Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Telling stories

When I started teaching, I was alarmed to learn that a female student had been dissuaded from particular areas of study by a senior professor who suggested that women were too enmeshed in the pragmatics of daily life to do the abstract theorizing necessary for higher scholarship.  All my years of egalitarian experience slammed into the brick wall of outmoded attitudes about bodies and gender.  As if living back in the Renaissance, scholars were supposed to be disembodied minds, removed from the material world, while women were consigned to the material world through the necessity of their bodies.

Apparently, this professor hadn't heard of the theorizing that arises from personal experience.  Somehow, the notion that the personal is political had not infiltrated that particular ivory tower.

Fortunately, though, the blogosphere gives us a broad platform for telling women's stories - not only of weddings, but of marriages, careers and daily lives - and showing,through concrete example, how the personal and political intersect and shape one another.  Telling stories is a concrete form of activism, a way of taking up space, giving voice to our experience, and saying that it matters.

Today, there are two spectacular stories about power, and change, and women's lives.  You must read How Love Can Heal and Anna (of Accordians and Lace) on Idiosyncratic Skills.  These are stories of the hardscrabble lives of women who probably have more useful, world-changing wisdom and insight in their little fingers than that ivory tower professor accumulated in countless years of theorizing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post! I cannot tell you how many professors like the one you described I have met during my time int he ivory tower. It is frustrating indeed. Actually, right now part of the focus of my work is trying to undo that sort of mentality. While my scholarship is no explicitly feminist, I am so, so grateful for the feminist scholars who were the first to question all of this, the first to put the personal forward and try to valorize it, etc. I agree that telling stories is a really important form of activism.