PROFESSING FEMINISM

CAUTIONARY TALES FROM INSIDE THE STRANGE WORLD OF WOMEN'S STUDIES

Two academics raise disturbing questions about the practices and goals of contemporary classroom feminism. Using interviews with faculty in self-imposed ``exile'' from women's studies programs, many of whom prefer to remain anonymous, Patai (Spanish and Portuguese/Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst) and Koertge (History and Philosophy of Science/Indiana Univ.) trace what they see as the ``progressive deterioration'' of feminist pedagogy into a ``parody of itself.'' The women interviewed level a series of charges against their colleagues: Too many women's studies programs silence or shun dissenting voices while purporting to celebrate difference; they subordinate teaching and learning to activism and pass propaganda off as scholarship; they are riven by white, black, and lesbian factionalism; they brainwash or browbeat impressionable students into conformity with a narrow set of approved beliefs. Students also are taken to task here. One professor, who has left women's studies for a history department, laments the willful ignorance she saw in some of her students; another, a social scientist, reports that students in one seminar ``launched an all-out assault on me for having men on my reading list.'' However, the anonymity and acknowledged alienation of the chosen speakers, coupled with the book's anecdotal form and lack of quantification, make it impossible to determine how pervasive the problems really are. And the authors, who portray themselves as ``true'' feminists writing out of deep concern for the direction of women's studies, often appeal to elusive terms like ``professional decorum,'' ``civility,'' and ``proper academic procedures'' that are habitually invoked to beat back dissent in universities. Nevertheless, the book is rife with points of contention at times so compelling and well articulated that they sound a wake-up call to feminist women in academe.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 1994

ISBN: 0-465-09821-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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