to participate and to be a member of the group. For the first session, I asked my students to share what they have in mind about the conscious raising group. As bell hooks mentions[iii] I can’t ask them to accept any responsibility, unless I accept it on the first hand. Hence I was the first one who talked about my feeling for them, as I wrote it down here. I tried to tell them how much I care about any one of them, and how much passion I can bring to the class. I asked about their opinions: if they think they can trust each other, if they would like to be part of a sisterhood, if they like to support and to be supported, and so on … The other issue I talked about was their own life.  I have been through the difficulty of irrelevance of courses I passed with my lives experience, and I don’t want them to be there too. On the other hand, I hope I can help them make every single issue personal, because I have a deep belief that “personal is political” and on the other direction I feel feminist course could not be political, unless students can make it personal. The good news was about my students’ feeling. They show me the strong agreement: most of them wish to be part of the sisterhood circle and they started to play the role of sisters sooner that I could imagine. It is not that their sisterhood is only valuable for them; I’m one of the sisters and I can feel the support they give me and the portion of enthusiasm they bring into the class.

I remember the last sentence of the article “sisterhood is powerful, it can kill you”, and how Pogrebin mentioned that we can use it to rebirth; and I say yes in my heart, I’m ready.


[i] Letty Cottin Pogrebin, “Guide to Conscious Raising,” Ms. Magazine XII, no. 2 (Srring 2002): 17–18.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (New York: Routledge, 1994).

Image  —  Posted: September 22, 2013 in Teaching to Transgress
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Contradictory to the picture that we may have in mind about literature as a scene of beautiful and transcendental concepts, it has been the anathema for frequent groups of people during centuries and among diverse societies; because it used to be the possession of upper classes; and it has had the main function of exclusion and abasement of others.

Although the literacy looks such a banal social reality of so many societies today that we assume it almost eternal, writers like Royster[i] ring a bell for us that we can find traces of stream even among alive people who we knew in person. In the other words, there are considerable amount of illiterate populations and communities which didn’t have any access to the written literature in even last decades. Hearing the story of Malala Yousefzai, a teenage girl who was shot by Taliban in 2010 as a result of writing a blog and advocating for women’s literacy in Pakistan, makes the point recent enough to be taken serious and urgent.

As post-colonial thinkers may suggest, the total humanity of these people has been colonized in respect to their illiteracy, and it is clear that the problem has not been solved completely through public schooling. If we accept the idea of Foucault, who considers knowledge as power, we may conclude that these recently literate crowds found themselves strangers in the linguistic world which didn’t belong to them and didn’t aim at accepting their membership with no trouble. Despite the fact that it is not a unique process of prohibiting and it happened repeatedly for any newcomer group, it happened for African- American women twice as tough as a result of being intersected between two repressive discourses of patriarchy and racism[ii]. Consequently it seems for established citizens of the classic literature region that these African- American women have never been in the rhetorical spots, or as Audre Lord may say, their “fingerprints upon the handles of history has been called the random brushings of birds”[iii].

As a reader from the margins, the story is entirely recognizable for me, because it could be exactly mine. It takes me back to the colonial image of docile Muslim women in the Middle east, who are  supposed to be confined to the private sphere, and once upon a time one of them may get killed in an honor killing or beaten by an aggressive Muslim man, whereas totally devoted to do the house chores and motherhood burdens.

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This acquaintance from my standpoint could be interpreted as unaccustomed situation for the people from the center, who are the main tenants of mainstream white literature and culture. The surprising social reality which is told as “Traces of Stream: Literacy and Social Change among African American Women”; could be our intimate piece of collective memory, which is narrated for those outsider readers. Nevertheless we’ve been there forever; we’ve had our languages and oral traditions of rhetoric, storytelling, singing, and praying; we’ve never been heard until we equipped with literacy. As Bourdieu mentioned the strategies of dominated people are necessarily the dominated strategies[iv]. Those non- white cultures couldn’t escape domination through their oral heritage. At this point of the history, those marginal groups started strengthening themselves via stronger strategy of literacy. They learnt how to read and write, in order to decolonize their colonized cultures and traditions, even though their mothers, like Sojourner Truth didn’t need to look at the “small stuff like letters”[v], while they could read “men and nations”[vi].

By the way, the process of literacy only became emancipator when writers like Alice Walker started differentiating the color purple from lavender, as well as womanism from white feminism[vii]; because the lavender could be even the most alienating and repressing color of literature for the people who get used to their purple color for centuries and knew how to interpret and understand the world through their grandmothers’ and mothers’ purple point of views.


[i] Jacqueline Jones Royster, Traces of a Stream: Literacy and Social Change Among African American Women, Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture; Variation: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture. (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000).

[ii] Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity, Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,” Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6 (1991): 1241–1299.

[iii] Royster, Traces of a Stream, 77.

[iv] Pierre Bourdieu, Masculine Domination (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2001), 32.

[v] Royster, Traces of a Stream, 45.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid., 19.

Video  —  Posted: September 18, 2013 in Talking Points
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There are diverse issues of methodological and theoretical concerns in the debate among Xin Liu Gale, Susan C. Jarratt and Cheryl Glenn which can be highlighted in a talking point; but exactly because of my standpoint as a post-colonial third world feminist, the one which looks more remarkable for me is the very whiteness of the context of their debate.

Nevertheless these writers criticize each other with almost bitter language, there are certain lines which they never cross: they all have strong agreement on the principles of white feminism of male domination. The very point which leads me here is about their position on the masculine narratives of the feminine life of the Aspasia in the history of rhetoric. Jarratt acknowledges that her main concern is writing the history “as a woman” (Jarratt 2010: 20) and Glenn brings up the famous challenge in feminist historiography based on re-figuring the stories of the women “whose texts, life and manuscripts have been annexed by men” (Glenn 2010: 37). This stands in the line with their critic’s reasoning on almost the same issue: two out of the four main condemnations of the Gale on the Jarratt’s and Glenn’s texts are about their relying on the masculine texts describing Aspasia (Gale 2010: 443).

And for me the story becomes even more strengthened when I see that Gale herself depends on on the discursive genealogy of Foucault as a way of understanding the history (Ibid 449). As far as I understand postmodern theorists and especially Foucault, they talk about discourses and not the actors/ writers/historians. And even though Gale asserts the point herself (Ibid 453), she uses the idea in the opposite way to disapprove Jarratt, while she makes the same mistake herself in criticizing the male historians and masculine narratives.

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Reading the texts and going back and forth through answers, I ask myself if a postmodern feminist can be concentrated on the sexuality of the actors. I understand postmodern and especially post-colonial feminism as involved with the repressive discourses, not oppressive individuals and their actions. Moreover there is no certain criteria which can put men’s writing in a united category/ discourse in opposition to the fact that Gale, Jarratt and Glenn do.

The only reason I could find here is about the very white context of debate which mentions the sexuality of expositors as a sacred principle. And it sounds more significant for me, because there are other women who don’t split the world into two sexual divisions. What seems as an obvious fact for these feminists, could be doubtful for the women of the other racial and ethnic groups who have had their male partners and brothers supporting them in confronting with the Western white feminist gaze (Mohanty 2003) which tries to define them in the way which they don’t themselves.

Gale, Xin Liu. “Historical Studies and Postmodernism: Rereading Aspasia of Miletus.”Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies. Ed. Lindal Buchanan and Kathleen J. Ryan.West Lafayette: Parlor Press, 2010. 442-461. Print.

Glenn, Cheryl. “sex, lies, and manuscript: Refiguring Aspasia in the History of Rhetoric.”Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies. Ed. Lindal Buchanan and Kathleen J. Ryan.West Lafayette: Parlor Press, 2010. 36-53. Print.

Jarratt, Susan C. “Speaking to the Past: Feminist Historiography in Rhetoric.” Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies. Ed. Lindal Buchanan and Kathleen J. Ryan. West Lafayette: Parlor Press, 2010. 19-35. Print.

Mohanty, C. T. (2003). Feminism without borders: Decolonizing theory, practicing solidarity. Durham: Duke University Press.