Sociology faculty often feel frustrated when students don’t “get it,” i.e., when students are resistant or hostile to course material or faculty, and have little increase in sociological critical thinking. Those of us who teach about gender must find ways to manage student resistance to the course material. Dealing with student resistance might increase some students’ critical thinking, while simultaneously frustrating progressive students. As we engage with resistance, we must consider whether we are engaging in feminist teaching or teaching feminism.Translation: the true believers, who already have read and accepted whatever the class analogues to John 3:16 and Genesis 1 and the like, will get frustrated with the skeptics, and hope that the high priestess will hector and deplorable-shame or otherwise exercise authority, rather than be open to dissenting views, and familiar enough with the controversies so as to be able to produce genuine critical thinking. That's hard work. "It's apparently easier to compare the perceived weight of vectors of oppression and throw around accusations of insensitivity or privilege, than it is to quantify them, or demonstrate the existence of intersections, or to characterize equations of motion and basins of attraction." Confirmation, dear reader, is as close as that abstract. "Resistance" is a term of art borrowed from psychiatry, referring to the unwillingness of a patient to consider that his troubles are first his responsibility in some way. It's a bad practitioner, though, who will condemn the patient in such terms. College students in victim studies courses, though, are apparently as not-yet communicants in catechism, more to be threatened with eternal damnation than won over by logic and content. The references to the article suggest there's a lot of that sort of "resistance" to be "managed."
No surprise, when the subject matter is recondite bordering on incoherent.
This article examines tensions between post-structuralist theories of subjectivity and essentialist constructions of identity in the context of a lesbian studies course co-taught by the authors. We describe the goals, organizing principles, content, and outcomes of this engagement in the production of "queer pedagogy"--a radical form of educative praxis implemented deliberately to interfere with, to intervene in, the production of "normalcy" in schooled subjects. We argue for an explicit "ethics of consumption" in relation to curricular inclusions of marginalized subjects and subjugated knowledges. We conclude with a critical analysis of the way that, despite our explicit interventions, all of our discourses, all of our actions in this course were permeated with the continuous and inescapable backdrop of white heterosexual dominance, such that: (a) any subordinated identity always remained marginal and (b) "lesbian identity" in this institutional context was always fixed and stable, even in a course that explicitly critiqued, challenged, and deconstructed a monolithic "lesbian identity."Different course, different set of authors, and perhaps, the beginning of understanding. Any social order, by construction, is going to have its insiders and its outsiders. Outsiders who challenge the received practices of the insiders are going to have problems, and attempting to pathologize ("resistance" or "denial") or to invent sins ("privilege") rather than teach the controversies will appeal to the existing believers, without changing any minds.
Adam Martin argues that the new egalitarianism present in many of these area-studies courses, now compulsory chapel for today's students, might rest on dubious social science. "New Egalitarians articulate [their premises] in terms of a peculiar set of tendentious social scientific claims that, upon reflection, have troubling implications." Specifically,
Most notably, they all tend to emphasize functionalism, the belief that “social practices of the most varied kind can be explained by their tendency to maintain the hegemony of dominant groups” ... . The goal of theory in these schools is to shine a light on forms of domination, in contrast to existing ideologies, which try to excuse or cover up domination. Critical theorists in particular argue that the point of social theory is emancipation, not just explanation.All have sinned, and fallen short of the glory that is Diversity. (Romans 3: 23 in a new secular translation.)
Mr Martin's argument is a long one, and worth full study. At the risk of oversimplification, he distinguishes between old forms of prejudice (explicit, applied to all members of a suspect classification of people, and wrong when used to deny a benefit to a person deserving of a job or a house) and the new forms the intersectionality crowd teach (implicit, embedded in social orders, and subtle.)
Put another way, precisely the kind of social phenomena that might be approached in a very careful fashion, particularly in a class for beginners. Mr Martin's conclusion, however, suggests that contemporary area studies pedagogy attempts a marriage of subtle theories of oppression with strong priors about what is True and Good.
Both epistocracy and obscurantism flow naturally from the substance of New Egalitarian thought. According to this school of thought, experts are needed to fashion a new vocabulary that reveals the invisible sources of oppression. Obscurantism is needed because the consequences of speech are momentous. Because the stakes are high, the response to those who perpetuate oppression—whether intentionally or not—must be salient, authoritative, and decisive. There is no shame in shutting down arguments, New Egalitarian thinking goes, just as there is no shame in outmaneuvering an enemy on the battlefield.Sometimes, though, the simple art of being kind might be more effective. I'll give Strong Towns's Sarah Kobos the final word.
It is not clear how to respond to these argumentative tactics in a constructive manner. If disagreement is dismissed as epistemically or morally unwarranted merely because it is disagreement, there is not much room for a productive conversation.
Nonetheless, it is vital to understand the distinctive characteristics of this new phenomenon. By taking New Egalitarian ideas seriously, liberal social scientists and philosophers may be able to offer a constructive alternative that recognizes the reality of historical and cultural oppression but seeks to empower the disadvantaged through freedom of association and disassociation rather than through a reversion to our atavistic instincts.
A far more satisfying feeling occurs when you watch someone who disagrees with you furrow their brow in concentration as they consider a new idea. Or when you can make your opponent laugh, which is its own form of collaboration and connection. Often this doesn’t change the outcome, but maybe you rotated a few mental wheels a couple revolutions in a new direction. Perhaps you planted a seed.Referring to "resistance" doesn't sound like respect to me.
Sometimes, that’s all you get. When you’re in the minority, success is measured in inches. It’s not for the faint of heart. You have to be able to care and fight and lose, and somehow summon the hope to continue caring and fighting and losing, over and over again. Until, eventually, maybe you win, just a little bit.
But you’ll never win if you don’t respect the people who disagree with you.
SECOND SECTION. John Sexton has a two-hour stream from Portland State University (motto: we'll out-Oberlin Oberlin) discussing "Is Intersectionality A Religion?" He liked it. I may have to stream it and see if the beginning of wisdom is recognizing the parallels.