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[Xmca-l] Re: Analysis of Gender in early xmca discourse

As a woman, I am grateful that the question of gender inequality and imbalanced participation has been raised in XMCA and is being seriously discussed, and not dropped, as I had feared. I am also excited about the possibility of bringing so many great minds-bodies together to try to address this conundrum of low participation among erudite and accomplished women scholars in the XMCA list serve.

I am not sure why I personally do not participate in XMCA.  I find the philosophical discourse intimidating, but always assume that it is because I am a novice to cultural activity theory.  But when I read that Vera John-Steiner is made to feel irrelevant in the list serve due to lack of response, it seems clear that there is more going on.

I would like to see us take-up Jacob’s suggestion that we consider the gendered nature of “logic” and academic discourse, and agree that there is a woeful ignorance among academics of feminist writings on the topic – and not just by women.  (BTW, one of the current authors under discussion, Margaret Eisenhart, is a prominent feminist scholar and educational anthropologist who has co-authored two influential books: Educated in Romance: Women, Achievement, and College Culture and Women’s Science: Learning and Succeeding from the Margins).

I agree with Peter that a thinking/listening/writing-speaking space (“wait time”) would help, but at the same time I would not want to create obstacles to the natural to-and-fro of conversation – which, it is true, tends to dominated by men. Nor would I want to set rules about what should be discussed, or from which perspectives: I appreciate the richness of backgrounds, nationalities, and disciplines represented in XMCA.  I do agree with Vera that sharing dialogue, in addition to debating, would be more inviting to those of us who observe from the periphery.

Is there a way to create options for different types of discourse for XMCA’ers?  How could we support the sharing of ideas and practices in relation to selected MCA articles, rather than simply debating abstract ideas (without taking into consideration the ways that power is always involved with the production of knowledge)? Perhaps we could think of this as a theoretically-informed learning design challenge, and call upon our tech savvy participants to help us think about alternatives to the linear list serve discussion format that lends itself to a specific genre of discourse?  Perhaps the context-format itself is a large part of the problem, in shaping our discourse and dialogue in ways that are not productive for the collective.


On 11/3/16, 12:19 PM, "xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu on behalf of Vera John-Steiner" <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu on behalf of vygotsky@unm.edu> wrote:

    The low vocal participation of women in xmca discussions may be partly a reflection of the genre. These are solo authored messages which tend to debate theoretical interpretations.

    Articles in Mind, Culture and Activity show a better gender balance, they are also frequently written collaboratively. Feminist literature has emphasized relational issues as crucial in women's roles. In our own CHAT writings we have also discussed the importance of interdependence. Perhaps if we could find a way to share more and debate less we might improve the balance.

    In my own case, I find that I need some reflection time before I am ready to enter a debate and by the time I am ready, the topic of discussion has shifted. And then the responses are few if any. This makes me feel irrelevant. I am also of a generation of women who had to prove that we belonged in academia, and that we had something to contribute to theory. In looking over an article I wrote in 1999 on Sociocultural and Feminist Theory, I find references to studies which reveal that in problem-solving groups "females engage in more maintenance or socioemotional behaviors, while males generate more ideas(Aries,1996)." We are still engaged in shifting this balance which is why  consider this discussion a healthy and helpful one.


    -----Original Message-----

    From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Peter Smagorinsky

    Sent: Thursday, November 03, 2016 10:36 AM

    To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity

    Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Analysis of Gender in early xmca discourse

    Is it perhaps telling that Mike's observation that the xmca discussion is dominated by men has largely been taken up by men? And that Jake's points have been taken up, in my view, somewhat dismissively and at abstract levels rather than at the immediate level at which the problem is located?

    As a White U.S. male, I consider myself more problem than solution, of which I have none other than to try to listen. But I suspect that this topic has already been shut down in terms of achieving the more equitable balance across the gender and sexuality spectrum of participation. The very problems identified as the topic of discussion appear to me to be replicated in the discussion that has followed.

    -----Original Message-----

    From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of lpscholar2@gmail.com

    Sent: Thursday, November 03, 2016 12:02 PM

    To: Rein Raud <rein.raud@tlu.ee>; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>

    Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Analysis of Gender in early xmca discourse

    Hi Rein,

    Your question opens up a direction I want to follow in your leading question.

    Using your insight on *ity* in previous posts (that have entered my awareness and keep returning and *resuming* a presence in my reflections).

    We can say we are talking about masculin*ity and feminin*ity  as being expressed as generalities in our cultured words and worlds.

    This involves *logic* and may include logic of feminin*ity as counterparts of the logic of masculin*ity.

    This is a turn in the conversation. I would suggest we are possibly turning to the ethical dimension as primary.

    This would include the general logic of (ForGiving) and also the general logic of *hollowed-out* shallow neo-liberal general*ites.

    I will just repeat this is not expressing the image of two sides of the same coin. The coin image implies two *independent* sides fused in a material stratum (the coin).

    I hear the *ity* as interrelation, intertwining, chiasm, *each IN the other.

    I am wondering (with Merleau-Ponty) if this theme also expresses the 3 aspects of the play of  activity-gap-passivity or the reverse as passivity-gap-activity as playing out and being expressed in the images of  masculin*ity and feminin*ity.

    The breath of inspiration-gap-expiration or looking-gap-seeing.

    In the oikos realm the image of the dance of  *marriage* as ethical philosophy.

    For our moment in history to *resume* these themes once again for the first time.

    The mystery of the gap

    Sent from my Windows 10 phone

    From: Rein Raud

    Sent: November 3, 2016 8:05 AM

    To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity

    Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Analysis of Gender in early xmca discourse

    Jacob and Greg,

    Please clarify what do you have in mind when saying that “logic is gendered”. In order for that sentence (or any other) to be correct or incorrect you already need what I understand should be called “logic”, i.e. general rules for judging an argument in a context. Does “logic is gendered” mean that “logic” is something that representatives of a specific gender have invented f.ex. in order to subdue other genders, or that each gender has its own logic?

    By the way, I don’t believe there are culture-independent genders, i.e. it means something different to have been called “man” in ancient Greece or India than f ex in the world of today, so there is certainly a point in claiming that the system of genders is itself gendered, in other words, what cultures have “naturalized” as divisions into genders are more often than not constructions erected by a gender group in order to dominate others. Such construction, I would argue, can only be taken down with arguments that follow a logic which itself is not gendered, because if it were, it would be a contestant in the field, not the referee.

    With best wishes,


    > On 03 Nov 2016, at 16:30, Jacob McWilliams <jennamcjenna@gmail.com> wrote:


    > There's no doubt that "logic," as an outgrowth of objectivist,

    > rationalist epistemology, is gendered--after all, if theorists wants

    > us to believe that all _other_ epistemologies are socially

    > constructed, then it follows that objectivism is too. And it's

    > constructed to benefit those in power--i.e., people who think like, and commonly are, white men.


    > Lots of feminist theorists have written about this. Donna Haraway took

    > us on a wild ride through science's logic fetish back in the 1980s:

    > http://www.jstor.org/stable/3178066?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.


    > Lots of feminists have written about this. Sadly, most folks in most

    > academic departments are appallingly unfamiliar with their work. Sadly

    > but unsurprisingly.


    > Not to beat the proverbial dead horse, but several listserv

    > members--including me--have tried to introduce this position re: logic

    > in prior xmca threads. The position has mostly either been ignored or

    > loudly rejected out of hand by more vocal participants on this listserv.



    > --



    > Jacob McWilliams

    > Learning Sciences & Human Development Program University of Colorado

    > Boulder j.mcwilliams@colorado.edu




    > On Thu, Nov 3, 2016 at 8:12 AM, Greg Mcverry <jgregmcverry@gmail.com> wrote:


    >> I want to bring a call back to the idea of logic and gender.


    >> Someone in the thread noted that "academic discourse" wasn't about

    >> winning but simply prevailing logic. Anna commented back you could be

    >> logical and not be a "jerk" about it.


    >> Maybe both statements can be true.


    >> White males may not excel in this type of logic simply based on their

    >> privilege. Though I am sure privilege plays a huge role.


    >> Could it be the Western tradition of logic is itself rooted in gender

    >> inequality? It is a field a few thousand years old that was made up

    >> by white men arguing "logically" with other white men. Naturally the

    >> discourse practices would signify and reinforce membership within these circles.

    >> Exclusion of underrepresented voices has influence how the concept of

    >> "logic" has evolved.


    >> I keep thinking about "logic" and argumentation as I begin to

    >> interact with scholars outside of the US. We have put a strong

    >> emphasis on arguing in our

    >> K12 curriculum. Yet when I talk to people from other countries they

    >> note a word for "argumentative writing" or "argumentation" does not

    >> really exist in their language. Which as we know influences

    >> thought...which influences language..and both contribute to culture and activity.


    >> So could it be the gender bias that has existed in the listserv is a

    >> symptom of stressing a definition of "logic" maybe engendered. Notice

    >> the talk in our models of logic have been proving who is right and

    >> who is wrong? What translation is best for example.


    >> It is one individual "proving" he is right rather than they reaching

    >> a consensus on what is right.




    >> On Thu, Nov 3, 2016 at 12:47 AM Annalisa Aguilar <annalisa@unm.edu> wrote:


    >>> Hello,



    >>> Sometimes synchronicity is spooky. I spied this in the Guardian just now.



    >>> https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/02/

    >> silicon-valley-sexism-diversity-valerie-aurora-frame-shift



    >>> In reply to Maria-Cristina, it's difficult to have work-life balance

    >>> when the division of the personal and the public worlds exists. From

    >>> what is described in biased workplaces (in article above), it's

    >>> necessary to have some sort of protective wall, if only to survive another day.



    >>> The irony is that people become competitive in the work place

    >>> because of

    >> a

    >>> perceived scarcity of resources, but in technology it seems to me to

    >>> be a perceived scarcity of privileges. I have never understood how

    >>> sitting at

    >> a

    >>> keyboard is somehow "hard work." I know it requires effort and

    >> intellectual

    >>> effort in particular, but it's not like working on a farm, where

    >>> solving problems with scarce resources is always the norm. Think bricolage.



    >>> Maybe this perceived scarcity is the same in academia. Having a

    >>> worldview that the field of knowledge is infinite, seems to be,

    >>> looking from the outside. But perhaps I am unaware of the bricolage

    >>> people do inside the university. I do not mean to diminish truly hard work.



    >>> Anyway, these resources are culled from the public world to feed the

    >>> personal world in the end, isn't that the true motivation? To

    >>> protect

    >> home

    >>> and hearth when we aren't talking about invading hoards on longboats

    >>> shooting flaming arrows at our huts shouldn't carry that same

    >>> impending fear, dread, and uncertainty. But sometimes it seems to

    >>> feel that way,

    >> that

    >>> people behave with that same ferocity of a struggle to the death.



    >>> It is an illusion, a misperception. But this misperception has its

    >>> apparent reality that creates real fear in people. As if their lives

    >> didn't

    >>> matter and unbalanced equations must be attacked with quadratic

    >> solutions,

    >>> to set the matter straight.



    >>> Instead, a shared effort is required to permit that defensiveness,

    >>> born

    >> of

    >>> competition, to dissipate. In order to do that, people have to feel safe.

    >>> So how is safety created in the spaces? Spaces free of ridicule and

    >>> non-acceptance. Then, isn't that what every human being desires and

    >>> requires to flourish? Interesting that that need has no bias.



    >>> That is why I admire Aurora so much. I really think that she is on

    >>> to something.



    >>> Larry, rather than reversibility, I'd prefer receptivity or reciprocity.



    >>> And rather than finer nature, I'd prefer true nature (with an idea

    >>> that being competitive, biased, prejudiced, unethical etc, are

    >>> actually artificial constructs, that when obstructions have been

    >>> lifted, what is natural is to balance what is there (like

    >>> homeostasis), free from hindrances.



    >>> In order for us to recognize what is fullness in ourselves, fullness

    >>> must already be present within us, otherwise we could not recognize

    >>> it, we wouldn't have affinity toward it. So if we can remove the

    >>> notion of scarcity, then the fullness of who and what we are, which

    >>> is already

    >> there,

    >>> will be evident. It will have an appearance of emerging from

    >>> nothing, but it's really just appearing like a tree in the fog that

    >>> was standing quiet all along, and all that was required was for the fog to lift.



    >>> Anyway, I want to lastly add that I bring up demand over production,

    >> which

    >>> Maria Cristina had shown some interest. The idea is that we have

    >>> demands which actually decide production, and these demands are

    >>> socially based, because we have social natures. Even if we are

    >>> talking about biological demands like food and shelter, early

    >>> childcare, regardless, in those

    >> cases

    >>> there is a social aspect to them.



    >>> Looking through the other end of the telescope, when we consider

    >>> demand first rather than production, things look interestingly

    >>> different. If we include things in demand in that exploration

    >>> (rather than things in production), we begin to see the social life

    >>> of things, we start to see

   >> how

    >>> these items go in and out of commodification, where objects have

    >>> auras of value that reside outside of monetary value and markets.



    >>> Let's consider your dining room table. You bought it in a furniture

    >> store,

    >>> or perhaps online, or from a thrift store or garage sale, maybe it

    >>> was a gift. But as long as you own it, you don't consider the market

    >>> value of your dining room table, or its appreciating value if say it

    >>> was made by a famous furniture maker where in 20-30 years you'll see

    >>> those items appraised on The Antiques Road Show; at least not until

    >>> you decide you don't want to own it anymore. During that time of

    >>> possession, the dining room table starts to have different value, a

    >>> social value, which is determined by its demand, or should I say

    >>> demand for it. It supports the family by providing a comfortable

    >>> place to eat meals. A place for kids to do homework. A place to play

    >>> card games. Or to cut a dress pattern from fabric, etc. All of these

    >>> are domestic activities, but they have no production value in terms of tables. You only need one dining room table.

    >>> Still, the table will generate value in the household, because of

    >>> the activities that the table supports, even if it is to bring

    >>> people

    >> together

    >>> at holidays, or even if it has only sentimental value, say if the

    >>> table

    >> is

    >>> damaged and must be repaired, or it has been moved because the room

    >>> is being painted. This description depicts the social life of the

    >>> dining

    >> room

    >>> table. Which is based upon its demand, not its production.



    >>> Anyway, as I said previously, my debt for these thought experiments

    >>> comes from Arjun Appadurai. If anyone is interested.



    >>> Maria Cristina makes a great point considering work life and living

    >>> life as two types of activity systems and thinking about their

    >>> inherent contradictions. What comes from this tension that transcends the two?

    >>> (Might this exploration echo the comparison between production and

    >> demand?)

    >>> Is Maria Cristina correct that there hasn't been much discussion in

    >>> this area? if so, I'd like to learn more about that.



    >>> Great conversations. Thanks.



    >>> Kind regards,



    >>> Annalisa