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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Warm greetings, everyone

I’m Katie, a sophomore joint Social Studies and Women Gender and Sexuality concentrator, and I’ll be joining Deb as another guest writer for the next few days, treating you to a double dose of minority female feminist perspective. This doesn’t mean Deb and I will line up on every issue; contrary to popular belief, not all feminists think alike (also contrary to popular belief, feminists do occasionally think. It helps break the monotony of our hysterical ranting).

I guess I picked an auspicious time to make my guest appearance, since right now ‘women’s issues’—which, as Golis and others point out, are also men’s issues—are hot on campus. Harvard Right To Life has launched an extensive postering campaign with fliers reading: “If it’s not a baby, you’re not pregnant.” Last weekend’s Conservative Women’s Conference drew a decent crowd (I attended the final seminar and learned a thing or two!). Dreams of a Women’s Center (or nightmares, according to some) appear to be materializing at long last. And tonight promises to be a fantastic women’s-issue bonanza, as both world-famous gender theorist Judith Butler and our own beloved fountain of wisdom Harvey Mansfield are speaking to separate audiences about women, gender, and feminism (Butler at 6:05 in the Holyoke Center and Mansfield at 7:00 in Sever 113). The combo is almost too good to be true.

Given last year’s Summers scandal and the subsequent formation of the Women and Minorities Task Force, an increase in feminist and gender-focused dialogue is unsurprising and highly appropriate. Happily, Cambridge Common has done an admirable job so far of contributing to the dialogue and tackling feminist issues. In fact, even independently of its progressive leanings, this forum is a feminist-friendly site. Not just because all the current regular writers identify as feminist in some sense (Golis remains quasi-closeted as a feminist, but there’s hope for him yet: at least he’s joined The F-word’s facebook group), but because of the very nature and purpose of the blog itself. (more in expanded post)

Consider the archived “end the monopoly” post, a mini-manifesto of sorts that lays out Cambridge Common’s goals. At first glance, feminism doesn’t exactly leap off the page—the piece seems innocuous enough. Were “monopoly” the only CC posting I had ever read, I would think that the blog's aim is merely to provide critiques that expose gaps in Crimson coverage and opinion making, essentially offering more 'facts' in order to provide students with a patchwork of news--a more 'complete' or 'objective' view of Harvard news. A noble object, I guess, but kind of ho-hum. The exciting part—and, I would argue, the feminist-friendly part—is buried at the very end of the piece: the declaration that "we deserve more than one opinion and one concept of 'news.'" Now we’re talking. By addressing not only Harvard happenings and national/international 'newsworthy' events, but also the underlying ideological and epistemological foundations that affect the way we interpret news, or what counts as news, as well as the way we interact as members of a community independently of newsmaking machines, the blog really does (or could) attempt to re-envision 'news' as a concept.

For me, the opportunity to expose and discuss underlying assumptions, value structures and frames in newsmaking, education, politics, and social life is one of the most encouraging properties of Cambridge Common. It represents a cornerstone of contemporary feminist analysis: forgoing pretensions of unearthing and disseminating 'the' truth in favor of critically examining multiple, contingent truths. Feminism uses gender as a helpful starting point or lens in these critical analyses—since Cambridge Common only sometimes approaches topics from a gender angle, I would characterize it as feminist-friendly, rather than outright feminist.

If you’ve managed to make it this far in my classically longwinded feminist introduction, bless your patient heart. Since definitions of feminism practically outnumber feminists these days, chances are you may not agree with my characterization of Cambridge Common as feminist-friendly; or, if you do, your reasons might differ from mine. Maybe you’ve been waiting for the chance to unleash a scathing critique of feminism as you see it. Maybe you, like many of us, are still a little unclear on what exactly feminism is. Maybe you wonder whether the term is too politically loaded or anachronistic to be useful these days. Comment away! And for those of you who would rather zoom in from the big-picture view to discuss feminist issues with greater specificity, I can’t think of better fodder than Butler’s and Mansfield’s presentations tonight (again, 6:05 in the Holyoke Center and 7:00 in Sever 113, respectively). Hope to see you there! Especially you, anonymous(es). :)

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