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Defined, Labeled, and Identified: A critique of gender and race ideology

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Introduction

Eric Flowers EN 411 Dr. Robert Young 12 April 2005 Defined, Labeled, and Identified: A critique of gender and race ideology Postmodernism is a form of literary theory that allows its proponents to challenge ideas that are considered to be intrinsic. Postmodernism's building blocks come from the theories and writings of Ferdinand de Saussure. Saussure argues that aspects of life that are seen as innate are born actually from cultural constructions. Instead of accepting the belief that a person was born into an identity, he feels that it is everything around a person that shapes who and what they are and are not. Plainly stated, Saussure believes that it is our culture that shapes our identities. This is clearly stated as Saussure says, "But this rather na�ve approach can bring us near the truth by showing us that the linguistic unit is a double entity, one formed by the association of two terms," (Saussure 65). Thus, Postmodernist often subvert and question cultural norms by establishing their own line of thought. Postmodernist create their own theories that try to not only challenge but also eliminate the ideas they are fighting. This leads Postmodern thought to challenge ideas that were often taboo such as gender, sexuality, and race. These taboo ideas are generally labeled as studies of the "other." Two specific sects of Postmodernism are Gender Studies and Race Studies. The writers who study the gender aspect of Postmodern thought argue that sex and gender are not only different but are not bound by each other as well. ...read more.

Middle

hooks, feels that blackness is used as a means of subordinating African Americans. This is explicitly stated as hooks says, "Apparently no one sympathized with my insistence that racism is perpetuated when blackness is associated solely with concrete gut level experience conceived as either opposing or having no connection to abstract thinking and the production of critical theory," (hooks 421). Furthermore, hooks asserts that it is altogether wrong and harmful to define an experience for all blacks (or any "other") without first finding support from those that are being critiqued or engaged. This is shown as hooks says, "Without adequate concrete knowledge of and contact with the non-white Other, white theorist may move in discursive theoretical directions that are threatening and potentially disruptive of that critical practice which would support radical liberation struggle, (hooks 423). Put altogether, hooks is declaring that it is fully wrong and at the same time dangerous for whites to believe that all who fit into a group of "otherness" experience or label objects, ideas, or instances in the exact same manner. As it was with regards to the declarations of Mohanty, I too fully agree with all that hooks asserts. I see blackness (and all "others" regarding skin tone, color, shade etc.) as a dangerous term and idea that unfairly clusters people together. For me, like the plight of the third world woman, blackness is used as an ideological tool that creates a sense of superiority for whites. ...read more.

Conclusion

As I stated before, this grouping is not fully unnecessary. It creates tidiness. However, the danger behind this grouping will only fall when people acknowledge that it is too possible for those who are outside of the realm of "otherness" to understand and embrace the "other's" subject matter. Mahonty, hooks, and Henderson all tackle what it is to be the "other." For them "otherness" is a dangerous construction that enables the majority to place social rank among different peoples and groups. Furthermore, each critic too argues that all "others" should be given the chance to voice their own opinions with regards to whom and what they are. Each critic also strongly asserts that "otherness" should not place boundaries or labels (whether they be positive or negative). Instead, "otherness" should be merely seen as a means of embracing and understanding someone or something different. These are all assertions that I fully agree with. Until the "other" is no longer seen as an inferior being, their will be a severe lack of understanding between different people and groups. I strongly assert that "otherness" should be viewed as an outlet of sorts. It can enable people to experience and appreciate ideas, passions, themes, subjects, (and eternally on) that are wholly different from their own. This will not happen however, unless all those that encompass "otherness" (as I do myself being a black male) voice the known fact that the identities and labels that have been and will continue to be thrust upon them are iniquitous. Until then, those outside of the realm of "otherness" (mainly whites, and greatly white males) will continue to subordinate all they see as different. ...read more.

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