Re: [xmca] Re: Objecting to objectification

From: Kevin Rocap (
Date: Fri Oct 28 2005 - 21:56:00 PDT

Dear David, et al,

I think you're right David that context is everything. Only I think the
relevant contexts might be different than you suppose. Rather than
looking at the international and second language contexts in the way
that you do, I think relevant contexts in this case include (a) the
reality of a pervasive sexism in the wider U.S. and international
community; and (b) Academia writ large (and internationally) with its
historically disproportionately white male dominated practices and
traditions (and in non-U.S. cultures minimally male-dominated, if not
white male dominated). Then within the smaller sphere of CHAT, however
politically left or progressive (or whatever) it tends toward, we find a
community still very male-dominated, and white male dominated at that,
no? And it sounds like this was reinforced by the panel composition in

And, as in any biased or oppressive system it is simply not the case
that similar references like "good boy" and "good girl" carry the same
connotation or weight in the face of historically oppressive relations.
I think that "good boy" is not as perjorative because it has never been
the case that men, particularly white men, historically and in large
numbers were ever targeted by that term as a way of infantilizing and
controlling them in the way that women still are and have been. So
within the context of the institutional and historical sexism we know to
exist, they are not terms of equal weight in their application, imho.

A more compatible, and similarly offensive use, I think, would be in
using the term "good boy" directed at an African American man, where
"boy" has a clear historical usage that one runs the risk of tapping
into if using the term even with seemingly innocuous intent. I think
one might distinguish between at least three types of usages: use of a
phrase or term with malicious intent, use due to one's own historical
baggage/experience/norms that make it seem fine, that Michael I think
alluded to and, related to this latter, use with lack of awareness of
the historical rifts, biases and relations of oppression one is tapping
into and potentially reinforcing in the use (and lack of awareness is
usually a by-product of being from a privileged, non-targeted group such
that you've never had to think yourself about how such language has been
used to control, or as a weapon).

I think this current occurrence appears to be a kind of blend of the
second and the third. I appreciate that there can be all kinds of
linguistic, cultural and experiential trap doors, as you suggest David,
that offer alternative explanations. The fact of possible alternative
explanations does not mitigate the reality that the term also enters
potently into and reinforces a context of sexism. To me a key
question, in this forum and within the wider sphere of sexism as it
plays out on different levels of Academia and, yes, even of CHAT events
and gatherings (live or virtual) is whether it is important for
everyone, and particularly men, to develop awareness of and work to
disrupt language usage that taps into historical means of oppression -
even if you feel your usage does or plausibly could derive from a
different historical trajectory (which, in turn, would arguably derive
from one's living within a privileged, non-targeted male experience).

I don't want to speak for Mary or anyone else who has commented. But in
my own estimation, from a vantage point that says sexism and other isms
are institutional and cultural, not merely the sum total of explicitly
malicious intents (which I'm pretty sure no one is really accusing
Ricardo of), to point out that something said or done is mysoginistic or
sexist is not even necessarily about questioning the intent of the sayer
or doer, but rather to point out that what the person has said or done
colludes, intentionally or not, with a pervasive historical,
institutional and cultural practice and experience of oppression and
that they need to know that and to know how it impacts others,
especially targeted groups, in this case women, no?

My two cents.

In Peace,

David Daniel Preiss Contreras wrote:

> there are 2 things here:
> 1. What about if the author was a man and Ricardo would have said he
> was a acting like a "good boy". Would that be pejorative without being
> sexist? As I understood it originally, Ricardo was only intending to
> say that the author was acting like a good compliant scholar. I wonder
> if there is any other sexist sentence in the whole submission of
> Ricardo. I donīt remember other but I may be mistaken.
> 2. Of course, from an APA point of view, an according to the rules of
> the USA academy, the sentence of Ricardo is just a disaster. But, what
> do happen when you are not regulated by those rules?
> Itīs just like now, in a different level, the USA imposing a parlament
> to Iraq where half of the representatives have to be women (a
> criterion that even the USA does not accomplish), or the West efforts
> of nation building in Afganistan (after killing lots of civilians,
> most certainly, that nobody counts).
> You can, of course argue, that the milieu where Ricardo inhabits is
> "sexist" or that all Latin American milieus are sexist. But thatīs
> still a dangerous claim. Itīs the same claim that drive the American
> government to impose democracy by force or the French government to
> impose laicism in its muslim population.
> Of course there is machism in Latin America. But, who sets the
> standars of what is sexist and what isnīt? And, what about if the
> sentence of Ricardo is not considered sexist in Latin America?
> While, as I said, I do agree that in american academic english
> Ricardoīs words sound distateful, I urge you all of you to put his
> words in a context. The risk of not thinking twice here is the risk of
> ethnocentrism which is just as dangerous as the risk of misoginy or
> sexism.
> We all have to think twice if we are going to do XMCA a
> multiculturalist list. If not, let us just alienate the others, send
> Ricardo to lurk, and let us make one common sense prevail.
> David
> White, Phillip writes:
>> i thought of this - the second language issue.
>> thinking about, for example, using "una chiquita buena" as a
>> descriptor for an adult is perjorative, no matter what.
>> have seen Stetsenko in action as discussant in Sevilla, poised,
>> capable, and marvelously centered - well, Ricardo's term was beyond
>> bounds.
>> phillip
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: on behalf of David Preiss
>> Sent: Fri 10/28/2005 12:19 PM
>> To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
>> Subject: RE: [xmca] Objecting to objectification
>> Hi Mary,
>> I empathize with the feelings, but I was wondering wheter we are
>> misinterpreting Ricardo. There may be issues related to the fact that
>> he is
>> writing in a second language, and that the translation does not sound
>> good,
>> although he did not intend to objectify. Ricardo, could you clarify?
>> That said, why do you say that xmca has been a men's club? Sounds
>> strange
>> for a group of ex-collaborators and incoming followers of Sylvia
>> Scribner...
>> david
>> David Preiss
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> Profesor Auxiliar / Assistant Professor
>> Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
>> Escuela de Psicología
>> Av. Vicuņa Mackenna 4860
>> Macul, Santiago,
>> Chile
>> Fono: 56-2-3544605
>> Fax: 56-2-354-4844
>> E-mail:
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From:
>> [] On
>> Behalf Of Mary K. Bryson
>> Sent: Friday, October 28, 2005 12:51 PM
>> To: XMCA
>> Subject: [xmca] Objecting to objectification
>> On 10/28/05 8:00 AM, "Ricardo Japiassu" <> wrote:
>>> The most part of article is a predictable critical review of
>>> Leontiev1s Activity, Counsciousness and Personality - not because
>>> Dr. Setsenko1s thinking cannot go beyond the obvious rather present
>>> an original approach to activity but, in my point of view, because
>>> she preffers to be a 3good girl2.
>> Misogynist sexist objectification of any author or their work is
>> absolutely
>> unacceptable on this list. If we are ever going to move forward in this
>> field towards a body of knowledges that is anything other than
>> over-determined by a particularly gendered history this kind of
>> signifying
>> practice can not be condoned. You have almost managed in practical
>> terms to
>> have a private men's club, with a few women relegated to the wings.
>> If this
>> really is the intent, then be clear about it and the rest of us can move
>> elsewhere.
>> _______________________________________________
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> David D. Preiss
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