Sapphire Unbound: A Black Womanist Scholar Speaks her Mind: “Project Prevention”: Saving Black Women from Themselves and Creating a Better Future
I first encountered Dr. Jordan-Zachery when she followed me on twitter. I checked out her blog, and it is fantastic and very important. She is insightful, and she often has guest bloggers who add their views.
Here’s a particularly interesting post, but I highly recommend you take a look at the rest of the blog as well.
Black women’s bodies have historically been problematic for those who hold the power to define race-gender hierarchies. Early Europeans constructed Black women’s bodies as different, highly sexual and “other”. Black women’s societal worth is often devalued in the eyes of European Americans. Such devaluation can also occur when other Black folk subscribe to the ideology of the damaged Black woman. The damaged Black woman is often used to promote policies that focus on changing individual behaviors as opposed to critically questioning societal structures that contribute to Black women’s inequitable positions. The result is the culture of poverty, the culture of fatness and the culture of drug abuse that permeates the two stories that I discuss below.
This site would be great, if the world it describes wasn’t in such bad shape.
The WomanStats Project is the most comprehensive compilation of information on the status of women in the world. The Project facilitates understanding the linkage between the situation of women and the security of nation-states. We comb the extant literature and conduct expert interviews to find qualitative and quantitative information on over 310 indicators of women’s status in 174 countries. Our Database expands daily, and access to it is free of charge.
Click it. Right Now.
Great piece. It reminds me of Susan Bordo’s analyses of advertising.
Here’s a question. Do you think it’s possible to depict the athletic female body in a way that doesn’t implicate sexual objectification? Or does the general social background sexualize any image of the female body?
I am not going to make claims about the nature of women (hence the strange punctuation in the title), and I will say a little about why not at the end of this post. Instead, I am going to talk about what it means to have beliefs about “the nature” (of women or men or whatever).
There is an enormous body of philosophical literature, going back thousands of years, about the nature of entities. My goal here is not to enter into this ancient debate. Rather, I want to clarify the term as it is used in Catharine MacKinnon and Sally Haslanger’s definition of objectification, which I call enforced reconstruction.
Recall that Sally Haslanger interprets Catharine MacKinnon as holding that an objectifier represents and treats the objectified as
“having by nature properties [the objectifier] desires” and “has the power to force [the objectified] to have these properties (and sometimes exercises this power).”
So what meaning does the notion of “nature” add to these sentences?
- Women are ____ by their nature.
- It is in the nature of women to ____.
At root the conception of “nature” that Haslanger and MacKinnon have in mind is simple.
The nature of an entity is what is essential to it, and an entity’s “natural properties” are just those properties without which it would either not be what it is or would not be a well-formed or well-functioning individual of the type of entity that it is.
Our knowledge of the nature of an entity guides us in figuring out what we should do when we encounter it. Such knowledge also informs our moral, aesthetic and functional evaluations of individuals.
That men’s beliefs about women are often beliefs about the nature of women is important, and here’s why.
Consider that there is commonly held belief that women are naturally submissive.
Full Stop. This is only an example. I do not believe that women are naturally submissive.
In fact, it is an undeniable fact that there are many, many women who do not act submissively.
This fact could be taken as a reason to change the beliefs that women are submissive. If I just so happen to think that all women are submissive because all of the women that I have ever seen have acted submissively, then my reaction to meeting a women who does not act submissively should be to change my mind about the submissiveness of women.
But if I think that it is in the nature of women to be submissive, then my reaction to meeting a women who does not exhibit this trait will be to attribute a defect to that individual woman. I do not, in this latter case, revise my views about the nature of women; rather, I infer from my beliefs about the nature of women that this woman is not a good woman. This, of course, is bullshit.
We must watch out for this sort of belief – in others, yes, but also – especially – in ourselves. They are very common, and they may be held in good faith by people who do not intend to have sexist beliefs.
I don’t think it’s possible to really justify a belief about the nature of women or indeed people in general. So I am an agnostic about the nature of people. We can’t know what our nature is. This is why I will not make any positive claims about the nature of women (or anyone else). But what I will do is criticize claims made by others about the nature of women.
Work hard to avoid making beliefs that operate this way. In one sense it is fairly easy to do this. Just make sure that you hold your beliefs about people open to being revised. When you encounter an individual who doesn’t fit your beliefs about what people are like, let that individual change your beliefs about what people are like. Don’t let yourself think that an individual is defective, weird, or bad just because they don’t fit your preconceived notions about what people are like.
But in another sense, it is very difficult to do this. It is very easy for us to let our beliefs about what people are like solidify into a beliefs about the nature of people.
We have to get this film to cinemas. I want to see it.
DEAR WHITE PEOPLE follows the stories of four black students at an Ivy League college where a riot breaks out over a popular “African American” themed party thrown by white students. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the film will explore racial identity in “post-racial” America while weaving a universal story of forging one’s unique path in the world.
I am an atheist. I cannot say that I believe that there is no God because I honestly do not know. But since I don’t know, I don’t believe in God. I work hard to respect people of faith, and I do a pretty good job with this.
It is often said that science steals the majesty and awe from the Universe. It is often said that there is no wonder in the scientific worldview (metaphysical naturalism).
I’ve never understood these sentiments.
What the various religious texts tell us is profound. It is majestic, awe-inspiring, and wondrous. But nothing written in any book even begins to match the majesty, awe and wonder of the Universe that science is unveiling for us.
Here’s a taste.
I’ve got your inspirational courage right here.
If you’ve never heard of Irshad Manji, give her website a look. If you have heard of her, give her website a look.
Hers is a courage that I will never have.
And agree or disagree with her, she is is truly an inspiration.
“I’m not a moderate Muslim, I’m a reformist”
Irshad is founder and director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University’s school of public service. This leadership program equips students to challenge political correctness, intellectual conformity and self-censorship — within their families, communities and organizations.
And don’t for a second think that the world today is lacking in moral leadership and heroism (heroine-ism?).
The Skeptical OB asks an interesting question.
Why won’t the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) release their data on the safety of home births facilitated by their midwives?
[MANA has] publicly announced that only those who pass an ideological litmus test and sign a legal non-disclosure agreement will be allow access to the data.
Birth freedom is most certainly a feminist issue.
Withholding important information makes it impossible for women to make an informed choice about how they want to give birth. And an uninformed choice is no choice at all.
I don’t see how MANA’s policy can possibly be compatible with feminism.
Make public the data!