Monday, 13 June 2011

Duppy feminism

Male feminist geographers, David Butz and Lawrence D. Berg explain their term 'duppy feminism',

"The notion of the duppy helps us to think about the malicious ghosts of masculinism in ways that resonate with our own experiences of both contesting and unwittingly reproducing masculinism and sexism within geography."* 

This is very apt for myself, as I said in a previous post, I occupy the position of being a female geographer who both likes and dislikes masculinist ways of working- depending on various factors, or, more honestly, on my mood that day. Butz and Berg venture that the term 'duppy feminists' might be a useful one for male feminist geographers to think around and through... I find myself wondering whether I could appropriate the term for myself. 

So, why duppy feminism? What has inspired them so? Well, a duppy is a particular type of malicious ghost or spirit, the word itself probably originating from West Africa.  Bob Marley supposedly had a duppy set on him, which he had to fend off, night after night. According to the book, Catch a Fire- The Life of Bob Marley by Timothy White, one night, Rita Marley stayed over and Bob's duppy threw her out of bed! Eventually though, Bob sussed the duppy out and banished it for good.... thus the song,  Duppy Conqueror. Butz and Berg don't recount the duppy story as I remember reading it, they have a more complex, clever, political and subtle explanation. They say that The Wailers' song, Duppy Conqueror refers to the ability of the Rastafarians to conquer the duppy-like ghosts of colonialism (and Babylon System), and thus transform themselves from 'sufferers' to conquerors. My hesitant mention of Babylon System of course encourages further enquiry:- where do the ideas of Babylon System and masculinist culture meet and where do they diverge? [Are Rastas fighting the same battle as feminists - or a different one?] Additionally, Brutz and Berg reckon that Marley and The Wailers saw themselves as using duppy-like tactics to go about their conquering. Thus, they existed in a ephemeral space, they conducted a guerrilla-type warfare on the oppression:- they were spectral-like, ever present, yet not fully visible fighters. To add to these interpretations,  I swear I remember something on You Tube with Lee 'Scratch' Perry explaining as to why he had to get rid of the duppies, this time the duppies were hangers on, vampiric people who followed others around, hoping to feed from their success. (If I can validate this I'll be sure to post the video).  With varying ideas of a duppy conqueror, there is confusion yet more importantly, I think, there is a richness of interpretation and a multi-layered approach possible... a lack of clarity, yet a useful bunch of possibilities. I don't see a problem with this as the feminist discourse is rather convoluted in the first place.

This whole idea of duppy feminism has grabbed me and I've been agitating around these ideas for the past while now. The goals of academic feminist analysis are to analyse and understand the patriarchal system, to actively practice resistance to patriarchy and to be transformative, particularly to women's lives. Butz and Berg reckon that most male feminist geographers succeed in undertaking a good feminists analysis, which adds to our understanding of masculinist culture. However, they observe that as a rule, male privilege is not spent (more about this later), cognitive authority is never relinquished, patriarchy is not actively resisted and nothing transformative comes about. Thus the research is another academic exercise, with little impact at ground level. Of course, female feminists are known to 'fail' in the very same manner. The reason being is that deep masculinism serves us very well in the establishment and is good for furthering careers. Deep masculinism would be characterised as a desire to penetrate the space of another, yet to defend ones own space or territory. So, a feminist who is still deeply masculinist would ask the participants many probing questions yet stop short at revealing any insights into their own life, for example. Additionally, Butz and Berg think that the majority of men do not recognise (or perhaps, do not wish to recognise) their own male privilege and are rather fond of it; again, it has served them well. If male feminists do recognise their own male privilege, this is not the end of the problem, however, since, according to Butz and Berg, one cannot rid oneself of male privilege and, even if one did decide to berate oneself for simply being male, this is not a productive mode in which to put oneself! Guilt never really seemed the best of tactics.

In their essay, they are at pains to explain how most male feminists fail to be really good feminists and as a result, Butz and Berg propose a stance which might be adopted, as a theoretical hanger on which to drape ones practical working methods. They propose that the inbuilt ghosts of patriarchy and male privilege be acknowledged, rather than denied, and that one occupies a more liminal space, an ephemeral space, where one practices feminism from a duppy-like stance. One is ever present yet not fully physical, in some way. At the same time, one has a ghost within, a bundle of contradiction which they see as the duppy. They also encourage a guerrilla-type practice.... a subversive feminism, if you will, whereby the duppy feminist will try to 'spend' some of their male privilege. They could do this by listening rather than talking, by being more receptive and less impressive, by standing slightly on the sidelines. They could also make themselves more porous and less well defended, they could, in effect, make themselves more penetrable, so that, by osmosis, their masculinist territory might be accessed by a feminist world.

I am fascinated by their ideas. I too have great 'head mash' from trying to work out just what sort (if any) of feminist I am, or I shall become. I know I have a whole load of contradictions running and that one could easily accuse me of being hypocritical- I personally tend to pick and choose just when I like and when I dislike masculinist structure and working methods. Surely that is not being a good feminist in the first place? Yet, I would be lying were I to try to deny my feminist ideals, strops and leanings. I often like things with a bit more liminality than hegemony and I have always been taken with the term, duppy, ever since I first heard it way back in 1990 or so. So yes, I am wondering whether I too might position myself as a duppy feminist...

* Butz, D. and Berg, L.D. (2002), 'Paradoxical Space: Geography, Men, and Duppy Feminism'. In Feminist Geography in Practice Research and Methods, edited by Pamela Moss, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Eco-feminist art

There are various strands to feminism:- first wave feminism, second wave, third wave, eco-feminism.... 'gender feminsist', 'equity feminists', 'resenter feminists', 'marxist feminists'... and maybe more.... whilst at the same time, academic researchers can use feminist analysis as a research methodology (this is certainly fairly popular  and acceptable within human geography). 

It's high time for a picture in this blog so I wish to include this one by Betty LaDuke, as sourced from We'Moon Diary 2011. We'Moon is most definitely, strongly, almost militantly gender/eco-feminist in view point. Personally, I love the diary for its colourful layout, poems and artwork yet I get angry  with what I perceive as the inherent sexism  of the publication - men are totally omitted.  Eco-feminism has been concerned with the apparent connection between the degradation of the planet and the domination of women. More recently, eco-feminism has come to encompass a standpoint of equality and inclusivity of all races, nationalities, sexual orientation, 'dis-ability' and classes. How this means that men should be ignored and excluded, I don't really understand but never mind, we'll speak more about that later (sorry guys- I want to join you as Duppy Feminists!) ... for now though, I want to post this beautiful picture: 

Introducing, 'Latin America: Between Sunlight and Shadow', by Betty LaDuke - a  highly colourful, flowing, holistic  image depicting women (?), all of whom are connected to earth, water, plants, animals and sky.  One of the figures has a skirt decorated with crosses which might symbolise Christianity, though I am guessing this refers to a more pagan, animated and flamboyant Latin American style Christianity,  with many fiestas and much adoration of 'Our Lady'. Is it a halo, a moon or a sun behind the figures and are we shown  ancestral spirits or tree branches growing from their heads? I see a sadness to this picture yet much beauty and soulfulness. Are these beautiful  Latin Americans betwixt light and dark to suggest  that much of their culture is oppressed or unknown to the dominant cultures?

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Listening to Roots Manuva (as the spirit has moved him)

Something is snapping
into place.
a tangible web,
a tension thread,
pulling taught with
Good Feelings.
tugging on the strands,
those strong silken vibes.
a focus,
a switch of perspective,
ever so slight.
a big penny dropping,
making its way down.
the glow of an approaching 'A-ha!'
a soft illumination,
a piecing together.
after years of wandering,
years of wondering,
arguments half-constructed,
barely cohesive.
tangible to me, yes,
real and vibrant to me, yes,
but, a void of open gestured hands,
upturned eyes-
what is it, this thing I need,
for the pieces to make sense?
why the years of studying landscape,
soil and morphology?
for what?
a kick in the teeth?
a stab in the back?
I don't think so.
hmmm, but tonight, it's starting, just beginning to make sense,
as I gobble (up words) and relish, and cower in front of
These Books.
as I persuade myself, and deny myself,
and finally, enjoy myself,
in absolute delight and terror (equal measure), at the process
of undertaking a feminist analysis of my academic work.

And, seeing as Roots inspired me so much, here he is:

Masculinist Culture

So then, what is a masculinist culture? In broad terms, it refers to the hegemonic culture of dominant societies and ways of working which are favoured by governments, militaries and big institutions. A masculinist culture is based upon patriarchal power structures and is hierarchical. Initially, dominant men implemented a masculinist culture, which still now tends to favour and privilege men. However, individual men can be just as oppressed by  a masculinist culture as can women whilst conversely, individual women can find themselves benefiting from a masculinist culture. A masculinist culture tends towards favouring the scientific and rational over the emotional and intuitive. Joni Seager (in Earth Follies: Feminism, Politics and the Environment) claims that most of our current day environmental crises are a direct result of the masculinist culture and that if we really want to have a happy planet, we need to dig into this culture, examine it, and re-structure around more equal ways of working. Victoria Lawson, in her paper, 'The Politics of Difference...'*, has this to say about the term,

"The term masculinist refers to a historically produced linkage in geography between value-neutral objectivist science and the unmarked subject of Western social science as embodying "male, bourgeois, and heterosexist assumptions" (McDowell 1992, 409)*. Masculism does not imply male scientists; indeed, many women geographers have employed masculinist approaches to knowledge production, just as male geographers have engaged feminist theories and practices in their research."
Getting reflexive- this is me in masculinist mode.

Personally, I like masculinist ways of working and have great respect for many aspects of masculinist culture. I have many a happy hour in a lab, obsessing over soil samples and I adore academia, which tends to be pretty masculinist. I am starting to think I might have to classify myself as some sort of feminist... though whether I will be a 'gender feminist', 'equity feminist' or even a 'duppy feminist',  I do not yet know. How do you define a feminist who believes in equality (as long as I don't have to compromise too much), and both masculinist and feminist ways of working? Having said all this, my next post takes a diversion into some distinctly unmasculinist territory.

*Lawson, V. (1995) The Politics of Difference: Examining the Qualitative/ Quantitative Dualism in Post Structuralist Feminist Research, The Professional Geographer 47:4, 449-457

*McDowell, L. (1992) Doing gender: Feminism, feminists and research methods in human geography. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 17:399-416

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Why feminist analysis, why reskilling, why resilience, why Transition Culture?

I have long been fascinated with all things geography whilst more lately, the Transition movement has grabbed my interest as I try to grapple with dilemmas of how to live  reasonably ethically:- in accordance with my own needs, the needs of others and the ecological needs of our planet. I have had phases of trying to live in  accordance with the  needs of the planet, which resulted in me badly neglecting my own needs. These days I meet many of my own needs yet, of course, my eco-footprint has rocketed as I trash the planet with gay abandon. Hmm, tricky stuff.

My present research focuses on resilience, (a cornerstone of the Transition ethos), reskilling and now, I am incorporating feminist theory to my work. Resilience as a concept first emerged in the 1970s and was used by ecologists to describe eco-systems which were resilient to external shocks and stress events. A resilient ecosystem was seen to have the ability to be robust, to weather the storms whilst an un-resilient ecosystem would collapse in the face of external shocks. More recently, resilience has been broadened to the arena of socio-ecological systems. The term could be applied to a whole modern day community. The Transition movement- Transition Culture, Transition Towns, whatever you want to call it (the name seemingly evolving and changing)  draws from ecological resilience theory (amongst others) to help envision socio-economic and socio-ecological systems which might be resilient as we face coming threats such as climate change, economic upheavals and peak oil (thus subsequent energy descent).

Reskilling is touted as being an excellent resilience building activity- suits me fine, I adore crafting! Reskilling could involve learning to knit, sew ones own clothes, growing vegetables, mending and making tools, constructing a home solar energy system or building a house with straw bales. I worked with a Welsh Transition Town and noticed that the more traditionally feminine reskilling activities were not receiving as much respect as more masculine, or more gender neutral activities, such as growing vegetables or gaining proficiency with building skills. This does not surprise Stoller, author of Stitch 'n Bitch, who realised that knitting has oft been disregarded since the early days of feminism when women were told they were made for greater things than  knitting and housework. More lately, Stoller reflects that, in fact, those who look down on knitting are actually being anti-feminist as their stance shows they give more respect to activities traditionally done by men than those traditionally carried out by women. (Happily she has just bought out a new knitting book for men- Son of Stitch 'n Bitch.)

I also saw there were cultural issues at play- almost tearing the Transition initiative apart, as clearly, some members of the group felt un-heard, un-represented or excluded. There was at the time little discussion of these gender and cultural issues and as I was a physical geographer at the time, I had little theory with which to try to understand what was going on. I was upset by these events yet also very excited- there was obviously something big going on, awaiting closer inspection. This is where the feminist analysis comes into play- not only do some feminist scholars believe that one cannot understand our current environmental problems without assessing the masculinist culture which caused the problems in the first place but also, modern day feminism focuses on encompassing all races, cultures, backgrounds and sexual orientations, thus it addresses cultural issues as well. I am now enthusiastically researching feminist analysis as a tool for my research.

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