chapter  7
16 Pages

Alice Jane Pitt: Reading Resistance Analytically: On Making the Self in Women's Studies

These two responses appear to be diametrically opposed when read in relation to the twin commitments of feminist theorizing and teaching: (1) to address women's experiences and identities as marked not only by gender but also by race, class, sex, age, ability, and geography, and (2) to theorize gender itself as a category that gains intelligibility only when read through the lenses of multiple axes of identity-formation. The study of domination and subordination among women reflects ongoing feminist struggles to interrogate what it means to be a woman in a society that is class-based, sexist, racist, and homophobic. These struggles situate the responses of both students in relation to the pedagogical demands of Women's Studies. Student A's response can be interpreted as signalling her refusal to come to terms with her own position of dominance as a heterosexual woman. This is a refusal to learn that, however difficult it is to be female in a sexist society, privileges accrue to heterosexual women precisely because they are heterosexual. Moreover, to define heterosexuality as normal entails defining other sexualities as deviant and, hence, marginal. Given that the desire to acknowledge heterosexual privilege and to dec enter heterosexuality has become central to feminist pedagogy, student A's response to including lesbianism in her Women's Studies course can be read as a story of resistance. On the surface, student B's response does not appear to be a story of resistance. Her desire for lesbian representation and for the possibility of self-representation as a lesbian is, however, both subject to and a subject of resentments. These resentments assume a variety of forms, including public displays of homophobia and refusals to consider gay and lesbian rights as civil rights. Such expressions exceed the intimacy of feminist classrooms.