March 15, 2008

"Transgressive caregiving" and a view of a frozen lake.

At the race-and-feminism conference this morning, I'm sitting next to a huge window, with this view of Lake Mendota:

DSC08005

Ah! The warmth of home!

I'm listing to Utah lawprof Laura Kessler read from a paper about "Transgressive Caregiving." Transgressive caregiving? It sounds alarming. From her paper:
Can unpaid family caregiving be a form of political resistance or expression? I argue that it can, especially when done by people ordinarily denied the privilege of family privacy by the state. Unlike feminists from other disciplines, feminist and queer theorists within law have largely overlooked this aspect of caregiving, regarding unpaid family labor as a source of gender-based oppression or as an undervalued public good. Consequently, prominent feminist and queer theorists within law have set their sights on employment or sexual freedom as more promising sources of emancipation for women.

This book examines a less well-explored conception of family caregiving within law, revealing the way that family caregiving can be a liberating practice for caregivers. Specifically, sex, reproduction, parenting, and housework can constitute affirmative political practices of resistance to a host of discriminatory institutions and ideologies, including the family, workplace, and state, as well as patriarchy, racism, and homophobia. I label such political work “transgressive caregiving” and locate it most centrally—although not exclusively—in the care work of ethnic and racial minorities, gays and lesbians, and heterosexual men, whose family caregiving practices are the focus of the book.
Sex, reproduction, parenting, and housework can constitute affirmative political practices of resistance to a host of discriminatory institutions and ideologies.... Discuss!

ADDED: You can download Laura Kessler's article here.

41 comments:

Trooper York said...

I used to look out the window a lot in school when I was bored.

Sorry off topic.

John Lynch said...

Uh, what? This is the problem with academic writing- it's intentionally opaque.

I think she's saying that doing housework and taking care of a family, even if you're some kind of minority group, is a good thing.

I guess that's too hard to say without three paragraphs of nonsense.

Chas S. Clifton said...

After 15 years in academia and three years as a journal editor, I have developed an allergy to fill-in-the-template cliche-ridden academic writing such as you quoted.

"I argue that ..." or "This paper argues that ..."

"This book examines..." "I label ..."

And the worst (not in your snipper), "X foregrounds Y..."

If people cannot write a thesis that "says something about something," in Clifford Geertz's phrase, and they insist on hogging the spotlight in the first person, why listen to them?

Windbag said...

Surely, you didn't pay to attend this conference?

tomb1 said...

Is this conference as kooky as it sounds?

Don't the real complaints/issues/solutions get overwhelmed by all the fem/queer/socialist/chic rhetoric? Wouldn't we arrive at the solutions faster if we just communicated in a straightforward manner?

Or are we more interested in perpetuating the problems because they serve our own personal agendas (and careers) better?

Jake said...

In my fiftieth year, I have concluded that smart people saying stupid things can reasonably be considered stupid.

Middle Class Guy said...

Sex, reproduction, parenting, and housework can constitute affirmative political practices of resistance to a host of discriminatory institutions and ideologies....


So, now being a housewife, house husband, or house person is political resistance?

Nobody likes me, every body hates me, think I'll just say home.

Does one really need a political explanaton for everything, including going backwards? Or were many of our mothers, who were house wives- for the younins here, domestic engineers- the original revolutionaries?

Or are people to lazy to work now heroes of the revolution?

And what are queer theorists? That was rhetorical.

Middle Class Guy said...

I forgot house elves.

rhhardin said...

Specifically, sex, reproduction, parenting, and housework can constitute affirmative political practices of resistance to a host of discriminatory institutions and ideologies, including the family, workplace, and state, as well as patriarchy, racism, and homophobia.

It needs the New Yorker cartoon, wife to husband, ``Now don't try to reason with me!''

Or maybe she's talking about rearranging the furniture, or redoing the kitchen. Something that naver makes sense to the patriarchy.

Or maybe it's just enshrining a passive-aggressive strategy.

Insights are hard to determine here. Too many heavily laden hate-object words to guess what she's up to.

You don't know what stakes she's invested in yet.

somefeller said...

While the last sentence in that description was a bit off-putting (why aren't white heterosexual females part of the analysis?), if this line of analysis leads to more respect for homemakers from feminist theorists, this is a good development. I for one have always found it curious that some feminists see climbing up the corporate ladder (Linda Hirshman comes to mind) as the highest good for women to achieve. If feminism is supposed to challenge mainstream societal assumptions, how is glorifying capitalist success as the highest good challenging mainstream society?

There may be a generational change of views here between my generation and baby boomers. When my wife (a lawyer) decided to stay at home with our daughter, a female lawyer friend of mine said doing so is somewhat countercultural, in that it's a form of choosing dropping out and placing non-economic, non-market values at the forefront of one's life. To be fair and honest, that choice is only possible because of my income (at least for now) and isn't available to everyone, but the idea that caregiving is perhaps a rejection of certain dominant societal norms isn't an absurd one, even if ironically the choice is in favor of a more "traditional" lifestyle and the societal norms are informed by feminism.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Did Kessler happen to offer a reason for believing that sex, reproduction, parenting, and housework can constitute affirmative political practices of resistance to a host of discriminatory institutions and ideologies? While I'd be willing to entertain such an argument, I feel somehow unequal to the task of coming up with one on my own.

"I’ve always found that people who make the argument that everything is at base political are people for whom that’s true." -- Ray Sawhill

SGT Ted said...

This is the typical neo-Marxist claptrap that the personal is political aimed at the housewife. The shame is that people are getting paid to produce such garbage and are lauded for their "intellectualism" for writing such fraudulent pap.

Tim said...

Discuss!

No.

John Lynch said...

So if a straight guy does the laundry, but no one hears the dryer, does it make a sound?

Trooper York said...

The professor has posted another picture of the breakfast meeting where someone spilled their breakfast all over one of the speeches and got bagel and cream cheese all over everything. I guess you could call it a fraudulent pap schmear.

Quayle said...

The two glaring weaknesses of feminism are 1) its overvaluation of and emphasis on the material, and 2) its structurally misguided focus on ‘equality’ with a foundational presumption of conflict between the sexes, when it should be the other way around – a focus on solving conflict between the sexes with a foundational presumption of equality.

Regarding overvaluation and emphasis on the material:
I believe that feminism saw the inequality of value society was placing on the work-roles of the sexes and fell into the trap of believing that the men’s overvaluation on status and wealth was the superior view. This led to feminism seeking equality by dummying down and demanding that they also be able to participate in the overvaluing of social and economic status and wealth.

In other words, the men were wrongly focused on status and wealth as the basis for personal happiness and satisfaction, and the women demanded and are now receiving their right to also participate in the illusion. So how is that progress?

I have to ask: if women are just as capable as men (let’s even say they are more so) to lead a country or a company, then why would we as a society waste that resource on politics or commerce when a more rational society would point the best and most capable at the task of emotionally, socially, physically, and intellectually nurturing the next generation? And from a purely operational standpoint, the most effective place to do that is the home.

It seems we’ve bought into the capitalist's lie of "materialism", so diminant in our western culture, and now we have to be radicals to pull back from that.

Jeff said...

I find it interesting that more discussion has been spent on how it was said, rather than what was said.
Clarity is important, and avoided in academic papers apparently.

Bissage said...

Among other things, I promised Mrs. Bissage I would take the dog to the vet this afternoon, make dinner tonight, and steam the carpets this weekend.

Now, invigorated by Professor Kessler’s less well-explored conception of family caregiving, I shall endeavor to do my chores as a form of political resistance or expression.

This is because I am a person ordinarily denied the privilege of family privacy by the state.

And I will feel empowered.

rhhardin said...

Women are able to relate all these things. But so far there's no mention of a nice voice.

The frozen lake may be a clue.

Barge 118 said...

A smart person saying something stupid, and stupidly, is beyond stupid.

Funny thing is, the Prof travelled all the way there for this tripe and is stuck inside too having to listen to it. Just feel bad for her all the way around...

Omaha1 said...

So if someone is just doing work that needs to be done, and/or doesn't want to put their loved one in a nursing home, that is inherently political or an act of "resistance"? I don't think so. Someone needs to get a life.

titusgrandjete said...

Good afternoon fellow republcans.

How is everyone today.

I just took a nasty shit.

Elliott Ness said...

This is "live blogging"?

Seems moribund to me.

Zeb Quinn said...

Picking up on sgt ted's theme, the elephant in the room is the delimiter of "unpaid" on family caregiving. Implicit is the concept of paid family caregiving, wherever that universe may be where that concept exists as a viable thing. Seems to me that's what is really being promoted here, in a very passive-aggressive way. Who would be the payor in such a system?

TMink said...

"Sex, reproduction, parenting, and housework can constitute affirmative political practices of resistance to a host of discriminatory institutions and ideologies...."

Scuse my french, but f*ck the political.

Good, consistent caregiving by an attuned caregiver is necessary to good brain development and later functioning. Without it, there is insufficient development of the orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain that lets us attach with others while at the same time soothing our own emotions.

That part of the brain develops between the ages of 20 weeks prenatal to 9 to 12 months after birth. That is it. Nothing else after that will develop that part of the brain, it is done. Now the neural networks using it can be strengthened, but that cortex is done.

So caregiving has crucial implications that far exceed the political. Healthy men and women were able to ignore that portion of the feminist mistake that undervalued caregiving and were able to raise healthy children.

Those parents who did not ignore it gave me career security as I get to work with the children and adults that had their brains messed up because their parent(s) did not value caregiving.

All politics is local, but this politics is neural.

Trey

TMink said...

Zeb, I am not a socialist meddler, but given the life long implications and problems associated with kids growing up without a secure attachment, it behooves us to support their getting the prenatal security and postnatal support to form a healthy attachment.

I have no idea how we can support this as a culture other than returning to pro nuclear family values. I don't trust the government to not much up any approach to supporting healthy attachment.

The reverse side of the coin is what happens to the children born to overwhelmed mothers who are stressed while pregnant and are unable or unwilling to attach to the child. This is the stuff of raising dependent or antisocial adults.

This is why the predictors of poverty are so heavily loaded against the children of teenage mothers who are not in an emotionaly secure relationship with the father of their child. It all comes back to the brain, and we can take a scan to see it.

But if we accept the data, it would behoove us as a culture to do something like discourage teenage pregnancy, unwed mothers, and divorce. That sounds too much like asking people to be personally responsible, and it will not fly in the current, deluded culture of victimhood.

These kids do not have a chance, and they were indeed victimized, but the perpetrator is not the government.

Trey

titusgrandjete said...

Currently I am flossing.

titusgrandjete said...

Who is going to be back soon on the blog?

Is it Maxine?

ricpic said...

I just took a nasty shit.

No resistance!

Roger Sweeny said...

Quayle and somefeller are right. According to the modern critical theories:

1. American society is too materialistic and money-oriented. People care too much about making money.

2. Working without being paid is unjust and demeaning. Therefore no one should work unless they are being paid (and paid well) for it.

But you can't honestly believe them both. Professor Kessler is trying to resolve some of the dialectical tension between them.

tjl said...

"housework can constitute affirmative political practices of resistance to a host of discriminatory institutions"

Thank you so much Professor Kessler! Until reading this I had no idea that I was striking a transgressive blow against homophobia and so on, just by cleaning up the kitchen and taking out the garbage. What service to the public! How richly you deserve that tenured chair in transgressive caregiving studies and all the extra stipends and grants that will also be yours.

peter hoh said...

Nothin' says lovin' like somethin' from the oven.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

How can you stand to listen to this drivel? Can't these people speak or write clearly. I feel like the dog in the Farside cartoon when I attend lectures like these. Do they talk like this to hide the fact that their ideas are not groundbreaking or new, or just to make themselves feel great. Audio-erotica.

Blah blah blah Ginger. Blah blah blah.

Actually more like what cat's hear

........................

Smilin' Jack said...

Sex, reproduction, parenting, and housework can constitute affirmative political practices of resistance to a host of discriminatory institutions and ideologies.... Discuss!

OK: If I were a woman, I'd rather stay in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, than listen to crap like this.

Middle Class Guy said...

titusgrandjete said...
Good afternoon fellow republcans.

How is everyone today.

I just took a nasty shit.


And the oh so precious rare Clumbers?

Sir Archy said...

To Professor Althouse.

Madam,

There can be no Doubt that you keep the Good of the Publick ever close to your Heart when you assay Subjects fit for this, your Theatre of Topicks (as I call it).  We may thus take it that You would have some Measure of our Improvement in mind when You chose Parts of several Speaches read at this Academick Convocation, to include among your Offerings.  I hope You will not take it amiss then, Madam, if I pray You, or some Member of your Audience, to tell Us what They mean.

As the Ghost of a Gentleman dead these 250 Years and more, I have seen & heard much that is alter'd in the noble English Tongue; but I confess to having been surpris'd over the many Years, by how little English hath chang'd in its Essentials.  You may, I trust, read Me with Comprehension, as I read the Modern English of Professor Althouse with eager Anticipation to learn the new Twists and Expressions a rigorous Mind applies to the Topicks of the Day.

That English has admitted of so few Changes would no doubt have surprised Mr. Pope; for who does not know these Lines from his Essay on Criticism:—

    "Our Sons their Fathers' failing Language see,
    And such as
Chaucer is, shall Dryden be."

We are now come as far from Dryden as that famous Poet was from Chaucer, yet those who have the Wit, may read Dryden as well as Althouse.

I cannot help but fear that I may soon have to learn a new Language, if what I read from these Academick Females is any Hint of Things to Come.  If I were narrow and pedantick, I could rail against Cant & Jargon; but if Cant becomes the Speach of Everyday, and Jargon fills the Dictionary, what am I to do?

For the Moment, I should be ever Grateful if You or One of your Readers would give me some Inklings as to the Points these Academick Authors express; for I shall be glad to undertake to translate them for the Benefit of the Publick, into the easy & clear Style of Mr. Addison, as well as for my own private Rehearsal of this new English I shall soon be oblig'd to learn.

Altho' ever an uneasy Linguist, I hope that Industry may supply what Nature wants, and that I may always have the Language to say,

Madam,

I remain your most humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

tjl said...

"One of your Readers would give me some Inklings as to the Points these Academick Authors express"

No one could put it better than Dryden himself did:

"The rest to some vague meaning make pretense
But [Kessler] never deviates into sense."

knoxwhirled said...

Or are people to lazy to work now heroes of the revolution?

I still freelance, but am mostly a stay-at-home mom for my 2-1/2 year old and my 10 month old. Believe me, working full-time as a graphic designer--which was sometimes quite stressful--was a lot easier than what I'm doing now.

"To lazy to work" is a sad mischaracterization of what I do. Do you have kids and/or have any clue how much work it is if you care at all or put any effort into it?

I'm not one of these crybabies looking for "affirmation" or a paycheck just for raising my own kids... but "too lazy" ??? Jeez.

David said...

Ann, I thought of seeing what my two daughters would say, but they are a bit busy with caring for their two children each, their jobs (elementary teacher and business consultant), keeping house and--I hope--finding time for a little sex with their very fine husbands who love them.

Sir Archy said...

To Professor Althouse.

Madam,

I had written my Letter above about Female Academick Writers somewhat in haste, and have since noticed a few ill-uses of Grammar & Propriety in it, which I hope you may Pardon, realizing that Perfection is but elusive Prey.  I would, however, have my Point about Turgid Writing stand, altho' I am fearful myself of being accused of no little Vagueness & Want of Sense.

Begging your Pardon for exceeding the Brief of this Topick, I cannot forbear to remark that you, Madam, seem to have gone of late from Talent to Prodigy.  The Production of your excellent Pieces, together with their pertinent Comments written by rational & often witty Persons attracted to your Pen, has become a Flood. I cannot but struggle to find Time to read them all.  If I am not mistaken, You have just on Firday placed Ten new Subjects before Us.

As a Ghost, I depend upon the Hand of Another whose Brain I inhabit to write these Letters; my ectoplasmick Hauntings have prov'n ineffectual at lifting Pen to Paper or depressing a Key. I am often thus Vex'd in my Writings, as I must wait upon the Gentleman to finish his Business before he will take Notice of Me.  I am sorry to tell You that I have written six or eight Letters on various Subjects which have gone by so quickly, that I have regarded it as a Useless Imposition to post them.

Pray, forgive Me, Madam, for having seem'd so Silent in the face of your Aprobation, but the Pace of your new Ideas, and the Comment they foment, have left me Agog & Helpless to write Anything of worth in a Timely Way.

Regarding you with ever increasing Astonishment & Admiration for your Industry, I remain,

Madam,

Your humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

TMink said...

KW wrote "I'm not one of these crybabies looking for "affirmation" or a paycheck just for raising my own kids... but "too lazy" ??? Jeez."

Jeez indeed, all you are doing is making a large personal and monetary sacrifice in order to raise psychologically healthy children who will grow into productive citizens who will pay for my Social Security money that the government spent.

Thank you for your service to our country!

Trey