Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Struggle with (Afra)Feminism

Several of you have asked about the status of my dissertation (since you've asked, the dissertation process is going well. I've drafted three chapters, and plan to draft much more. These chapters are still rough, but nonetheless, they are drafted). Originally, I created this blog to reflect on that process; however, the blog developed more as a reflection on life (the academy, teaching, food, family, friends, etc. etc.) more broadly. This happened for several reasons.

First, the dissertation process is so grueling and tiring that I haven't really had much energy to reflect on what I've written; the only energy I've had quite frankly is to write the darn thing! I may plan to reflect a bit more on this progress once it's over, but not as much now.

Second, the scope of the dissertation has changed, not dramatically, but significantly. I am no longer devoting a chapter to the study of Black women's linguistic and rhetorical practices, and thus, am not really focusing on Afrafeminism anymore. The reason for this is not because I no longer see myself as an Afrafeminist scholar (I *think I still am), but because doing a teacher-research dissertation on Black women's practices, Black students' practices, and all students' writing practices in an Afracentric designed curriculum is way too much.

Further, I haven't developed a valid or sufficient response for focusing exclusively on Black women and not Black men. (Afra)feminist ideologies seem to suggest that devoting women their own space is ethical, and perhaps, it's sexist to be forced to justify and explain the exclusion of men. That may in part be true. But, when doing research using social science methods, as a researcher, I have to admit that I have a sampling problem (even with qualitative methods). The study would be valid if I ONLY focused on black women. But the study doesn't do that: If I'm focusing on different samples of one population of students in one classroom, as a researcher, I need to account for each of those samples in some meaningful way.

Focusing on Black women, Blacks in general, and all students also creates a sampling problem because when focusing on Black women, how do I compare their practices if I don't focus on Black men? If one of my original research questions concerned what common linguistic and rhetorical practices that Black women share, I can't answer that question (at least sufficiently and in the way I want to) without comparing them to the practices of Black men in some way. In other words, how do I know that Black women's practices are/aren't reflected by a racialized or gendered discourse? I don't without addressing the brothas somehow.

Some might still argue that I don't really need African American women to make an Afrafeminist argument, since I can still draw on Afrafeminist methods (including devotion to careful analysis, commitment to ethical obligations, inclusion/collaboration/participation from participants, etc.; also see Jacqueline Jones Royster's Traces of a Stream: Literacy and Social Change Among African American Women for a complete list of these methods). But even when using these methods, combined with Afracentric pedagogies and methodologies, I believe the focus is still too large. At this point in the game, I'm less interested in complexity and making some groundbreaking contribution to rhetoric and composition. In a dissertation space, that just ain't gon' happen! I'm more interested in a neat and tidy study on one classroom, using one curriculum, using a few methods, etc. That way, at least the study will make sense.

I'm okay with leaving behind Afrafeminism for now. After all, I have the rest of my career to devote to it if I'm still passionate about this area of scholarship. And, later on this year, I'll have an article published in Composition Forum that discusses using an Afrafeminist lens as a pedagogy in graduate level rhetoric and compositon special topics courses. So, it's still a part of my disciplinary identity.

I'm also still grappling with my understanding of its application in my life beyond the academy. See, I just read Steve Harvey's Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man (I loved it BTW!!), and have realized that as independent Black women (and Afrafeminists) we have to be careful alienating men. Now, if as an independent Black woman, you're fine being without a heterosexual partner, then this obviously doesn't apply to you, and I applaud your indendependence. But, if you're not, then as Steve Harvey writes, men will feel that if you've got everything covered, there's no need for them, and you'll therefore find yourself independent and alone. As an Afrafeminist, surprisingly, I wasn't offended by this comment. I really don't find anything wrong with recognizing the need for your partner/spouse, a need that should also be reciprocated by your partner/spouse, certainly. Afterall, while us Afrafeminsts may do all of these wonderful, exceptionally smart, and independent things, can't we also acknowledge the support that our spouses give as we continue to do such work? At this point in my life, I don't mind admitting that I need my husband's support (especially as I dissertate! LOL!), and that he needs me too. Isn't that what a strong relationship is supposed to be about?


Revvy Rev said...

Hmmm. said...

Hi Staci,

I haven't read much about Steve's book... he's sooo "country" that I could not believe he actually wrote the book himself! *LOL*

I know, I should give that brotha a break. Okay, okay...

{kisses to Steve!}

As a person who is OFTEN mislabeled a feminist, a womanist...and all things in between...

I can relate to much of what you have shared.

As for Steve's view that some black women love to give the "I don't need black men" speech... well...

I don't feel that I have to have a man. However...they do come in handy when the occassional scary spider appears on my wall at home or when the snow and ice are piled high in the driveway or when the lawn needs maintenance...*smirk*

Surely, I can't risk breaking a nail on any of these things...let a man handle it... *LOL*

Once I nearly burned down the kitchen frying something that splashed onto another burner that was on, and I shrieked boyfriend at the time ran in and took control and snapped, "go sit on the porch and paint your nails while I get this mess in order!!"

Gotta love those take charge brothas...*grins*

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

I LOVE YOU said...